11 Jun 2014

Europe 2014: Packing list

Every time I travel I vow to take less with me the next time. This trip will be two up and, with the plastic Vario panniers, packing items on top is not an option.

Some of the items below are non-essential—for example, a modern smartphone can take photos and video rivalling a point-and-shoot camera, update a blog etc, but if space permits, I prefer to take my heavy SLR and a laptop which is far less cumbersome than banging out several paragraphs on a tiny phone screen.

I could probably do without the tyre repair kit and foot pump since I’m not going outside the range of BMW Assist but these items could potentially save me a wait. And the AA batteries and charger for the flash are unlikely to see any action since they last 400+ flashes on average.

If I was going someplace more remote I would take a tool pouch with only the tools and sockets applicable to the bike (rather than the whole set). And let’s face it, I’m not going to rip apart a bike still under warranty at the side of the road when BMW Assist is a phone call away.

Got any packing tips of your own to share? Leave me a comment below!


  • BMW R1200GS TE with OEM vario cases and inner bags (note 1)
  • OEM accessories including steel crash bars, LED auxiliary headlights, secure oil filler plug and Gear Shift Assist Pro
  • Michelin Anakee 3s
  • BMW Navigator IV GPS
  • OEM first aid kit (under pillion seat)
  • St Christopher talisman
  • Swiss and Austrian motorway vignettes—Toll Tickets offers fantastic service for these
  • 2x disposable breathalysers and reflective helmet stickers to meet French regulations (note 2)

Tank bag

  • GoPro Hero3 Black Edition with Battery Bacpac
  • Nikon D7000 with 18–105mm zoom lens, 50mm prime lens, polarising filters and SB-900 speedlight (note 3)
  • iPhone 5 (note 4)
  • 4x Sanyo Eneloop AA batteries with USB charger (took my own advice)
  • DIN to cigar socket adapter
  • 3-port USB high speed multi-charger
  • micro/mini USB cables
  • documentation wallet with VED (registration), insurance, passports, EHIC (EU health insurance card), BMW Assist card, credit/debit cards, driving licence plus paper counterpart, emergency map and plastic emergency bike key
  • ear plugs
  • packs of dried fruit—apple slices, mangos, bananas and apricots
  • packs of beef jerky—classic and peppered


  • spare gloves
  • t-shirts, vests, shorts, trousers, trainers, underwear, socks (note 5)
  • emergency repair kit for tubeless tyres
  • DRC mini foot pump
  • folding breakdown warning triangle
  • reflective vests (Icon PDX jacket is hi-vis yellow)
  • carrier bags
  • personal hygiene items (note 6)
  • small gifts for friends/family
  • MacBook Air with charger (note 7)


  • Sena SMH-5 bluetooth intercom
  • Icon Variant helmet
  • Icon Patrol Raiden waterproof jacket with thermal liner
  • Icon Patrol Raiden waterproof trousers
  • Bering gloves
  • TCX X-Desert waterproof boots
  • Caterpillar shatterproof safety sunglasses
  • CamelBak 1.5l hydration pack (note 8)


  • Sena SMH-5 bluetooth intercom
  • Shark S500 helmet
  • BMW Boulder 2 jacket with waterproof, thermal liner
  • Icon PDX waterproof/windproof shell jacket
  • BMW City 2 trousers
  • waterproof over-trousers
  • Hein Gericke gloves
  • Icon Patrol waterproof boots


  1. The BMW pannier inner bags seem to be much maligned by the GS community because they leave a lot of empty space in the crevices of the oddly shaped panniers, but they are very convenient when arriving at a B&B or hotel because you can swing them over your shoulder and walk straight in without fumbling with heavy panniers. The leftover space can be utilised alongside the inner bags to store the tyre repair kit, foot pump, warning triangle, reflective vests and carrier bags—items not required in the room overnight.

  2. French regulations—just to be difficult—require carrying a breathalyser and having reflective stickers on your helmet. The stickers must be a permanent type—however, there is no way I’m ruining a perfectly good helmet to comply to this ridiculous and baseless regulation, so I use removable reflective stickers which look/function in the same manner as the permanent type. It would be a bad day indeed if the gendarmerie started picking at stickers at the side of the road to test their permanence so this is not a concern. Another regulation is to carry a spare bulb for each type fitted to a vehicle, however the R1200GS uses only LED lighting which are not user replaceable and therefore the regulation in not applicable in this case. For the record, I have never been stopped in France for anything in 21 years of driving/riding there.

  3. The Nikon D7000 is not what you would call light or compact, but it will do at least 1,000 photos on a single charge without flash—so no battery charger required. The speedlight runs off rechargeable AA batteries and lasts around 400 flashes at varying intensities.

  4. Any smartphone—iOS, Android, whatever your preference—is an essential item for travel. The Booking.com app is a must-have when travelling on your own schedule because the ‘tonight’ function finds you hotels in the area which have knocked down the price last minute to fill any remaining rooms—I’ve seen discounts up to 70%. Other apps, such as Trip Journal, are great for tracking and allow you to post your progress online if you wish. The Google Translate app enables you to speak into the phone and have it translate into a huge number of languages instantly—it will even speak the phrase in your chosen language. While roaming data fees with a UK phone within the EU are inexpensive (£1/20mb or £3/100mb), it’s worthwhile to check that your carrier has enabled data roaming for your account and that you have a suitable data plan. Just save the photo/video uploads until you are somewhere with WiFi. If you are spending a considerable amount of time in one country, consider purchasing a local pay-as-you-go SIM card. You will need to ensure your phone is unlocked beforehand—in the UK this can be done for free or for a nominal fee, depending on your carrier, usually at any time after the first 30 days of your contract, if applicable.

  5. Clothing per person—two each of t-shirts and vests, one each of shorts and trousers, four each of underwear and socks, one pair of trainers. If necessary, there are always coin-operated laundromats. Alternatively, items can be freshened by washing in a little shampoo, then tightly rolling in a towel and hanging overnight to dry.

  6. Personal hygiene items include the usuals such as toothbrushes, toothpaste, mouthwash, body wash, deodorant, moisturiser, painkillers, nail clippers, cleansing wipes, alcohol gel etc. For toothpaste and deodorant I buy a travel-sized tube and mini aerosol deodorant (sorry, eco-terrorists) which is sufficient for 2 people over 15 days. For the other items, Muji is great for folding toothbrushes and travel-sized, liquid-proof tubes and bottles to fill with body wash, mouthwash, moisturiser etc. Any medicines (even painkillers) should be kept in their original packaging/blister packs when travelling across borders to avoid potential hassle. Everything fits in a compact toiletries case which takes up almost no space.

  7. Why a laptop instead of a tablet? The wedge shaped 11” MacBook Air is 490 cubic cm and 1,080g compared to 421 cubic cm and 660g for an iPad—almost the same size and with similar battery life, but with the advantage of a physical keyboard and a fully featured computer. I leave the case at home and pack the laptop between t-shirts.

  8. When new, CamelBaks give water a dodgy, plastic taste, so fill and empty the pack twice a day for a week before you travel. Once broken in, a hydration pack is something you’ll never want to be without for long distance travel. In warmer climates, fill (not too full) and freeze overnight, when possible, so you have several hours of ice-cold water the next day. After storing for long periods I would advise filling with water and a drop of bleach, then flushing well several times with plain water to sterilise the pack.