A minimalist experiment


I had an interesting idea the other day as I was thinking about my latest pet project – minimalist touring. What is that? you might be asking. Well, in a nutshell, instead of riding a big motorcycle and taking lots of “stuff,” you ride a small motorcycle and pack only what you need. I think this appeals to me lately because I have been trying to downsize, minimize, and keep only the things I need in my personal life. I have a long way to go before “streamlined” is an adjective used to describe my lifestyle, but hey, one has to start somewhere, right?

This idea also gained momentum when I started thinking about doing a math video for my school kids, who keep asking me, “when are we ever going to use this math?!” They sort of had a point when they were trying to learn about inter-quartile range, mean deviation, and other concepts that really shouldn’t be included in sixth grade math. I was thinking more about using volume formulae in the video – how to calculate capacity for different three-dimensional geometric shapes. Difficult enough for them, in my opinion, and all the more reason to make it somewhat entertaining for them.

So, why not combine the two things? I thought. I could experiment and see if I really could pack my Kawasaki KLX250S with enough clothes and necessities to camp for, say, a week or so, and get the volume math in there too, just for fun. So, that is the project/video I am working on this week in my “spare time” (that’s a joke).

I did a little bit of filming this evening, was not pleased with most of it, and then I started packing the bags to see for real how it worked. Here are a few of the highlights of the bag-packing extravaganza:

Clothes, necessities before I packed them in the travel bag, along with the sleeping bag:

It’s underwear, socks, a few Under Armour shirts (my favorite thing), jeans, convertible pants, and a pair of shorts. Behind the clothes is the sleeping bag, but it isn’t compressed yet to fit into the bag.

Here is the camping gear, tent bag, mallet for driving in the tent stakes, and another shot of the sleeping bag:

When I stepped back and looked at this big pile, I thought, maybe I am not being so minimalist after all, and how is all that going to fit onto that little bike?? Well, you never know until you try, and this was, after all, an experiment. So, I packed it all. Surprisingly, it didn’t take up that much room.

Here’s what I got it down to:

Tent bag, with tent (complete with all gear), and mallet:

Clothes bag with all clothes, necessities, and sleeping bag, inside it:

I put one of my shoes next to it so you could see that it isn’t very big. At least not compared to the big bag I usually take when I ride my street touring bike!

After all that, I thought some more. I still could fit a small camp pillow, another warm shirt, and I could probably put my shoes inside that same bag. Hmmmmm … I think I might try that configuration later, just to see if it works. I’ve also seen people tie their shoes to the top of the whole thing, but in that case, I would have to bring cheaper shoes!

The soft bags mounted on my bike are reserved for tools, rain gear, water, and granola bars. The next time I have a few minutes, I will try and get those items into the soft bags on the bike. Then, it will be a matter of packing everything on the bike, seeing how it looks, and most importantly, seeing how the bike feels while fully loaded. It should be an informative experiment, and I will add to this thread as it develops. 🙂

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13 thoughts on “A minimalist experiment

  1. Ditch the mallet and pillow. You probably don’t need a mallet but if you do just use a rock or stick. I camp all the time, I never take a mallet. Use your jacket for a pillow. I’m seriously thinking about riding my 250 to Deadhorse Alaska.

    • Good tips, Ron. I was thinking that, but I tried it anyway. I think we may try to travel this way at least on one trip this summer. I hope you do get to ride your 250 to Deadhorse. I would if I lived where you live, and really, what more do you need? 🙂

  2. Great teaching idea. I would have liked math class more with a teacher like you. I’m also a teacher and motorcycling girl, also living that experiment right now (but on a 125cc from Argentina to Seattle). Ditch the mallet and use a rock 🙂 And use your clothes in your sleeping bag stuff sack as a pillow. Are you packing a sleeping mat?

    • You are right. That’s what Ron said, too (mallet, pillow). I should pack a sleeping mat. I just haven’t found one that works for me. I have tried a few, but they’ve been “hand me downs” from other people. I need to get serious about that piece of gear.

      Thanks for your comment! 🙂 Safe travels, and I hope to read about your adventures soon!

      – Jo

      • The very cheapest foam ones work surprisingly well and are comfortable enough. Very lightweight too. I have an expensive ultralight blow up one that I’d happily trade for a foam mat, except that mine packs up so tiny.

      • Two years ago I upgraded my sleeping bag and mattress. I bought mine from Big Agnes. This system uses an air mattress that slips into a pocket of the sleeping bag. It is exactly half the size and weight of my old set-up. I still use a 3 man tent. I could save some weight by going to a 1 man but I’m not willing to give up the luxury. Check out Big Agnes.

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