Performance Touring: How to pack light

The ultimate checklist for those who want to cover distance without being weighed down

Posted: 27 January 2012
by Ben Cope
Going motorcycle touring? This is all you need.
Kriega R25 waits patiently for adventure

Packing. Contrary to what previous girlfriends have told me; it doesn't need to be done three-weeks in advance and nor do I need to try and cram 90% of all my belongings into a variety of luggage. When it comes to going away on the bike, less is without doubt best.

The kit above is exactly what I took with me on my 7-day 3,200 mile round trip from London to Morocco. I'm not saying it's the minimum you need to take, as that's bound to provoke a response from a reader who's been around the world on two wheels with just a pair of Y-fronts and a toothpick but this is a tried and tested formula that worked for me.

Some might call this Performance Touring; it's the kit you need when you're going places fast and want to travel light.

Let's start with what's not laid out here, the kit I wore on the bike: obviously, pants, socks, followed by thermal top and bottoms, a t-shirt and neck tube. Two-piece zip-together Gore-Tex leathers, waterproof summer boots and Gore-Tex leather waterproof gloves. A helmet and a dark visor.

And here's what's in my rucksack.

Performance Touring Checklist:

  • Passport
  • Earplugs
  • LED cycle torch (really handy for all sorts of scenarios)
  • Driving licence and bike's V5
  • Soap bag (toothbrush, toothpaste, a few aspirin, paracetamol and a couple of berroca)
  • Puncture repair kit
  • Cable lock (lighter, flexible, handy if you want to leave your lid)
  • Chain lube (mini can is perfect)
  • Clear visor
  • Samsung Galaxy S2 (Phone, 8MP camera, GPS, proper Sat Nav, phrasebooks)
  • Undercrackers
  • Jeans (but cotton trousers are lighter)
  • Cable ties (a million possibilities)
  • Thick all-season gloves (great when the temp drops near freezing)
  • T-shirts (3 really is overkill but that's what I took)
  • USB phone charging cable (ask hotel receptionist if you can plug it into her computer)
  • Lightweight gloves (great for when it's warm, also good if your other pairs get soaked)
  • Flip-flops (because shoes are bulky and you want a rest from wearing your boots)
  • Wallet (containing cash, cards, EU breakdown, health insurance card)
  • Socks

As you can see, there's still plenty of room for a copy of Private Eye to keep you going in the evenings. If you want to take a proper camera, that's your call. You could also take a map as backup, lob a fleece in there, pad it out with more pants, smuggle some proper tea-bags, you can take what you like... but just remember; less is best.

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Discuss this story

Glad to see you have a Galaxy S2 in there. The standard sat nav is brilliant as is the speed camera detection app. I won't leave home without it!

Posted: 27/01/2012 at 16:01


Posted: 27/01/2012 at 17:15

European Health Insurance Card (EHIC), given that almost every long distance ride will involve riding in Europe at some point.

Posted: 28/01/2012 at 13:45

I just got a tank bag after using little back packs forever. Heaps heaps better, have nothing on your back.

Posted: 29/01/2012 at 04:41

Having a properly sized bag is key.If it's flappy it kills the aerodynamic feel. If my bad is a little oversized I'll throw in an extra shirt or two to fill it out.

Posted: 30/01/2012 at 15:50

Get a backpack that has a waist strap. This will help keep the back from sliding both vertically and laterally. Much more comfortable that way.

Also, go ahead and bring a USB wall brick. There are many out there that are tiny (See the OEM Samsung and Apple bricks) and allow you to have power any place you have power instead of having to rely on flirting with the counter worker.

Posted: 02/02/2012 at 18:09

The card no longer works as I found out crap ?

Posted: 29/05/2012 at 19:11

Where's the Viagra and the KY Jelly? Shomshing wrong shurely?


Heaps heaps better

Posted: 29/05/2012 at 21:57

Don't rely on European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) to work. Very very difficult to get anyone to accept it outside the major areas, especially when they know you have a credit card. Get good trip insurance. 90 day multi trip insurance is not very expensive. You might already have it included in some premium credit cards.

Posted: 04/09/2012 at 14:11

Don't ever carry stuff in a packback when motorcycling, if you come off and roll you will hyperextend your spine. Which you DO NOT want to happen!

Posted: 05/09/2012 at 21:41

Totally agree re backpacks on bikes

Luggage should be bike mounted

Straps can bvggrr yr arms shoulders collarbone or back.

And any luggage set purchase should consider how its going to interact with your limbs while sliding down the road!

Posted: 21/11/2012 at 00:44

I took virtually the same on a 5000 mile 12 day trip to Bugaria and back - the flip flops doubled up as hip armour in my kevlar jeans which saved even more space. All my kit went in a 30L tail pack and the rain proof cover doubled up as extra storage space when it got warm.

Posted: 04/02/2013 at 13:51

never ever would i wear a back pack, if you were to come off you could end up with a broken back, just my view

Posted: 17/02/2013 at 21:19

In nearly 40 years of biking I have never ever seen the need to carry anything in a backpack. If you're going light then a good tank bag is a far better option. Need more space, add a tail pack.

Posted: 20/06/2013 at 14:04

EHIC don't work in the Netherlands

I know because I tried it.

Posted: 26/01/2014 at 11:41

Don't every carry anything hard in your backpack as that can hyperextend your spine, bulky camers are worse according doctors, clother are OK.

I tumbled at speed near Whitby with a backpack full of clothes was like landing on a mattress.

Posted: 07/02/2014 at 11:42

Great packing list. On a recent trip to southern France, I took some Rohan underpants and T-Shirts; ultra, ultra light, wash out in the evening, ready to wear again in the morning. Moisture wicking too. Only two airs needed for a fortnight.

Posted: 10/02/2014 at 18:35

Good packing list and similar to mine. I use the Aldi biking under clothing which is easy to wash out and dries quickly. I take some liquid soap for washing clothes. Jeans are too bulky and heavy so light cotton trousers and shorts are best. I don't ever use a backpack as I have luggage. For a short trip it is tank bag and for a longer trip I use panniers. I agree with the EHIC comments, there is no substitute for good travel insurance.

Posted: 23/05/2014 at 18:58

I carry it all on the bike, nothing on me.
I don't take anything cotton, if it gets wet it takes time to dry & is heavy, nothing worse than jeans. I pack all lightweight hiking clothes & trekking sandals.
Mind, I always camp so I have all that lot to pack as well. And, until last couple of years the missus came along on pillion anorl.

Appreciate the heads up on the EHIC card, never yet needed it but good to know it's useless in an emergency. Not reciprocal when they come to the UK then.

Posted: 29/12/2014 at 14:50

Puncture repair, Socket/head set and t-driver, tools to remove both wheels. hand cleaning stuff. Pump and/or lots of Co2 bottles. gauge. security locks for wheels Waterproofs. Boots. Medical drugs as required, plus sun hat / sunglasses, Aspirin, suntan lotion. plasters. Docs for bike, Insurance docs. medical docs. Visa and MasterCard, US Dollars and local money. Plastic bags for waterproofing all above. Fit in rear bag or panniers, NOT on a back pack: three masses, (bike, rider,bag) config, with the rider , bag loosely on the rider, risks an uncontrollable wobble at speed or on the bends, risk of fall.

Posted: 16/01/2015 at 13:21

Had to search hard to find this article again and pass on to an aged traveller from Israel. Talk about 'kitchen sink'!
When packing, I have to repress my internal boy scout and this article helps. Some excellent comments regarding backpacks too, soft clothes/mattress analogy I'd like to hear more from medicos about, please.

Posted: 26/06/2015 at 15:34

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