If you’ve never taken the plunge and gone on a motorcycle camping trip, we highly recommend doing so. Sometimes stripping an activity down to the essentials makes the entire experience so much more rewarding, and camping is a prime example. For most of us, especially those of us with kids, camping requires a massive amount of planning, packing, and execution. Coolers, bicycles, food for three meals a day, firewood, dog food, etc., etc… Something important is almost always left at home.
Motorcycle camping forces you to pack light, be agile, flexible, and efficient. Which has other benefits if you are good at organization, like being able to hit the road on a whim and maximize your free time. If watching TV while you are camping is a requirement, stop reading now, if exploration, discovery, and being outside top your list, read on.
Of course there are a lot of “experts,” with lots of opinions, but the REVER staff knows a thing or two about motorcycle travel. REVER Co-Founder Justin Bradshaw has ridden around the world (literally, not figuratively) on a KTM 950 Adventure back in 2007. It’s safe to say he racked up more nights camping from a motorcycle over those four months than most of us will accumulate in a lifetime. While I’ve personally spent thousands of hours traipsing across the globe on motorcycles as a moto-journalist for Cycle News and Cycle World, although I’m sure a lot more of my days ended in five-star hotels with caviar and champagne instead of hot-dogs and pork and beans like Bradshaw! But our staff knows how to pack light and pack right for motorcycle travel!
Keys to Camping Success
1. Location, location, location
If you’re going to do it, do it right. Unless, you are in a jam, we suggest you avoid camping in cemeteries, behind landfills, in the Walmart parking lot, or anywhere you wouldn’t otherwise visit voluntarily. Keys to campsite nirvana usually involve lakes, rivers, vistas, trees, beaches, lack of crowds, and of course being prepared so it’s enjoyable. This is where our new partner The Dyrt comes into play. If you don’t like totally winging it and ending up camping behind a dumpster, then a little planning can go a long way. Now REVER PRO users can access more than a million camping sites, reviews and photos around the U.S. with details about each location including amenities, restrictions, access information, photos, on-site weather forecasts, detailed location information, pricing and links to reservation websites and phone numbers. You can even find free and dispersed camping info. And once you find a spot, REVER will navigate you there.
2. Utilize Your Tool
We’re talking motorcycles here, and most bikes that are capable of lugging around camping gear, are also quite capable of getting you off the beaten track, especially ADV and dual-sport machines. Even a big bike like a Honda Africa Twin, BMW GS, or KTM Adventure, or the like, can get you places that challenge Jeeps and 4x4 trucks. So, take advantage of that and get to those remote spots where there is a much less likely chance of people camping practically on top of you. Think dispersed camping, and isolated locations, these can be those gems you’ll talk about for years to come. Don’t have an ADV, Touring or Dual-sport bike? Rent one from one of our patterns like EagleRider or Twisted Road.
3. What To Pack
Motorcycle camping is going to force you to make some good decisions on what you bring with you, but it is equally important what you leave behind. When shopping for camping gear look at products designed for backpacking or look at some motorcycle-specific gear here on Revzilla. Why backpacking gear? There are a few good reasons, but the most important is the fact that it is designed to be packed away and take up minimal space, but it also tends to be higher quality gear. We’re not saying you can’t use a Coleman sleeping bag from Walmart or Target, but it’s going to take up about half of your total space and probably not going to provide the performance you would like.
Here are the basics:
- Compact all-season tent
- Backpacking-style sleeping bag
- Backpacking-style sleeping pad
- Micro Isobutane cooking stove
- Basic cook set with utensils for eating and prep
- Multiple reusable water bottles/bladders
- Ground tarp
Nice-to-have items if you have space:
- Compact water filtration kit
- LED headlamp
- Compact French press coffee maker
- Inflatable pillow
- Bear spray
- Compact camp lantern
- Portable bluetooth speaker
Personal must-have essentials:
- Toilet paper
- First-aid kit
- Baby wipes
- Rain tarp and paracord
- Ear plugs
- Leatherman or Multitool
- Tire plug kit/Co2 and inflator
- Basic motorcycle tools
- Cash for campground fees and firewood (no ATMs in the boondocks!)
4. How to pack it
This is a subject of debate as there are a 1000 ways to skin a cat. A lot of travel-related motorcycles come with luggage, but you will usually need to add some more space to accommodate all the items you will need to take with you. You can likely get most of the items above—except for the tent, sleeping bag and sleep pad—into a set of pannier bags. Touring bikes, and most of the ADV bikes on the market either come with or have available removable hard luggage (think Ducati Multistrada, BMW R 1200 GS, Kawasaki Versys, etc.), but there are also a lot of great companies that make aftermarket hard luggage like Givi and Touratech, but you may also want to consider soft luggage. There are a lot to choose from with companies like Alt Rider, Giant Loop, Mosko Moto, Wolfman, and others. Soft luggage offers some benefits as most products offer excellent waterproof materials and some flexibility with packing. On the other hand hard cases can be locked and offer some other benefits, too. Either way, you will likely need a top rack to mount your tent/sleeping bag/pad to and some high-quality straps to secure them. We would highly recommend a dry bag to keep those items from getting soaked in the rain. A tankbag is great for the items you access while on the road. We would also recommend you wire a USB charger to your bike, so your phone is always charged and so you can navigate from REVER!
5. Pro tips and tricks
There are things you can skimp on and things that you shouldn’t. Nothing can ruin a good trip like being unprepared. Always be ready to handle every situation on your own, you never know when someone is going to come to the rescue, especially in remote locations. Being wet and cold never makes for an enjoyable trip, dress in layers and utilize those layers for sleeping if necessary. If you don’t trust your luggage to keep your clothes and camping gear dry, plastic bags are a lifesaver. They can also be used to hoist your food into a tree in locations populated by bears. If you have a flashlight are the batteries fresh? Do you have spares? Food is almost always an issue when camping light. Carrying a bunch of supplies or keeping supplies fresh just isn’t an option motorcycle camping. Once again we suggest looking at backpacking and freeze-dried food. You can always splurge when on the road and at lunch, but backpacking food will fill you up and has improved dramatically over the years, and where else can you get Beef Stroganoff? We would also recommend high-quality motorcycle specific tie-downs for latching gear onto a bike. We have a buddy who was happily riding along on his Africa Twin when his sleeping bag rotated 180-degrees and got sucked into the rear wheel and promptly spit him into the ditch and 75 mph… So get good straps and latch your stuff down properly.