The Beginners Guide To Motorcycle Luggage

Whether you binged Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman’s escapades across the world in Long Way Round, or if you’ve just got that wanderlust itch, nearly every motorcycle rider at some point has considered embracing the adventure bike life and traveling further.

But taking a multi-day, or even multi-week in some cases, trip on a motorcycle requires a different set of equipment than that road trippers in vans need. But if you’re new to the ADV or enduro riding style, it can be hard to distinguish a pannier from a saddlebag. Fortunately, Wolfman Motorcycle Luggage is here to help. Not only are we a leading motorcycle luggage manufacturer, but we’re also a great resource for the information you need to get the most out of your next ride.

Which Material is Right for You?

Everyone approaches ADV or enduro riding differently. The benefit to these types of bikes is that they can tackle dusty dirt roads just as capably as they can smooth paved roads. But this flexibility also means that you have to make some decisions about which materials you need on your bike. Generally, you’ll find hard-sided and soft-sided luggage options.

Hard-sided luggage is the go-to choice for road warriors who prefer the endless blacktop of the interstate and the occasional gravel road. Made from materials like aluminum, polycarbonate, and plastic, these pieces of luggage can take the abuse of errant rocks, and in the event of a drop, can be molded or hammered back into shape. However, these cases are often heavy and bulky, making it hard to maneuver them through smaller areas.

Soft-sided luggage is made from materials like canvas, vinyl, PVC, or even leather. For riders who prefer the road less traveled and spend more time off-roading or following single-track and fire roads, soft-sided luggage is ideal. Thanks to it’s sleeker profile and more flexible materials, it’s easier to weave your bike through the narrow confines of a forest path. In many cases, soft luggage, like what’s available from Wolfman Luggage, is made with waterproof materials and features electronically sealed seams to prevent tears and to keep your items safe and dry.

Luggage Lingo and Types

There’s a lot that goes into choosing the right luggage for your motorcycle. You’ve got a myriad of options in different styles, sizes, and shapes. But don’t let your options overwhelm you. Instead, concentrate on acquiring the necessary bags, like your saddlebags, tank bag, and tail bags. 

Let’s take a look at each of these pieces of luggage and the role they play in your motorcycle adventures. 

Tank Bags

Much in the same way our pants or jacket pockets serve as our way of keeping our daily essentials on hand, your tank bag plays a similar role. Attached to the top of your fuel tank by magnets or straps, your tank bag is the perfect place for your most-used items. Things like identification cards and insurance, maps and GPS systems, and even waterproof layers can be stored in your tank bag.

Tank bags are offered in a variety of sizes, so think about the type of riding you do and how long you expect to travel each day to figure out which size is right for you.

Tail Bags

Perhaps one of the easiest ways to store a lot of gear on your bike is with a tail bag. Tail bags can be used to store things like sleep systems, cooking setups, changes of clothes, and even spare parts and tools. From “U” shaped bags that wrap over the rear of your seat, to more compact duffel-style bags, tail bags come in a variety of sizes that can be tailored to your needs, and to the size of your particular motorcycle.


Taking their name, and often their styling cues, from the saddlebags that our forebears used on their horses, saddlebags are still one of the best, and certainly the most recognizable, ways to haul a lot of gear around on your motorcycle. These bags are often secured on either side of the rear of the bike. Thanks to their low center of gravity, saddlebags often do not impact the way your motorcycle handles. This makes them ideal storage solutions for heavy items like stoves and tool kits.

Duffel Bags

Essentially a version of a pannier made from a soft material, duffel bags are some of the most versatile pieces of motorcycle luggage. Due to their size and construction, they can be attached to nearly any point on the bike, including the tank, tail rack, or even on top of other bags.

What Features Make Good Luggage Great?

So you know which bags you need and which materials to get them in, but how do you distinguish high-quality motorcycle luggage from the faulty, cheap option? Fortunately, you don’t have to grapple with Robert Persig’s metaphysics of quality to find the “Zen of Motorcycle Luggage.” Instead, look for practical features and rugged materials. Here are some of the things we’ve included in our own products that set them apart from our competitors. 

Roll Top Bags

Inevitably, zippers fail, and often at the worst moments. Repairing a zipper is challenging even in the best of situations, so having alternatives to zippers is a great option. We’ve designed many of our motorcycle bags to feature a roll tip and buckled closure system. Not only does this eliminate the need for zippers of any kind, but it also keeps the elements out of your bags. As an added benefit, you can roll the top down to fit however much gear you have in that individual bag. When it’s empty, simply roll the bag up to save space.

Waterproof Materials

We all prefer to ride our motorcycles in the sunshine on a cool day, but that’s not always an option for those on a lengthy excursion. This makes waterproof motorcycle luggage an absolute necessity for enduro and ADV riders. We use heavy-duty vinyl on our dry bags, ensuring that your gear will stay dry through even the biggest of road-side rain storms.

Sealed Seams

For a long time, the “waterproof” nature of motorcycle luggage was undone by the seams on the bag. Since they were stitched together, water could seep into the bag through the stitching. While seam taping was an alternative, it wasn’t necessarily a lasting one. 

Fortunately, there are new ways to seal your motorcycle bags from the elements. This includes radio-frequency welding. This uses electromagnetic energy at a high frequency to fuse the molecules of the material together. The result is a bag that maintains its shape and holds up to rain, sleet, and snow.

Attachment Points

You bought your ADV or enduro bike for its versatile nature, so naturally, your luggage should have the same quality. Having multiple attachment points offers you more flexibility in where you mount and secure your luggage. It also makes it possible to connect and secure two or more pieces of luggage together. 

Look for features like handles, compression straps, D-rings, and eyelets that make it possible for you to secure your bag wherever you need it.

The Art of Packing

You’re geared up and ready to go, but how do you put all of that gear on your bike without it toppling over? It’s actually easier than you think. Follow these quick tips for a stress-free luggage packing experience.

Low and Balanced

In order to keep your bike rubber side down, make sure you pack your motorcycle luggage low and balanced. That means placing your heaviest items in places like the bottom of your saddlebags and make sure the bags on either side of your rear wheel are packed to about the same weight. Pack items like your spare parts, tools, and stove and fuel at the bottom of the bags, and place lighter items like clothes and tents at the top. This lowers the center of gravity of the bike, helping you maneuver the bike with ease.

Weight Check

Not only should you consider how you’re packing each bag, but consider how much you’re packing into them. Most motorcycle luggage has a weight limit, generally 15-45 pounds depending on the bag. If you overload the bag, you can limit their weatherproofing capabilities and it can lead to other issues like seams ripping. Overloaded or weighed down bags are more likely to fail or cause an accident.

Pack in Priorities

As you pack your bags, think about which items you’ll need access to first. While your rain jacket might fit nicely in the pocket of one of your saddlebags, it will be challenging to get to when you pull over during a downpour. Instead, place the most used items at the top of each bag. For instance, load your tank bag with essentials like wallets, water reservoirs, snacks, maps, and rain gear. It’s the bag that’s directly in front of you. In tail bags or saddlebags, pack your sleep systems and other items that you set up last when you reach camp or your destination.

Secure Your Luggage

With your gear packed and placed on the bike, it’s time to ensure it stays there. Use attachments points and items like bungee cords, straps, and cargo nets to keep everything in place. 

Bungee cords and cargo nets offer you a little more flexibility in how you pack and secure the luggage on your bike. But because they’re made from a stretchy material, they can wear out with time. Check the conditions of these items before every trip.

Cargo straps use locking mechanisms to secure your items to the bike. However, because they don’t stretch around your luggage, the vibrations of the bike can cause the straps to loosen, which could cause your luggage to fall off. 

However you choose to secure your luggage, make sure to avoid places like side covers, plastic covers, panels, or cables and hoses. This can lead to unwanted aesthetic and functional damage should the attachment points on your cords or straps abrade these surfaces.

Protect it from the weather

Finally, make sure your luggage is prepared for nasty weather. If you’re using a set of motorcycle luggage that’s made from waterproof materials like vinyl, you don’t have much to worry about. If you’re using other luggage, you might use a rain cover for your gear. For an easy way to waterproof your gear without adding a lot of weight, simple line all of your bags with a heavy-duty trash bag. Even if the exterior of the bag gets soaked, what’s inside stays dry.

Quality Motorcycle Luggage and Bags Made in America

Whether your journeys take you across the city or across the country, you can trust that your bags from Wolfman Motorcycle Luggage will be with you every mile of the way. Made from premium materials right here in the United States, our bags fit a wide variety of motorcycle types, from ADV and enduro to street bikes and cruisers.

Order your motorcycle luggage today!