Six Gear Ideas for Great Motorcycle Camping
Summer isn't quite done yet, and in most parts of the Northern Hemisphere the good weather will hold for at least another month or so. With Labor Day having come and gone it is also a good time to enjoy the outdoors without having to compete against families for the best spots.
Camping is simply awesome, and it's even better when you're doing it on a motorbike; that sense of escapism heightened by your machine’s minimalist carrying capacity and the uncertainty of what the journey might bring.
But who says you have to suffer for your adventures by abandoning all first-world luxuries? Of course, motorbike camping requires a little more forethought than just throwing a bunch of stuff in a trunk at the last second, but get it right and I guarantee you’ll have a better time. My motorbike camping kit bag is stuffed with the latest in hi-tech gear to ensure that every trip is as good as it can be.
I’ve listed the main components that I believe will help you sleep, drink, eat, and relax better; I won’t tell you what to wear or what to eat since that’s personal preference (though don’t forget beer - seriously), and there are loads of obvious camping essentials that I’m sure you already know about, but check it out and let me know what you think. What items have made your motorbike camping experience more enjoyable?
1) Heimplanet Fistral Tent, $520
This is my party piece when it comes to camping with my bike. You’ll get a lot of strange looks when you whip out your pump and start inflating this two-man tent, but ignore the attention and you’ll be rewarded with the easiest pitch of your life.
The Fistral can be erected in about two minutes, maybe less if you’re a particularly keen pumper. There are no poles to mess with either (or snap), you simply attach the pump and away you go, the final task being staking the tent with several high-quality alloy pegs.
Not only does it make my life easy on arrival, when all I want to do is pitch and chill, it’s one of the nicest two-man tents I’ve ever slept in. It has loads of room front to back, even for my goliath-like 6-foot-4-inch frame, and plenty of space either side of the double-opening to store my gear and keep it protected from the elements. You also get loads of internal pockets, and a handy light hammock on the ceiling lets you mount your headlamp for night time activities... whatever that may be.
I’d say it’s not the lightest tent out there, nor does it have an especially small pack size, but for me it’s worth the minor carry penalty. There’s no doubt that north of $500 on a two-man tent is a lot of cash, especially when you can pick up the highly-rated Big Agnes from REI for just over $300. You’ll need the mini pump, too, which is another $36.
If you’re looking for ultra-minimalism on a budget then head elsewhere, but if you want luxury camping with a modicum of portability, this is it.
2) Thermarest NeoAir XLite/Corus HD Quilt, $159.95/$239.95
I’ve been rocking the standard camping-issue foam mat and mummy bag combo for years now, but truth be told I’ve never had a particularly great night’s sleep (unless a bottle of tequila is involved). Things have moved on in the camping scene, thankfully, and I’ve discovered a setup that lets me grab some much needed shut eye.
You’ve probably already heard of Thermarest before - they make awesome sleeping mats, and the one I’m using here is their top of the line NeoAir XLite. It packs small but once inflated (easy, with the self-inflating valve) your thoracic is rewarded with a distinctly luxurious 2.5 inches of air. What makes this mattress really cool, though, is the sleeping bag that goes with it, or rather I should say "camping quilt," which is the technically-correct term for the Corus HD Quilt.
Unlike a mummy bag, which traps you into a sleeping position, the quilt simply goes on top of you, so if, like me, you’re a side-sleeping fan, you’re going to love this. Using stick-on push snaps, you can attach the quilt to the mat to keep it in place, and the side baffles stop drafts from getting in when it’s cool. I will stress that, as a cold sleeper, I have to chuck on a few layers, otherwise I’ll catch a chill at night. For me, this setup is good down to about 50F with some clothes thrown on; a hat is essential here due to the lack of a hood.
The other major benefit of this camping quilt is its pack size - due to the featherweight down insulation and lack of a back section it’s really small once compressed. You can even get both mat and quilt in long sizes; praise be to the tall gods.
3) Primus Lite+, $114.95
When I’m camping I probably consume about 15 cups of coffee a day - excessive, I know, but there’s a reason for that: the Primus Lite+. This portable stove can boil a half litre (about 17 oz.) of water in just a few minutes, so whenever you get your thirst-on, you can magic up a cup of joe pretty quickly.
One of the neat things about this stove, other than the rate at which it can boil water, is the proprietary locking mechanism of the stove. Just twist the pot onto it and it locks in place, which not only makes it very sturdy, it also makes it very heat efficient (hence the fast boil). The pot also has an attachable shroud with a handle, allowing you to use it as a mug (so no need to pack one), and the heat resistance both keeps heat in and stops it from frazzling your mitts.
There’s even an optional French press, for making great-tasting filter coffee - essential, if you ask me - and you can get a pot (the Lite XL) that attaches in the same way and makes for an easy way to cook your pasta or beans, or whatever food floats your boat.
If you’re going serious adventuring, Primus also do a fuel bottle (up to 1.5 litres) that can serve double duty: as your spare fuel, and, when combined with the Primus Omnifuel stove, for cooking. The beauty of this setup is you don’t need to carry a separate gas can with you.
4) Leki Breeze, $99.95
I don’t know about you guys and gals, but there’s only so much sitting on the floor I can take. Sometimes you just need a proper chair to relax. Normal camping chairs clearly won’t fit on a passenger seat, but this super-light, super-packable chair from Leki does - in fact it only takes up as much space as a small loaf of bread, and it even comes with a beer holder, for Pete’s sake.
Putting it up on site is easy, too - just fold out the fiberglass legs, pop them into their mounts and place the seat cover on top. It looks a bit like it might fall apart as soon as you perch on it, but I assure you - it’s solid as a rock (even for bigger guys like me) and comfy as hell. Oh, and did I mention there’s a beer holder?
5) Lightweight camping table, $18.99
So you’ve got your seating situation sorted, but do you really want to have to bend down to the floor each time you want to cook something or have a drink? Of course you don’t, so the obvious solution is a portable table; it just makes life easier.
I’ve not got a specific company to go with here, but the good news is there are so many made-in-China tables for sale on eBay that you just need to go on there and search for "lightweight camping table" to get a boat-load of relevant results. Because of their origin in the world, they’re dirt cheap, but usually good quality.
Unlike the Leki, the table pictured above uses aluminium for the legs, making it super-sturdy but lightweight. And putting it up is even easier as it’s a single unit. Just roll it out, expand the legs and attach the fabric tabletop - job done.
6) LightMyFire MealKit 2.0, $17.99
As you may have guessed, a lot of my favourite camping gear revolves around eating and drinking, which, to be fair, is pretty important when you’re in the middle of nowhere. So, my final essential is this Swedish-made Light My Fire MealKit 2.0.
I’ve actually got the original MealKit; in the 2.0 version that’s now available you get an upgraded 8-piece kit, with an expandable drinking cup and more storage, but essentially it’s a mess kit in one box: with a spork, storage boxes, cutting tray (handily doubles as a sieve) and the actual box itself, which can be used as a pair of plates. With the rubber harness that secures the lid there’s no chance of the box coming apart when you’re on the move.
Sure, there are loads of mess kits out there that pretty much do the same thing (MSR does a variety of kits, for example), but the MealKit 2.0 has to be one of the most elegant and packable solutions I’ve come across.