15 Essentials For The Sturgis Motorcycle Rally

Don’t be caught without these key items on your trip to the Black Hills.

Harley-Davidson Sturgis motorcycle rally.
Sturgis is almost upon us. Are you ready for the ride and the rally?Courtesy City of Sturgis

The biggest and baddest motorcycle rally on the planet is coming up fast, and if you haven't already got your bike serviced and the itinerary planned, then, well, what are you waiting for? This year's official Sturgis Motorcycle Rally goes down from August 2nd through the 11th, and popular hangouts like the Buffalo Chip open even earlier, so if you’re making the long trek to the Black Hills, you’d best get moving. Whether it's your first or fifteenth trek to the majestic Black Hills, our list of essential items will help you get there safely and stay sharp once you’re settled. Learn from our past mistakes so you won’t get stuck on the road or in town while navigating the sights (and sounds) of Sturgis.

Abus Granit Detecto X-Plus Alarm Brake Disc Lock on white background.
A lock for your motorcycle.ABUS

Built-in alarms are all good and well, but call us paranoid; we usually add another layer of visible (and aural) security like this ABUS Granit Detecto XPlus 8077 motorcycle lock. The thing is a bulletproof brick of hardened steel, but it's easy to install on your brake disc, compact to pack along, and delivers an ear-splitting 100-decibel squeal if some lowlife messes with your machine. Multicolored LEDs tell you the lock and battery status, and there's even a built-in light on the key so you can see what you're doing. It's not cheap, but peace of mind is priceless, ain't it?

A sturdy knife or multitool.Jeff Allen

This one's of paramount importance, especially if you're traveling through desolate areas. Whether it's using the needle-nose pliers to bend back a cotter pin or the opener to crack a bottle of cold beer after a hard ride, the versatility of a knife/multitool can pay big dividends en route. We're big fans of the thoughtfully designed Leatherman tools and have been packing them along since our first trip to Sturgis back in the '90s. Our current favorite is the Leatherman Free P4, with its compact, easily accessed design that somehow manages to pack a whopping 21 tools within.

Wrench pulling nail from tire and repairing it.
Tire repair kit.Mark Zimmerman

Flat tires remain the most common cause of motorcycle breakdowns, so don't get stranded in the great wide open without a proper repair kit. The Stop & Go Tubeless Puncture Pilot makes a great option for a long haul thanks to its compact size, plus all in one case, it has everything you need to make an on-wheel repair and get you back on the road: a mini air compressor, the Pocket Tire Plugger, rubber plugs, valve hose, alligator clips, and adaptors. For more on the dark art of flat fixing, check this out.

Antigravity Battery on white background.
A portable power source.Antigravity Batteries

The middle of nowhere is no place to run out of juice when navigating the lonely roads of the Black Hills, so make sure you have some backup. Antigravity's 1-pound XP-1 Micro-Start PPS (that's personal power supply to you) makes it a great choice when space is at a premium, like in a motorcycle saddlebag. With 12,000 mAh of backup power capacity, two 5-volt USB ports to charge your devices, a 19-volt port for laptops, a 110-lumen LED flashlight, plus the ability to jump-start your motorcycle (though it's not meant for large-displacement V-twins), this thing can work out to be a real lifesaver when things go dark.

SHARKMOUTH Tactical MOLLE Hydration Pack Backpack on white background.
Hydration solutions.Amazon

Did we mention it's gonna be hot out there? You'll need to guzzle the H2O to keep yourself sharp on the ride or even if you're just shuffling along Main Street. We like hydration packs like this Sharkmouth Tactical Molle pack for the journey because it's lightweight, adjustable, and sports a 2-liter leakproof bladder and a large main pocket for your other on-road necessities. It's even got D-rings to attach more stuff, reflective stripes, and, best of all, rocks an American flag.

Saddlemen Tech Comfort on white background.
Saddle cushioning.Saddlemen

Sweltering in the traffic jam up Lazelle Street in Sturgis is a guaranteed recipe for swamp butt. If you're a high roller, you might want to dole out the bucks for Corbin's killer Fire & Ice saddle, but there are options for us regular folk too. Just remember that most motorcycle seat pads and cushions aren't model-specific, so measure your saddle. For a simple bring-anywhere solution, Saddlemen's Tech Comfort Gel Pads can improve blood flow and create some airflow channels to keep your butt just a little bit breezier, and best of all, you can remove it when it's not needed.

Nelson-Rigg Rain Suit on white background.
Rain gear.Nelson-Rigg

Every time I've been to Sturgis (that's around eight visits) the skies have opened up at least once. If you don't pack some rain gear—even the bare minimum—you can almost guarantee a soggy day at the laundromat, having to dry out your crap. Wicked downpours are a regular thing, and the rain finds its way into every crevice out here. Do yourself a favor and pack a set of rain gear, whether it's a compact two-piece from Nelson-Rigg or something more robust from Harley-Davidson's FXRG line to make your dance with Mother Nature just a little more pleasant.

Wolfman Luggage on white background.
A serious Dry Bag.Wolfman Motorcycle Luggage

See our previous item. It will rain on you at some point… So not only should you protect yourself from the elements, but it might be wise to do the same for the rest of your treasure trove. Stash it somewhere that will stand up to the unpredictable weather, like one of Wolfman's Expedition Dry duffel series bags, so you won't have to worry about moisture or mud out in the field. The bombproof 40-liter-capacity medium-size duffel features a simple roll-top design that you can tailor to your load, bringing waterproof protection to everything on the inside. The exterior can be easily wiped clean, and four compression straps will cinch down your load.

Helinox Compact, Collapsible Camping Chair on white background.
A comfy chair.Helinox

After a full day in the saddle, don't you want to plop your tired butt onto something more comfortable than a log? Luckily, Helinox has developed some of the cushiest compact chairs around, so you can pack along your own. The featherweight Chair One packs down to just 4 x 4 x 14 inches and weighs in at only 2.1 pounds. The sturdy frame and heavy-duty nylon material deliver a pretty damn comfy sitting experience, or at least one that's far superior to that fallen oak tree by the roadside. And it all folds up nicely into a little pouch to easily stow in your luggage.

Biltwell mug on white background.
Camp Mug.Biltwell Inc.

Sure a flask is cool, but a mug is way more versatile. Whether you're up making coffee or maybe sharing some whiskey with pals around the campfire, there's nothing like drinking out of a metal camp mug. This one from Biltwell is big enough to hold lots of sauce (or even food) and adds practically zero weight to your load. Every respectable road warrior needs a mug like this one, and Biltwell contributes 100 percent of the sales to the Semper Fi Fund. So you're helping a good cause.

Harley-Davidson Helmet Lock
Lock for your personal Items.Harley-Davidson

It's a given that there will be some lowlife looking for an easy score from unsuspecting rally goers—especially at a chaotic setting like Sturgis. So play it safe and invest in a basic lock like this carabiner-style unit from Harley-Davidson. It's built from tough aluminum and zinc alloy, and throws in a rubber cover for protection from the elements. It's small enough to fit in your pocket, but will go around just about any handlebar. Secure your helmet, jacket, or other gear, set the four-digit code (you choose any combo), and make any smash-and-grab crook think twice about snatching your stuff. Check it out here.

CruzTOOLS tool kit on white background.
Compact tool kit.CruzTools

On a road trip of this length and importance, you're bound to encounter a mechanical gremlin or two. For that there's the excellent CruzTool RoadTech H3 kit, which should be able to take care of most minor snafus (this version is Standard, for American bikes) or at least get you moving. You get a smart selection of combination wrenches, an adjustable wrench, mini ratchet and socket set, locking pliers, LED flashlight, tire gauge, hex and Torx keys, screwdrivers, and more. Add zip-ties and tape and you should be all set.

Wiley X Slay Polarized Sunglasses on white background.
A pair of glasses—or two.Wiley-X

The state of South Dakota doesn't have a helmet law, but it has some funky rules about eyewear. The statute states that you're required to wear eye protection unless your vehicle has a windscreen "to protect the motorcycle operator." At night, "a motorcycle operator cannot wear protective eye devices that are tinted or shaded to reduce the light transmission of the device below 35 percent." And yes, they will enforce it. You can take a chance with a pair of spendy photochromics, or just bring two pairs—our current jam is the Wiley X Slay for its high-def lens (with UVA/B protection) and lightweight frame that's comfortable with a helmet on. We pair those with inexpensive clear lens glasses from Global Vision Eyewear which also provide good wraparound coverage.

Kotap Adjustable 24-Inch Bungee Cords on white background.
Bungee cords and zip-ties.Amazon

This seems ridiculously obvious, but it's amazing how many riders forget these most basic items which take up hardly any room yet can get you out of plenty of jams both on the road or in town. These 24-inch adjustable bungees pack small, they're non-scratching, and you can use them for random MacGyvering or for dozens of packing and securing scenarios. Get a pack of 10 (two dozen if they're zip-ties) and hand 'em out like candy. Your friends will thank you.


And lots of it. Because your mom is right.