RiderZone Recommends: Complete list of MUST HAVE items for your next Ladakh roadtrip

By | March 10, 2016

This article makes the following assumptions:

  1. You are a sensible, non-moronic person who wants to live
  2. You are riding your own motorcycle rather than renting one. It doesn’t matter if it’s a TVS XL Super Heavy Duty or a Kawasaki H2, it’s cool as long as it’s not a rental
  3. Your bike has tubeless tires
  4. You are doing this trip sometime between late June and early October
  5. You are not riding a Royal Enfield

If you don’t satisfy these conditions, go somewhere else.

Also, if you buy any of the items from Amazon using the links that are in this article, I get a certain part of that money. So, you know, buy 4-5, of everything.

Here’s my list of recommended items to carry on a Ladakh roadtrip, while staying as minimal and space-saving as possible. The list is divided into sections and sub-sections to make the whole idea more understandable. I’m sure some people will find this inadequate, and others will find it a bit too much. I don’t give a shit.

Ladakh Roadtrip – Items for the Rider:

These are the items meant to keep the rider safe, comfortable and alive.

Protective Gear

1. Full-face helmet:

  • Must be DOT/ECE approved, and costlier than the money you wasted on your last mobile phone
  • Must be a proper fit, which means it should be tight enough to squeeze your cheeks in, but not so tight it gives you a headache
  • Pin-lock visor is recommended as it prevents fogging. If you can’t afford pin-lock, open your visor a few centimeters to prevent fogging
  • Carry 2 visors, dark for daytime and clear for night
  • Double-D ring arrangement for securing the helmet is recommended

Recommended Helmet brands between 5,000 – 10,000 Rupees:

  1. SOL. Read the review of SOL SL68SII Metal Man Helmet here.
  2. MT

What NOT to buy:

  1. Half-faced, modular, or any other type of helmet except full-face. You will sacrifice a bit of comfort for a lot of safety
  2. Cheap-ass helmets from Vega, Studds. You’ll want to throw yourself off the edge with your brain frozen shut
  3. Balaclavas. I never use one, and don’t really understand the purpose. I don’t think they make helmets any comfier, or MotoGP rides would wear them, and they also don’t offer much protection against cold. What they do for sure is fog up your visor much more. Some people believe that balaclavas prevent hair loss, but I’m generally more concerned with my head being attached to my body, rather than there being a few more hair on it

2. Riding jacket:

  • I recommend buying a mesh jacket rather than a textile one. You’ll spend at least 50% of your Ladakh riding in hot weather conditions, and a touring jacket will roast you inside out
  • With a mesh jacket, you can easily ride in hot conditions, wear a rain jacket on top in rainy conditions, and wear thermal wear under it in cold conditions
  • No Cramster, because of their unbelievably shitty armour, no DSG because of the lack of a proper mesh jacket in their lineup, and no Zeus because of bad armour quality
  • Always go with a jacket that comes with either Knox or SAS-Tec armors, including in the back. Don’t buy jacket with foam at the back just because it looks good. Spine is kinda important
  • It’s always a good idea to buy a jacket that has a zippered attachment to the pant, but that’s generally hard to achieve if both items are from different brands
  • Don’t worry about rain/thermal liners, if you get them, awesome, if not, you can always buy Rupa or Amul
  • Don’t buy too tight a fit, remember that a layer of thermal wear has to go under

Recommended jackets:

  1. TBG ADVBreed jacket. Cost 7950 bucks. Level 2 SAS-Tec armors for shoulders, elbows and back. Not as well ventilated as some other jackets in the market, but recommended because of level of protection. Order here.
  2. Spartan Hyperion jacket. Cost 10,999 bucks. Level 1 Konx armors for shoulders, elbow and back. Extremely well ventilated with good protection. Click here for details from Spartan’s website. Click here for a trusted user review

What NOT to buy:

  1. Alpinestars Fending Air jacket. Read the review here
  2. DSG Triton, here’s why
  3. Any jacket that doesn’t reach till just above your dick/vagina. Short jackets will not be able to save your skin in all situations

3. Riding Pants:

  • As with jacket, it’s recommended to go with a mesh pant rather than a textile one, because a mesh pant is much more usable over a wide-variety of weather conditions. Having said that, legs don’t sweat as much as armpits do, so even a badly ventilated pant will not feel that uncomfortable
  • Again, only go with pants that come with good protectors, both for the knees and the hips
  • So no Cramsters due to bad armors, and DSGs because they don’t really have a pant in their lineup, or Zeus because here’s why.
  • Again, good idea to buy a pant that can be attached to your jacket via a zip, which prevents the jacket or pant pulling away from your torso and exposing your skin to the ground in case of a slide
  • Don’t worry about rain/thermal liners. If you get them, kick-ass, if not, steal them from Rupa
  • Don’t buy too tight a fit, remember that a layer of thermal wear has to go under

Recommended Pants:

  1. Rynox Advento Pants. Cost 7450 bucks. Recommended because it’s the only bloody pant out there with Knox hip armors. Ventilation may not be too awesome. Click here to know more from the Rynox website
  2. Spartan Proteus Pants: Cost 7150 bucks. Recommended because of Knox knee armour and brilliant ventilation. Hip protectors suck though. Click here to know more from the Spartan website

What NOT to buy:

  1. Spartan Odysseus pants, here’s why.
  2. Alpinestars AST-1 waterproof riding pants because they suck
  3. Alpinestars Stricker pants because they suck

4. Riding Gloves:

  • You’ll need to carry 2 types of gloves for a Ladakh trip, full-gauntlet leather gloves for the hot sections, and waterproof gloves for the cold/rainy sections
  • You can’t use leather gloves in rain or cold, and you can’t wear waterproof winter gloves in the Sun, so there’s no option here
  • Never use short, textile gloves for long trips. The amount of comfort they might give is nothing compared to the amount of discomfort you might have when your wrist is broken
  • Don’t try to use simple winter gloves for Ladakh. The rain is ice-cold, and your fingers will die, followed by you. You need proper waterproof winter gloves
  • Don’t try to use surgical gloves over your regular gloves in the hope of making them waterproof. It doesn’t work, I have tried
  • Always put your riding gloves under your riding jacket and not the other way around, if you want to maintain proper use of your hands

Recommended Waterproof Gloves:

  • Alpinestars Apex Drystar gloves. Cost 6250 bucks. Yes it’s not cheap, but you can thank me later when you can still use your fingers after 7 hours of riding in hail. Click here to know more from DSG website.
  • Spartan Poseidon gloves. Cost 2950 bucks. I’ve never used them, but there’s not much else to choose from. Click here to know more from Spartan website.

Recommended full-gauntlet Leather Gloves:

  • TBG Sport Gloves. Cost 4400 bucks. The best value for money glove you can buy, review here.
  • DSG Primal Gloves. Cost 2999 bucks. Tried and tested product, click here to know more from the DSG website.

What NOT to buy:

  1. Fat, non-motorcycle specific gloves. You’ll not be able to use your hands properly, and when you are riding next to a 1000 foot ravine, throttle control is a bit useful
  2. Probiker gloves, here’s why
  3. Alpinestars SMX-2 AC gloves, here’s why

5. Riding Boots:

  • You’ll need to buy full-length riding boots that are waterproof for this trip. Ventilated boots would be useful till the time you actually hit Ladakh, but it’s impossible to carry 2 pairs of riding boots at the same time
  • Waterproof riding boots can get hot, and there’ll be sweat collection near your feet, which’ll smell like some rotten turd had sex with a sewer rat, but it’s not too bad
  • I’d recommend NOT buying MX boots. They are too rigid at the ankle, too fat at the toes, and too high near the knees. This means you look like there’s a stick up your ass when you are walking, gear shifts are a pain, and the knee protectors from your riding pant interfere with the boot
  • Most waterproof riding boots will protect you from cold by default

Recommended Boots:

  1. TBG Full-length Waterproof riding boots. Cost 8850 bucks. Everything that you need at a pretty reasonable price. Click here to know more and order
  2. Joe Rocket Sonic R boots. Cost 12500 bucks. Available from Performance Racing Store, Mumbai, but their website never works. A rather bland looking boot that does the job well.

What NOT to buy:

  1. Tarmac Venom riding boots, here’s why
  2. Spartan Zeus boots, here’s why
  3. Any short boot, or just above ankle boot. It makes no sense to go 50 or 70% but not 100%
  4. Gum boots, believe me, I tried. Gum boots are waterproof for sure, but that thin rubber offers no protection at all against cold. I was wearing 6 pairs of socks on top of each other, and still feeling cold. Plus, they are extremely uncomfortable

All-weather Gear

1. Thermal Top:

Buy anything from Rupa or Amul or Monte Carlo if you have money. Cost goes from some 800 to 2000 bucks. Cheaper version are thicker, that make wearing your jacket on top a bit more difficult.

2. Thermal Pants:

Again, Rupa, Amul, Monte Carlo whatever.

3. Scarf:

A small scarf to put around your neck. It’ll not only save your neck from cold, it also reduces wind noise inside your helmet by a significant amount. No branded products required.

4. Rain Coat and Rain Pants:

Buy any good quality one from Duckback or Quechua, cost would be something like 2000 bucks. Internal rain liners on jackets/pants never work perfectly, and an external rain pant prevents water from getting inside your riding boots

5. Thermal Socks:

In extreme cold, even thick waterproof boots will not help you against the chill. A single pair of thermal socks can do wonders. Carry lots of pairs though, because they’ll smell like shit after a few days

Medical Supplies

1. Diamox (altitude sickness AMS):

Start taking 1 each day, 3-4 days before the trip starts. Diamox takes time to work, just popping one in before climbing Khardungla will not do squat.

2. Nausea/Vomiting medicine

3. Diarrhoea medicine

4. Allergy medicine 

5. Fever medicine

6. Basic first aid items

  • Band-aids
  • Antiseptics
  • Cotton
  • Bandage

7. Sunscreen

8. Pain Killer medicine

9. Muscle relaxant sprays, like Moov or Volini

10. Elastic Crepe bandage

Ladakh Roadtrip – Items for the Motorcycle:

These are the items to keep your machine running happily and not attempting to kill you. All luggage options here are soft, hard luggage and panniers are too costly and too problematic, at least based on the options available in India right now

Riding Luggage

1. Saddlebags:

  • Saddlebags are the most spacious and most comfortable way of carrying luggage, without the side-effects of losing your pillion seat
  • You will have to be careful though of using saddlebags on bikes with monoshocks. It’s highly likely the bags will rub against the tires and explode. Put a temporary metal bracing to prevent that from happening, or make a clever structure out of bungee cords. The aim is to keep the bags away from the tire
  • Saddlebags massively increase your bike’s width, so remember they are there when you try to squeeze yourself between those 2 trucks
  • Like any piece of riding luggage, saddlebags need to be fastened properly to the bike or you’ll be in major trouble

Recommended saddlebags:

  1. Rynox Nomad V2. Cost 4699 bucks. One of the most spacious saddlebags out there, with good structural integrity and build quality. Read the review here.

What NOT to buy:

  1. Cheap fake saddlebags from flea markets. They suck, and you’ll understand that when it’s too late
  2. Cramster saddlebags, nothing Cramster makes is of good quality. The only reason they sell is because they were the first
  3. Dirtsack Frogman. The idea behind the bag is great, but the execution is pathetic, too much of a pain to be able to use on a trip

2. Tailbags:

  • Tailbags give you that extra space when saddlebags are not enough.
  • Obviously, you can’t take a pillion with tailbags
  • Tailbags need to strapped on with much more dexterity as against saddlebags, because a badly mounted tailbag will slide forward and ride your ass, or worse, slide backwards and wedge itself between the tail and the tire
  • Tailbags will make your mounting/dismounting from the bike quite a challenge, especially if you are short

Recommended tailbags:

  1. Dirtsack Tailpack Standard. Cost 2450 bucks. Review here.
  2. Rynox Hawk. Cost 2999 bucks. It’s a bit too big, and too high for my liking, but if you have just too much stuff or the trip is too long, it’s useful. Click here to know more from the Rynox website.

What NOT to buy:

  1. Regular duffel bags/trekking bags and attempt to attach them to the bike using bungee cords. It’s too risky, and too uncomfortable
  2. Hard tailboxes. Not only are they too likely to dislodge themselves off the bike in Ladakh terrain, they are too costly, and much less spacious than soft tailbags. On top of that, having a bike with a light front is not really ideal in those conditions

3. Tankbags:

  • Tankbags are useful for quick access items, like cameras etc. At those altitudes, getting off the bike is a giant energy sapping task. Having a camera in your tankbag means you can click photos by just stopping on the side
  • Tankbags can interfere with steering, so you’ll need to be extra careful on those Gata Loops
  • Tankbags can obscure the speedometer, bruise your balls, and just be a general irritation. Many people don’t like them, don’t use them if you don’t
  • If you do want to keep delicate items like cameras in your tankbags, make sure they are well cushioned. It might get bumpy in there

Recommended tankbags to buy:

  1. Rynox Optimus tankbags. Cost from 2750 to 3250, based on the mounting mechanism. Don’t buy the suction version, it’s useless. If you have a metal tank, go for the M version, if you have a fiber/plastic tank, go for the T version. Here’s the review.

What NOT to buy:

  1. Cheap fake tankbags. They’ll scratch your tank and create giant problems when you don’t need them
  2. Rynox Navigator tankbag, it’s an entirely useless product, you are better off burning your 2100 bucks, or swallowing them

4. Hydration Packs:

I don’t recommend buying Hydration Packs. Drinking water is extremely important in Ladakh if you don’t want to vomit like a baby, but carrying any weight on your shoulders for such a long time will invariably lead to back pain

5. Waist Pouches/Thigh Bags:

I don’t recommend buying Waist Pouches or Thigh Bags. You simply don’t need so many different places to put your shit, and they interfere with riding pleasure

6. Rain Covers:

Never try to cover your luggage with that blue tarpaulin sheet, it’ll act like a giant wind sail and create major problems. Always use the rain covers that come with the bags, they are awesome

7. Luggage Carriers:

I don’t recommend putting luggage carriers on bikes, they are far more costlier than soft luggage, make your bike much heavier, and rattle like shit, apart from being entirely useless

8. Fuel Carriers:

You can carry extra fuel in either jerry cans, water bottles, or purpose-built fuel bladders. Here’s the review of a fuel bladder system that you can buy online. Most people will need to carry 5-10 liters of extra fuel in certain sections of Ladakh, so plan accordingly.

9. Phone Mounts:

Phone mounts are extremely important, not much for the Ladakh region because you don’t really have many options there, but for areas like Jammu, Srinagar, Chandigarh etc. which you’ll have to cross in order to reach Ladakh.

Recommended Phone Mounts:

  1. RAM Mounts: Although they are costly and don’t provide any protection from the elements, RAM mounts are THE best investment you can make as far as phone mounts go. You can buy them from here
  2. Rynox mounts: You have many different options for different screen sizes, and they claim some level of water resistance, although I won’t really recommend using them in extreme rain. Also, the touch sensitivity gets fucked up with these mounts, along with heating issues and glare problems. You can check out the range and buy from here, if you plan to be stuck in rain for long

What NOT to buy:

  1. Cheap phone mounts on Ebay/Amazon that cost 300 bucks. I used one of them during a highway run, and the phone fell off. They are strictly usable inside city limits, speeds less than 60 kmph

Motorcycle Tools

1. Electric air pump:

  • You can’t really expect to use foot pumps in the thin air of Ladakh, you’ll faint and die
  • Buy a good quality foot pump from Coido or other reliable brands
  • You might have to put a car cigarette lighter charger on your bike to use these pumps, or put them directly on your battery
  • Keep your bike running to prevent the battery going dry

Recommended air pumps:

  1. ResQTech Micro Tire Inflator: Check it out or buy from here: ResQTech Micro Tyre Inflator
  2. Coido 3326: Check it out or buy from here: Coido 3326 Electric Tire Inflator Air Compressor Pump for Car Tyres (12V)

What NOT to buy:

  1. Cycle pumps/foot pumps/hand pumps. You’ll not have the energy to use them
  2. Pumps that are too heavy, too big. Space conservation is important

2. Tubless Tire Puncture Repair Kit:

  • Try it once before the trip, using the puncture repair kit is quite a energy-sapping task, you don’t want to do it in the mountains for the first time
  • Don’t buy too many of the strips in one go, they become dry and useless after a few months

Recommended kits to buy:

  1. MegaMind Car Bike Tubeless Puncture Kit
  2. Autowizard Car Bike Tubeless Tyre Puncture Repair Kit

What NOT to buy:

  1. Combo kits with too many of the strips, you’ll never be able to use them all

3. Tire tube for both front and rear tire in case of rim bending/cracking

4. All tools needed for the following purposes:

  • Tightening the chain
  • Removing the front tire
  • Replace gear lever
  • Replace rear brake lever
  • Replace front brake lever
  • Replace clutch lever
  • Replace clutch cable
  • Replace brake pads

Plus the following generic tools:

  • Double-sided screwdriver
  • Pliers
  • Electrical tape
  • Wide duct tape
  • Allen key set

It’s recommended you familiarise yourself with these basic repairs before heading out for the trip. In any case, having the right tools is useful even if YOU don’t know how to use them. Someone else can.

5. Tool Roll to keep all the tools safe and sound.

Motorcycle Spares

One each of the following items:

  1. Clutch cable
  2. Accelerator cable
  3. Clutch lever
  4. Gear lever
  5. Front brake lever
  6. Rear brake lever
  7. Spark plug
  8. Headlight bulb
  9. Brake pads. Front must, rear optional
  10. Extra bike key stored somewhere safe in the luggage

Each of these liquid items stored in plastic bags to prevent leakage:

  1. Engine oil
  2. Chain cleaner
  3. Chain lube
  4. Loctite, for those few important bolts that need to remain tight, or the whole fucking bike if it’s an RE
  5. Brake fluid

Ladakh Roadtrip – Misc Items:

Official Documents

  1. Driving license
  2. Identity proof – Voter ID/PAN
  3. Bike’s registration certificate
  4. Bike’s insurance
  5. Bike’s pollution certificate

Other random items:

  1. Dark goggles for riding in day
  2. Clear goggles for riding at night
  3. Ear plugs 15-20 in number. Buy here: 3M NRR 29DB 1110 Ear Plug Pack Of 10
  4. 10-15 foot long rope to tow the bike in case of catastrophic failure
  5. Torch, buy here if you also want a Taser free: Self Defense Safety Stun Gun Cum Flashlight Torch
  6. A bottle of hand sanitizer. Buy here: Dettol Instant Hand Sanitizer – 50 ml
  7. Toilet paper, extremely important. Buy here: Status 4-in-1 Economy Pack – Embossed Toilet Tissue Rolls – Each Roll 10 Meters x 2 Ply (2.00)
  8. Winter jacket
  9. Winter sweater
  10. Winter lower
  11. Winter cap
  12. Tonnes of socks
  13. 10,000 bucks cash. ATMs can be a major problem
  14. Phone with Post Paid sim. Pre Paid sims may not work
  15. Battery pack, electricity is patchy over there
  16. 2 bungee cords, buy here: Mototech MT0001Bk60 Bungee Cord with Hook
  • Mahesh Mahajan

    Hey Akhil – Thanks for a detailed article. I have an Rjays Octane II jacket which has only CE Approved body armour in shoulders and elbows and removable Hi-Density foam back protector. Is there any way I can upgrade to SAS-Tec back protector and elbow guard?

  • Ahmad Naik

    Okay – Just one question.

    I’ve tried reading up on this – but the community is very split – Full Gauntlets go under or over the jacket?

    Currently I keep them over cause I’ve heard over the jacket is preferable if you fall and slide.

    • Akhil Kalsh

      Full gauntlets always go over the jacket, what I’ve mentioned here is specifically for winter/rain gloves worn in Ladakh. If you wear them over the jacket, water seeps in.

      • Ahmad Naik

        Okay – Makes sense. Thanks.

  • shaggy

    Bro, I’m a little confused. Your DSG Triton jacket review was glowing with praise and concluded with a special recommendation for Ladakh. Also the Tarmac Venom boot was deemed suitable for Ladakh if not much else.
    So why are they in the “What NOT to buy” list?

    • Akhil Kalsh

      Because to reach Ladakh you have to ride through a lot of heat in Delhi and Chandigarh. You’ll be half dead before to make it to Ladakh.

  • Kshitij

    Hi Akhil,

    That’s one very well thought out list there…thank you. Who knows, if the Himalayan performs well, you just might have to eliminate assumption#5 from the top of your article 🙂

    With regard to luggage, what’s your view regarding the dirtsack frogman tailbag, in tandem with (say rynox) saddlebags?
    I understand the reason for not taking the frogman saddlebags, but a tailbag that’s 100% waterproof may come in more than handy in ladakh, especially if you happen to have the misfortune of having a fall plumb in the middle of a water crossing! (once bitten.. :p )

    • Akhil Kalsh

      Nopes, the Frogman bags suck. The idea behind them is good, but the execution is fucked up. You have waterproof rolltop bags that fit inside a weird fabric exoskeleton thingy. Not recommended.

      • Kshitij

        Thanks Akhil !
        I guess dry bags within regular saddle/tail bags is the way to go..
        Cheers

  • Harsh Negandhi

    Wow. excellent detail Akhil..

    One more thing, if i am not missing. to get a USB charger to charge your Mobile / iphone etc.

    • Akhil Kalsh

      Isn’t that a bit too obvious? 🙂

      • Harsh Negandhi

        welll yeah.. since you have mentioned in so much detail.. how can i miss this..and i have ordered bolt from your good review 🙂

        • Akhil Kalsh

          Awesome, tell me how that works out for you.

  • Suraj Dutta

    Guess riding is a costly business. I have to be a fucking millionaire to embark on that road trip to Ladakh. Travel is definitely not for lowly life like us 🙁

    • Akhil Kalsh

      LOL, dude this is not a recommendation for people like you who break locks and do home invasions to sleep for the night 🙂

      • Suraj Dutta

        Ha-ha, humble invitations to you to enjoy the experience in my next trip 🙂

  • Virus85

    That’s perfectly sum-up list.. few pointers should also be considered

    Make sure you carry enough memory card’s (Phone / Camera / Action Cam)

    Map of Ladakh region (Google Ramky Map – Simple one does the work)

    Replace cotton Tee’s with DryFit ones – they dont take much space / dry out quickly (No need to buy expensive ones too – try Black Panther brand)

    Carry enough under garments / disposable ones (If your are comfortable)

    Riding Gear / Helmet – Make sure you have ridden some distance before your trip… Make sure you break-in to new stuff that you buy before the big trip.

    Although Clear visor is most recommended.. Sunlight in Ladakh gets too much so carry tinted visor or sunglasses or best one get helmet with built-in glasses

    Multipurpose Knife is always handy in such trips so do carry one

    I prefer to carry mix-dry fruits as backup food… i carry some toffee too just in case i come across kids 🙂

    • Akhil Kalsh

      Thanks for the inputs, agreed with each one!

  • rishabh kaushik

    Thanks a ton mate!

    BTW….Balaclava helps if you usually sweat a lot. It’s function is same as that of socks in your boots.

    And that power bank in the second last link is a fake product (not genuine Mi), kindly avoid buying that..

    • Akhil Kalsh

      🙂 Will remove that one.