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Cross Country Road Trip Essentials: 5 Things You Need to Pack

Cross Country Road Trip Essentials: 5 Things You Need to Pack

A cross-country motorcycle trip involves traveling from one end of a coast or border to the other end on a two-wheeler. Due to significant geographical distances between regions in the United States, a cross-country trip usually implies traveling from the East Coast to the West Coast or vice versa. Route 66, Lincoln Highway, and Southern Pacific Route are some of the most popular cross-country routes that American motorcyclists love to ride. Though not exactly a true cross-country route, the Pacific Coast Highway is often added to the list.

When embarking on an adventurous cross-country trip, it is essential to plan your journey well and pack smartly. For route planning, you can use multiple navigation apps and digital maps that will not only help you find the best route but also prepare you for the weather conditions ahead. As for packing, there are many things that a rider must consider, including traveling light, carrying weather-appropriate gear, dressing in layers, and preparing for breakdowns and other emergencies. Ensuring that you have high-quality saddlebags with adequate storage capacity is also an important aspect of cross country motorcycle trip packing. In this article, we will discuss five essentials that you should always carry with you during a cross country motorcycle trip along with common items that most riders already have on their packing lists.

Related: How to Stay Comfortable on Long Motorcycle Rides - Viking Bags

1. Five Essentials for Cross Country Motorcycle Trip

You should always carry these five items on every motorcycle trip even if you are traveling only for one day. When it comes to cross country motorcycle trips, these items are absolutely necessary.

1.1 Bungee Cords, Straps, & Cargo Net 

Always carry straps, bungee cords, and cargo net. If you have to choose only one, then opt for straps, as they can be used for more things than just strapping luggage bags to the bike. When on a cross country trip, you might end up buying souvenirs or gifts that may take up space. You can use these straps to attach the things to your bike, creating space for the luggage you have accumulated during the trip.

If something breaks on your motorcycle, you can use the strap to secure the broken part to the bike. Hence straps come in handy for emergency repairs. Moreover, you might come across people on the road who need help. You can use the straps or ropes to tow their motorcycle with your own to the nearest service station.

1.2 Spare Motorcycle Key

Hide a spare motorcycle key somewhere on your bike because losing your bike’s key during a cross country trip equates to calling a tow truck; you will get stranded. You can put this spare key inside the side case and keep it locked. Just make sure that your side lock key is not attached to your motorcycle key. Keep those keeps somewhere safe and separate so if you lose your bike key you still have access to the spare key. If your bike has a key fob with a battery in it, also keep spare batteries in the same place as the spare key.

1.3 Battery Powered Air Compressor

A battery powered air compressor is essential to maintain normal tire pressure during the trip. When coupled with a pressure gauge, they help avoid accidents by ensuring that your motorcycle’s tires are properly inflated. You can also help other riders stranded on the road due to deflated tires.

1.4 One Extra Layer

For Cold Weather

Usually a three to five day clothing supply is enough for a cross country trip. You can use the clothes after washing them. But once you have packed enough clothes for your trip, always add one extra layer for worst case scenarios. This extra layer of clothing will help you through the different weather conditions you might face on a cross-country trip. Leave this extra layer of clothing in reserve. When the cold weather gets to a point where it is unbearable for you, you always have one more thing to wear as a liner underneath your riding jacket.

Ideally, you would never really have to wear this layer of clothing because just knowing that you still have something to wear to fight the cold air is usually enough to get you through the harsh weather.

For Rain

It is obvious that riders should carry rain gear. Sometimes riders rely too much on weather forecasts and skip carrying a rain jacket. On a cross country trip, there is no such thing as predictable weather, so you should always have rain gear with you.

It is best to choose a windproof and waterproof jacket for your extra layer and wear it under your riding jacket. Rain jackets protect you from hypothermia by regulating body temperature. Wet roads are slippery and increase the risk of fall and accidents. In the event of a fall, a rain jacket will protect you from impact and abrasions.

Extra Pair of Riding Gloves

Always bring an extra pair of riding gloves, so if one pair gets wet or soiled, you will have a backup. Most riding gloves are crafted from leather and they don’t hold up well after being repeatedly wet and dried multiple times. Make it an essential part of your rain gear.

1.5 Ziplock & Plastic Bags

Trash Disposal

During a cross country motorcycle trip, you might have to spend a night on a campsite due to an unexpected event, such as miscalculating your mileage, arriving late at the hotel and losing your reservation, due to unfavorable weather conditions on the route ahead, or because of motorcycle breakdown. When staying at a campsite, it is extremely important to pack and carry all the trash with you and preserve the natural beauty of the camping area. These plastic bags will come in handy to abide by the “Leave No Trace” policy of BLM lands and campsites.

If you don’t stay at a campsite, you might end up visiting a national forest, national park, or other popular tourist attractions. Having plastic bags with you allows you to gather all your trash and dispose of it properly.

Dirty Laundry

You can also use plastic bags to carry your dirty or wet laundry and prevent it from mixing with your clean clothes until you find a laundry service on the route.

If you forget to bring along plastic bags or zip-lock bags, you can also use bread bags for all the purposes mentioned above.


You can use ziplock bags for organization if you don’t want to buy pouches or if your motorcycle luggage does not have compartments and pockets. Ziplock bags are available in different sizes, allowing you to categorize items based on their size and use. Put shampoo, sanitizer, and other items that can leak in a ziplock bag to prevent the liquid from damaging other things.


Many riders use ziplock bags to store their phones, cash, and paper maps. If your important documents are not laminated, simply put them in ziplock bags to protect them from water.

2. Things to Consider When Packing Common Items

Mindful packing is key for a comfortable and enjoyable cross-country motorcycle trip. When out on the open road, you will have to face many different challenges but being prepared for them helps you overcome these inevitable challenges better. The main purpose of a long-distance motorcycle trip is to survive with bare basics and prioritize what you really need. Right tools, luggage, technology, and packing strategy is what you need to achieve these outcomes.

2.1 Choose the Right Luggage

Never compromise on the quality of motorcycle luggage. During a cross-country motorcycle trip, you will find yourself riding through areas where there are no metal fabrication or shoe repair shops to fix your hard or soft saddlebags. If your luggage bag mount breaks or your bags get torn, carrying your luggage will become near to impossible for you. Hence it is necessary to check that your luggage bags are in good condition and can keep your luggage secure during the length of your trip.

Efficient organization is another important aspect of motorcycle luggage. It is best to have bags with pockets and compartments to organize your belongings. This makes it easy to access the items you need.

Related: Hard vs. Soft Luggage Bags for Adventure Motorcycles

2.2 Always Pack Light

During a long-distance motorcycle trip, it is extremely easy to overpack, especially clothes. This tendency is driven by the idea “what if I need it?” But many experienced motorcycle riders will tell you that most of these “just in case” items are never used and extra clothes are never worn. Here is how to prevent unpacking:

  • Make a list of items that you will definitely use on the trip. Double check the list.
  • Make sure you haven’t listed anything like hairdryers, excessive gadgets, books, spare chargers, and extra toiletries.
  • Remove bulky clothes from the list such as chunky hoodies, thick sweaters, oversized sweatshirts, and thick wool pants.
  • Limit your footwear to one or two pairs of functions . There only bulky article you should carry is a jacket as mentioned earlier.. and
  • Do not carry multiple copies of documents.
  • Plan your laundry stops. Use technology to plan your stops well. With Google Maps, you can find rest stops that offer laundry facilities. Hotels and motorcycle-only resorts also have these facilities.  
  • Do not pack things that you can buy on the road.
  • Instead of folding clothes, roll them tightly so they take up less space.

2.3 Prepare for Emergencies

When riding cross country on a motorcycle, it is extremely important to prepare for breakdowns and emergencies. The common issues that most riders face include, brake failure, engine overheating, deflated tires, wheel bearing failure, fuel shortage, loose engine or chassis bolts, battery issues, electrical issues, and collisions. To tackle all of these emergencies, it is important to have contact with a towing service or roadside assistance. When planning your trip, it is recommended that you search for skilled mobile mechanics online that you can rely on during these situations. Motorcycle insurance companies and American Motorcycle Association also provide help in these emergencies. It is worth mentioning that you would also need a working cell phone to seek help. Before embarking on your trip, it is best to join motorcycle community pages and forums to seek advice from riders who travel long-distances frequently before embarking on your trip.

2.4 Prepare for Unexpected Weather Changes

Using weather apps is the best way to prepare for unexpected weather conditions. Some of the best weather apps for motorcyclists include Epic Weather, NOAA Weather Radar Live, and Dark Sky. These apps help you with route adjustment, rain alerts, weather changes, gusty winds, and levels of humidity. In addition, some apps also offer information about weather calamities, such as floods, landslides, heat waves, and unusually frigid temperatures. Through these weather apps, you can dress accordingly, take out your rain jacket on time, or simply prolong your stay in one city until the weather becomes suitable for riding.

Other ways you can prepare for unexpected weather include, wearing appropriate riding gear, using heated grips and seats, wearing protective eye gear, taking frequent breaks to hydrate yourself, and wearing waterproof and windproof gloves.

Related: The 10 Best Motorcycle Weather Apps of 2022 for Conventional Riders - Viking Bags

2.5 Dress in Layers

Comfortable riding gear is essential for an enjoyable cross country trip. But choosing the right gear for a cross country trip can be challenging. This is because you will be riding through a range of weather conditions. Improper gear can worsen wind-induce hypothermia, frostbite, and dehydration. To make sure that you are comfortable and safe regardless of the weather conditions, it is best to dress in layers. Layering not only saves you storage space but offers the versatility required on the open road. When the weather gets hot you can simply remove the top layer and when it gets cold, you can easily add more layers to stay warm. It is recommended that you choose a leather or non-abrasive top layer to withstand weather and collisions. Also, a helmet is an important part of layering. If you are traveling in a state where helmet laws are relaxed, it is still recommended to wear one. Helmets provide protection in the event of an accident, protect from debris and gusty winds, and offer visibility in rain.

3. Cross Country Motorcycle Trip Packing List

If you are planning your first cross-country motorcycle trip, use the comprehensive cross country packing list provided below to make sure that you have everything you need. The five essentials mentioned above are also added in this list under the “absolute essential” section so you don’t miss them. Many riders also plan motorcycle camping excursions during their cross country tour. To cater to such riders, the list also contains camping essentials, but if you are not into camping and plan to stay at hotels throughout the trip, then skip that portion.

Cross Country Motorcycle Trip Packing List
Absolute Essentials Important Documents
(laminate all legal documents)
Personal Items Important Gadgets
  • One Extra Layer (preferably waterproof and windproof jacket)
  • Rain Gear
  • Extra Pair of Gloves
  • Spare Motorcycle Key
  • Straps/Bungee Cord/Cargo Net
  • Ziplock Bags/ Plastic Bags (anything to keep small things dry)
  • Battery Powered Air Compressor
  • Money
  • Debit Card
  • Credit Card
  • Motorcycle Insurance Card
  • ID Card
  • Motorcycle Registration
  • Driving License
  • Paper Maps
  • Vaccination Proof
  • Travel Insurance
  • Road Assistance Card (American Motorcycle Association) 
  • Sunscreen
  • Towel
  • Travel Size Sanitizer
  • Travel Size Soap & Shampoo (skip if you can buy en route)
  • Travel Size Shaving Kit
  • Spare Glasses
  • Toothbrush
  • Dental Floss
  • Toothpaste
  • Tissues & Toilet Paper
  • Comb or a Brush
  • Adapter
  • Cell Phone Chargers
  • USB Battery Pack
  • GPS Tracker
  • USB Cables
Miscellaneous Items  Camping Essentials
Motorcycle Tools & Security Clothing
(preferably 3 day supply)
  • Small Ax
  • First Aid Kit
  • Bandages
  • Painkiller
  • Antiseptic Wipes
  • Allergy Medication
  • Flashlight
  • Scissors
  • Bug & Mosquito Repellant
  • Biodegradable Soap (if laundry service not available en route)
  • Spare Battery for Key Fob
  • Spare Batteries for General Use
  • Helmet Bluetooth Connectivity
  • Dry food & Snacks
  • Portable Water Filter
  • Spare Water Bottle
  • Three-Season or Four-Season Tent
  • Hammock with a rainfly
  • Sleeping Bag
  • Sleeping Pad
  • Inflatable Pillow
  • Warm Blanket (if traveling in winter)
  • Multi-purpose Tool
  • Tire Pressure Gauge
  • Tire Repair Kit
  • Spare Fuses
  • Portable Jump Starter Kit
  • Headlamp
  • Tire Levers
  • Spare Bolts & Fasteners
  • Small amount of Lubricants & Automotive Fluids (including oils, epoxy, loctite, and grease)
  • Owner’s Manual
  • Duct Tape
  • Electrical Tape
  • Socket & Ranch Set
  • Screwdriver Set
  • Portable Air Compressor
  • Chain Maintenance Tools
  • Chain Lube (if your bike has a chain drive)
  • Zip Ties
  • Pliers
  • Hex Key Set
  • Disc Lock for Security
  • Chain or Bicycle Lock
  • Tracker
  • PacSafe net
  • Pants
  • T-Shirts
  • Button Down Shirt
  • Socks
  • Undergarments 
  • Thermal Lining for Pants
  • Gloves

Related: What to Take on a Motorcycle Camping Trip - A Thorough Motocamping Checklist! - Viking Bags

4. Takeaway

Cross country motorcycle trips offer some of the most memorable life experiences. When embarking on a long motorcycle tour, make sure you have the five essentials listed above. Also, use the packing checklist provided in this article to make sure you don’t miss out on any important items that you might need en route.

Related: Six Best Adventure Motorcycle Destinations in the U.S. - Viking Bags
Where to Sleep When Riding a Motorcycle Cross-Country - Viking Bags

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