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Motorcycle Camping and Adventure Gear Buyers Guide


Selecting a tent that packs away small enough to be easily carried on the bike is your first order of business. Look for one with good ventilation, a waterproof fly and aluminum poles.

Photo Credit: Rich Cox

Jerry Smith
July 24, 2012
Filed under Featured Buyer's Guide, Gear, Motorcycle Gear Reviews

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.

Eureka Backcountry 1 Tent

The Backcountry 1 ($199) sleeps one person and has a floor that measures 8 x 3 feet. Mesh panels and a rear wall vent aid ventilation, and the super-sized side opening door has twin-track zippers and an offset window. Inside are two storage pockets, four gear loops and a flashlight loop. A two-man version is also available that packs down to a manageable size for motorcycling.

Cosmo Air Sleeping Pad

The Cosmo Air ($139.95) is a lightweight sleeping pad with a built-in pump. The pad is 3 inches thick and weighs about 2 pounds. It measures 25 x 76 inches inflated, and packs down to 13 x 4.5 inches.
Twisted Throttle

Dirt Riding Skills DVD

Sometimes getting to the campsite can be more challenging than setting up camp. This video ($29.95) covers dirt riding techniques like Use of Controls, Seated Riding, Seated Turning, Sections and Lines, Riding While Standing, Challenging Terrain and Flowing. It also includes a printed Field Guide to use while practicing exercises.
Whitehorse Gear

DrySpec D28 Bag

The D28 bag ($69.99) has a dual-end roll-top design that lets you get into either end of the bag without taking it off the bike. It attaches to the bike with a four-point quick-connect soft-tie system and can be used with or without a luggage rack. It’s 100 percent waterproof, has a capacity of 28-30 liters and measures 9 x 9 x 32 inches fully packed. Twisted Throttle

Giant Loop Great Basin Saddlebag

The water-resistant Great Basin ($439) holds 50 liters of gear and doesn’t require a rack or mounting plate. It’s made of 22-ounce vinyl-coated polyester and is sewn with military-grade thread. It has two integrated 1-liter bottle carriers, an integrated zippered top case and two zippered removable pannier pods. Fully packed, it measures 55 inches from the bottom of one side up over the top to the bottom of the other side;
9 inches high in the top center; and 12 inches front to back at the top center.
Giant Loop


The FireBox portable camp stove ($47.99) is made of 18-gauge stainless steel and burns anything flammable––charcoal briquettes, wood pellets or scraps, solid fuel tablets or Sterno. It weighs 2.2 pounds and folds flat for easy packing. It measures 5 x 5 x 7 inches opened up, and 5 x 7 x 1.5 inches folded flat.
The Epicenter

Kermit Chair

The Kermit chair ($139) is made of oak and aluminum structural elements and Cordura fabric. It weighs 5 pounds, packs into a 4 x 6 x 23 inch bag, and can be set up in under a minute, adding a touch of class to any campsite. It’s available in blue, green, burgundy or black.

Lost Ranger Sleeping Bag

The goose down-insulated Lost Ranger ($239.95-$259.95) is rated at 15 degrees, but is comfortable in temperatures from the mid-30s to low 50s. It has an integrated sleeve for a sleeping pad, a no-draft yoke around the neck, a sewn-in pillow pocket and a rectangular shape. A cotton storage sack and a nylon stuff sack are included. The bag weighs about 3 pounds and compresses to 8 x 8.5 inches.
Full Throttle Camping

Motorcycle Camping
Made Easy

There’s more to moto-camping than just gear. Motorcycle Camping Made Easy ($19.95) has information about evaluating your bike for load-carrying, planning your trip and packing for it, finding motorcycle-only campgrounds, what to expect at the campsite, and a directory of camping resources to find out more about gear, luggage, clothing and even trailers.
Whitehorse Gear

MSR Hoop Tent

The MSR Hoop two-person, three-plus-season tent ($349.95) is sized to accommodate two Therm-a-rest mattresses with room to spare for gear. Standard features include a taped, DuraShield-coated fly and bathtub floor, two doors with large vestibules, a gear loft and four internal mesh storage pockets. Its stout geometry handles light snow and robust winds and its fabric canopy cuts down on drafts, while mesh windows and fly vents minimize condensation. Packaged weight is 6 pounds, 9 ounces and interior height at the peak is 45 inches.

Ortlieb Folding Basin

For primitive campgrounds with no facilities for washing faces or dishes, the folding basin from Ortlieb ($28) brings a touch of home. It’s made of the same waterproof material as Ortlieb dry bags and saddlebags and folds up small so you can stow it away easily. It measures 11 inches square by 5 inches deep and holds 10 liters.

Redverz Expedition II Tent

To protect not only yourself but your bike and gear from the elements, the Redverz Expedition II tent ($449) has a garage bay where you can also sit, cook or store gear. It’s made of expedition-grade ripstop nylon and has a double-wall design in the sleeping bay that helps eliminate condensation. The tent sleeps two, and has enough headroom to stand up and change clothes. It packs down to 9 inches by 20 inches and weighs 13 pounds.


RotopaX gas and liquid packs are rotationally molded for superior strength and a leak-proof design compared to traditional blow-molded carriers such as cheap gas cans. They have thick, solid walls and extra threads with sure-seal gaskets so they won’t leak. Their modular mounting system allows for a range of combinations and mounting choices. RotopaX ($79.97 shown, mounts extra) attach to a wide array of OEM and aftermarket mounting brackets and use their own RotopaX mounts for a tight and secure attachment. The 3-gallon Gasoline Pack measures 16 inches long, 15 inches wide and 4.5 inches high, and weighs 6.5 pounds.

ROK Straps

ROK straps are what bungee cords want to be when they grow up. These flat stretchable straps ($18.00-$24.60) are made specifically for motorcycles and come in adjustable or tailored lengths. They’ll secure cargo to a motorcycle without scratching and are less likely to slip or roll than round bungees.

Stainless Solo Cooking Kit

Fancy camp food doesn’t require fancy cookware. This minimalist cooking kit ($27) is made of stainless steel and includes a 24-ounce pot, a 20-ounce pot and a 5.5-inch fry pan, all with folding stay-cool handles and copper bottoms for even heat distribution. There’s also an 8-ounce plastic cup. Everything together weighs 1.5 pounds and packs neatly into a nylon pouch.

Zega Pro Table

You won’t find many picnic tables off the beaten path, so bring one along with the Zega Pro Table ($54.40). Designed to work with Zega Pro panniers, the Pro Table spans the panniers and gives you a convenient place to cook, clean gear, entertain guests or check maps. It stores easily in the pannier.

(This Camping and Adventure Gear Buyers Guide was published in the September 2012 issue of Rider.)

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9 Responses to “Motorcycle Camping and Adventure Gear Buyers Guide”

  1. Tyler on July 25th, 2012 7:41 am

    I got a kick out of the Redverz Expedition tent that also houses your motorcycle. As for the Firebox, I am sure it works well, but at over 2 lb it just adds extra weight. I’ve been carrying a 180 Stove on my bike for my camping adventures and it’s great. It’s a lot lighter and still provides an even larger cooking surface. Thanks for the gear reviews. I always find something else to make the adventure more fun!


  2. Jim Hatch on August 1st, 2012 8:43 pm

    I spent years backpacking and even went ultralight and acted as a gear tester for several outdoor gear companies. Moving to motorcycle camping let me use a lot of my backpacking stuff and I’ve found a couple of “must haves” that are worth mentioning – the Big Agnes Insulated Air Core air mattress is super comfortable at 2 1/2″ thick with a layer of primaloft insulation to prevent cold from making its way in and packs down small, something on the order of a small coffee can. The second must have for motorcycle camping is a LuxuryLite UltraLite cot. It is less than 3 lbs and rolls up in a 5 x16 inch roll. Best sleep outside a Tempur-pedic (except maybe a Hennessey Hammock but I’m not always able to find places that will let me hang the hammock and the Redverz tent & cot combo along with my Agnes is outstanding for motorcycles).


  3. Bill Eakins on August 24th, 2012 1:24 am

    I use a Nemo Cosmo, the Insulated version, and it adds some nice additional and welcomed warmth (from the cold ground) when camping in places like Colorado.


  4. Fall Out!! | Rider Newsletter Fall Out!! | A newsletter providing motorcycle enthusiasts with informative news from within the motorcycle industry on November 28th, 2012 12:15 pm

    […] RoadRunner Motorcycle Touring and Travel. This magazine is aimed specifically at folks who like to do their touring on two wheels. We found a terrific article on the dos and don’ts of camping in this issue from 2007. […]

  5. john binns on January 5th, 2013 11:23 pm

    Great advice, the Kermit chair seems expensive but like they say in the catalog its not one that you will find ripped in left in a trash can. there’s a table that fits with it nicely called an SMT rollaway camp table.


  6. Charles Morecraft on April 3rd, 2013 4:50 pm

    what is the best motorcycle camper to buy?


  7. mark Hestand on July 2nd, 2014 11:36 pm

    I like the KWIK KAMP motorcycle camper, because it is light, comfortable and easy to tow. It has torsion axles which make it safer to pull in uneven terrain or potholes, and it has a dressing room/bedroom that is adequate without being heavy or bulky. It sets up quickly and is made well.


  8. Harry on April 2nd, 2015 4:50 am

    Great tips but I wouldn’t want to carry too much gear! The heavier the bike the more chance of a ‘get off’, frame damage and even punctures.

    Here’s a guide to minimalist packing for motorcycle adventures if it’s any use as a comparison!



  9. Bard on June 7th, 2015 4:39 am

    Nice read, I have tested a lot of tents and my favorites is these:

    Kelty Gunnison 3.3 it packs into a top box, has generous space inside and in vestibules, two separate entries which is great for two up riding or by all means when I’m alone. I use this all the time unless early spring or late fall then I use the below tent.
    Another great tent for travels is tentipi’s small ultralight tipi, here you can stand up inside while dressing, fire up a bonfire inside and this is my favorite tent during bad weather season and when it’s cold.

    I use light sleeping bags with spring rating and tag along a silk liner which raises the temperature quite a bit. The silk liner takes close to zero space, gives about 4 – 5 degrees Celsius extra warmth rating so I can get a lesser rated and smaller packing bag, keeps the sleeping bag clean inside, easy to wash and is giving a lot of benefits for it’s extremely little packing space.

    Before I used a coleman 533 gasoline stove but now I use an ultralight gas canister stove, it packs smaller and is spill free with fuel. For a long tour into the lands of not so many conveniences I pack the coleman 533 as it’s easy to get fuel for it, and it’s pretty idiot proof. I am a bit keen on the optimus svea stove as it packs smaller and run gasoline, but I wont until the coleman breaks, which I seriously doubt will ever happen. I bought it used for several years ago and have used and abused it year after year and it just works.


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