There is nothing us old-school, long-distance overlanders love more than practical gear that serves more than one purpose, is lightweight, and more durable than a bad reputation. Bikers, generally, seem proud of their collective bad rep. But they are also creative and innovative when it comes to gear, as they only want to carry the essentials and rely entirely on these products when far from the beaten track. The last time I rode a large displacement motorcycle was across the Swiss Alps a few years ago. The experience inspired me to research the ideal setup for motorcycle travel and seek innovation as I happily slid down the rabbit hole of two-wheeled adventure travel. There is no good reason why there should not be a cross-pollination of gear from two wheels to four. Essential gear is universal, minimalism and overland travel go hand in hand. The more compact or occupied your vehicle is, the more likely you are to need solutions that save space and reduce weight. We have identified two specific products that have been tested vigorously and will remain permanent additions to our gear arsenal.
Turkana Gear Duffalo
Michnus and Elsebie Olivier of PikiPiki Overland have crafted an exceptional website offering invaluable information based on hard-earned experience, which became our go-to resource. These travelers have been exploring since the 1990s and have real-world, practical experience across the Americas, Africa, and Europe. The “Biker’s Guide” page of the website is a veritable treasure trove of comprehensive information ranging in topics from Bikes and Preparation, Packing and Equipment, to Travel Tips and Advice. All of this accumulated knowledge, and previous success in the travel accessories market, led the couple to a partnership (with fellow international bikers) in gear and apparel company Turkana Gear. The company brings world-renowned South African materials and quality to the global stage via its headquarters in California.
We sourced the Turkana Gear 40-litre Duffalo as we required a dustproof and water-resistant duffel bag to strap to the vehicle’s rack. Its primary purpose is to protect expensive winter gear and other seasonal items while freeing up interior packing space. The Duffalo (get it? duffel + buffalo) features a convenient wide-mouth since the bag was designed to be carried pillion by the rider who wants to find gear quickly—not empty a load through a small, constricted mouth.
The inner lining is as water-resistant as the outer and is removable. The bag mouth rolls and clips closed, ensuring that the duffel is entirely dustproof and only complete submersion will allow moisture to enter. The latching straps are adjustable, and the bag features shoulder straps that enable the bag to be carried either by hand, over the shoulder, or as a backpack. A PALS MOLLE webbing system on all four sides of the duffel allows for the secure attachment of additional bags (Turkana manufactures compatible water/utility pouches, too).
As the bag is made in South Africa, only the highest standard materials are used. The outer layer canvas combines Rhinocote and 1680 Tuffstuff, which are proven to withstand constant abuse. The bag has added padding to prevent shaving and abrasion from damaging the inside and bottom layer. Our favorite features include that the bag is field repairable with a basic sewing kit and multi-tool, and the standard-size buckles and webbing can conveniently be sourced internationally.
We have been impressed by the quality and durability of the Duffalo; it is attractive, simple, well designed, and very well made. Not only is it affordable, but it also seems underpriced for what you get. A lifetime guarantee protects your purchase and ensures serious overland heritage.
We recommend that you also look at the Turkana saddlebag, which retails at a mere $450 for an eight-piece luggage kit! Bikers of the world rejoice.
$120 | www.turkanagear.com
Giant Loop Armadillo
While the old-fashioned jerry can is an icon, a veteran of war and exploration, it has some glaring limitations. The most apparent negatives are the weight of the can, the space it fills on a vehicle, and the simple fact that it takes up the same amount of space, whether empty or full. There must be a better way. Over decades of exploration across vast areas, we have often paused to consider alternatives for the storage of diesel, oil, or water. A Rotopax container is slimmer than a traditional metal jerry can but has limited adequate capacity, the safety spout is more frustrating than the DMV (a problem partially solved by carrying a water spout), and most travelers find that they will need to bring at least two Rotopax if they are to have sufficient range. A built-in auxiliary fuel tank is often a solution but is usually quite expensive and requires plumbing, pumps, and switches. We have found that even with an auxiliary tank installed, we still need the peace of mind of an extra 10 gallons. Bikers generally do not have an option for an auxiliary tank. While a motorcycle uses much less fuel than a 5.9-litre Cummins, the opportunity to carry extra fuel increases range and peace of mind. Well, we found a solution, and if it is good enough for an RTW biker, then it is good enough for us.
While strolling around the booths at SEMA in 2021, we came across the Giant Loop team. They introduced us to the Armadillo bag, self-described as “flexible, collapsible, lightweight, expedition-ready utility bladders for the safe transport and storage of liquid hydrocarbon products and other Powersports and automotive fluids, available in 1-, 2-, 3- and 5-gallon sizes.” The site then adds the disclaimer, “Armadillo Bag is not a portable fuel container as described by ASTM, EPA, ARB or other state and federal agencies. Armadillo Bag is NOT intended for fuel storage, transport, or use as a gasbag in the USA.” Editor’s note: Legalities differ from country to country. We advise you to familiarize yourself with the laws and regulations of the nation or territory you intend to use this product in and respond accordingly.
As a responsible journalist offering reliable consumer advice, I do not suggest that you use the Armadillo Bag for the storage of fuel, definitely, under no circumstances whatsoever—ever!
We have chosen to use the Armadillo Bag to temporarily store diesel in Latin America. But you could use the bladder to store engine oil, transmission oil, coolant, or other necessary fluids. Our test bladders are the 5-gallon and 3-gallon versions, which have replaced three Rotopax.
The bladders each include a dedicated pour spout, and the flow rate defies physics. I still do not understand how the flow is as rapid as it is without a pressure release valve. The pour spout is conveniently located in a pocket sewn to the bladder and is easily accessible and attached. The spout, which features an incorporated mesh particulate filter, does not leak, the bag is easy to handle, and the filling process is quick and easy. And the cherry on top? Once the bag is empty or partially empty, it compresses and can be rolled up and tucked away. Did I mention that the empty 5-gallon bladder weighs only 1.5 pounds dry? The space- and weight-saving potential of these bags is perhaps their most attractive feature, and we have found a much better use of the cavities or spaces previously occupied by large, solid fuel containers.
Our primary concern was leakage, but the bladders have proven incredibly tough. While researching this article, we came across a YouTube video (watch it below) of a biker doing his level best to burst an Armadillo bag. He throws it against a tree, drops a 1200 GS on it, and rips at it with a knobbly, spinning rear tire, but despite the abuse, the bladder appears to work perfectly (with a small leak from the spout, caused no doubt by the vigorous abuse). The Armadillo features a two-layer construction; an inner TPU bladder with a protective Cordura fabric outer sleeve is individually pressure tested to ensure leakproof performance. Our experience over the last few months of traveling across smooth and rough terrain is that the bags are absolutely leakproof and reliable.
The bag securely mounts to luggage, racks, or truck beds with integrated daisy chain webbing, and you could choose to mount it to your roof rack or spare wheel. We have chosen to store the bladders within a storage box dedicated to fuel and fluids. Two handles allow portability, and the overall construction is excellent—we have yet to find fault.
The Armadillo will undoubtedly serve you well whether you use it for overland travel, as an auxiliary container for everyday use, outdoor exploration, or work (I imagine it teamed with a chainsaw for woodwork), with a snowmobile, or for motorcycle travel.
Since 2008, Giant Loop has evolved from two adventure motorcycle riders with only a single saddlebag available online into one of the world’s most innovative motorcycle soft luggage and gear makers. The product line now includes adventure-proof packing systems and gear for motorcycles, snowmobiles, snow bikes, and outdoor extremes. All products are designed in Bend, Oregon.
5-gallon, $160/3-gallon, $120 | www.giantloopmoto.com
Our No Compromise Clause: We carefully screen all contributors to make sure they are independent and impartial. We never have and never will accept advertorial, and we do not allow advertising to influence our product or destination reviews.