My motorcycle packing list for very long trips

This is the packing list I used for my 32000 km trip from Germany to Kazakhstan. It has served me well through a variety of situations, and required very few changes along the trip.

I can fit all of this in my two 45 litre metal panniers. 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. Being able to leave the bike somewhere and go on your own makes a big difference in how you travel.

The packing list

  • 12 volt to USB adapter
    There is a 12 volt jack on my motorcycle's dashboard. I use a 12 volt to USB adapter to keep my phone charged. I recommend getting one with two USB ports. If possible, find one that gives over 2 Amps per port to charge your devices faster. The GPS will sometimes drain the battery faster than a 1 Amp adapter can charge it. A bad phone + charger combination can make phones charge painfully slowly. I can't overstate how much of a headache this can be.
  • Action camera
    Action cameras let you film cool things without stopping. Even though they require a fair bit of time and effort, the resulting videos can be astonishing. Given the space and weigh it takes, I could live without it.
  • Air mattress and pillow (Forclaz TREK 700)
    I chose this mattress due to its very small size. It was small, noisy and uncomfortable. I also not regret bringing an inflatable pillow. I woke up many times with the shape of a jacket zipper stamped onto my face. I punctured the mattress towards the end of my trip, and plan to replace it with a thicker, wider, more expensive one.
  • Allergy pills
  • Backpack
    A large part of the trip happens off the motorcycle. Sometimes, you only need some of your stuff with you, either for a hike, a short walk around town, or a trip to the shared bathroom. I had a backpack that folded to the size of a muffin, and I used it all the time. I eventually forgot it in a taxi in Kazakhstan.
  • Bungee cords
    Bungee cords are great for securing things to the bike. I always have one strapped across the seat. I used it 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.
  • Camera (Sony RX100 Mk1)
    I am in love with the Sony RX100, and got two of my friends to buy one. It has as much power as you can pack into a camera this size. Mine developed a "squeeze to turn on" feature from its last tumble, but it's still going strong after 4 years. In any case, having a separate camera is useful, especially if you mount your phone as a GPS. I made one trip with a larger DSLR camera, and I found it too cumbersome to use. I prefer a camera that fits in my jacket.
  • 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 remove grime fromyour chain.
  • Cotton swabs
    You hopefully won't go a few weeks without cleaning your ears.
  • Charging cables
    I carry USB-C and micro USB cables. That's all I need. Bring at least two of each kind. I broke two cables in the first week, and one slowly wore off with vibration. Buy cables of different colours; they're easier to find in your luggage. Test each cable with each charger to make sure they both charge at full speed.
  • 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.
  • 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 didn't find mine particularly useful, except on the very long straight roads of Kazakhstan.
  • 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
      I honestly never had to use mine. My German driving licence was always enough.
    • 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. You can't reverse tinnitus. They snuff out motorcycle noises and snoring bunkmates with remarkable efficiency. 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.
  • Headache pills
    Ibuprofen cures headaches, but also altitude sickness, stiff necks and a multitude of other aches.
  • 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 + 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 problems that can't wait until I return. 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 fails, metal wire is the best way to attach things 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.
  • Nail clipper
  • Neck warmer
    It's necessary when the temperature dips below 10°C, both on and off the bike. In a pinch, you can wear boxer shorts around your neck.
  • 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. If you use yours as a GPS, you might want to carry a separate camera. If your phone has an AMOLED display, using it as a GPS can cause screen burn-in.
  • Plastic bags
    I bring a small roll of 20 litre garbage bags. They can hold your dirty laundry, and keep your dusty shoes separate from the rest of your luggage. They can also keep your feet dry in deep water.
  • 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.
  • Pressure gauge
  • Q-Tips
  • 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
    Just fill a travel-sized bottle with body wash of your choice. Don't put too much thought into it. You'll forget it in a hostel within the first week of your trip.
  • Sun cream
  • Elastic straps
    I keep one on my bike at all times, even at home. They hold your clothes onto your bike while they dry, hold your gloves down while you move the bike, and secure extra luggage if needed.
  • Sun cream
  • Super glue
    If you have a small, annoying paper cut, super glue can snap it shut in an instant. It's perfectly safe, and it works really well. It can also glue your other things back together when they start falling apart.
  • 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 takes very little space in my luggage. I am not a big fan of camping, but it will sometimes be your best option. I am very happy with this tent.
  • 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. I'd consider reusable ones for future trips.
  • 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 heavy, failure-prone mini compressors. It takes roughly 1 minute to per PSI to inflate a tire with a portable bike pump. It's not great if you are already tired, but again, luggage space comes at a premium.
  • 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 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 your own repair skills.
  • Toothbrush + toothpaste
  • Towel (Nabaiji Microfiber Towel XL)
    I use a camping towel from Decathlon, and it works great. It takes very little space and dries very quickly. Don't bring a regular towel. It will take forever to dry and quickly pick up a horrible smell.
  • USB wall charger
    Mine charges my phone, GPS tracker, bluetooth headphones, camera, action camera, razor and power bank. Get one with quickcharge and multiple ports. You won't always have the time to charge your devices one by one.
  • Wind jacket
    A good multipurpose jacket will keep you warm when you're off the bike. Pick something light, waterproof and wind-resistant. Make sure it can zip all the way up to your chin, has pockets for your hands, and a hoodie.

Things I deliberately left out

  • 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. It never felt like a worthwhile use of luggage space.
  • Water bottle
    You should always have water with you. Heat stroke and dehydration are dumb ways to die. You just don't need a fancy water bottle to carry it. I like disposable water bottles because they can crumple to free up some space. In really hot weather, you can pour water on yourself to stay cool. Evaporative cooling is a surprisingly effective way to stay cool in dry climates.
  • 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.
  • 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 the road. After my accident in Uzbekistan, I had my dealership in Germany ship new fork tubes to Kazakhstan, and got the bike fixed there. You shouldn't need any
  • 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. On the other hand, redundancy isn't a bad idea for such an essential tool.
  • Paper map, compass
    I am a huge map nerd, but I never had to use a paper map. Not even in North Africa or Central Asia. Unless you venture very 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 can't use a map and compass efficiently.
  • Motorcycle lock
    I've never locked any of my motorcycles. I'll lock the steering wheel, and that's it. I'd rather pay for good insurance than for a good lock.
  • Head lamp
    I know a few people who swear by them, and I can totally understand why.
  • Sunglasses
  • 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 on top of 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 it 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.