There’s been a longstanding train of thought, if you want to do any serious overlanding or adventure riding, you need to drop $20,000-plus on a BMW R1200GS. The GS gained legendary status for a reason: it’s incredibly capable. The GS has an engine that performs in every environment and riding situation; you have to experience the bike’s balance to truly understand how otherworldly it is, and no matter where you are it’s just damn comfortable. The downside is the big Beemer’s weight problem. At nearly 600 lbs, only riders with experience are equipped to regularly manhandle this beast and if you lay it down off-roading, that’s a hefty machine to try and right, especially if you’re alone. A well-modified Enduro, on the other hand, will be lighter by a couple hundred pounds, carry plenty of gear and, crucially, can be half or even a third of the price.
I was heading out to Woodward, Pennslyvania for a weekend of camping and trail riding, but just the idea of wrestling a 560 lb motorcycle all day on narrow, rocky trails (interspersed with multiple deadlifts when the bike inevitably landed on its side) was exhausting. The 2018 Husqvarna 701 Enduro stood out as the best alternative. I could throw saddlebags and a duffle bag on the back for my gear and clothes, but then unpack it all at camp and have an unburdened, lightweight performance machine to rip single track trails. This is the gear I built an all-out adventure bike with out of a svelte, nimble enduro.
2018 Husqvarna 701 Enduro
At $11,799, the 701 Enduro is on the more expensive side for this style of motorcycle, but if you go stat-for-stat alone, the 701’s price makes a case for itself when outfitted as an ADV. The performance on this machine is in a different league compared to segmant stalwarts like the Honda XR650L or Suzuki DR650, regardless of having a price tag double the size.
Once unpacked, the 701 feels more like a big dirtbike on the trails but isn’t nervous or top-heavy when loaded up with gear barreling down the road. Husqvarna offers luggage racks from the factory, which help get your saddlebags off the side of the bike and exhaust. The way the gas tank doubles as a subframe at the back of the bike frees up space for a longer seat and more room for the rider, despite the luggage over the back and an additional tank bag up front. The one downside is that any top bag or duffel will have to be removed everytime you fill up because of the unconventional filler cap placement.
Filson Dry Large Duffle Bag
A big ol’ dry bag is almost a neccessity when two-wheel overlanding. Weather is a constant threat and PU-coated, waterproof and abrasion-resistant 840-denier nylon makes Filson duffel bag one of the best and most reliable out there. The 70 liters of storage space is also a luxury when you want to keep a few important garments safe from rain, along with your tent, sleeping bag and air mattress.
Wolfman Enduro Dry Saddle Bags
Enduro motorcycles are inherently slimmer and lighter than the average adventure bike, so any extra weight from luggage should sit as close to the bike as possible. The Wolfman Enduro Dry Saddle Bags check all of those boxes and fit on almost any enduro or dual sport, with or withour luggage racks, without affecting precious seat space.
Wolfman Enduro Tank Bag
Tank bags come in handy on the road more than any other bag in your arsenal. They make excellent storage for EDC or all the gear you’ll need constant access to when you stop for gas or pull over. Instead of unstrapping, unrolling or unbuckling and digging through your bigger bags, the Wolfman Enduro Tank Bag puts it all right there in front of you and is only a zipper away.
Velomacchi Speedway Tool Roll
Unplanned maintenance stops can be hell on the side of the road or out on the trail. You want to make sure you have all your essential tools right where you need them — when you need them. The Velomacchi Speedway Tool Roll has the same rough and ready construction as the brand’s other staples so you can save even more space and strap it to your front fender with the built-in fasteners.
iO Mounts Nomad
The iO Mounts Nomad isn’t the most advanced phone mount on the market, but its simplicity and strong magnet allow it to stay compact and lightweight. It straps to nearly any handlebar and uses incredibly strong magnets to keep your phone in place, which is a lifesaver if your phone doubles as navigation. And when you get off the bike, taking your phone with you is as easy as rolling it off the magnetic disc, with minimal effort.
MSR Hubba Tour Tent
You’ll notice that ‘lightweight and compact’ are running themes. The MSR Hubba Tour Tent meets those marks, but one feature that comes in handy when camping off the back of a bike is the awning/porch feature. After a long day on the road or trail, it’s nice to get changed ‘inside’ your tent without actually being inside the portion you sleep in. The floor of the porch is also a nice area to store riding gear overnight, out of the elements but out of your sleeping space.
Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite
The Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite is a no-brainer — because sleeping on the ground is awful. The Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite takes up close to no space at all when packed up, but when in use it’s one of the few air mattresses I’ve used that actually retains air throughout the night.
Therm-a-Rest Space Cowboy
Not too hot, not too cold, the three-season Therm-a-Rest Space Cowboy performed admirably in varying temeperatures and weather of central Pennsylvania. When I went to stuff it in my dry back before taking off, it sort of molded to the tent and boots I packed in on top of it. And at just over one pound, it’s like it wasn’t there at all.