What to Bring and Wear in Vietnam

What to Bring and Wear in Vietnam

Tigit Motorbikes Accessory line can be found over at Chrunix Motorbike accessories and Safety Gear

Chrunix online shows stock information for Tigit Ho Chi Minh. Items can be ordered in advance and shipped to other Tigit offices for free.

Introduction

When traveling on a motorbike the aim of the game is to travel as lightly as possible. Small 100+cc motorbikes can and will carry you and a mountain of luggage across any road in Vietnam. However, with every kilogram added to your load, the motorbike will become increasingly wobbly and unstable. This reduces performance and therefore reduces enjoyment, whilst also reducing safety.

Too much luggage?
Normal amount for a traveler, but is it too much?

What people don’t know about motorbikes

Motorbikes are not large vehicles and they are delicately designed based around the average weight the manufacture believes will be on the motorbike. Altering this weight, will dramatically change the performance of the vehicle. It is common to see adventure pictures with motorbikes piled up to the maximum with hard boxes and camping gear combined with a rugged looking adventure man heading off deep into the outback.

The reality is, “true” motorcyclists know that weight is key, and they won’t be using hard boxes or heavy gear on their big journeys. Soft saddle bags if they must carry gear, and an attitude toward dirty, light and economical traveling.
Weight is important, and removing it should be done so at all costs.

The enjoyment lost through a boat handling overloaded motorbike, is easily worth the trade off of choosing carefully selected gear and having a motorbike performing under its stock weight limits.

CB 500 minimum luggage
Tigit Jon on 5 a day journey, CB 500x. One small backpack. Side boxes removed.

What can a Tigit Motorbike carry

Overall: We Recommend A MAXIMUM 15kg of luggage
Choosing the correct motorbike is important for the enjoyment for the journey across Vietnam. Your luggage load, is likely to impact your decision on motorbike model. Larger capacity motorbikes such as the Honda CB 500x can cater to heavier loads without performance being massively impacted.

The small 110cc motorbike can carry anything, but the performance shift in handling will be noticeable.

In the end though, not everyone has the money for a motorbike like the Honda CB 500. If you must carry a load of luggage then know that it is possible to travel Vietnam with luggage and a 110cc, it’s just not technically specified for it.

Tigit has a service where it is possible to send a bag from one office to another for $15 per bag. If you are traveling other countries, then remove all the gear not needed for the motorbike and send it to your finishing destination.

For a full breakdown of our models and the racks equipped please read our racks and luggage article

A normal amount of luggage for the Honda Blade 110cc

Example gear for a long journey

A holiday from one week to an unlimited amount of time should have similar setups in terms of gear. Use hotel cleaning services as you go and keep recycling your clothes. Below is an example of Tigit Jon on a 14 day trip to the Himalayas in India. The Himalayas has far more volatile weather fluctuations than Vietnam, and the gear below could be considered overkill for Vietnam. Take a look, and consider how small and simple this is. 

Jumping a Royal Enfield Himalayan
The ADV bros commit to a mammoth 300km day on mountain Himalayan. No easy task.

Tigit Jon on a 14 day trip in the Himalayas

3 x socks (two for driving, one for evening)
1 x ADV boots
1 x trainers (evening wear)
4 x boxers
1 x shorts (evening wear)
1 x thermal pants
1 x Fleeced trousers (backup cold wear / evening wear)
1 x thermal shirt
1 x rain pants
1 x ADV pants
3 x Motorbike shirts
1 x t-shirt (evening wear)
1 x Fleece (hoody) (evening wear)
1 x Gore Tex jacket
1 x Knee pads
1 x Elbow pads
2 x Motocross gloves 

The above will weigh less than 15KG and easily fit into 2 small bags that can attach to any motorbike.
Fully suited up this will be 4 layers.

Bottom half in order

Thermal pants, fleeced trousers, rain pants, Adv pants

Top half in order

Thermal shirt, Motocross shirt, Fleeced hoody, Gore-Tex jacket. 

Tigit Jon on a one week drive or less in Vietnam

3 x socks (two for driving, one for evening)
1 x ADV boots
1 x trainers (evening wear)
4 x boxers
1 x shorts (evening wear)
1 x rain pants
1 x ADV pants
2 x Motorbike shirts
1 x t-shirt (evening wear)
1 x lightweight rain jacket
1 x Knee pads
1 x Elbow pads
1 x Motocross gloves 

Things to consider
The two setups are similar despite the significant journey length differences. The Himalayan kit Tigit Jon is using could easily be used for any 3 month journey.

Also note the use of under armour safety gear in the form of kneepads and elbow pads. Tigit Jon finds traditional motorbike clothing inflexible in terms of dealing with temperature fluctuations and also motorbike specific clothing tends to be very heavy and expensive. Under armour (used by motocross and Enduro riders) is much cheaper, much safer and allows you to use any normal everyday clothing over the top. 

Tigit Jon will use the same 1 x Trousers and 1 x Motocross shirt for the entire journey regardless of length. The reasoning for 3 x Motocross shirts is the risk of one getting wet. They can also be layered to provide warmth when it gets cold.

Motocross tshirt and underarmour
Easy to strip down for hot temperatures

What Backpackers Normally Wear

Most travelers will drive Vietnam in sandals, shorts, and a t-shirt. If you’re riding 3-minutes from your hostel to the beach. Ok, this riding attire will suffice. Anything else and you should not consider bare skin as ample protection.

On occasion, an experienced motorcycle rider will bring all the safety gear from home. Gore-Tex riding pants, kevlar jackets with armor, knee-high riding boots, you get the picture. This attire is the extreme for safety gear in Vietnam, just like a bikini is the extreme opposite. That heavy gear is going to be hot, sweaty, overkill. You’ll find your riding here to be much more subdued than it is back home. Forget carrying all that gear around. Find some middle ground on safety and protection.

ShortsTypical riding gear in Vietnam used by most backpackers.

Deciding on the style of holiday you are going for

The motorbike model you select is likely to determine the level of safety gear and quality of general equipment needed for the journey.
Most people come to Vietnam and claim they will never drive fast and never push any boundaries. However, confident young travelers often don’t keep to the plan (you know who you are). You need to look yourself over from the inside out to judge who you are going to be.
Are you really going to plod along at local speeds? Or are those mountain roads going to get your adrenaline pumping with all thoughts of safety put aside?

Tigit mechanic on the Honda CRF 250
Boys will be boys. Tigit mechanic on a Honda CRF 250cc

Small: ​Smaller scooters like the Honda Blade 110cc will quickly transport you into riding like a local. They’re light, comfortable, and will force you to live life at a lower speed. You aren’t likely to ride more than 200-kilometers per day on a scooter.

      Expectations:

  • You can ride with a cheap Vietnamese style helmet
  • A rain poncho for $1 or $5 will probably be fine
  • Jeans and a jacket should be ample safety protection

Medium: ​Medium motorcycles like the Honda XR 150cc will give a choice to ride like a local or to some degree, like a professional. These bikes are a bit faster, can carry more and should be treated with the full respect you’d offer any motorbike back in your home country. The Honda XR 150 in the right hands can be wielded around like a high performance monster. It is astonishing what this motorbike can do.

      Expectations:

  • You need to diligently keep to your pre-made plan, are you going to play by the rules and keep it casual, or are you going to put that throttle down hard?
  • Depending on the above choice, travel light and casual, or gear up like any high performance machine

Large: ​Large motorcycles (for Vietnam) like the Honda CRF 250cc or Honda CB 500x are the choice of experienced riders. XR 150cc can fall into this category too. These bikes can carry more luggage, handle nearly anything off-road, and are capable of fast (for Vietnam) speeds.

       Expectations:

  • A proper full-face helmet is a must. For safety, comfort, and to keep the wind out of your helmet.
  • You’ll need to bring proper rain gear and proper gear in general. 
  • Wielding a 500cc motorbike around Vietnam is a different game to back home. It is common for travelers booking these motorbikes to realise that what they can drive back home, is suddenly out of their comfort zone in Vietnam.

Check out our complete list of motorcycle rentals​.

Packing electronic gear and laptops

Laptops
As a general rule, laptops and other electronic gear should be considered “too heavy” to bring on a motorbike journey. Modern mobile devices are extremely powerful and unless you are relying on a laptop for technical work, we strongly recommend leaving it at home.
Packing laptops is difficult, strapping them to the motorbike without damaging them is difficult, keeping them dry is difficult and above all, they are heavy.

Electrical gear in general
Pickup your charger, or any other random electrical item. It is surprising how heavy they are. Kit yourself out with one decent charger and one high-quality cable. Don’t throw all your cables in a bundled mess. Sort them out and simplify to one.
If you break something on the journey then Vietnam has plenty of electrical stores to find a replacement.

Gopros / Video cameras 

It is common for travelers to carry Go Pro’s with them. A lovely idea to capture the moment and make the video. However, the reality is that few people know how to use them and few people know how to edit videos.
Creating a story out of a holiday is a difficult process, storing the data is also a challenge and ultimately it requires practice and skills and a lot of know-how. If you don’t have any experience with movie-making, then consider the realistic chances of you actually producing a piece of content out of what you capture. Sometimes it is best to put the cameras away and enjoy the experience the old fashioned way where you are completely in the “now”, and not distracted trying to capture everything.

Cameras
Cameras are heavy, they are also difficult to get out and wield around efficiently when on a motorbike. A camera guy will always be a camera guy, and if that is you, then great, you already know what you are doing. Tigit Jon has no skills with cameras but we equipped him with the Sony RX0 camera. Since then, the pictures on the Tigit website are almost “professional”. He loves it, and we recommend any adventure traveler to carry one. We are always on the lookout for amazing photos and travellogues about your Vietnam adventure o be sure to share them with us and you might end up on the Tigit Blog!

Are cameras worth it on a motorbike

Tropical rain + electronics

Rain gear

Rain gear is one of the hardest things to get right when out on an adventure holiday of any kind. The Vietnamese rain poncho can be purchased for $5 from all Tigit offices, however for anything above a 110cc motorbike they are impractical. They flap around in the wind and make weird and wonderful noises as you drive along. Depending on the model of motorbike you choose, there is also a chance they melt on the engine or exhaust of the motorbike.

Cheap rain gear tends to not be breathable. Vietnam is mostly hot and humid, with rain coming and going sometimes with every mountain corner you go around. Dealing with cheap non-breathable rain gear can lead to being drenched from the inside out from sweat instead of rain.

Real and authentic breathable rain gear tends to come in the form of Gore Tex jackets which cost $300 upward. For most, this is out of budget and for many, the risk of damaging these expensive items with a motorbike crash may not be worth it.

Specifically made Gore Tex motorbike gear usually rolls in around $600 for the jacket alone, you also need to get the trousers to go with it!

What we advise
Most people should have rain gear for those rainy days back home. Bring it with you as you already know it and trust it. Don’t fall for the fake “North Face” gear in Vietnam.
If you don’t want to bring your rain clothes from home, then we recommend the Race FX rain jacket for your top half. The bottom half, we are still not sure what to suggest!

A 1/2usd purple rain coat. Not ideal.

Safety Gear

Helmet

Helmets are a must in Vietnam, but they can range from $1 baseball cap helmets up to proper European certified helmets. Tigit offers free second hand helmets. These helmets are Vietnamese helmets we sell ($25), and the customer sells back for $5 to then become a free second hand Tigit helmet.

Quality and condition varies across seasons and Tigit offices. Renting motorbikes in Vietnam is an ongoing price war with Vietnamese competitors. For transparency sake, we strongly recommend not using our second hand free helmets and to either buy one new or bring one from home.
If you have a helmet at home, then bring it. No helmet in Vietnam is going to be a replacement for your tried and tested helmet that you own.

Chrunix.com Tigits accessory store stocks modern European certified helmets, but they come at European prices. Starting at $60 and going upward.
Vietnamese helmets at $25 are not passing any certifications, and while they are fine for the speeds in Vietnam. It should be noted that they are not “high quality” helmets.

We highly recommend the LS2 dual sport or road full face helmets for Vietnam. Lightweight, safe and above all, cheap. They are in fact the cheapest ECE certified helmets found anywhere in the world.

helmet

Boots

Boots are considered the second most important safety item after the helmet. Motorbikes are heavy and when they fall on you, they trap your leg at speeds which leads to a broken leg/ankle. Keep in mind though, most European motorbikes weigh 200KG and up (Honda CB 500x), whereas little motorbikes commonly found in Vietnam like the Honda XR 150 weigh just 130KG.

Boots also act as protection from rocks and shrapnel that ping up from the motorbike. For a holiday of plodding along tarmac roads at very gentle speeds (60km/h) then boots are definitely an optional extra. Be it a 110cc Honda Blade or a 150cc Honda XR, the motorbike boot is not necessarily needed for Vietnamese style road speeds.

However, once you step up into serious driving, offroading or you plan on traveling at some speed. Then the motorbike boot is an absolute must. For anything above 150cc we strongly recommend a motorbike boot. For any offroading (even minor) we strongly recommend a motorbike boot.

Tigit stocks the Fly Maverik boot which is a very competitively priced boot globally.

boots

Knee pads / Elbow pads

The third most important safety item to get hold of is knee and elbow pads. These come in hard form (Scoyco knee pads) and soft form (Forcefield Pro Tube). Both have their pros and cons, but for a long adventure holiday where comfort is key. Tigit Jon highly recommends the Forcefield Pro-Tube which is the highest quality CE level 2 armour out there on the market today. 

For $100 a set (knee) these really should be a must have item for anyone on a motorbike. 

Back, front and elbow protectors

Opting for back, front and elbow protection is going the extra mile in terms of safety gear. Again, Jon recommends under armour such as the ForceField Pro shirt over and above traditional ADV marketed jackets and suits. Whichever style you take, these are for serious motorcyclists that are looking for the absolute maximum level of protection regardless of cost. It should be noted, that most Motocross and Enduro riders don’t bother going to such lengths, reality is… this level of safety comes at a price, damage to the wallet, temperature and weight.

Gloves

Gloves are available for $10 and upward. There is no need to splash out on expensive gloves, just get something that feels comfortable and fits. The primary objective of the glove is to protect your hands from wear and tear on the handlebar grips. An extra bonus is some protection on hitting the floor, however unless kitted with a full road style glove then this protection is going to be limited at best.

gloves

The Top half Jackets / coats

A jacket is needed to keep you warm on the journey across Vietnam regardless of season. When looking at jackets it is best to try and avoid bulky items that take up lots of luggage space such as puffer jackets.
Any warm jacket you have back home, combined with ForceField under armour (if you choose to go safe) is sufficient. 

This allows you to take off your jacket, or put it back on again quickly and efficiently without worrying about the armour being attached to the jacket.

The Top half T-shirts

A T-shirt is fine for the casual driver, but there are obvious risks of tarmac burn in the case of a crash.

To protect from crashes and road burn then Tigit Jon uses the ForceField Pro Tube. To protect both himself and the Pro-tube from the outside world elements Tigit Jon will use a long sleeve motocross T-shirt. Motocross T-shirts are incredibly lightweight and breathable. Great for the hot temperatures and also great for quickly drying when they get wet.

When in Vietnam, cover up at all costs. This saves on suncream and saves on sun burns. The sun is out there to get you! 

ninja lead

Trousers 

Covering your bottom half productively is easier said than done. Traditional armoured ADV gear is hot, heavy and expensive. Protected jeans, or just jeans in general are hot and useless in the wet.

Shorts should be a no go for everyone. Don’t drive a motorbike in shorts and a T-shirt. If you haven’t figured out why yet, then you will soon. Preferably save yourself the pain and take the stubborn Tigit Jon’s advice who has cut this corner one too many times and won’t drive a motorbike without full cover anymore.

If you don’t want to spend money on extra gear, then wear any sort of long trousers. Jeans are the best, but basically anything you decide. To note though, any household gear combined with the Pro Tube is quite effective at resisting tarmac abrasion. The Pro Tube acts as a sponge that will stop your slide in its tracks.

The answer to the question however, is ADV pants (hard to get hold of), or motocross pants. The Fly Motocross pants are amazing in hot weather and do provide some protection to tarmac abrasion. These lightweight pants air out easily and combined with the ForceField Pro Tubes will lead to an excellent safe and cost efficient solution.

Most adventure pants are not waterproof, so you need a waterproof base layer.  Decent ADV pants with plenty of vents will allow this double layered setup to remain reasonably breathable. Not the perfect setup, but it does work.

Tigit Jons ADV pants have lots of vents and pockets

Socks

There is no avoiding wet feet. All brands of “waterproof” motorbike boot fail and basically, wet feet are a guarantee. If using trainers, then just carry several socks.
If you have a set of motorbike boots then long socks are a good idea. Tigit carries motocross socks which are breathable and offer protection from the rub of a motorbike boot.
Overall, socks are socks. 

The locals will use plastic bags over their shoes when it gets wet.. This is actually a great solution that really works. The major downside is that plastic bags are not breathable so your feet get hot quickly. It also looks weird, but maybe that is part of the journey!

Group of four riders from New Zealand

Here’s a group of four riders from New Zealand on some good looking Honda 150s. These kiwis from their sparsely populated island are about to see more traffic than they have in their lives!

Helmet Rentals

ECE (European certified) LS2 road helmets can be rented from Tigit for $2 a day, or $20 a month. Please request this in advance.

LS2 Helmet Overview

 

Jacket, Knee and Elbow Protectors Rentals

 Tigit Motorbikes (upon request) has CE certified safety vests and knee pads.

Safety vests overview

knee pads overview

For just $3/day or $30/month. We can set you up with a durable knee and elbow protection package. It’s cheaper than paying the deductible on your travel insurance.


For a look into our body protection gear, check out our ​Tigit body protection sales page.

We’ve recently compiled a buyers guide for motorbike safety gear in Vietnam too.

The Weather and How To Plan For It

      Seasons

March and April are the best times to travel Vietnam. Across the country, the weather conditions are mostly stable.

  • The South is always hot. Think 30oC, riding your Honda XR150 to the beach in Vung Tau.
  • The North from November to February can be very cold. 
  • From the South to  central Vietnam, the rainy season is July to October. 
  • Mid Vietnam cyclone season runs from around September to December. Not a regular occurrence, but it happens. Picture two days waiting out a storm.

Despite thinking you should only plan your trip around the hot areas during the dry times of the year. Each season can offer some benefits, and if you plan to ride the length of the country, you are likely to run into a myriad of weather differences.

If for example, you plan to stop and see some waterfalls like the abundant selection on the Dalat waterfalls route. You’ll be even more pleased during the rainy season as the rain increases the beauty, while the waterfalls flood and the lush green landscapes become spectacular. The rain isn’t all bad.

Ponchos Rain

The Vietnamese rain Poncho at $5, mostly does the job

Water & Staying Hydrated

When adventure riding with your motorbike rental the bottles become loose and fall off. If they are strapped to your seat, they will eventually become hot, unrefreshing water that tastes like melted plastic. How healthy could this be?  

After years of running the roads of Vietnam, we’ve found that without easy access to water while you’re riding, it’s nearly impossible to stay hydrated.

You’ll slowly sweat, become fatigued, and likely end up with a headache. This water problem becomes compounded if you’ve enjoyed a few cocktails the night before.

  • Solution A: If you are driving casually across the country you can stop and continually buy bottles of water, this will work in the short run and only if you are near civilization.  
  • Solution B: The hydration pack. This pack has become our single most important tool when riding across Vietnam. Fill it with water, strap it on, and enjoy easy-drinking pleasure while riding your motorcycle. The convenience of a hydration pack will change the enjoyment of your riding along with reducing the number of water bottles you are disposing of across Vietnam. Good for you and good for the environment. Just $20, get one!
Water Bladder in action
Tigit Jon relies on the water backpack

Things To Consider:

    • Decide on the holiday that you are going for and pack appropriately
    • Pack light. No one has ever complained about having a light load
    • Vietnam is slow, very slow. You’ll be covering less ground than you think
    • If you are on an off-road mission or trying to cover as much ground as possible, then get the safety gear and throw away your luggage
    • Don’t compare your ideas to those of typical backpackers. Motorbikes can move here with the right person wielding the beast
  • Under pack and use those washing services along the way. 
  • Minimizing luggage improves the motorbike performance and is easier to load on and off the motorbike each day
  • Heavily loaded motorcycles will have reduced handling and increased braking distances
  • Vietnam is cheap for shopping, so if you are missing an item of clothing that should have been packed. Those missed items can be picked up easily and cheaply nearly anywhere in the country
  • A traveler is likely to experience all weather conditions on one holiday. It is not possible to predict the weather
  • Have fun. Vietnam is a giant playground unlike any other on earth
Perhaps, under prepared

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