Motorcycle Camping: Myths & Realities

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10 Motorcycle Camping: Myths and Realities

As technology moves forward, past realities about motorcycle camping now become myths. New realities step in to take their place. In many cases, what was true in the 20th century, simply doesn't apply today. Motorcycle camping has become the preferred convenience over motels and hotels for many riders because it offers a healthier, more comfortable nights sleep, ease of checking in and out and much more. Don't believe it? Read on.

Myth #1: I don't want to sleep on the hard ground.

Reality: I gave up camping back in the 1990s. My body was getting too old for the old school Thermarest. In order to keep my hip from pressing into the cold ground I had to put a lot of additional air into the mat. Then that made it too hard to sleep on my back. "Uncle," I cried.

Above - The Outdoor Research Airmat 7.5 Deluxe is ultra light, provides three inches of loft, a built-in pillow, packs up small and runs under $100.

Today I'm camping again because there are mats on the market that make it all better. Outdoor Research makes a number of different mats that all provide 3 inches of loft and pack up about half the size of the old school Thermarest. One model includes down fill, so if you're as nuts as I am and camp in 30 degree weather the mat will actually keep you warm down to 0 degrees.

Myth #2: At the end of the day I don't want to set up a tent.

Reality: New designs in tents are such that many made by better manufacturers are quick and easy to set up. The thing to remember about the top makers of outdoor gear is they are designing gear for hikers, ice climbers and kayakers who are beat at the end of the day. Like you, they want to get camp set up quickly.

My tent of choice is the Sierra Designs Baku. At 4.5 pounds for a two man tent, it's lighter than any comparable tent on the market, can withstand serious weather and packs up the size of a football.

Has your doctor mentiuoned to you you need some exercise everyday. Pitching camp in the afternoon, or pulling up stakes in ther morning is one such way to get some aerobic exercise.

Above - Most Sierra Designs tents are lightweight, totally waterproof and include vestibule space on both sides of the tent for gear storage.

Related: 6 Secrets To Riding In The Rain

Myth #3: I need to be next to a bathroom.

Reality: If you don't already camp, do yourself a favor and inspect a few modern day campgrounds. You can camp as close to a bathroom as you want and my experience with state and privately-run campgrounds in this decade has been nothing but good. The bathrooms are clean, the showers work and there's an electrical outlet in most restrooms if you need it. Many have heat, too, for colder mornings.

Myth #4: I need a 110 outlet for my sleep machine (sleep apnea), laptop, cell phone etc…

Reality: Not only do I find 110 outlets in the restrooms at campgrounds I stay at, most have an outlet at every campsite itself. You can plug in your sleep machine, battery charger, laptop or cell phone charger right next to your tent.

As for items like electric shavers and electric toothbrushes, these are now available in AA battery formats. Sorry ladies, the blow dryer still needs to get plugged in.

Myth #5: I don't have enough room in my gear bags to pack camping gear.

Reality: Like many other riders I used to over-pack. It's why I set out to drill down to what we need to carry and what we can leave home. The final outcome was my book, Packing Light Packing Right . I've learned how to pack all the gear I need for multi-day touring (2 days and more) into 100 liters of storage space. You can, too. If you're riding two up, you'll want about 150 liters of storage. Do people really need trailers? No.

Above - This FJR1300 outfitted with an additional luggage system from Ventura provides enough space for two people to store all they need for multi-day touring including their camping gear. A tank bag (not shown) will provide easy access to items used throughout the day like sunscreen, maps and camera. (photo courtesy of

 Related: Buying A Dual Sport Motorcycle

Myth #6: I like a fresh bed when I'm on the road.

Reality: You're not getting one at a hotel or motel, but you will in your sleeping bag. I have two words for you to Google my friend – "Dust Mites." Learn about them, know they are real and know they are living off of your dead skin as well as everyone else's who slept in the same bed before you. That's kinda gross, huh? Not to mention what other bodily fluids get left behind from past guests in the motel bed. Even if the sheets are clean, it's what's on the mattress that concerns.

Your sleeping bag is the cleanest place you can sleep each night you're traveling. The technology is such these days that a good one that will keep you warm into the 30s and packs up the size of about two fists.

Above - Sierra Designs Wicked Fast sleeping bag is warm down to 30 degrees and features an opening at the bottom to allow airflow on warm nights.

Between your sleeping bag and a 3 inch air mat, you're guaranteed to be sleeping in the same bed every night that no one else has ever slept in.

Myth #7: I don't like the cold.

Reality: I've woken up at 6,500' with frost on the tent and my motorcycle seat. It's rare, but it happens. If your gear is good and you're not out camping in the dead of winter, chances are you'll be able to beat any typical cold mother nature can throw at you from late spring to early fall. The first rule of thumb is to stop wearing cotton clothing. Your body temperature can regulate far better in synthetics like modern day polyesters such as Intera yarn, microfiber and others.

Myth #8: I like to have my gear in my room.

Reality: Most modern day tents worth their salt (and we're not talking $29 tents from Kmart) have vestibules that allow you to store your gear right next to you while protecting it from the elements at the same time. If you have hard bags on your bike that can't be removed, start stowing your gear in large dry bags or stuff sacks so you can grab it out all at once.

Myth #9: Good camping gear costs too much money.

Reality: Purchasing quality camping gear is an investment in savings for later. My tent, sleeping bag and air mat have a combined store value of about $700. I'd spend that much at $70 a night motels over 10 nights. Instead I pay about $15 a night for a tent space and pocket the savings into the new bike account.

Myth #10: All tents leak.

Reality: That was true in the 20th century, but today good quality tents live up to their worth by keeping unwanted moisture out and your gear dry.

TM/Spring 07


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