Motorcycle Packing Notes - Sturgis Trip 1998
by Brad Berson

In my original packing attempt, I ended up with slightly more than what would fit into a set of RKA saddlebags and a large, expandable Chase-Harper magnetic tankbag.  Going alone on a relatively reliable machine and with no intention of camping, this was obviously just too much even if it was for sixteen days.

With temperatures in the 90's and humidity to match, I simply jettisoned a bulky sweater and off I went.  This later would be a slight complication in the cold elevations of the Rockies but by then, I shipped back a few other things so I had room to buy and stow a sweater.

Here's what I packed, and a brief discussion of what should have been left and what should have brought instead will follow...

MC Clothing

  • Leather pants, jacket (Hein Gericke V-Pilot, Stealth Pilot respectively)
  • Waterproof leather boots (BMW)
  • Leather gloves, studded (Held #273)
  • Rainsuit, 2-piece unlined (Fieldsheer)
  • Arai F-1 helmet, stock faceshield
  • Neoprene waterproof jetski gloves

Street Clothing

  • 5 various T-shirts, pairs of socks, underwear
  • 1 Levi denim shirt
  • 2 pair Lee jeans
  • 1 pair cutoff denim shorts
  • 2 bandannas
  • Sandals
  • Bathing suit
  • Baseball cap


  • 35mm Camera, two lenses, polarizing filter, flash, 4 rolls each of 36x100 36x400
  • Cellular phone, charger
  • 3Com PalmPilot electronic organizer and modem
  • Business cards (you never know!)
  • Sunglasses (Corning Serengeti Drivers)
  • Wallet and keys (yeah, I would forget these if I didn't write it down)

Toiletries, etc.

  • Toothbrush, travel size toothpaste
  • 3 disposable razors
  • Beard trimmer (Norelco electric)
  • Shampoo and conditioner, travel size
  • Body soap
  • Deodorant
  • Aftershave
  • Hairbrush
  • Contact lens cleaning kit (evaluation size)
  • Spare contact lenses (one set disposable, one set extended wear)
  • Prescription glasses
  • Sun-block (non-greasy PreSun Active gel SPF15)
  • Hair scrungees (must-have for long-haired freaks like me)
  • Aspirin
  • Prescription narcotics
  • Vitamins
  • White Flower analgesic balm
  • Contact lens wetting solution
  • Breathasure breath freshening capsules
  • Lubriderm skin lotion, travel size


  • Chain oil (Chain Wax, small can)
  • Tire kit (Progressive), extra CO2 cylinders
  • First aid kit (basic, in red nylon case)
  • Radio Shack weather radio (cheapest one)
  • Compass (cheap)
  • Disposable shop-duty paper towels (8), cut in halves
  • Latex gloves, six pair
  • Kryptonite U-lock
  • Kryptonite Evolution disc lock
  • Nylon lashing straps
  • Bungee net
  • Outdoor Research waterproof bags
  • Zip-Loc(tm) freezer bags
  • Schrader digital tire gauge
  • Mace(tm) brand teargas
  • Sony weatherproof FM Walkman
  • Bass Monster helmet speakers
  • Camelback "hydration" system
  • Maps of USA, Canada
  • Shatterproof plastic flask of "Gentleman" Jack Daniels
  • Buck #110 folding knife
  • Skytel nationwide alphanumeric pager
  • Flashlight (plastic waterproof, buoyant, 2xAA w/ Krypton bulb, magnet)


  • Passport and copy of birth certificate
  • Watch and minor jewelry
  • Breath mints (Certs)
  • Ginseng (Korean concentrated red ginseng extract)
  • Baby-wipe type unscented towels in reclosable package, travel size
  • Disposable foam hearing protectors

Some words about the basic equipment and gear...

Before I left, I used a can of silicone waterproofing spray on the saddlebags and the tank bag.  Almost everything I packed into the saddlebags went into the OR bags first, both for the sake of organization as well as waterproofing, since the RKA zippers do leak.  I left off the rear strap from the RKA bags.  It doesn't seem to do much and is one more thing that can be forgotten, or get loose and caught in the rear wheel.  It doesn't seem to do much.  The Chase Harper tank bag is well designed and was treated inside and out with waterproofing already, and it didn't leak a single drop the whole way.  On the other hand, I did have to straighten it out or pull it back now and then.  It has five magnets on each side that hold it in place along with one front quick-release buckle.  On the VFR's huge, freshly waxed tank, it slides around a bit and lurches forward on hurried stops.

Halfway through my trip I sent back the U-lock, the Camelback, the Jack Daniels, some lashing straps, the pager, the earplugs, and some souvenirs.  The lock was redundant, heavy, and not worth the bother.  I wasn't using the water bladder (whose nipple wouldn't fit in front of the helmet's chin bar anyway), didn't care to drink (much), the pager was useless in most of the areas since Skytel only maintains transmitters in cities over 100,000 people or something, and even though I know I should, I was not bothering to use the earplugs.

The OR (Outdoor Research) bags were really handy for organizing the space inside the tank bags and keeping everything dry.  They come in efficient square shapes and I found sizes that fit perfectly in between and around the internal support straps of the saddlebags.  One really large OR stuff-sack was also handy for containing the leathers safe and dry under the bungee net when it got too hot to wear the leathers.  Zip-Loc bags held most bottles that contained liquid, so I didn't have to worry about a gooey mess if something turned upside down or broke.

The tire kit and the first aid kit both fit nicely under the seat of the VFR and still leaves room for the U-lock and the disk lock.  I never bothered putting the locks under the seat however, because the saddlebags make removing the seat a little bit of a bother.  I never bothered to augment or replace the stock toolkit either.  The extra gas cylinders are a must-have though, since the three included in the tire kit are only good for enough pressure to proceed cautiously to the next air pump.  As the bike grows older perhaps I'll change my mind about the tool kit, but with membership to AAA, AMA, and HRC, I can't be bothered to get greasy unless I've got absolutely no choice in the matter.

I've lost two compasses so far - one somewhere on I-70 and the other somewhere on I-90.  At speeds exceeding 130 MPH the low-pressure zone above the tank-bags's map case tends to make it billow and also tends to suck out the contents of the map case.  The cheap compasses with their sharp leading edge are ideal for sneaking out through the velcro closure of the map case.

The H-G stuff performed nicely as always.  The jacket's removable liner with neck warmer is great, and the jacket venting works well but the rear zippers are a pain in the arse if you don't have a pillion with you.  The Stealth Pilot jacket was bought after the V-Pilot pants, when my original V-Pilot jacket was stolen.   The newer V-Pilot jacket is much lighter (read: crap), and the Stealth returns the heavier leather along with much more padding.  The Stealth has a long zipper for joining the two pieces so the match-up was not quite perfect.  H-G includes a spare zipper with the jacket so I'm sure they know I'm not the only one who's noticed.  I never bothered to get the new matching zipper sewn into the old pants.  It's not really a big deal.

The Fieldsheer rain jacket and pants were cheap things that didn't let in ANY water, and they were light and packed down to almost nothing.  On the other hand the jacket rode up my back in the wind and flapped in the breeze.  No drawstring and crap elastic was the reason.  I've since replaced this with the more handsome H-G clothing, but the H-G stuff is lined and hence twice the bulk.

The waterproof BMW boots weren't quite waterproof, I discovered during a deluge in Missouri.  After the trip, the dealer was horrified to hear of this and immediately arranged for a warranty exchange.  I hate to endure another break-in period but they are very comfy and this is the first time this particular dealer has ever had to exchange a pair of BMW boots.

The Held gloves are wonderful but on such a long trip, being racing -type gloves, could have used some padding where the palm rests on the handlebar.   I have relatively short thumbs, so I needed to have the gloves altered.   Thanks to the folks at Leather Rose at 412 East 9th Street in Manhattan my gloves fit like, er, gloves!  They do lots of nice custom leather work, so check 'em out.

The lined waterproof neoprene gloves were a stroke of genius during a trip to a big camp outfitting and sporting goods store in New Jersey.  You can't get more waterproof than this, they're comfortable, offer decent feel, and kept me surprisingly warm during showers in the forty degree temps of the Rockies.  They're not Gore-Tex though, so it does get damp inside the gloves.  I still prefer them over other solutions.  You can get these things in most places that sell stuff for fishing, canoeing, jet-skis, etc.

Notes regarding a few dealers:  I got raped to the tune of $405 plus tax buying and mounting Dunlop D205 tires at Nichols Honda/Suzuki in downtown Wichita, Kansas.  An oil change and once-over that costs me $90 on one occasion and $60 on another occasion in Rockland (now-defunct House of Power) and cost me $56 in Manhattan (Redline) cost me $36 plus tax at Rice Honda in Rapid City, South Dakota, and no wonder since they did it in a fraction of the time while I waited.  My clothing comes from Precision Leather - a BMW and Triumph dealer located in Valley Stream, Long Island, that has a great selection of motorcycle clothing and absolutely amazing service.  This comes at a slight premium in price but it's well worth it (as if we've seen any dealers that felt any temptation to supply significant discounts, right?).

What I packed...

I brought five changes of clothing, which may have been a bit much except I'm a lazy bastard and did not want to be bothered with laundry too much.   I knew the weather would be too hot to even think about re-using any clothing.   The second pair of jeans never got used, and the sandals came in handy since shorts look funny with motorcycle boots, eh?  The bathing suit came in handy for jacuzzis and the baseball cap was invaluable for keeping my growing bald spot from getting sunburned.

The camera equipment might've seemed excessive to some, but in places like the Rockies and even Sturgis, I really appreciated having taken the long lens and the high-power flash.  I brought my own film and that turned out to be a wise choice, since I'm picky about having good film and I didn't notice having much choice what I could buy on the road.  I never bothered using the polarizing filter but would not have minded having a lens hood.

The cellular phone never got used, but I almost had to use it once.  I foolishly ran out of gas on 405 in Ontario, still way north of Toronto.   Luckily, I coasted to a stop right next to a warehouse where some very nice folks gave me a gas can.  Where I was, I'm sure road service would have taken at least a couple of hours to find me.

The PalmPilot is a geek-toy that I don't think I could live without.  With this little gadget I keep all my numbers and notes, and was able to use it to e-mail friends and family during my trip and to keep all my adventure notes as I went along.  The organizer and modem together are very light and only measure about 6" x 3-1/4" x 3/4" (including the leather case).  It has replaced a half-dozen tattered phone books and piles of sticky notes and bits of napkins, and to some degree envelopes and postage stamps as well.  When in past years I tried crappy organizers and thought "what I really need is...", I find now that the PalmPilot has been the answer to those needs.

The Serengeti Driver sunglasses were something I bought facing a white-out snowstorm in Niagara a few years ago.  I find that they help greatly with eye fatigue and enhancing contrast without losing details (like discerning road surface irregularities and gravel, etc.).  There are better sunglasses available now (Serengeti Vermillion lenses, or Maui Jim's polarized sunglasses for example) but I have not yet tried them for a whole day.

If you think there's a lot under "toiletries", you're probably right.  But I'm not sorry about having taken all of it.  I never had occasion to use the spare contact lenses or even the prescription glasses but I'd hate to be stuck in the middle of nowhere with a torn or missing contact lens, especially with -4.75 diopters correction.  The evaluation-size contact lens cleaning kit is very convenient and space-efficient, and you throw it out when it's done.  The White Flower is great stuff - a bit like Tiger Balm but better in my opinion.  Those of you who don't have a Chinese drug store in your area don't have a hope of finding it though.   I also brought along concentrated ginseng and had some in my morning tea.  The concentrated stuff (again, good luck finding it) is wonderful for your energy.  It's also good for your virility - trust me.

I wish the Chain Wax were available in even smaller sizes than what I took.  I used it generously about seven or eight times and the small can is still at least 80% full.  The shop towels and latex gloves were mostly for handling the Chain Wax, so that I wouldn't end up smelling like Cosmolene the whole trip.   The tire kit and first-aid kit never had occasion to be taken from under the seat, and the weather radio was of questionable use.  I watched the Weather Channel in the motels each morning and decided to just ride through whatever I hit anyway.  But it's still not a bad thing to have.  The Kryptonite Evolution disc lock was the only lock I used.  The newer Schader digital gauges are a little more rugged, have a wider range (good for air forks), and have user-replaceable batteries now.  I find them much easier than trying to see the marks on the traditional pencil gauges, and they're nice and compact.

I brought Mace and kept it handy, more for potential defense against fellow humans than against animals.  For animals, I keep the knife VERY sharp.  I use the better Mace that's usually only sold to police.  It's well worth it, if you can find it.  I had no occasion to use it.  While I don't typically condone revenge (as opposed to defense), I know it's tempting.  In those cases, a spritz or two into the air vents of an automobile driven by a moron is very effecting.  Aim at the vents at the base of the windshield and/or the rear roof support pillars.

I had variable performance from the Bass Monsters and the Sony Weatherproof Walkman.  The speakers performed quite well (tip: for best bass and best overall performance, install them as close to your ears in the helmet as you can, without rubbing).  I used scuba repair cement to tack the wires into place and put a little velcro around the plug and inside the lip of the chin dam to give the plug a resting place when not in use.  The Walkman was difficult to tune and even when set to "DX", tended to offer distracting variable performance at speed.  The sound would bounce back and forth between tinny and not tinny unless you had a really strong station.  I'm sure the coiled earphone cord (supplied with the Bass Monsters) was part of the problem, since it acts as an antenna as well.

I can't think of much else I could have wanted to bring along.  I had little luggage locks on the RKA stuff but never used them.  The most valuable stuff stayed in the tank bag so it could come with me easily.  A lightweight coiled security cable would've been nice so I could leave the leathers secured to the bike as I walked around, and that's about it.  As it is, I left everything sitting on the bike on more than a few occasions and nobody messed with it, but you can only do that so many times before the odds catch up with you and someone helps themselves to something.


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