6 tips for successful motorcycle camping this summer

Motorcycle camping is one of the great pleasures of owning a bike. It’s summer, and many of us with motorcycles want to know what we should pack for a big (or small) camping trip because there’s nothing worse than getting caught up in it. nature and not having the right deals. After several years of great two-wheeled travel, and in anticipation of a week on Colorado’s mountain roads, here are some road dog trips that might help you on your next backpacking trip.

Your first time motor camping?

Motorbike camping in Fort. Sumner, New Mexico | Dan Mayfield, MotorBiscuit

For your first trip, you will undoubtedly take more than you need. But once you’ve been on the road for a while, you’ll find that you pack less and less. When I first started bike camping, I remember loading my old Sportster with so much stuff that the suspension bottomed out. Make a list and pack what you would do for a comparable backpacking trip, then add cold weather and wet weather riding gear.

Road tip: Every little town you come across will have a store that sells what you need.

An AutoZone building
Every town has an auto parts store that will lend you a tool | Don and Melinda Crawford via Getty Images

Don’t just bring tools, bring the right tools. When I had that old Sportster I rode metric guys and there’s nothing worse than needing a 3/8 inch socket but only having 10mm available. Everything on my Kawasaki seems to be removable with a 4mm Allen key, so I have a few. This also means you don’t bring a 17mm socket if you don’t need one.

I also bring an adjustable wrench, tire gauge, pliers, multi-tool, and a small Craftsman kit that has sockets and bits to fit a variety of bolts that will come loose. I also have some extra bolts, washers and zip ties. Jumper cables (even the small ones) will also save you from trying to start a bike in the wild. Can’t fit everything on the bike the same way (or not buy some stupid thing on the road), so I bring several bungee nets.

Tip from the road: auto parts stores offer loaner tools, and almost any mechanic shop will loan you a wrench (and sometimes knowledge).

The right equipment for you

A biker on a Harley with jacket, cloves and helmet in California.
A Rider in California | Bob Berg, Getty Images

Start with the basics, like a good helmet, jacket, earplugs, pants, gloves, boots, and goggles. Then bring a good rain gear. Some people swear by a good backpack, but I don’t because it gets uncomfortable after 30 minutes and it’s just safer and better to have your gear on the bike. I’ve found that extra camping shoes, giant mess kits, camping chairs, and other camping “essentials” seem to be more of an issue than their value. However, a good USB socket on your bike and an extra phone battery charger will help.

Tip from the road: Bring layers and don’t forget your jacket liner.

Get a good card

A motorcycle butler card
Get a good card | Dan Mayfield, MotorBiscuit

Experience has taught me; don’t trust your phone, don’t trust GPS. We’re going to be in the mountains of Colorado this summer, where cell pictures will be spotty and rain will preclude the use of a GPS. Instead, get a quality AAA card or a Butler Motorcycle Card. The AAA maps and books are incredibly useful for showing roadside attractions, have detailed distance tracking, and offer plenty of local tips.

Butler Maps are made for bikers and they show the best roads in any state you’ll be riding and camping with sliding boxes that show where you really want to ride, they’re also water resistant and seem to hold up to several folds when you’re out in the woods camping on a motorcycle.

Road Tip: Instead of a GPS, use sticky notes on your tank or sticky tape with turns highlighted.

Tips for peace of mind when camping on a motorcycle

Bike triggered in a city center
Explore Cities When You Stop | Dan Mayfield, MotorBiscuit

One of the best tips I gave for peace of mind was to give a spare key to a friend or keep it somewhere handy. Bring cash, as rural gas stations are notorious for faulty card readers. Plus, some of the best small-town bars and restaurants we’ve ever found are (still) cash-only. Bring some snacks, too, as much of the discomfort and grumbling on the road can be solved with a granola bar and some water.

Tip from the road: don’t plan too much. Exploration is one of the joys of being on the highway, so let the road and how you feel dictate your journey, not the map.

You don’t need a touring bike to go sightseeing

camping on a sports bike
My Daytona 675R sport bike was a great trail companion | Dan Mayfield, MotorBiscuit

Any bike is a dirt bike if you ride it on dirt, and any motorcycle is a touring bike if you ride it. I’ve toured on a sportbike, a Daytona 675R and a VFR. What I have found is that the key to riding any bike is taking frequent breaks to drink water, breaks and eating snacks is more important than the type of bike where you are. Know your bike and listen to your body.

Tip from the road: Good satchel bags can always be found cheaply on Craigslist.

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