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2023-02-22 17:35:52 By : Mr. Ivan Arthur

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A motorcycle will get you outdoors, but this stuff will help you stay there.

It’s a goal that keeps a lot of motorcyclists sane from Monday to Friday: The open road ahead, the wind in our face, and no hotel reservations to honor. In his classic, “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance,” Robert Pirsig told us that seeing America through a car windshield was like seeing it on television: To be fully immersed in the trip, you have to remove the screen. Unlike in Pirsig’s day, outdoorsy cyclists and long-distance riders can get camping gear made specifically to fit the two-wheel lifestyle. We’ve rounded up some of the best options here. Make your pick, then drop your device and head out on the highway.

When prepping for a long camping trip, it’s tempting to start with what’s compatible with your bike. First and foremost, however, it has to work for you. That means choosing a sleeping bag that’s warm enough for the coldest weather you might see, a tent that’s big and comfortable so you can get a good night’s sleep, and the right cooking gear to make what’s on your campfire menu. It has to meet your needs, and then it has to fit. Don’t be ashamed to try everything at home extensively before taking it on the road.

The traditional minimum loadout for camping bikers is a rolled sleeping bag and a small cooking kit. It’s enough to get you through fair-weather nights, but anything more severe than that will be unpleasant. The next logical step, if you can fit it, would be a small collapsible tent, which will keep the weather off you.

Still have room? A larger tent with a motorcycle shelter makes mornings more pleasant, and an air mattress can make camping on rough ground tolerable for people with back problems or nagging injuries. Most riders will use any extra space they have after that for a broader variety of clothes, but it’s also worthwhile to add a propane or Sterno stove to improve your camping cuisine.

Before you make any plans to go camping with your motorcycle or buy gear for the trip, it’s critical to really understand what will actually fit on your bike. Take the time to measure all the available storage. A new BMW GS with extra-large Jesse boxes will have a lot more room than a retro rider on a slick-side Seventies Honda. Also, very few saddlebags or top boxes are precisely square, so learn where the “pinch points” are.

Once you know how much storage you have, remember that you should only use about half to three-quarters of that space for your camping gear. It’s easy to forget that you’ll need a little extra space for a few personal effects, supplies, and any souvenirs you pick up along the way.

Get your “packout” together–all the things you’re taking on the ride, including clothes and tools–and try putting it all in the bike until it’s second nature. If you can’t do it easily in your own driveway on a sunny day, you won’t be able to do it before sunrise in the rain. Don’t expect things to get easier once you're on the road, because they won’t.

Finally, if you’re using a traditional rear-seat bedroll-and-stack, like the bike campers of yore, you should also go on a few test rides around your area at freeway speeds to ensure that your setup doesn’t slip, slide, or just plain disappear from the bike. Better to find out the bad news when you’re close to home.

A little intelligent consideration of your planned trip will go a long way towards ensuring the best experience. The desert gets cold at night, which is something many Midwesterners (like your author) tend to forget until it’s too late. Both the Northeast and Pacific Northwest have unpredictable rain, something to consider when you’re choosing a tent. Pack for the length of your trip and the likely conditions along the way.

Preparing for the weather includes picking (and making room for) the right clothes. If you leave home with a full Aerostitch suit, heated gloves, and a neck gaiter, you will need to make sure and leave room to stow it when the weather gets warm. Don’t think you’ll just “stuff it in there,” because you won’t. It’s counterintuitive, but a motorcycle jacket is far bulkier than a tent.

After years of motorcycle touring, I have an idea of what works and what doesn’t. In addition to my own personal testing, I reached out to riders who do ADV (adventure) touring and primitive camping to hear their stories and get expert feedback on the best choices for different motorcycles. We prioritized value and affordability, without sacrificing durability on the road. Preference was given to items that are light and compact. When possible, we chose soft-sided items over rigid ones, because most motorcycle luggage boxes are irregular and rigid items waste space.

This tent is a great choice for “roll packing” on the back of a standard motorcycle without bags, but it’s also an option for ADV bikes with larger side bags. Compact and lightweight at just 6 pounds, the Cross Canyon unrolls to 86 x 218 inches, with a 46-inch ceiling. It isn’t made specifically for bikes, so it doesn’t feature a dedicated motorcycle shelter, but it’s also more affordable. If you’re willing to let your ride get wet, this is a lower-cost and more compact option.

Wolf Walker’s two-person tent offers enough space for a pair of riders, plus a “bikeport” area that allows you to roll a motorcycle under cover. The bike cover is perfect for ADV and standard bikes, but you probably won’t be able to keep a Wing or Road Glide fully dry. A few owners have reported being able to get a “bagger” under the cover as well. The sleeping area is a little tight compared to the Klymit, so make sure you try it before you take it on the road.

Traveling solo on a motorcycle isn’t much different from backpacking. In fact, many riders simply strap a traditional frameless backpack on their back seats and camp out of it the same way a hiker would. The 10-square-foot ALPS Lynx feels spacious, giving you enough room to relax inside. And it disappears into a 17 x 6-inch packroll when you need to load it back on your bike. What’s not to like?

The air mattress has replaced sleeping bags for a lot of motorcycle campers, especially those who are older or making longer trips. Coleman’s Quickbed isn’t the largest or the most plush, but it packs small, which is important when you need to get everything on your bike. With a little careful packing, you can get it and a one-person tent into a large Jesse box or touring-bike sidebag, leaving the other side free for clothes and cooking gear.

It’s a rare joy when the best product in a category is also affordable. Made from Japanese titanium, the ultralight Snow Peak Trek 700 cooking pot with folding handles can hold up to 23.6oz of liquid, but weighs just 4.8oz. It’s easy to clean, easy to pack, and nearly impossible to damage. The Trek 700 is a perfect example of the light and efficient cookware you should look for when you’re looking to pack light for a long ride.

This relatively modest sleeping bag can keep you warm on cold nights, making it a good fit for motorcycle touring in any season. You can also connect two bags to create a double-width sleeping sack for a couple. And when it gets warm, the bag unzips to use as a blanket or quilt. Packing down into a compact 9-inch by 14-inch sack, the Farland will fit in most saddlebags, making it easy to bring along on your trip

Few things make as much difference during a long camping trip as having a reliable and comfortable place to sit. It’s so useful that some motorcyclists keep one on the bike all the time, even when they aren’t camping. No, it’s not as comfortable as an Eames lounge, or even a cheap camping chair you can get for $10—but you can toss the Cliq in a motorcycle saddlebag so you can always take a load off. Seats aren’t guaranteed at large events like the Sturgis motorcycle rally, so it pays off to keep a chair handy. It isn’t cheap, but the Cliq justifies the cost through pure convenience.

Not everyone wants to sleep in a tent. If the weather permits, a hammock can take less time to set up and offers superior comfort to sleeping on the ground. It’s also easier to pack than almost any tent or air mattress, let alone the combination of both. I like the Night Cat for warm weather camping because it’s incredibly versatile. It’s quick and easy to set up as a hammock, but you can also use it as a conventional tent in a pinch, thanks to the included stakes.

PM: What’s the biggest mistake new motorcycle campers make?

JB: A lot of new riders focus on the cooking-and-eating aspect of their packout–but here’s the thing about being on the road: it’s a lot cheaper and easier to find a meal than a bed. Get your sleeping situation right before you worry too much about the cooking setup.

PM: What’s the big fuss about titanium gear?

JB: In aerospace and cycling, titanium is popular because it’s lightweight, flexible, and durable. All of those things are important for campers, too, but titanium is really worth the extra money because it doesn’t rust or corrode. Rain and moisture will be your constant companion on a lot of trips. Trust me, you don’t want to start your dinner by scraping the rust off a “stainless” knife or fork.

PM: What’s the best strategy to pack your gear?

JB: Realistically, you pack it so it fits. That won’t always be the most convenient or usable way. If you’re working with Jesse boxes or other large storage, try to pack in the reverse order of how you’ll use it each night. Load with the sleeping bag, then pack the tent, then the cooking gear. Lastly, make sure your rain and/or cold-weather clothing is on top. That way you’re taking stuff out in order as you need it.

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