Adventure Motorcycle Gear Essentials

Parts, gear and equipment that every adventure rider should consider

There are a multitude of critical components that are an essential part of your adventure motorcycle gear. The trick is to make a list of things you would like to have, set a budget and then systematically go down the list to get your motorcycle set up exactly how you like it. Below are examples of products that we have found to be the most important and although your needs may vary, this is a good starting point for any ADV set-up.

Motorcycle Guards

Ricochet Offroad Skid PlateCourtesy of the manufacturer

A good set of crash bars are almost as invaluable as a durable skid plate. For that reason we chose to lump these two protection items together when advocating their merits. SW Motech has been building crash bars for many years while making quite a name for itself along the way. This German-based company builds ADV-centric products that are well engineered and constantly evolving with the needs of the consumer. A skid plate is a first line of defense against the constant beating that comes from riding overweight motorcycles on unforgiving terrain. Everything from rocks and ruts to sticks mud will constantly bash the bottom of your bike. Their Ricochet skid plates are designed to fit with other SW Motech products, which makes these a good match for anyone looking to toughen up their ADV bike.


This debate is like the Hatfield & McCoy rivalry. So pick your side carefully. There good news is that there’s a limitless supply of ADV-worthy luggage, panniers, tank bags and backpacks available on the market today. The trick is to discover for yourself, which style works best for you.If you plan to ride truly rough terrain or you own a lightweight ADV bike then soft luggage is the way to go. It can handle impacts better in case of a crash and it is more-simple to make repairs when you have problems. Hard luggage is tailored more for adventures that will take you down dirt roads, Backcountry Discovery Routes and other moderate locations as opposed to gnarly terrain. They look and fit better, but they usually require mounts that are designed for specific bikes and can be damaged and banged up in a crash. Either way, you will need bags if you are serious about breaking into the world of ADV riding so here’s a few examples of each.

Soft Luggage

This includes saddlebags, tank bags and tail bags. In my experience these work best because they are light weight, less expensive and are usually a universal fit. Almost every brand comes with a variety of attachment straps and you can always add more if you feel the need to secure your gear even further. The downside of soft panniers is that they can come loose if you're not careful with the tie downs and they don't provide the same level of security as the hard bags.Wolfman brand luggage like the Enduro Dry Saddle Bags offer a lot of storage considering their compact size and they are water resistant, tough as nails and they look great. This company revolutionized ADV luggage a decade ago and they are still coming up with innovative gear every year. Rival brands like Giant Loop offer unique concepts like their original Great Basin design that loops over the entire back of the bike. Other options are available from brands like Nelson-Rigg, Mosko and Touratech, so do a little research and see what works best for your type of riding and your budget.

Soft luggage
Giant Loop GBSB-BLACK Great Basin SaddlebagCourtesy of the manufacturer

Hard Luggage:

When you imagine an ADV bike you likely visualize those big aluminum panniers hanging off either side of the bike as it rolls down the road. That's because this style is one of the most proven luggage designs. In the old days, folks would bolt a pair of large ammo cans from the Army surplus store; from there they have evolved into state of the art luggage solutions. A pair of Tusk Aluminum Panniers are an example of a good, middle of the road aluminum pannier that will hold a week worth of gear if packed properly.The Givi Monokey is a solid example of a composite case. Other benefits of hard cases is that they are generally waterproof, they are a solid fit on the bike and they secure your valuables in a way that is difficult for bad guys to get in to. A bonus is that they can also serve as a table or base of some type when you are camping too. Mounting kits for the hard cases range from $150-300 depending on the bike and the complexity of the system itself.

Hard luggage
Tusk HD Aluminum Dual Sport Adventure PanniersCourtesy of the manufacturer
GIVI E22N Monokey SidecasesCourtesy of the manufacturer


There are many different options for ADV bike tires but we will simplify it down to dual-sport and off-road styles. The Dual sport are going to be more of a 50-50 off-road/street tire and the off-road will are more of a DOT legal knobby. Depending on the size of your motorcycle, the amount of time you plan to spend off road and the length of the trips you plan to ride will dictate what type of tires you will need.

Dual-sport Tires:

In the world of dual-sport type ADV tires the Heidenau K60 is a great starting point. As you can see, the knobs are close together yet still aggressive so they will provide good traction on hard pack and pavement while still working pretty well in the dirt. This brand is popular in the ADV world as are the Kenda K270. I currently have the K270 on my KLR650 because I've found they are a good combo of durability and traction both off-road and on the street.

moto tire
Heidenau K60 EnduroCourtesy of the manufacturer
Trail tire
Kenda K270Courtesy of the manufacturer

DOT Knobby Tires:

These are the tires we all strive to need. If you have these on your bike it tells other riders you are willing to go places this big bike might not need to go. But it's so much fun getting there! I went through a few sets of the Michelin T63 on my battle proven KLR650. The T63 provides awesome off-road traction and decent grip on the street. I could get just over 4000 miles on a rear so if you aren't on a heavyweight ADV you should expect similar results.

Michelin T63Courtesy of the manufacturer

For the big, heavy bikes like a KTM Adventure or GS you will want to compromise and go with a less aggressive knobby like the Anakee model. It is designed to go good in the dirt with its big knobs yet they are not too tall so your big bike won't feel as squirmy on the street. Beyond the Michelin are a variety of grippy DOT friendly knobbies available from Pirelli, Dunlop and Continental so do your research and choose wisely. If you are not going to ride a lot of dirt, go with the dual-sport style.

Anakee Wild
Michelin Anakee WildCourtesy of the manufacturer

Tire Repair Kit

Repair kit
Stop & Go 6000 Tubeless Puncture PilotCourtesy of the manufacturer

This is such a simple little tool but it can pay huge dividends. Don't skimp on this kit. The best set-ups include the plugs, patches and some type of inflator. This can be a small portable 12V pump, a C02 pump or a hand pump for that matter. But without air, you just have a flat tire with a plug in it.


Garmin Montana 680tCourtesy of the manufacturer

Back in the old days, real adventurers used a compass, stars and maybe even a map to navigate to the far corners of the world. These days, if you aren't comfortable with a map, you are blessed to live in a time where GPS technology is nothing short of amazing. If you plan to get a GPS, this is the one to set your sights on. The Garmin Montana 680T is the upgraded version of the venerable 650T that has been a legend among ADV riders. They offer a big, bright touchscreen that is proven durable in rough conditions. The 680 series combines the off-road capability of the 62-64 series with the on-road effectiveness of the Navigator series GPS in one amazing package. Just be sure to bring your map…just in case.

Hydration Pack

Hydro backpack
Klim Nac PakCourtesy of the manufacturer

It may sound funny that this is such an important piece of gear but it fits multiple purposes and has proven to be invaluable out in the wild. My KLIM Nac Pak has been with me for many years so I can say without a doubt it is my preferred dual-sport and ADV pack. It hauls a load of stuff, has an insulated water tube, carries three liters of water and has proven to be durable over years of abuse. When you're spending long days on the trail you must stay hydrated and this is one of the better options on the market.

Rain Suit

Tour Master Defender 2.0Courtesy of the manufacturer

No matter when you are riding or where you are planning to be, there is always a chance you can get rained on. Rain gear is essential for any long distance, multi-day motorcycle ride. The key is to just have something to protect you from the wet but there are many different styles of suit to choose from. Two piece suits like the Tourmaster Defender are nice because you can toss the jacket on real quick for light rain or coastal mist.

Heated Gear

Heated jacket liner
Gerbings 12v Jacket LinerCourtesy of the manufacturer
Heated gloves
Tour Master Synergy 2.0Courtesy of the manufacturer

Those who have not traveled extended distances in remote locations through terrain with varied climates might not know this: it gets real cold real quick when you're out in the wild. For that reason, having a good heated jacket, gloves, socks, underwear or any combination of these is a great idea. If you are skeptical, then perhaps you can start with a just a jacket like the Gerbings Jacket Liner. This is a particularly popular piece of gear among established ADV riders. Of course there are many options available with varied price ranges to fit any budget but gear that has the blessing of grizzled veterans is always a good place to start. A good pair of heated gloves is also a nice way to introduce yourself to the benefits of heated gear without a big financial investment.


Nemo Losi LSCourtesy of the manufacturer

If you plan to trek in the backcountry routes then you're going to need a tent. The Nemo Losi LS has been chosen by many ADV riders as the perfect combination of light weight, durability and a sizeable footprint that accommodates one rider and their gear or two riders if they can handle getting cozy. The Losi LS packs down to a 22x6 inch container and weighs 4lbs which makes it ideal for use on a bike. Of course, there are plenty of options out there in the world so they key is to make sure your tent packs into a small area and that it is comfortable for you and your needs. As far as bedding goes, a lightweight, compact inflatable backpacking mattress and a good sleeping bag are key to getting a good night rest after a long day in the saddle.

SPOT GPS Tracker

Motion Activated GPS
SPOT 3 Satellite GPS MessengerCourtesy of the manufacturer

It may sound silly but if you get mangled in the boonies you are going to be beyond happy you have a SPOT tracker. Think of it as the ultimate adventure insurance because any legitimate ADV rider worth their salt has a SPOT.

There are quite a few things you will want to consider in your adventure kit, starting with the key components on your bike all the way to the gear you will ride and camp with. There are sure to be a number of awesome tips and tricks from even more experienced ADV riders than what I have offered up here today so if you happen to be one of them, please feel free to share your experience with us. The perfect adventure bike set-up is always evolving.