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10.000 KM on the ODO: The joy of packing light!

Season 6: Project Alaska

1 April 2022

Alaska, my Honda CRF300L Rally, and I have surpassed the magical 10.000 kilometers! That means, we tackled a quarter of the world’s circumference together, while riding on the soils of seven different countries. Well, soils… Rocks, sand, dirt, tarmac, and a considerable amount of saltwater. 

I have put my new partner through more abuse than any of my previous adventure bikes. Some minor damages aside, which were all caused by transportation on the sea, she has been handling it all like a champ. As I said before, I couldn't have wished for a better bike to ride the Americas with. 

One of the reasons why this motorcycle has been my favorite adventure bike so far has to do with my current setup. More specifically, my current weight. The weight of my bike plus luggage, I mean! 

During the three years of riding a motorcycle around the world, I've never had a lighter setup than now. Buying 'Savannah' in Africa, a CRF250L, was my first encounter with a 150-kilogram motorcycle and I quickly realized that it was the way to go for me. However, I have to admit that during season 5, I was still carrying around a lot of luggage, making the bike top-heavy.

All the luggage I carried on Basanti All the luggage I carried on Basanti

Every kilogram counts

When I set off for Ecuador, I re-evaluated my belongings and further reduced the amount of stuff that I was bringing. I saved weight and space by carefully examining each and every item I wanted to bring. For example, I invested in expensive, but special lightweight shoes. This may seem over the top, but you can easily save half a kilogram on your shoes alone! I also bought extra thin leggings and long-sleeved shirts in the hiking section of an outdoor shop, so my clothes take up very little space and add almost no weight. 

The less you bring, the more likely you will think at some point in your journey: I wish I had brought *insert item here*. But at those moments, you should also think: I'm glad I didn't bring *insert item here* because I would have carried it around for months without using it. 

It's impossible to be prepared for every possible scenario on the road, and you have to accept you can't travel with a fully equipped garage on the back of your motorcycle either. You just have to be a little more creative and solve problems on the go and with what you've got! 

Benefits of traveling light

Each and every day that passes by during which you are not thinking: I wish I brought *insert item here*, means another day of being happy that your motorcycle is not terribly heavy! Handling your motorcycle in tight situations, lifting it in and out of little boats, picking it up from slippery mud, or fitting it into a small steel basket to fly over a river in the Amazon… all of it is 100% more fun with a lighter motorcycle. 

No matter how strong you are, picking up or man-handling a 350-kilogram bike is going to get annoying really quickly. Fair enough, I've never ridden a 350-kilogram motorcycle, but the difference between a 150 and 200-kilogram motorcycle is already big enough for me. Those 50 kilograms less can already make or break my day. 

But what can you do to make your set-up lighter?

Already much lighter packed in Season 5 with Savannah Already much lighter packed in Season 5 with Savannah

How to travel light

I would recommend starting with a rackless soft luggage system like the one I am using. That will already save you up to 5 kilograms without the rack alone, and many more if you change from hard panniers to soft luggage. 

The next thing to keep in mind is that the more space you have, the more stuff you will bring with you. Even with the strongest willpower in the world, you will fill up all the space that's available. It is as simple as that. That's why I opted for less volume with my MoskoMoto reckless 80 kit. Instead of having a 30L duffle bag on top of it, I went for a 22L bag. I also removed the 4L pouch I used to have on top. That's 12L of luggage less! Having less storage space forces you to make thoughtful decisions on what to bring with you. 

What those real essentials are? That is different for everybody, I'm afraid. That may not be the answer you are looking for, but it's true nevertheless. I for one, carry an entire video production kit with me. Two drones, several battery packs, drone controllers, a lot of GoPro cameras, audio equipment, laptop, lots of external hard drives, cables, and spare parts. 

Others want to camp and bring all their camping gear with them. Some bring lots of tools, so they can fix whatever is necessary on their bike. I only carry the tools I need to fix a tire and some basic tools to tighten screws and get to my air filter. In case of any serious problems with my bike, I'll need a workshop anyway, as I don't have the mechanical skills to solve those by myself on the side of the road. 

Packing light your way

What your essentials are, you find out by experience, as I did. Those who have followed me from the beginning will have noticed that with each journey my luggage is getting smaller and smaller. It takes time to learn how to pack light and still feel confident about all the things you are not bringing with you that might come in handy one day. 

But once you reach that moment that you think you have the perfect set-up, it will make your motorcycle adventure 1000% better!

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Sometimes l wonder about your total lack of roots, but then I realise. You are more rooted and more grounded than most of us all put together. Your home is Earth your roots are Earth itself it's as much a part of you as the air in your lungs and watching you light up like a star with every experience fills me with respect and awe, Quite often l am crying with joy watching you live your life so beautifully _ I want you to know that our hearts travel with you

SimonEx63  | 

Noraly, you have all the logical reasoning and all the experience needed to go for the lightest possible kit. I've noticed some of the Craft shirts, and indeed they are light, and when you know you are going to spend a lot of time in warm, humid places, it would make no sense to bring anything thicker and heavier for example.
The light bike in combination with lighter bags (and all that has gone into them) certainly must make a positive difference when it comes to fuel costs. Without extra load the bike should have gulped down some 300 liters by now (10000km). If you had brought with you extra everything in extra large and heavy packs, you would only have spent more on fuel, and wouldn't have had more memories and experiences to bring back home afterwards.

Jonas E  | 

I am on a solo 3-week motorcycle tour in Western Cape, South Africa right now and brought a bit too much baggage down here from Germany. You are totally right, less is more, now I know, what I really need and what not. A bit too late for me, but sometimes you have to learn it the hard way. At least I did't make exact plans for the trip here with the exception of the first hotel in Cape Town, they would have all gone bust just on the second day here. So I ride on a day-to-day basis and I'm more than fine with it.

Thomas_57  | 

I purchased the pump and guage from Amazon.
I tried to purchase the trail jack but they don't ship to united States.

Metamorphosis2w  | 

Yes Noraly I agree with you. I bought my CRF300L Rally before you revealed you choice to buy one and I choice it for the same reasons. I am planning two trips in June to the Giant Loop Camp out and also the Touratech Rally. Thanks for the information on Packing lite I have been working on figuring that out. I will be carrying a little more than I have in the past because at 71 years of age I want to sleep in a tent I can stand up in and also have a cot to sleep on. I don't feel like I can afford Motels or hotels so I am going to try to camp. So time will tell if this will work for me. I am assuming you know that accommodations here in the US will cost a lot more than in most other countries. The fact that you travel the back roads to small towns will be a benefit to lower cost accommodations. Ok enough of my unsolicited advice may you have safe journeys as you travel north.

recumbentman  | 

I'm picturing Season 10... nothing but a screwdriver and a toothbrush! : )

Sandy Viljoen  | 

Just think, Arthur Dent only had his towel!

Bsmukler  | 

Even though I ride a big bike (2019 Honda Goldwing DCT Tour), I have found it beneficial to pack light as I can always find things I need along the trip if need be. You are right, particularly on a dependable Honda, you just need to be able to handle a flat tire at most. Multi-use clothing is most helpful. My buddies and I stay in reasonable motels instead of camping as it requires less gear and we get a good night's sleep. The longer you ride, the more you learn.

CO Mtn Rider  | 

Thanks for the insights Noraly. I'm debating the hard vs soft luggage and you make a lot of sense. The one thing that is holding me back is not having lockable storage. I have a Honda NC700 that has a frunk that locks but I worry on a long trip it wouldn't hold enough of what I want to keep secure. Maybe seeing you riding around the US will convince me that no one's going to mess with soft luggage either.
Love the videos, keep safe,
paul

Paul D  | 

Lite is the way to go. I'm making that effort now, but just beginning. I traded a heavy bike (GoldWing) for a not as heavy bike (R1200RT) and traded that for the R1250GS (liter than the GSA !) and trying hard to keep my "gear" as lite as possible since the bike is still in the "big bike" category. I can see myself on a smaller, lighter bike, in the future. Since I'm in my early 60's, weight is a big deal.

As for gear, most people bring too much stuff.

Mike K  | 

I am enjoying my new Loyalty Member privileges. Back in the day, you could tell the experienced hikers, they took the covers off their eating utensils.

KWB  | 

Lighter always feels better to me. 410lb is about light as I can go and have the power I want; also enough suspension to do some off tarmac riding. Thanks for everything! Cheers!

aldntn  | 

Excellent article Noraly. Thanks for sharing hard won experience.👍

SpokaneJim  | 

Okay, now I am desperately trying to come up with a pysicist joke about packing light. 🥳
What I really wonder is what Alsaka's rear frame looks like. As you said there's less weight on her than on Savannah and you haven't had nearly as much corrugated tracks to ride (Which I think was the real reason for the metal fatigue Savannah's rear frame suffered from, those few days of rally won't have sufficed to do this much damage) as you did in Africa, but I guess that's an extra point to check with the next inspection. You don't want to burn another turn indicator, do you?
…and I still can't come up with a joke. 🤨 Has anyone seen my thunder? Must have lost it.
@BigAl: The density of petrol is 0.7Kg/l. Diesel is about 0.8Kg/l and water 1Kg/l
The 35l of petrol in your R100's tank are some 24,5Kg. It's not quite as terrible, thus. 🙂

Zweispurmopped  | 

I know everything is a compromise but are the long stretches of road ever hard on you and Alaska with the trucks and wind etc…

Dale T  | 

You're sure right about a bikes weight and gear. The older one gets the harder it is to pick up so I try my best not to drop them.
Your travel articles here are the best. Glad you do the 360 and only put it on your blog. I think most over do them.
Really enjoyed the extra work you had to do to fly the drones in Honduras. Stay safe and take care as always.

Mike - P.  | 

You are amazing…. But do not forget to take care of your horse. Less weight is of course important but what about an front fork oil change? After 10,000 km you will definitely feel the difference in front wheel handling. Instead of W10 front fork oil, try W15. ( difference in viscosity ) on your next visit to an experienced mechanic this is what would do, just sayin’ :)
Safe travels, enjoy off road riding !

Skidcar  | 

Hi Noraly,
I learned this the hard way backpacking around India treating it like a holiday wrong, I had a 80L backpack stuffed full. By the first month it was posted home and a 45L was bought with room to spare.

AbdnPete  | 

Travelin' light, is the only way to fly.

N-Max155  | 

As a hiker, got to agree! We are about to tackle the Pacific Crest Trail and the obsession with what to bring, is real. Most recent gram junkie weight reduction was to cut the band off the head torch and add a bit of bungee cord instead. Not carrying anything 2650 miles I don't have to! How come 2 drones? Redundancy or are they different?

Lisa.  | 

Hi Noraly,
Thanks for your info on travelling light, I can only agree that every excess kilo will only make it harder. I ride a beautiful 1990 R100 Paris Dakar bike which has a 35 ltr tank, that in it self is 35kg added to the bike weight. My brother, my nephew and myself did a camping ride from the Sunshine Coast , Queensland in Australia to Adelaide, to the Flinders Ranges, up the Birdsville Track and Home, a trip of some 6400km. I carried 35kg of gear plus 35ltrs of fuel and found it to be a good weight, but any more would have been a problem as the Birdsville Track is quite a challenge and very rough with loose shale for over 500km.
I love your Honda, great bike for a person of your stature, I get away with my big girl because I am 180cm and 95kg, but my only shortcoming is that I am now 73 years old. I should not complain, I have had 58 years riding and still love it and get out at least twice a week.
Thanks for your videos, they are great and I look forward to them every week. Your camera work is great, your drone footage is spectacular and your commentary is clear and concise, and you laughter and smile infectious. Please stay safe I look forward to seeing a lot more of your trips. Travel safe and Shiny Side Up. Allan.

BigAl  | 

Hi Noraly
I should get the wife to read this. We went to northern England last year for four nights in a B&B. She took enough clothes to last a month. My Triumph Bonneville T120 looked like a packhorse. hahahahahahaha

Dave Marriott  | 
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