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Packing Light for Adventure Motorcycle Day Trips

Tips for saving weight when you are just going riding for the day.

Published on 05.20.2015

One Tube, One Patch Kit

This one may be controversial, but it has never failed to get me home. When the inevitable flat happens, I always try to patch the tube if possible. Patch kits are much lighter and less bulky than tubes, and a properly applied patch is a permanent fix.

Of course there are times when the holes are too big or there are too many of them, the valve stem gets ripped off, etc. In other words, sometimes the tube can’t be saved. Then it’s time for a new one.

motorcycle inner tube patch kit

Try to patch your heavy-duty inner tube when you get a puncture or pinch flat and only use your spare tube as a last resort.


But bikes have different wheel sizes. So instead of carrying two tubes, I carry one. My dual sport has a 21-inch front and an 18 rear. I carry a 19-inch tube. It’s just a little too big for the rear, and will easily stretch to fit the front. A 19-inch tube has a wider profile than a 21-inch tube, so there is more material there to begin with. I’ve never had a problem using one in a 21-inch wheel.

I do make a habit of replacing the tube with the correct size as soon as possible, and then put the 19-inch tube back in my day trip spares kit (after carefully examining it for damage, of course). That makes for an extra tube change, but changing a tube is something you need to be good at anyway. A little extra practice never hurts.

Bonus tip: Run heavy duty tubes to cut down on pinch flats, but pack a regular tube as a spare. You’d be surprised how much heavier and bulkier heavy duty tubes are to pack, but you won’t notice the weight or bulk when they’re inside your tire.

If your bike happens to have tubeless tires, all you need for most flat repairs is a string patch kit. But you should still bring an extra inner tube in case you dent a wheel and the bead won’t seal.

Small Saddlebags

If you have room in your saddlebags, you’ll use it. That’s just human nature. But when ounces count, force yourself to make the hard decisions by running small saddle bags.

My personal choice is the Giant Loop Mojavi set, which has just 13.5 liters of carrying capacity; six liters on either side and a small top case. Wolfman Day Tripper Saddle Bags are about the same size without the top carrier. Neither require a rack, saving even more weight.

what to pack for motorcycle day trips
Everything you need for a day trip, including lunch, easily fits in 13.5 liters of space.

What can you carry in just 12-13 liters? Everything you need for motorcycle day trips, including lunch. (My water supply goes in a hydration backpack.) The Giant Loop Mojave Saddlebags hold:

  • Tool roll
  • Inner tube
  • Mediacal kit
  • Bicycle tire pump
  • Light wind-proof jacket
  • Small nut/bolt kit
  • Emergency space blanket
  • Short hose for fuel transfers
  • Trail mix or a can of tuna

Skip The Case, Use a Cargo Net

You see a lot of riders out on the trail with top cases mounted to the rear of their bike. And top cases are a handy place to put the stuff you need easy access to like maps, a change of gloves, a water bottle, etc.

But the problem, again, is the tendency to want to fill the space. Not to mention the weight of the case itself. And up high on the rear fender is not the ideal place for carrying a lot of weight. Not only can it stress your subframe, it negatively affects the bike’s handling.

motorcycle cargo net

Lightweight cargo nets allow you to store and retrieve items you need in seconds.

So instead of a top case, I use an elastic cargo net. Get one with large sturdy clips and stretch it tight. Then you can stash things under it and get what you need in seconds. I’ll pack a rolled jacket liner under mine if I’m riding where the temperature is going to fluctuate during the day. It’s also a great place to keep rain gear handy. The fact that it’s a net is a visual reminder to keep it light up there. Put heavier stuff in your saddlebags, or better still, don’t bring it in the first place.

Carry Extra Fuel in the Tank, Not on the Bike

People get creative when it comes to carrying fuel. Out on the trail you’ll see everything from plastic gas cans strapped to footpegs, to soda bottles lashed to a rack. Some riders use aftermarket rack systems that attach gas cans to the side of your bike like panniers.

All those solutions miss the point that gas is best stored in the gas tank. That’s where your bike’s designers intended the weight to go.

So if you regularly ride where fuel range is an issue, consider a larger aftermarket tank. They can be expensive, but the benefits outweigh the cost. The extra fuel range offers peace of mind, and an aftermarket tank typically weighs only a bit more than the stock tank it replaces. Often it weighs less. Use the extra capacity only when you need it so you aren’t always lugging around the weight of extra gas, which at about six pounds per gallon adds up quickly.

Just in Case

Even when it comes to safety, it pays to think light. It almost goes without saying, for example, that you are going to carry a cell phone. But do you need a charger and associated cables on a day trip? If you aren’t using your phone for GPS, then charge your phone before you leave, keep it off while riding, and only use it when necessary.

It’s also smart to bring a GPS emergency messenging device like a SPOT or DeLorme. They don’t take up much space and they can get you out of trouble if you take day trips in remote areas. And of course, don’t forget your paper maps even if you ride with GPS!

Here’s the safety equipment that goes in my saddlebags:

Small Medical Kit: How much first aid gear you bring on a day trip is a personal decision but your kit should at least include bandages, antiseptic gel to clean wounds, ibuprofen, antihistamines for allergic reactions, antibiotic ointment, and first aid instructions. You may also consider adding a few specialized items to your first aid kit for trauma injuries.

Emergency Mylar Blanket: They look like aluminum foil, come in a tiny pouch, and will be the best money you ever spent if you find yourself stuck in the woods on a cold night. They’re also easy for rescuers to spot.

Lightweight Emergency Poncho: These also come folded up in a tiny pouch. Keep one packed at all times in case you end up caught outside in the rain or need to make an emergency shelter.

Author: Bob Whitby

Bob has been riding motorcycles since age 19 and working as a journalist since he was 24, which was a long time ago, let’s put it that way. He quit for the better part of a decade to raise a family, then rediscovered adventure, dual sport and enduro riding in the early 2000s. He lives in Arkansas, America’s best-kept secret when it comes to riding destinations, and travels far and wide in search of dirt roads and trails.

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Author: Bob Whitby

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Michael Fitzpatrick
Michael Fitzpatrick
May 21, 2015 11:09 am

Good article. I might add a small bottle of bleach for emergency water purification.To treat your water, add 2 drops (0.1 mL) of unscented household bleach (about 5.25% chlorine) to 1 litre of warm water. Mix the bleach and water together. Cover it and let it stand for at least 30 minutes before drinking. You should notice a slight chlorine smell after the 30 minutes.

Giant Loop MoJavi Saddlebag Review - ADV Pulse
October 12, 2015 9:00 am

[…] an overnighter at a secluded camping spot in the woods. The MoJavi’s small size forces you to be efficient with your packing and its design carries gear low and tight on the bike so that the bike’s handling is […]


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