The Art of Packing

Luggage lessons we've learned after riding over 40,000 miles.

We've been traveling internationally on 2 wheels for 12+ years now, and we've tried all kinds of packing solutions. And we are still constantly refining our setup. We question every item we pack now, asking if we really need it.

Somewhere in Peru. This was NOT an ideal setup.

In the past we tended to opt for the largest carrying capacity we could fit on the bike. But the issue with that is if you have the space, you tend to fill it. This leads to carrying items you don't actually need, and that means more weight on the bike. And when riding long distances, especially off-road, weight is your enemy. Because of this we've redesigned our setups to be as minimalist as possible, while distributing as much of the weight across the bike as we can.

This is ideal, but pretty tough to carry all our-camping gear with this setup.

At this point we are striving for the lightest possible setup, working within our narrow framework of what we MUST carry for ourselves and our dog. We've weighed everything and experimented with a lot of different ways to distribute the weight on the bike as efficiently as possible. As a general rule, the heavier the item, the lower and closer to the center of the bike it should be.


39 L ubag - 29.4 lbs
+ 3 possibles pouches - 3.5L each = 10.5 L - 8 lbs
Pannier pockets - 3.5 L - 3 lbs
Tank bag - 1.5 L - 2 lbs
Front bag - 2.75 L - 1 lb
10L dry bag for tent - 4 lbs
20L dry bag for shoes - 5 lbs
20 L wolfman dry bag for food - 5 lbs

Total Liters =  107.25 L
Total weight = 57.4 lbs
Total weight on front = 6 lbs
Total weight on seat = 37.4 lbs
Total weight on rack = 14 lbs
Total weight on rear = 51.4 lbs

This setup carries our clothes and camping gear. We are carrying a minimal amount of clothes, and most of the space is taken up by sleeping bags and the tent, despite how small they are. A lot of the weight in this setup comes from the possibles pouches which are holding our tools and parts. They were added from the other bike to better balance the weight between us.


Fender bag - 3.5 L - 2 lbs
Zigzag handlebar bag - 1.5 L - 1 lb
Tank bag - 6 L - 5.6 lbs
Left Saddlebag - 21 L + 1 pouch 3.5 L = 24.5 L - 17.4 lbs
Right Saddlebag - 21 L + 2 pouches 3.5 X 2 = 28 L - 13.6 lbs
top of bag - tent poles in dry bag - 2 lbs
Kuryakyn pet palace - 44.25 liters - 20 lbs + 10 lb dog

Total Liters = 83.5 (before dog), 127.75 with dog
Total Weight = 41.6 lbs (before dog), 71.6 lbs with dog
Weight on front = 8.6 lbs
Weight on side racks = 33 lbs
Weight on rear rack = 30 lbs

This setup is still heavier than we'd like, but it's better than it used to be. Unfortunately there's not a lot that can be done in regards to the dog weight. His carrier is a fixed weight, and we haven't found a better way to carry him yet. After finally snapping the side racks we had made in Peru, we found a local welder to create these new side racks with reinforced welds on the arms. It should be stronger than before, and able to carry more if needed. So far we've had one low speed crash on it, and the rack held up perfectly. 

Ultimately the only way for us to really pack lighter is to not bring the dog, which would give us roughly 50 lbs each to carry. But he loves riding, and we're not going to go without him anytime soon. We recently gave this setup a thorough testing across the Olympic Peninsula and it worked great. Combined with our custom set suspension, we didn't even notice it while riding. And the gear was easy to pull off the bikes at the end of a ride, and access what we needed without taking everything out first.

* A note on hard vs soft luggage. We've heard all the arguments in favor of hard cases such as they can be locked, they protect the bike in a fall (even though it messes up the case or breaks it off the rack), etc. While those may be true, they are also heavy, dangerous in tight situations like lane-splitting or tight trees, and most importantly can destroy your ankles in a fall.

We had this exact same argument on a long boat ride from Panama to Colombia with someone who insisted their hard cases were superior, and no they didn't need to wear anything other than hiking shoes since they were so athletic. Needless to say, they had a crash where their hard case pinned their leg and destroyed their ankle in a remote part of a foreign country, ending their trip early, and damaging their ability to walk normally ever again. In conclusion, it's just not worth it.