Sunday, December 1, 2013

Packing Light

  Recently there have been a few discussions about packing habits on bikes. I tend to bring more stuff than I ever use and then don't have enough room for the stuff I need. As it turns out, I'm not the only one that feels the need to bring stuff "just in case they need it".
 My friend JT of JBMFT pointed out that I'm doing something wrong so I asked him to set me straight. The following is an article he wrote describing some of his packing strategies. Thanks JT.

Packing Light
Packing for a motorcycle trip is an interesting proposition. Ask ten different people and you'll get ten different answers. There is a science to packing for a trip. In all of my travels and trips I have developed a system that works well for me. Some friends have described it as "packing light". Here are some of the strategies I use to get the most out of my pack so I can worry less and enjoy more.
 Of all the bikes I have had, only two had saddlebags. Even when I had them, my strategy was to pack just one pack really well. This is in case I end up parking my bike in one place and hiking to camp in another. I am very fond of backpacking bags. I gravitate towards the ones with lots of compartments. This not only gives you extra space outside the inner compartment, it also allows everything to have its own place. For example, when I need my cooking stuff I know exactly where to find it. No digging around in one big interior space. This is important to me in pack selection. It might not be to you.

JT's nine day pack. (part of my problem comes in when I try to pack for varying weather conditions. I've rode with JT and he has a much higher tolerance for crappy weather than I do-Scott)

On that note, packing should begin with knowing the type of trip you are taking and your own wants and needs. What can you leave behind? What can't you live without? I have a friend who has sleep apnea and has to travel with his CPAP machine. His concerns, needs and method are vastly different from mine. Similarly, in the summer I camp in a hammock. This means no tent, no ground tarp, no air pad for sleeping, etc. It does mean straps and a rain fly.
 Knowing your needs before you start is a must. On my first cross country trip I packed almost twice as much stuff as I needed. Looking back, I cannot believe I carried as much as I did. It is important to realize that you do not need nearly as much as you think you do. After that first trip I sold that big backpack and used the profits to buy a smaller pack that would carry what I realistically needed. I still feel like I over pack. One recent change I determined to make is my sleeping bag. I traditionally carry a pretty beefy bag even on my summer trips. One of my travel companions used a stand-alone sleeping bag liner on our last summer trip and was just fine. My bulky bag added a ton to my pack. His liner fit in the palm of his hand. Next time, I'll save weight and space by traveling with a liner like that.

  Having the right gear for the trip is very important. This is probably why I have three packs, two tents, three sleeping bags, two camp stoves, etc. My winter bag is overkill for summer trips. I need a bag liner like my friend had. For the type of food prep I do on the road, I don't need a big stove. If you are hotel camping or planning on eating all your meals out, you don't need a stove at all. The right tool for you is a credit card. Thinking about all of this beforehand will make you pack accordingly.
 I am also a big fan of items that do more than one job. The right multitool, like a Gerber or Leatherman, can tackle a handful of jobs and should certainly be in your pack. P-38 can openers are a great example of a little item with many uses. I keep one in my wallet. Hand sanitizer is another. Put some on a cotton ball and it is an excellent fire starter. This keeps me from having to pack other fire starters. Most good camp soaps will wash most anything, including you. The minty variety can even be used as toothpaste. You'll find lots of items can meet several purposes. A dopp kit is one area that I do not scrimp. Cleanliness and comfort go hand in hand for me. I'll usually pack soap, deodorant, toothpaste, floss, Gold Bond, meds, band aids and a small sewing kit. Notice I didn't say shampoo. I use soap to wash my hair on the road. I also carry a few disposable toothbrush things just in case and a small pack and body wipes in case things get really funky but I don't have access to a shower. I have an excellent camp towel that packs down small. Anything that you plan on taking, find the smallest one you can. My towel packs down to the size of a tennis ball. My cutlery kit is the size of a pocketknife. When available, carry travel versions of any necessities. Don't be afraid to pack small and throw things away. I like coffee in the morning. Instead of a jar of instant I pack the single serving packets. I don't carry a separate cup for coffee either, I make it in my water bottle and rinse it out when I am done. I count out prescriptions and only carry what I need and throw them all in a single container.

Baxter Springs, KS. Route 66 during the nine day Oklahoma is OK trip.

  Before you start packing, do some homework on the areas you'll be traveling in. Chances are someone has gone before you and you'll be able to read about anything special you would need. Over time, you'll learn what works best for you and what you need and what you do not. Again, do not be afraid to jettison as you go. Throw things away if you must or ship them home. In case your situation finds you on the opposite end of the spectrum, unless you are riding in some really remote places you can always get what you need on the way.
 No matter how you do it, pack a bag and get out and ride. Even if you go nuts overpacking or forget everything, you'll be happy you did.

1 comment:

  1. Great posts! I need to get a Mayflower moving company sticker for Ole Girl-LOL