Motorcycle Camping (From An Old Dog)

Motorcycle CampingMOTORCYCLE CAMPING SURE DOESN’T SEEM LIKE IT SHOULD BE FOR EVERYONE. But it might be right for you! Well, I am a bit biased. I’ve been motorcycle camping for a long time and I’ve camped all over North America. Which, in my case, is a good and bad thing. The good part is that I still enjoy it! The bad part is that I’ve become somewhat like an old dog who hasn’t learned any new tricks in a while. Stated another way, I’ve been enjoying camping pretty much the same way, with the same (or similar) gear, for a long time.

I started camping as a Boy Scout back in the early 70’s, and began motorcycle camping a few years later, still a teenager.  Since that time, my motorbike adventures have encompassed camping in deserts, in mountains, on the shores of the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, next to lakes, along rivers, in the rain, in climates too hot, and too cold, and even in the snow.  (Nowadays I avoid camping in the snow with a motorbike).

Here in the 21st century, I’m betting you’ll be able to teach me a few new tricks.

Regardless, I’m primarily hoping that you’ll offer your own comments, tips, suggestions or anything else you want to say about motorcycle camping further below

What Are Your Motorcycle Camping Tips and Suggestions?

So, here’s your chance to offer your motorcycle camping insights. Share your experience, tips, suggestions, and whatnot to help this old dog learn some new tricks about enjoying motorcycle camping even more. On the other hand, if you just want to note your appreciation (or lack thereof) about motorcycle camping, you are also welcome to join the conversation by “leaving a reply” way down at the bottom of this page.

44 thoughts on “Motorcycle Camping (From An Old Dog)

  • Thank you for this opportunity to read what others want to share. I’m planning an ATV trip in WI; all these motorcycle camping comments are informative and give me food for thought! I’ve camped and I’ve done some glam-ping. I do appreciate my “hair towel”. I can use when I wash my hair, any where, or to clean up a spill. It all depends on the reason you are on the trip but have Fun & make Memories!! Please be brave but stay safe, and pray you have what you need (hopefully, NOT need) in a pickle.

  • Brand new to me .Just dating a woman who has camped before and has a bike . I don’t have a bike or equipment but have an interest . So I have been reading articles on motorcycle camping . Thanks for all the help here all very informative for a newbe

  • The thing I love the most about motorcycle camping is that it forces you to take only what is necessary. No “glam-ping” when you are on a motorcycle. Just the bare minimum. I find that the less I have to worry about the easier it is to forget about the daily grind and just be at peace. Having said that…always be prepared and make sure you have what IS necessary otherwise you will find your trip less enjoyable and may even have to cut it short. One important lesson I had to learn the hard way a long time ago is never use bungee cords to strap down your gear when packing! Because they can stretch under load (in an emergency stopping situation) and can also break unexpectedly you can end up in a difficult and dangerous situation. I always use cinch lock straps or ratchet straps that do not stretch. I also cut off the extra length that can potentially come lose and get in the wheel or chain. Always be safe and GET OUT THERE!

  • Have a “backpacking” mindset when taking along your motorcycle camping equipment. Ask, “What can I do without?”. Think lightweight, compactness, double function, waterproof, wind proof. No cooking, ready-to-eat meals for the road. You know, trail mix, peanut butter, foiled tuna salad, Spam, crackers, Power Bars, there’s plenty to choose from. “Pocket Rocket” with small fuel canisters last a long time for a lot of cooking time for suppers only. I warm up canned meals (soup, Ravioli, chili for Frito chili pie, etc.)….cheap, easy, fast. I double use my solar heated shower bag for showers, washing dishes, washing hands& for flavored water drinks. I like the small individual packets which contain caffeine. Powdered dehydrated milk is good but it takes a while to adjust to the taste. Quick breakfasts…oatmeal, cereal, pop tarts, canned pineapple slices (awesome) in heavy syrup. “REI Passage 2” is superb. 20degree Slumberjack 2.5 total lb. sleeping bag. “Frog Toggs” rainwear is lightweight, compactable, & can also be used as a great wind breaker for upper body & legs.
    Walmart Tactical “Interceptor” waterproof breathable boots work great for $40 & are very comfortable!
    The above is from practical personal experience.
    Example: 3,000 miles in 10 days…Houston, Palo Dura Canyon,, El Mapais National Forest, North Rim Grand Canyon, Zion NP (awesome), Bryce NP, Arches NP, Tellurude Colorado, Durango, back to Houston.
    2011 Kawasaki 900cc Classsic LT did well but struggled with the weight & headwinds & so I replaced it with a 2009 Honda VTX C for 1300cc more power.

    BEST TIP! Take short camping trips to test your equipment and packing strategy. These otherwise spur of the moment simple little trips can be less stressful & fine tune your needs for the long runs.

    Try to keep reasonably physically fit. The iron butt long trips will be less painful. I’m 67, retired and needed relief & so I bought a “Mustang” seat which helps.

    It’s not rocket science. Just try it and go! You won’t regret it! Freedom! Be safe!

  • I live on the northern California coast. This is a great area for almost year around bike riding and camping (ft. Bragg/Mendocino area). There are a LOT of state/federal parks along the entire California coast. Some have toilets/water, some do not. But the coast line here is a must see for everyone in the world!! It is absolutely gorgeous out here, and the author of this blog know that-as well. Anywhere from giant redwoods, to the beaches of southern cal, it is a great bike tour, with plenty of winding roads along hwy 1 or 101, and like I said, PLENTY of camp grounds, or one you can make for yourself, if you respect the environment out here……we like our state CLEAN!! So, we camp A LOT out here, and pack it all into our bike’s of choice……sleeping bags(everything is water proof…even for summer time…never know when it will rain in nor cal), a small Coleman stove, fresh water, meals ready to eat, which are compact and do not take a lot of space, if you are a service connected military veteran, the state of California will allow you to purchase a reduced fee camping pass for the year, for every state/national park in California(if you are 100% connected or retired, the pass is FREE), and your spot, if reserved in advance, will be ready for you, when you get there….guaranteed!! We pack a small tent, survival knife, warm clothes for a day or 2….even of we are gone for a week……it’s camping people!!! LOL. Because we are always camping by the pacific ocean, I carry a compact salt water fishing pole, and that is how we eat a lot of very clean fresh fish, when we camp. Itis a BLAST out here, and I hope everyone comes out here, especially in the summer, to enjoy what you are really missing…..the most beautiful coastline in America……..if you ride from the Oregon Border to the Mexico border on a Bike…;s a great Ride!!!

  • My brothers and I all ride and we went down to the states for a trip. When we entered a few camping sites, one of my brothers, who was riding a Vulcan, which is a little noisy, entered first. The camp site told him that they were either full, or had no place for camping available. After he came out and told us about it, I went in on my Goldwing. When I went in to talk to them, they welcomed us with open arms and said that there were prime spots available and if we needed anything, to let them know. We found, in several cases, there is extreme prejudice against any motorcycle that has any noise to the exhaust. These people could use a bit of an eye opener as far as education. Not all bikers are bad guys like the movies make us out to be.
    Another tip I have for you is when you are packing up your clothing etc. I’ve ridden with other bikers for decades and we found that if you roll your clothing up, it takes less space and you can also use it to protect other items like sunglasses etc. and have room left for other stuff.
    The people I rode with all found that after a long trip, their legs were getting tired and some would go to sleep because circulation wasn’t happening like it should. We thought it over and came to the conclusion that the leg bands in our underwear was cutting off the circulation and also causing pain after a while. We started dressing, using thong underwear and found 100% that it solved any fatigue problems in our legs and added comfort for the ride.

  • HI,
    I’ve finished recently (1 week ago) trip in Europe: 2,800 miles in total and tried to camp fro most of it. what I had and found useful:

    – bike: Honda Paneuropean ST1100 (year:1999)
    – 3x12V cigarette lighter input on the bike
    …….used for charging things and for the air pump for air bed
    – 2x USB charging input on the bike
    ……again used for charging phone, intercom, gopro…
    – an air bed
    …….thank God I brought this, the hard ground would be pretty HARD on day 15 I’d say 🙂
    – DRL- Daytime Running Lights
    …….installed on the bike itself for better visibility, but because it’s an LED light, was used as the outside light when needed as well (takes very little to nothing from the battery)
    – phone/intercom:
    ……Samsung Galaxy SIII with Sygic SatNav and loads of mp3s in it…
    ……intercom system: Scala Rider – connected to the phone via bluetooth
    (used t listen to music,k my better half, satnav and speed camera warnings 🙂
    storage: standard + Givi top box and fuel tank bag, tent and sleeping back on the top of the top box at the back

    all worked out well and I would see the above as necessary “kit” after this trip…

  • What kinda bike for camping tour? For long distance, it’s my K75. For backcountry, it’s the F650. Wish I could post a pic here, my K loaded for ski camping is pretty comical. And yes, a THERMAREST pad is essential for aging, aching bones and back!

  • I am a fairly new rider and an experienced back packer. I ride a Softail Classic or a KLR650. I am excited to camp off my bike. I appreciate the suggestions from all. All my gear is ultra light and can fit into a standard back pack. I love the idea of a hotel every couple days and eating real food instead of dehydrated.

  • Sorrrrrreeeeee- I’m an OLD DOG also, and what worked as a kid still works with the simple addition of a “Therm-a-Rest” mattress.

  • Hello there Old Dog,
    I am another old dog from down under who is doing more riding now that the chickens have flown the coup about 5-6 years ago.
    She that must be obeyed has got into this as much as I have now, and we camp out off the bike at least 1/2 a dozen times a year.
    4-man eco oztrial tent 4.2KG’s + 2) compact sleeping bags -2 centigrade Trangia cookset 1 mini gas light and mini gas burner and some metho for the Trangia + 2 good quality soft cooler bags and techni ice with all food preprared and frozen + a colapsable 2 gallon water container with a shower pump hose and shower head. For the extra comfort we have a blow up air bed and air pump and 2 Kermit chairs and of course the I -pod for music and a portable set of mini speakers run off a 12 volt outlet. We can do 3 days without going to shops. All of this off the back of a VL 1500 Intruder with saddelbags and a bag on the rack with tent, sleeping bags, etc tied on top and on the sides of rack bag. It takes 3/4 an hour to pack and 3/4 an hour to set up.
    Yeah Yeah, I know getting soft but when I take the GPZ900 by myself to rallies, just take the swag and a tarp and pole with a rope pulled of the bike for cover.
    Make sure you have a basic tool kit, Duct tape, spare rope, and tire repair gear, and some spare tent pegs with a small tomahawk to cut onsite firewood and belt the tent pegs in.
    So what sort of bike is best? If it has 2 wheels and a motor and it starts, it must be good.
    You will have your wets with you and a hi-tech compact lightweight warm soft shell jacket, jeans, 3) t-shirts and undies with you and a hat and bottled water and Jack Daniels, what more could you need?????
    Last but not least bring a good attitude, your laughing gear and enjoy the hell out of it.

  • Started riding again a couple ofyears ago. Don’t know why i waited so long. We did our first camp trip last fall. It was only an overnighter but was great. Used my backpacking gear. My wife has her own bike so we were liberal with stuff. But the ackpack worked great. Hoping to do more this summer!

  • I took a few lenghts of 1/2 inch square stainless tubing and made a extension thats bolts on to the luggage rack of my 05 flstc, It is lite weight very sturdy and allows me to carry a few more comforts ,everything you need for two people.i.e.tent ,bags,tarp, small cooler, mess kits,even a camp chair for the wife..Its cheeper than a trailer and works great

  • Awesome topic. I’ll check out the link you posted. I just wanted to say that I see a lot of folks on a daily basis who pack in dirt-bikes, ATVs, and yes, motorcycles with all their other gear, and head out in an RV. I like the idea of free-wheeling it, but you’ve gotta be pretty dedicated to just have yourself and two wheels out there. That’s a pretty freeing concept.

  • I would like to add 2 things

    I have gone to a coleman 533 stove for my cooking, it is dual fuel and has never burned white gas (coleman fuel), I carry a $3 siphon pump from china-mart to fill it out of my gas tank. This way Im not carrying a pressurized tank of extremely flammable gas on my bike, I dont have to worry about running out of fuel in the middle of cooking dinner, and even with the price of unleaded these days, I feel its the cheapest to use. I was leary of cooking with unleaded but after giving it a try, I have a 2 burner stove and lantern that will also burn unleaded for car camping.

    Also, a solar shower is a good thing, at your last stop, fill it with water, strap it to the top of your load and it will be nice and hot for you at the camp site, you can also heat the water on the coleman stove if you like.

  • Great ideas here. I’ll add 2. A light weight tarp can be set for daytime shade, and to cover things at night. A small thermos filled at dinner provides hot coffee in the morning and a cold drink at noon. I hope to see some of you out there.

  • Two suggestions:
    If you are camping alone, consider a camping hammock instead of a tent. They’re about the same size and weight as a one-man tent, but you don’t need a ground cloth or ground pad. They are surprisingly comfy.
    Conventional wisdom is that the new ultralight propane stoves are the backpacker’s choice. But if you are camping more than one night, a pump-up benzine stove is better. Burn time is over two hours vs. 45 minutes for a same-size propane tank. So one single-burner stove and a small aluminum bottle of gas does the same cooking as five or size tanks. Why pay for compresses air when you can work a pump?

  • The longest I have been camping is for a week. I prefer not taking food along as space is an issue riding 2 up. I use a top box, tank bag and have soft paniers for my bike. The most important thing is to pack light and try not pack unnecessary gear. Tent wise I use a 2man tent, a blow up mattress and pillows. Two sleeping bags and then clothing kept to a minimum. Going for a weekend wearing a pair of jeans and a spare pair packed has always been sufficient, mostly if it rains the 2nd pair helps. T shirt for every day and underwear too. Some sleeping shorts and a pair of flip flops for when you shower. Toiletries kept to soap(liquid form doubles as shampoo), toothbrush, toothpaste, face cloth and towel. Being at campsite usually toilet paper is provided, if not shops are never far. Flash light, puncture repair kit and knife always under seat. All other small items like mattress pump get stowed away wherever there is place. Important to remember keep weight in top box and panier as low as possible as you have a passenger too, all ‘heavy’ items should be in tank bag. NB! Keep speed to limits too, as a bike 2 up with luggage can be a nightmare if something jumps ahead of you.

  • I’ve done a lot of this in the last few years with 4000km one way trips from home to where I worked for three years. In that time i would have done two trips a year.
    The bike is a 99 ST1100 and I tow a trailer which makes life a little easier while on the road. The trailer takes the basic camping needs clothing, bedding (air bed as well), an old gearsack bag which holds the cooking gear etc., an Eski to keep drinks and perishable cool (For ice I use bottles of water which when thaws gets used for fresh water). Esky also doubles as a seat when in camp and a laptop computer in its original box. I used to strap tent and a bag of clothing to top of the trailer.
    Bike has two side cases which are now used for extra fuel storage (Ten litres in each).

    I now have a top case which is used for storing things most often needed. rain gear, camping light, 12 volt air pump, etc. Also I lock money in there etc while I’m on the move. Oh! to put in shopping that I’ve done for the night.
    I very rarely spend nights in paid accommodation and I try and find places near the road but out of sight. I use showers in the roadhouses.

  • I now camp using a hammock, and gortex covered sleeping bag (us Marine corps ecwss) you can use a tarp aswell and is useful when there are no trees lol.

  • I’ve Motorcycle tent camped for many years, but last year I got a tent trailer and it’s great. I carry what I want, get to the site, set up quickly, I’m off the ground and much more comfortable. I only lose about 4 to 5 MPG. Getting the bike wired properly and installing the hitch was a pain, but it was worth it. I got the Easy Camp.

  • one easy tip…pack your bike with just the things you think you might need…then throw out half of whats on the bike, cuz. it’ll just get in the way or you’ll never use it. Multi-use items, extreme packing, and ease of use. You’d be surprised at what you don’t really need. Try a trip, locally, before you head out for any time, pare down the size and weight, learn to make do with what you can afford…and remember the old timers who traveled all over the world with not much more than a blanket and a knife and a few spare tool items…

  • For me, motorcycle camping has taught me about packing properly. Since you don’t have a room to unpack your panniers, you’re basically living off the bike. Because of theft etc., I like to keep them locked and on the bike. I try to pack everything the same way every time, so I never have to wonder where anything is. All my cooking gear and food goes into a cardboard box in the topbox, with any emergency gear (first-aid kit, cable ties, tools), so all the loose items can be taken out and replaced as one unit.

  • I have been moto camping for 30 years. There is nothing like waking up outdoors, next to your bike, with nothing else to do, but pack up and go for another ride. I do alot of long multi state tours, and always camp along the way. Sometimes I stop at a hotel every 4 or 5 days, and some tours, I camp the entire time. The BEST gear for moto camping is backpacking gear. It is light weight, packs down small, and offers high performance. Look for a tent that has a rain fly that covers the entire tent. Pay the extra bucks for high quality gear. I have $500 tent I have been using for 10 years. While I cook at camp, I never carry food. You dont need to eat dried food or Army rations, there are grocery stores everywhere. I ride a HD Roadking and I save space by packing light on clothing. Like grocery stores, laundry mats are everywhere. Hotels and Interstates are boring and dont let you experiance the real feel of the land. I do massive research before heading out on tour, and I have discovered many, many beautiful and fasinating areas of our great country.

  • Brilliant idea to go camping on your motorcycle! I never really thought about it before but I suppose it is ideal for getting to places that cars struggel to get to as well.

  • When I’m riding and camping for several days at a time, I also like to get into a motel now and again – specially if the places I’ve been camping do not have showers!

  • If you want coffee in the morning, camping with a little portable compressed gas stove is the answer. The smallest ones for backpackers and mountaineers are also great for motorcycle camping.

  • I camp simply. I bring as little as possible beyond the basics, such as a tent, sleeping bag, water, sandwiches, snacks and a few beers. I mostly enjoy the riding.

  • 63 yr old on a 30 yr old harley here
    so much for the gold wing longevity
    and i can still buy any part that could possibly break and fix 90% my self on the road

  • RE: Jack (shouldn’t ride a bike)
    Keep in mind, I’m 60 years old, on a 23 yr old bike (great testament for the Gold WIng), and prior to buying my wife a bike for last Christmas, I tote HER and the DOG along on most weekend trips. Sometimes we like to shop for unique horse tack for her “kids”, and now my trailer doubles as a dirt bike hauler. Appreciating that everyone is entitled to his opinion, I take issue with “should’t be riding a bike” simply because it’s all about the ride, and different strokes for different folks. Dog loves his trailer, even rides the back seat when the wife is on her own. And, it keeps the load off the bike.
    About the camping thing, on our cross country ride, we found it fun camping, but more convenient to hit motels and be able to cover more ground. For overnighters, it can be a hassle to set up and tear down, having to stop sooner, leave later. For weekenders where we’ll be spending a couple nights in one place, it’s the funnest way to go, even for this old fart. We don’t pack food, other than snacks and water, and usually buy what we need for the night and next morning in the area of our campsite. We’ll be doing another 2 week ride this summer, and because the wife is rolling on her own, we’ll do more camping.
    Back to the trailer issue, at least you can tell the difference between a Honda and a Harley right off the bat………with a Honda the trailer is BEHIND the bike, not UNDER it.

  • “Old Dog” You have covered the basics of Motorcycle Camping very well. My thoughts are based on my camping experiences over the years and may help those thinking about camping. First; if you have not been camping for a long long time, take the car or truck and head out to a state camp ground or a KOA for a nite of camping. Now is the time to decide if you are going to be riding one up or bringing a significant other. My advice is to try it alone first. Borrow a tent for the trial run. If this is not possible, visit Wal-Mart, Big Five or any of the other sporting goods around and find an inexpensive two man tent. You need something big enough to sit up in and also store your gear. The same goes for the sleeping bag and bed roll (Borrow or inexpensive). Buy take-out dinner on the way to the campsite and take some dry food for breakfast. The next day, pack up and head home. On the way home, review what you have learned. Is the effort required to camp worth it? If so, congratulations, you are on your way to some wonderful experiences and adventures. Second; decide if you will be doing one niters or will be doing multiple nites on the road. This will sway your equipment purchases. Your tent purchase will be the next tough decision. In my case, I now have five tents, two of which are the ones I choose from to take depending on the possibility of cold rainy weather or extreme hot conditions. One is cozy warm and the other has two large openings on each side for good ventilation. Third; the best sleeping bag should be comfortable down to 30 degrees and come with a compression bag to limit carrying size. Mummy bags work best for me because you can completely zip the bag over your head. Mats to put the sleeping bag on are a must for both insulation and comfort. Get one that folds and rolls to about an eight inch diameter about a foot long. Fourth; for camping with my Harley Dyna Glide, I found a large waterproof bag that all my camp gear fits in. This makes it easier to strap just one bag to the sissy bar and also doubles as a backrest. Check the T-Bags or KURIAKIN web sites.

  • I think if one has to attach a trailer to his motorcycle to haul his gear, then he shouldn’t ride a motorcycle, he should drive a car. Just IMHO.

  • We just completed a 5200 mile round trip from Virginia to the Rockies. We camped some and settled into motels, especially after a 500 mile day. Nice to have a real bed under me and shower and wake-up call. We packed too much and ended shipping about 50 lbs home via UPS from Thermopolis Wyoming. Had we planned better, we would have found more campgrounds along the way, but we didn’t. I heard one fella along the road say “Nowadays, I pack half what I think I’ll need, and twice as much cash”. One way to look at it I suppose, but camping is a blast, especially on motorcycles. My old Gold Wing will haul a bunch of stuff, but I’d have been better off if i had pulled the trailer. Next time. A recommendation for those who really want to get into it is to check out IBMC on the web. The International Brotherhood of Motorcycle Campers. I joined, and next season will probably be doing a lot more camping with like minded riders. Still, seriously thinking of finding a lightweight teardrop camper so these old bones can get relief from sleeping on the ground. Great thread, keep it up. Jesse

  • I went to Sturgis/Yellowstone this year. 3,874 miles on the bike. I packed the sleepingbag and camp pillow in a compression stuff-sack. It worked perfectly. I also used webbing to attach along with a bunch of bungee cords. I had no problems with anything coming loose or shifting.

  • I don’t know much about motorbike camping so I can’t make any qualified suggestions, but I have to say this is such a COOL idea. I have been working around camping stuff for more than “awhile” and this is the first Motorcycle Camping blog I have come across. Very original… and kudos to you.
    I am sure you will build quite a following. It would stand to reason that this crossing of interest would be popular.
    Will check back often!


  • I buy all my camp gear at Wallmart, Harbor Freight and Costco & Salvation Army. I do alot of Forest park camping $5 and BLM which is free. I camp with a 2004 Roadstar 1700, it is no good for going up very steep dirt roads loaded because it is to heavy and just slides around with street tires, I think a Dual Purpose machine would be better. I use a Wallmart 2 man tent , Reclining lawn chair to sleep on because of a bad back. Since fires are not allowed sometimes I use Sterno in a metal box to cook with. The NFS camps have all the water you want otherwise I bring a gallon. I like tea and coffee for drinking, if I am just going for overnight I eat cup o soups that you just add water, if for a longer period I will bring the MRE’s like I ate in the gulf war, you can get them at surplus stores and online. For entertainmment I have a radio/light combination that I can crank a handle and charge the onboard batt, so I don’t have to worry about batteries dying and being in the dark. Make sure you protect your tires from going flat before you head into the wilderness, a flat sucks! Also at least bring a big knife, I always prepare a 5 foot stick by putting a point on it, if you ever have the misfortune of becoming the center of attention to a mountain lion you will know why. Never forget your twine and ducktape!

  • I found a tent Eureka 2 man tent with 13 inch poles that easily fit in either a top or side case. Most campsites sell firewood….bring a small hatchet that doubles to split wood and hammer in tent stakes if needed. Invest in a small micro stove and small propane canister then don’t take up much room. In order to easily start the campfire bring along a small ziplock bag with “dryer lint” it starts the fire easily and doesn’t take up much room. If your sleeping back is larger than you like a cinch sack and get it down to a much more manageable size. If your a coffee drinker the tea bag type coffee work well…You can also now buy in the grocery store small liquid single serving creamers that don’t require refrigeration. For a mess kit only bring one small pot to boil water and one heating and eating from. Bring as much bottled water as you can carry. Minimize bringing alot of extra clothing just make sure you have a something warm with long sleeves to help with the mosquitos…I found a white long sleeve heavy tshirt that is treated with bug repellant….Don’t forget the camera and get off the road early if you plan to camp…sites fill up quickly for walk ins. Enjoy the evening under the stars!

  • Tents, sleeping bags, etc often have slippery cover bags. I wrap a piece of fish net around everything before strapping it on the bike. This keeps everything locked into one neat package.

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