How To Make A Motorcycle Survival Kit

How To -


Motorcycle Survival Kit

Break down in the middle of nowhere? Crash in the desert? Get stranded due to weather? Carrying a few basic essentials with you can make the difference between life and death. Here’s how to make a motorcycle survival kit.

For the purposes of this article, let’s assume you’ve already got things to fix your bike handled — tools, tire repair kits, bulbs, fuses, etc — and concentrate instead on human survival. The stuff you’ll need to get you home or to keep you alive while you await rescue.

As motorcyclists, we enter into this a little more prepared than the common man on the street, our clothing is already designed to protect us from extreme weather. A jacket designed to keep you warm in 85 mph wind chill will do just as well huddled around a campfire.

And that’s the quickest way to die in the outdoors — exposure. “The first, biggest killer out there is hypo or hyperthermia,” explains survival expert Cody Lundin. “Another non-negotiable is water. The easiest way to maintain that core temperature aside from clothing is water. Your circulatory system is responsible for heating and cooling the body and to do that your body must stay hydrated.”

So let’s start the survival kit there as the most important item and work our way down to the least.

Klean Kanteen
Klean Kanteen

Water Bottle
Or a hydration pack or whatever works for you. You’re likely taking water with you riding already, but it’s always a good idea to make sure you have a little extra. Throw a Klean Kanteen in your tail pack or fill your Kriega Hydro-3 to full, even if you’re only off for an afternoon ride. A little extra weight and volume won’t kill you, but a lack of water will. An unlined aluminum or steel water bottle is rugged and will allow you to heat water over a fire to purify it or cook food.

tincture of Iodine, 2%

The easiest, cheapest, smallest and most effective way to make found water suitable for drinking is plain ol’ Tincture of Iodine 2%. Put two drops in your standard water bottle, shake it up, wait 15 minutes and you’re good to go. Those two drops aren’t enough to make the water taste bad and don’t stress if you spill a little extra in there. Don’t be pregnant, have an Iodine allergy or have thyroid gland problems though. You can’t carry unlimited water on your bike, but carrying this tiny little bottle of Iodine can allow you to make as much safe drinking water as you’ll ever need.

Tyvek Jacket
Tyvek Jacket

Tyvek Jacket
In the mountains when the weather suddenly takes a turn for the worse? Whether you just need to make it down or are forced to spend the night, you’ll need to get warm. The same material that insulates your home makes a killer waterproof, windproof, breathable layer that packs incredibly small and can be very cheap to buy. If you’re unprepared for precipitation, one of these worn over your motorcycle gear will keep you dry. Or, it will work well as an insinuative layer too.

Silk glove liners
Silk glove liners

Silk Glove Liners
“If you can’t hold on to the handlebars because you have frost bite on your fingers, you’re DOA,” says Cody. Silk glove liners are effective, affordable and will fit under pretty much any gloves.

Silk Balaclava
Silk Balaclava

Silk Balaclava
“By putting on a hat and some sort of neck covering, it’s minimally equivalent to putting on a light sweater,” explains Cody. “The good thing about this is the head and the neck are easy places to cover for limited space. A balaclava will be worth its weight in gold for a motorcycle survival kit.” Silk offers excellent insulation for its thickness while being luxuriously comfortable and durable.

First Aid Kit
First Aid Kit

First Aid Kit
You can stop most bleeding with the clothing you wear or just man up and deal with the pain of any injury that doesn’t stop you from moving, but adding a first aid kit will give you the ability to clean wounds or deal with problems like diarrhea or allergic reactions (mainline Benadryl in case of snake bite). To make mine, I started with this Adventure Medical Kits Sportsman and added stuff like Ace Bandages, a SAM Splint, a snake bite pump and prescription medicine to create something pretty comprehensive.

Protein Bars
Protein Bars

Protein Bars
On the list of survival priorities, food comes dead last; it takes two weeks to a month to starve to death. But, putting some calories in your body can give you calories to burn for warmth and is a huge psychological boost. Don’t let them take up too much space, but a couple protein bars are well worth packing.

Read More, Page Two >>

Related Links:
More From Cody: Cody Lundin On Surviving By Riding
Get Out There: How To Go Motorcycle Camping On A Budget
Stay Warm: How To Layer For Warmth

  • Jonathan

    It’s okay, don’t be shy little bottle of iodine

  • Mike

    I’d toss a poncho tarp in there too (depending on where you are going). A silnylon one will pack smaller than a softball, and can do double duty – use as a poncho for when you have to be moving around, or set up as an improvised shelter. In most situations you will be warmer with an improvised shelter than you would be wearing a waterproof layer.

    And a flashlight. Doesn’t have to be big. A AAA light, or an even smaller lithium battery light like a Quantum D2 (just the one that comes to mind) are tiny enough to be forgotten when not necessary, but can literally be a life saver. Use them to get peoples’ attention, an emergency beacon, or just so you can actually see what you’re doing when you’re trying to service your carb in the rain at 10 pm on a gravel road.

    Maybe some paracord too. It’s pretty handy stuff.

    • Mark D

      The small blinking lights for urban bicycle riding are usually small, light, and long lasting. Great if you break down on the side of the road at night; use the white to work with, and the red to alert passerbys that you are there.

      • Miles Prower

        Plus, if you get the right kind of blinker and clamp, you can wear the blinker on the back of your jacket while riding. I’ve seen a number of motorcyclists in NYC do this.

    • titoito

      Saw your reply after posting mine, piggybacked some on similar vein of thought. Those Mylar “space blankets” are great insulators as well, though I believe they tear easily.

      • Mike

        Yup, ready your post shortly after I put mine up. Buffs are great pieces of kit.

        One thing about neoprene gloves – what works for some people might not work for others. I have personally had a bad experience with those gloves. Maybe my hands sweat abnormally much, but I can’t stay warm wearing them. It’s always a good idea to make sure the equipment you use works for you, regardless of what other people say.

  • Bill

    Map and a compass.

    • runnermatt

      And the knowledge to use them.

  • titoito

    1 – Small Flashlight- Zebralight pops at 280 lumens on 1 AAA battery.
    For signaling or basic night sight, assuming your headlight is out & you want to conserve battery power on your cell phone flashlight app.

    2 – Paracord 550- may be overkill, but may come in handy; strapping down, hauling, cinching (tourniquet).

    3 – Folding Knife- vs. fixed blade. (Benchmade MiniGriptilian) to conserve space, also won’t accidentally puncture you if you go down (unless it flies up, flicks open & impales you, less likely).

    4 – Buff- vs. silk balaclava; the former is more multi-functional (neckerchief, headband, wristband, mask, hair-band, balaclava, scarf, headband, saharaine, beanie and bandana). For colder regions get it with fleece (polar version).

    5 – Neoprene XXL Gloves- vs. silk gloves; again more multi-functional; will fit over most riding gloves (though there may be some work involved getting them over the armor), waterproof (yes, you may sweat a bit, but in survival, better than being soaked & cold), potential other MacGuyver type uses (e.g. carrying water, tourniquet, etc.)

    Some of above may sacrifice a bit of bulk for more utilization. It really depends on what terrain you’re heading into, being aware of potential weather changes, & some subjective preference.

    Great list & awareness prep!

    • Lee Scuppers

      I’ve been moving from 550 cord to kevlar cord: 1/4 the cross section, half the strength. More of a pain to seal the cut ends, though. Uncle Mac’s Sportsman’s Utility Cord is handy too.

      • runnermatt

        I haven’t hear of kevlar cord before. There is also a cheaper version of paracord that doesn’t have a many of the central strands (5 vs. 7 I think).

        • phoebegoesvroom

          Kevlar cord has been a staple in rock climbing (for attaching chocks and such) since the 80s. It’s incredibly strong, but as Lee said it’s very difficult to heat seal the ends (but at least it won’t accidentally melt!).

          • runnermatt


          • phoebegoesvroom

            Oh I should have mentioned that it’s also a bit stiffer than regular kernmantle rope, though the last time I used it was in the early-to-mid 90s, so maybe it’s improved since then.

  • Michele Menichini

    Haywire, for any bike fixing along with duct tape

    • Davidabl2

      That silicon tape that fuses with itself:
      Available at any good (emphasize good) hardware store.
      It should be in your toolkit already–along with the spare fuses.

      • phoebegoesvroom

        I use this stuff all the time for various things. It’s brilliant.

  • thecrumb

    Another quick tip – if you carry hand sanitizer that makes for a quick fire.

    • Blake Harrison

      So does a little fuel from the old tank. Lol :-)

      • runnermatt

        Excellent point! One I hadn’t yet though of. A little oil from the crank case would work to and it would burn a little longer.

  • Davidabl2

    I haven’t seen a snakebite kit since my boy scout days in the ’60′s..and here’s what Wikipedia says about that type of treatment:

    “Sucking out venom, either by mouth or with a pump, does not work and may harm the affected area directly.[39] Suction started after 3 minutes removes a clinically insignificant quantity—less than one thousandth of the venom injected—as shown in a human study.[40] In a study with pigs, suction not only caused no improvement but led to necrosis in the suctioned area.[41] Suctioning by mouth presents a risk of further poisoning through the mouth’s mucous tissues.[42] The well-meaning family member or friend may also release bacteria into the persons wound, leading to infection.”

    And it’s in the “obsolete treatments section”

    • Benji

      Snake bandage is the established method here in Australia, you know that place with tons of awful snakes everywhere that kill you to death.

      Basically wrap the effected area with a Tensor or elastic bandage to slow circulation from the site to your vital organs. Do it right and a Brown Snake bike might not kill you before you can get help. I don’t leave home without a snake bandage.

      • Davidabl2

        Interestingly enough, your poisonous snakes are different from our poisonous snakes-neurotoxins vs muscle toxins- and the treatments are different. (see wikipedia)
        If I ever get to OZ I will plan accordingly.

  • Lee Scuppers

    A better protein bar option is Tanka bars: Bison meat, fat, and cranberries, made by actual Indians. No chococarbohydrate tomfoolery, just pure delicious manly nutrition. Skip the quasi-slim Jim version, go for the rectangular form factor.

    Mylar space blankets are great for collecting condensation. Collecting condensation on yourself isn’t the best way to stay warm. I spent a cold night under one, and yeah, it’s better than nothing, but do take care not to exhale under it.

  • Taco

    How about a flask of booze? Essential, if you ask me.

    • Brian

      Particularly something that doesn’t change flavor with temperature or require mixers. Vodka( plain, not flavored) works well as it mixes with anything, can be drunk straight, doesn’t seem to be affected by heat or cold, and can be used as a fire starter as well as a way to clean wounds.

      • runnermatt

        All valid points, but I will remind everyone that alcohol can dehydrate you. And while it will make you feel warmer when cold it is actually worse for maintaining body temperature.

      • Matt Mason


  • Jorn Bjorn Jorvi

    Forgot the most important safety measure to bring on an adventure trip…

    A friend


    • Tom327Cat

      …who runs slower than you. (FIFY)

  • Piglet2010

    The most important item is shown in on of the pictures but not mentioned in the text — Mr. Happy hand puppet.

    • runnermatt

      Maybe not exactly a Mr. Happy hand puppet, but you are correct that entertainment is good thing to have. When stuck in the middle of nowhere with no cell phone signal and no constant facebook updates, youtube videos or RideApart articles boredom can set in. Take a deck of cards with you, but this only helps if you know how to play a few games.

      • CruisingTroll

        Definitely Mr Happy. He is an experienced, world traveling motorcyclist companion, having racked up MILLIONS of miles on every continent, including, yes, Antarctica. Mr Happy could probably teach Bear Grylls a few things.

        And the stories he can tell…. that’s entertainment, believe you me!

      • Mark D

        I’m a big fan of the paper-white kindles. They can hold your entire library, and even the backlit ones can go weeks without charging. I rarely leave home without it.

      • ScottK

        All you need is the cards. Start playing a game of solitaire. Within five minutes someone will come up and tell you to play the red 8 on the black 9.

  • Miles Prower

    Regarding what you wrote about the Spot:

    Pushing the panic button on one of these will call in the cavalry, no matter where you are in the world.

    This is not true. Coverage is very limited and certainly nowhere near worldwide. Plus, Spot’s SOS functionality pretty much requires the planets to be aligned. Do a web search to understand why the Spot is NOT a suitable substitute for a true PLB.

    With that said, if you understand the pros and cons of a basic satellite communicator like the Spot, the DeLorme InReach SE is a superior device with near-worldwide coverage.

    • eddi

      If you’re not getting too deep into the wilderness, a cell phone. If it’s not already part of your everyday carry. And a battery pack.

    • runnermatt

      This also assumes that there is a rescue crew to come get you when you are broken down in central Africa or other very remote locations. Also, even if there is a rescue crew depending on location and conditions it may take hours or even days to get to you.

  • Brian

    I also used to regularly carry a boat flare gun, one of the orange single flare shot types. I still throw it in when I am going riding into the mountains alone, as a safety device to have. Have a large animal coming at you, use the flare gun to scare it. Trying to alert people you are there, use the flare gun. Need to start a fire, use the flare gun.
    True story, I had a cop notice it once when I was pulled over on Skyline Drive, when I opened my tankbag to pull out my ID and registration. He asked me why I had it, and I simply explained to him that if some truck and trailer crossing the double line coming around a blind turn caused me to go off the side of the road down an embankment, I wanted to let people know I am down there. He seemed surprised at the answer and told me to put my stuff away and get out of there and be slow and safe.

    • Craig Wixon

      +1 on the flare gun. An inexpensive and universally accepted “Help”

  • runnermatt

    Here is my list of things to take with you. I’ll keep it short, slightly detailed, and in in order of priority.

    1. Knowledge: This can be picked up from many sources, but doesn’t break and you can’t lose it. Lifeview Outdoors makes a 2-disc DVD that is good for outdoors beginners (in addition to carrying a lot of survival products). For more detailed instructions the “SAS Survival Handbook” by John “Lofty” Wiseman covers pretty much every situation and need.

    2. Experience: I don’t think I need to explain this one. Experience can be gained through practice. The first time you use your fire-starting kit should NOT be when you are broken down in the mountains, during winter, after dark, while it is raining or snowing. The first time should be in your back yard (or apartment parking lot) before you leave for your trip.

    3. Shelter: This includes the clothing you are wearing in addition to sleeping bags, tents, tarps, etc. That said once you acquire the knowledge you may find you don’t need to carry as much. In a survival situation if you are not carrying shelter you can always find or build a shelter. It would take too long to describe how to build a shelter, but I am sure there are youtube videos. As I was typing I thought of a way to use your bike for shelter. If carrying a tarp you can drape the tarp over your bike and stake the tarp down, in effect creating a lean-to.

    4. Water: You can carry enough water for a day trip. You can’t carry enough water for several days. Iodine works. They also make water purification filter systems/pumps, but these add bulk and weight. There are also systems that use UV light to kill micro organisms. Boiling will also do this, but requires a container to boil the water. Boiling and UV light doesn’t do anything to mineralogical or chemical contaminants. One little tip: If you take a clear water bottle and leave it in the Sun the UV light from the sun will kill the micro-organisms. I don’t remember how much time this takes, but that goes with acquiring knowledge.

    5. Fire: There are many solutions for this. It is recommended that you carry two methods, i.e. matches and a “fire steel”. Also you should carry some sort of “tinder”. Trust me it will make starting the fire A LOT easier. I carry cotton balls, and travel size petroleum jelly and travel size hand sanitizer. The travel sizes are small and easy to pack. The hand sanitizer gives you to option to clean up and sterilize wounds. It is usually recommended to mix the cotton balls with the other before you leave. I prefer to wait until I need them. The cotton balls compress down really small by themselves and it frees up the petroleum jelly and hand sanitizer to be used for other additional purposes.

    6. Gear or “kit”: This is your tools, flashlight, survival kit, first aid kit, etc. Carry what you think you will need. I prefer to carry more than probably most would consider necessary. It seems most of the “survival kits” that you can buy are rather gimmicky and don’t always carry quality items. Lastly, don’t “cheap out”. If you are in a survival situation your gear needs to be dependable. You don’t need your multi-tool to break just when you need it most. Also, if you get a folding knife or multi-tool get one with a locking blade. If stuck in middle of nowhere you don’t want your nice sharp nice to close on your nice soft fingers. Swiss Army knives are great, but they DON’T have locking blades so I don’t recommend them.

    7. Food: This is just nice to have. With knowledge you may be able to acquire it in the wild, but it doesn’t hurt to carry a few ClifBars.

    That is my list. The list is short, but the details are long.

  • HoldenL

    Paper maps. Especially the waterproof-coated kind, like the ones made by America Rides Maps. Paper functions without electricity, is very portable, and is affordable.

    Flashlight (specifically, a headlamp) was discussed in the motorcycle repair kit article.

  • Guest

    I wear para-cord bracelet in case of emergency’s. This minimizes what I pack on the bike and it is 16ft of para-cord in a small package.

  • DanO

    I wear a para-cord bracelet in case of emergency’s. Which is great anytime you venture away from civilization.

    • Wes Siler

      Good for you. How’s that rope gonna help you when you’re cold?

      • psteverific

        Probably about the same as a balaclava will help you when you’re hungry. I’m betting DanO carries more than one thing.

  • CruisingTroll

    Headlight/flashlight. Headlight is preferred because it leaves your hands free.

    Second method for making fire. In case you lose the first.


  • phoebegoesvroom

    You all realize you can pack a lot of this stuff IN a widemouth stainless steel water bottle, right? With the iodine or other purifying tablets, you don’t have to carry emergency water with you (unless you’re someplace super dry, in which case a quart of water isn’t going to get you very far anyway).