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  • Writer's pictureWiley Jackson

How to Pack For A Motorcycle/Dirt Bike Trip in Vietnam

Everything you'll need for the perfect trip into a land of jungles, rivers, rice paddies, high altitude pine forests, rocky cliffs, coastal marshes, rubber farms, massive sand dunes, and so much more.


When preparing for any trip, there is always the lingering question of what to pack. This question only gets more complicated when you think about adding activities like dirt bikes or enduro riding to the overall vacation itinerary. If you're like me and have done a bit of adventure riding, or ADV as it's called in the motorcycle community, you most likely think you need more gear than you actually do for a dirt bike/enduro trip in Vietnam.


For that reason I've decided to break this article down into three different packing lists: The Expat Adventure; The Port-o-Call Adventure; and The Detour Traveler. Each of these travelers have similar needs but different needs. The Expat Adventure is someone who lives here in Vietnam but wants to either try a new hobby or explore the surrounding region in style. The Port-o-Call Adventures are those who fly from airport hub to airport hub exploring within a personally designated radius of the airport. Lastly, The Detour Adventures are those that want to get off the beaten path and see something different on their way from point A to point B.


Before breaking down each of these categories and the appropriate load-out for each trip, let me first say that the majority of riding gear can be rented or purchased in Vietnam at any reputable motorbike rental business. I personally use Tigit, as the owner and staff are friendly and honest people. But I have heard that Flamingo Travel in Hanoi is also a reliable renter.


Also do not ride on your own in Vietnam, especially if you're new here. This may go against some backpacking "authentic" code but it's not worth the risk. There is nothing like getting stuck under a bike, having a flat in the jungle, or getting injured and no one around who can help.


The Expat Adventure

The Expat Adventure is undoubtedly the category that I am most familiar with, as this is the category I fall into here in Vietnam. I now have my own bike, I have my own gear, I have my own riding buddies, but I didn't always have these things. When I started riding with my current group, I didn't have any experience with enduro or dirt bikes, and on my first trip I greatly overpacked and ended up bringing way too much supplies. This list is so that you don't end up doing the same and do get the most enjoyment out of your ride. The best part about being this rider is that this load-out is as basic and sublime as it gets. This gear set will last you for about 2-5 days depending on your comfort level.


First things first, dirt bikes are about function over form. They aren't built to be loaded with a bunch of extra supplies like computers, DSLR cameras, reading material for overnight, or anything else you can think of that isn't about dirt bikes. Dirt bikes are built to go fast, over logs and boulders, through water crossings, gravel and mud, and most importantly anywhere where there is dirt.


For this rider I recommend the following items:


Gear on your body:

  • Helmet - dual sport, enduro, or racing helmets all are fine, but it MUST be a full-face helmet. You're going to fall, and you're going to get smacked in the face by at least a few branches. That's not a maybe, that's going to happen.

  • Boots - I always recommend using proper riding boots that cover the shins. Besides the head, shins are the most common injury. These injuries either happen when you fall, or when you hit an obstacle along the way. If you don't own these, just rent them.

  • Knee protection - Knee braces are undeniably the best option, but those are hard to come by in Vietnam and usually cost a fortune. Knee pads will work fine.

  • Pants - If you're a regular rider, you have quality dirt bike pants already. If it's your first time out, a pair of quality blue jeans will most likely do the trick.

  • Long Sleeve Shirt - This is for while you ride. It's going to be hot here in Vietnam, but this will protect you from the sun and reduce the amount you sweat overall, as well as help prevent dehydration, which is honestly your greatest health risk while riding.

  • Upper Body Armor - Everyone has a different desired level of protection. Personally I use full upper body armor. I've gone down enough times with it and without it, to know the difference. If nothing else, this is a greatway to feel more confident on the bike for new riders.

  • Riding Gloves - There are all different types of gloves. I personally ride with a pair that has a slide guard on the palm and a stiff protection for my knuckles. Waterproof gloves are bulky, expensive, once water manges to get in the glove it doesn’t come out. Thus I recommend lightweight breathable gloves, that can quickly dry and give you as much monervability as possible. .

  • Neck sun-guard tube thing - I don't know what these are actually called but you'll instantly recognize them when you see them. These are to keep the dust out of your face, and the sun off your neck.

  • A whistle - This may seem odd, but you'd be surprised as to how many times a whistle has helped me out.

  • Backpack - This is the only luggage you need. It shouldn't be larger than 6L.

  • Water bladder - fill with water at every stop, trust me you’ll need it. Vietnam is a hot and humid country, which means that the water in the air is going to want to pull that water inside your body, outside your body faster leading to dehydration. Once you’re dehydrated you start making bad decisions that lead to you or others getting hurt.

In your Backpack, you should have the following:

  • 2-3L of water

  • 1 T-shirt

  • 1-2 pair of underwear

  • 1 pair of shorts - or - swimsuit

  • Repair Tools (these basics will get you to almost any mechanics shop in Vietnam).

    • Tire gauge

    • Number 4 - 6 allen wrench (hex key)

    • Plyers

    • 12 and 14 millimeter wrench

    • Flat head screwdriver

    • Phillips head screwdriver

  • Chargers for phones and the whatnot

  • Travel size bag of wet-wipes

  • A spare tube that fits your dirt bike's rear wheel - most mechanics don't have tires meant for our "big" bikes so it's always best to carry your own.

  • Rain gear - honestly though if you're already muddy, sweaty and dirty, what's a little water?

  • No need for shoes - the hotel will supply you with a pair of flip flops you can use while not on the bike.

That's it. Like I said, this is as sublime as it gets. No luggage attached to your bike. Nothing weighing you down. Just you, your buddies, red dirt, green trees, and blue skies.


The Port-o-Call Adventurer

The Port-o-Call adventure is a relatively common sight here in Vietnam. In fact, I too was one of these travelers when I first arrived in-country on my first trip. With cheap flights throughout Southeast Asia, this is a really easy way to see a lot of different cultures, ecosystems, and history. Thankfully for this adventurer, the load-out is generally the exact same as the Expat Adventure. This is because any reputable bike rental shop can store your luggage for you while you go on your adventure in a foreign land. I get that leaving your gear at a shop of people you've never met can be a little nerve wrecking. But think of it as leaving your stuff with the valet at a hotel. It's the same level of care.


The primary difference with this rider and the Expat Adventure is that this rider most likely already has their own gear. The trick then is knowing what to bring with you to Vietnam and what to leave behind. The most important thing to decide if you are this traveler is to know if you plan to stay for a day or two wherever you ride the bike to. This may influence you to bring an extra pair of clothes or shoes for a day trip on foot.


What to bring - unfortunately the things to bring are also the bulkiest.

  • Boots - while many places have boots for rent, it's hard to guarantee that they will have your size.

  • Upper body armor - most places will have basic shell armor that covers your torso for rent, but nothing that's impact certified. IF you're okay with that, then leave your armor at home and save the space.

  • Knee-Braces - This is for those who insist on riding with a knee brace. If you don't mind riding with just knee pads like most of us squids, then you can leave these back at home as well.

  • Pants - this is more personal preference, most travelers are willing to ride in jeans, but if you insist on having a pair of riding pants bring them or be ready to fork over around 40$USD for a pair in-country.

  • Backpack - Honestly I bring a 4-6L bag with me on every trip as it's easy to carry around a city and make sure you have important things on you. If that's not your style then just buy one in-country for a few bucks.


What you can most likely rent or buy for cheap in country:

  • Gloves - you can find gloves that will do the job for under 7$USD in country

  • Knee/Elbow pads - these are usually very affordable and can be rented for about 1$USD a day when available.

  • Boots - As stated above you can rent these in-country, but if you have an odd foot size or just bad luck, this is the first thing to usually run out in rental places.

  • Helmet - unless you absolutely have to have a Arai or Shoei helmet, you can rent LS2 helmets at most rental places for quite cheap as well.

  • Backpack - As stated above you can bring this with you if you like, or you can buy it in-country.

  • No need for shoes if you simply plan on riding the entire time - the hotel will provide you with a pair of flip flops that will work just fine.

  • Rain gear - check the weather first, but this can be secured super cheap and easy in-country.


The Detour Adventurer

The Detour Adventurer is probably the most common in Vietnam pre-Covid. How long it will take for this type of adventure to come back in mass is a question that has yet to be answered. However, some of these adventures are already starting to show up. Most people like to refer to this adventurer as "the backpacker," however I'd like to avoid any negative connotations that come with that name. This adventurer has a number of options at their disposal.


The best option, however, is to pack up the majority of your gear and ship it to the city you plan to return the bike to. For instance, if you're in Saigon, and plan to end your journey in Hanoi, ship your luggage to the rental place where you plan to return the bike or the hotel you plan to stay at. If you are using Tigit Motorbikes, they can help you ship your luggage to the location where you plan to return your bike. If you aren't using Tigit, then you can ship your luggage through the Vietnam Post. (Your hotel may be able to assist with that.)


I strongly suggest planning on arriving in the city you plan to fly out of AT LEAST one day prior to departure. This allows for breakdowns, flat tires, unplanned excursions, or delays due to inclement weather.


It should be noted that the vast majority of dirt bikes and enduro bikes in Vietnam aren't fitted to have side panniers. They are, however, fitted with a rear luggage rack in which you can attach a small to medium size duffle bag, too. If your bag is waterproof then you're set to go. If not, you will need to find a way to waterproof your bags. When money was tight, I've done this in the past with heavy trash bags, it doesn't look pretty but it definitely works. All you will need to secure your bag to your bike is 2-3 bungee cords. Madfox waterproof bag covers are about 5$ USD.


Realistically if you are this adventurer, you're most likely not going to have a lot of gear or bring it along with you. If you are this kind of rider and have all the gear, then you're most likely not going to need this list. So for that purpose, I've decided to make a list for those who find it the most useful.


What to bring

  • Boots - by definition, boots go above the ankle and provide support in the case of a fall or twist. If you're planning for a long South East Asian adventure, you should probably invest in these. As a side note, HIKING SHOES ARE NOT BOOTS. My mother can attest to this when she broke her ankle on a dirt bike trip here in 2019.

  • Rain gear - check the weather first, but this can be secured super cheap and easy in-country. That said if you have proper Gore-Tex gear bring that. DO NOT buy any knock-off waterproof gear that is sold in the markets. I’ve tried that and can tell you from a lot of experience, that rain will go right through it when driving and you will be miserable.

  • Bandanas - I usually pack 4-5 of these when backpacking, they can be used for everything from dust covers to limb immobilizers (which came in real handy when my mom broke her ankle in the above mentioned accident of 2019.)

  • Wet-wipes - basic needs for any traveler. Who knows how well that fork has been cleaned or where the nearest sink is to clean up before a meal, or after going to the bathroom.


What you can most likely rent or buy for cheap in-country:

  • Gloves - you can find gloves that will do the job for under 7$USD in-country

  • Knee/Elbow pads - these are usually very affordable and can be rented for about a 1$USD a day when available.

  • Boots - As stated above you can rent these in-country, but if you have an odd foot size or just bad luck, this is the first thing to usually run out in rental places.

  • Helmet - unless you absolutely have to have a Arai or Shoei helmet, you can rent LS2 helmets at most rental places for quite cheap as well.

  • Backpack - As stated above you can bring this with you if you like, or you can buy it in-country.

  • No need for extra shoes if you simply plan on riding the entire time - most hotels will provide a pair of flip flops that will work just fine.

  • Rain gear - check the weather first, but this can be secured super cheap and easy in-country.


This is far from a perfect list that will fit the needs of every rider but I do believe that this list will fulfill the needs for the vast majority of riders that want to play in the dirt here in Vietnam. If you're new in-country and want to know where to find some other riders, or just want someone to ride with, please feel free to reach out here or any of the social media links below.

Wiley H. Jackson

Teacher, Adventurer, Writer



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