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alan katkich

alan katkich

Motorcycle Camping: Your Ultimate Guide

The outdoors. It is something that motorcycling has given me a love for. Some of my best memories are of my motorcycling camping trips. The freedom I feel when I’m motorcycling camping is unmatched. Being disconnected and simply enjoying life by a fire with my bike beside me is true happiness.

 In this ultimate guide to motorcycle camping I will share with you the things you need to know and that I’ve learned over the years. 

If you are traveling for many days or weeks, motorcycle camping makes it more economical. Maybe you love camping and would like to learn how to merge your two passions. Whatever your motivation, read on and discover some tips and insights that will help you get started. 

Meat Cove. Nova Scotia Canada

The Type Of Bike You Ride

You can motorcycle camp on any bike. Moped, sport bike, touring bike it doesn’t matter. The only difference is how you will need to pack it. Each bike will have different space and weight allowances. 

If you are on a touring bike that already has bags, you are pretty much good to go. You can fill your cases with the essentials (which we will get into in this article) and head off on your camping trip.

For bikes without luggage, a little planning is necessary. We will show you how to get it done efficiently. 

Luggage 

I recommend investing in motorcycle specific luggage. They will cost a bit more than using your old gym bag. For around the cost of one night in a decent hotel you can get a rugged, waterproof, dust proof bag that should last years. Having your stuff get soaked in an unexpected downpour or having your zipper fail on your old beat up bag can ruin your adventure. 

Bag size 

Being a sport rider myself, I like to pack as light and small as I can. Part of the fun of motorcycle camping is getting out on some nice roads that I normally do not get to. If my bike is loaded down and packed high, it will affect how I’m able to ride and enjoy the roads. Touring and ADV bikes can handle a bit more payload without it affecting their handling too much. It is still a good practice to go light. It makes the riding more enjoyable. Your fuel economy will be better as well.

With that said, I stick to anywhere between a 30L to a 50L bag. 

I can pack all my motorcycle camping gear into a 30L bag no problem If I’m camping for a weekend. On weekends trips I don’t bring too much extra clothes.

For more extended trips I fit everything I need into a 50L bag. I may use a tank bag for a few extra odds and ends but this typically gets the job done. To help in achieving this there are some clever pieces of essential gear that can really help you keep the size and weight down. We will get to that later in the article. 

Let’s look at the simplest types of luggage for your bike to get you camping 

50L roll top duffle dry bag on a week long camping trip

Tail packs 

Tail packs mount to the back pillion seat. My favorite are the ones that utilize mounting points under your rear seat (look under your seat, they are there for many bikes). For bikes without mounting points under the seat you use the sub frame. These packs offer a very simple way to secure your gear without having to run straps all over your bike. This avoids scratching paint. It also makes securing your bag virtually fool-proof. No need to worry if your straps will come loose. These are great for any bike but if I’m on a sport bike this is what I’m leaning towards. They offer expandability as well. So if you need more carrying capacity down the road you can strap extra bags to your original bag. Kreiga makes really good ones

Dry bags

Roll top duffle bags are the best dry bags in my opinion. They can be used on any type of bike. They require you to strap them to four points around your bike to secure them. They sit on your rear seat or luggage rack. They have a wide opening so are very easy to pack and access things if you need to on the road. And of course they are waterproof. 

Scuba dive bags 

Yes you read that right. If your budget is really tight, scuba diving dry bags are an excellent, economical option. They run about $30-$60 bucks. Seal Line make good ones. They are waterproof/dustproof and made from thick tarpaulin so they are very rugged as well. They lack the tie-down points that moto specific bags typically have. A set of rok-straps will work great in securing it to your bike. The only difference between a dive bag and a roll top duffle is the roll opening .It is on the long end of the duffle while the dive bag has it on the side or short end. This makes accessing anything a little harder if your stuff is at the bottom. Just pack it where anything you might need is near the roll and you are good to go. 

Essentials 

Tent 

I look to the backpacking world when I’m looking at motorcycle camping gear. Car camping gear just won’t be practical on a bike for the most part. 

There are plenty of lightweight backpacking tents on the market. Don’t waste your time focusing on weight though. Tents are light enough and a few ounces here or there won’t make a difference. What’s most important for motorcycle camping is its packed size. How small will the tent packs down, polls and all. Obviously the smaller the better but with decreased size comes an increase in price. Try and balance these two things. It’s likely a couple of inches wont make or break your setup either. You will likely be looking for a 1-2 person tent backpacking tent. Find one that packs down to 6-7 inches wide by 18-24 inches long. 

Make sure your tent has room for your riding gear. You don’t want your gear getting wet due to condensation overnight.  If you are going with a 1 person tent, make sure it has a vestibule. This is a flap that extends out from the tent. It zips closed to form an enclosure. You can store your gear in there and it will stay dry. For a 2 person tent there should be sufficient room for your gear inside with you. 

Beyond all that, make sure it is made with good waterproof material and has good ventilation. 

I don’t like to cheap out on my tent. I need it to shelter me, keep me dry and last for years. 

Sleeping pad

You can find comfortable inflatable sleeping pads that won’t break the bank. I like the inflatable ones because they can deflate down to the size of about two soda can. Once inflated for sleeping they are nice and thick to cushion you on hard ground. Shop around because there are some super technical ones that can run a small fortune. Although well built and insulated, they may be more than what you need. Keep in mind a good night’s sleep is important if you will be operating a motorcycle the next morning. Choose one that you feel will be comfortable.

There are a few extra steps to care for your inflatable pad. Your pad can grow mold due to the moisture content we put into it by blowing it up. Make sure you dry it out when back home

Pillow

I recommend inflatable ones as well. They pack down super small and do the job. Bring a helmet bag. You can insert the pillow into it for some extra softness. You can also stuff the helmet bag with some extra t-shirts or your jeans. Use this with your pillow if you need it higher for side sleeping.

Sleeping Bag

Your sleeping bag will be your bulkiest piece of gear. Choose a down filled sleeping bag if your budget allows. Down is more money than synthetic but It’s more compressible. Down insulates better also. 

Get a compression sack. They are cheap. This will allow you to compress down to a small, manageable size.

 You can opt for a simple, packable blanket as well. I prefer a sleeping bag because it insulates you from the ground as well. You can lose a lot of heat from a cold damp ground. 

Sleeping bag with compression sack. You can compress it down to half its size

Whatever the bag says is its coldest rating, go down a few degrees more. That will be a more accurate indicator to how warm it will keep you. So if you figure it will be around 45 or 50 degrees at night, get one rated for about 40 and you should be good. One question to ask yourself when deciding on a sleeping bag is, would you rather be too warm or cold? 

I will choose too warm any day! I can always remove the sleeping bag if I’m hot. If you are cold you will have a miserable night. Trust me on this. I’ve been there. 

Chair

You are going to want to chill and be comfortable sitting around the fire after a long day on the bike. Invest in a foldable, packable camp chair. They aren’t too expensive. They can pack away to about the size of three soda cans. They are also handy to whip out for a roadside coffee break off the bike as well. Some of the brand name ones are better built and more roomy. I have a cheaper one I bought online. It’s about half the price of a major name brand one. So far, over 2 seasons it’s been fine. If you are a bigger guy I’d spend the extra and go with the brand name. You will be more comfortable. 

This particular chair can comfortably sit an average sized individual.

Packing 

Pack your bigger stuff in first. This will be your tent and sleeping bag. Go smaller from there until everything is in.

Do a rundown the evening before your trip. Pack everything on your bike. Go for a good 15-30 minute ride. This way you can make sure everything is secure. If you need to make adjustments to how it sits on the bike you can take care of it now. When the morning comes you just need to gear up and you are good to go. 

First Aid Kit

You do not need to go crazy here. Just bring something that will cover you for your basic medical needs. Things like different size band-aids, ibuprofen, gauze, tensor and small scissors is enough.

Clothing 

You won’t want to be sitting in your riding gear all night so I will bring a pair of sandals to wear around camp.

I’ll also bring a light pair of track pants to sleep in and to just relax in.  I’ll pack a light thermal top in case it gets chilly. Merino wool is great for this. Thin but keeps you warm. 

Pack a beanie as well. Takes up no space and can keep you warm if the temp really drops at night. 

If I’m going for a weekend I don’t bring much clothes at all. An extra pair of underwear obviously takes up no room. When I’m on my bike though I ride in my riding jeans and my dry fit shirt. I’m not hitting the town so it’s super minimal. 

On extended trips I will pack a bit more clothing. Maybe 3 shirts. More underwear and socks. It will still be as minimal as possible though. You get smelly and dirty when you spend days on end on the bike camping but it goes with the experience!

Food

Cooking while motorcycle camping is something I avoid. For me, it’s just not worth the hassle and packing space it takes up. I will bring a Jetboil with a French press and a little baggie of coffee. That’s about it. I really need my morning coffee! I eat on the road. I’ll grab a few snacks at my last gas fill up before hitting camp. If I’m feeling a bit hungry at night I’ll just snack on what I bought. You can also bring a bag of dehydrated food if you really need a meal at camp. They are easy to pack and quick. Just add boiled water. Other than that I will just pack up in the morning and head to the nearest greasy spoon for a good breakfast. I’ve camped many times and cooked. You have to grab what you need at a  grocery store before hitting camp. Meat or eggs just won’t sit well on the bike all day. After a long days ride I really don’t want to find a grocery store and shop in my riding gear. Then set up camp, cook and do a bit of dishes. Nope not for me. But it can be done if it is something you like to do. 

Entertainment

I like to pack a small Bluetooth speaker for some music around the camp.

In case of rain I will download a couple movies or a book on my phone. This way if I’m stuck in my tent I have something to pass the time. Remember to do this before hand because you might not have data or wifi in your location.

Miscellaneous 

There are a few other little items you might want to consider bringing on your motorcycle camping trip. I’ll share what I like to bring.

I bring two small, inexpensive portable power packs. I charge my phone with them  over night. I bring two just in case.

Don’t forget a lighter and a pack of fire starters.

Most campgrounds, if they see you are on a bike, will deliver you wood if you buy it from them. 

Last but not least a little toiletries kit. I buy travel size everything and put it in a zip lock. 

Conclusion 

This guide has everything you need to get yourself going. It’s a guide for those looking to head out for a weekend or camp a few spots along the way on a multi day trip. 

If you are planning an extensive tour over many weeks or months, there are a few more things to consider. I’ll touch on those in a later article. In the meantime start planning a route. Using this guide, pick up whatever you may need. Then head out and away from all the craziness that this world has to offer.  You can find peace and relaxation under the stars with your bike sleeping right next to you. 

Happy riding. 

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