On a motorcycle road trip, what to pack is a special challenge for women.
We have different needs from our men folk.
And motorcycle road trips are NOTHING LIKE like car road trips.
In a car, you have plenty of space to work with.
There’s no pressure to justify every little thing you pack.
But on a motorcycle, there’s not much luggage space.
Every item has to earn its place in the saddlebag.
Now, this is not a problem for a lot of men who ride motorcycles.
They pack a couple t-shirts, some extra underwear, and a toothbrush if they remember.
Most of their planning involves which bike tools to bring.
It’s not quite so simple for the women-folk on motorcycle road trips.
Our needs are more complicated, let’s face it.
Even if you’re relatively low-maintenance like me, there will still be Issues to prepare for.
Now I’m assuming here that you’ve already packed the basics, like:
- spare underwear (comfortable ones, not thongs and tight underwire bras)
- cotton t-shirts and woollen layers
- wet weather gear
- enough socks, and
- thermals if it’s cold.
These are the essentials.
They’ll cover most of your needs, for sure.
But after doing a quarter of a million kilometres with my man on motorcycles for 30 years, I’ve learned a few tricks.
On motorcycle road trips, women need to include 12 key things. These take up almost no space in the saddle bags, but can help you look and feel better for the whole motorcycle trip. With a little planning, you’ll be prepared for everything from helmet hair to headaches, sunburn, and road trip food.
There are a few things that can really TRANSFORM motorcycle road trips for women.
These are mostly small, light items that you’ll barely notice when you pack.
But, believe me, if you don’t pack them, you’ll really wish you had.
Here’s my guide to the 12 items you shouldn’t leave home without.
The Motorcycle Road Trip: What to Bring if You’re a Woman
There are 12 things you absolutely have to take with you…
1. Serious Skincare
After a full day on a motorcycle, your skin will be whimpering: What happened?
Your face has been blasted by the wind, and burned by the sun.
And, if you opened your helmet visor to get some air, there’ll also be dirt and possibly even actual bugs stuck to your face.
Believe me, this won’t be a beautiful “one with nature” moment.
Bug splatter just looks like nature sneezed on your face.
Back in the day, before I knew better, I tried to save space in the luggage by just packing a light moisturiser, and making it work as a cleanser and night cream as well.
On a motorcycle road trip, your face will definitely need some TLC.
There are no shortcuts.
So bring the serious skincare products.
For me, that means oil-based wipe off cleanser, calming day moisturiser and a rich night cream.
If I don’t bring all that stuff, by the end of the trip, I look like I could be part walrus.
I’m already usually covered in mud anyway, so the transformation is already well underway.
And while we’re talking about trying to look human rather than animal, don’t forget…
2. Non-greasy Sunscreen
You definitely can get sunburned through a motorcycle helmet.
I found this out the hard way, too.
The sun will also fry your face every time you stop for lunch, and sit at an outside table.
On motorcycle road trips, in good weather, you’ll always be sitting or standing around in the sun.
Here in New Zealand, if you arrive on a motorcycle, there are plenty of people who want to come and chat.
And while you chat, you’re getting sunburned.
So protect your face with sunscreen every day of the ride.
But you can’t just slather it on, and pull on your helmet.
If you do that, your helmet liner will be greasy and disgusting from Day One of the trip.
Read my tips on how to wear sunscreen (and makeup) under a motorcycle helmet here.
3. Motorcycle Helmet Hair Emergency Kit
Ah, motorcycle helmet hair.
The extra challenge we all love to wrestle with.
On motorcycle road trips, helmet hair is impossible to avoid.
But there are ways to cope with it.
You can see my helmet hair rescue plan in my other article here.
The tips include how to put together a Motorcycle Helmet Hair Emergency Kit.
Don’t worry: the emergency kit won’t take up much space in the luggage.
But it’ll quickly transform you from the Wookie in Star Wars back into an actual woman at the end of the riding day.
Motorcycle road trips are not like visiting your local library.
There’s no-one telling the noisy people to “shush”.
After a few days on the road, you may be wishing you’d brought a stern librarian with you.
Because when you’re away on the motorcycle, there are 1,000 kinds of annoying noises you can do without.
- Noisy Accommodation
You may end up staying at a motel opposite a busy bar.
Unfortunately, it’s karaoke night.
So at 3am, ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ goes on for 6 long minutes of hell, with the locals joyfully screaming ‘Oh mama mia, mama mia, mama mia, let me go…”
You’ll be balanced on the windowsill of your motel room, seriously considering jumping.
- Motorcycle Rallies
If the road trip involves a motorcycle rally, well, be prepared for a little noise.
Motorcycle rallies are not exactly quiet, orderly events.
For a start, there are hundreds of bikers passed out in their tents, roaring in their sleep like bears with asthma.
Then there are the traditional 6am burnouts.
It’s a relaxing way to start the day.
(There are ways to make motorcycle rallies more female-friendly, by the way.
See my tips on motorcycle rallies over here.)
- Wind Rush
The roar of the wind can take a toll on motorcycle road trips.
Long term, it can damage your hearing.
Short term, it makes you feel strangely tired.
The best helmet in the world can’t protect you completely from the roar of the wind.
Earplugs will help.
- New Mufflers
You know those new pipes that your man spent a fortune on?
They’re so pretty.
But it turns out they make the bike sound like a 747 plane taking off.
The novelty of that gets old real quick.
Earplugs will protect you from these kinds of noises, and many more.
And they take up next to no room in the luggage.
Bring some spares.
5. Lady Supplies
When packing for motorcycle road trips, remember that out on the highway or in a small town, a pharmacy or supermarket may be impossible to find.
And you know that Shark Week is sure to begin at the worst possible moment.
(I’m from Australia, so I love this term for The Time of the Month…)
It always happens when you have no supplies on hand, and you’re in a field in the middle of nowhere, with 300 bikers.
And as usual, the ratio will be 294 men to 6 women.
Now you could wander around asking women you’ve never met if they have a spare tampon.
I suppose it’s one way to make new friends.
The whole motorcycle rally site will quickly learn about you, and your Female Issues.
It’ll be like high school all over again.
Who needs it?
Just do the grown-up thing and pack the tiny box of tampons that will take up no space in the saddle bag, but will preserve your dignity.
6. Headache Relief
Yeah, yeah, we’ve all heard the jokes about women and headaches.
The fact is, though, on motorcycle road trips it is easy to get a headache.
You might be struggling with:
- A bad night’s sleep
- The noise of the all-day wind rush
- Shark Week Issues, or just
- A desperate lack of decent morning coffee.
But if you’ve packed paracetamol, aspirin or ibuprofen, you can deal with a headache without turning into the Wicked Witch of the West.
Motorcycle road trips are supposed to offer a week of freedom on the open road, rather than a cranky, frantic hunt for a pharmacy.
And speaking of getting cranky, you’ll also need a plan for when you get hungry…
7. Trail Mix & Water
On motorcycle road trips, there’s no schedule to follow.
We’re riding where the road takes us, man.
I get that. I love it.
But I’ll still be needing some dinner.
What if it’s 150 km to the next town – and your stomach is already growling?
It’s time to pull over, reach into the saddle bag and grab a handful of the trail mix you packed this morning.
And OK, it’s not freshly caught lobster with garlic butter, and a green salad.
But some nuts, dried fruit and bottled water will keep you going until you can find something more substantial.
Now you’ll be calm, and still human when you arrive at the motel.
You won’t need to take a bite out of the receptionist’s arm, and announce that the Zombie Apocalypse has begun.
8. Washcloth & Soap
We like to stay in little motels as we roar around New Zealand on a motorcycle.
But you never know what to expect.
Some places have those dinky little bottles of shampoo, fluffy towels and a washcloth each.
Others offer a couple of thin towels from 1967, and half a roll of 1 ply toilet paper.
At these places, you won’t be seeing any mini bottles of shampoo.
But there is a dispenser of liquid soap mounted on the bathroom wall.
If you’re brave enough to push the button, a terrifying bright blue liquid will trickle out.
It smells like sickly sweet nuclear waste.
Don’t get it on your face – or your hair.
You could always ask at the front desk if they have a Geiger counter to measure the levels of radiation now bouncing off your skin.
Or you could just pack a bar of your own soap, and two washcloths.
(Yep, bring one for your man.
He didn’t think of it when he was “packing” by throwing a handful of underpants into his side of the luggage.)
If you pack the washcloths into ziplock bags, they won’t get the rest of your stuff wet.
And while we’re getting all hysterical about being clean…
9. Hand Sanitiser or Wet Wipes
Out on the road, your hands get unbelievably dirty.
You’re digging into mud-covered saddle bags.
You stop regularly at gas stations for fuel.
You’re using public restrooms.
And sometime, you’ll need to stop for food, so you’ll need clean hands.
That’s why hand sanitiser is essential when packing for motorcycle road trips.
This was the case even before Covid showed up.
Attitudes to Germ Management on motorcycle road trips always make me laugh.
There’s a big difference between men and women’s approaches here.
I prissily clean my hands and under my nails like a pedigree cat.
Then I offer the hand cleaner around to the guys I’m riding with.
Instantly, they all suddenly turn into pirates straight from a child’s storybook.
Nah! No need for that! They’ll shout heartily.
We’ll just use our cutlasses to carve up some raw meat, girly!
But I’m not getting some disgusting, bacteria-based disease if I can avoid it.
So I smile at my table of pirates, clean my hands again, and wonder if there’s anything girly like vegetables on the menu.
And speaking of road food, you may also want to bring…
10. Digestive Aids
On a motorcycle road trip, the menu is varied – and totally random.
You’ll come across everything from basic meals in diners, to deep-fried temptations you instantly regret eating, and the mysterious offerings of food trucks.
Sometimes, you might even find a restaurant where the menu isn’t laminated.
Either way, your digestive system will struggle with a variety of food you’re not used to.
So bring your favorite digestive aid, and keep it close at hand.
Pack some Tums, Alka-Seltzer or a handful of peppermint tea bags, and you won’t have to deal with indigestion.
You’ll be more comfortable all day on the motorcycle, and you’ll get a better night’s sleep in a strange bed.
11. Flip Flops
After a day of wearing motorcycle boots, it can be a blessed relief to give your feet some air and wiggle your toes.
And if you’re staying at a camping ground where you have to wander around to find a bathroom, you don’t want to have to pull on socks and boots to do it (especially at 4am).
A pair of flip flops are flat, light, and really easy to pack on motorcycle road trips.
They can be tucked into the luggage, or even tied onto the bike itself if you run out of room.
They really add another level of comfort at the end of a long day’s ride.
12. Nail File
Motorcycle road trips wreak absolute havoc on your nails.
Even if they’re short and practical.
Somehow they seem to get caught in everything.
And obviously, don’t even bother asking the men folk for a nail file.
No, no-one brought any manicure tools.
Try asking any of the men riding with you if they have a nail file on them.
- Stare at you blankly, or
- Snort at you like a bored warthog.
Surprise, surprise, they don’t care about your nails.
But you probably do.
Now obviously, you can’t look red-carpet-ready on motorcycle road trips.
This is not about squealing in horror when your perfect manicure gets smudged.
(But if you want some good ideas for biker chick nails, I’ve put together some inspiration for you.)
The problem is that a rough, jagged nail will catch on everything, from your glove liner to your hair.
And if the nail rips or tears, it’ll bother you the whole trip.
But pack one tiny little nail file, and you can fix the problem in 10 seconds.
Motorcycle Road Trips Don’t Have to be a Packing Nightmare
You now know the 12 women friendly items that you absolutely must pack on motorcycle road trips.
As you can see, these handy items are not bulky, heavy or difficult to fit into the limited space.
But taking a second to add these to your side of the saddle bag will make all of your motorcycle road trips 100% more enjoyable.
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