When I was getting ready to leave for my ride from the Midwest to Alaska (then as far south as I could) what to pack and how to pack it was something I thought a lot about. I had lots of experience in motorcycle travel. For the last few years I had take a one month long trip somewhere on a bike and packing seemed second nature.
When it was time to leave for the six month trip the normally relaxed decisions seemed to have a lot more stress in them. Should I pack extra clothes? What tools should I bring? What cooking gear do I need?
I had made a pile on my porch. For luggage I had two sidebags, a throw-over set that was held on with straps, a tank bag and a waterproof tail bag on the rear of the bike. This four location storage system is standard for most motorcycles, though some bikes may not have one area or another.
When packing the bike it is important to keep heavy things low and as close to the center of the bike as possible (think of the engine as the center, most of the mass is there). I packed a lot of tools, enough to rebuild my motor if I needed to, and almost all of these went into the bottom of the left bag. A small collection of tools I might use more often, such as a screwdriver and common small wrenches, went into a pocket on my tank bag for easier access.
On top of the tools went my cooking supplies. I had a small gas burning stove. I know that Jetboil can heat water faster, but I used a Simmerlite. Not only does it use the same gas as the motorcycle (so I didn’t need to keep a second type of fuel around to cook) but I could adjust the temperature like on a stove. This meant I could cook a larger variety of food on the stove. For cookware I used an inexpensive aluminum set with nested pot, bowl and frying pan.
On top of the left bag, when closed I put my tent, held on with straps not bungee cords. I do like bungees but on longer rides or rougher roads they allow loads to shift which can become dangerous.
The ride side bag held clothes with warmer things on top if I thought I might need them during the day. This way if I pulled over to get them out (or put them away) I would have the motorcycle between me and the road. On top of the right bag was a waterproof compression bag with my sleeping bag, pillow, and sleeping pad inside.
The tail bag held various other items. Since it was the simplest to remove from the bike when I carry a computer I place it there, so it’s easy to bring with and not leave on the motorcycle. Changes of gloves, sunscreen, charging cables and toiletries would also end up stuffed in.
My tank bag held food in the main compartment, including extra water. Small punches on the sides held extra fuses, a small selection of tools, and place for a hat and the carrying bag for my helmet.