Thanks a ton for the comprehensive list.
I know this is an old post but very informative, we are planning to move to Ladakh by bike riding.This comprehensive article on essential things to carry for a motorcycle trip to Ladakh is perfect for those planning to travel light or those traveling with spouse or pillion and needing more space for cloths.
While on the first look this article may look too big for something which is geared towards the essentials and traveling light, it is due to the fact that this not only covers motorcycle and riding gear, but almost each and everything a rider would need on a motorcycle ride to Ladakh and not only provides a list of things to carry, but also why you should carry them and other general recommendations.
If you do not wish to go through the entire article, you can click here to download the PDF list of essential things to carry for Ladakh. Though my recommendation would be to read the article once, to familiarize yourself with why you are carrying those things!
So here is a list of essential things I believe are crucial for each and every motorcycle traveler visiting Ladakh:
OEM Toolkit: Forget Ladakh, never-ever go out for a trip without your OEM toolkit, it has almost all the basic tools you need to get your motorcycle up and running after a minor issue.
Spare motorcycle key: People lose things all the time, especially keys which are kept in the pocket. Hence it is a good idea to keep a spare key of your motorcycle in your luggage as backup.
Chain link: Carrying a spare chain link is essential, especially when you are planning to ride in the unforgiving land of Ladakh and due to the fact that chain links differ from bike to bike.
Sparkplug: Carrying a spare sparkplug can save you a lot of trouble, in case your existing sparkplug goes foul.
Clutch and Accelerator wires: Clutch and accelerator wires can and do snap and can make riding extremely difficult or impossible in case of a breakage. You can get them changed before the trip and leave the old ones hanging next to the new ones, so that in case of a breakage, you can swiftly attach the old one and carry on. This would also save you luggage space!
Tubeless Puncture Repair Kit: If you have a tubeless tyre, then don’t forget to carry tubeless puncture repair kit as these can be little hard to find in remote locations.
Spare tube: For motorcycles with tube type tyre, it is essential to carry spare tyre tube. Generally rear tyre tube can be fitted in the front tyre in case of emergencies. So if you can’t carry two tubes, carry at least the rear one.
Tyre irons and valve key: Those with tubed type tyres will have to carry tyre irons to take the tyre off the rim and replace the tube. Since the tyre is tough to take off the rim and in most instances, can easily break the screwdriver, it is best to carry the tough tyre irons.
Foot/electric pump/tyre repair can: It is a good idea to carry foot pump, electric compressor or a tyre repair can (contains puncture repair foam and compressed air eg. Motul Tyre Repair), so that in case of a puncture, you can repair the puncture on your own.
Engine oil: While I would recommend that you carry at least half a liter of engine oil, however if your motorcycle’s engine oil consumption is minimal and you are really short of space, you can skip this.
Electrical tape, m-seal and steel wire: neither of these takes a lot of space and yet are crucial in case of a break down.
More comprehensive list of things to carry for motorcycles as well as how to prepare your motorcycle can be found here Preparing your motorcycle for Ladakh | BCMTouring
Medical kit: Which came with your motorcycle should be good enough for most small injuries, if it has expired or has been lost/used, then you can visit your local chemist and ask them to prepare a civil defence medical kit for you.
Other medicines: Carry Diamox if you aren’t allergic to sulfur drugs (helps reduce some of the symptoms of AMS) and medicines for headache, fever, stomach ache, cold and cough syrup. You can find more detailed list for medicines here, http://www.bcmtouring.com/forum/india-travel-basics-f54/first-aid-travel-kit-t31199/.
Sunscreen lotion: UV rays at high altitude can be quite damaging to the skin, even during the harshest of winter, so don’t forget to carry a good quality sunscreen lotion eg. Lotus Herbal with rating of SPF30 or higher.
Lip balm: Dry and cold weather of Ladakh will make your lips dry, which can get quite painful due to cracking and skin coming off, so make sure to carry a lip balm or Vaseline.
Mustard oil: Mustard oil can be used for moisturizing skin, putting it in your hair and for lubricating insides of nostrils, which can become quite dry and painful due to dry and cold winds of Ladakh.
Glucose: Carrying water mixed with Glucon C/D is a good idea while riding at high altitude, as it provides instant energy on the move, when your appetite is likely to be reduced due to AMS and at the same time, doesn’t act as a diuretic, like most caffeinated energy drinks. Carry couple of small packs with you, which you can mix in water, at the beginning of the day.
Couple of water bottles: One for plain water and another for Glucose. Make sure you are drinking at least 4-5 liters of water each day to stay hydrated.
Chocolates, biscuits and nuts: Carrying couple of chocolates, a pack of biscuits and few hundred grams of almonds, raisins and cashews is a good idea, as these provide instant energy and easy snack and don’t take up too much space.
Other essentials: Paper soap, toothbrush, toothpaste, comb and toilet paper. You can also carry your shaving kit and face wash if you have the space and need for these.
Riding Gear Essentials
Full Face Helmet with Clear Visor: A good quality full face helmet with clear visor is the minimum a rider should have, as it will not only protect your head, but also your face in case of a fall and also protects the rider from cold winds while riding.
UV sunglasses: As mentioned earlier, UV rays at high altitude can be quite damaging and this holds true for eyes as well. So having decent quality UV sunglasses (Fastrack ones are available for as little as Rs. 800) is quite essential, especially if you are riding early in the season, when mountain passes will have a lot of snow cover and sunlight reflecting from the snow can be even harsher!
Gloves: While a good quality riding glove like Cramster Tundra is recommended for a trip to Ladakh, it isn’t extremely essential if you are on a shoestring budget! Also it is better to buy a normal insulated gloves (like shown in the below photograph) than to buy those cheap riding gloves eg. Probiker/fake Alpinestars available on Ebay and at helmet shops, which neither offer protection in case of a fall, nor protect you from the elements. While leather gloves offer decent protection, most of the cheap ones let in a lot of air, while the one shown in the below photograph doesn’t.
Riding Jacket: Though not extremely essential, however good quality riding jacket will not only protect you in case of a fall, but also from the elements. Buying a mesh riding jacket with detachable waterproof and warm liner eg. Cramster Breezer will not only ensure that you can wear it while riding in Ladakh, but also for local rides in the summers of India. If you can’t buy a riding jacket, get a wind and water resistant insulated jacket (easily available at most camping stores) Leather jackets while offering decent protection, often let in air and don’t withstand rain all that well. If you are unable to find a water resistant jacket, get a normal one and a rain coat which is large enough to go over your jacket.
Riding pants: Once again, not extremely essential, but if you can buy one, it would not only protect you in case of a fall but also from the elements. Also it offers far superior protection than knee guards could ever hope to and at the same time, reduces the need to carry multiple jeans/pants. If you cannot afford riding pants, then make sure you get a rain suit lower, it will not only protect you from rain, but also from the cold winds of Ladakh, which are responsible for most of the coldness.
Shoes: While riding shoes is a great option and recommended. However if you cannot afford them, then at least buy army boots or better yet, trekking boots with ankle protection eg. Forclaz 500, which offer protection from the element and also give somewhat protection to the feet in case of a fall. Do not wear sports shoe, as these offer little if any protection in case of a fall and will likely let in enough air and water to make your feet go numb, while riding in Ladakh!
Jeans/pants: If you have a riding pant, carry 1 pair of jeans or pant. If you do not have a riding pant, carry at least two spare pairs.
Shirts/t-shirts/sweatshirt: carry at least 2-3 spare shirts/t-shirt along with a sweatshirt (if you have one). Leh has laundry services, where you can get your dirty cloths washed, so no need to carry a lot of cloths.
Sweater: Sweater can not only be worn while riding to add another layer of insulation, but it can also be worn in the hotel or while out in the town. Of course if you are traveling in June, July or August, you can skip it, if you have a good quality riding jacket with warm liner.
Cap: Buy a warm cap which you can wear while roaming at high altitude passes like Khardung La, where cold winds can lead to headache. A warm monkey cap will cost Rs. 150 or less and takes up little space and at the same time offers protection to head, forehead, ears and even neck.
Warm inners: If you are traveling in September or October or in case you do not have a good riding jacket and pant, carry a pair of warm inners (upper and lower) from the likes of Neva. These will provide quite a bit of warmth and in case of your legs, will likely be the only warm layer.
Underwear/vests: Carry at least 4-5 pairs of underwear and inner vests.
Socks: Carry at least 5-6 pairs of socks, thick cotton ones if you have warm and insulated boots and couple of woolen ones if in case your shoes let in air.
Handkerchief/towels: carry at least 4-5 handkerchiefs, a small hand towel and also a large one if you aren’t comfortable using towels provided by the hotel.
Pajama: Carry a pajama or whatever you like to wear while sleeping at night, so that you can sleep comfortably.
Slippers: Not really essential, but it is a good idea to carry these for usage in hotel or while loitering around town on foot.
Documents and IDs
Driving License: I think it goes without saying, carrying original motorcycle driving license is essential and legally required. IDP (International Driving Permit) in case you are a foreigner.
Registration Certificate: Carry your motorcycle’s original Registration Certificate/Smart card in your primary bag and carry an attested photocopy of it in your wallet or jacket pocket.
Motorcycle Insurance Papers: Carry original insurance papers in your primary bag and an attested photocopy of it in your wallet/jacket.
PUC Certificate: Carry the original PUC in your purse or jacket.
Medical Insurance Card: Carry your medical insurance card either in your shirt pocket or in your jacket i.e. do not place it along with money. Since in case of a serious accident, sometimes people steal wallets and money which can end up leaving you in a state where you need the insurance the most and do not have your insurance card!
Secondary ID: Carrying a secondary ID is a good idea to help establish your identity in case of a critical situation, so carry something like a PAN card, Passport or Voters ID Card as well.
List of important contacts: Phones can run out of battery, go bad or can be lost. So make sure to carry a hardcopy containing phone numbers of essential contacts.
Map and itinerary: Always carry a map, even if you think you aren’t going to use it. Since it can provide a good reference if you have to alter your plans. In case you are using one of the maps provided on BCMTouring, you can print your itinerary on the back of it to reduce the need of carrying multiple papers.
Electronics and electrical
Chargers for all the gadgets, cameras and mobile: Need I explain this?
Spare camera batteries: Carry at least one spare set of batteries required by your camera, since in cold environment, batteries can die quickly.
Car charger or battery bank: If you are an avid smart phone user and planning to log your route on your favorite GPS App, then make sure you are carrying car charger or a power bank with at least 4000-5000mAH capacity to keep your mobile phone running throughout the day.
3 socket Belkin power strip: While it is a little large in size, 3 socket Belkin Power Strip will not only keep your gadgets protected from power surges, but will also allow you to charge multiple devices simultaneously and at the same time, provide the crucial cable length to safely place your gadgets in rooms with idiotic power socket locations (sadly enough, many hotels have this).
Enough memory cards to last you the entire trip: Doesn’t matters if you are carrying a laptop or planning to burn CDs/DVDs at Leh, carry enough memory cards to cover your entire shooting duration in Ladakh. If needed, borrow from friends but don’t depend on laptop HDDs or worse still, virus infested cyber café computers to copy and save your photographs!
Torch: Not really needed if your mobile phone has one, but if in case it doesn’t, carry a small LED one.
While my recommendation would be to carry enough cash you need, to avoid wasting time withdrawing cash, it may not be possible for everyone. So please keep in mind that ATMs beyond Srinagar and Manali are only available in Kargil and Leh and they too are few with often long queues in front of them.
Mobile phone connectivity
Only post-paid mobile phone connections from other states work in Ladakh and even from these, only BSNL has presence beyond Leh. So unless you wish to be dependent upon STD booths, carry a BSNL/MTNL post-paid connection.
How to carry all these
Saddle bag: If you are traveling to Ladakh, it is a good idea to invest in a Saddle Bag, be it from Cramster or ViaTerra. Those tight on budget can go for locally made bags, but in that case, make sure it isn’t touching your bike’s exhaust and tyre, otherwise you will not even make it couple of hundred kilometers, before your bag and the cloths inside, go for a toss!
Tank bag: If your stuff can’t fit inside a saddle bag, then the best option is to buy a tank bag and use it, instead of carrying a backpack, which can leave you with a sore back and neck.
Day bag: carry a small day bag, which you can use to carry water and other stuff while sightseeing or out shopping.
How to pack: Pack everything in plastic bags, before putting them in your saddle bag. This way cloths do not get dirty and even if water gets inside the bag, it won’t likely ruin your cloths and other stuff. Also make sure to pack the essential tools, spares and food towards the top, so that they are easily accessible while on the road.