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 8x10’) 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.