Motorcycle camping is not only tradition for us motorcyclists, but a rite of passage. Barreling down the highways and byways, rolling on the throttle and trying to get lost for a few days is what riding is all about — experiencing life in its rawest, purest form of adventure. Taking a trip away from jobs and obligations, leaving the stress of the world behind and just being, you and your machine, is why camping is such a significant part of the riding experience.
While camping is an experience every motorcyclist should have, the preparation can be a little overwhelming for newbies. Choosing the right gear can be difficult because the options continue to grow, but available spaces on bikes remain the same. Therefore, to make the decisions a little easier for the less-experienced, you should focus on the three basics: (1) fundamental gear, (2) shelter, and (3) storage. Beyond that, there are some essential packing requirements for riders that you should understand before hitting the open road.
The nitty-gritty or fundamental supplies you will need for camping extends beyond the essentials of motorcycle safety, like helmet, gloves, riding boots and protective clothing. Motorcycle camping gear refers to the requirements for where you plan on overnighting. For instance, are you traveling through areas with inclement weather? Then, be sure to pack your rain gear. Are you going to be staying by a lake? Then pack your swim trunks. Basically, pack for the season, the weather and the area. However, there are a few items that are likely necessary regardless of your plans.
Camp and shower shoes
Soap and quick-drying camp towel
Phone charger (regular or solar, depending on your bike)
Another essential element for your adventure is a basic first-aid kit. You don’t need anything super fancy, and you don’t need to purchase any of those apocalyptic type kits; there aren’t going to be any zombies or asteroid collisions while your riding through the mountains, but if there is, what a way to go. You should have a kit that provides you with enough supplies and necessities to survive until help arrives, which is another reason a phone charger is so important, you need to be able to call for help if needed.
There is one obvious requirement of motorcycle tent camping, and that is the purchase of a sturdy shelter. While there are a variety of options available, from hammock style tents to goliath shelters, you need to be practical and conservative when motorcycle camping. The best choices come down to three tent styles.
These are the most portable tents on the market, and as the name implies, they were designed with hikers in mind. A backpacker tent is small and light weight, making it easy to store on your motorcycle, but limited in space for sleeping and performing routine tasks, like getting dressed.
A larger option, but one specifically tailored for riders, is the expedition tent. These tents have sleeping quarters and a vestibule for you to park your motorcycle. While having a dry space to store your gear and work on your bike is excellent, these tents are larger and somewhat heavier than backpacker tents, although the benefits likely make them worth it.
While the biggest option, family tents are maybe not necessary for your trip. These tents can weigh upward of 20 pounds and may be a little awkward to pack. However, if you are riding a large, heavy-duty motorcycle, this may not be a problem, but the payload is a serious consideration when going on extended trips.
Saddlebags, Backpacks and Storage
Biker tent camping also requires preplanning for essentials, like clothing. In order to pack you have to have weather resistant storage. There are several styles of saddlebags and backpacks, but what you want is something that looks good with your bike and provides you with the most useable space, especially if you’re going on a road trip longer than a weekend. There are three types of luggage materials that offer varying degrees of protection, storage and appeal.
The most affordable option is textile luggage. Most options are waterproof and can be mounted and removed easily. However, these universal options don’t always fit the way you might like. The benefit of textile luggage, though, is that it is less likely to be damaged in an accident or tip over.
Leather luggage is one of the most traditional forms of motorcycle luggage there is, which is why many riders, especially those on vintage bikes, want leather for their gear. Updated leather pieces have new-age mounting systems that allow them to be more secure than more traditional saddles that rely on a strap only. The major downside to leather is that it requires upkeep. While it may be waterproof today, it won’t be forever.
Manufactured in a variety of materials, aluminum, plastic and fiberglass, all hard luggage is secured in place using mounting systems. Its secure fit, durability and weatherproof nature, along with its ability to detach for payload purposes, make hard-shell luggage desirable. However, the expense and inability to take a fall make hard luggage a somewhat risky purchase.
Essential Tips for the Newbie
While understanding your options for tents and luggage is helpful, some more pivotal motorcycle camping tips should be addressed for new-comers. A motorcycle is not like a car; you can’t just shove as much stuff on the back as you want. Bikes have a very specific payload and going over this limit doesn’t only risk the longevity of your bike; it endangers your life. Also, balance is critical when packing your motorcycle, so make sure that you have weight distributed evenly or run the risk of braking issues and tip-overs. Beyond that make sure that everything is secure and mounted correctly. You don’t want to lose items because you didn’t feel like putting on an extra strap.
Now that you got the essentials down, you can have fun planning where to camp on a motorcycle. The joy and tradition of motorcycle camping is something every biker should experience at least once in their life, so grab your motorcycle camping gear and go on a journey.