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Westx1000: How to Pack for an International Motorcycle Adventure

Kyra and I will spend the next few months in Asia and Europe, eating, drinking, riding and documenting everything we can. We’re in Tokyo at the moment, staying with a few friends in Fussa. Lucky for us, we have access to a pair of Yamaha dual-sport motorcycles almost identical to the ones we store in the States. That said, prior to our departure, we needed to decide what we were going to take and how we were going to get it there. And so, after much thought and a bit of internet browsing, we came up with a pretty good plan of how to pack for our international motorcycle adventure(s).




Simple Stuff

It’s easy to overlook a lot of things – socks, underpants, etc. are usually the first thing people pack. But when packing for a motorcycle adventure, one shouldn’t forget things like a HAD, spare gloves, flip-flops or sandals for when you aren’t riding, sunglasses, swimwear, a packable baseball cap, and so on. I, like a lot of people, start with the aforementioned underpants. I build a base, roughly five pairs accompanied by the same number of t-shirts and socks. Black is best, especially when you plan to be on a bike all day, as sweat won’t show. I also pack one long sleeve shirt which I can wear underneath my riding jacket if it gets cold. I don’t do puffy, micro-thermal, ultra-cool, moisture-wick, maximum-performance pieces. That’s just not my thing. If I’m riding around town, you’ll usually catch me in a pair of hiking boots, jeans, t-shirt and a waxed canvas jacket. If our adventures go off of the road, a riding suit and proper boots is what works best for me.




Waterproof is Important

This includes – but is not limited to – jacket, pants, bags and backpacks. You won’t, however, catch me in a waterproof space suit unless I know we’ll be out and about for awhile. But I bring one. Something that I know will keep me warm and dry no matter how long or far we ride. Which leads to my next point: bring a waterproof bag. We use Wolfman Luggage’s Expedition Dry Duffel, size small. Inside you’ll find a pair of ICON 1000 Elsinore boots and a set of ICON Raiden’s new DKR riding gear, as well as a wetsuit (surfing is essential during all of our adventures). We also opted for Wolfman’s new Enduro Dry Duffel, which keeps our clothing, toiletries and miscellaneous items safe and secure. That’s two bags, both of which are rather small, but they’ll need to be checked. Luckily, if you’re traveling internationally, each person is allotted two checked bags for free. Bingo! Lastly, having waterproof bags allows you to do a few things you may not have thought of initially: doing laundry (yes, in the bag), storing wetsuits when they’re… wet, keeping stinky stuff separated from what you’ll wear, filling it with ice and beer, and then, once the ice melts, providing your friend’s four-year old with a tiny swimming pool.




Helmets as Handbags

The next thing you need to know is not to let anyone handle your helmet. If all else is lost, the one you’ll need to assure your adventure happens is a helmet… your helmet. Which is why we carry our helmets as handbags; filling them with snacks for the flight, the latest issue of Overland Journal, passports, plane tickets, etc. The helmets, in addition to the backpacks I’ll mention later, are the two items we take onto the plane. They fit easily into the overhead storage and, with the chin strap secured, can be carried as easily as a plastic bag, albeit a bit heavier.




Suits and Boots

As I mentioned, we opted for ICON Raiden’s new DKR riding gear, as well as a pair of ICON 1000 Elsinore boots. These, along with jeans, GORE-TEX hiking boots and our ICON 1000 Akorp jackets (all of which we wore on the plane), wraps up our riding gear. Perhaps you’re wondering why we brought two jackets and two pairs of boots? Well, considering the duration of our stay, as well as the variety of terrain we intend to encounter, having options seemed ideal. Another thing that will help lessen the load is to pull the armor out of one of your jackets. Since you only wear one at a time, you can easily interchange the armor. This also makes wearing a riding jacket on the plane a lot less, well, cumbersome.




Cameras, Computers and Memory Cards

As photographers and journalists, we carry a lot of camera crap. I, however, have learned my lessons and was able to limit the amount of lenses, lights, adapters, etc. to only a few items: one full-size DSLR, a 50mm prime, an 18-135mm lens that basically lives on the camera, as well as a 75-300mm lens for shooting action stuff and surfing. I also pack a 35mm film camera with a fixed 50mm lens, the same camera I used for our month-long motorcycle trip into Mexico.  These, along with my laptop and a small bag full of memory cards (buy extra, always!), spare batteries, a GoPro and all the applicable power cords, fit neatly inside my Blk Pine Workshop Canoe Pack, an otherwise antiquated and yet completely awesome backpack that I’ve come to love.




To Take Tools, or Not to Take Tools…

One of the more difficult questions we had to answer was whether or not to take tools. Now, most motorcycles that you’ll rent (or purchase if you’re not feeling frugal), will come equipped with a standard set of tools, enough to do minor maintenance. Luckily for us, both the bikes we’re riding are essentially identical to the ones we own which meant all of the tools we normally take with us on an adventure would work perfectly. Unfortunately, we forgot to drop them in our duffel. Left sitting on the passenger seat of our van, we are without tools while we’re here. Alas, the set that our bikes come equipped with have been more than adequate, but we picked up a proper crescent wrench and a bag of zip-ties just in case.






Last but not least are the little things I always overlook. As mentioned earlier, having a HAD, sunglasses, flip-flops and something to swim in (especially since we’re here all summer), are essential. A few of the other things we did our damndest not to forget were… it doesn’t matter. Assuming you brought all the bits you need to ride a bike, almost anything you forgot will be available when you get wherever it is you’re going. This is the 21st century, folks. Which means unless you’re flying into a remote part of the Amazon Jungle to ride giant GS motorcycles (ahem, Sinhue and Scott), you’ll be able to find just about anything. Just about anywhere.

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Justin W. Coffey is the Co-Creator of WESTx1000, a multimedia company creating unique editorial and photographic content for the adventure motorcycle community. He is a published author and photographer whose work has appeared on Gizmodo, Expedition Portal, ADV Pulse, RevZilla, SLIDE Magazine, TKart, 0-60 Magazine and MX-5 Forever, among others. Additionally, Justin launched the Peanut Butter Coast - a surf inspired travelogue - in 2011.