Camping on a motorcycle is a great way to see the country and save some money on your vacation. In my opinion, it is easily the best way to travel, you experience the landscape in such a different way when you actually feel the changes. You don’t get that in a car. In a car, everything is the same the whole way. If it’s raining, you’re dry, if it’s hot, you run the air conditioner. There is no real sense of adventure when traveling in a car, but on a bike, you really experience your journey. This is something everyone should do at least once, but being properly prepared will be the difference between having an amazing, memorable trip and being miserable the whole time and ruining your trip. Some things are obvious, like taking a tent and something to start a fire, other things are not so obvious like taking some spare gear oil.
You can’t go empty handed
The first thing you will need is a good set of bags. If you are planning to be gone for more than a few days you will likely need saddle bags and a backpack. You may not realize it, but your bags are under a lot of stress. They have to hold up to winds, possibly rain, constantly being taken off and put back on if you store them inside at night. The same goes for your backpack. I made the mistake of going with a cheap Wal-Mart backpack on my first long trip and the zipper busted and I ended up losing my gloves and some jerky I picked up at a local smokehouse in Texas. Considering we were riding through the desert that night it was especially bad because my hands were freezing by the time we stopped. If you want to get the best, check out special motorcycle backpacks. You can read about some great motorcycle backpacks here. Let me tell you, when they say it gets cold fast in the desert it is not an exaggeration. Within minutes of the sun starting to set the temperature drops by 20 degrees.
You’ll need some kind of shelter (optional)
This brings me to my next point, shelter. Unless you are planning on cowboy camping, that is camping without any type of shelter, you will need some type of tent. Be sure to get one suited for the climate you will be riding in. If you will be in the southeast during the summer, for example, you will want something to keep the bugs out, but let a breeze flow through to keep it cool. A thin mesh door tent works well here. Conversely, if you will be camping in the winter, or out in the desert, you will want one that is short with thicker walls to help retain heat. The same goes for your sleeping bag. You don’t want an arctic sleeping bag rated at 10 degrees in the middle of the summer and you don’t want a summer sack if you are going to be riding in the cold. Same for your motorcycle, if you are planning on camping somewhere that is very dusty, you may want to bring a motorcycle cover.
Fire and food
No matter where you are camping one thing that is a must is fire. You must always have a way to start a fire. Personally, I think carrying a box of matches in a waterproof container, a lighter, and a flint and steel is a good idea. You can get all three for less than $10 if you shop around and they can all be stored in the handle of a survival knife which is also good to have if you are planning on camping. You should also bring a mess kit and some rations if you are planning on roughing it. I like to mix it up a bit. Sometimes I will cook on the campfire, but others I like to try local food. On that note, never pass up a restaurant just because it is at a truck stop. I am not talking about the hot dogs on the rollers, but a true sit down and eat restaurant. Easily the best meal I had going to Albuquerque was an Indian place just inside New Mexico on I-40. I can’t for the life of me remember what it was called, but this place dispelled any doubts I even had about truck stop food. Back to the matter at hand, for those who are unaware, a mess kit is a small, collapsible set of cookware and utensils. Usually, they are about 6 inches across and 2 inches thick and have a skillet, small pot, a cup, and a fork and spoon. These are great for cooking on a campfire since they take up so little room when stored properly.
Don’t forget spare motorcycle oil
One thing you may not have thought you need, but it never hurts to have is extra oil. Let’s say you are riding and all of the sudden it just starts pouring down rain. You stop at the next opportunity, but down the road, you notice your bike isn’t shifting right. You check the gear oil and it looks like a milkshake. Not good. Well, by this point you may be 50 miles from a gas station depending on where you are riding and going that far with contaminated oil can do some serious damage. If this happens you will need to change it a few times to get all of the water out, but a quart of oil is a good thing to keep on hand just in case. You can check out some of the better gear oils over at therevver.com.
Depending on the type of camping you plan to do the list of what to take can be endless, but if you stick with the basics you should be fine for a few days with your bike and a good friend, or by yourself. Personally, I like someone to talk to after being alone with my thoughts for hours on end. Above all, though, be safe. Just because you are in the middle of nowhere does not mean you can just pitch a tent and spend the night. Try to find a campground, or you could always ask the owner for permission to camp on their land. If you are in a situation where this is the only option other than riding on until you find a town, which could be hundreds of miles out west, just talk to the owner, they are usually understanding and will let you camp out as long as you leave no trace.