What Do You Carry On Your Motorcycle?
Article from "SMART Rider Tips Course" on the MTC Rider Academy (read early by joining)
When I think about being situationally aware, being capable, and making sure you wear the proper equipment, being a S.M.A.R.T. rider instantly becomes a way of life instead of being just for motorcycles. I intentionally didn’t include helping people and being a mentor because even though those concepts are the second half of S.M.A.R.T, the vast majority of people you meet will naturally gravitate towards being self-centered instead of having the mindset of service to others. Helping people is the motivation behind my decision to build an everyday carry (EDC) bag for each aspect of my life. Luckily, motorcycling is an activity that makes EDC extremely easy, even if you’ve never considered it before. Every bike can add saddlebags, and if there’s a financial constraint that disallows you from acquiring bike-mounted bags, then a backpack is an option everyone has.
I opted for the backpack method to expand my EDC. When I leave my motorcycle in a parking lot to go to work, a friend’s house, or the MTC Rider Academy, I prefer to take my bag with me in case something happens where I can be of service. Otherwise, I would have to improvise in the event of an emergency. These situations happen daily and can be as simple as you or someone you know forgetting to charge their phone or brush their teeth, and can be as complicated as the deli-slicer at work cutting through an artery or you witness a crash while out riding. The purpose of carrying this bag is the same no matter the situation: to provide assistance to others or make your life easier.
As a labor of love, I dissected my current EDC bag to provide a simplified concept of what I carry and why. You’ll notice that motorcycling isn’t my only passion as we navigate the contents, so consider what is important to you and what isn’t. Looking at everything I carry daily, I can break down this list into five distinct categories: Medical, Food/Water, Tools, Protection, and Daily Life.
There are multiple kinds of medical, and since I can’t carry an entire ambulance in my bag, I limited myself to two different kits, both small enough to carry without becoming cumbersome. The first is a trauma kit filled with enough bleeding control supplies to handle two patients confidently. The second is a small booboo kit filled with bandaids, triple antibiotics, and ibuprofen. Although slim, the chance of needing to use a tourniquet on your daily commute to Chick-fil-A is still present. That means no matter what I’m doing or where I’m going, you will never see me without bleeding control. Hopefully, I never have to use the contents of the trauma kit, so I created the booboo kit that I can use daily, and I’ve told my coworkers that I always have it on me. We all know that paper cuts and minor scrapes are annoying but not life-threatening, so most people apply bandaids as a placebo effect to make them feel better. In reality, I carry them because when you’re away from the comforts of civilization, a cut getting infected can become very dangerous if not covered. I offer people bandaids like candy, and this booboo kit is constantly being replenished as people nick their fingers and walk too close to bushes. Again, I’d rather have them on me and not need them than need them and not have them.
You never know when your next meal will be. Being stranded on the side of the road for hours or another pandemic-like world event that causes stores to shut down can very quickly diminish your access to food. You hear that you can go three days without water and three weeks without food, implying that you simply die after that time. That doesn’t tell you that after your first day without water, your muscles start cramping to the point where you can hardly unclench your fists without struggling, and by day two, you are simply useless to yourself and await the sweet embrace of death. Consumables are an often overlooked part of preparing. As much as I’d like to always have a three-course meal on me, keeping food in a motorcycle pack limits your options. After years of living without a car, and my only transport was my motorcycle, I’ve learned that the best food to keep on you must have a high shelf life, be high in protein and calories, and be able to withstand intense heat. Here in Arizona, we can get summers of up to 120 degrees Fahrenheit, so protein bars and meal replacements that you would typically think of melt and become undesirable after the first day, let alone months of being in a bag. Staying away from MREs and Mountain House meals, I typically carry a can of tuna and various bags of peanuts or trail mix. These can easily have up to 300 calories per serving and pack away so small I can live off them for a few days. Being easy to eat and easy to offer to someone else who may have a blood sugar imbalance is crucial to me, so these are my current go-to's.
On the other hand, water is heavy, and carrying a gallon of water is rarely an option if you’re going to be riding every day. For my purposes, I always have a small Sawyer water filter and a rolled-up five-liter bag in the event I’m on the mountain and drinkable water runs out. These filters pack down to the size of a Sharpie Magnum, so if you can’t make room for a marker, you have other issues to address before continuing to read this blog. And then there is the obvious; carry a water bottle with you. If nothing else, I will only urge you to bring a water bottle when you go out. You should never leave your house without immediate, drinkable water.
As I alluded to earlier, your EDC should be comfortable. Carrying a tool for every occasion in a motorcycle pack is impossible. When planning what tools I wanted to carry, I made a list of all the bolts and screws I’ve taken off my motorcycle in the past and found compact versions of the tools I used for that. Less is more in this category. You can jerry-rig just about any tool you need to get a job done, but if you have room in your bag, you can trade comfort for convenience to your heart's content. I carry a couple of box wrenches that I cut in half, a screwdriver handle with interchangeable bits, a micro toolkit, a knife, and a lockpicking kit (because I’ve used that more than you’d expect.)
There’s more to this category than physical tools, though. I’ve included items that serve a purpose outside the current common sense realm. I find immense value in carrying a pair of work gloves that I can use when fixing problems becomes dirty or pointy. Remember that I said ‘current’ common sense because if you’re reading this, you’re likely above the current average. The last couple of tools I carry but don’t use as often include a flashlight, a handful of chemlights, and cash. You can never go wrong with having enough cash to sustain a day of travel if your wallet gets lost or stolen.
Helping people comes in different forms, whether that looks like saving patients or engaging threats, either way, it helps those who can’t help themselves. I want to be very clear that I hope I never need to use a single item that I list in this category. That said, the backpack I chose came with a dedicated laptop pocket and a sleeve. With my laptop in the sleeve, I still have enough room in that pocket to carry a bulletproof plate. This plate effectively makes my EDC bag a shield if I encounter violence against myself or someone I love. A shield isn’t going to stop that threat, however, so I have a dedicated pocket with quick access to my blaster. This pocket is usually empty unless I’m at home or in a place where I can’t carry it on my person, but having a dedicated pocket for it makes my response time that much faster. I mentioned that I had adopted S.M.A.R.T. into how I live my day-to-day life, so since I’ve chosen to carry protection in my motorcycle bag, Maintaining Fundamental Skills plays a heavier role for me than just parking lot practice.
This category is for all of the items that are influenced by your specific daily routine. It constantly updates as your daily needs change. This category will have you reach into your bag multiple times daily to solve all minor inconveniences. As of writing this blog, my most used item here is gum. Once people find out you have gum, your peace and quiet are over, but you’ll be curing dragon breath in the meantime, so go you. Next up for me is a hat. If you’ve ever worked a fourteen-hour shift at work with helmet hair, you should know why that’s non-negotiable for me. Electronics, such as earbuds, charging cables, spare batteries, and a charging bank, are also necessary with as much technology as we rely on nowadays. Depending on what time of day you end up riding and whether or not you have a clear or smoked visor, you’ll want to consider sunglasses or safety glasses. I wear sunglasses more often off the bike than on, but not having them is a major inconvenience for me and my baby eyes, so into my backpack, they go. Ahh, yes, and last but not least in my list of EDC ingredients, I never leave home without spare socks and undies.
All in all, my backpack still has room for carrying additional items I pick up while I’m out, and it isn’t overburdening to carry daily. I understand that not everything I listed will resonate with everyone. This isn’t a list of things you -must- carry if you’re looking to be more EDC forward. Take from this list what you feel would help you, and ignore the rest if you want. This mindset stems from the S.M.A.R.T. Rider principles, and I apply this ethos to how I prepare to help those who don’t come prepared. So get out there and ride SAFE, ride SMART. Stay prepared.
MTC Rider Academy Instructor