Over the last sixteen months we have become intimately familiar with the gear we carry. For better or worse some bits have risen to the top and we can’t live without them. We have listed our favorite ten pieces of gear in no particular order. We do mention specific brand names but are not sponsored by anyone; we have purchased all these items and would buy them again.
Drinking water on the road is a big deal. Many overland motorcyclists we have met along the way are content to purchase bottled water on a daily basis. For us, we saw this as huge environmental waste (all those plastic bottles) and an additional daily expense. Our initial investment in our gravity fed Sawyer water filter was about US$80.00 and it paid for itself within the first month of our trip. Another benefit is that you nearly always have access to drinking water as long as there is a river, lake, spigot, sink, or other fresh water source nearby. Occasionally we have purchased water only because the fresh water source was too brackish (salty) to filter.
Nothing fancy here – a 9-foot (three meter) utility cord from a hardware store. This was purchased in Mexico and has enabled us to easily charge multiple items at one time. The best part is that many outlets are often in awkward places (far from the tent, high on the wall, only in the bathroom, behind the door, etc) and having the cord allows us charging flexibility. It has even allowed us to occasionally have electricity inside our tent in a campground or charge our things securely.
By having a proper kitchen we can kill two birds with one stone. First and foremost we like our own cooking and enjoy the flexibly of self-catering. Secondly, it is cheaper in the long run to prepare our own food than to eat out at every meal. Our kitchen kit doesn’t take much room and allows us to be independent from stores/restaurants on a daily basis. Our kit includes: stove, one MSR nonstick pot, one MSR nonstick fry-pan, Sea to Summit flexible plates, bowls, and cups (the sides fold down so it is all flat) and the cups double as measuring cups, wooden spoon, two titanium (we broke the plastic ones) sporks, two serrated knives, one chopping knife, large cutting board, peeler, spatula, large spoon/ladle, tongs, two nalgene cups with lids, folding grill, lighter, sponge, and net drying bag. We also have one folding Tupperware bowl with lid; we generally make more food than we need for dinner and then put the leftovers in the Tupperware for lunch the next day. It sounds like a lot but it packs well and we can make pretty much anything.
We generally carry four days worth of food and our staples include: pasta, rice, tuna, spices, soup, sardines, instant potatoes, cheese, vegetables, biscuits, chocolate, instant coffee, juice mix, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, peanut butter, jam, etc.
MSR Whisper Light International Multi-fuel stove
Hot food! We always scratch our head when we see other motorcyclists with giant one liter or larger MSR fuel bottles for their stoves. We use the smallest bottle available along with a piece of hose to syphon from the gas tank as needed. One small bottle is an hour of cooking time and takes minimal space. By having a stove that burns gasoline we don’t have to worry about sourcing specialty gas canisters.
Stool for working on the bike
This stool has been on every motorcycle trip. It is small, light, and saves the old man’s back when working on the bike or taking his boots on and off. He won’t leave home without it.
Exped sleeping matt
Who doesn’t love a good night’s sleep when camping? We have found these to be more comfortable than our previous thermarest mattresses and, more often than not, better than hotel beds. They are an air mattress style that we have found provides more than adequate insulation from the cold and does a wonderful job of leveling uneven ground. They even kept us dry when our tent flooded.
Vinyl rain pants from Colombia
We started the trip with our tried and true lightweight gortex rain gear that goes under our riding gear. It worked. It kept us dry. But, we found that we were very reluctant to pull over and put the pants on because to do so meant taking off our boots and our riding pants and putting it all back on. We generally tried to just deal with it and ended up getting our legs wet more times than we would care to admit. Putting on the jacket was no big deal. We realized we were being very silly. In Colombia we noticed that the majority of other motorcyclists had nifty, vinyl pants that went over everything else. They looked warm, dry, and absolutely hideous…and we wanted them. We bought two pair for US$25 and have never looked back – they are awesome. An added bonus is that when it is really cold they keep the heat in and the wind out so they are not just for rainy weather. They also pack pretty small.
Leatherman style multi-tool
On a daily basis something needs to get cut, tightened, tweaked, gouged, filed, or scraped. Digging out the main toolkit can be a pain in the ass for little jobs. Having the multitool in the tank-bag means it is easy to get and therefore gets used as often as it should.
Sena communication system
We started the trip with an older autcom system that had worked well for us for years but due to its age it was starting to fail. The system is no longer being manufactured therefore it was becoming cost prohibitive to fix. We purchased a Sena 10s system and have been totally pleased with its performance. Because it is a bluetooth interface the communication quality is substantially better than our old system. Having bike-to-bike communication is valuable to us for general conversation but it really becomes crucial over rough terrain and in cities.
GPS Device and OSM maps
The real hardcore cases refuse this technology and stand by their tried and true paper maps and verbal directions from locals. That is fine for them but having a GPS to navigate your way around or through mega cities like Mexico City, Bogota, or Lima is invaluable and we appreciate the convenience along with our paper maps and asking directions. All things in moderation. We consider phones with offline mapping or Google maps a GPS device.