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Are you planning your next motorcycle trip and dreaming of traveling light? You’re in the right place, this is Part One of my ultimate guide to ultralight Motorcycle packing where I go over why cotton alternatives will lightent the load in your saddlebags.

The Merino wool t-shirt is another breed

A woman sitting on a motorcycle, outlined against the setting sun, a ridge of mountains visible in the background.
Motorcycle rider | Guilherme Veloso via Unsplash

Does the idea of trading in your cotton t-shirt for a wool t-shirt sound ridiculous? I was skeptical at first, too. But after a long, sweaty day on a motorcycle, any cotton shirt would smell ripe. A soft merino wool t-shirt, on the other hand, can wick a lot of sweat and takes a long time to smell. Here’s why you might want to consider fabrics other than cotton for all your clothes on your next motorcycle trip.

If you have been wearing cotton shirts for your entire life, merino wool may be a game changer for you. Merino is a breed of sheep known for its fine, soft wool. Modern clothing manufacturers have perfected spinning merino into many cotton-like performance fabrics–according to

There are two major reasons to choose merino wool over cotton. Firstly, merino is a fiber-rich fabric very good at wicking moisture. Therefore, if you sweat in a merino shirt, it will easily handle a fair amount of sweat. And we all know that riding aggressively can be hard work.

Secondly, merino has natural anti-microbial and anti-odor properties. Why? So Merino sheep don’t get horribly wet and stinky and mildewy everytime it rains. But what does this mean to you? You can easily wear a merino t-shirt all day long, then out to the bar that night, and it will smell as fresh and clean as a brand-new shirt. Some people even wear their merino shirts for days at a time.

Merino wool clothing often costs more than cotton clothing. But it also often lasts longer and requires less washing. If you are trying to pack light for your next motorcycle trip, the choice is clear.

You can get better-than-cotton socks and underwear too

A man sits next to his motorcycle, staring at the ocean beyond, flagstones visible in the foreground.
Motorcycle rider | Harley Davidson via Unsplash

If you want outfits that you can wear for a long day on your motorcycle–or several days–you’ll need to swap out more garments than your t-shirts. Many ultralight packers swear by their Merino wool socks and underwear. Others prefer other technical fabrics.

Darn Tough is a brand hailing from my home state of Vermont. This company weaves high thread count socks from Merino wool. The results are astounding. I have owned my Darn Tough workout and running socks for a decade–and thousands of miles–and they aren’t showing any signs of wear. This is why Darn Tough is the only sock brand offering a lifetime warranty.

When it comes to underwear, some travelers swear by merino wool. I definitely see the benefits of trading in your cotton underwear for merino. But I personally prefer a lighter-weight technical pair of boxer briefs made from a polyester weave. Ex Officio and other travel brands offer this type of underwear.

Why polyester weave underwear? Because they are incredibly quick-drying. Whether I am backpacking, doing urban travel, or motorcycling, I can wash them in a stream or bathroom sink in moments and they are always dry by the morning.

Consider your own comfort

An on/off-road motorcycle parked in the mountains, a backpack lashed to its luggage rack.
Motorcycle trip | d ng nguy n via unsplash

It’s a good idea to order some travel clothes and try wearing them day-to-day to see if you find them comfortable. Many fabrics, and specific cuts, can be a matter of preference.

If you’re like me, you wear a pair of jeans on your motorcycle. But an outfit to wear around camp or your hotel room is probably worth its space in your saddlebags or backpack. This is especially true because this outfit can be as simple as a pair of gym shorts and flip-flops.

Next, read about how to best organize your saddlebags/backpack or see why Merino is such an incredible fabric for travel (motorcycle and otherwise) in the video below:


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