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Happy Trails Blog

  • Packing A Dual Sport Motorcycle For An Adventure Ride - Ken Hunter Seminar

    Video Transcript:

    Today we'll be visiting Birds of Prey motorsports and Caldwell Idaho where my friend Ken Hunter will be doing a seminar on how he packs his dual sport for adventure rides. In the last 10 years, Ken has stacked up an impressive 200,000 miles of adventure including:

    • The Transamerica Trail
    • Tennessee to the Oregon coast.
    • The Continental Divide Trail
    • The Pony Express route
    • At least four trips to Alaska
    • And has even fit in some overseas adventure in Thailand needless to say he has some experience packing a bike for adventure.

    [00:00:47] My name is Ken Hunter. I started riding probably 12 to 13 years ago. I ran into Tim, literally, and at some point, he invited me on a dual sport ride into three forks Oregon. I went out and got a bike for it.  It rained, it snowed, and we ran in mud all day. My wife when I got home asked me how I like it and I told her the next day I was going to go buy a motorcycle, and that was sort of the start of it. Prior to that, I'd only ridden on a little XR200. I never had a road bike.

    [00:01:14] That was the beginning of it, and over the next 10 years, I did over 200,000 miles. So I've done the Trans America trail, if you are familiar with that, the Tennessee to the Oregon coast, Continental Divide Trail, I did the Pony Express route, did four or five trips to Alaska  - had to sit and count them. Then I had a chance to go over and ride over in Thailand and Laos on one trip, that was a very unique trip. But what all this stuff has really taught me is how to pack going as light as you can.

    I brought this bike this is my smallest bike at the DRZ 400 so it's relatively a small bike. Believe it or not, each pannier is around 20 to 22 pounds. This bag is under 18 even though it looks bulky, it's filled with bulky stuff but nothing heavy in there, and you've got about 8 pounds up here on the front. And that 20 to 22lbs includes the weight of the pannier. So that includes what you see here.

    One of the things I like to do, this is my tent on one side my tent fly the other. Tents usually, if it's rainy or if there's condensation in them, it's just nice to have them separate from the panniers so they stay up here. I don't care if they are wet. You know it keeps everything else and in my panniers dry so that's one of the reasons I pack it this way.   Starting up front this bag is actually wired into the bike, so I can charge my cell phone in there, I can charge my intercom. I carry a tablet nowadays.  I used to used to always carry books and you got to sit there in your tent with your headlight trying to read a book, so a tablet or notebook is just a great way to go. So I actually keep that in here, that can also be an that's in here as well to be charged.

    Also in here, I carry about six or seven power bars. They're my emergency food if I ever break down somewhere it's a snack I use to last two or three days with, so they go here and every year I throw them away. That's what I hope. I hope I never use them. That's what the intent is.

    I always carry a flint fire starters so I can always start a fire any place it's just one of the little emergency things that I like to do. This is basically all my riding gear, so it's bulky item but it's not heavy.

    One of the things I really push, I really do, is wearing no cotton. Everything is synthetic because cotton is a bulkier are harder and harder to drive when they get wet. So everything in here is easy to wash and easy to dry.

    All the comforts of home, I don't know if you have you seen these. This is a little chair... That little folding chair, it is a great little comfort.  I carry a strange thing... I carry an umbrella. I've been up to Alaska, and if you get a flat tire sitting there in the rain, all you have to do ist just to pop that open, and you stay out of the rain. When you're changing a tire having to work on your bike. It's just very lightweight still easy to carry with you.

    [00:04:13] For like I say whatever the weather is this scarf goes around your neck to keep yourself warm if you need it to, but this one is nice because it will hold about a quart of water.  So in warm weather, you can just soak this in in some really cold water, put it on, and it's good for about two hours. It's amazing how much colder this will keep you, it just really works very very well that way.

    I like these liners that you get with most riding pants. This one is Polartec, so it's a very warm material that's also lined with a wind shear fabric, so the wind can't go through, and that's always a big issue on the motorcycle.  Super warm...

    [00:05:02] I've been on rides up in Utah where my bike was actually frozen into the ground in the mornings and you know so you're talking 20-25 degrees, but with these on and an electric jacket, I stay very very comfortable with that. Again this is all synthetic fabric so if it gets wet it dries real quick, which is one of the real keys to it.

    ...Freeze out material is in here...I may not always take liners with me depending on the trip, but, long underwear always. I've ridden all the way to Key West Florida on the way back been in freezing weather so you know you have to dress for warm weather, but you have to be prepared for the cold weather.

    Tim got me hooked on a heated jacket.  Not a necessity but it is nice from the point of view that you're not stopping all the time taking off a layer or adding a layer all the time, it's just a lot easier to adjust.

    A pair of shoes... I packed like I was really going so this is all the stuff...

    [00:06:17] This is for the really cold, it's what they use for snowmobiling. So it's head gear that's thin on top so it fits all of the helmets very easy but it's heavy down below your neck. Great addition to stay warm.

    [00:06:33] Collapsible bucket. If you do trails like Transamerica trail, or you do like a trip to Alaska where you get into a lot of mud, particularly if you're a KLR person, it gets in the radiator. This is collapsible but you could fill it up and just rinse the bike off every night keep the mud out of the radiator and keep the bike somewhat clean. So it's one of those simple little things takes no space and it's really nice to have.

    [00:06:58] Tent stakes are in here. So that's basically all of is. You can see it's mostly bulky stuff, but the weight of the bag - this whole thing is less than 18 pounds so it's a pretty light setup.

    [00:07:10]  What I've done in this bag, I like the soft bags, so what I've got is a piece of masonite on the bottom so it won't drop over the tail light on me.

    [00:07:32] The side I always try to keep this handy and carry a first aid kit.

    [00:07:40] If you notice, this my sleeping bag, I keep them in loose bags, I do not like, when using a hard case or pannier, I do not like using compression sacks because they actually take up more room. You basically use the panniers as your compression sack - you just shove things in there and you can get them compressed.

    [00:07:57] This is an air mattress. It's called an X bed, it's the longest one they have, and it's a down filled air mattress. It's got a built-in pump in it, and it is the most comfortable thing I've run across to sleep on.

    ...This is my sleeping bag, it's a good down bag. But like I said I keep it in a nice loose bag and you can just shove it into the bottom of your pannier, and use that to fill the void... I can shove this right down in and just fill that bottom void.  

    [00:08:55] This side will be all my personal gear. So when I go set up my tent for the night I always carry a small duffle sack. It has all my toiletries in there, and it always stays in there. It's got a towel in there are the things I need.. that way it always going to go in the tent with me.  

    [00:09:16] A nice long...another good layering shirt. I keep this handy because I wear this in the morning when it's brisk,  I usually put this on under my jacket and then after that, I'll take it off put it in here.

    But everything else will be in color coded different colored bags. Shirts, pants, underwear, socks, so if I'm going into my tent, I can just pull out what I need and not have to unload the motorcycle every night.

    ...I carry one collared shirt in case I have to go someplace special. One thing I like to do is I love to stop when I'm on the road and find a church service somewhere. So I when I put this shirt on and these pants on, I'm halfway presentable, and it's a great way to meet people too. I mean I have had some great experiences that way.

    All my clean clothes will eventually end in this. You've got the black bag it's obvious what it is. So I take it off that's where they go to. Everything's kind of organized.  When I get to a point where I need to do a wash everything will be in that bag.

    [00:10:38] This is sometimes what I call my washing sack. I've been known to throw clothes in here and tie a strip of rope on it throw it in a stream somewhere to just let the water run through it. It's also a great way to put it on top of my bags back here to dry my clothes. So if it's really it's a nice sunny day, you can just put it there, for just a couple of hours on one side, then flip it over. So that's the intent of that.

    My Alaska trip, when I did that, I was five weeks camped every single night, never was in a motel...

    I normally do not cook on my trip. I enjoy going to a restaurant I enjoy meeting people, so you know I'll find a little local cafe or something... it's just a great way to go and do it. I put this in here just to show you that I do still have room enough for this one pot. This is multipurpose multi-fuel stove. So I can burn gas from the bike. I don't have to carry extra fuel with me. I could just siphon gas off the motorcycle fill this when I need to. I don't have to carry a canister or gas with me or the propane canisters.

    Water. And basically... I go through this fast but this is all just from these three items. Your only looking at about 60 pounds of gear. Is really what you're looking at.

    [00:12:04] I won't bother pulling my tent out, but like I have said, I have a tent on one side with a tent fly on the other side... it's perfect for doing that.

    The other thing on the bike I wanted to talk about is the electronics I've got here. We highly recommend a SPOT. I think most of the guys have them here. Personal beacon locator and it's got a 911 button on it. So if you really get into emergency and I do a lot of solo rides, so that's really just nice to have.

    [00:12:33] This is one of the older ones but I have a button on this that is set to go to my wife's cell phone and her laptop when I was riding, and it would tell her that I was off the road for the night, so she knew it was off and safe for the day so that would just give her a little comfort.

    One other thing I mentioned failed to mention is that I highly recommend is a liner for your sleeping bag. This is just a light Polartec liner. The reason I like this is if you're in your sleep bag on and off, it gets dirty.  If the liner gets dirty, you can just throw this in the wash any time on your trip, and you don't have to worry about keeping your sleeping bag clean. If you get someplace where it's extra cold, it will give you about another 10 degrees of warmth. If you're in someplace that is really hot, I sleep in just this so it gets pretty versatile... but more than anything else it's just to help keep your sleeping bag clean, and makes it really easy to do it.

    [00:13:26] Other than that you know the standard things here I carry are a multi-tool in here. Suntan lotion... is one of my big issues.  You know all the little comforts of home.. a little toilet paper... stuff like this.

    I always carry a spoon here. I typically eat maybe two meals a day on the road but I'll snack a lot, so I'll buy the little cups of fruit or things like that and just carry those with me,  and I can stop and have those on the trail.

    Tools. Typically when I get a bike I'll spend probably for the first couple of months servicing it, I'll go through the service kit that comes with the bike and add to as I need to or take away so that I have good tools. So basically on this bike, all my tools are on this side and these are nothing more than welding rod tubes. But they've actually got a gasket on them and this is spare parts from bailing wire, to duct tape, to instant glue, to all the little things you think you might need. I also carry a lot of hose clamps, hose clamps, are really handy.   Keep a medium size and the small size so if you need a big one, you put two or three together. But we like what we did with Bill's... He busted his whole front end up on his bike and we used the hose clamps to kind of clamp it all back together. Eric... when going down to Nicaragua on a trip the frame broke on his bike. So we took two tire irons put one on each side of the frame and put clamps up and down it,  and he rode it through two more countries. So just you know have things that can be versatile and with a little imagination, they can go a long way. 

    [00:15:11] Tim makes these, this is really great...I have my air compressor, tire irons, patch kits. I carry rope just so I can if I need a clothes line or if we need to keep Tim's bike from flying off a cliff, it becomes really handy... So this is an additional place to store things.. the nice part about this is that I can still get to this without taking the bag off. So it's really really handy that way. And then the other kind of thing odd thing I carry, is I actually carry a saw with me.

    [00:15:47] My kids bought me this probably 40 years ago... it's just a folding saw. You don't think much about needing something like this but when I made my first trip on the Transamerica Trail, they had a tornado go through part of Tennessee and some of the roads had downed trees. So instead of having to turn around, I just took some time to cut some of them and work my way through the area.

    [00:16:14] So. That's about it... You know the obvious thing is another rear tire tube.. a tube for the rear tire and a tube for the front, so I carry two tubes.

    Here are some links to some of the Happy Trails Products mentioned in this video: (click on FIND MY BIKE, for parts and accessories made specifically to fit your bike)

    Hard Motorcycle Luggage
    Soft Motorcycle Luggage
    Tires, Tubes, & Repair Kits
    Riding Apparel
    First Aid Kits & Survival Accessories

  • Free Pannier Packing Seminar On June 15th!


    Happy Trails, partnering with Birds of Prey Motorsports are pleased to announce a FREE Pannier Packing Seminar on Thursday, June 15th from 5 to 7 pm. This pannier packing demonstration will be provided by the Treasure Valley's Best Packer Ken Hunter. Join us for a fun night to help prepare for your road trip adventures! Free admission & snacks will be served! Tell your friends!

    This event will be held at Birds of Prey Motorsports located at:  721 Hannibal St, Caldwell, ID 83605

    Free Admission!  Refreshments will be served.  Please join us for a fun night to help prepare for your road trip adventures! 

    WHAT: Pannier Packing Demonstration By Ken Hunter

    WHEN:  Thursday, June 15th From 5-7pm

    WHERE:  Birds of Prey Motorsports located at 721 Hannibal St, Caldwell, ID 83605



  • Riding A KLR 650 4600 Miles Through Southern South America

    Robert Runyard used to be a test rider for Yamaha Motors (and Yamaha Parts Distributors) back in the 1970s.  In 1977 he borrowed an XS650 and rode it to Tierra del Fuego.   He decided back then that he really liked southern Patagonia and that one day he’d return and stay there.   He made good on that in 2008 when he quit his job as an engineer for Lockheed Martin, and started running tours on his small fleet of KLR650 bikes --  that just happened to include a bunch of hardware that Happy Trails sells.   Runyard’s  tours operated from Puerto Natales in Chile, to the end of the road in Tierra del Fuego, and up into the glacier parks in the Andes in Argentina.

    These days Runyard works more as a translator for the Chilean Antarctic Institute than as a tour guide.  But in early 2017 he was wondering if he might be too old to do a good, long adventure ride. So he took a ten-year-old battery off the tenders, stuck it in a 2006 KLR, and set off for what turned out to be one month and 7500 kilometers of riding.  Had it not been for competing commitments, it just might have been for two months.

    It started with a boat trip through the fjordlands, to reach the southern end of the Carretera Austral.

    Then a ride through the Chacabuco valley to the frontier with Argentina

    Up into the Andes again to cross back into Chile

    Then from Chile back into Argentina…and repeat…

    And then as the autumn rains set in around southern Chile, he took the Navimag ship home to Puerto Natales.

  • Happy Trails SL Rack & SU Rack Comparison

    KLR650-SU-m SU Rack on KLR

    KLR650E_SL_m SL Rack ON KLR


         How are Happy Trails SL Rack and SU Rack different?

    The SL Rack is designed to carry soft luggage, while the SU Rack can carry soft or hard luggage of any kind. In construction the SU Rack differs in that the loop tubing is 3/4" square steel as opposed to 5/8" round. But even more important every SU rack has a third mounting point for greater strength. Finally it has a rear bumper which ties both sides together. If you only want to carry soft luggage, then the SL Rack is for you. If you might want to carry hard luggage at some time, then you need the SU Rack. People use our SU Rack for every kind of hard luggage imaginable. They fix the luggage to the rack using our mounting puck system. Our mount kits make it a cinch to take your panniers on and off. Dimensions:

    • SL Rack: The SL rack loop is 8" x 12".
    • SU Rack: The L to R inner dimension is 10.5 inches and inner bottom to bottom of pem insert is 5 1/8 inches.  Although not usable the inner top of loop to bottom loop would be 7.5 inches. Thus overall outside measurements of the loop would be 12" wide and 9" tall since the loop is constructed of 3/4" square tube.
  • Optimal 1000 Adventure Motorcycle Ride Day 2

    Imnaha Oregon to Orofino Idaho via the Zumwalt Prairie.


    Starting the morning out in a deep canyon has its benefits. You have the sunshine but not the total brightness of the light. I guess you can say it is like a having a great stretch in the morning. You know the kind where you wake up easy, nothing harsh, no alarm clock, just start that easy wake up process and in the midst of it get a great stretch in. Arms stretched wide and head turned a bit,waking up from the inside out, nice and easy.

    The sun hitting the ridges, Imnaha Oregon The sun hitting the ridges, Imnaha Oregon

    As the bright sun hits the ridges and starts illuminating them,  you feel the day as a new beginning.

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  • Konkolville

    The Konkolville Motel is located in Orofino Idaho.

    Orofino Idaho is located just off of Highway 12 on the Clearwater River in Northern Idaho. Orofino is Spanish for “fine gold” and was originally a trading post set up in the 1890’s. The expedition of Lewis and Clark along the Clearwater is well documented in the book Undaunted Courage: Meriwether Lewis, Thomas Jefferson, and the Opening of the American West. Authored by Stephen Ambrose the book is a must read for exploring Idaho. Another resource is Discovering Lewis & Clark.

    In 1805 Lewis & Clark stayed nearby at what is now called “Canoe Camp” and built five dugout canoes for the trip downstream to the Pacific Ocean. They departed from Canoe Camp on October 7,1805.

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  • Optimal 1000 Adventure Motorcycle Ride Day 1

    Optimal 1000 August 2016 Day 1

    The adventures of two men on their KLR’s as they travel through Idaho, Oregon, Washington and back into Idaho.

    Day 1 would take us from Boise To Imnaha Oregon. I had traveled this route quite a few times and every time was a unique experience, some good and some bad. I had not traveled the true route since July 18 2011.

    day-1-route-overview Continue reading
  • How HT Panniers and Crash Bars Prevented A Serious Injury

    When our designers and engineers set out to create equipment or accessories for an adventure motorcycle, they start with the desires of the rider in mind – after all, all of us here at Happy Trails, are motorcycle enthusiasts ourselves.  We want to create products that we would want to use, products that are functional, reliable, easy to install, and strong enough to hold up to the rigors of off-road riding for years to come.  In short, we want to create products that are better than anything else currently on the market.

    Because of that focus, we often get feedback from our customers thanking us for our high-quality products, however, last month we received customer feedback describing a situation that we thought was amazing, and want to share.  In his letter, Nick explains how the HT panniers and crash bars he had added to his Triumph Tiger prevented a serious injury when they were struck by a car.

    Hey guys, A week ago, I was hit on my Triumph Tiger by a vehicle sliding sideways down the road after losing control.   I was traveling at about 20-25mph. I had my Happy Trails Denali Panniers and crash bars equipped on my Triumph Tiger.

    Thankfully because of the pannier, the car made impact with that first instead of my passengers’ leg. We walked away near scot-free and went about our day like nothing had happened. The pannier saved my passenger from what easily could have been a horribly mangled leg.  Thanks to your steel construction and tough rack mount a tragedy was avoided.

    So, thank you. Thank you for the high-quality products that prevented a serious injury, and saved my bike from any damage!

    We are grateful to hear that everyone was OK, and thank you Nick, for sharing your experience with us.

    As a company, we could make more money by outsourcing our manufacturing to other countries, and by using lower quality materials, however, we decided a long time ago we would employ members of our own community, and we make only the highest quality parts right here in Boise, ID USA. Receiving letters like this is a great reminder to us that that decision was the right thing to do.  

    car car2 car3
  • Happy Trails Panniers 101

    Happy Trails manufacturers panniers at our shop in Boise Idaho. We have five families of panniers and various Top Boxes. We also make custom aluminum panniers and boxes as well as some custom aluminum tanks.

    The five families of panniers are:

    • Teton 15" H x 18" L - Width options: 7.5" 33 liters, 9" 39 liters and 10.5" 45 liters
    • Cascade 18"H x 18"L x 7.5" width and 38.5 liters.
    • Denali: 20"H x 18"L x 7.5" width and 47 liters
    • Imnaha 12"H x 15"L x 5" width and 13.8 liters
    • Owyhee: 21.5-31.5L - 14" H x 16" L - Width options: 6" 21.5 liters, 7.5" 27 liters and 9" 31.5 liters

    Note: A 3/4" lip makes the opening on all boxes 1-1/2" smaller than box measurement. This lip provides a watertight seal and the strongest in the industry pannier.


    The Teton Panniers have two other options, Clif Cut and Exhaust Cut.

    The Clif-cut (shown below) is a term describing a 1.5" - 45 degree cut-out on the inside (tire side) of the pannier. It is designed for bikes with wide protruding exhaust  to create a more symmetrical weight distribution when panniers are mounted and loaded. For bikes with asymmetrical racks it keeps the load on the exhaust side box as close as possible to the center of the bike. This also allows for a wider lid opening.  For bikes with symmetrical racks the Clif Cut option can also be used on both sides.

    The Exhaust Cut  is a term describing a 1.5" - 90 degree cut-out on the inside (tire side) of the pannier. This option is used on BMW Oilheads.

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  • Happy Trails Adjustable Centerstand

    Who builds an adjustable centerstand for an Adventure Bike? Better yet is to ask the question "Why you would want one.?" That was the question we asked ourselves at Happy Trails quite a few years ago. The bike we were looking at was the Kawasaki KLR650. The KLR has two models since 1987; the “A” Model from 1987 to 2007 and the “E” Model from 2008 to 2017.

    We soon found through our R & D that the same centerstand did not fit the both models of the KLR, it was close but just would not work out.

    img_0034 KLR Centerstand with adjustment

    You can see in the picture above the built in adjustability.

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