This summer, my friend Saylor Flett and his girlfriend, Leslie Pace, bought a used BMW Dakar 650 and spent six weeks riding the rig 2,100 miles from Quincy, California, to McCarthy, Alaska. They lived in comfort the entire time thanks to smart organization, detailed planning, and these seven essentials.
BMW Dakar 650 Motorcycle ($3,600)
Flett bought the bike on eBay. “We got a great deal on it because it had scratches and came with some character,” he says. They went with a Dakar 650 because it does well on pavement but can also handle dirt. “It’s like a 60-40 split,” he says.
Hard-Box Panniers (From $1,000)
The couple’s bike came with two simple hard-case panniers that, crucially, Flett could lock during lunch stops and remove when they arrived at camp. The boxes were just big enough for their gear but not so cumbersome that they made the bike unwieldy. Tip: For premium panniers, consider a bomber Touratech system, which starts around $1,000.
Repair Kit ($100)
Flett didn’t buy a prebuilt kit, opting instead to piece together a custom toolbox himself. He used the kit to work on the bike before leaving, which helped him figure out which tools he needed for the road. His sockets and bits stored inside a small fly-fishing tackle box, and his wrenches, mini-ratchet, hex keys, and locking pliers lived in a tool roll. (We like the Chrome Industries Small Tool Roll for $20.)
Watershed Yukon Drybag ($150)
The couple used a Watershed Yukon Drybag to store their clothes and tandem sleeping bag and ratcheted it onto the panniers with a cam strap. Bonus: The drybag also doubled as backrest.
REI Flash 18 Pack ($35)
They attached this pack to the Watershed drybag with compression straps and filled it with everything they needed for a day trip off the bike, including rain jackets, wallets, passports, and flip-flops. It lived on top of their gear so they didn’t have to dig through the panniers every time they stopped to explore.
Lightweight Camping Setup ($900)
The duo brought a Big Agnes King Solomon 15 tandem sleeping bag ($450) and paired it with two Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite mattresses (from $130 each). For a tent, they used a three-person Liberty Mountain Peregrine Radama 3 ($180), which left plenty of room for the couple and all their gear. To cut back on space and weight, they left all the mosquito netting at home.
MSR WhisperLite Stove ($90)
Saylor and Leslie loved the WhisperLite because it ran on gas siphoned from the motorcycle’s fuel tank. This saved room—they didn’t have to bring extra gas—and allowed them to stay at backcountry camps longer without having to resupply.