Riding is all about experiences. Whether it’s a 20 minute trip to the grocery store or a 20-day life-changing journey, swinging a leg over the saddle means an adventure is in your very near future. 

Motorcycle camping is arguably one of riding’s best-kept secrets. A lot of riders think that it’s “too extreme” for them, or that they may not have the right motorcycle, when in reality virtually every type of rider has the ability to spend a night with their bike under the open stars. 

As riders, we understand that luggage space is at a premium even with the largest cruisers. And that poses a challenge, because when we think of camping our brains often naturally come up with a huge list of gear we need to bring to stay safe and comfortable. The truth though? You don’t need a “truckload” of camping gear to have fun, you just need to know what to bring, and what not to. 

Motorcycle Camping Essentials – What You Need to Bring 

So you’ve finally decided to do it. You’ve picked a spot, charged your GPS and camera, and maybe called up a few brave friends to join you – you’re going motorcycle camping! Congratulations. Now what? 

For many first-time or even veteran campers, the task of packing can seem intimidating. Weight, size, and even load distribution are all going to affect your ride. Check out our list of camping essentials to find out how to create the perfect pack for you.  

Motorcycle Camping Gear The Basics  

Guide to Motorcycle Camping: essentials

These items may seem simple but they’re important to give some thought to while packaging for your motorcycle camping trip. Forgetting a combination, or even one of these could turn your dream vacation into a sleep-deprived (or dangerous) nightmare!

Motorcycle Camping Gear — The Essentials

Guide to Motorcycle Camping: first aid kit emergency

Now that we’ve gotten what you can’t go without out of the way, let’s talk about what you shouldn’t go without. 

Image Credit: Section Hiker – Water Purification

Motorcycle Camping Gear The Extras

Guide to Motorcycle Camping: extra gear and gadgets

For some people, comfort is a critical need. These items aren’t necessarily “must-haves,” but they will help to make your trip more enjoyable, and possibly even safer!  

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Next Steps: Packing Tips 

Guide to Motorcycle Camping: packing tips

So you’ve figured out everything you need to bring, now the trick is the figure out how to bring it. A well-packed bike will be stable, have essential items accessible, and won’t limit visibility or rider capability in any way. Tips to achieve this are: 

  1. Buy Collapsible: When space is at a premium, you either have to limit the number of items you bring or choose the smallest options possible. You can find collapsible camp lanterns, cooking pots, water containers, and more that reduce the footprint of your entire gear collection.
  1. Calculate Total Weight: All motorcycles have a maximum recommended weight limit. Research your Gross Vehicle Weight Restriction (GVWR). Add up rider(s) weight, a full tank of gas, and your everyday gear next. The amount you have leftover is the absolute maximum weight for any camping gear or luggage.
  2. Arrange Gear Safely: Most weight from luggage is going to be “high” on the bike, potentially making it unstable. Arrange gear in a stable, balanced way around the bike. Try not to rely on a backpack as it will undoubtedly cause fatigue over time, and be sure to arrange items so that they don’t damage your bike or each other (for example, do not shove utensils inside the ground tarp because they may wear a hole in it throughout a long and bumpy ride).
  3. Keep Essentials Accessible: The last thing you want to do when you arrive at the campsite after a long, hard ride is unload everything to get out the one thing you need first. Create a camping gear packing system that allows you to access things logically. 
  4. Have enough storage: Buy the right type of motorcycle bags to have enough storage when traveling. Bags can vary between models and bike-placement. These duo Nelson Rigg Saddlebags ($150) are a great start and would fit many bike models.

Also, drinks, snacks, and personal needs like allergy medication should stay completely accessible so you can get to them while you are still on the road. Under no circumstances should you pack in a way that forces you to remove gear when all you want is a piece of beef jerky or a swig of water!

Final Notes: Safety Tips 

Guide to Motorcycle Camping: keep gear accessible

The question of safety while camping involves multiple risk factors. Motorcycle travel is already inherently risky due to traffic conditions and the inattention of other drivers. Once you arrive at the campsite, those potential dangers change. Review these safety tips before you set out: 

Terrain and Environment

Whether you intend to camp on a mountaintop or in the desert, it is essential that you understand the potential dangers associated with the environment. Everything from steep hills to rocky terrain can cause injury if you do not have the skills or stamina to navigate them safely. 

Wildlife and Insects

One of the most important motorcycle camping safety tips involves securing your food and any other scented material properly. Animals and insects are attracted to a wide variety of scents, and some will do everything possible to get at the contents of your cooler or the snacks you left in your saddlebags. Use airtight containers and hang food if possible. Never feed any animals or attempt to lure them closer for photo opportunities.

Don’t Drink the Water

Unless you are 100% sure that the natural water near your campsite is safe and potable, bring in bottled water from outside or use a high-quality water purification system. Even the cleanest looking stream or lake can house potentially dangerous bacteria or other microbes that can make you seriously ill and cut your motorcycle adventure short.

Motorcycle camping definitely offers freedom, excitement, and a natural sense of relaxation. It also offers an affordable opportunity to get away from home and have some fun. Pitching the tent, cooking over an open fire, and letting the wide-open world soothe and entertain you is one of the least expensive ways to spend a holiday weekend or longer — plus an added bonus — hotel costs, you can go on longer rides without breaking your budget!

Motorcycle camping can be an exhilarating experience. It’s more than likely when you set out on your first motorcycle trip that you’re going to forget a few things or make a few wrong choices along the way, but don’t let that discourage you! Much like effective riding, refining your motorcycle camping style is a process that takes time. So prepare, research, ride, then kick back and relax under the open sky! 

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