How to Prep for Camping on a Motorcycle


Freelancer working in the park while resting in hammock

Motorcycle and camping, can it get any better?

The idea of a great camping trip is to get away from it all. To be left alone with your thoughts and nature. To commune with Mother Earth or Father Sky or whichever deity you worship. And that means getting off the grid, right? Getting out there where there’s no cell signal and no internet connection (or at least very little).

But what if you want to camp with all the joys of a road trip motorcycling? What do you do then? Well, I got some good news for you: There are ways to enjoy camping while taking your bike!

The best way to prep for motorcycle camping is to:

  1. Do pre-leaving checks
  2. Know what to pack
  3. Know how to pack it
  4. Plan which campsites to stay

Pre-Leaving Checks

Prepping your Bike’s Maintainance

Before heading off camping on your motorcycle, you should check all the regular things like tire pressure and oil levels. This way you can identify and replace anything that’s worn or broken before it becomes a problem. If you’re camping at the end of the season, consider doing all your camping on paved roads so as to avoid off-road conditions. But if you are planning to go off-roading then this check is even more important. My advice, get your services done just before going camping to be sure.

Camp Gear Check

Checking your bike is important, but if camping is new to you, there are a few other checklists that you might want to run through before hitting the road. Make sure that all camping gear is in working order.

The things to look out for the most are:

  • Stovetops works
  • Torch/lanterns turn on
  • Cooking gear is clean

Plan Route

Planning your route before leaving is super important, nothing is worse than leaving home, hitting that open highway for half a day, only to realize you made a wrong turn.

Plan Rest Stops

If you’re motorcycle camping, then the chances of camping within an hour or two from home are slim.

What does this mean for planning? It means planning rest stops and fuel stops along the way are important. Rest stops ensure that you actually get to your destination in one piece.

Try planning out where you’ll have your rest stops before you even leave the house, that way you’ll be confident you’ll have enough gas, won’t fall asleep riding & it’ll make for a much more enjoyable trip.

I love working out which cafes are best along the way to stop at!

What should I pack?

Riding Gear

Obvious? I know. But some might forget! Depending on where you are riding, the weather will determine what kind of riding gear you want to pack/where. Consider if you’ll be riding through multiple weather conditions. Will you need a mesh motorcycle jacket and a leather one? etc.

A man in leather jacket holds motorcycle helmet.

My Recommended Riding Gear

My Recommended Jacket (click for current price)

The Ultimate Riding Boots (click for current price)

Best All-Round Riding Pants (click for current price)

Clothing

Bring fewer clothes than you think you’ll need. Almost everyone over-packs clothes when it comes to camping trips. Motorcycle camping is no different.

Layering your clothing is the best thing to do when motorcycle camping. A thermal base layer, waterproof jacket with detachable sleeves, then warm hoodie is good camping clothes.

Gloves are important too, not just for riding but for those cold nights. I don’t think camping in summer is much fun without sunscreen & sunglasses but maybe that’s just me!

My Recommended Camping Clothes Gear

Merino Wool Socks (click for current price)

Best Thermal Base Layers (click for current price)

Water Resistent Down Jacket (click for current price)

Cooking Equipment

Make sure you have a camping stove, camping cutlery, and camping mugs. Only bring a single item for each person coming. So if you’re camping alone bring:

  • 1 x mug
  • 1 x set of cutlery
  • 1 x bowl
  • 1 x plate

When it comes to a camping stove for motorcycle camping, I always take my JetBoil, it’s simply the best around.

My Recommended Cooking Equipment

JetBoil Cooking Stove (click for current price)

Best Collapsible Cookset, Cup & Bowl (click for current price)

Gormet Kitchen Set (Utensile, Cutting board ect.) (click for current price)

Sleeping

When motorcycle camping, you’ll most likely be camping out of your tent. If so you’ll need a sleeping pad & sleeping bag.

When looking for a sleeping bag, get down-filled over a synthetic sleeping bag, these are the lightest, warmest & smallest sleeping bags on the market. They’re expensive but a good sleeping bag will last you a very very long time.

When it comes to comfort on a camping trip, it’s hard to overlook the sleeping mats. You might be thinking, do I really need a sleeping pad? And the answer is if you want a good night’s sleep where you wake up the next day feeling 100%, yes, yes you do.

A blow-up pillow is optional, personally, I just use some of my clean clothes or a towel as my pillow.

My Recommended Camping Sleeping Gear

Down Sleeping Bag (click for current price)

Self-Inflating Sleep Pad (click for current price)

Self-Inflating Pillow (click for current price)

Tent

Choosing the right tent for motorcycle camping is important because not all camping tents are designed for motorcycle camping.

You’ll need to consider the following features when looking for a tent as motorcycle campers:

  • Do you want to park your motorcycle inside the tent?
  • How much space will the tent take up in your luggage?
  • Always get a two-person tent for just you.

People often opt for a cheap tent, but I am of the mindset that you should put your dollars to work in this department. When you consider that staying 3 nights in a hotel will cost $300-600 easy, and your camping trip is just as enjoyable and costs nothing comparatively, I see buying an expensive backpacking tent as a sound investment. Consider looking into ultralight backpacking tents from REI. Whatever you do, don’t buy one of those family tents. Those things are stupidly heavy.

Here is my ultralight tent recommendation.

My Recommended Camping Tents

Overall Best Tent (click for current price)

Best Motorcycle Specific Tent (click for current price)

Best Ultra-Light Tent (click for current price)

First Aid Kit

Motorcycle trips are adventurous things, you need to be specially prepared for anything whilst motorcycle camping, it’s all about being self-sufficient!

Your First Aid Kit should contain…

  • A few different bandages (triple antibiotic & antiseptic)
  • Moleskin or Spenco Second Skin Blister Pads
  • Painkillers (bushfire burns are common camping injuries)
  • Tweezers & Nail Clippers
  • Rubbing alcohol
  • A few sterile dressings
  • Sterile Gauze Pads
  • Tweezers & Nail Clippers
  • Sunscreen, Sunglasses, and SPF lip balm. A small bottle of sunscreen can go a long way on a camping trip. Getting sunburnt camping doesn’t quite ruin your camping trip but it sure does interrupt it!
  • Scissors, Safety Pins & Duct/Gaff Tape

I’m not even kidding about the duct tape. If you’ve never used camping before, trust me, you’ll love camping once you start using duct tape camping.

Water Filtration

You need to make sure you’ve got adequate water filtration on a motorcycle camping trip. You can’t expect to find drinkable water everywhere, and whilst a lot of camp site will have fresh drinking water, some won’t and on a motorcycle, you can’t carry around gallons of drinking water.

Extra Misc Motorcycle Camping Items

  • Camp Shoes: Something other than your boots are nice to wear around the campsite.
  • Solar Hot Shower: These can be extremely lightweight and small.
  • Ground Cloth: This is great as a picnic matt, or under your tent for extra warmth.
  • Picnic Table: Extremely small and portable only, please!

Luggage: How to pack

Learning how to pack for a motorcycle camping trip may seem daunting, but it doesn’t have to be! I found it best to lay out everything I am taking before working out where it will all go.

But you do have a few carrying options when it comes to luggage, feel free to mix and match depending on the gear you are bringing:

Saddle Bags:

I recommend going with a saddle bag that has a wide opening, think the shape of a camping pot. This will make packing and unpacking camping gear from your motorcycle luggage much easier.

When packing a saddlebag, make sure the weight is distributed evenly on the left and right, pack camping gear in smaller items first, camping gear like pots & pans at the bottom of your saddlebag, then camping gear like plates and cups on top.

Use your saddlebags for all cooking and food items.

Backpack

I found a backpack is best for carrying clothing and personal items. When on a motorcycle camping trip it’s nice to have one clean place, such as your backpack that you know your personal gear is safe. This is also the best camping bag for ensuring your camping gear doesn’t shift around while riding.

Top Box

Use your top box to carry all of your camping gear such as a tent, swiss army knife, axe, travel lights, sleeping bag & pad, portable solar charger, rain gear, insect repellent, etc.

Just remember that your top box is most likely your only hard luggage, so if something needs the protection of a hard luggage case then put it in here!

Tank Bag

I would only use a motorcycle tank bag if I really needed to, when a tank bag is needed it seems like overkill to me.

Tips for packing light

Packing light will make your entire trip more comfortable and enjoyable.

The following tips might appear obvious, but most can’t do them.

The secret is to bring the bare minimum.

Tip 1: Multi-Purpose Items

An easy way to do this is to bring camping gear that can be used for multiple purposes, an easy example is, get a bigger mug that you can also use as a bowl or a spork instead of a spoon and fork. These things help hugely when keeping your pack light.

Tip 2: Compression Bags

Compression bags are a fantastic way of saving space in your luggage. Whilst you’re not technically packing lighter, you are packing smaller.

Consider Weather Conditions

This is one of the most important things to consider when camping, taking into account your destination’s seasons will not only help you plan your packing list but also how you pack it.

If you’re going to be riding in the rain, is everything waterproof? If it’s summer, you’ll need to pack extra sunscreen on the top of the bag. Ect.

Also, consider textile luggage vs. leather luggage, I won’t throughout too many opinions here, but it’s good to look into the difference these materials have with weather conditions.

Carrying Extra Gas

You might not think so, but carrying extra gasoline is usually a good idea when it comes to long-distance camping trips, even a small fuel bottle goes a long way on two wheels. This also comes into planning here, in fact, I’ve written an entire article helping you work out if you need more gas here. If you do decide to take more gas read this article about 5 ways to carry extra gas.

How to find the best camping sites

Free Camp Sites

There are tons of sites out there listing motorcycle camping sites that are free, I would highly recommend doing your research online before you leave.

Getting involved in your local motorcycle communities or Facebook groups will help find out about where free motorcycle camping sites might not have any reviews online.

Motorcycle-friendly private camping grounds

These sites are motorcycle camping’s hidden gem. They’re the motorcycle campgrounds you would usually pay to stay at, but these places will often let motorcycle riders stop for a night or two, sometimes it will even be free depending on your negotiation skills.

Some of my most memorable motorcycle camping experiences have come from motorcycle-friendly private camping grounds.

Finding private camping grounds is a little harder though, you might need to do a little door-knocking.

National Forest Campgrounds

If you’re motorcycle camping in the US, then go visit the National Forest Service- they have a huge list of motorcycle-friendly campsites all over the United States.

These campsites are usually located in scenic, quiet areas near lakes or streams.

Most motorcycle-friendly campgrounds run on a fee system. These fees are donations to keep the facilities maintained by the U.S National Forest Service. The range of motorcycle camping fees at each site is between $10 and $30 per night per motorcycle or self-contained RV unit.”

Motorcycle touring companies

This is another great way to find motorcycle campgrounds, motorcycle tour companies always have knowledge on where to stay and where not to stay. Even if you don’t go ahead with them, have a chat and get some ideas.

Motorcycle Clubs

Motorcycle clubs are another way motorcycle campers keep in contact with each other and share insights about where are the best places to stay. If there’s a motorcycle club near to where you’ve planned to motorcycle camp, ask them where to go.

To Sum Up

Your next Motorcycle trip is going to be an adventure, there’s no doubt about that.

But unlike other car campers, you’ve got everything to carry on your motorcycle- so it all has to be planned & prepped right.

Planning where to go and what to do is one thing, but planning exactly how much is not enough/too much gear and how to carry it is another.

The most important part is to just remember that a successful camping trip doesn’t happen on the road or at the campsite, but in the prepping before you leave.

And when it comes to motorcycle camping, you’ve got all the pleasures of camping combined with being on two wheels.

Good luck and happy camping!

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