Traveling with bulky jackets, expensive helmets, scratch-prone goggles, or chunky boots? Protect the stuff that protects you with proper motorcycle gear bags.
Travel is rough on equipment, but air travel is absolutely brutal. If you’ve never had the pleasure of getting an expensive helmet absolutely obliterated somewhere between bag check and baggage claim, take our word for it: It’s not a fun way to start a vacation.
Truth be told you should never check a motorcycle helmet if you can avoid it, but all that other chunky gear (boots, jacket, pants, back protector, etc.) will never pack down small enough for a carry on bag. This means motorcycle travel inevitably requires a check bag, and a proper motorcycle gear bag is the only thing we’d ever consider condemning to the fate of airline luggage handlers.
These specialized bags are more than just giant duffels: Extra tough, extra protective, and specially designed to handle notoriously awkward cargo like motocross boots and knee protectors, motorcycle gear bags deliver real-world utility riders of every discipline can appreciate.
So what’s the difference between a moto bag and your typical travel luggage? We’re glad you asked…
The Quick List of Motorcycle Gear Bags
- Ogio Rig 9800 – Great all-rounder and super tough.
- Klim Drift Gear Bag – Best budget option on list. Yes, I too did not know Klim and budget could be used in the same sentence.
- Alpinestars Komodo – Best budget value since it includes a separate helmet & boot bag.
- Troy Lee Designs Meridian – Biggest of the bunch at 165 liters.
- Ogio Rig T3 – You will never need another gear bag again. Period.
How to Choose Motorcycle Gear Bags
You spend hundreds (if not thousands) of dollars on your protective gear, so buying a bag that protects that investment just makes sense. There are a few specific features we look for when shopping these handy carry-alls, so whether you’re new to the scene or just haven’t shopped motorcycle gear bags in a while, here are the cliff notes to study.
At risk of stating the obvious here, motorcycle gear is bulky. Even if you tote your helmet separately, all the padding, armor, and fabric used in the rest of your kit eats up space fast, especially if you travel with standalone armor and braces.
For that reason, we don’t recommend buying any motorcycle gear bag under 100 liters, and we mean that as a rock-bottom starting point for riders with comparatively simple gear.
The requirements go up from there as you add specialty pieces like tall motocross boots or clunky racing leathers, so honestly the sky is the limit if you don’t like to pack light.
We tend to think of it like this: All motorcycle gear bags are going to have to be checked bags. You can’t cram this stuff into overhead storage, so why not “go big or go home” and stuff as much gear in there as you can (without going over the 50-lbs weight limit most airlines enforce)?
The good thing about protective equipment is that it’s generally pretty tough. Your helmet is the main exception here, as it’s really only meant to handle one serious impact, so the level of protection you’ll want on your motorcycle gear bag will largely depend on how you’ll be transporting your helmet.
With that being said, we’ve been more or less “forced” to check helmets on international trips in the past, and when that happens, you’ll want all the protection you can get. We look for two main things for peace of mind: Rigid exterior protection and padded internal protection.
As far as exterior protection goes, most motorcycle gear bags include some kind of solid base along the two “bottoms” of the bag, with one running the width of the underside and the other covering the base for when the bag is standing upright. Together these two areas protect roughly ⅓ of the surface area from external shocks and impacts.
From there we hand out bonus points for extra hard protection, but because moto gear bags need a degree of “flexibility” for stuffing in bulky equipment, you’ll rarely if ever see one with the fully solid exterior of large airport roller bags.
As for the internal padding, any motorcycle gear bag worth buying will have some degree of foam padding baked into the interior. The best models incorporate it into more or less every surface of the bag, and some even go so far as to make the padding modular, so you can adjust it to better organize and protect gear as you see fit.
Purpose-built compartments inside a gear bag are incredibly useful. A few of our favorites include plush microfiber-lined goggle and lens compartments, extra-padded spaces for storing helmets, and waterproof and/or ventilated dividers for stashing wet or muddy boots.
Of course not everyone rides through mud and not everyone rides in goggles, but purpose-built features like this are what separate a motorcycle gear bag from run-of-the-mill luggage in our opinion. Better to have it and not need it, as they say.
Most historians agree that the wheel was invented somewhere between six and seven thousand years ago. There’s some disagreement as to what its original purpose was, but we have it on good authority that early Mesopotamians were looking for an easier way to haul their heavy motorcycle gear around busy airport terminals.
Look, we know that doing things the hard way can be a rewarding experience, but there’s simply no merit in hauling a giant 50-pound bag around on your shoulders for any longer than absolutely necessary. For that reason, we highly recommend opting for a motorcycle gear bag with both wheels and a telescoping handle.
We also love to see bags with enough structure to stand upright on their own. There’s nothing more annoying than a travel bag that wants to fall on its face every time you let it go, whether it’s sitting on a shuttle bus or standing in line at TSA.
Most motorcycle gear bags don’t come with the four-wheeled/upright construction you see in generic travel luggage, but some have enough structure to stand up on their own, which is a feature we’ve found to be worth paying for over the years.
Our Favorite Motorcycle Gear Bags of the Year
Ogio Rig 9800 Gear Bag
Capacity: 123 Liters
The Ogio Rig 9800 is widely considered the benchmark for motorcycle gear bags, and we’ve found it to be the perfect companion for motorcycle travel abroad. Ogio’s molded exterior “SLED” system is purpose-built to handle punishment, whether it’s coming from overzealous baggage handlers, sticky conveyors, or just bouncing around in the bed of a truck.
We’ve found the Rig 9800’s 123-liter size ideal for a full loadout of adventure gear, with room left ofter for extra layers, socks, and all the little odds and ends you’re not allowed to carry onto a plane like electric razors and liquids. We’ll also note that Ogio includes a modular padded helmet compartment in the Rig 9800, which gives us extra peace of mind whenever we’re forced to check an expensive helmet at the curb.
- Extra tough and well protected
- SLED system works great for air travel
- Padded helmet compartment included
- No separate boot bag/boot storage
Ogio Rig 9800 gear bag
Klim Drift Gear Bag
Capacity: 150 Liters
Klim has a well-deserved reputation for making premium yet expensive gear, which is why their budget-friendly Drift gear bag is such a pleasant surprise. The Drift may lack the convenience of wheels and the added beef of rigid external protection, but its combination of rugged construction and premium internal features is an absolute steal for the money.
Chief among them is the removable padded helmet compartment, the large ventilated boot compartment, and modular foam storage dividers which can be adjusted using Velco tabs. We’ll also note that the Drift’s generous 150 liters of storage space makes this hands down the most storage-per-dollar out there worth paying for.
- Great price
- Tons of storage for the money
- Modular internal padded protection
- No wheels
- Less rigid protection than more premium options
Klim Drift gear bag
Alpinestars Komodo Gear Bag
Capacity: 150 Liters
One of our favorite alternatives to the Ogio Rig is the Alpinestars Komodo, which delivers a similar feature set with a little extra capacity to boot. The Komodo uses a similar modular helmet storage space using a removable foam divider, its got a nice section of rigid reinforcement along the bottom and corners, and also includes similarly beefy construction from its meaty YKK zippers and tough polyester/tarpaulin reinforcement panels.
All things considered it’s not quite as rugged feeling as the Rig, but it actually delivers a few bonus features that we’ve grown fond of over the years. Chief among them is a separate boot compartment on the top of the bag, which includes a removable waterproof boot bag for stashing wet/muddy boots on the fly.
- Great quality/features for the money
- Removable waterproof boot compartment
- Wheels/handle for convenient carry
- Main opening is a bit small
- Not as beefy as the Ogio Rig
Alpinestars Komodo gear bag
Troy Lee Designs Meridian Gear Bag
Capacity: 165 Liters
If you’re looking for outright storage space, the Troy Lee Designs Meridian is the bag to beat. Boasting a 165-liter black hole of packability, the Meridian is perfect for motocross and enduro riders who want to bring a full array of protection from large peaked helmets to chunky knee and neck braces.
In addition to its XL capacity, the Meridian has a few extra tricks up its sleeve. It’s got a waterproof/removable boot locker, a padded helmet compartment, and even a dedicated goggle vault, complete with a separate protected section for stashing extra lenses and roll-offs. We’ll also give Troy Lee props for including excellent ventilation in the bag’s construction, which will help keep the funk of used gear from spreading in transit.
- The lord of storage space
- Great price point
- Well-designed specialty compartments.
- Padding/helmet protection isn’t super confidence inspiring
- Less structure than most
Troy Lee Designs Meridian gear bag
Ogio Rig T3 Motorcycle Gear Bags
Capacity: 145 Liters
We like to think of the Ogio Rig T3 as the classic Rig 9800 turned up to 11. For your money you’re getting all of the features of the 9800 including the industry-leading SLED frame and integrated internal padding, but Ogio also throws in separate protective bags for both your helmet and boots.
With three bags in total, you could certainly argue that the T3 is the last motorcycle gear bag you’ll ever have to buy. We’ll also note that Ogio throws in a stashable changing mat, a redesigned zipper layout for quick access to the helmet compartment, and an extra 22 liters of storage space. It ain’t cheap, but it’s damn sure built to last and delivers premium features, ample space, and long-wearing materials in equal measure.
- Includes additional bags for your helmet and boots
- Well designed and highly protective throughout
- More storage than the standard Rig 9800
- Very expensive
- Overkill if you already own quality helmet and/or boot bags
Ogio Rig T3 motorcycle gear bag
The Final Word on Motorcycle Gear Bags
As you can see, the best motorcycle gear bags are much more than plus-sized duffels. These carry-alls are carefully designed to deliver the protection and ease of use traveling riders need whether they’re driving two states over or flying to Timbuktu.
They may seem a bit expensive at first glance, but compared to other premium luggage offerings (think North Face Rolling Thunder or Patagonia Black Hole), these bags are actually par for the course, yet deliver much more utility than your average large travel bag. They’re a smart investment if protecting your expensive motorcycle gear is a priority, and one that’ll last you for years to come.
Thanks for reading guys and I hope this helped you find the perfect gear bag for your next adventure.
I’m a motorcycle adventure travel addict who has been rippin’ two-wheels across remote lands and working in the motorcycle touring industry since 2018! I’ve since developed MotoMoves to offer tips and tricks on adventure motorcycling as well as take you along for a few rides here and there. Enjoy!