Updated: Mar 17, 2021
As outdoorsmen and women, we know how refreshing it can be to spend the weekend in the middle of nowhere. The smell of campfire clinging to your clothes, the sound of silence enrichened by the background notes of birds and breeze, and an escape from the constant stimulation of cell phones and computers are all things that refuel the mind.
As peaceful as the weekend may be, you eventually must load everything into the cramped car and head home. Or do you?
Motorcycle camping is something that I have absolutely fallen in love with over the past few years. Motorcycles have always been a part of my life along with the outdoors, but until recently they remained somewhat separate. After reading about dual sport camping and watching hours of adventure bike videos it became apparent that combined it could improve the experience of both!
For instance, why drive your car through a beautiful national forest on the way to a remote camping location when you can get into the breeze and glide through the landscape and roll through steep curves with the open-air experience of a motorcycle? Similarly, why would you ride a motorcycle down a flat road from town to town barhopping when you could be roaming into the wilderness to camp for the weekend? Millions of people have begun to agree with this rhetoric, and adventure motorcycling is growing at an extremely rapid pace. As a matter of fact, the market has grown so much that Harley Davidson has just released their own contribution to the adventure touring market, with the Pan America.
Ultimately, the type of motorcycle does not matter. While there is a large market for the branded "adventure bike", which sports tall suspension, luggage, dual sport tires and favorable dimensions for off road riding, it simply doesn't mean that you need to go purchase a $30,000 2021 BMW GS Adventure. All motorcycles offer the experience of wide-open travel. Motorcycles were used off road and for travel before many automobiles in this country and continue to be the main mode of transportation in many countries, still today. I have camped from street legal dirt bikes to fully dressed Harleys and each trip has been a pleasure. At the end of the day, in the mind of a motorcyclist, two wheels of any kind and a scenic road beats a road trip in the Dodge Caravan any day.
Of course, not all situations make sense for this type of travel. Obviously, you need the ability and licensure to ride a motorcycle, and a family of four rarely fits on a bike comfortably. However, you should never say never.
If your situation simply doesn't allow for this type of camping or your spouse won't sign up for two bikes or a sidecar in the garage, then I understand that this article has most likely already lost you. For the rest of you, here are a few tips to ensure you enjoy your moto camping trip and how to best prepare.
Obviously, a motorcycle is not going to haul the same amount of gear as the family sedan. However, I find this to be a positive aspect. With just enough room for the bare essentials of rudimentary camping you won't be tempted to bring a generator, king size air mattress, and excess electronic devices. Let yourself leave all those creature comforts at home, and you'll appreciate them even more once you return. I generally bring a tent, bag, pad, pillow, stove, fire starters, first aid, a few clothes and just enough Mountain House to keep me from being hungry. Filling one bag with a tool kit, tire plug kit and mini compressor is also a good idea to make sure that if something is damaged you can get back on the road... oh and don't forget duct tape and zip ties.
Here is my personal gear list -
Pillow - Klymit Drift
Stove - MSR Windburner
Fire Starters - UCO Matches
Food - Mountain House
Long Way Around
As mentioned earlier, riding a motorcycle to and from camp makes the entire trip an experience rather than just the evening at the campsite. Take the scenic route to and from camp and if you decide to go investigate other areas you'll still be in the middle of an adventure from driveway to driveway. Detours are encouraged.
As with all camp outings, weather can kill your trip if you aren't prepared for it. Yes, you are in the elements on a motorcycle but with decent gear you can stay comfortable, no matter the weather. As far as riding gear goes, I have had extremely good luck with Alpinestars Andes V2 jacket and pants. I've ridden through rain, snow and 90-degree days and remained perfectly comfortable. Good gloves, shoes and a helmet are a must as well. I use Bilt waterproof gloves, TCX boots, and Scorpion carbon full face helmet.
In case of bad weather there are a few items I bring no matter what. Ziploc bags for your phone, GPS, wallet and other moisture sensitive items are a good bet. A waterproof tank bag works well too, just bring it in the tent at night so that no one swipes your stuff. Paracord and a tarp can give you a nice lounge area out of rain or snow. These items store easily on a bike and make a huge difference, keeping you from being confined to the tent all day in the event of a storm. As far as a chair I use my removable pannier or a piece of firewood but there are some very compact camping chairs available to purchase if you feel you would like the extra luxury. Don't forget the toiletries and camp towel. They are great for a wipe down after a sprint through a storm and of course for your general daily hygiene.
Maintain a positive outlook and a vigor for adventure and you will find both of those things. Motorcycles are not as comfortable as a car for extremely long road trips but at the back end of discomfort is a reward worth pursuing. The same goes for the limited luggage space. Embrace the sacrifice and appreciate the challenge of living off less than you think you need. Camping doesn’t have to be a " how much of the house can I drag into the woods" challenge.
I am aware that this isn't everyone's idea of fun, but it surely is an adventure. If you've been considering it and happened upon this article, I hope this is the bit of encouragement you needed to give it a try. Be careful, have fun and encourage others to experience the rarely utilized pleasure of camping from a motorcycle.