What We Carry and How

August 29, 2022

It’s been a couple of weeks since the last post. We’re back in England, and have been housesitting two amazing dogs, and living in a really cool converted 1886 schoolhouse. But more on that in the next post.

This post is about what we’re carrying, and how we manage to pack it all — and two people — on a 700cc motorcycle.

A number of people have reached out and asked if we could explain our camp setup in a video. It seemed like a great topic, and we finally had time to do it, so yesterday was the day.

First, let me reiterate, even though it’s obvious, that we aren’t “on vacation”. We didn’t pack for a week or two away at some tourist destination hotel. This is our lifestyle, and the bike is our house. Essentially we have everything we would ever need on the bike. We didn’t pack “for summer weather”, or with the idea that we can run home and pick up a different pair of shoes or another coat when we feel like it. On the other hand, we also didn’t pack like we were going to the moon; there’s no reason to carry a six month supply of toothpaste, or a spare set of tires, when there are stores everywhere, and motorcycle shops within a day or three ride everywhere.

We consider our motorcycle our two-wheeled house. After several months of living on the bike, you get to know exactly where everything fits, and what won’t fit. You also get to a point where when someone asks, “Where do you live?”, you point to the bike. We haven’t really arrived at that point yet on this trip, because we’ve been in civilization almost the entire time (and it’s fun to see the reaction when we say “Texas”). But we will later on; I speak from experience.

For the video, we didn’t go into deep details about what we carry in each of the boxes on the bike. We decided to just do a basic review. Most people seemed more interested in how we managed to get a complete living setup (bedroom, living room, kitchen, dining room) in that yellow bag on the back of the bike, so we spent the most time showing that. On the road, we’re often asked why we have side boxes (panniers) but no top box on the rear rack behind Diana. Many of the other riders we meet have all three, and they’re curious why we opted to skip the top box.

The top box is a great option if you’re out for a weekend or even a weeklong ride. It allows you to lock your helmet and jacket up out of sight, or it might serve as a “junk drawer”, collecting all the stuff that doesn’t otherwise have an assigned spot.

Some solo riders even have a large duffel bag like our 49 liter yellow Ortlieb bag strapped onto the rear seat and a top box behind that. I think these may be the people who ask about how we get everything for both of us on one motorcycle.

Without further comment, here’s the video (oh, and I apologize in advance for the background noise; I had no idea there would be a bulldozer backing up next door, and a small plane flying around every time we began shooting!):

And to fill in a little more detail:

In real time, it typically takes us about 30 minutes or so to set up camp. It takes us about 45 minutes to take it all down, pack it up, and strap it to the bike. It takes us about an hour in the morning, at a leisurely pace, from the time we start tearing down to the time we have our riding gear on and are rolling away.

Diana mentioned that we carry a couple of grocery bags that fit the panniers. Here’s what she was talking about:

These large foldable reusable bags are the same width and height as the panniers, and fit perfectly, allowing us to fit one bag, the milk and the 1.75 liter Coke into one pannier. We take the bags shopping with us and fill them as we go. When they’re full, we’re out of room. When not in use, they are folded up and reside in the bottom of Diana’s pannier.

Here’s the bag, milk, and Coke bottle in Diana’s pannier.

If you saw any of our nine day trip to Mexico last Christmas on the Honda CRF250L, then you realize that we travel pretty minimally for “short” trips like that. At that time, we fit everything for two of us in a very small tank bag and a small tail pack. No panniers, no duffel bags. We could easily have done that for this trip as well, but there was no reason to. We have a pack mule…might as well take the house, within reason.

As we’ve both mentioned before, this is our version of how we travel. Everyone has a different comfort level and a different method of doing it. I did a lot of research before my 2015 trip, and continue to learn today from others. We love to see how others pack and what they carry — especially bicyclists and riders of small motorcycles — as there’s always something to learn.

We hope this video answered some of the questions people had, and we’re always available to answer other questions.

Now back to your irregularly scheduled blog posts…

5 thoughts on “What We Carry and How

  1. Re-reading your very first post, I couldn’t sleep last night, you essentially wrote a mission statement in that first post. Since 2015 it has been an awesome adventure to watch you from afar and see how this dream has become a reality. Ride on! Keep going for as long as you can.

    • Wow. Thanks. That means more to me than I can explain. I had to go back and re-read my “very first post” myself after you said that. And more than anything else, I’m surprised at how it is still very much on-point. Every word of it.
      It’s been a heck of a ride. And there is definitely more to come.

  2. You are true to yourself. The world has changed. Improvise, Adjust. Adapt. Overcome. It’s you.
    You’ll be fine.

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