By Carla King
If you’re riding into Baja from the cool north of the Americas, how do you prepare for the hot, dry deserts of Nevada, California, and Baja? Here are some suggestions for preparing for your trip. A lot of this gear will work nicely for bicyclists and hikers, too.
- Cooling vests
- Cooling neck wraps
- Wicking socks
- Hydration packs
There are innumerable base layers for motorcyclists in such an array of prices and brands that I can’t recommend just one. Head over to Revzilla to shop with the help of their ratings and video reviews to help with your decisions. I’ve long been affiliated with Revzilla because of their selection, free shipping, knowledgeable staff (yes, you can phone them), and fair returns policy. Find them here.
Cooling vests for motorcyclists
I’ve been riding in deserts for over five years now and can definitely, positively, absolutely tell you that cooling vests really work. Just soak it in water for a couple of minutes, wring it out loosely, and layer it under your jacket.
There are a lot of brands to choose from. This Fly Racing Street Cooling Vest is nicely fitted, comes in black or silver, and costs only $39.95.
I own the HyperKewl Sport Cooling Vest at $46.99 which I now see comes in silver or pink, though my old one is blue. It’s much less fitted than the Fly Racing model above, but it does have a Mandarin (high) collar which keeps my neck cool, too, which the Fly doesn’t have. They also now offer a women’s version, pictured below, but I wear the men’s version in a small.
If you’re a Leatt fan, their higher-quality Coolit Evaporative Cooling Vest comes in at $75.00.
And check out this REV’IT Liquid Cooling Vest for $144.99. It uses the HyperKewl technology so the cost must be in the outer shell which is they describe as a 4-way 3D stretch mesh with a PU-coated ripstop lining. Is it the gear or the model? Anyway, you can see how nicely it fits over a wicking base layer.
Motorcyclists, you can shop in the bicycle stores for wicking layers, too. Here’s a cyclists guide to choosing base layers.
Cooling neck wraps
Add a cooling neck collar to a vest or use it alone. REV’IT makes a high-quality version designed just for motorcyclists. This can also help with sun protection on the back of the neck if the gap between your jacket and helmet needs covering.
Or just nab this cooling bandana from Amazon. It has the added benefit of stretching on over your head to provide a wet layer under your helmet if you like.
A wristband is not only a solution for cooling but also for protecting that gap between your glove and your sleeves. A pair of gloves with gauntlets would help but I prefer my short, perforated summer gloves, so I often get a sunburn right there, a little pink band on the wrist. It’s no joke. It chafes, and discomfort is distracting. Here’s a solution for the heat and the burn, on sale from $44.99 to $27.89. Act fast!
I started wearing motorcycle-specific compression socks to keep my circulation healthy after I noticed my legs were swelling after long rides. I’ve found the Moto-Skiveez brand works best for me. They’re made with 40% aloe fiber which is anti-microbial and anti-bacterial and I find them comfortable, even in summer. If you don’t want compression socks (they are a task to put on), good cooling summer motorcycle socks are made by REV’IT Tour Summer Socks ($39.99) and the surprisingly more affordable Klim Vented Socks ($19.99). Both companies also offer mid-thigh height knee brace socks for hot-weather riding, too.
You may already wear compression socks for travel or cycling. They actually improve bicycle performance so much that they’re banned from competitions.
Compression socks also lower your chances of getting vein thrombosis which can lead to pulmonary embolism, a condition that is not unusual in long-distance motorcycle riders, according to a UK study.
Hot weather motorcycle footwear
Adventure riders are passionate about their full-protection SIDIs or Gaernes or Formas no matter what the weather. But I find that cruiser riders are strangely ambivalent about footwear. If you’re cruising Baja, a great alternative to hiking boots or tennis shoes is offered by TCX. Check out their line of “air shoes” that offers protection, fashion, and keeps you cool. There are women’s models, too. They’re a smart investment.
Heavily perforated panels on either side of the full grain leather upper and a breathable inner liner provide plenty of air flow.
Summer motorcycle gloves
Short-cuff, perforated motorcycle gloves are what you’re looking for in a summer glove. These mesh gloves from Firstgear come in black but also yellow and silver, both of which reflect heat and have the added benefit of making your hand signals more visible to drivers. Find them in men’s and women’s sizing and they’re only $29.99.
Hydration packs for motorcyclists
I can’t stress the importance of a hydration pack enough. A lot of motorcyclists think that a couple of plastic water bottles in their tank bag is going to be fine. They’ll sip from it when they stop, they tell me. Well, there are very long stretches of Baja where you won’t want to or even can’t stop, and some of them are very hot. Don’t risk dehydration. You could even pass out! Pack two liters at a minimum and sip it throughout your ride, not just when you stop. Even if you’re only riding on pavement.
Any pack will do, but my favorite by far is my Geigerrig Hydration Pack, a pressurized hydration system that squirts water under pressure into my mouth or into my jacket (or at kids who gather around the bike, just for a laugh).
I own their standard model but this tactical model may appeal to you off-road riders who like to slide on your back every once in a while.
There’s a small interior zipper pocket on this one so if you need a pack with more organizer pockets, take a look at their RIG 700M model instead, which also comes in blue, red, and green. They have many other models to choose from.
Even with my SPF face shield down, I tend to get burned across the cheeks and nose. These fun tubes of zinc sunblock will also help you make friends wherever you stop.
Carla King has been writing about her motorcycle adventure travels since 1995. You can read about her misadventures in North America, China, Europe, India, and Africa at CarlaKing.com and also visit her Baja ADV channel.
About the author
Carla King has been writing about her motorcycle adventure travels since 1995. You can read about her misadventures in North America, China, Europe, India, and Africa at CarlaKing.com. She’s been writing about motorcycling, adventuring, and safety for Discover Baja since December 2015. Find all her posts here.