Camping, Cooking and Security

Camp Stove
A good stove is a must for the serious adventurer. Being able to make a warm cup of coffee in the morning or bowl of soup after a cold day of riding is priceless for me. Sometimes a smashed Clif Bar just can’t cut it. There are a only a few stoves on the market that run on gasoline and this MSR International is awesome! I originally had the Coleman Dual Fuel stove, but it was a pain to use and quickly jammed and stopped working completely. This stove works like a dream every time. It runs on regular gasoline, so you don’t have to carry extra fuel or deal with hunting down pressurized fuel canisters which may not exist in many countries.

Andrea has the REI 2+ Half Dome tent that is sadly no longer for sale. We both love it because it is large enough for 2 people and any gear we need to keep out of the rain. Some people do the hammock or bivy sack, but I’m partial to a space you can comfortably live in for a day if you’re trying to wait out bad weather. On a long overland journey, this will be your home, so it’s worth it to get a nice one. The tent below has great reviews, it’s cheap and sports many of the same features we like about our tent, but it has one great feature ours doesn’t, camouflage!

Bike Covers
Currently when stealth camping, we set our tent up behind the bikes and then put camo covers over the bikes. These covers are cheap, waterproof and pack down small. We also use the covers in cities to dissuade thieves.

We use a long, thick bike lock to secure the bikes to each other and a tree or lamp post when possible. It’s also handy that you can thread it through the arm of a jacket or through a helmet if you want to walk around the city sans gear. I additionally have a Xena alarm lock which I put on the front brake disc to call attention to anyone messing with the bikes or covers.

Sleeping Pads
A sleeping pad is a wonderful thing, I can’t imagine doing this trip without one. A good pad will keep the cold ground from leeching your precious body heat and also turns even rocky surfaces into something reasonable to sleep on. I have an REI mat that is insanely comfortable…but the valve design is poor and broke in a couple weeks. Because of that, I can only recommend the Therm-a-rest pad. I used to have a ProLite and while not as comfortable, it packs down nice and small. Personally I think it’s worth the weight and space to sleep comfortably in the dirt, you’ll save a lot of money over staying in hotels…and I actually pull my sleeping pad out in a lot of rooms to make old lumpy mattresses more cozy! Andrea has the 3/4 length Thermarest as a space/comfort compromise, you really only -need- a thick pad for your shoulders and hips, but I really like having a full pad.

Sleeping Bags
After much research and debate, Andrea and I each bought one of these Kelty Coromell sleeping bags. The semi-rectangular shape keeps you warm like a mummy, but the two can be zipped together to form one giant bag if you need to huddle together for warmth. The bag is good for as low as 20 degrees and the power down fill is super warm yet compresses down easily into a small stuff sack.

Dry Bags
I stuff everything into dry bags. You really want a waterproof exterior around anything before you strap it to your bike. We bought a bunch of the cheap Walmart Outdoor Products brand bags and their poor quality is already becoming an issue. These Seal Line ones aren’t that much more and the reviews are glowing, so I would definitely recommend trying them instead!

Other Bags
For items that need a more rugged bag, I use these bags from Klein tools. These are not waterproof, but are built to last. I write the contents on the outside with a permanent marker. Having my items grouped and color coded helps a lot for finding what I need.

Our Bikes and Mods

Note: If you buy anything through the Amazon links on this page, it doesn’t cost anything extra and we get a commission which helps us fund our trip!  Cool right?! Hope you enjoy our advice!

The Bike
Andrea and I both ride the DRZ400S, we each concluded, independently that it was the best bike for us and the riding we like to do. It’s light enough that we can pick the bike up alone (unless we put 100lbs of luggage on it hmm), capable of riding long miles while still being relatively nimble in the dirt.  Plus it’s the second most popular dual sport bike sold (after the KLR650), so there are lots of accessories floating around! Here’s a list of all the farkles and mods we’ve done to ours!

Mandatory Mods
There are a few things every DRZ owner should buy right away, the costs are low compared to the price of the parts they protect.

It is a fatal flaw of the DRZ that the inside edges of the shifter and rear brake are sharp and the walls of the engine case so thin. One tip over at no speed and you might find yourself stranded on a hillside with your oil bleeding out. For a bit over thirty bucks you can grab a pair of case savers and never have to worry about it again. ThumperTalk DRZ Case Savers Set

Likewise you need a solid skid plate, one that wraps around the sides of your engine a bit to protect your coolant pump, lest you smash it on a rock like I did on this ride and have to ride down a mountain with the bike off in neutral.

Other unfortunately delicate parts are the clutch and brake levers.  A pair of sturdy hand guards will protect your levers and hands too! Or take it a step further like Andrea and buy folding unbreakable levers. I have personally seen her eat it in the sand a half dozen times and so far, they live up to their names! These Cycra guards are my favorite, super sturdy. Be advised you need to get the clamps too to install!

Radiator guards are a good idea too, since they are fairly delicate and very expensive to replace. You can buy a set of guards or get a gas tank which wraps around the sides to offer better protection.

Gas Tanks
The stock DRZ400 tank is just 2.6 gallons, so a larger one is a must for any sort of real adventuring. Andrea and I both have 4+ gallon translucent tanks. The translucent is great because at a glance you can tell how much fuel you have left. I drew lines on mine for where the level is when I hit reserve as well. I like the added radiator protection the larger tanks provide, but you can go for the 4 gallon tank if you like the look of your stock radiator plastics…or if you like to wander far out into the wilds and never want to worry about gasoline, you can go all out with 7.4 gallon Safari tank.

4+                                       4                                      7.4

Andrea has a deep distrust for the DRZ stock petcock which I had at one time questioned…until mine failed in Alaska. I replaced it up there with another stock petcock which also failed, this time in Mexico, putting my engine in hydrolock and requiring an oil change before it could start. Now I have to unhook my fuel lines every time I stop or it floods my carburetor.  For most riders I would say just enjoy the stock vacuum petcock while it works (the one on my old bike never failed) and buy a new one if it croaks, but if you plan to take your DRZ out on a long journey like ours, replace it before you go or at least carry a spare. Andrea has a Pingel and swears by it.

Because we like to explore without the fear of being stranded without gasoline, Andrea mounted an extra 3 gallon Rotopax on the back of bike like a top box. We used the cheap mount, but the locking one is a good idea if you can swing it.


A quick note about the kickstarter kit for the DRZ400. Many of them say they are just for the DRZ400E, but this one works great on the DRZ400S as well, you just end up with some extra parts. The included instructions aren’t the most clear, but if you use them in conjunction with this tutorial and have reasonable mechanical aptitude, you probably won’t destroy your engine.

Andrea and I installed this kickstarter on my bike before leaving (under the guidance of a professional mechanic) and she really wishes we’d done it on her bike too. She’s carrying a set of motorcycle jumper cables, which are cheap, but difficult to use because battery access requires an entire unpack and removal of side racks and a plastic panel. Plus, if you are a solo traveler, you’ll need another bike to use them. My battery has died suddenly from plugging in too many electronics and being able to kick and go was way better than pushing Andrea’s bike up a steep driveway in a Mayan village so we could bump start it down.  I also switched to this little lithium battery before leaving. It’s great! Weighs nothing and holds a charge better too!

Lowering Links, Seat and Suspension
At 36.8 inches, the stock seat and suspension presents a challenge for 5’3 Andrea and 5’6 me. Luckily I bought my Alaska bike from a short guy who’d already had it lowered -and- had a lowered seat. Score! We put 1.75″ links in her bike and she shaved the seat down herself to get closer to the ground. You also need to slide your forks up through your triple clamps to evenly lower your bike, it’s a fairly easy mod and being able to touch a foot down when things get rocky is a major benefit.

1″ Links                        1.75″ Links

Both of us are running Dunlop D606 rear tires right now. We installed them for Baja because they kill it in the sand yet take highway miles well and wear rather slowly compared to most dirt tires. Oddly, the D606 front tire wears extremely quickly, so for people riding hard dirt I recommend the Maxxis Desert IT front instead.

When our current tires go, we want to find TKC80’s, which have rave reviews for trips like ours…how likely it is we get our hands on some in Central/South America remains to be seen, oftentimes here, you get whatever they have.

Performance Parts
We both installed Extended Fuel Screws from Kientech before leaving. It’s a great idea if you plan to be riding at ever-changing elevations. Adjusting the air/fuel mixture without it requires a very tiny screwdriver and very dexterous hands, with this one you can easily reach down and adjust it at any time if my bike starts backfiring in the mountains. The Kientech website seems to have issues pretty often, but give it a shot or better yet, just call them: 541-472-0835 They are a small family company and very helpful and friendly. Andrea ordered her Jet Kit from them too and they gave her a lot of helpful advice and wrote special instructions for what she was planning and included them in her kit. Now that’s service!

Andrea likes to tinker and tune so here’s a bunch of little things she’s done to get more power out of her bike. Every DRZ rider who takes her bike for a spin comments on how smooth it feels and how easy it is to lift the front tire, so if you’re looking for performance, here are some good places to start.
3×3 Airbox Mod
This popular mod enlarges the stock oval hole in the top of the airbox, to a 3″x3″ square for better airflow.

This is the Jet Kit you’ll want if you plan to do the 3×3 and rejet. It says it’s for the SM, but it’s the one you want for the modified S as well. It includes a 25 pilot jet and needle with more of a taper which she used with the stock 142.5 main jet in conjuction with the FMF full exhaust with Powerbomb header and K&N Air Filter for MAD POWER! The extended fuel screw will be very helpful for tuning as well.

Taillight, Turn signals and Mirrors
Andrea really likes to fall in the sand and break off all the sticky-outy bits from her bike. Now she has tiny integrated front blinkers and the UFO Taillight with integrated rear blinkers too. They aren’t very good in the visibility department, but at least they won’t break off. We replaced her mirrors with some crappy scooter mirrors, because it’s all we could find in rural Mexico. Turns out they offer superior visibility to the stock mirrors…hopefully she doesn’t break them off again!