Packing for a motorcycle trip is incredibly important not only for the fact that you want to have the right cargo during your time on the road, but also to keep your things and yourself safe. There's no definitive "right" way to pack however, or a list of things that you need to have every time you hit the road for a few days. What we're offering below are some best practices, some things to consider, and a few tips we've picked up along the way that make the packing process an easy experience.

How To Pack

There are two main elements when planning how to pack for a trip. The first has to do with getting all the stuff you need into the luggage you have, and the second has to do with securing the luggage safely and thoughtfully to the bike.

2019 MV Agusta Turismo Veloce 10
Getting on the road is the most important thing, but packing smart and having your luggage secure is a huge part of the preparation.Gigi Soldano/Milagro

Getting your goods into the luggage is straightforward, but some things to remember are the fact that you have limited space and that the weight should be pretty evenly distributed. Limiting yourself to the bare essentials is key to optimizing the space, and we recommend being as neat as possible when you pack things up.

As for weight distribution, this depends on the type of luggage you’re using. If you have saddlebags, try to pack each so they weigh about the same when on the bike. If you’re using a top case or stacking some dry bags on the pillion, keep the heaviest items toward the bottom and build up from there. Top-heavy loads on the back of the bike can tip, shift in the wind, or affect the feel and handling of your bike.

If you remember to keep the weight on the bike as even and centrally located as possible, you’ll be good to go.

2018 Gold Wing
Many bikes will come with luggage racks or integrated luggage. This removes any question as to how to mount your bags to the bike.Kevin Wing and Brian J. Nelson

Securing luggage to the bike is made exponentially easier if you have luggage racks installed already for your particular bags. Many will lock into place quickly and detach easily when you’re ready to call it a night, so it can be worth the extra cost and labor to get a setup like this.

Where you need to be vigilant is when you’re using universal-fit items or lashing down things like dry bags or duffel bags with bungee cords or ratchet straps.

Universal saddlebags, for example, will typically have straps that can anchor to rigid parts of your bike. Make sure tension is evenly applied to both sides so the bags don’t tilt one way or other and triple-check that any loose strap material is tucked away or tied off. You don’t want some material flapping around and getting caught in any of the moving parts of your bike. That would be bad.

Tiffani in a Mexican field of flowers
You can tie down bags to reliable anchors on your bike; just make sure the straps are secure and nothing can get caught in the moving parts of your motorcycle.David Hayward

Bungee cords or nets can work to hold down things on the pillion or rear rack, but be cautious. Since there’s give in the cords, cargo can shift around more dramatically than with a ratchet strap. The hooks need to be properly placed too so they don’t slide up a frame rail while riding.

Ratchet straps need to be anchored the same as bungee cords, and any excess material absolutely needs to be secured far away from any moving parts.

The configuration of these tie-downs depends on the bike you have and the anchor points at your disposal. Keep the above tips in mind when thinking about how you’re going to secure your luggage and all should be well.

scout luggage kit
Getting a luggage kit specifically designed for your bike takes the guesswork out of packing your bike.Morgan Gales

What To Pack

The things that make the cut for your next motorcycle trip are entirely up to you, but there are some items we think to be essential regardless of your destination.

Rain gear is at the top of the list. Unless you're riding with a fully waterproof set of gear, having a rainsuit at your disposal will make the trip much more enjoyable if an unexpected storm hits. You can find one-piece suits, covers for just your gloves or boots, or two-piece options like the WeatherPro option from Nelson-Rigg.

Nelson-Rigg rain suit
A rainsuit like this two-piece WeatherPro from Nelson-Rigg is inexpensive and takes up a minor amount of space when packed away.Nelson-Rigg

A tool roll with a screwdriver, a few wrenches, some zip-ties, needle-nose pliers, and a tire-repair kit will come in really handy in the worst situations. We’d recommend keeping something like this stored on your bike at all times if possible, but especially when you’re a long way from home.

A snack or two is also really nice to have at the ready for those times when you’re in the middle of nowhere and still a few hundred miles from the nearest diner.

Base layers are also helpful to have, in case you get caught out in colder-than-expected climates. This can be a technical base layer that is form fit, like the Klim Teton, or it can be a long-sleeve T-shirt and pair of warmer pants that will fit under your gear. Something that allows you to layer up.

Klim Teton
Many motorcycle apparel companies make base layers too. The Klim Teton is merino wool and will definitely keep you toasty.Klim

Other things can be useful too, like a battery charger for your smartphone or rag to clean your face shield.

And, of course, a few changes of clothes and any ancillary gear necessary for your trip. Many riders like to camp en route to a destination so a compact tent, sleeping bag or blanket, and whatever other essentials you’d need to be comfortable outdoors.

At then end of the day it’s entirely up to you what comes along for the ride. Just remember to keep the packing list as sparse as possible and your luggage securely anchored.