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Motorcycle Camping :: Motorcycle Camping 101

For some the idea of a night in the wilderness, or even at an established campground, is simply unthinkable. How do you survive without a solid roof and hard floor, not to mention TiVo, the Dux bed and all of your stuff? What about insects, wild animals and hot running water? And for goodness sake, if you must bivouac for recreation, don’t you need a car to carry everything?

No, no, bon-bon breath, the joy of camping is not merely communing with nature, sleeping under the stars and smelling like a campfire in the morning. Part of the fun is doing without, and enjoying the simplicity that it brings to an evening. After the day’s ride, whether you take your time and prepare a fancy meal or just heat up a can of Dinty Moore and savor it slowly, there’s nothing else to worry about… except the dishes!

After dinner go for a stroll, read a book by candlelight or share your favorite beverage around the picnic table, because Desperate Housewives just isn’t on! Camping out is a lot cheaper than moteling it, too, and can keep you out on the road longer for less money.

Camping by car can be a necessity with kids or when not everybody rides. It also means you can bring it all—firewood, the family tent, an air bed and pump, the 12-pound Coleman sleeping bags that zip together, a camp kitchen in a 35-gallon storage box and enough food and drink for twice the crowd. What about camping out on a motorcycle trip? Unless you intend to tow a motorcycle trailer like one in the buyers guide that follows, motorcycles limit the amount of clutter one can bring along. No problem! With a little ingenuity and a few small, lightweight essentials from a backpacking store, you can enjoy a hot meal, the camaraderie a roaring fire creates and a soft, warm bed out in the wilds. Unless it rains and a bear eats your food, of course. Cheers! Shorts, topsiders and a beret are clearly the secrets to staying warm on a 45-degree campout. Next year, if we bring you a camping story, look for it in a fall issue.

Cheers! Shorts, topsiders and a beret are clearly the secrets to staying warm on a 45-degree campout. Next year, if we bring you a camping story, look for it in a fall issue.

Old hands that we are at motorcycle camping, for the Rider staff campout we thought it might make a useful June issue story to up the ante a bit with an Editors’ Challenge. The rules were simple—each of us had to pack on one of the four bikes in the sport-touring shootout on page 36. In addition to the hard bags on the bikes, each rider could use a large Dry Bag Duffel from Aerostich RiderWearHouse on the pillion. These hold a ton, strap or bungee on easily and keep everything dry—medium and small sizes are available as well. Each rider could also use a tankbag, but it had to be small enough that it would not get in the rider’s way when tucked in at speed—we were also testing the motorcycles, after all. Finally, each camper had to bring his or her own tent, sleeping pad and sleeping bag, and had to prepare something hot to eat for themselves for dinner and breakfast.

To the experienced campers out there this probably sounds easy, and indeed normally it would be…except that magazine lead times being what they are, we had to plan our little soirée for a night between rainstorms in early March, when the forecast was unusually chilly. That meant extra gear, of course, so we simplified our task by doing what you would probably do anyway—picking a campground with toilets, running water, picnic tables and firewood. It allowed us to get in a long test ride on day one and two, work our Gold Wing-mounted photographer Rich Cox half to death both sunset and sunrise, and still spend a reasonably comfortable night roughing it.

The wind blew and it was definitely a cold night, but in the end we all had fun yakking it up by the fire till we ran out of wood. As a bonus we were in the perfect spot that evening and morning for much of the motorcycle photography. Part-time Campbell’s recipe tester Salvadori spices up his Chunky soup.

Part-time Campbell’s recipe tester Salvadori spices up his Chunky soup.

Fireside Tips

We whiled away the evening wine tasting and sharing our camping tips and stories. A few general ones are listed and in each camper’s sidebar. Be sure to write us at with yours and we’ll put the best ones in a future article:

  • Freezing meat and other perishables the night before you leave and packing them in foil or in a small, soft-sided cooler will usually have them thawed by dinnertime. Or not.
  • Look for a tent sized one person larger than you plan to accommodate that packs small enough for your carrying method. Practice setting it up at least once before you go. A cheap ground cover—old shower curtain, tarp, whatever—will protect the (preferably waterproof) bottom of the tent from sharp rocks and sticks. Don’t forget the rain fly if it’s not a fully waterproof model.
  • The debate over white gas stoves vs. propane/butane canister models burns on, but we do know that white gas is cheaper and works better in cold weather, and propane/butane is cleaner and more convenient.
  • For the purposes of this story we were each packed self-sufficiently, but normally groups would share a single stove, lantern, tent(s), etc. for efficiency. More room for beverages that way!
  • Check the weather, and call ahead to campgrounds on your route to see if you need reservations, how late the camp store, if any, stays open (for firewood, for example), etc.
  • Finding and researching campgrounds is easiest online—a good place to start is the National Park Service at www, National Forest Service at, or just Google “motorcycle campgrounds” or simply “campgrounds.”

Donya’s Desserts

Despite claiming that this was going to be easy and the rule that we could only use a small tankbag that didn’t interfere with a tucked-in rider, Senior Managing Editor Donya Carlson showed up on departure morn with a lovely color-matched tankbag the size of a laser printer, in addition to her other luggage. We forced a smaller one on her, into which she stuffed its mysterious contents, though on the ride Editor Tuttle nearly threw it in the bushes because it still got in the way in the fast corners. Thank goodness he didn’t, because that evening Donya whipped a 10-inch homemade cheesecake out of it for dessert! With some baling wire contributed by Tuttle she also roasted marshmallows and made s’mores, those yummy traditional camp graham-cracker sandwich treats that taste great and could give heartburn to hot-dog eating champ Takeru Kobayashi. Clem had never enjoyed a s’more before, and afterward pronounced that he wouldn’t be needing another for quite some time.

Donya needed a smaller tent for this venture, as she normally camps with her husband Bill and he just wouldn’t fit in the Dry Bag Duffel. She selected a two-man Eureka from Whitehorse Press that packs small and assembled quickly and easily. Donya also volunteered to try the new­fangled Jetboil Personal Cooking System from Whitehorse, a compact, self-contained cooking cup/burner/fuel canister combo, and it worked well within its food/gas volume limitations.

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Posted by Jade Redmond | on