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What to Take Motorcycle Camping

My husband and I have traveled all over the western United States on vintage Harley Davidsons. I want to share a few of our experiences.

Be prepared with everything you need when motorcycle camping.

Be prepared with everything you need when motorcycle camping.

Just Back From the Redwood Run

My old man and I just got back from our first motorcycle camping trip of the season. What a great trip up to the redwoods in Humboldt County, California! It was our first trip on our "new bike," a 1965 Panhead. We have been used to riding a 1947 Knucklehead for the past 30 years.

I've learned a little about what to take when camping on the bike over the past 30 or so years, and on this trip, it seemed we had everything we needed and not much we didn't use. So I'm going to go over everything we took while it's still fresh in my mind. This list is really more from the standpoint of camping. All the mechanical stuff is my husband's domain.

1. Clothing

Clothing, of course, will depend on where you're going and the weather. The weather on this trip was expected to be partly cloudy to sunny with temperature lows down to 40° at night, and daytime highs in the 70s. We were gone for 4 days.

I wore jeans and a T-shirt, took my leather jacket, a sweatshirt, two T-shirts, a long-sleeved button-up shirt and a tank top. I bring a pair of leggings to wear under my jeans for warmth or sleeping, also if you need to wash your pants you have something else to put on.

I wear a pair of sturdy boots, but I like to bring a lightweight pair of shoes or sandals so I don't have to wear my boots the whole time around camp. Don't forget to bring changes of underwear and socks for each day, it makes a world of difference in your comfort.

2. Mattress Pads

With two of us traveling on one bike, space and weight are even more of a consideration than with one rider. Backpacking gear is a good option for bike camping.

For sleeping, I prefer the self-inflating camp mats to the big air mattresses that are popular these days. I think they are much more comfortable and warmer (and they roll up smaller).

I got myself a new Therm-a-Rest self-inflating air mattress for this trip. I had the REI self-inflating pads before, they worked really well and lasted a long time, but it was finally time for a new one.

3. Sleeping Bags

When it comes to choosing a sleeping bag, down bags compress the smallest and give the most warmth for their size. Some of the new synthetics come very close to down though, and they can still keep you warm if they get wet; wet down is no good at all.

4. Sixty Second Tent

The 60 Second Tent is my favorite piece of camping gear. If you are not familiar with them, they are like a regular dome tent, but the poles are already inserted and they just fold up. You unfold the tent and lock the hinges and boom, you're done. The first time I saw this tent in action, I knew I had to have one.

They cost a little more and are a little bigger and heavier when packed up, than an ordinary dome tent. Still, if you do a lot of bike camping, especially if you are traveling every day and camping every night, it's well worth it.

5. Food and Cooking

We like to take a small folding stove that uses fuel tablets to make coffee in the morning. The one we use is tiny, and the tablets it uses are compact, safe, and easy to transport. It is not always necessary to bring one if you're going to be at a place where you can get hot coffee, but sometimes there are long lines. We bring a canteen that has a metal cup over it that can be used for a pot.

We usually have our meals at restaurants while on the road, but it's also nice to have some traveling food like Fig Newtons, granola, nuts, or maybe some beef jerky. Sometimes, if we are rough camping, we bring food to cook over a campfire.

Simple folding pocket stove

Simple folding pocket stove

6. Other Necessary Items

  • Flashlight
  • Matches or lighters
  • Medication
  • Small first aid kit
  • Water: Be sure to carry plenty of it.
  • Toiletries: Chap-stick, toothbrush, toothpaste, soap, a washcloth, and a towel go a long way on the road.
  • Sunscreen: This is essential. I never forget to take it with me, but sometimes I forget to put it on before I leave on the first day. Learn from me, apply your sunscreen before you put it in the bag, and don't forget your chest and the back of your neck.
  • Tools: My hubby always brings along some basic tools. Especially with these old bikes, there are usually some necessary adjustments.

I hope you've found my list useful. If you notice anything I've forgotten, please make a note of it in the comments section. Ride safe out there.

A few minor adjustments

A few minor adjustments

© 2014 Sherry Hewins


Sherry Hewins (author) from Sierra Foothills, CA on April 03, 2016:

TIMETRAVELER2 - I don't know how I missed your comment for so long. When you travel on a motorcycle, you truly narrow it down to what you really need.

Sondra Rochelle from USA on June 11, 2015:

WOW...what a great article! As an RVer I have always wondered about those folks I see camping with motorcycles and how they manage. Now I know. This just amazes me! How can you carry all that stuff on a cycle, even when it has a little trailer attached! We've been to Sturgis 4 times and I can tell you we saw thousands of bikers who were camping. A hearty bunch you are for sure. I am totally impressed! You go girl! Voted up, up and up!

Sherry Hewins (author) from Sierra Foothills, CA on April 03, 2015:

Thanks for sharing the post mary615 - My mom always fretted too, and we always made it home.

Mary Hyatt from Florida on April 03, 2015:

One of my daughters and her hubby love their motorcycles! I am always scared to death when they take off for some new adventure. They do camp a lot, too. This tent sounds like a good idea; I will post this on my FB page so they can read it.

Also voted UP, etc.

Sherry Hewins (author) from Sierra Foothills, CA on January 19, 2015:

Wow, I am a little jealous of you right now! I am glad you found my tips helpful. Have a great trip!

BrianRhonda on January 18, 2015:

so grateful for this article! Have heard of a 'flip tent' from a friend of ours who has a friend who.......LOL So happy to find the 60 second tent OH and the self inflators too! We will be making a trip west and decided to camp this time around barring inclement weather. It will be our 25 wedding anniversary two months after this trip and what our relation ship was based on when we met and in our early years of marriage. I know it will bring back many great memories of us and kids 'way back when' Thank you for an insightful article! Keep them coming.


Sherry Hewins (author) from Sierra Foothills, CA on April 29, 2014:

Thanks @bravewarrior - nice to see someone reading this one. That sounds like quite a trip you were on, sorry a jerk ruined it for you.

We do still have the Knuck, can't see ever getting rid of that one. It's still not really running right, it's up on the bike lift as we speak.

Shauna L Bowling from Central Florida on April 29, 2014:

Boy, are you bringing back good memories. It's been a long time since I've ridden; it was my lifestyle once upon a time a go. One year 3 couples did a run up the east coast from Orlando up through Canada and stopped in upstate New York. At least that's when I cut myself out of the journey; the guy I was with turned out to be a total ass.

I used to love camping. You meet bikers from all over. Sitting around a campfire, drinking beer, singing and playing music. Someone always shows up with a guitar on long trips.

One thing I found helpful when you're in the wind on long hauls is to carry Skittles with you. They work wonders to aid against cottonmouth.

BTW, love Panheads. Do you still have the Knuckle?

Sherry Hewins (author) from Sierra Foothills, CA on February 17, 2014:

Bubba - sometimes you miss all the fun if you leave the party to go to the hotel. Ride safe and have fun!

bubba on February 16, 2014:

Sherry, thanks for the tips. We do a lot of trips on the Road King but decided recently we want to camp OUTSIDE of motels sometimes. Besides, some great gathers are more fun (and a lot less $) camping. Thanks for the tips on gear. Coming from your perspective they are really helpful. -Bubba, San Diego

Sherry Hewins (author) from Sierra Foothills, CA on January 19, 2014:

Traveling by motorcycle is such a different experience than by car. I know people consider them dangerous, but I have been around them for so long, it just seems normal to me. Life's risky. If your hubby gets one I hope you will give it a try.

Certainly the right gear goes a long way toward making you comfortable.

Dianna Mendez on January 19, 2014:

My hubby is looking at purchasing a motorcycle in the future. Although I am not in favor of it, your post here is most interesting and will definitely make a trip like this enjoyable. I heard that as long as your feet are dry, you will be fine in any weather.

Sherry Hewins (author) from Sierra Foothills, CA on January 12, 2014:

Glimmer Twin Fan, if you tried it, maybe you would like it. I have been doing it all of my life. It is certainly a cheaper way to travel than staying in a hotel every night.

Claudia Porter on January 12, 2014:

Came by to take a look, because camping always sounds interesting to me, but then I never actually do it. I'm just a not a camping person, but maybe one day! Interesting hub though. It looks beautiful.