When it comes to motorcycle camping in the winter there are a few small ways that you can prepare yourself that will make a huge difference to the enjoyment of your trip. Ultimately the goal here is to stay warm and dry, whilst still enjoying the outdoors.
Here are my 5 must haves & dos when motorcycle camping in winter:
1. Invest in the right tent
When it comes to tents there are $20 tents and there are $1000 tents and yes, there is a considerable difference! When it comes to buying a tent I like to think of it as an investment, this is going to be your shelter for every motorcycle camping trip to come. So it would make sense to make sure that you’re buying the right one!
When it comes to tents there are really 2 options:
- 3 Season: Designed for Summer, Spring & Autumn
- 4 Season: Designed for Summer, Spring and Autumn & Winter
Now I know what you’re thinking. “I’ve just looked at 4 season tent option on amazon and they are freaking expensive!”. Yes they are, with the average 4 season tent costing $800-$1000 they are definitely expensive. But there is good news, 3 season tents are still completely fine to use in winter down to 32 F or 0 C. Where a 4 season tent really shines is when you’re pushing below 32 F with blizzard-like winds.
2. Always bring a Sleeping pad
When it comes to winter camping having a high-quality sleeping pad cannot be overlooked. Even more so than choosing the right tent!
Let me explain why.
When camping in winter you’re lying down on the hard, cold ground and it takes your body a certain amount of time and energy to warm the floor beneath you.
Without a sleeping pad and sleeping bag, your body will need to work all night to try to keep the floor beneath you warm. However, with a sleeping pad, pockets of air are warmed up and trapped in a specific way that minimizes the amount of effort your body would constantly be needing to use.
When it comes to how well a sleeping pad will insulate you from the cold ground, sleeping pads are measured with an R-value. This R-value measures its capacity to resist heat flow through it. So when you’re looking for a sleep pad the higher its R-value, the better it will insulate you from cold surfaces. For example a really thin sleep pad would have an R-value of 2 (and a really thick and well-insulated sleep pad would have an R-value of 5.5.
3. Choose a down sleeping bags and avoid synthetic
There are some key reasons that your winter motorcycle camping sleeping bag should be down and not synthetic:
- Size and compressibility: When you’re out on the road size is often the determining factor as to whether or not you bring an item on a trip. Down has the unique ability to compress into a quarter of its size, using a stuff-sack is the best way of doing so.
- Weight: When it comes to down vs synthetic, down is much lighter than synthetic and has a higher warmth to weight ratio.
- Longevity and durability: When looked after properly a high-quality down sleeping bad will last you decades of use. Whilst my experience has found synthetic sleeping bags don’t tend to last more than 5 or so years,
4. Layer up with the right winter gear
When you are out in the cold laying up properly makes a huge difference to how well you deal with the elements. When layering up it is important to understand the functions of each individual layer and what they are trying to do:
- Base layer: wicks sweat off your skin & keeps a thin layer of air against your skin
- Middle layer: Insulates your current body warmth and retains body heat to protect you from the cold
- Outer layer/Shell: Blocks wind, rain & snow to shields you from external elements.
5. Choose your campsite wisely
Choosing the right place to setup camp is critical to having a good night sleep. The general advice here is to:
- avoid the bottom of hills, top of hills or areas where cold-air troughs form.
- Pick a nice flate place to setup your tent.
- If you’re camping on snow walk around and use your shoes to compress the snow down. packed snow will work better underneath your sleeping pad to insulate you from the ground.
- Pitch your tent wth the door facing away from the wind.