Oaxaca de Juarez, Mexico 28 Oct 05
Odometer 11,566 m 18,614 km

Since my time in Alaska, I’ve noticed a tendency of my fellow adventure motorcyclists to carry as much or more as their bikes can hold. The thinking seems to be that since you never know what you’ll need--it’s better to be prepared for everything. So, in a kitchen-sink approach to packing they bring everything they think they’ll need, everything they know they want, and not just a few extra items thrown in for good measure.

Take one of my recent riding partners, for example. He and I are riding identical motorcycles, yet he is carrying easily
twice my load in both volume and weight!
He has not one, not two, but three video cameras, two still cameras, two iPods, a cell phone, a GPS, a full-sized/full-featured laptop computer with external hard drive and mouse, a couple of USB drives, and all the batteries and chargers required to supply everything with power. He's hauling a full-size tripod, any number of books, a spare tire, and a collection of tools and parts that would make any Latin American motorcycle shop sweat with envy. He has clothes for all occasions and has stretched the 10-essentials to at least 30--maybe 40.

The upshot of this is obvious. Though he may have a few more conveniences at hand and even sometimes get a better picture, there is a price to pay. He blew out his rear shock from the heavy load, for starters, requiring a lengthy stay and an expensive fix. The bike is much more difficult to handle and has virtually no room for something that might be needed along the way (like the half-gallon of coolant I needed to carry after my radiator blew out). Theft is a more serious concern, if only because there’s a lot more to swipe and it’s much more easily accessed. Aerodynamics and fuel economy suffer while waterproofness is compromised. And most insidious of all--the time it takes to pack and unpack all of his stuff everyday--something that seems to grow exponentially with each additional item carried.

I think the difference is that most adventure bikers were not backpackers first. Anyone who has had to carry everything on his or her shoulders gains a new appreciation for what is truly essential. Piled on the back of your moto, it’s difficult to gauge just how much junk you’re actually hauling around.

Exhaustively examining each and every item to include in my kit, something I continually reevaluate, I decided that clothing was one of the easiest things to eliminate. Long-range travel is not a fashion contest and besides, you’re rarely in the same place long enough for anyone to notice that you’re wearing the same thing two days in a row.
Synthetic fabrics work best. They clean up well in a sink or a river and dry out even in humid environments overnight. Cotton clothes like jeans, on the other hand, are heavy, bulky and take forever to dry. So, in an effort to shave weight and bulk, I elected to bring only three T-shirts, two pairs of underwear, and one pair of pants (other than my riding suit). I figured that I could wear my shorts and nothing else while doing my nightly laundry.

Traveling for a long period of time is different than traveling for a few days or even a couple of weeks. You have to think more long range. To that end, you need clothes that will hold up to the rigors of wear and daily washing. Further, you have to safeguard the few clothes you do have so that they will remain clean and relatively wrinkle-free for as long as possible.

But what do you do when the ketchup is hell-bent on remaining in the bottle until you and your dinner are long gone? Too often the battle to eject it results in a spill all over your
only pair of pants. Or how about when you cut yourself while shaving and blood winds up dribbling onto one of your only shirts? Then there’s the completely unforeseen drunk on the street that decides to unload his last three tequilas all over your shirt and your pants as you innocently pass him by--what then?

Well, you don’t need a back-up to the back-up to the back-up, like many riders choose to carry, but you can’t walk around in your birthday suit either.

durango cans

Learn to improvise and be proactive. You can buy more clothes along the way, if necessary, but it’s probably wiser to simply buy quality clothing, launder it frequently--and walk across the street when you see that guy who’s had a bit too much to drink staggering your way.

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