Gary Sosnick Detroit 2016
If You're Going to Cruise through Life, Enjoy the Read!

The List

If you're going to leave town at a moment's notice, then you are going to need The List. For that matter, if you're going to vacation at any time, you will need the same list. To prepare for travel without taking into account anything you have learned previously is dangerous. The list takes the guesswork out of planning, prevents you from forgetting anything, and leaves more time to work on the itinerary and prepare your motorbike for the journey.

Once your list is compiled, all that is left to do is assemble the items on the list and pack. After 15 years of motorbike touring and camping--my first trip was a humorous packing experience--my current list is perfect: I take what I will most likely need, and remove from the list those items that were never needed in the past. Things that I thought I would need like star charts and mink oil went by the wayside years ago, while rarely used items like gaiters and a combination lock continue to make the ever evolving list. Grasp this important concept: You can't take everything, so take only what you will use.

Spare motorcycle parts can be kept to a minimum by making sure your bike is in tip top condition prior to departure. Do you really need spare clutch or throttle cables? I haven't in over 150,000 miles although I did replace a binding clutch cable after a winter's layaway. Full synthetic motor oil should last 5,000 miles and your tires should last almost 10,000 miles, so judge accordingly. Touring on my Triumph Bonneville required spare inner tubes and tire irons--boy, that blew--what a waste of space! On the same trip a gas station attendant remarked, "I sure do hope you got your tool kit." I did have it under the seat, but I never needed it.

However, the most important aspect to plan for adequately is not whether your bike malfunctions, but the weather. As my friend Ricky once told me, "You can never take enough warm clothes." And he was right. During one of my earliest sojourns, I had to stop along the way and buy warmer gloves and a balaclava. Then I had to stop in Marquette, Michigan to buy a full set of thermal underwear. And then it rained for three straight days! Everything gets field tested in rough weather.

The BMW K-bike came along after a severe case of high speed front end oscillation ate the Triumph at the 50,000 mile mark. The BMW's detachable hard luggage was a godsend. With 20 pounds of gear in each case, another 10 pounds in the tankbag, and another 20 pounds on the seat and rack behind me; for the past 100,000 miles I've never gone without. Well, maybe that's not entirely true. I still haven't figured out a way, or the room, to justify a camp chair, a bath robe, a hair dryer, or a laptop. But, from the list below that includes over 100 items, you will see that I've managed to take almost everything else.

I have divided the list into four divisions: clothes, gear, cookware, and tools. I take enough clothes for three days of changes before necessitating a visit to a Laundromat. I carry almost no food with me as I prefer to make daily food purchases. (See the essay "Set Up Camp" for more food detail.)

For those detailed thinkers like me, you can turn the whole packing effort into a full no-brainer by indicating on your list, where everything goes with a code next to each item. For example, T=tankbag; SL=Saddlebag Left; SR=Saddlebag Right; RS=Rear Seat stuff sacks, etc. And then I keep all my toiletries in a dopp kit placed in the bottom of the tankbag. The BMW K-bike even has two underseat storage compartments. Yippee!

Following the list below, I offer explanations of the less obvious items, packing tips, and some concluding comments. Keep in mind that this list is designed for the solo traveler. Two-up riding requires a huge rig and a medal for your passenger before you embark.

A note about riding suits: On my first motorbike tour, I wore a green army jacket with lots of pockets, a pair of baggy cotton pants that flapped in the wind like a flag, and a cheap yellow rainsuit that disintegrated almost immediately. This gave way the following year to a full leather riding suit (leather jacket and leather chaps) that required further protection by my high quality rain suit at any hint of a downpour. The stopping to put on, then later take off, then later put back on the rain gear got old real fast. The answer; the Aerostich Roadcrafter (or similar) synthetic waterproof riding suit, complete with ballistic padding should I go cartwheeling down the road. The only drawback--I'm susceptible to comments about snowmobiling based on my attire.

The Actual List

Printable Version of The List


    • Aerostich Riding Suit
    • Motorcycle Boots
    • Motorcycle Helmet
    • Fleece Jacket
    • Rubbers
    • Rain Hat
    • Rain Gloves
    • Gaiters
    • Bath Shoes
    • Baseball Hat
    • Loafers or 2nd pair of shoes
    • Pants (x2) w/belt
    • Towel
    • Thermal Top
    • Wool Sweater
    • Socks (3)
    • Boxer Shorts (3)
    • T-shirts (3)
    • Turtleneck Jersey
    • Bathing Suit
    • Bandanna
    • Neck Warmer
    • Wool Glove Liners
    • Electric Gloves w/wires
    • Gauntlet Type Riding Gloves
    • Summer Riding Gloves or 2nd pair of gloves
    • Campground Gloves


    • Ear Plugs (10)
    • Tank Bag w/cover
    • Sunglasses
    • Wallet
    • Useful Addresses and Phone Numbers
    • Hair Brush
    • Tent w/poles and stakes
    • Sleeping Bag
    • Air Mattress
    • Tarps (3)
    • Compass
    • Maps and Guidebooks
    • Pocket Calculator
    • Highlighter
    • Flash Light
    • Tent Light
    • Key Chain Thermometer
    • Magnifying Glass
    • Swiss Army Knife
    • Camera w/film
    • Kleenex Pocket Packs (4)
    • Small White Garbage Bags w/ties (several)
    • Large Garbage Bags (several)
    • Rope
    • Pen
    • Razor Blade (2)
    • Shaving Cream
    • Backpack for Day Hikes
    • Lighter
    • Combination Lock
    • Rags
    • Paper Toweling
    • Safety Pins
    • Watch
    • Bungie Cords (several)
    • Toothbrush
    • Note Pad
    • Spare Keys
    • Nail Clipper
    • Finger Nail Brush
    • Mirror
    • Binoculars
    • Dirty Laundry Bag
    • Umbrella


    • Liquid Soap
    • Water Sack w/cap
    • Hatchet
    • Fire Starter Sticks
    • Tylenol (or similar headache relief)
    • Silverware
    • Plate
    • Mug
    • Small Pot
    • Grill Tongs
    • Grill w/cover
    • Tea Bags for your spot of tea
    • Dental Floss
    • Hiker's Stove
    • Dry Matches
    • Insect Repellent
    • Tupperware Container
    • Sandwich Bags
    • Toothpaste
    • Snake Bite Kit
    • Sewing Kit
    • First Aid Kit
    • Isopropyl Alcohol
    • Suntan Lotion
    • Shampoo


    • Tool Kit
    • Tire Patch Kit w/CO2 Cartridges
    • Tail Lamp Bulbs
    • Turn Signal Bulb
    • Air Gauge
    • Owner's Manual
    • Electrical Tape
    • Electrical Wire
    • Duct Tape
    • Rubber Bands
    • Pocket Volt Meter
    • Fuses
    • WD40 Spray Lubricant
    • Fuel Line Plugs (2)
    • Front Tire Info - Make, model and size.
    • Rear Tire Info - Make, model and size.
    • Itinerary
    • This Page

EXPLANATIONS:  Gaiters - Might be overkill but definitely keeps your shins dry on the wettest of roads. Campground Gloves - Don't ruin your riding gloves! I even use them to rearrange logs in a campfire. Ear Plugs - Don't leave home without them, and always use them. You may be able to clean up your lungs and arteries, but there's no repairing your hearing. Tank Bag - Utilize that wasted space on top of your gas tank, even if the tank is the coolest part of your bike. Tarps - One goes beneath your tent, one goes inside your tent, and the third one covers your bike at night, in the rain, or when left in questionable neighborhoods. Maps and Guidebooks - Don't forget them. The motel information will be valuable. Magnifying Glass - Okay, maybe you don't need this, but the detail on some recreational maps can be awfully small. Backpack for Day Hikes - Many uses that have nothing to do with hiking. Combination Lock - Lock up your valuables when you're in a steam room or at the beach. Finger Nail Brush - Actually a small stiff brush for scrubbing potatoes or your boots. Binoculars - When you're standing next to your bike, hopelessly lost and confused, you may be able to read a far off road sign with these. Umbrella - And don't stand around in the rain like a chump, use your umbrella! Grill - My favorite item. Actually a hibachi grate. Instant bar-b-que. Cleaner than anything you will find at a campground. Cook with confidence. A soft plastic cover simply keeps the rest of your gear clean when you strap the grill to the back of your bike. Suntan Lotion - Tan don't burn your nose and cheeks. Fuel Line Plugs - Huh? You may have to one day remove your gas tank so you can bang that starter relay with a rock. These plugs (golf tees or similar) will keep the gas in the tank when you lift it off the bike. Tire Info - Your tire is flat and you are nervously calling around to any motorcycle shop that can replace your tire after you plug the hole. Have the replacement tire information handy, it's on the sidewall.

Click Here for details of each item on The List

PACKING TIPS: Compression packing is the key. All those little white garbage bags? Those are what you pack all your clothes in. Not only will the bags keep your clothes dry and clean in your saddlebags during a thunderstorm, but they nicely compress your wearables when you squeeze the air out of them, leaving easily packable briskets. In the photo at right, singer Asta is displaying a ready to pack clothes brisket, with a can of Vienna Sausages on top for good eating! Here's how it's done. Tightly roll up your clothes and place them into the bags. Then use your hands or knees to squeeze all the air out of the bag. When fully compressed, quickly twist and close the open end, and use a garbage tie to tightly secure.

In conclusion, motorcycle touring is a learn as you go experience, of which the packing list is an integral part. Here are a few more things I've learned. Small travel sizes of things like shampoo and shaving cream were made specifically for motorbike touring. Make any motel reservations a couple of hours in advance by telephone, as this saves a lot of time and rejection. Brown leather is definitely less threatening than black leather. Don't pack or take anything you can't easily replace, but don't freak out either. In 150,000 miles, I've never had anything stolen. Leave the chain lock at home. Pack sensibly: heavy stuff like your hatchet packed low, frequently used light weight stuff packed in your tank bag.

And finally, you've spent a lot of time preparing and packing, and all your gear is clean, including your bike, so don't leave town in the rain. Wait another day until the skies clear up.

Hey, check out my band's motorcycle songs! They're FREE!

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