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The Complete Guide to Motorcycle Camping

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!

  • Camping Tent: When it comes to motorcycle camping the name of the game is compact. Keep in mind that anything you bring must fit into your bikes bags, or into a backpack. Though the thought of a roomy tent might be tempting, opt for a single-size or specific motorcycle camping tent to avoid heavy metal poles or excessive bulk. Other space-saving shelter options include hammocks, or a simple tarp to make a lean-to. Always check the weather beforehand — and if the location is dry and secure, you may even choose to simply sleep under the stars!
  • Cushion: The last thing you want to realize when you lay down after a long day of riding is that you forgot bedding. The hard earth and stones are no joke when you’re trying to rest tired and sore riding muscles. Most camping outlets will make lightweight, highly compact air mattresses that fit one person. Make sure not to forget your head while packing this portion of your gear! Collapsible mini-foam pillows are great options for space-saving comfort.
  • Coverings: Not many things can wreck a great night of sleep like the cold. Fatigue when riding isn’t only uncomfortable, but can be downright dangerous as well. Be sure to check the nighttime temperature lows before you leave and pack accordingly. Opt for weather-appropriate collapsible sleeping bags. Bear in mind that most tents are not air-tight as well, so account for a draft, moisture, and unexpected variations in weather. 
  • Straps: One of the main things not to try to save money on in life is straps. Buy as many as you can, of the highest quality that you can. Not sure you need a strap in a particular location? Put a strap there. Rokstrap are a great product to start with with many variations to fit your needs.

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. 

  • Basic First Aid: It’s always better to be prepared, especially when it comes to first aid. Riding motorcycles comes with risks, and camping adventures come with risks. Combine the two and you’ve got a guaranteed recipe for at least a blister or two (and hopefully nothing more). Packing a basic but high-quality first aid kit will ensure that you’re safely and well prepared for any minor medical challenges that pop up. Many motorcyclists also carry emergency contact information cards with them, typically behind their ID. On these cards, you can write down any important medical and personal information in case you’re not conscious or able to provide it to emergency services. 
    Read our blog post on motorcycle accidents and how to better prepare, just in case.
  • Maps & Signals: Here at Ride Vision we’re definitely a fan of technology, so of course this is one of our favorite points! The rules of safe navigation in motorcycle camping are very similar to the rules of standard camping:
    • 1) Tell someone where you are going, when you are leaving, and when you’ll be back. If you’re going solo set up check-in times and locations with them. Arriving safely at your campsite and making it safely home should be your top transportation priority while motorcycle camping.
    • 2) Even if you have GPS capabilities, pack a waterproof topographical map of the terrain you’ll be traveling in and the route you’d like to go.
    • 3) Always pack an emergency signal. Different countries will have different regulations, but emergency flares and signal mirrors are common and easy-to-carry choices. Make sure you also have an Emergency Contact card 
  • Food & Food Prep: It might seem ideal to envision yourself catching wild game, foraging for food, or even finding great restaurants on your journey — but the truth is when you’re camping you can never quite predict what will happen or even where you’ll be when mealtime rolls around. Modern camping cookout gear is lightweight and convenient, with JetBoil and MSR stoves being popular choices. If you can’t go on a trip without your favorite meat, this foldable grill ($39) will do the job.

    If your trip isn’t long and you do plan to eat out, pack some high-calorie bars or dehydrated meals for a worst-case scenario plan. 
  • Water Purification: Water is heavy, which makes carrying it with you when you travel a less than ideal option. When it comes to water purification for motorcycle camping, you have several great lightweight options. 

Image Credit: Section Hiker – Water Purification

  • Light & Chargers: It’s extremely easy not to notice the need for electricity when it’s all around you. But in the woods, in the dark, when you’re trying to set up your tent in the cold after a long day, you notice it. Pack at least one high-quality long-life flashlight for your trip. Include a phone battery charger as well (some jump packs will double as one, and you can even buy solar-charged options for longer trips!). This super-battery can supply power for quite a few devices and this Outdoor 6-in-1 flashlight is super useful
  • Firestarter: This one is so important it could arguably be considered as a “basic” motorcycle camping need. Pack a waterproof fire starting option to ensure that you have a reliable food, signal, and warmth source at all times. Great options include flint starters, magnesium starters, pull starters, weatherproof matches, and more.  
  • Spare Everything: We say spare “everything” within reason. Pack what makes sense to take on your bike. This could be a small battery jump pack, spare tubes, a tire patch kit, spark plugs, fuses, tools, and other essential items. 

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!  

  • Waterproof Bag: Even if you don’t plan to do any heavy weather riding, a waterproof pack, phone bag, or even plastic bags can help to keep your items dry and working.
  • Bug Spray & Netting: While you’re in the woods surrounded by beauty you’ll also likely be surrounded by bugs. Depending on the season and area, bugs can be everything from a mild inconvenience to a major problem. Great options for camping include small spray canisters, balms, and face-netting.
  • Spare Socks + Footpads: If you’re venturing into off-roading during your motorcycle camping trip or even just planning for some long-term hours in the saddle, there’s a high likelihood that you’ll get blisters. Fresh socks and padded bandages are great prevention and treatment for damaged and fatigued feet!
  • Sanitizing Wipes: While there isn’t a specific need associated with these while camping, their varietal use makes them valuable. Use them to clean up before a meal, before bed, to wipe down gear, or even (if safe) for basic first aid. 
  • Document the ride: Camping trips usually gets you to some sweet spots you don’t usually go to. Make sure you capture the ride on video, either with a GoPro on your helmet or cameras mounted on your bike like Ride Vision 1, which also alerts you on critical threats during your trip.
    You can also use apps like Relive to track your GPS location and create a cool video clip of your journey on a map.
  • Some nice to have extras to make your trip easier:

Need some motorcycle related reading recommendations? Read “The 12 Best Motorcycle Books You Need to Read“.

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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! 

For more great motorcycling content and Ride Vision product releases check out the Ride Vision blog and subscribe below! 

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