How To: Motorcycle Camp

How To -


How To: Motorcycle Camp

Motorcycle camping can be a rewarding and seriously fun adventure. Riding a motorcycle allows you the reach places a larger vehicle just can’t get to. This lets to you start a base camp further into the woods, which allows you to hike further into harder to reach areas. If you don’t already have camping gear getting started can be a little expensive. Unlike a car you need to be cognizant of weight and packed size so you can carry everything you need on your motorcycle. What follows is a list of what I use, it’s on the lower end of money spent to get a decent camping setup. You can spend less by going to Wal Mart for everything and you can definitely spend a lot more on high end gear.

The Carry Bags
It is imperative to have a bag, or bags, that will protect all of your equipment. You do not want your gear wet when you arrive to setup camp. I use the large Wolfman Expedition Dry Duffel, $105. This 47+ liter vinyl construction roll top dry bag has four compression straps, two tie down straps, and a two part carry handle. It is utterly massive yet can be stored and carried extremely small. It’s welded seam construction is built right here in the USA. I also have the medium sized dry duffel in case I need to carry more without using panniers. Full reviews of these to follow.

Motorcycle Camping

Depending on the type of motorcycle you will have different options for side cases, panniers, or saddle bags depending on what you want to call them. They can be hard bags, semi hard bags, or soft bags. My current setup are hard bags from Holan. They are a 45 liter case paired with a second 45 liter case that features a cut out to clear the exhaust and keep the bikes width as narrow as possible. This cutout drops the useable space down to 38 liters.

What’s Inside The Bags?
Kelty Hula House 4 person tent, $250 on close out. This tent is massive overkill for two people. I went this big to get the one feature I really wanted, to be able to stand up. A side benefit of all the extra space is it does offer the ability to store the side cases and anything else you need dry. Equipped with the rain fly you can also leave your shoes or other items just outside the tent door and still protect them from the elements.

Dimensions: 96 x 72 x 96 inches when pitched, 26 x 10 inches packed

Weight: 12.4 pounds

Motorcycle Camping

Kelty footprint $59.95. This is large enough for the entire tent and the rain fly coverage. Giving you something nice to stand on and remove shoes before entering the tent.

Motorcycle Camping

GSI Bugaboo Cookset, $99.00. The kit includes 4 polypropylene plates, 4 bowls, 4 insulated mugs, 4 Sip-It lids, a 2-liter pot with lid, a 3-liter pot with lid, a frypan, a pot gripper and a stuff sack. The stuff sack doubles as a sink for carrying water and cleaning the other pieces. The frypan and pot are non-stick making clean up easier. The set is super small and light making it ideal for both motorcycle camping but also backpacking. It’s 9.1 x 5.8 inches packed into it’s carry container.

Sea to Summit Alpha Light knife and spork set, $12.95. Since I almost always travel with my wife I carry two sets.

Jetboil Jetset Utensil kit, $9.95. This set includes a cooking fork, spatula, and spoon. The slide into the handle making them very small to pack and yet long enough to make cooking a breeze.

GSI Cathole plastic sanitation trowel, $4.99. I carry two of these in case one breaks. They are pretty sturdy, but every once in awhile they just break when you hit something wrong. The Leave no Trace guidelines are listed on the back and $1 supports the program. I try very hard to leave the environment how I found it.

Motorcycle Camping

REI Travel Sack sleeping bags, $65.00. Lightweight sleeping bag designed for temperatures above 50 degrees but can be used in cooler temperatures with some clothing layers. It can also be used as a liner for a heavier sleeping bag for really cold weather. Packs into a 6.5 x 12 inch size.

One of the most versatile items is a good blanket. We use a one that my wife’s father purchased in Mexico while on vacation years ago. It’s lightweight, super strong, and doesn’t hold water, so if it gets wet it drys quickly. It’s also surprisingly warm for how thin the material is. It can be a pillow, a sleeping pad, something to wrap up in around the fire, and an extra layer for warmth when sleeping.

Always carry a good compass you know how to use, a knife that’s comfortable and versatile, and a flashlight with fresh batteries. I don’t currently have a tent lantern but this can very useful. You can get small LED lanterns that put out a lot of light and pack very small.

Everything listed above fits in the large Expedition Dry Duffel with room to spare. Which is good because things like toilet paper, wet wipes, towels, and other items may be needed depending on where you are camping. Campgrounds will have bathrooms on some occasions but more wilderness style camping requires you to carry everything you need.

The Holan panniers are used for clothes, shoes, gear, and personal items. The second dry duffel is usually packed to carry really dirty items home, and to pack food items for the trip out. I have to be careful to balance everything so the back does not get too high and cause the bike to become unstable. I don’t have the luxury of using the rear seat cut to having a passenger so it definitely creates a secondary challenge when trying to travel several days on one bike. Eventually I will purchase some smaller dry bags to mount to the pannier lids for food and other items so I don’t have to put so much on the top plate.

Do you motorcycle camp and what do you take? 

  • MichaelEhrgott

    Lightweight 2 person backpacking tent, pad, 20 degree sleeping bag and compression stuff sack, JetBoil stove, Mountain House for dinner and platypus style water bottles. Also a Spork eatin tool thingy

    • William Connor

      Sporks are awesome! Just a great versatile eating utensil.

    • Sentinel


  • Scott Otte

    I’ve yet to try cooking on a motorcycle camping trip with an actual stove and pots etc. Mostly I just eat elsewhere then camp the move on in the morning. As soon as you start cooking you add a lot of stuff to carry. It’s good to see some suggestions on what to take. I just got back from camping a couple of nights on my way to and from Portland

    • William Connor

      I like to eat out as well, but I love to cook over an open fire.

      • Scott Otte

        Someday I’ll make the investment to get the gear to cook on site, and find the space to fit it all on my poor little Ducati…

        • William Connor

          The investment is the hard part. The picture does not do justice to just how small that cooking set is.

          • Scott Otte

            Maybe I’ll convince the wife I need a bigger motorcycle…

    • Carter

      I throw a MRE or other pre-made hiking food into my gear. Just one or two, and I usually don’t end up using those, but they’re there in case I need them. A small stove and canteen cup is nice for heating up some shaving water or making instant coffee.

  • Scott

    I stick with the Walmart tents. They do the job just as good as the nicer ones. I a small ground cover tarp and I have a larger that I can get over the then and over a porch area in front of the tent. All tents leak at some point, so tarps are cheap and easy. Good thermos, get coffee from a gas station the night before and drink it in the morning. No cookware for me. A good sleeping bag to deal with low temps is needed. A LED headlamp is best for lighting and small. A leatherman, pocket knife, lots of bungees, and rope.

    • Stuart Bogue

      All tents don’t leak. If your tent leaks,get a different one that doesn’t .Cheap or expensive,if it leaks,it isn’t working. Ride to camp.Camp to Ride

    • Timothy Gray

      the walmart tents fail during heavy weather. if you dont have a rain fly that goes all the way to the ground, the tent is only for fair weather. nothing sucks more than trying to sleep through a storm at night with a wet tent collapsed on you.

  • James
  • Matthew Saldivar

    V-strom650 adventure. Rei quarter dome 2, radiant 10 sleeping bag, msr expedition water purifier, msr reactor stove, thermarest pad, maps, shoes, camera gear all fits into those two boxes. The thermarest gets strapped to the top of the left box. More pics on instagram ig: 12amRider

    • William Connor

      Very nice setup. One of my biggest challenges is packing for two. I could take 1/3 less stuff if I was solo ride camping.

      • Matthew Saldivar

        I here ya. A top box might help plus it acts as a backrest or try a bolt on sidecar.

        • William Connor

          For me the top box is difficult because I choose to use the Wolfman dry bag to carry everything for camping in. It mounts right where a top box goes and my top plate has a back rest that the wife prefers. It works. Wolfman makes a renegade duffel that would mount to the side cases on the boxes built in tie downs. This would give me enough capacity for a really long trip.

      • Timothy Gray

        1/3 less stuff and 2X the space to pack it. Motorcycle camping 2 up is a real challenge.

    • Carter

      Nice “SUV” you have there! This is exactly why ADV bikes are great – we can take the stuff we need for days or weeks on the road, and still have a bike that will go almost anywhere.

  • Matthew Saldivar

    These pics don’t post.

    Sorry guess it works.

  • kent_skinner

    Tank bag: maps, iphone, spare gloves, bandana, a few snacks, water pouch, shield cleaning stuff, knife.

    Saddle bags (Wolfman, waterproof):

    – 1 side: cooking (cheap stove, pan with lid, gas cylinder, cutting board, silverware, plate, bowl, coffee cup) and food (a few freeze dried meals, just in case, oatmeal, Starbucks Via coffee, snacks, bourbon). Some days, I buy food and put it in the side bag. Beer & ice, if I’m only a few miles from camp.
    – other side: spare clothes (hiking boots, towel, toiletries kit, jacket, pants, shirts, etc…) hatchet
    Rear duffel: tent, sleeping bag, sleeping pad, Kermit chair

    I’ve been on the bike (WeeStrom) for up to two weeks in this configuration, and it works well. Not too heavy, nor so sparse that I have to stop for laundry frequently, and can go for a few days without stopping for supplies.

  • edwardsak

    I started using a hammock tent from Hennessey. Best sleep I’ve had while camping in a long time and it packs small (I use the Expedition model).

    Seems like there should be cheaper options for hammock camping, but the expedition was only $160 and is quality stuff.

  • charlie

    How tough is that dry duffel? Looks great for an all-purpose travel bag.

    • William Connor

      It’s really sturdy. I am pretty amazed at the quality. I have several Wolfman items and every one of them are sturdy items.

  • Rowan

    Jet boil cookers. Awesome

  • Pierce Blackheart

    I just got back from a weekend camping trip. I left Davis, CA toward SF. From there I went south along the coast and spent the night up in the Santa Cruz mountains. 1997 BMW F650 with hard cases, REI Clipper tent, Sierra Designs down sleeping bag, thermarest mattress, a backpacking stove and a coffee pot. I stopped in Santa Cruz and picked up some food for dinner, made my coffee the next day and I was set. I am looking forward to longer camping trips this summer.

  • Mike

    Just finished a 3 day camp trip in northern WI. Like to add a couple things to the aleady mentioned. Micro fiber pack towel (small and absorbant ), mp3 player and mini speaker, tennis shoes for around camp ( priceless ) , REI camp chair ( packs small and light, comfy ), 6pack sized soft cooler can be crushed down ( fill with beer and ice just prior to camp. Strap to outside of bags. ) instant coffee ( beats carrying a thermos ), Alum. carrying case for stove also to heat water in. Multitool ( leatherman etc.. ), Tarp for trail side repairs and under tent. Canned food ( Dinty Moore, chunky soups etc.. ) and last WET Wipes for freshing up.

  • Timothy Gray

    Note: save $59.95 and do not buy the tent footprint. go to a Home repair store and buy a $7.95 paint tarp. Lay it out, set the tent on top of it, cut out the shape of the tent. You also have enough material to make another 30 tent footprints when the first one wears out. Yes it’s as good as Kelty’s super double premium outfitter lever footprint.