After a long week at work, one full of meetings and upper management who just don’t get it, you can be stressed out and ready for the weekend to come. And sure, sitting on the couch could be appealing to some as a stress reliever, but for you, getting out and having a weekend adventure is a much better idea.
Weekend ADV trips can be great. With only two days at your disposal, you can explore the outskirts of your area. It also means you don’t have to pack nearly as much stuff as you would if you were to go on a week-long (or even months-long) excursion.
Staying relatively close and packing light brings some freedom, but it doesn’t mean you should take vital components of any trip for granted.
Here, we’ll walk you through a plan for a weekend ADV trip. Some are essentials, which we all tend to forgot.
Covering everything from bike to gear, you’ll see the items we think you can live without for a day or two and other items that should never leave your side, no matter how short your trip is.
Obviously, you need something to wear. For a weekend trip, however, you can pack a lot less than you would for a long excursion. Also, since you won’t be going as far, check the weather for where you’re headed and the route along the way.
If you time the ride just right (say, during the nice part of the year), you can keep your clothing choices to a bare minimum. This includes the gear you wear on or off the motorcycle. Not having to layer up (or layer up less) lets you leave more bulk at home.
What type of riding gear in what weather?
A lot of adventure riding gear is made for three-season riding, with winter usually being the season left out (although four-season gear does exist). We're going to assume your weekend ADV trip *won't* be in the middle of winter—although if you do decide to do this, layer up (more on that in the next section).
Most adventure riding pants and jackets will work great for the three other seasons. For warmer weather, take out the liners in your adventure jacket and pants and open up the vents. Most have decent venting to allow airflow – though you're going to sweat on a hot ride, regardless. In spring and fall, you can determine whether to leave the liners in or out depending on the weather.
No matter when you go for your ride, it's a good idea to take your waterproof gear or at least your waterproof liner(s). You never know when you might ride through a water crossing or a flash rain storm.
How to plan layers and combine them in what materials + what to avoid.
This is where understanding the conditions along your route is very important. Will temperatures remain warm to moderate the whole way, or will you gain elevation and experience temperature drops and/or bad weather?
Starting with hotter climates, we recommend wearing sweat-wicking layers against your skin. These are typically polyester-based tops and/or bottoms—but not the kind your parents wore!
Polyester technology has made huge strides since the days of disco music, and the key in hot weather is to stay cool. Sweat-wicking base layers move your sweat from your skin and place it at the top of the fabric, closer in line with the incoming air. Assuming your jacket vents are open when the air makes contact with the sweat, it cools you down faster and more efficiently. As a nice bonus, these poly layers also make the jacket or pants easy to take off when you're done riding for the day.
If cold is in your future, thermal base layers should be touching your skin first. If that's still not enough, then you can add lightweight fleece, wind-blocking layers, or even electric garments that are either battery-operated or plug into your bike. But the thermal base layer comes first as that will help regulate your body temperature from all the other layers you're wearing.
Whatever you do, avoid cotton. It might sound tempting to wear the everyday clothes you already have, but cotton absorbs liquid, including sweat. When it does, it gets heavier, retains the fluid, doesn't help cool you through sweat evaporation, and takes a very long time to dry.
In cold weather, it doesn't do anything to help keep a thermal barrier for warmth. Plus, it bunches up and makes it uncomfortable when you're trying to add layers. If you insist on bringing cotton, leave it for when you're off the bike.
What extra apparel to bring and why (if you fall down into a water-filled ditch, for example)?
It's always a good idea to have essential spares with you, even if you only go on a short weekend trip. The key is deciding what comes and what stays. In terms of apparel, if you're absolutely sure there won't be any water on your route, bring waterproof gear.
You never know if you might fall into a water-filled ditch. Sound silly? Maybe, but it can happen. A waterproof outer layer will repel that water and/or dry quickly so you can stay comfortable.
Barring that, bring an additional polyester base layer, waterproof layer, socks, and even underwear to change into. If you remember, the poly (or thermal) layer rests against your skin, so if you've accidentally drenched yourself, you'll want to change that out to stay warm. Then the second waterproof/wind layer will keep out the elements, helping you warm up while the rest of your gear is still wet.
The same thought process applies here with food as it does with clothing. Since you’re only going to be gone for a day or two, you can bring less food.
If you’re feeling really minimal (albeit possibly a little less adventurey) and want to keep the camping stove at home, you could even head into town for meals and pack the bare essentials on your bike. This may not be a desirable option for some, but it’s an option nonetheless.
Types of food that are easy and smart to bring
Since you're only leaving on a short trip, the easiest thing to do is to get meals at restaurants and/or fast food establishments. Then you don't have to pack anything related to food or food prep. However, if that's not an option (or not one you subscribe to) bring dehydrated foods, including camping meals.
Dehydrated fruits pack small, are nutritional, and are really tasty. Same thing with jerky. Both should keep you satiated until it's time for a real meal.
For bigger meals, dehydrated camping foods/meals are a good idea. These are more complete and nutrient-dense. You'll also need a camping stove and basic utensils to cook. Camping stoves pack small and will come in handy to heat your food or boil water (and clearly you'll also need water—but bringing that should go without saying).
If you have to bring temperature-sensitive foods, you don't have the luxury of bringing a cooler. In this case, you can keep cold foods cooler for longer by freezing them ahead of time, so they're the right temperature when you're actually ready to eat them.
Conversely, if you need to keep something warm, heat it and wrap it in foil before going. You can extend the time it stays warm by placing the foil-wrapped item in a thermos if it fits. If a thermos isn't an option, heat packs – the same ones you usually use inside your gloves or boots—can also work.
If you really want to get crafty and want a hot meal, you take advantage of having a motorcycle and place the foil-wrapped item on or near the exhaust headers, assuming they're in easy access.
Turn the bike on, wait a few minutes, and voila, a warm meal. The exposed cylinder heads and header pipes of the BMW boxer engines make this really easy! Just be sure to keep an eye on everything to make sure things don't get burnt.
Whether you’re leaving for a weekend or a month, you’re still going to need shelter. Since the point of this trip is only to be gone for a weekend, you could decide to stay at a hotel for a night or two and leave the camping gear at home.
But if hotel stays are antithetical to your idea of ADV riding, you can choose to bring the minimum amount of camping gear that you’ll need.
The weather will play a role in what shelter to bring, but assuming the night temps will be nice, this will include at least an adventure motorcycle tent like the MotoTent, sleeping bag, and pad. If the temps get low or rainy, pack the minimum you’ll need to be comfortable.
What's needed to set up a comfortable campsite?
Because we're emphasizing a short weekend trip, we're also trying to keep your gear as minimal as possible. That includes your camping equipment. Still, you'll want a comfortable place to put your head down.
You're going to need your tent and sleeping bag. Those are the bare minimum, especially if you're hearty. We'd also recommend a sleeping pad, pillow, and lighting like a headlamp or flashlight. Depending on the time of year and where you decide to park up for the night, you can substitute the sleeping bag for a hammock, but that's up to you.
Camping hacks to make things easier
If you're camping somewhere chilly, fill up a water bottle or two with warm water (you brought a camping stove, remember?) and keep it in your sleeping bag. Don't forget to pack a warm hat and socks for sleeping, and sleep with your clothes in your sleeping bag.
Before bedtime, however, you don't want to wear your moto boots around the campsite. Pack some comfy shoes or slippers for this. Crocs work well and pack tight. Also, don't forget to pack wipes and hand sanitizer. Your hands will definitely thank you.
Things to avoid
The biggest thing to avoid is bad food prep and disposal. This includes everything from bringing food that spoils easily to improperly disposing of food. The last thing you want is an unwanted visit from a bear who smells its next meal.
You also want to walk the fine line between packing just the right amount versus packing too much. This will depend on your personal needs, but bring the amount of clothing and food you think will keep you comfortable.
4. Tools/Spares/Flat Tire Kit
This is one area you don’t want to skimp on. It’s easy to get lulled into thinking that since we won’t be gone for very long, or won’t be going very far, then there’s no need to bring tools, spares, or a flat tire kit.
But as we all know, disaster can strike 1000 miles from home or even right around the corner. Bring the gear, and as the saying goes, it’s better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it.
However, if you insist on skimping here, be sure you have a foolproof way to get help if something happens to your bike.
What a tire repair kit should consist of and why?
Flats happen. When they do, you better be prepared. That’s why a tire repair kit is an essential thing to take with you. Your kit will vary slightly depending on a few factors, like whether you’re running tube or tubeless tires. If you’re using tubeless tires, then generally speaking, a kit will include a patch or plug to fill the hole in the tire (assuming it’s not too close to the sidewall) and a few CO2 cartridges to re-inflate your tire and keep you moving. Carefully, of course.
If you have tubes, then you’ll have to replace them. This means you’ll need the specific sockets and tools to get the wheel off your bike and spoons to pry the tire off the wheel to get you access to the tube.
Then it’s a matter of pulling out the old, punctured tube and replacing it with a fresh one. You’ll need some way to put air back in the tire (the CO2 cartridges mentioned before in the flat kit is a good idea), then you’re on your way.
What crucial tools to bring and why
Aside from the tire kit, spoons, and sockets you’ll need to deal with blown tires, a basic tool set to address common issues on your bike could come in handy.
Specific sockets, allen keys, wrenches, and/or pliers to your motorcycle could be the key to quick fixes along your route. If you don’t already know, then research common problems with your motorcycle and have the appropriate fix for them if they should occur on your ride.
Your kit should include the necessary hardware to adjust cables, access and/or change a spark plug, and service a carburetor (if you have one). It may not be a bad idea to have an extra spark plug or a fuel line handy. JB Weld or epoxy pack small and have been used with varying success to patch little holes in case covers, and might let you limp home.
A pair of vice grips doesn’t hurt, either. If you know you’re going somewhere remote, having extra fuel on hand is also a good idea. And never leave without cable zip ties!
Handy accessories to have in case of an emergency
As much as we don’t want to think about it, emergencies happen, and it’s best to be prepared for them. Starting with you, the rider, have a basic first aid kit. Minor cuts and scrapes can be cleaned off with a rag and water, but deeper wounds might require gauze, a cleaning agent, or even a tourniquet if it’s really bad. And we shouldn’t have to say this, but if you’re hurt, don’t try to continue riding. So, what do you do then?
This is why it’s good to have your phone within easy reach – assuming you have service. Call for help and use your phone’s GPS to send a pin to locate you. If you don’t have service, then you can use a satellite tracker (which you should always carry with you) to notify others of your condition.
These devices can send notifications to loved ones back home that you’re doing just fine or with the push of a button. You can send a distress signal to them (and sometimes direct them to emergency services) with your exact GPS coordinates to send help. Hopefully, you never have to use such a thing, but it’s good insurance to have.
As for the bike—if you’re fine, but the bike is too badly damaged to fix with your basic tools, we revert back to the phone or satellite tracker to call for help. If you’re close enough to civilization, it’s possible you could walk into town and call for help from the comfort of a climate-controlled building.
5. First Aid Kit
The same idea applies to a first aid kit as to the tools and spares for your bike. You never know when or if something will happen to you, and having a first aid kit is a no-brainer.
Being able to clean up and patch a minor cut, or even a major one, before it gets infected could be the difference between a minor inconvenience and a major one. Hopefully, you don’t need it, but having a tourniquet handy could also be a lifesaver, too.
As a general rule of thumb, don’t leave home without it. For our purposes, let’s jump to a situation where you’ve crashed and are unconscious. Medical personnel will need a way to figure out who you are.
Having your ID on you is the easiest way to do this. While we’re at it, if you have a medical card, take that too. It should list any medications you take, your blood type, allergies, and any other conditions someone treating you should know. Also, list your emergency contact.
7. Cash/Credit Card
Have money with you, or some way to pay for items or services. This also seems like an obvious one. You may not need it, but if you do, cash or cards pack small and light and will be invaluable if you need them.
If you’re going on a short weekend trip, the odds are decent that you already know where you’re going. But it’s not a bad idea to have a GPS device or map(s) with you – just in case there’s a road closure you need to navigate around.
Or perhaps there’s an offshoot or side path you might want to explore; the map or GPS could tell you if it leads somewhere or is just a dead end.
Your phone is last on this list because it seems like the most obvious thing to take with you, and something you’ll probably have on hand anyway. You’ll probably leave the phone off on a weekend getaway, but from time to time, you might want to turn it on to check in on the world you’re leaving behind or to update a loved one on your status. You could even use it to snap a picture and tell the world about your fun. If that’s your thing.
Other things to consider
Here are some other things to consider before taking off on a shorter trip.
How to pack your bike depending on where you plan to ride
Remember: you’re only leaving for a weekend, not for a month. So pack as little as necessary. That said, there are still basic principles of packing your bike that should be followed.
- Weight distribution: Try to evenly distribute the extra weight you’re packing between each side of the bike. Your motorcycle’s handling could be greatly affected if you have a significant amount of weight biased towards one side.
- Quick access: As you’re packing, be mindful of the items you’ll need to access frequently during your trip and place them in easy-to-reach places. For example, waterproof gloves, goggles, water, your phone, and identification are all things you’ll want to be able to grab quickly without having to rearrange other items.
- Weight: Be mindful of your motorcycle’s GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating). While it’s unlikely you’ll surpass this number, this one’s aimed at the pack rats out there. Or, if you’re riding a small-displacement motorcycle, this one’s also aimed at you. Not only could the bike’s performance suffer, you could stress the motorcycle’s subframe or suspension limits while riding.
- Suspension: While we’re on the topic of suspension, make sure to adjust yours, if possible, to account for the extra weight. Usually, a turn or two of rear preload will help.
Precautions worth taking beforehand (general checks on the bike, checking other gear, etc)
Lastly, before you go anywhere or pack anything, do a general checkup on your bike and your gear. How are the tires on your bike? Has it been serviced recently?
Check your chain and sprockets for wear, and give everything a once-over to ensure there are no fluids leaking, weeping, or dripping. If there are, it’s much easier to fix from the comfort of your home. Make sure all the consumables like brake pads, have enough life left in them, and if they don’t, replace them before you go.
It makes sense for you to bring the gear you’re most comfortable wearing, but if you’re going to reach for your go-to riding gear for the umpteenth time, look it over carefully.
Look for any holes, loose thread, busted zippers, faded Velcro, or any other signs your gear could be compromised. And don’t forget the internal liners, too. The last thing you want is to reach for a waterproof liner only to realize it has a hole in it because your cat’s been scratching it.
If this sounds like a lot to consider, it really becomes second nature the more you do it. Pretty soon you’ll have a system down that can tackle these checks quickly and efficiently.
But ultimately it’s up to you to decide what you do or don’t want to follow. You know yourself, your bike, and your gear best. And hopefully you know the route fairly well, too.
Weekend trips are supposed to be a nice, quick getaway. But it’s always good to be prepared.