What to bring and wear

What backpackers normally wear

Most travellers driving Vietnam will drive in flip-flops, shorts and a T-shirt.

The road speeds are slow, but not slow enough to risk driving in clothes that are designed for the beach. Feet are the first body-part to hit the ground in a scary incident. Having shoes to balance a bad situation is a good starting point towards safety.

Experienced drivers sometimes bring all the safety gear from home. When arriving and experiencing the general road speeds, few opt to use all the gear.

A sensible balance of being well covered with strong fabrics such as a jeans is a good starting point for the journey.
Vietnam is both hot and cold depending on the North and South regions. Tigit Motorbikes has a bag delivery service which can be used to transport cold weather gear ready for the Northern territories.

Tigit provides second hand helmets for free, and new ones can be purchased between $25 and $70. We highly recommend people who have helmets to bring them from home.

Check out Tigit’s helmets shop

Group of 4 riders from New Zealand

The weather in Vietnam and trying to get the right balance

The weather is unpredictable in Vietnam. A traveller should have clothes for the blazing hot sun and temperatures in the North that can go down into negative numbers.

Pack two bags of clothes. One bag for between Ho Chi Minh and Hanoi, and a secondary bag for the North regions.
Send the cold weather bag to Hanoi and swop it within the Tigit Hanoi office.

March and April are the best times to travel Vietnam. Across the country the weather conditions are mostly stable!
– The South is always hot.
– The North from November to February can be very cold.
– From the South to the middle of Vietnam, the rainy season is July to October.
– The stormy season where the middle of Vietnam can get hit by cyclones is from September to December.

The rain increases the beauty, waterfalls flood and the lush green landscapes become spectacular.
During most journeys, the traveller is likely to experience all conditions.

How to deal with the rain.

Look at what the locals do!
Rain coats from home are heavy and take up space in luggage. The answer to the problem is seen all around the streets of Vietnam. A good quality rain poncho can be bought for around $5, we sell them at Tigit Motorbikes.
These are lightweight and they can also be used to cover the bags on the rack. The rain poncho dries quickly and can be surprisingly warm in cold mountainous areas.

They fit nicely under the ropes of the bag rack, or at the front of the motorbike.

On the side of the road low quality rain ponchos can be bought for less than 1/2 a dollar. Useless material that is likely to break after one use, but it will get you through a rainstorm!
There is no need to bring rain coats as the Vietnamese poncho is more than perfect.

two foreigners wearing ponchos ready to travel on a motorbike

Big ponchos for big foreigners

How much stuff can the motorbikes carry

Please read for a full description on how much luggage our motorbikes can carry.

It depends on the model, but we recommend about a maximum 15kg of luggage for optimum performance.

With the use of a rain poncho, and our train service to transport bags between HCM and Hanoi it should be possible to get luggage to a light weight.

All Tigit motorbikes are powerful enough to carry 2 people and lots of luggage. However overloading a motorbike will cause it to wobble. The handling and overall performance is reduced which impacts on the fun for mountain roads. Gas consumption also goes up and the cost difference between gas and the use of a train are going to roughly balance out.

Hotels and laundry service

Most hotels offer a laundry service. Usually if laundry is given in the morning it will be ready by the following day. Worst case scenario it is possible to air your clothes on the outside of your luggage when on the motorbike. Be brave and use the laundry services to get you across Vietnam in a hygienic fashion, whilst carrying the minimum amount of clothes possible!

Gear for a pro

Small scooters like the Honda Blade 110cc and it is easy and comfortable enough to travel like a local. A Vietnamese style helmet, a Vietnamese style rain poncho and basic clothes to cover your body.
Start pushing to the Honda XR 150cc and it is still possible to travel like a local or standard backpacker but the limitations of your gear will start to show through and create annoyances. Anything above 150cc and the journey needs to be treated with careful respect, just like back home.
The standard backpacker will cover between 150km to 200km in a full eight hour drive. Although backpackers think they are going fast, they are not. This is slow, very slow and it is why backpackers get confused as to why they can’t keep to GoogleMap timings.

Experienced drivers on the Honda XR 150cc, Royal Enfield 400cc and Honda CRF 250cc can find themselves doing 200-400km in a day including offroad driving. The big difference is the average cruising speed and travelers hitting a big day will find the “standard backpacker clothing” concept is not safe and also can be very cold. The Vietnamese style backpacker wear is not appropriate for experienced drivers.

The Helmet

Whilst a Vietnamese helmets appear solid enough for 60km/h roads speeds. They are not solid enough for hitting roads at 100km/h. Most travelers on 150cc motorbikes are unlikely to commit to such speeds however experienced drivers on a mission may find themselves creeping up there.

  • Vietnamese helmets catch the wind and start to pull upwards at speeds.
  • The safety of Vietnamese helmets is questionable.
  • The noise of wind speed begins to get deathening loud, especially on motorbikes like the Royal Enfield Himalayan 400cc.

The solution – Tigit Motorbikes rents Ls2 road helmets for $2 a day or $20 for a month

Rain Gear

The Vietnamese rain poncho is amazing, but has its limitations.

  • At speeds the rain coat catches the wind and becomes extremely loud.
  • “High” powered machines, hot exhausts and the potential for the rain coat to melt into the motorbike or get caught in the chain.
  • At speeds the rain poncho is unlikely to be warm enough.

The solution – Experienced riders should be renting safety gear (which helps to keep warm at speed), and use rain pants and rain coats that stay close to the body.

Safety gear

Safety gear is hot, and back home it is easy to move at speeds that allow for appropriate airflow. However in Vietnam, unless you are packed with confidence and motorbike skills it can be very difficult to travel at the same speeds as back home. Terrible local driving, badly designed roads and animals coming from all directions will bring most drivers down to 60km/h speeds. Slow speeds and regular picture taking will lead to safety gear being uncomfortably hot.

  • Most travelers (even experienced drivers) do not go fast enough to justify loading up on safety gear

The solution – Decide on your driving style in advance. If you are on a mission to cover as much ground as possible and your objective is to drive hard then invest in renting safety gear. Tigit Motorbikes (upon request) has CE certified safety vests and knee pads. Treat the drive like you would back home, but be conscious that the group speed needs to keep moving or the journey is not going to be comfortable.

Bags and luggage

For serious driving, bring your luggage load down to a backpack just like you would back home on short trips. Travel light and dirty whilst utilizing Vietnamese washing rooms that are found in most hotels throughout Vietnam.
Quick driving and off-road driving does not lend itself to luggage and the bumps in the road will bounce your bag free of any setup that you may have.

  • Decide on your style of traveling in advance and cater your load to it. Don’t go off-roading with 40kg of luggage.
  • Have one set of water proof clothes that dry easily. Use this everyday.
  • Travel as light as possible and utilize Tigit for transporting bags from one office to another. Traveling heavy on a motorbike is not practical.
  • Boxes are not the answer. Those cool looking adventure pictures with over-sized boxes are for show. Real drivers don’t use boxes, especially on small capacity motorbikes. Throw your gear away and travel dirty and light.

The solution – Experienced drivers may be used to small weekend trips with a backpack at home, but are not ready to do a 1 month holiday with luggage across Vietnam. Unfortunately there is no solution to luggage apart from to throw it all away. There is no setup or system that will allow for a 150cc motorbike to handle properly with bags strapped to it. Take a backpack and treat it like a weekend trip with wash rooms along the way. Get decent, high quality rain gear and treat it like hiking up a mountain with the proper gear.

Water

Traveling casually and water bottles can be strapped to various parts of most motorbike models or put with the bags on the back and strapped down. This works well, and providing the holiday is casual there is no need to doing anything other than buy water bottles along the way!

  • When driving quickly, or off-roading water bottles will come loose and fly away.
  • On Tigit off-road motorbike tours we have learnt that there is no solution to attaching water bottles to the motorbike. It just doesn’t work.
  • Water gets boiled by the sun and it is possible to taste the plastic melting into the water. It can’t be healthy!

The solution – As a stubborn bastard, for many years I dispensed water-bottles all across Vietnam through not being able to attach them to my motorbike properly. Eventually I gave in and used a hydration backpack. It changed my life forever and is now the single most important item to my adventure holidays. Without the hydration backpack I get headaches because I never drink enough. I think I am stopping enough and drinking water, but I am not.
The Hydration backpack allows you to drink on the fly, keeps water cool all day, and most importantly stops you dispensing water bottles all across the Vietnamese countryside!

Only $20, get one!

Conclusion

It is difficult to combine casual and extreme into one holiday. Motorbike equipment is not versatile to different ideologies. Decide on the holiday that you are going for and pack appropriately. If you are an experienced biker who has landed with a stack of suitcases then sit back, relax and enjoy the freedom of traveling light in terms of safety gear. Vietnam is slow, very slow.

However if you are on an off-road mission or trying to nail as much ground as possible then get the safety gear and throw away your luggage. Don’t compare your ideas to those of normal backpackers. Motorbikes can move here with the right person wielding the beast. The problem is that the locals have no idea how to drive. This problem will get in your way and make the journey extra difficult. Use those washing services along the way!

Bring what you like, but understand the pros and cons

Minimising luggage improves the motorbike performance and is easier to load on and off the motorbike each day.
Heavily loaded motorbikes will have reduced handling and increased breaking distances. At Tigit Motorbikes we recommend the approach of under packing and using laundry services are you go. Vietnam is cheap for shopping, so if you are missing an item of clothing that should have been packed. This can be picked up easily and cheaply nearly anywhere in the country.

A traveller is likely to experience all weather conditions on one holiday. It is not possible to predict the weather.

Pack light and pack smart and use laundry services!

Check out Tigit’s recommended gear for travelers

bikers with proper gears, beginning on a trip