This is the packing list I used for my 32000 km trip from Germany to Kazakhstan, and for my 10000km trip in Europe. This setup allows maximum flexibility, and requires minimum weight.

Everything listed below fits in my two 45 litre metal panniers, with room to spare for my motorcycle gear. This means I can lock everything - even my motorcycle gear - onto the bike while I explore the city. Nothing is left exposed to the elements.

The packing list

  • 12 volt to USB adapter (UGreen 12 V USB adapter)
    I use a 12 V USB adapter to charge my phone and my GPS beacon while I ride. I recommend getting one with two USB ports and USB Quick Charge. Otherwise, your GPS app might drain the battery faster than your USB adapter can charge it. I can't overstate how much of a headache this is.
  • Air mattress and pillow (Klymit Static V)
    I chose this mattress because of its small pack size. It's thicker, wider and quiter than the Forclaz TREK 700 it replaces. Next time, I might get the version with more isolation. I regret not bringing an inflatable pillow on my first trip. I sleep much better with this pillow than with a rolled up jacket.
  • Allergy pills
  • Backpack (Forclaz Travel 100)
    A large part of the trip happens off the motorcycle. Sometimes, you only need some of your stuff you carry. You might want to explore a city or go on a hike, for example. I have a Decathlon backpack that folds to the size of a sandwich, and I used it all the time.
  • Bungee cords
    Bungee cords are great for securing things to the bike. I always have one or two strapped across the seat. I used them to hold my gloves, my documents, water bottles filled with gasoline, shoes, wet towels, tires and much more. You can run one from the handlebars to the tail light like a clothesline to discourage strangers from sitting on your bike. If you need a stronger hold, get some metal wire.
  • Chain lube and cleaner
    Chain maintenance is essential. Leave with a new can of lubricant, because they can be hard to come by in some places. Don't forget to bring a brush to clean your chain.
  • Cotton swabs
    You hopefully won't go a few weeks without cleaning your ears. This becomes especially important if you wear ear plugs all day, and ride in hot, dusty environments.
  • Charging cables
    Cables were a constant source of headaches for me. First, I needed too many of them: USB-C, Lighting, micro USB, and Thunderbolt (laptop). Second, vibration wore them down really quickly. I destroyed half a dozen cables in a single trip. Third, some charged my devices really slowly. Buy two good cables of each kind, strengthen them, and test them with all your devices. Next time, I will buy 3-in-1 charging cables.
  • Clothes
    Laundry is a bit of a hassle when you're on the move, so I carry 5-7 days worth of clothes. That's 5 plain t-shirts, 1 pair of jeans, 1 pair of shorts, 7 pairs of socks and 7 pairs of underwear. Plain t-shirts from H&M look halfway decent, take little space, and are easy to replace. However, cotton dries very slowly. On my second trip, I experimented with Merino wool shirts. They lasted much longer between washes. Next time, I'll bring Merino wool socks and underwear too.
  • Condoms
  • Cramp buster (this generic piece of plastic)
    A simple piece of plastic that lets you relax your grip on long stretches of highway. I don't use mine that often, but it's always wrapped around my handlebars. It does not use any luggage space.
  • Deodorant
  • Documents
    I have a plastic pouch that contains all of my documents, as well as receipts, leftover currency and stickers I've collected along the way.
    • Passport
    • International Driving Permit
    • Motorcycle registration papers
    • Copies of everything
      You might not always want to hand over your official documents. If someone has your passport, they can hold you back for as long as they want. Make some digital copies too, just in case.
    • Insurance green card
      This document shows that your motorcycle is insured in the countries you go through. Policemen and border agents will sometimes ask for it.
  • Duct tape
    I call it the "3M universal mount". It's how I tied a 4L can of oil to my bike for over 1000km, fixed my broken hand protector, waterproofed my 12V adapter and more. Duct tape is a must-have in your toolkit. If you remove the cardboard tube in the middle of a duct tape roll, you can press it flat and save some space.
  • Ear plugs
    This is a no-brainer. Motorcycles are loud, and you can't reverse tinnitus. They snuff out motorcycle noises and snoring bunkmates with remarkable efficiency. I prefer rubber ones because they can be cleaned. Bring a few pairs, because they're really easy to lose.
  • First aid kit (DIN 13167 motorcycle first aid kit)
    You can find pre-assembled first aid kits for motorcycles. In Germany, look for DIN 13167 kits. You might want to add extra band-aids to it. Small cuts never heal if they rub against your equipment all day long.
  • Glass cleaner
    Bring a 100ml spray bottle filled with glass cleaner. I use mine every day to clean my visor and glasses. Dish soap diluted in water also works really well.
  • Gloves (regular gloves)
    They keep your hands warm on cold camping nights, and act as a second layer on cold riding days. I strongly recommend touchscreen-friendly gloves.
  • GPS beacon (Garmin InReach Mini)
    If you're thinking of leaving civilisation behind, bring a GPS tracker with you. It's a literal life saver. I absolutely love my Garmin InReach. It lets me share my position and even write text messages when there are no cell towers nearby. It allowed me to communicate with my family when I had an accident in Uzbekistan.
  • Hard shell (Rab Downpour)
    A good multi-purpose hard shell will keep you dry and warm. My breathable rain jacket is one of the best investments I've made. I'm considering getting matching waterproof pants.
  • Headache pills
    Ibuprofen cures headaches, but also altitude sickness, stiff necks and a multitude of other aches.
  • Head lamp
    Everyone swears by them, so I eventually got one. It's indeed indispensable. Get one with a rechargeable battery, and multiple intensity settings.
  • Headphones
    I carry regular headphones, and a pair of Sony WI-C300 bluetooth headphones. The former work without any fuss. The latter work well inside my helmet.
  • Knife
    My little camping knife got a lot of use during the trip. I use it to cut food, packaging and ropes. I suppose it's also useful for self-defence, but I never had to use mine in anger. A folding knife is smaller and safer. Just get one that's long enough to cut vegetables.
  • Laptop and charger
    Most of the time, you'll be too tired to even open it, but sometimes, a big screen is useful. I use mine to plan elaborate routes, to edit photos, and to handle work problems that can't wait. I have a 15 inch Macbook Pro protected by a Thule Gauntlet armoured sleeve.
  • Lighter (regular Bic lighter)
  • Lip balm
  • Metal wire
    When duct tape and bungee cords fail, metal wire will hold anything together. This is how I got an extra 1000 km out of my broken luggage rack on the Pamir Highway. I could have driven all the way back to Berlin that way. You can find metal wire anywhere, but it doesn't hurt to carry a metre of it. I kept mine wrapped around the crash bars.
  • Nail clipper
  • Neck warmer
    It's necessary when the temperature dips below 10°C, both on and off the bike.
  • Notebook + pen
    I carry mine in my jacket at all times. It's useful for taking notes and for communicating across the language barrier. I also highly recommend keeping a physical travel journal. It's easier to write a few words down during lunch than to open your laptop at the end of a long day. It's also a delight to look at your old notes during the winter months.
  • Phone (Samsung Galaxy S9)
    Not any phone, but a waterproof phone. I can't overstate how useful a waterproof phone is, especially if you use it as a GPS. Don't spend too much on your phone, because it will take a beating. If you use it as a GPS, expect some screen burn-in.
  • Plastic bags
    I bring a few 20 litre garbage bags. They can hold your dirty laundry, your muddy sneakers or your garbage. In a pinch, they can also keep your feet dry, even during downpours and river crossings.
  • Power bank
    Even if your 12 volt plug can charge your devices on the go, it won't work so well in the rain. Just plug your devices to the power bank, and stash them safely in your luggage. Power banks are also useful when hiking or camping. I use a very small power bank to keep weight down. It's just enough to fully charge my phone.
  • Tire pressure gauge
  • Razor (Max-T micro USB electric shaver)
    I am not to be trusted with blades, so I use an electric razor. I bought one that charges with a micro USB cable. That's one less charger to bring with me.
  • Rubber gloves
    When it rains cats and dogs, they will keep your hands dry. When it's really cold, they will block the wind. Don't overthink this. A pair of extra large kitchen gloves works just fine.
  • Running or hiking shoes
    You'll want a pair of shoes to walk around when you're off the bike. I prefer lightweight running shoes that dry quickly.
  • SD cards + SD card reader
    If you want to transfer photos to your laptop, or swap memory cards between your phone, your camera and your action camera, these might come handy.
  • Second layer
    You need a warm layer that works on and off the bike. This layer is meant to be combined with other layers, so it should be warm and form-fitting.
  • Sewing kit
    I used my tiny sewing kit once or twice. I also used the needle as a SIM card extractor.
  • Sleeping bag (Forclaz TREK 900)
    I use an ultralight sleeping bag. It's very light, and very compact. Mine is comfortable down to 10 degrees, or 5 degrees with a good fleece. Unfortunately, it feels a lot like sleeping in a plastic bag. A bigger, softer sleeping bag would have been great, but it would have taken a lot more luggage space.
  • Soap and shampoo
    Just fill a travel-sized bottle with body wash of your choice. Bring anti-dandruff shampoo. Your scalp gets dry and itchy after a day in a helmet.
  • Socket adapters
    If you travel to a countries with different wall sockets, bring an adapter. If you travel to countries with different voltages, make sure your chargers can handle it. Labels on the chargers themselves always show that information.
  • Sun cream
  • Super glue
    Super glue fixes what duct tape can't. If you cut your finger, you can close the cut with glue. This way, it won't rub against your sweaty gloves all day long. It's perfectly safe.
  • Swimsuit
    If you don't swim at least once during your trip, you're doing something wrong. On rare occasions, you might also need to shower with something on.
  • Tent (Forclaz TREK 900)
    I use an ultralight backpacking tent. It weighs a mere 1.6kg, and uses little luggage space.
  • Toothbrush, toothpaste
  • Cable ties
    I carry a dozen long tie wraps to hold things together when duct tape won't do. I used all of them up during the trip. Next time, I might bring reusable ones.
  • Tire pump
    You'll need it if you lower your pressure to go off-road, or if you puncture a tire. I much prefer a simple, reliable manual bicycle tire pump over a heavy, failure-prone mini compressors. Many would disagree, so I leave that up to you. It takes roughly 1 minute to per PSI to inflate a tire with a portable bike pump. You can also use CO2 cartridges, but if you run out of them, you're stuck.
  • Toilet paper
    Don't underestimate how often you'll need toilet paper, whether it's to wipe your glasses or your bum. When nature calls and won't settle for voicemail, you'll be glad to have it with you.
  • Tools
    Bring all the tools you need to take your motorcycle apart, and test them. You don't want a rusty or oversized bolt to knock the wind out of your sails when you're 100 kilometres from a hot meal. Be particularly wary of cheap ratchets. A breaker bar is likely worth the extra weight. Take everything you need to handle anything that may come. The exact list of tools depends on where you are going, and on your own repair skills.
  • Toothbrush + toothpaste
  • Towel (Nabaiji Microfiber Towel XL)
    I use the same Decathlon camping towel as half of Europe, and it works fine. It takes little space and it dries quickly.
  • USB wall charger
    Mine charges my phone, GPS tracker, headphones, camera, shaver, power bank, etc. Get one with Quick Charge and multiple USB ports. You won't always have the time to charge your devices one by one.
  • Water
    You should always have water with you. Heat stroke and dehydration are dumb ways to die. In really hot weather, you can also pour water on yourself to stay cool. It's surprisingly effective. You just don't need a fancy water bottle. I use disposable water bottles, because they can crumple to free up some space. In some countries, you can't refill a reusable bottle from the tap anyway.

Things I deliberately left out

  • Action camera
    Action cameras let you film cool things without stopping. The resulting videos can be astonishing. However, I use mine less and less. Extracting and processing the footage will . The resulting videos fills your hard drive.
  • Camera (Sony RX100 Mk1)
    My Sony RX100 has been a solid companion for many years. It packs an excellent lens and sensor in a pocketable format. Unfortunately, it fell once too often in Georgia, and stopped working. I finished the trip with my phone's camera, and it turned out to be enough. The RX100 took appreciably better pictures, but my smartphone automatically geotags and uploads photos It's incredibly convenient. Whatever you do, don't bring a heavy DSLR. Your luggage is a hostile place for all that fragile, expensive glass.
  • Camping stove and cooking equipment
    A camping stove is rather useless without fuel, a metal pot, a cup, some utensils and the means to keep it all clean. I found warm food wherever I went. Cooking equipment only made sense when I wanted to save money.
  • Motorcycle equipment
    You'll need riding a motorcycle helmet, jacket, pants, boots and gloves. That goes without saying. I much prefer textile to leather. It's cooler, and it dries faster. Your kit should let you ride from 5°C to 40°C, rain or shine. Buying black gear was a mistake. Don't make that mistake.
  • Spare parts
    I only carry an extra oil filter, because it's hard to come by in some parts of the world. I managed to find everything else on the road, or order it in advance from garages on my route. After my accident in Uzbekistan, I had my dealership in Germany ship new fork tubes to Kazakhstan, and got the bike fixed there.
  • Helmet comms
    I don't have any comms in my helmet. Most of my trips are solo trips, so I wouldn't have a use for them. Bring them or don't. It's up to you.
  • GPS
    I don't use a dedicated GPS device. That's one less device to carry and keep charged. My phone is a much better navigation tool than any GPS I've used. OsmAnd+ is an incredible app. On the other hand, redundancy isn't a bad idea for such an essential tool. Maybe you should carry two smartphones!
  • Paper map and compass
    I am a huge map nerd, but I never had to use a paper map. Never ever. Not even in North Africa or Central Asia. Unless you venture really far off-road, you'll never be far enough from people, food and fuel to make a paper map worth it. That's especially true if you aren't used to map and compass navigation.
  • Motorcycle lock
    I've never locked any of my motorcycles. I'll lock the steering wheel, and that's it.
  • Sunglasses
    They're great, but not enough to justify the space they use in your luggage.
  • Flip flops

Other considerations

  • You'll have to carry your luggage to and from your hotel room, in full motorcycle gear, every single day. Your room could be on the top floor of a five story hotel atop a steep hill, halfway across the old town.
  • Check your insurance policies before you leave. They should cover the things you want to do in the places you want to go.
  • If you can't leave something on the bike, you have to take it with you. This has been a major headache for my friends with tank bags or soft luggage.
  • Friction and vibration will poke holes through nylon bags, rattle things apart and fray cables.