Types of Motorcycle Luggage and Travel Bags

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What’s the biggest disadvantage to motorcycles? No trunk, of course.

Whether it’s touring, commuting, or just going for a ride around town, you probably want to carry more with you than fits in your pockets.

Luckily, there is a wide variety of options for motorcycle luggage, both that attach to your body or that mount on your motorcycle itself.

Bike-Mounted Luggage

Saddlebag

Saddlebags are a type of pannier bag that originated, of course, with horses. They’d usually attach to a horse’s saddle just behind the rider.

Motorcycle saddlebags do the same, just on a bike. Usually, a strap goes over the back of the seat or attaches to it more securely, and then two soft-shell or semi-rigid bags hang down behind your legs.

I like saddlebags because they’re easy to put on and take off while still providing a lot of storage space. Plus, since they hang down off the bike, they don’t affect your center of gravity and balance as much as other bags, a big deal for a tall guy like me.

Side Case

Side cases are essentially hard-shell saddlebags, both technically classified as pannier bags. They’re tougher and more protective than saddlebags but usually more expensive. They often require mounting brackets, which provide stability but may otherwise be a hassle.

Tank Bag

Tank bags are one of the few pieces of motorcycle luggage oriented in front of you. They attach right to the motorcycle’s gas tank, usually with a few quick-release straps. This means they’re actually accessible from a riding position.

Of course, you shouldn’t be fiddling with a bag while moving, but it makes it easy to grab earbuds at a stoplight, ID during a traffic stop, etc.

Plus, many feature a transparent pocket where you can put your phone and see the GPS.

Read: Best motorcycle tank bags

Tail Bag

You can probably guess: tail bags go on the back of your bike. Usually, this would be right on top of where a saddlebag strap would go, meaning you could have a three-piece triangle of luggage when combining a tail bag with saddlebags.

Tail bags are usually soft or semi-rigid and can vary in their mounting. Some may attach firmly to a rack while you may have to tie down others yourself with bungee cords.

Tail bags are usually made to take off easily and carry with you, making them good for commuters. They raise your center of gravity, though, and can sometimes put new riders off balance.

Read: Best motorcycle tail bags

Top Box/Trunk

A top box is basically just a hard-shell tail bag, often called the motorcycle “trunk.” You’ll often see these combined with a set of side cases.

Unlike tail bags, they’re not meant to be taken off and carried with you like a bag. As a result, they’re better for touring and can give you extra storage room.

Swing Arm Bag

Swing arm bags attach to the “swing arm” part of your rear suspension. As a result, they sit in a similar place to a saddlebag but have the benefit of not having to attach to the top of your frame or backseat.

The downside is that swing arm bags usually only work for cruisers, and you have to get a bag designed to fit your specific model of motorcycle. Plus, they’re a bit smaller than saddlebags.

Dry Bag

Dry bags are large, waterproof tail bags, though you might find some that attach more like saddlebags. Usually, they have straps that let you carry them around like a duffle bag.

They’re both convenient and tough, making them great options for both touring and commuting. The only real downside is that the strong, waterproof material tends to drive up the price.

Fender Bag

Fender bags are small sacks designed for off-road motorcycles like dirt bikes that have extended fenders. They go on either the front or rear fender. A fender bag can make a good place to store your house keys when you go dirt biking, but they can’t hold much more than a few personal items.

Tool Roll

I may not be the handiest guy around, but having tools on hand has still managed to get me out of a few jams while touring far from home.

Tool rolls are compact ways to take all the necessary equipment to make quick fixes to your bike’s machinery while on the road. They vary in size but are usually small and can attach in numerous places, including your rear fender, safety bars, even handlebars.

Rider-Mounted Luggage

Backpack/Rucksack

A good backpack is always my top priority when it comes to luggage. Backpacks are secure, can hold a lot, and most importantly, are multi-purpose. I carry my laptop and work papers one day, then change it all out for a towel and sunscreen on the weekends.

A good backpack will have easily adjustable straps that allow you to take it off easily but still secure it tightly while riding your bike. The main downside is the restriction on your movement and extra sweat if it’s hot, so make sure you get a comfortable one.

Leg Bag

Leg bags have a big advantage over backpacks in that they don’t restrict the movements of your arms, shoulders or back. That’s because they attach down around your hips, one strap around both legs and another around a single thigh where the bag sits.

Though they vary in size, most leg bags are pretty small, the trade-off for their unobtrusiveness. You’d mainly use them for personal items like your wallet and phone.

Read: Best motorcycle leg bag

Hydration Pack

A hydration pack is a game-changer for those of you down south or really anyone who rides in hot weather. Hydration packs are simply small backpacks with a plastic bladder inside you can fill with water. A tube then runs over your shoulder allowing you to suck water from the bladder at any time, even while riding.

Some hydration packs are small and can only hold the bladder and maybe a few personal items like keys. These are great for off-roading or even short leisure rides where you don’t need any luggage.

Others, however, may be as big as a standard backpack with a bladder included. These are great options for touring.

Fanny Pack/Bum Bag

Millions of socks-with-sandals dads at Disneyland have made them infamous, but fanny packs are actually a convenient piece of luggage, especially for motorcyclists.

Just one strap around the waist makes them easy to put on and take off. They’re even easier to open, giving you hand-level access to your wallet, keys, sunscreen, etc. Plus, they don’t get in the way while riding.

Helmet Bag

Helmet bags, of course, carry your helmet when you’re not riding, or allow you to bring along a second helmet if you’re picking someone up.

The most convenient versions are collapsible, which lets you store them in another piece of luggage whenever you’re actually wearing the helmet. Others may be full, hard-shell cases that protect your helmet from damage and the elements. These are great for long-term storage in the off-season.

Read: Best motorcycle helmet bag