Is Motorcycle Camping an Essential on Part of Adventure Travel ?
It doesn’t take much to turn a road trip into an epic ride. Yet, everyone seems to think the exact opposite.
In fact, with the marketing experts taking advantage of pretty much all the words in the dictionary, words like adventure, adventure travel, journey, and many others that I’ve lost count of, all have been disposed of their true meaning.
Nowadays, everything is a travel adventure. It has to be. The bar is set so high that the aim is set higher every single time.
One of those misconceptions is that if you go on an adventure motorcycle ride or even a motorcycle touring trip, and if you are not sleeping under the stars, far away from civilization, then you aren’t really having an adventure.
I think that this is just wrong. The adventure is bound to happen the moment you fire up that engine and get those wheels rolling. Ultimately, each person has their own adventure level, that can’t be measured against anyone else’s, especially against seasoned riders that have been doing around the world trips for a long time. Doing so is simply not realistic.
Motorcycle camping is just one way to experience motorcycle travel. Riders do it because:
A – They enjoy camping and being out in nature.
B – It’s a way to keep traveling costs down.
C – The places they travel through are remote or don’t have other accommodation options.
Either way, it’s a personal choice that has more to do with riding preferences than about the adventure itself.
I’m Considering Motorcycle Camping on my Rides. Where do I Start?
Let’s say you are considering doing motorcycle camping on your motorbike travels.
If you’ve gone camping before, then you already know the basics. It’s just a matter of adapting the gear to the motorcycle loading capabilities and to three other factors: Weather, location, and riding style.
But if you haven’t, and you are just starting out, things get a little more complicated. Needlessly, I might add.
The internet is filled with takes on what gear you need, where do you need to go, and what you absolutely have to take.
By the time you spend a week doing your research, you’ll find yourself with a neverending list of gear, that will cost you bucketloads of cash, and you’ll probably have a hard time fitting on your bike. That difficulty increases exponentially with the lack of experience, causing more than just a few to drop their riding dreams entirely or to limit the travel radius and do lesser extent trips.
It doesn’t need to be that way, and here at 2WheelsOnRoad, we’ve got you covered on that topic.
We’ll show you the basics of motorcycle camping, and the essentials that come along with it. It’s much easier to complement your gear over time, than to gear down. Not only easier, but cheaper.
The Basics of Motorcycle Camping
The basics of motorcycle camping are non-other than the factors that you need to survive in the outdoors. It’s not rocket science. It’s just plain old common sense.
You’ll need a shelter to protect you from the elements, something to sleep in that can keep you safe from hypothermia, water to keep you hydrated, and food to nourish you. Not much different than what you already do every day at home, or at a hotel, right?
Of course, you could argue that one would need the proper clothing, orientation tools like maps, GPS’s or even a compass, First Aid gear, lighting, or any other items common to camping. But for the sake of keeping it simple and really down to the basics, let’s leave all that to another article, further down the road.
The Shelter is usually a tent, although some riders also opt for hammocks or bivys.
Normally motorcycle campers prefer lightweight “bikepacking” or backpacking tents. Discussion around the tents topic is mainly centered on the weight, for weight is a huge factor when trying to pack light. However, I find that the packing volume ends up being much more important than the weight itself.
If I had to choose between a tent that weighs 3 lb/1,5kg, that packs in a bigger volume, or one that weighs 6,5lb /3kg but packs in smaller volumes that can be compressed and separated, I would go for the heavier one. Why? Because it would allow me to make better use of the luggage volume itself, and to be honest, I think if you aren’t riding full performance-oriented, you can safely spare 3 pounds.
Another thing to consider is the size of the tent. The rule is, you always want to go plus one. Riding solo? Go for a two-person tent. Riding with a pillion? go for a 3 person tent. Why? Because of the gear and luggage, you carry. You’ll want to have the gear with you, and it takes up space. Furthermore, you’ll want to consider the chance of going for a tent with outside covered space ( a vestibule) to leave the wet gear if it’s raining. Wet gear doesn’t go well with sleeping arrangements and the need to keep warm.
Finally, there are the seasons. 2 Seasons? 3 Seasons? 4 Seasons? What does it mean and what should I pick? Well, 2 seasons are spring and summer, 3 seasons will add autumn, and 4 seasons will get you to winter.
Now at first glance, the 4 seasons tents would set you up for the entire weather options on the menu. However, that also has some downsides. First is the weight. Heavier non-mesh fabrics, pack heavier and bulkier. Of course, having a non-mesh interior decreases ventilation. Finally, they are much pricier, especially if they are lightweight.
2 Season tents? A great starting point, but it will limit your motorcycle camping rides to spring and summer.
The sweet spot seems to be found with the 3 seasons tents. Most models come with rain covers, and they are fitted to extend the regular camping season. Unless you are planning to endure extreme weather conditions or live in a harsh climate, you can often use a 3 seasons tent, year-round.
Three other things to bear in mind. The higher the fabric denier is, the better the longevity of the tent. The stitching should be taped to prevent water from leaking inside. And the quality of the zippers is something not to be overlooked.
A groundsheet or a tarp to protect the tent flooring prevents branches, rocks, and stick from damaging it, and increases comfort.
Tents that meet the requirements:
The MSR Hubba Hubba NX2 is a long-time lightweight favorite of motorcycle campers and has a lot of features supporting that. Packs small and easy, and has been tested throughout the years.
Big Agnes relatively new Blacktail Hotel 2, is also lightweight and features a vestibule, porch style that can be really useful.
Or even a Quechua 2 sec Easy Fresh & Black, which is more affordable and easy to set up. It won’t meet all your needs, but it’s a good tent for those who are starting out. The downside is that it doesn’t pack small due to the poles being tent integrated, and at 4,7kg/10lb,12oz it’s not particularly light. We use it, as you can see on the ride with did with the Benelli and the Royal Enfield.
Closing the options listed, the Lone Ranger ADV Tent. One that checks all the boxes and will last you long. Done by motorcyclists, for motorcyclists. Lightweight, 2 doors, 2 vestibules to store wet or dirty gear, and many other features thought to ease the life of motorcycle riders. It even comes with a compression bag, dry bag, and groundsheet included.
If you are just starting out and you are not sure if you’ll enjoy motorcycle camping, do yourself a favor and don’t go for the best gear money can buy. That won’t make the experience more enjoyable. Start out with a simple tent that’s easy to set up. You can upgrade later as you feel the need to.
Having a roof on top is one thing, but keeping warm when temperatures drop at night is completely different. When you are sleeping, you slowly shut down muscle activity, and body temperature drops. That brings us to the next item in the basics of motorcycle camping. The sleeping bag.
Sleeping bags come in different shapes, styles, fills, and most certainly different price tags. This is not an item in which you should focus on saving big time. After all, the sleeping bag will have the task to keep you warm when you are not active to do so. But again, that doesn’t mean you have to go out running to get a sleeping bag fit for the Artic or the Himalayas.
Temperature ranges are not the comfort ranges. What does it mean? That the temperature ranges of sleeping bags are the ones that you can survive in, not the ones you’ll feel comfortable with. As a rule of thumb, always have a sleeping bag with a temperature rate 10 degrees under the temperature you are expecting to encounter.
One more time going against the flow… again if you are starting out or on a limited budget… don’t go buying sleeping bags for all temperature ranges. Stick with the one you plan to endure the most, lower 10 degrees, and get a thermal blanket to snag under the sleeping bag if the cold gets tuff.
If you are not into mummy-style sleeping bags, remember that you will need to have a cap or a beanie to cope with the heat loss from your head.
The Rab Ascent 300 is a good example of a down lightweight mummy style sleeping bag, that will pack nicely.
The Big Agnes Torchlight 30 is yet another example of a lightweight down filled sleeping bag that can provide you with lots of thermal comfort, and some other interesting features such as pockets.
And the Marmot Trestles 0 a synthetic-filled sleeping bag, is a good compromise between price and quality, for starting out with.
A sleeping bag is not the only thing that contributes to keeping you warm and comfortable. A sleeping pad or an inflatable air mattress plays a huge role in insulating from the cold floor. It’s yet another expense, but not only will it provide temperature comfort, but also prevent you from sleeping directly on the ground and feeling every rock, branch, or stick that you haven’t cleared out from under the tent. Check the R-Value of the sleeping pad, and keep in mind that down-filled bags pack smaller and lighter, but are also more expensive and take longer to dry than synthetic-filled sleeping bags.
Again packing volume and weight need to be accounted for when motorcycle camping. Sleeping bags with compressible bags are a good choice, as for inflatable air mattresses, which pack much smaller.
However, starting out, you can do pretty much with simpler gear, as long as you pick the right time and climate to camp.
There’s no way around it. You need water to keep Hydrated and to cook. Sure you can always go for a pint of water straight out of the river. Sometimes you’ll get lucky, other times you’ll get giardia. Not taking my chances here, nor should you.
To carry water on any camping trip is essential. In fact, carrying water on any given motorcycle trip shouldn’t be overlooked.
Of course, even with water bladders, and containers, there is only a limited amount of water one can carry on a motorcycle.
Take advantage of the water carrying capabilities of tank bags like the Mosko Moto Nomax or backpacks with integrated bladders like the Enduristan Hurricane 15l with the Hydrapack option. And if you guess you’ll need more water, use something like the Sea to Summit Tap Pack or the MSR Dromedary Bags.
A minimum of 3 liters per day is advised, but you will need it not only for drinking but also for cooking, and even rinsing the cooking gear.
This is not a fixed rule. In warmer climates, you’ll dehydrate faster. In more technical off-road riding you’ll also need more water. So, never overlook hydration needs.
There are solutions like water purification tablets or water filters such as the Sawyer Mini Water Filtering System, but for starters taking motorcycle camping step by step, carrying water, and having the ability to boil collected water should do just fine. That, keeping in mind not to go straight out long-distance traveling to remote places. In that case, a backup system like the water filter, or the water purifying tablets would be advisable.
If you collect the water from an unknown source, remember to boil the water for at least one minute.
Most motorcycle riders are awesome. It’s a fact. Then again, the awesomeness doesn’t overcome the food needs. If you go out motorcycle camping, you still have to eat.
There are plenty of solutions to choose from. From just add water dehydrated meals to stopping by the store to get supplies before setting camp.
Anyways, if you want to be able to cook your food, or warm up a pre-cooked meal, you’ll need a way to do it, and cooking gear to go with it. This will also be very handy if you need to boil water.
A simple stove like the AWRoutdoor 3500W will set you up for cooking. The Jetboil is also really popular among motorcycle campers. Boils water in 1 minute, it’s easy to pack, and it’s a great choice if you are not really a cooking person and don’t mind having dehydrated meals.
For the more remote travels, multi-fuel burning stoves like the MSR XGK Extreme camping stove, allow for petrol burning as an alternative to gas canisters. That can be useful when no gas canister refills are available.
Of course to cook and eat even the most simple things you’ll need other utensils. The Sea to Summit X-Set 21, is a foldable set that will cover those needs. You can cook in it, eat and drink from it, and even use the base as a cutting board for food preparation. As for cutlery, the Sea to Summit Alpha Set will suit your needs just fine, although a long spoon or fork would be more suitable for dehydrated meals.
I don’t know about you, but for me, coffee is a must-have. Essential? Not really but nothing will go along with sunrise so nicely as a good old cup of coffee. Soluble coffee, coffee pressers, or expresso-like portable gear as the Wacaco Minipresso all work great.
Wrapping it up
Motorcycle camping is a great way to connect with nature, and yourself. Starting out doesn’t mean copying what adventure bike YouTubers do. They are not starting out. They already know what works for them.
First, you need to know if motorcycle camping is something that you enjoy doing.
It has many pros and a few cons, but ultimately, some of the benefits I see in motorcycle camping may very well be something that doesn’t suit you.
If you finally decide to give it a try, be sure to start by doing small trips, close to your home. Try camping grounds before going wild camping in remote places, or even motorcycle camping during a long-distance ride.
Camp close to other people before you embark on a solo expedition.
That way you can do a few motorcycle camping test rides, and fine-tune your gear, with your bike, riding style, and yourself.
It takes some time to master setting up camp fast, or in bad weather, so try out your gear even before you start your engine.
Finally, take time to enjoy yourself. One of the many benefits of motorcycle camping is the opportunity to get to know a part of you that is usually hidden by the stress of modern times. All that quietness and peace of mind that comes after you treat yourself to a warm meal (with an optional couple of beers) camped on a beautiful landscape, and after a riding day, is unbeatable. Needless to say, it’s a self-growth experience. Don’t miss out on that chance that is up for grabs.
Ending the same way that I started out, don’t forget that it doesn’t take that much to live your epic ride. Start simple, upgrade later.
Plan, Ride, Live, Repeat!
Gallery image credits – manufacturers