CRAIG'S LATEST RAMBLINGS AND WORDS OF SEMI-WISDOMLiving Off the Slab Blog
While I sit around the house waiting for my shoulder to heal and Spring to arrive, I have been taking stock of all the items I have carried with me during my various tours and adventures. I thought it would be interesting, and I hope helpful, to share the list of items or gear that I have found to be most useful or "essential" while traveling.
Please notice that the title of this blog and it accompanying video includes the term "modern." I point that out because in reality you do not need any of this stuff. You could just get on your bike and ride like Jim Bronson from the short-lived TV series from the late 60’s. However, if you are like me, then you enjoy taking advantage of the tools which our modern world offers here in the 21st century.
Of course, a comfortable and reliable motorcycle would be the most obvious choice for number one, but for this list we are gong to exclude the bike and focus on the gear. I have also excluded a good tool kit and first aid kit from this discussion, because those should be no brainers.
I present these items in no particular order and you may notice a theme that has to do with protecting yourself and your gear from the elements.
If you decide to purchase any of these items, please do so by using the provided affiliate links. We get a small commission on the sales which go along way to keep these videos coming.
I do not recommend any products that I have not used personally or any retailers that I have not used and been happy with their service. In fact, I purchased each one of these items, nothing was donated or provided for free.
#1. Waterproof Riding Gear
When setting out on a tour, I know that it is inevitable that I will run into hit some kind of inclement weather. On my 60-day trip, the first 10 days were mostly rain-soaked, however they were not unbearable due to my Klim Latitude jacket and pants; and of course, my water-proof gloves and boots.
I know that good GoreTex lined gear is expensive, but for me it has been well worth the money. My Klim gear has served me well in rain, cold and scorching. It even came out of my recent off-road mishap with only minor scratches. I cannot say enough about how my Klim gear has performed over the years.
In addition to the jacket and pants, I use Gore-Tex lined boots and gloves. I have tried some other so called "waterproof" boots that turned out not to be so waterproof, and they made for a rather miserable couple of travel days.
There are of course other waterproof materials like Dry-Star from Alpine Stars (which I now have in my Tech 7 boots), that work well, but be careful when choosing less expensive waterproofing materials. They do not always live up to their promise.
#2. Waterproof Bags
You might notice a theme here, in that keeping yourself and your belongings dry while on tour is a major concern. If you stuff gets wet, things can go downhill extremely quickly, so spending the extra money to make sure your bags are 100% waterproof is well worth the effort.
I know rain covers are usually included with every travel bag, but if you have to stop and put them on—along with your rain gear—then you are much less likely to do it. For me, to keep things simple, I prefer to purchase waterproof bags that do not require a separate cover.
One of my favorites is the DrySpec D38 from Twisted Throttle. I have had this bag for many years, and it has been all over the country, to Alaska and Nova Scotia with me. It has never leaked once, and everything still functions like new.
I also have a couple of the DrySpec D28 double ended bags as well as an SW-MOTECH Dry Bag 600. The 600 (or 60 litter bag) is very useful for carrying all my camping gear in on place.
Below are a couple of reviews of the DrySpec Bags from as far back as 2014. By the way, I am still using the same bags.
- Reveiw of DrySpec Bags after the Alaska trip (2017)
- Twisted Throttle Dry Spec D38 Waterproof Bag Review (2014)
#3. Dry Sacks
Right along with waterproof bags, I use waterproof dry sacks. Even though my stuff is packed in a waterproof bags, I still go the extra mile and pack my clothing and other essential in dry sacks. It just adds an extra layer of protection.
Waterproof stuff sacks come in a verity of sizes and colors which helps to keep things organized.
#4. Full Face Helmet
I am not listing a full-face helmet because I am an ATGATT proponent (which I am). What you wear or do not wear is your business, but for me switching to a full-face helmet has made a huge difference in my ability to ride long distances comfortably.
I started out touring with a half-helmet because I thought they offered more ventilation and thus were more comfortable. I also thought, I looked cool in it. However, after years of riding with a half-helmet, I found my ears hurt at the end of the day—form the constant beating of the wind, and riding though rain or hail was a nightmare. I finally said, what the hell am I doing and purchased a full-face helmet.
Now, riding in inclement weather is no big deal (when combined with my Klim gear) and the helmet helps with wind noise; at least the right helmet does. I use a Shoei RF1200 which is a relatively quiet helmet. When combined with earplugs it is actually peaceful.
#5. Ear Plugs
I know this seems like a trivial item, but on a long trip or even a long day in the saddle, the wind noise can wear you out and of course damage your hearing. Right now I am using the Eargasm, high-fidelity earplugs, but my wife prefers a simple foam earplug
Plugs like the Eargasm, filter out the harmful levels of sound but allow the lower levels associated with conversation to get through. Foam plugs generally block everything; however, my wife tells me she can hear our conversations via communicator just fine, and of course they are much less expensive. Use the ones that are most effective and comfortable for you.
#6. Hydration Pack
I have done several videos on the importance of drinking water while riding, so it will be of no surprise to my subscribers that I add a hydration pack to this list. Of course, you can use a cup or bottle, but for me the pack just makes staying hydrated so much easier, and if it is easy, I am more likely to keep up with it.
- Riding in the Heat
- Staying hydrated while traveling | How much water do you really need?
- Staying hydrated while traveling | Following a simple hydration plan
#7. Communication System
If you are traveling with friends, being able to communicate easily makes a huge difference. While on our trip to Alaska, Peter, Steven and were all equipped with the PackTalk System from Cardo. The PackTalk units worked great the entire way in all kinds of weather and road conditions.
Even if you are traveling by yourself, a good communication system will allow you make phone calls while riding, hear GPS instructions or listen to music while at highway speeds. As far as I am concerned, getting a good communication system is a worthwhile investment.
#8. GPS Device
A GPS device is an easy way to carry your maps along with you, especially if like me you generally plan you routes in advance. Learning to create routes and effectively use a GPS does take a bit of practice, but it well worth learning.
I know there are a growing number of riders who rely on their phones for navigation, but for me for me, having a dedicated device is the best way to go. A motorcycle specific GPS is generally waterproof, has a screen that is more readable in harsh run light and is glove friendly.
A phone on the other hand is usually not waterproof—something I have learned the hard way—they are not easily readable in the sun and are not glove friendly. You are also dependent on cell phone coverage, unless you take the time to pre-load all of the maps you will be using for your trip. For short trips, this may not be a big deal, but for long ones it can be. As with most things, there is no right or wrong here, just a personal choice.
GPS devices and not perfect and do on occasion lead me astray. This is generally based on who well I have built the route. However, when all things are considered, I would rather travel with one than without.
#9. Moto Pump
Checking and maintaining your tire air-pressure while traveling is essential and thus having a reliable air pump is a must. I carry the MotoPump brand from MotoPumps and have found it to be reliable, easy to use and quick to inflate.
The model I use (with the built-in gage) has been discontinued and replaced with the "Air Shot" which does not include a built in gage, however one can be attached easily during inflation. The new model is smaller, lighter and can handle higher pressures. Hmm, it may be time for an upgrade.
Note: the same pump is sold under the DynaPlug brand.
The MotoPump is powered by your bike’s electrical system. I hook it directly to the pig tail for my battery charging system. While the pump only draws 5 Amps, I suggest always running the bike during inflation.
This pump has been a lifesaver!