Essential Tools for Travel

Although there are many articles and opinions of what tools to travel with, I think that it's worth repeating.

Traveling for over two years now, my tool kit hasn't changed much since I hit the road. Essentials are tools that will allow you to do basic maintenance and repairs to your motorcycle. Depending on your level of skills and knowledge should determine the type of tools to carry. I've met some travelers on the road that were carrying an overkill of tools, or tools that they didn't even know how to use. It's easy to have the mentality of "just in case" with all our gear, including the tool kit you carry.

An essential tool kit should allow you to do the following.

Adjust ergonomics
Oil changes
Tire changes and puncture repair
Basic services
Spark plug
Carburetor maintenance

Other tools you might carry for more skilled mechanics.

Valve inspection and adjustment
Troubleshooting electrical

Building a Tool Kit
A good place to start if you don't have many tools is a pre-made tool kit. There are several options out there designed for the motorcycle traveler, but they are general tool kits and will most likely fall short in some way. Cruz Tools, Proxxon, Adventure Design are just a few kits that will help you get started.

Knowing what tools you need for your bike is also critical. One of the best ways to determine what tools you need is to actually go around your motorcycle and find all the nuts and bolts and actually find the tool that fits it. Once you found a bolt or nut that fits that item, mark it with a paint pen, and set that tool aside in your "keep" pile. Don't forget to remove the seat, remove any plastics, and get up underneath your bike.

Tool Kit Breakdown

So let's look at a basic kit, the one that I've been using for my travels. Again, each tool kit is specific for YOUR motorcycle.

The foundation for my tool kit was the Proxxon 23080, 36 piece, 1/4" socket set. Proxxon makes quality tools.


Most motorcycles use the same socket sizes
8mm, 10mm, 12mm, 13mm, and 14mm

Likewise, most Japanese motorcycle use Hex style bolts. German (meaning overengineered) motorcycles tend to use Torx style heads. However most aftermarket parts use Hex and therefore if you are riding a German motorcycle, you may end up needing to carry both Hex and Torx. One solution is to replace all your Torx bolts with Hex. Hex is universal, and your foreign mechanic will thank you.

One think I like about the Proxxon set is the hand piece works as an extension for the sockets and hex heads.


8mm - 14mm

A good idea is to find wrenches with a ratchet style end. It makes life easier!

Using a high quality adjustable wrench fits my axle nuts. It also has a scale, so I can measure nuts if I am not sure the size.

Odds and Ends

Carrying a punch for knocking out bearings, and adjusting suspension preload. Magnetic wand is a frustration saver!

Mallet with the handle cut down, I use this a lot!

Tire repair

There are many products on the market for breaking a bead from the tire. It's amazing how cumbersome and over engineered these things are. The Motion Pro, Bead PRO is the best thing since sliced bread, and puts all other products to shame.

Trail Star, Trail Stand. Since I am riding a lightweight practical motorcycle, I have no need for a centerstand. The trail stand is compact, lightweight, and allows me to prop the front or rear of the bike up to change a tire or fix a flat. The velcro locks the front brake lever so the bike is secure when the rear is propped up.

A good air pump that works with SAE connection. I like this one because the air hose screws onto the valve for a good seal. My valve core remover are also my valve caps.

Chain Tool

If you are riding a bike with a chain, a chain tool is essential for travel. I've met several riders who told me stories of being stranded on the side of the road because their chain broke. Carrying extra master links and chain will get you back on the road in no time. Chains don't often break, but outside 1st world countries counterfeit chains are common.

For shaft driven motorcycles, I recommend carrying a small fire extinguisher. 😉

Other items

Siphon hose. Having to empty your tank to change a pump or donate gas to someone.

A mini voltage meter for testing connections and battery

For those in the know, feeler gages to inspect valve clearances.

Rescue tape for water hoses

and of course zip ties, electrical tape, and bailing wire.

Tool rolls

I used to carry a tool roll until I realized how big and bulky it was. Reverting back to the K.I.S.S. system this simple pencil pouch which has an outside pocket for my sockets was the perfect solution

All the tools in the orange pouch and chain tool. Tire irons are carried in the external pocket of my Mosko Moto 35l Panniers along with my pump and trail stand.

I carry my tools in my Mosko Moto 40 liter duffel bag. Tool tubes are popular, but can leak or open to theft.

So there you have it. The essentials.

Greg Hilchey
Writer: ADVMoto Magazine


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