Motorcycle Camping – The Guide To Traveling Light and Rough on Your Bike

When I was a high-school kid without cash, I used to ride my Yamaha TX500 up north here in Michigan with nothing but a bed roll, a couple sheets of plastic, some rope and a duffle bag packed with a small cooking kit and nasty-looking clothes strapped on the bike for a camping weekend.

Yamaha TX500
Good times.

Now that I’m beyond ‘seasoned’ and heading into the ‘already turned the corner’ age group, I’m thinking about doing a little motorcycle camping again.

With that in mind, here are a few tips on making your motorcycle camping experiences a more refined experience than the ones I endured back in the day.

Don’t Blow A Bunch of Money Before You Test the Waters

Oaky, you’re taking the plunge and you’ve decided to try motorcycle camping. A word of warning –  don’t go overboard by spending a lot of money on all the latest camping gear and planning a seven-day excursion for your first trip. Make your first trip a more modest venture.

Here are a few hints on starting out right:

Travel light – buy or borrow just enough equipment for a one-night outing at a location familiar to you;

Reduce the possible points of failure on your first trip by not cooking. Eat your meals at restaurants. The $2.99 breakfast is awesome – everywhere.

You don’t have to visit Alaska on your first run out of the box. In case your first camping experience turns ugly and you want to beat a hasty retreat to the comforts of home, avoid investing a pile of money in gear before you know if motorcycle camping is your cup of tea. Take it easy out of the starting gate and gradually increase the duration and distances involved in your camping trips.

A Little Planning Goes A Long Way

Let’s face it, a motorcycle has limited carrying capacity, so you’re forced to take everything you need – but nothing you don’t. It comes down to this, motorcycle camping is backpacking at speed.

A checklist is essential. Do you want to take a laptop computer on a camping trip? Maybe a smart phone will do the trick?

And just like going on any camping trip, have the good sense to check the weather forecast. Maintain some flexibility in your schedule and you can avoid spending the entire trip soaking wet and smelling like a housepet.

Perhaps the best advice we can give? Three crucial words. Large plastic bags.

Pack A Reasonable Load

Don’t overload the motorcycle, they don’t like that in a purely aerodynamic way.

If you have it as an option, pack your camping equipment and other travel items in hard saddlebags. All your electronic items should be packed in waterproof bags and tightly strapped down to the motorcycle. Camera equipment is the most sensitive to water, so try zip-lock freezer bags, and heavy items should be stored as low as possible and somewhere ahead of the rear wheel. Do all your packing the day before you’re set to take off,  and by all means take a test ride to make sure you haven’t compromised the bike’s  handling and that all your items are secured against the wind.

Find the Right Campsite

It might not hurt to know where you’re sleeping each night of your trip, but the beauty of motorcycle camping is this; you don’t have to know where you’re staying each night of the trip. What you’ll need is fresh water, toilets, and showers. Selecting the right spot to pitch your tent or lay down your sleeping bag is a big deal, so look for a spot which is level and free of debris. Look for a place where there won’t be a lot of traffic from other campers and which won’t end up a mudhole should it rain overnight.

Another item to consider is a hammock. Light, easy to store and easy to set up, the right hammock can keeps you up off the ground and dry, and they’re actually pretty comfortable when you put your sleeping bag in them as bedding.

Clothes Make the Man – And Woman

No need to go crazy here, you can pick up a brand new package of t-shirts for a ten spot. Think blanket-lined jeans and rain gear. Any water-resistant clothing you bring will reward you many times over the long haul. It’s not a fashion show, but if you need something sporty and you need to ‘dress to impress,’ buy something nice, wear it, and then throw it all in a shipping box and send it home before you hit the road for your next destination.

For the ladies?  We’re well aware that there are certain necessities for achieving the proper look, so make sure they pack easily and don’t leak, don’t require a lot of space and are critical to the operation. Once again, our general rule is aimed at keeping it simple; only bring it if you can’t buy it when you get there – and be prepared to ship it all home before you set out.



Web Address/Title
Camping Equipment Suppliers

Motorcycle Camping GuidesMotorcycle Camping Made Easy(ISBN 1-884313-33-7, $19.95)
Motorcycle Camping
Motorcycle Friendly Campground


Let’s face it, you like to ride hard and fast and your insurance needs are all about the family you’re sure to leave behind. We kid…but you do need to make sure you’re covered in case you lay it down.

We’re here to help you get enough inexpensive motorcycle insurance to make sure your kids can go to college and your wife will remember you fondly…#justsayin

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