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Motorcycle Camping :: Motorcycle Camping and Adventure Gear Buyers Guide

It’s been a great day on the road––or off it––and as the sun heads for the horizon you’re thinking about where to bed down for the night. You could look for another stuffy motel room with questionable sheets and a constant drip from the shower, but somehow that doesn’t go with the adventure you’ve been having. Why not bed down under the stars instead, with the universe for a ceiling and crickets as your only neighbors?

If the last time you went camping was with your parents, and you struggled to set up a huge canvas tent and shivered the night away in flimsy cotton sleeping bags, you’ll be happy to hear camping gear has improved a lot over the years. Motorcycle campers especially have benefitted from the development of small, lightweight gear originally designed for backpackers, as well as from a raft of products made specifically for motorcyclists. Here are some tips on choosing the right gear for your next––or even your first––stay at the Milky Way Motel.


Tents vary by size, shape, occupancy and the range of conditions they’re designed for, but one feature is non-negotiable––water-tightness. Before you trust a tent to the outdoors, practice setting it up and leave it set up in your backyard for a while in the rain to make sure no water gets in.

A three-season tent should be fine in most conditions you’re likely to camp in. A four-season tent, designed to withstand not only wind and rain but the weight of snow, will be sturdier but probably won’t ventilate as well, and will be heavier and bulkier to pack.

A free-standing tent with aluminum poles––the fiberglass ones can break––can be moved once you set it up in case you find a spot you like better, or one the bugs like less. Get a tent rated for one more person than will be sleeping in it––a two-person tent for one camper, a three-person for two. Look for a campground with a store so you don’t have to carry everything on the bike, firewood in particular.

Look for a campground with a store so you don’t have to carry everything on the bike, firewood in particular.

Sleeping Bags

Sleeping bags are rated according to the lowest temperature they’re suitable for, but experts say you should buy a bag that’s rated for lower temps than you expect to encounter, since it’s easier to cool off than it is to get warmer.

Most sleeping bags use either goose down or a synthetic material for insulation. Goose down is light and compressible so it packs well, but it doesn’t insulate as well as synthetic when it’s wet. Synthetic bags tend to be heavier and bulkier than goose-down bags of the same temperature rating.

Mummy bags, which taper toward the foot area, heat up faster when you crawl in, but they’re more confining than rectangular bags, which let you move around but take longer for your body heat to warm up. Don’t forget a fleece, foam- or down-filled, or inflatable pillow, and a sleeping mat to go under the bag to insulate you from the cold ground. If you choose an inflatable mat make sure you have good lungs, or a hand pump or one that runs off your bike’s battery.


Some experienced moto-campers suggest first-timers shouldn’t worry about cooking full meals until they have the rest of their act together, but a small stove to heat coffee water or make ramen soup is handy. So is a collapsible water container you can fill and carry back to your campsite. Camping out instead of being restricted to hotel locations frees you up to ride to more remote places…often on better roads.

Camping out instead of being restricted to hotel locations frees you up to ride to more remote places…often on better roads.

If you don’t want to bother with cooking, but want something more substantial than cheese and crackers for dinner, consider MREs (meals, ready to eat). Civilian versions of these military ration packs are available from most outdoor outlets and have a shelf life measured in years. The menus are surprisingly varied, typically including an entrée, a side dish, dessert, condiments, instant coffee and a wet nap. Many brands of MREs can be ordered with water-activated heaters for a hot (more or less) meal with minimal fuss.

Creature Comforts

Sitting in the dirt is no fun, so bring along a collapsible chair or folding stool you can settle into when the campfire is lit and story time begins. Pack a roll of toilet paper along with your other personal stuff in case the campsite is the very definition of primitive, and find room for a utility knife, some matches and sunscreen. And don’t forget a collapsible wide-brimmed hat, with a bug net where applicable.

Emergency Supplies

A flashlight is a must, as is a first-aid kit. Pack spare batteries and bulbs, and remember there’s not much point to bringing a first-aid kit if you don’t know how to perform first aid. Take a Red Cross course so you know not only what’s in the kit, but how to use it. Finally, remember to bring tools and spares for your motorcycle.

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Posted by Jade Redmond | on