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  • Writer's pictureAndy Marks

Packing For My First Solo Motorcycle Tour - 5 things I’d take again, 4 things I wouldn’t, and 3 things I didn’t take but will next time

Updated: Mar 14

As you'll know if you've been following my blog, last September I embarked on my first solo motorcycle tour. Some of you have asked if I'm going to publish a kit list - I do plan to share one with you in due course, but for now, there are hundreds of blogs out there with lists put together by far more seasoned travellers than me.

In this post, I'll focus on some of the smaller items that made a significant impact during my journey and the valuable lessons I've learned for packing for future adventures.

5 things I’d take again

Let's skip the obvious items like the bike and the tent and delve into the smaller ones that proved particularly useful for me.

1) All in one soap

I visited Millets for something else a few weeks before setting off and came across this bottle of all-in-one soap. It serves multiple purposes, from showering to washing clothes and cleaning pots, pans, plates, and cutlery. Admittedly, I didn't end up smelling like Lynx Africa, but the convenience of carrying just one bottle saved a significant amount of space. The soap lathers well on clothes, and after a few days of getting used to it, I realized how sparingly you need to use it. Returning from a two-week trip, I still had about half a bottle left, and I'm confident it could have lasted even longer.

2) Merino wool clothing 

I did the entire trip with just two t-shirts. I'd wear one all day, take it into the shower with me in the evening, and give it a hand wash using the aforementioned soap. Then, while wearing the other shirt, I'd hang the wet one up to dry. Thanks to the quick-drying nature of Merino wool, it was usually ready to pack away again before I went to bed. The other advantage of Merino wool is that it's reputed for its odour resistance, allowing you to wear it for several days without it developing a smell. However, I am pleased to say, I didn't put this particular advantage to the test.

A tent and motorcycle holding a clothes lone
A spare luggage strap doubles as a clothes line

3) Flask for coffee

If you are making coffee on the campsite in the morning, you might as well make a second one to take with you, right? There were two main benefits of this for me.

Thermos flask and motorcycle in picnic area

Firstly, it's the cost; you’re looking at somewhere between €2.50-€3 for a cup of coffee in France. Not too bad, but take one coffee per day over a two-week trip, and that’s the best part of €40. That could be another three nights camping, a night in a hotel if the weather is bad, or, if traveling on a similar budget to mine last September, an extra day on the holiday all paid for.

Regardless of your budget, if you buy a coffee in a shop/café, you will invariably drink it there. Some of them are in beautiful locations, and some of them aren’t. If you are carrying your own, you can stop anywhere - I spent at least half an hour sitting and looking out over this view last September. Who wouldn’t want to enjoy their morning coffee with this view?

Gorges de la Nesque and Mont Ventoux
Not many cafés have a view like this

4) Chair 

Before going away for two weeks, I did a single overnighter in a campsite fairly close to home so I could bail if needed. It went pretty well, but one thing that jumped out at me was the lack of a chair. I'm not very flexible, and sitting on the floor with my legs crossed is uncomfortable. I sat on one of my pannier boxes, but that's not very comfortable either after a while, so I went looking for a lightweight chair with a back before heading out on my next trip.

A tent and motorcycle on a campsite
A comfortable set up makes camping a lot more enjoyable

I purchased one of these chairs from Amazon, and it significantly improved my comfort when sitting and relaxing on the campsite. Unfortunately, it broke on the last evening, but upon closer inspection when I got home, I realized I had assembled it incorrectly, causing all my weight to focus on one stitch. I've repaired it, and I wouldn't travel without it now.

5) Journal 

I've never been one for keeping a journal before, but when I was reading blogs and watching YouTube videos before setting off, it seemed that it's a very common thing to do amongst people who travel regularly. There's got to be a reason for that, so I decided to give it a try.

So much happens on a trip like I did that before one experience had really sunk in, the next one was taking its place. Writing things down, even if it's only a scribbled note, had an incredible way of reinforcing things in my memory. I got better at it, and when I read that journal now, I can see that my entries became more detailed as I got into it.

Writing turned into such a big part of my experience that I ended up starting this blog. I could say so much about the benefits of it; I'm considering a future blog post entirely dedicated to keeping a journal on the road.

4 things I wouldn’t

This one is proving a bit tricky; honestly, I can’t think of anything that I would leave behind altogether next time. While there were a few items I didn’t use, like the puncture repair kit and first aid kit, they still provide peace of mind, so I wouldn’t leave them behind next time. However, there are a couple of things that I will change before the next trip – let’s take a look at them:

1) Tea Bags

I love a good cuppa. However, no matter how hard I tried, tea just isn't the same with the powdered milk I carried. The only decent cup of tea I had in two weeks was made by someone else on a campsite in Val-d'Isère. Coffee, on the other hand, seemed to work much better and keeps well in the flask for a mid-morning stop. Next time, I won't be packing the tea bags,

A frying pan on a camping stove
You can see how discoloured it is in the middle

2) Frying pan 

I bought a lightweight pan meant for hiking before setting off but didn't test it before departure – a lesson learned! I used it once on the entire trip, and it was useless. It was so thin the middle was glowing red and the outside was still cold. That happened fairly early on, and I didn't bother with it again; can't say I missed it. I can do without a frying pan next time.

3) Self Inflating Mat (SIM)

I'm cheating a bit here – I didn't take a SIM on my two-week trip; I'd already used it for the local overnighter I mentioned earlier and it got left behind for the longer tour. I swapped it for an inflatable mattress that I had to blow up. I had wanted to avoid the huffing and puffing every evening, but the SIM is huge and took up a lot of space in my tail bag. I opted for a Trekology UL80 – a fraction of the size and weight, and surprisingly comfortable. Inflating it wasn't the chore I expected either, and it freed up space for the chair I bought after my test run.

A tent and a motorcycle on a campsite
I learned a lot from this test camp

4) Plastic cutlery

While preparing for the trip, I bought Sea to Summit cutlery – knife, fork, and spoon. They’re great for bike-packing, but I don’t need to obsess over every last gram on the Honda! Next time, I'll opt for a proper knife and fork; the spoon might survive, I can use it for cooking without scratching all the coating off the pan when I'm stirring.

3 things I didn’t take but will next time

1) Kindle

I don’t have a Kindle yet, but I'll get one before my next trip. Books are big and bulky to carry on the bike and while audiobooks filled my evenings, after a week, I missed reading. Having something to read in the evenings will make the next trip more enjoyable, I'm sure

A night sky with a full moon
This one was taken at home

2) Tripod 

Some have wondered why I'm absent in all the photos. Well, I'm holding the camera in all of them. Solo travels mean no one to take the shots. Hence, reason one for a tripod (with a remote) is to feature in pictures.

Another reason I would like a tripod is to photograph some of the spectacular night skies I saw in the alps. It's something that will take practice, but a tripod would help me get better shots with longer exposures. And I can think of worse ways to spend my evenings...

3) Toilet paper 

Simple yet crucial. Many French campsites don't supply toilet paper and, this nearly lead to a very uncomfortable situation on my first morning away. Luckily, the campsite sold individual rolls of toilet paper – or maybe it was sandpaper, I wasn't quite sure.

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