Beginning Guide to Motorcycle Camping Gear
When it comes to camping off of your bike your choices for gear are varied. Here I'll cover the basics, what I recommend at the very least, the styles of camping, and provide a list of the things I carry. Hopefully this will help you get a good start or improve your current setup.
To start off you've got to decide what kind of camper you are. Are you the person who just wants to throw something down and go to sleep? Do you prefer a tent? Or a hammock? Keep all this in mind as you continue reading.
- A cowboy camper just throws down something to sleep on for the night. This set up is usually a combination of sleeping bag, sleeping pad and tarp. If it's nice outside you sleep on the pad. Gets cold, add the sleeping bag. Gonna rain? Make a lean-to with your tarp and bike. WARNING: make sure your kickstand won't dig in during the night causing your bike to fall and squish you. Also recommended: bug spray.
- A tent camper will usually have a tent, obviously, along with a combination of pad and sleeping bag. Same concepts apply as a cowboy camper for changing conditions.
- As a hammock camper I use a combination of tarp, hammock, bug net, pad and sleeping quilt. Hot and bugs? Hammock and net. Cold and wet? Hammock, tarp, pad and quilt. No trees? Well, I become a cowboy camper.
Now you should know which way you want to go for buying gear. We'll start with tips on how to pick a sleeping system:
- Sleeping bag: These vary widely in price, shape and weight. As from what I've experienced, and from what others say, "you get what you pay for." This is almost the most important part to a good night's sleep so if I was you I would make a wise investment. When searching for bags make sure to learn the difference between down and synthetic, quilts/mummy/rectangle styles, how heavy they will be and how small they will pack down. I also recommend storing your quilt or bag in a waterproof bag because when the unexpected rain happens at least you can have a dry night's sleep when you stop.
- Sleeping pad: There's normally two options here, solid and inflatable. These have a rating system so make sure to research how many seasons they're good for. I carry a 4 season inflatable pad because I'd rather be able to stay warm than to freeze all night. Benefits to a foam or solid pad - no chance of leaks. Benefits to an inflatable - lighter and packs smaller.
- Bivy: These can be used in place of a tarp or for a last resort. I prefer the Gore-tex because it will keep me dry, keep the bugs from crawling in, protect my pad and keep my sleeping bag clean. Make sure and do your research on these as well. The Goretex is certainly not the lightest one on the market but is cheap and durable.
- Tent: Research, research, research. As with bags you'll often find "you get what you pay for." There's so many options on the market so when searching make sure to keep in mind what you need. For example - light weight, spacious, durable, pole pack down size, waterproof, etc.
- Tarp: There's regular tarps, silnylon tarps and cuben fiber tarps. They can get pricey but what's the value of staying dry if you get caught in a downpour for 2 days?
- Hammock: I use the ENO hammock but there are many companies on the market. Prices range from inexpensive to outrageous. Try to shop places with good return policies so you can try it out before you commit to it. The hammock life is great but not for everyone. For more on why I love a hammock click here: zeetraveler.com/hammock.html
Next we'll discuss cooking gear. Some may opt out of cooking so if that's you skip down to the next section.
- Alcohol stoves: I use one of these made from beer cans so obviously they're cheap. The fuel is denatured alcohol and for convenience the yellow bottles of HEET can be found all over the place and cost $1-$2. Upsides are the fuel can be found easy and they heat up fast. The downside is you can't use these easily with winter camping and it's hard to simmer.
- Multi-fuel stoves: The great thing about these is that they can not only use the canisters made for them but also gasoline and kerosene. There's a lot of new products on the market so be aware of the reviews before your purchase.
- Butane/propane stoves: The most commonly known butane/propane stove is the JetBoil but much more affordable options are out there. Make sure to research before committing. The upsides to this kind is they work in all temperatures, they can simmer, and are relatively fast. The downsides are needing specific fuel.
- Fire cooking: With fire cooking all I recommend is tin foil or a grill. Grills can be light or collapsible. See here for one you can make(I have one): http://www.instructables.com/id/The-Pocket-Grill/
- Aluminum cookware: This is going to be cheaper and fairly lightweight. You'll have to decide whether you like pots or skillets more, or carry both.
- Stainless steel cookware: This is a little heavier than aluminum and titanium but still a long lasting product.
- Titanium cookware: Lighter and more durable than aluminum. I recommend this for people who will use it often and wants it to last.
- Silverware: Silverware ranges from plastic, aluminum, stainless steel or titanium. There's spork designs, telescoping handles, collapsible, and regular styles.
First aid kits. No one thinks about them until you need them. I recommend building your own but if you don't have time there's pre-made ones to pick up at the store. Here are some items to consider:
- Extra bandaids of different sizes
- After Bite
- Aloecane or burn relief
- Pads(yes those. They're designed to soak up blood)
- Various pills: pain killer(ibuprofen, acetaminophen, etc), allergy relief(Benedryl, Zyrtec), gas/heartburn/diarrhea relief
- Roll up splints
- Portable defibrillator
For all the little essentials here are things you should consider:
- Bug spray or wipes
- Headlamp and flashlight
- Toilet paper and baby wipes
- Water filter
- Hand crank radio/charger
- Sun screen
- Water storage
- Ziplock bags
- Recreational items: i.e. Cards, harmonica, etc
- Survival items: i.e. Mirror, whistle, pocket saw, striker, reflective blanket etc
- Bear spray
- Camping chair
- Waterproof matches
- Wet fire
- Camp soap(good for everything including washing clothes)
- Trekking pole
- Trash bags
All I will say about clothes is this is totally up to you! Most people say they took too many their first time and took less from then on. But I personally recommend 2-4 shirts, a pair of shorts, 1-2 pairs of pants, a bathing suit, 4 pairs of socks, 3 sets of undies, a hoodie or jacket, a pair of sandals or flip flops, and lots of deodorant. There's also the option to wear clothes until you're done, toss them and replenish from thrift stores.
Since this is motorcycle camping it's a good idea to have a toolkit to fix potential bikes issues. For my kit I went through my bike to figure out every tool I would ever use and I carry them all. Here's a list of commonly done procedures to figure out what you need for your specific bike plus other recommendations:
- Brake pads/calipers
- Oil changes
- Chain adjustment(don't forget a small tape measure and to measure in 5-7 places)
- Carburetor adjustment
- Removing body panels
- Spare light bulbs
- Either a plug or patch kit for flats with a pump, compressor or Co2 canisters
- Zipties, JB weld, Gorilla tape, duck tape, electrical tape, etc
- Replacement master link, chain break/press/rivet
- Battery jumper/starter pack
- Spoke tool or valve tool
In conclusion you're going to pick out what you think you need, go out to camp and come back and decide you don't need it most of it after all. Learning what works for you just takes time and your list will evolve to your needs. Just be patient, pack carefully and have fun!
My gear: (remember I carry for all year use)