Getting into camping of any kind, but especially motocamping in particular, can be a little bit daunting at first. There are so many gear advice videos and articles out there that it can be difficult for the new camper to sort out what it is they actually need to get started versus what 10,000 YouTubers and bloggers are trying to get views and affiliate link clicks on.
Ironic, then, that here I am putting together yet another blog (and a video) designed to help you sift through the noise and nail down exactly what it is you 100% without a doubt unequivocally NEED to get started motocamping.
I'm complicated like that.
The good news is that when you get right down to it, there are really only 4 things you absolutely NEED to go out and do an overnight camp off of your motorcycle:
Something to Sleep In
Something to Eat
Something to Drink
That's it. If you account for these four things, then you will most likely survive the night (and you might just even have a great time doing it). Let's break each one down a little more.
While it is possible to get by without shelter if you just throw your sleeping bag on the ground, most people prefer some kind of protection from bugs and weather while they're sleeping. Shelter when motorcycle camping can take on many forms, but motorcycle campers most commonly use either a traditional tent or a hammock setup.
Any small tent will do as long as you can figure out how to attach it to your motorcycle, but backpacking and 'bikepacking' tents tend to be the most popular with motorcycle campers due to their smaller pack size and lighter weight.
A few options to consider:
The Snugpak Ionosphere is a bivy-style one person tent that is admittedly a little cramped but packs down very small.
Another great motocamping option is the "bikepacking" style tents from Big Agnes. These tents have shorter 12 inch pole sections so they pack down very small and can fit inside many motorcycle panniers. Many of them also come with an enlarged "garage" area that's technically designed to fit a bicycle, but also make a fantastic place to store your riding gear, panniers, etc… out of the weather.
My favorite example is the Big Agnes Blacktail Hotel 2
For summer camping, you could also get by with a more entry-level 2 person tent from Coleman or the like. These aren't going to be as weather resistant or last as long, but they'll keep the bugs off you and give you a place to stash your gear. A cheaper tent is a great way to go if you're just getting started and don't want to spend a ton of cash until you're certain that camping is something you enjoy.
The Coleman Sundome 2 is a great example of what I mean.
Hammocks are another very popular option with motorcycle campers. They are the smallest-packing setup and can be very comfortable for those who can sleep comfortably on their backs. So long as you're camping in an area with ample available trees, hammocks can be a great shelter option.
Some hammocks, like the Snugpak Jungle Hammock, come with built-in mosquito nets.
You can save a little money by buying one without netting like the Snugpak Tropical Hammock.
Hammocks are great on their own in warm, dry weather, but If you are thinking you might want to camp in colder temps and/or wetter weather, you should think about adding an underquilt and tarp to your setup. Some hammock setups will come with an included ridgeline and tarp.
Other shelter options include a simple tarp shelter or just throwing your sleeping bag on the ground, if you are comfortable with that.
2. Something to Sleep in
It can get cold at night even in the warmest summer months, so most campers like to sleep in a sleeping bag of some kind. These vary wildly in price and temperature range, and there's a solution for almost every budget and preferred camping style.
My personal favorite sleeping bag setup is the Diamond Park series from Big Agnes. These sleeping bags have a sleeve on the bottom for your sleeping pad, making it virtually impossible to roll off in the night no matter how much you twist and turn. The top half of the sleeping bag can be unzipped on both sides, making your sleeping bag feel less like a cocoon and more like an actual bed. The Diamond Park bags come in three variations: 30 degrees, 15 degrees, and 0 degrees.
Other less expensive options include more traditional mummy-style bags like the Snugpak Travelpak series
The truly hardcore among us sometimes sleep in nothing more than a wool blanket. There are lots of options to choose from, but most motorcycle campers agree that some kind of sleeping bag or blanket setup is pretty essential.
3. Something to Eat
As inconvenient as it can be sometimes, humans need food to survive. While I suppose you could technically survive an overnighter without eating anything, I think we can all agree that camping is a lot more fun when your stomach isn't growling loud enough to send nearby campers scrambling for their bear spray. There are a ton of different ways to address this need while out camping but they all basically boil down to two distinct choices. To quote a line from famous playwright and children's author Dr. William Seusspeare's classic Green Eggs and Hamlet: "To cook or not to cook, that is the question…"
While it is absolutely possible and completely acceptable to feast on beef jerky and potato chips for dinner while camping, a nice, warm dinner is usually a lot better.
The first and most obvious option for cooking is the centerpiece of most camping experiences: the campfire. Cooking hot dogs over the fire on a stick is a camping cliche for a reason: it's easy, fun, and almost impossible to mess up.
I'm personally a big fan of cooking chicken or steak over the fire on a folding metal grill, but it's also possible to cook all manner of different foods (baked potatoes, corn on the cob, 'hobo packets,' etc…) by just wrapping them in foil and throwing them in on top of the coals. If you have a metal pot, you can place it directly in the fire to boil water for a dehydrated meal or your morning coffee.
However you decide to heat your food, make sure you also bring along any cookware or utensils you'll need to eat it. I'm a big fan of the Sea to Summit X-Set and Alpha Pan because they are super compact, lightweight, and all the components nest together to take up very little space in my bags.
4. Something to Drink
While many campers get through entire trips drinking only water mixed with malted barley and hops, when it comes to hydration, cooking, and cleaning your dishes, nothing beats good old H20.
While some are brave enough (or foolish enough) to drink directly from mountain streams, those of us who are unwilling to risk inviting the Giardians of the Galaxy into our colons have to either bring water from home or have a plan for purifying it in the field.
There are a ton of options for bringing water with you on a motorcycle camping trip. Nalgene bottles are very popular because they hold a ton of water and are nearly indestructible, but even a regular old plastic Evian bottle or refilled milk jug can do the trick. My personal favorite water-carrying solution is the Sea to Summit Pack Tap (aka "The Pacific Northwest Green Manta Ray "), which carries four liters of water and is super easy to strap to your bike or fit in a pannier.
I also always carry a Camelbak full of water so I can hydrate on the way there and use whatever's left for cooking or coffee-making once I'm in camp.
For on-site purification, there are a few options. One of the simplest is to just boil water you get from a nearby stream or lake. Just make sure you bring it to a rolling boil for at least one full minute before you drink or cook with it. Other easy to use options include filters with squeeze bottles like the Sawyer Squeeze or Katadyn BeFree or gravity filters setups like the Sawyer One Gallon Gravity Filter.
And that's it! If you want to know what the bare minimum, absolute basic motorcycle camping gear requirements are, you just have to remember these four categories:
Something to Sleep in
Something to Eat
Something to Drink
As long as you've covered these four basic needs, you will most likely survive (and maybe even enjoy) your motocamping experience. There are a few additional things that I personally won't go camping without (sleeping pad, fire-making and wood harvesting setup, a pillow, etc…) but in terms of the absolute bare minimum basics you NEED to ensure you've covered, it's just these four things.
So, if you're feeling the itch to dive into the world of motorcycle camping but find yourself overwhelmed by all the options for camping gear setups out there, start here. Beyond that, my advice is to just get out there and give it a try! You'll learn far more about your personal motorcycle camping gear needs by just getting out there on an overnighter than you would reading hundreds of articles like this. Cover your bases, take care of yourself, and get out there and have fun!
What do you all think? Are there any motorcycle camping necessities I've forgotten to mention? ...besides a motorcycle, obviously, but I feel like that one kinda goes without saying?