Video: how to go completely over the top packing your motorcycle

Dailies -



In this video, adventure tourer Rick Peterson breaks down the “175lbs or so” of gear that he carries on his BMW R1200GS. We thought it was a bit much even before he revealed that he literally does pack a kitchen sink.

The purpose of us highlighting the excessiveness of Rick’s packing isn’t to criticize him — If this is what works for him, then great, he’s obviously out there using it — but more to educate readers who might soon find themselves packing for a motorcycle trip. Due to the limitations weight and space place on your ability to haul tons of shit on a bike, oftentimes less is more. Or, know what you need before you go and take only that.

While we’re pretty thorough packers ourselves, hauling a whole shitload of stuff to Labrador and back, we took advantage of multi-use, versatile gear to limit the amount of things we needed to carry. Compare Rick’s clothing solution — Frog Togs, multiple jackets, multiple pants, boots, multiple gloves, fleece, neck warmer, more rain gear, a heated jacket, etc, etc, etc — to the near universal ability of something like Grant’s Rukka Merlin Gore-Tex Pro Shell Leather suit. Where Rick packs an entire bag full of extra riding gear, Grant got away with what he was wearing through a diverse range of weather conditions. The Rukka’s expensive, but is it more expensive than buying all these different options?

Another example of needless excess would be packing both spare tubes and a tire repair kit for a bike fitted with tubeless wheels. The same is true of packing more than one or two days’ worth of food when your bike’s range is limited by its need to refill with gas and every rural gas station would be happy to sell you canned and sometimes even fresh food. It takes a couple of weeks to starve to death, you’re extremely unlikely to find yourself in a situation of that duration in which you’d be unable to find food. So why pack more than some jerky and a few energy bars?

Doubling of items where a single multi-use item would suffice can also be seen in the tarp/bike cover/tent combo. Wouldn’t your tent’s rain fly serve all those purposes with the aid of a bungee cord? Pack it separately and you won’t get your tent wet when you re-stow the fly. I carry a rolled up piece of 8mm plastic sheet (I think it’s roughly 8×10’) that packs as small as a can of soda to serve as a supplementary shelter or for whatever.

Why carry both a SteriPEN and a water filter when a bottle of iodine tincture (as recommended by Cody Lundin) would do the job of both without requiring batteries in a much smaller package? I usually take a few coffee filters to clean really gross water.

Why all the soaps and huge toiletry kit when a little thing of Dr. Bronners, toothpaste, a toothbrush and a razor would take care of your clothes, dishes and your body?

Rather than strapping as much gear as feasibly possible onto your bike, we’d recommend creating a list of the needs you’ll have to fulfill while on the road — shelter, hydration, food, bike maintenance, etc — and then fill in the individual items you’d like to carry to fulfill those needs, attempting to pare the list down to the minimum possible. Pack a credit card too and you’ll be able to pick up any extras you find you can’t live with along the way.

Trying to wrestle an R1200GS that weights 175lbs extra through a low-speed off-road obstacle is a lot worse than not being able to wash your face with that special soap in your very own sink.

  • Mark D

    This is relevant to my interests. Tripping across the country to San Francisco in August on the EX500.

    I’m pretty sure I can’t carry 175lb of gear on my back, and I’m sure as shit not leaving anything on the bike in rural ‘merica. I’m way more afraid of theft than turning some gross undies inside out, or living on gas station food for a couple of days. Using the fly as a waterproof cover is a good idea.

    I like the rain-gear, though I’m surprised by how few tools he took with him.

    • Wes Siler

      Look at the Kriega US 30 or 40:

      I really love that stuff. Super versatile, completely waterproof, totally rock solid on the bike and pretty affordable for such nice gear.

      • Mark D

        Wow, that’s about half of what I expected good tail bags to be. Impressive.

      • ike6116

        I wonder, do they sell anything I could put a 30 rack of beer into and have it secure on the back of my bike?

        • Wes Siler

          I think you just need a milk crate and a couple bungee cords for that…

          • ike6116

            BUNGEE CORDS?! I want to drink like a redneck not look like one.

            • gregorbean

              Strap that rack of crappy beer down like a big fat rich Aerostich wearing GS riding baby with these:

              • ike6116

                Your website has 404′s bud.

                • gregorbean

                  Weird, it has worked for me on both my work and home computers. Anyway, they’re ROK Straps, and at one point in the above vid you can see that this dudeguy has a set. They’re basically a glorified adjustable flat bungee with plastic buckles, awesome for strapping extra gear on your bike. The guy who started the company is a BMW enthusiast up here in Seattle.

            • nick

              “I want to drink like a redneck not look like one.” HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAA. That is the best statement of the year…

  • markbvt

    Holy shit! And I thought I overpacked on my Trans-Lab trips…

    This guy has convinced me to pare down my crap. I’m with you, Wes — better to carry a few multitaskers than a lot of unitaskers, and the less excess weight, the better.

  • Deltablues

    I would just carry a passenger and make them do my fetching and dirty work….my own personal Sherpa.

  • Steve


  • cookey

    I travel light, I’m not gonna knock him for travelling heavy.

    I don’t care what he carries, why should his preferences get picked apart just because some other fella’s asked him to show how and why he packs his gear? It doesn’t strike me that he’s boasting or preaching in any way saying this is how it should be done, just how he likes to. Each to their own, and if all that keeps him comfortable whilst he’s out there doing the miles then why not. He’s not asking any one else to carry it!

  • Glenngineer

    I too hate the ‘I strapped 50lbs to my bike for a day ride’ crowd. They’re taking premium, really nice bikes, and totally fucking them with a huge volume and mass strapped all over the back.

  • gregorbean

    To each his own indeed. I did a near 12,000 mile trip with maybe a third of that much crap and I felt like I had too much. And besides the occasional friend or family members house, I was camping every night.

    Sometimes less is more. And sometimes you want to enjoy your remote wilderness with a mac, two hard drives, four cameras, and a bunch of other crap you don’t really need.

    On a side note, I used a Wolfman bag that unfortunately had a tendency to let a little water in through the seams. Have you Kriega owners experienced anything like that with their products or are they pretty truly waterproof?

  • jpenney

    I don’t think i regularly use that much stuff at my house!

    • Deltablues

      I can’t fit that much stuff in my Mini Cooper. There is barely that much in my whole apartment. The thought of strapping that much stuff to my 675 goggles my mind. Rode a trip last Fall from Little Rock to New Mexico on the 675 with a Marmot Home Alone Bivey, a Leatherman, one pan, spoon, fork, small stove. Fun.

  • Gregory

    Both Apple and BMW are for wankers. Go for a KLR and Linux.


    • ike6116

      Yes, linux the holy grail of design and usability. Let’s see I’ve been hearing “This is the year of the Linux desktop” since 03… 2011…. THIS IS THE YEAR!

  • Gregory

    It’s not the gear. It’s the man.


  • fasterfaster

    Some folks would never make the trip if they didn’t feel completely prepared… I’d rather see someone take too much than not venture out at all. For me, if I can backpack for a week in the wilderness with 60lbs of gear and food, I can get by with that or less on a trip that has me hopping gas station to gas station. Though I will say, I much prefer cooking my own meals in the middle of nowhere to relying on restaurants and kwik-e marts.