Motorcycle camping is the cherry on top of exploring the world on your bike. It increases the freedom to roam and substantially reduces costs and the stress of finding accommodation. But packing for a motorcycle camping trip greatly differs from going out in a 4X4.
Motorcycle camping has a lot in common with backpackers as space is limited and weight matters. Thus, you want lightweight equipment that packs tight. Official campsites are an excellent starting point for beginners before branching out to primitive and wild camping.
Packing your bike on a motorcycle trip can sometimes feel like playing Tetris. Everything has to fit just right and the weight balanced. But hitting the road and sleeping under the stars isn’t just fun; it’s a fantastic way to clear the head and relax. Just remember to pack the toilet paper.
If you’re wondering how to go motorcycle camping, read on!
Table of Contents
1. Travel With A Light Load & Balanced Bike
Motorcycle camping isn’t just about the destination but the joy of the ride. The amount of additional weight and how it is packed influences the way your bike behaves. The heavier the bike, the less agile and responsive your machine will behave.
The key to still having fun navigating the twisties is packing evenly and being picky about how many additional pounds you carry in the back.
Thus, the two biggest questions to ask yourself when packing for a motorcycle camping trip are:
- Do I need it?
- If I need it, is there a smaller and lighter version?
2. Choose A Campground With Facilities
Primitive and wild camping is possible on a motorcycle. Sometimes it is the only option when exploring very remote areas. But for riders new to motorcycle camping, it’s best to use campgrounds that have facilities such as:
- Potable water
- Trash cans
- Picnic table
The two biggest as potable water (drinking) and trash. Both of these issues have a significant impact on your packing. Hauling all of your water and waste is both heavy and eats up space. You can get by without firewood if you have a camp stove. But water is essential to life. Even if you have a filter, it’s useless if there is no source, such as a river or lake.
3. Waterproof Your Gear When Packing The Motorcycle
Motorcycle camping is a real bummer when your gear is soaked. It doesn’t matter if the forecast is a clear sky; all it takes is your bike tipping while cruising through a mudpuddle or crossing a stream, and you’ve got a wet bed. Thus, you need to carry your gear in waterproof carriers.
Electrics and smaller items can be put into dry sacks, such as this Sea to Summit 3-piece set. This is highly recommended even if you have excellent weather-resistant panniers.
4. Use A Compact And Light Tent
Tents eat up the most space when motorcycle camping. Therefore, it’s best to look at 2-person options beloved by the backpacking communities, as these typically pack tight and light. Despite their small size, some have an extra shelter that will allow you to cover your bike if that’s a priority.
When looking for a motorcycle tent, you might consider getting one with a “fly pitch” option. These tents allow you to leave the main body of the tent home and create a shelter using only the poles and the rain fly.
The “fly pitch” can save a lot of space when you want to branch out to wild and primitive camping that requires more room for essentials such as water.
5. Use A Tight And Light Sleeping Bag
Sleeping bags are another space-eater and can also contribute significant weight. You need one that will keep you warm enough for your camping climate and pack tight and light.
6. Choose A Bed Roll (Sleeping Pad) For Motorcycle Camping
Plenty of motorcyclists pack an old fashion foam bed roll by just strapping it to the top of the tail. It’s bulky but balanced.
But if you are dedicated to foam, I’d still want it to pack as tight as possible, such as the Nemo Switchback. Its unique design allows it to stack rather than roll, making it a tighter option without sacrificing comfort.
However, I prefer going with the backpacker gear that’s tight and light. It makes it more versatile for other camping endeavors and provides extra space on the bike. A true favorite of thru-hikers is the Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Xlite.
Lastly, be honest if you are a biker whose back is killing you at the end of the day. It is highly unlikely you will enjoy sleeping on the ground, even with a quality bed roll. Instead, consider a glamping option that provides camp cots or beds in a tent, or consider a camping cabin. You’ll still have that outdoor experience but be able to sleep. Being well rested makes tackling the road all the sweeter.
7. Choose A Camp Stove For The Motorcycle
Campfires are becoming like dinosaurs thanks to the rise in forest fires. Some campgrounds provide BBQ or communal cooking stations. However, for those that want greater independence and wider camping options, then it’s essential to hook yourself up with a quality camping stove.
Selecting a camping stove is about size, weight, and fuel choice. There are pros and cons between propane and butane stoves, and which is best for you will depend on climate, altitude, and weight preferences.
Jetboil offers a fantastic range of camp stove options regardless if you are an experienced thru-hiker or have never used a backpacking stove. The dependable and user-friendly brand has a wide range to pick from, including the Jetboil Flash Backpacking Stove.
However, we use an MSR WhisperLite Backpacking Stove. We travel outside the US and explore countries with limited fuel options. The MSR can run off practically anything, which is the versatility we need for our adventures. But it certainly isn’t the easiest choice.
8. Put Water In A Bladder When Motorcycle Camping
Many motorcyclists already use a bladder rather than a water bottle for a long ride. But they are also a great idea when camping since packing water takes up space. I use a 50oz CamelBak HydroBak.
However, there are a ton of bladder options out there. The most crucial thing to remember is not all of them come with straps that adjust big enough to go over your motorcycle jacket, especially the padded shoulders. So do a little research before buying online.
9. Pack A Headlamp For Motorcycle Camping
Motorcyclists appear to forget a flashlight or headlamp when camping. Maybe it’s just the people we meet. But then again, with the rise of smartphones and the fact the bike has a headlight, it seems a lot of first-time motorcyclist campers don’t think they’ll need it.
But cooking and phone light are not a fun mix. Also, trying to angle your bike to provide enough light is a pain in the rear, never mind the risk of draining your battery. So do yourself a big favor and get a headlamp.
The Black Diamond Spot 350 Headlamp is excellent for those who want a bright light. Petzle Actik Core is a rechargeable option, perfect for the biker that is prone to forgetting to check the batteries before driving off.
10. Remember To Pack Entertainment For Motorcycle Camping
Forgetting to pack some entertainment is another common motorcycle camping newbie mistake. It makes sense since during the day, you’re driving, late afternoons setting up camp, and later kicking it under the stars and relaxing.
But even when hanging out with friends, there are times when a waterproof e-reader or a good old fashion pack of cards can take the edge off and can make a nice alternative to the games on your phone.
11. Think Carefully About Food For Motorcycle Camping
Camp cooking can be the best, especially as enjoying the great outdoors works up an appetite. However, hauling the food can eat up your precious packing space. Thus, what works when camping in an RV or hauling it in your truck doesn’t necessarily translate to the bike.
We prefer simple and light. Therefore, we often pick dehydrated options rather than canned ones. However, sometimes food in its hydrated form is worth the extra space. It just takes planning, considering your pros and cons, and equipment.
The latter is crucial to consider, as packing space is limited. For example, there are a lot of nesting pot options. However, you lose the packing space inside the pot that could hold food or coffee grounds.
Ask yourself if you need cups and a bottle of wine, or can you get by without them using a bladder, hip flask, and just drink coffee out of the minicamp pot while munching on a breakfast bar?
You don’t want to be so spartan that you look longingly at other campers while salivating. On the other hand, what are you giving up by packing all that extra food and accessories? A better sleeping pad? Lack of joy on the twisties?
12. Ensure Repairs Are Up To Date Before Motorcycling Camping
Bike maintenance is always important, but even more so when going camping. The extra weight will increase strain on the bike, such as your brakes, so everything needs to be in top shape.
Similarly, bikers know they need tools and repair kits when heading out on the road. But it is even more important when camping, as some areas are near impossible to call for a tow. Think about the need for spare tubes, patch kits, and if you’ll need an extra tire.
Can You Motorcycle Camp Two Up (Pillion)?
Motorcycle camping can be done with two people on a bike, but it increases the packing challenge. Thus, it often requires a spartan camping style, such as fly pitching or embracing your inner cowboy or cowgirl and foregoing the tent.
The other option, which is my personal preference when two up, is minimal glamping. We book places that provide the tent. Some of these are permanent tents on platforms with beds and clean sheets.
But some places allow you to rent a tent. You arrive at your campsite, and the place has already pitched a standard four-person tent for your use. All you provide is the sleeping bag and roll. Thus, it’s camping without having to lug the tent.
On the other end of the glamping scale are options with perks such as fridges, heaters, a shower with hot water, and a tiny stove. How “glamp” you go really depends on your budget and preferences.
Can You Motorcycle Camp With Disabilities?
Motorcycle camping with disabilities or chronic illnesses is possible depending on the person’s challenges. For example, a blind person just needs a driver.
Motorcycle camping with disabilities is often more manageable with a glamping option. The reasons are not just physical comfort but because certain disability aids and equipment can potentially eat up packing space, leaving little room for a tent.
However, not all people with physical challenges require extra gear and can sleep fine on the ground. For mobility issues, the key is finding an aid that works with the space constraints of a motorcycle.
For example, our friend’s wife can’t drive a bike because her joints will dislocate when she tries to steer (not good for her or anyone else on the road). So, they ride two up and reserve a tent at their destination. But for her mobility issues, she can get by with a foldable cane that fits in their tank bag.
However, she says that people that don’t have her wrist issues sometimes prefer using a trekking pole or two as a mobility aid instead of a foldable cane. The trick is finding light ones that pack small, such as this set from Trekology. Shock absorption is another great feature, especially when navigating uneven terrain.
There are wheelchair motorcycles. Some walkers and rollators fold up small enough to strap to the bike as you would a camping chair. Of course, it all depends if a person has financial access to the aids required to make such a trip possible. But it has been done and can be loads of fun.