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Motorcycle Camping

Economical and now comfortable

You want to go to the summer event, but all the motel rooms are sold out. You think motorcycle camping is uncomfortable, and years ago it used to be, but technology has made it comfortable again whether you're 17 or 70 years old. Will this be the year you get out and do some motorcycle camping?

Hereís my confession: In my younger years I used to backpack, hike and car camp like a maniac. But as the years went on I found sleeping on the ground uncomfortable and always had enough money in my pocket to get a hotel room, rather than rough it. I swore I would never camp again. I lied.

With the economy in the state that itís in and my increasing desire to spend weekends out on my bike, this is the year Iím going back on my word and once again falling asleep under the stars.

The good news is it wonít be as uncomfortable or as expensive to put together a rig. The bad news is some hotel bank account is gonna suffer.

A lot has been written on motorcycle camping and in a minute Iíll be tuning you into a few spots on the web that are LOADED with information written by wise men, list keepers and outdoor enthusiasts who will reveal to you the secrets of motorcycle camping in the 21st century.

Youíre getting my take here and you need to understand a few things about my style before you read on. Iím a Taoist at heart. Simple, simple, simple. Iím not getting into the details of what stove or cookware to carry, because in my world I pick up some food along the way thatís already pre-made and leave the cooking chores for others who want to get into the machinations of preparing meals in the outdoors. Weíre not traversing Mt. Everest, or hiking the Pacific Crest Trail here folks, weíre riding our motorcycles and weíd rather be riding than washing dirty pots and futzing with freeze dried bags of glock.

So it boils down to a good tent, air mat and sleeping bag essentially.

A good tent is important because in the Northwest it tends to rain when you least expect it. Depending on how often you plan to camp in the coming years you might be able to get away with a $37 tent from Kmart, or you might spring the $200 for a tent that will last you for years.

A good sleeping bag is important too. It can chill down at night around here. I personally have no plans to be out in freezing weather, but I opted for a bag that was comfortable down to 20 degrees just in case. It only cost me $70 and it works very well. The other good news is that sleeping bags today pack up about twice as small as they did 15 years ago.

But when you're sleeping it's what's between the bag and tent that counts. A nice thick air mat, or down mat from Outdoor Research does a far better job at providing comfort at twice the loft and half the size of the old school Thermarest.

In the world of backpacking weight is the major issue. Not so much with motorcycling. A three pound sleeping bag is nary different from a two pound bag. Youíve got a throttle in your hand, not a backpack on your shoulder. One pound ainít gonna make a difference. What is key here is space. Do you really need a tent for four people when itís just you and maybe your significant other hitting the road? A four person tent is gonna eat up a lot of packing space on your bike, so think twice. Space is the precious commodity here.

The title says it all. If you don't own a copy of this book pick one up. You're in for a treat filled with tips and tricks to reduce space and carry the proper gear you need.

In terms of just how much storage space you need, figure on 100 Ė 150 liters of packing space. A good set of saddle bags and a tail pack will provide that.

Packing a sleeping bag and/or tent on the outside of the bike can be a problem unless youíre totally waterproof, so you might consider packing them into saddle bags or hard luggage units. And this is where space becomes the issue.

Bill Johns is a local rider and member of WetLeather. He, along with a few others created a 12 page document that is loaded with wisdom about sleeping bags, tents, stuff sacks and much more. It was nice of Bill to do this because now I donít have to write about it myself. Check it out at:

You might not own a BMW and in case you donít, donít think for a minute that theyíre the only guys who get to go bike camping cause they own "adventure" bikes or something. It doesnít really matter what you ride as long as you configure your bike to carry what you need on the trip. ButÖhistory shows us that there are a lot of BMW owners who do camp, and the BMWMOA site has an entire section about motorcycle camping that is also loaded with some very useful tips. You can read it at your leisure at:

Of course a good list is something everyone needs. Instead of sitting around trying to decide what you need to bring, Marc Lewis at Micapeak has created a wonderful list that you can customize to yourself. When you get to the list page you simply remove the checkmarks from the items you wonít be taking with you, tell the form what font you want it to print in, then hit submit and viola, your list is ready. Lord knows what possessed Marc to make life so easy for the rest of us, but weíre glad he did. Check it out at:

For more Motorcycle Camping Tips, check out Bob Woofter's Motorcycle Camping Made Easy and Tom Mehren's Packing Light/Packing Right.  For lightweight Motorcycle Camping gear click here.

PT/Spring 03





  1. Rain riding
  2. Buying a dual sport motorcycle
  3. Cold weather gear
  4. Crash padding
  5. Motorcycle Camping




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