Safety First - Packing it in!

Owning a Harley-Davidson® motorcycle means embracing the open road. Before you know it, you will find yourself on every kind of ride - from short road trips and one-nighters to longer rallies, an "Iron Butt" or two and then graduating to a tour of South Africa.  All these require luggage! Seasoned riders seem to have little difficulty packing as they learn the tricks through trial and error. 

For all the "Newbies" traveling by motorcycle, here are some tips to set you on your way.  It is more difficult for ladies to pack than gents - not only do we still have all our hair, we like to smell and look nice when we reach our destination! Ladies remember when you're riding a bike, pack like a gent - light and easy.

Luckily, Harley-Davidson Touring models are designed for packing it in and come standard with panniers and top boxes.  Other models require saddlebags or luggage racks.

Safety & Loading the motorcycle

Motorcycles have weight limits, don't overload, load bikes carefully packing as close to the centre of the bike as possible.  Distribute weight evenly on each side and pack low and towards the tank. Packing high may interfere with the overall imbalance of the motorcycle making the bike top heavy and unsteady.

A trial run in packing and riding prior to a long ride allows you to make sure you are comfortable and packed correctly, and if not you can make the changes straight away.  It is important to tie down your luggage securely and tight with Hog Ties™.

  • Adjust your tyre pressures for the additional load you are going to carry, if tyres are under-inflated they generate excessive heat which can cause a blowout
  • Always check the tyre pressure when the tyre is cold
  • Increase the tyre pressure to compensate for the heavier load and adjust the suspension according to the packed weight
  • Check the aim of the headlamp after weight has been added to the motorcycle
  • Your braking distance will increase. Keep a safe distance - sudden stops may shift a tied down load unexpectedly if not secured properly
  • Check with your closest Harley-Davidson Dealership who may offer a 10-20 point motorcycle check prior to rallies
  • Pack reflective rain gear and emergency supplies towards the top for easy access

TIP:  Forgot your rain suit and caught in a storm?  Use dustbin bags as makeshift raincoats, plastic bags fit well over boots and domestic rubber gloves will keep your leather gloves dry.  When caught in unexpected cold weather, dig into you medical kit and use the latex surgical gloves or ask for a pair of plastic gloves at the deli counter at the first available stop.

Emergency Numbers

Always carry a pen and small notepad, include emergency numbers for hospitals within your travel zone.

  • Medical aid details
  • Motorcycle repair/assist contact details
  • Motorcycle insurance details
  • Emergency contacts - doctor & family
  • Current medications, allergies and medical conditions for each rider
  • Prescribed medicines plus copy of script

Medical Bag

Keep in mind most insignificant medication may be the one that saves you from spoiling your holiday.  The medical bag must contain vital medicines; remember these are items packed in small quantities, don't forget to replenish them if used - preferably in the next town and not at the end of the trip.  Pill boxes are great, but to save space you can pack items in the smallest zip seal bags you can find. 

Your medical bag & tool kit is critical - provided list fits into a scaled down Medical Kit (13cm x 8cm x 6cm bag).

  • 2 pairs of Surgical Gloves/Finger gloves
  • 2 x 25cm Splints (Velcro underneath pannier lids)
  • 3 Rolls 7.5cm x 2.5m gauze bandages
  • 3 Gauze Pads, 5-8cm x 5-8cm
  • Small Scissors
  • 4 Medium sized Band Aids
  • 1 Burn Dressing
  • 2 Earbuds
  • 1 "Infectious Waste" Bag
  • 2 Safety Pins
  • Tweezers
  • Pocket knife
  • Matches
  • CPR Mouthpiece
  • Medical adhesive tape
  • Universal disinfectant spray
  • Allergy tablets
  • Tablets for stomach cramps & diarrhoea
  • Nausea tablets
  • Indigestion tablets
  • Flu tablets/sachets
  • Sore throat lozenges
  • Pain killers
  • Rub for muscle cramps
  • Vitamins and supplements
  • Small torch

Clever space savers

  • A roll bag strapped to the motorcycle saves rummaging through clothing to get to the items when needed in an emergency or pack them last into your saddlebags. 
  • Struggling with bulky tubes of salves, toothpaste and non-flammable liquids?  Cut  large drinking straws to size, inject liquids and pastes and then heat seal to save space.
  • 25cm Splints can fit underneath pannier lid with Velcro strips and a 25cm mini fire extinguisher under the opposite pannier lid.

Tool Kit  

These items fits into a bag of 12cm x 9cm x 4cm.

  • Paper funnel
  • Electrical tape
  • Cable Ties (long thick & medium ties)
  • Small roll thick wire
  • Replacement fuses
  • Small roll thin wire
  • Long nose pliers
  • Harley-Davidson multi-tool set
  • Side cutters
  • Badge locks & Allen key
  • Double sided tape
  • Spare turn signal bulb
  • Small Multi tool set
  • Visor clear

Share these larger items between friends to carry.

  • Tire pressure gauge
  • Jump Start/Booster Pack
  • Emergency tyre repair kits
  • A tubeless tyre repair kit with 3 CO2 canisters (fits in the above size bag with listed items)

Watch Packing for a Week on YouTube by Caronyn Jackson just to proof how much you can actually fit into the Harley-Davidson® Touring Bag.


If this was your aim, it is not impossible

Personal items

Don't neglect the "luxuries" - you want to look and feel great wherever you stop!  Store small quantities in mini-containers.

  • Sun block
  • Insect repellent
  • Emergency cash
  • GPS (or ensure enough airtime & data on cell)
  • Spare key
  • Camera
  • Sunglasses
  • Bandana (can be used to tie hair)
  • Travellers tote bag for daytime use
  • Sewing kit
  • Ladies nail repair kit & jewel bond
  • Hair brush & **hair products i.e. gel, etc.
  • Toiletries i.e. shampoo/conditioner, toothbrush & paste, razor, body wash, deodorant, perfume, etc.
  • Make-up set
  • Packet of pocket tissues
  • Cables & Chargers for electronics, multipurpose adaptor

Think ahead

  • Check that credit cards, petrol cards and cellular phones have ample credit and have not expired prior to a long trip
  • Distribute your cash in different areas to avoid losing all your cash if your wallet or purse is lost or stolen  
  • A spare key or fob in your riding jacket saved quite a few riders from being stranded before
  • Have your medical aid card and emergency contact details written down and at hand 
  • The emergency capsule is one item that is not overlooked in any emergency; keep yours clearly visible tied to a zipper on your jacket.

Space saving on clothing

Make a list of items, less is more.  Share consumable items with your partner such as toothpaste, shampoo & body wash.  Compare your list with fellow riders; duplicate items such as a hairdryer can be shared.  Share larger essential emergency repair tools between the motorcycles i.e. jumper cables/jump start kit, oil & puncture repair kit.

  • Zip seal sandwich bags for loose items such as toiletries and charging systems are more pliable and can be tucked into small spaces
  • Roll items of clothing tightly instead of folding
  • Fit shower caps around the base of shoes
  • Synthetic underwear & polyester T-shirts (they dry quickest).  Pack T-shirts rather than long sleeve shirts (an all weather jacket can be worn over T-shirts on cooler days)
  • When riding with winter gloves, remember to pack a summer pair
  • Sneakers take up a lot of space rather invest in comfortable sandals or slip-ons
  • Pack really old clothing to wear, chuck it away after and you will have space to bring back new items purchased on the trip
  • Pack two tops for every bottom, and pack lighter colors inside out to keep them clean
  • Denims can be worn more than once without wash
  • A fashionable leather trim Harley-Davidson FXRG Switchback Riding Jacket is a good investment with its waterproof and heat reflective liner system & protective riding chaps (these can be rolled and fastened to the motorcycle)

Don’t forget to pack the handy mini cleaning kits offered by the H-D dealers to wash the dust off and shine your pride and joy on arrival at your destination!

Check with the accommodation venue for items supplied with the room.  If (when) you have forgotten an item at home, check with the hotel front desk - they may have small samples available.

Now you're ready to go - safe travels!

  • Extracts for safety and loading tips provided by Harley-Davidson