The Ultimate Motorcycle Camping Gear Checklist
Welcome to the Motorcycle Camping Gear Checklist for bike travellers. We use the majority of these items on our round the world motorcycle trip and have thrown in a few extras and non-essentials just in case you want a splash of luxury. Here’s everything you might need on a long-term motorcycle camping trip.
Your sleeping gear will be the bulkiest items in your motorcycle luggage. A tent, sleeping bag and roll matt take up enough space without throwing extras in like pillows, and so it’s worth spending a little extra for high quality stuff. The aim is to get low-volume and lightweight kit that you can compress to make as small as possible. Here are three essentials for minimalist motorcycle travellers and four things that add a little extra comfort.
The MSR Hubba Hubba tent is one of the lightest on the market. We use this tent because it's freestanding, meaning you don't need to peg it into the ground to erect it. That comes in very handy in the desert! You can also use it without the fly cover, which makes it perfect for hot countries and star gazine.
With sleeping bags, if you spend a little you get a lot. But not in a good way. Cheap bags are huge and usually rubbish. It's worth going for a premium bag that packs away as small as possible. Consider where you're travelling, what temperatures you need it to work in and don't get caught out with an unsuitable bag.
The best roll mats for long-term camping are quick inflating air mattresses. They pump up in about 10 breaths and roll away tightly. Foam roll ups are fine for short trips but too big, bulky and uncomfortable. Go for a mattress with a low volume but decent thickness so the cold from the ground doesn't transfer through.
What cooking equipment you carry (if any) completely depends on how often you camp, how long your trip is and how much you like cooking. Long-term motorcycle travellers usually need to cook on a regular basis, and so it’s worth carrying extra kit to make life easier and the food taste better. Here are the essentials and a bunch of extras for road chefs.
The MSR Dragonfly stove has been with me for six years and 60,000 miles. Gas canisters make no-sense for bike travellers. This runs on petrol, was developed for mountaineering, is easy to maintain, doubles up as a Jerry can and you can control the flame.
We use the MSR Quick 2 Cooking set, but for solo riders there's the MSR Trail Lite system. I used to use a single mess tin on previous trips where I didn't cook that often. Now, because we cook so much we use a larger set that cleverly slides into itself to maintain space.
Durable and tough plastic cutlery (not the flimsy rubbish ones) is the way to go. Metal is fine but weighs more and scratches non-stick pans if used to stir food or scrape out pasta. If you're cooking regularly and make more than rice and beans, it's worth having a set.
There's not always going to be access to running water, especially if you're wild camping. A washbowl saves wasting H2O. It's worth carrying a small sponge, tea towel and washing liquid too.
Cutting garlic and onions on your lap is a pain in the arse. Go for a mini chopping board (or cut your one in half) and you'll be dicing those carrots like Gordon Ramsey in no time.
We use a Swedesih 'Mora kniv' on a daily basis. Life would be hard without it. All food chopping and preparations are made with this knife, its well-made, will last forever and costs around £10.
Food hygiene is important, especially if handling raw meat and eggs. A little bottle of sanitiser means not wasting your water on washing hands if wild camping and away from water sources.
By definition, ‘comfort’ items are non-essential. They’re there to make your camping life that little bit easier, so if you’re a minimalist bike traveller, or on a short trip, or don’t camp that often then you can do without these items. We’re limited by what we can carry and how much space we have when motorcycle travelling. So it’s a balance of what you need, what you want and what’s worth making space for.
A sheet of tarpaulin is extremely versatile when motorcycle camping. You can use it for an additional shelter to cook under if it's raining (with the fire just outside it of course). It can also be used as a large ground mat, a ground sheet when working on your bike or as a motorcycle cover.
We started our trip with chairs and sent them home after the first month because we didn't use them. We regretted that decision for the next eight months. Especially when we saw other travellers relaxing in theirs. Once you try one, you won't go back to sitting on the floor with an achy back.
If you don't want to carry a large tarp sheet, then a simple, roll-up and lightweight camping mat is a great option. It stops ground dust flicking up into your cooking. A ground mat also stops your feet and all your equipment from getting dirty and provides a place to rest outside of your tent.
Everyone has their own extras that they take on a motorcycle camping trip. Here are a bunch of extras that you might need. We use six of these items but have at some point travelled with and camped with all of them. Like with the comfort items, it’s your luggage and your balance. Take whatever you need and have space for. And if it doesn’t work out, send it home.
We can all get by with a lighter or matches. But be honest, starting a fire with one of these just looks cooler. Seriously though, if your matches get wet then you'll be grateful you have this.
How to Go Motorcycle Camping FAQ
Here’s a bunch of the most frequently asked questions we get on motorcycle camping.
The benefit of camping on your motorcycle trip is two-fold. Firstly, accommodation is easily one of your biggest daily expenses. And on long-term travel, staying in hotels and hostels every night will quickly eat away at your budget.
Wild camping is free! And on the rare occasions you’re not allowed to wild camp in a certain area, simply ask the locals where you can camp – I’ve been invited to set up my tent in people’s back gardens, in green houses, garages, next to restaurants, football pitches, private beaches, inside houses (weird), on farms, in barns and so on and they’ve been some of my best travelling experiences. You’ll save so much money camping and that’ll mean you’re able to spend that money on petrol and travel further for longer!
And secondly, being able to camp on your motorcycle trip gives you greater freedom. You’re able to venture further because you don’t have to be constantly thinking about where the next hotel is. You can ride until you’ve had enough and just pitch up. You’ll sleep under the stars and have that visceral experience that makes motorcycle travel what it is.
You might find this article handy: How to Motorcycle Travel on the Cheap
You need a tent, sleeping bag and mattress. That’s the bare minimum you need to sleep. Everything else is optional.
Next up is cooking equipment. You could go to a restaurant and then back to your campsite to sleep and that’ll do away with all the cooking gear, stove, food and water etc.
But, dependent on where you travel you won’t always be able to do that as you may need to set up camp in the middle of nowhere and will need to be self-sufficient. So, cooking equipment is pretty important for long-term and long-distance motorcycle travellers.
If, however, you know you wont camp much and hate cooking, then you can always leave it at home and just take emergency dry food that doesn’t require cooking.
If you’re after a more comprehensive guide on everything you might need for a big motorcycle trip, check out the below guide:
READ MORE: The Complete Motorcycle Trip Packing List
This is a really common question. There are a lot of factors that make for a good motorcycle tent. The most important factors are that it should be: waterproof, lightweight, freestanding and low volume.
Waterproof is obvious, but not all tents are made equally. Read the reviews and make sure you’re buying a quality tent. Ideally weight should be under 2.5kg so that it can be easily carried on your bike. Freestanding means you don’t need to peg it down to erect it like with tunnel tents. This isn’t a must but if you’re camping on multiple terrains it makes life a lot easier as you don’t have to find rocks to tie the ropes to. Imagine camping on soft sand with a non-freestanding tent! And finally, low volume is just as important as the weight, because you could have a super light tent but if it packs up into a huge bag then you’re eating into precious luggage space.
There are other factors to consider like removable fly covers, space and vestibule etc.
We have a very detailed guide on how to pick a tent for motorcycle camping included in our 10 best biking tents guide. Check it out for more info: The 10 Best Motorcycle Camping Tents
We have a packed and detailed guide that answers this exact question. The guide lays out the different options available, their pros, cons, features who they’re for and recommendations. Have a read of that one here:
Hammocks are cool. No question about it. But they’re not practical for motorcycle travellers – especially not RTW motorcycle travellers. If you’re trip is one country and you know the terrain and you’re in and around forest areas, then yeah, great. But as soon as you start traversing the globe and riding in mountainous, desert regions and arid regions – the last thing you want to be doing after a long day’s ride is searching for hours for two trees.
Your camping gear bag will be the biggest and bulkiest bag on your motorcycle. If you’re going to be camping often and in remote areas where you need to prepare your own food then you will need lots of equipment. So, it’s worth spending a little extra in this department and getting as low-volume and lightweight kit as possible.
What you put it all in though is dependent on your luggage system. If you have hard or soft panniers then you may need to split it between the two panniers if you can’t fit it all into one. It’s not a good idea to ram it all into a top box as it’ll probably be too heavy for it and the top box is better used for quick access to important stuff like cameras etc.
In all cases, the best option is to place your camping gear in a single duffel bag and use Rok Straps to safely secure it to the pillion seat. It makes life a lot easier keeping all your camping gear in one bag on your motorcycle.
That’s because often your gear can be slightly wet in the morning and if you need to pack up in a hurry without it drying you don’t want that sodden gear touching and getting mixed up with your clean gear in your panniers. And you don’t want to have to be emptying your panniers in search of a missing piece of equipment. It’s also easier if you can’t camp directly next to your bike because you can just take the one bag with you. Same goes for leaving the bag in a hotel if it’s not needed for a few days. And finally, having all your camping gear in one easy to access place just makes life easier when setting up and taking down your camp site.
We use a Lomo 40 litre duffel bag. You can check out our review here: Lomo 40 litre Review
Here are a few other guides that you might find useful for luggage:
- All your motorcycle luggage options are listed here: The Motorcycle Luggage Guide
- Check out The Motorcycle Luggage Resource page for all our luggage guides
- The 6 Best Soft Panniers if you want to go down the pannier storage route
- And if you’re undecided on luggage options, take a look at Hard vs Soft Luggage for Adventure Bikers
Where can I camp?
You’ve got three choices when it comes to setting up camp. Firstly, there’s paid and official campsites. In some countries, these paid campsites can be nearly as expensive as a low-budget motel. But they come with facilities such as toilets and showers and often washing and cooking areas too. In some countries there are official or government run campsites provided for free. You’ll find many of these dotted all over Japan for example.
Next up is wild camping. This is the most common option when motorcycle travelling and simply means camping anywhere that’s not a paid or official site. At first, this can be a bit nerve racking as you’ll most likely be veering off a small road and heading into a wood to try and find a spot. Once you get used to it, it’s actually really fun. And the more you do it the more brazen you’ll end up being in picking your camp spots. Wild camping is a lot easier in some countries than others. In very built up countries and areas it can be difficult, in places with wide open spaces and plenty of forests etc you can just about camp anywhere you like. It’s a magical thing, finding a secluded and empty spot, pitching your tent and waking up to a stunning view with your bike.
The third option is simply asking people if you can camp on their land. This could be asking a restaurant owner if you can camp in their back garden, knocking on a farm house to ask permission to camp in their field and so on. This has made for some of my absolute best memories of bike travel and is always worth a shot. If you think somewhere may be private, always ask permission.
Park your motorcycle so it’s leaning away from your tent so that if it falls over it won’t crash into your tent. Make sure the side stand is on a flat surface too as you don’t want your bike sinking into soft mud if it starts to rain. A handy tip is to weld a wider footplate onto your side stand to help you when parking up on soft ground. Check out our How to Adventure Proof Your Motorcycle Guide for more tips like that.
Stop earlier than you think to find a good spot for the night. If the sun is anywhere near setting then it’s already too late. It usually takes a while to find a spot and you don’t want to be setting up in the dark because it makes it harder to find a good area and spot any potential dangers. Also, you’ll have bugs and flies diving into your soup as you try cooking with a torch.
Tie a line from your tent to your bike so you can feel if anyone tries tampering with your motorcycle.
Use your bike to hang clothes and make a washing line
Try and pick a spot not far from a water source. But make sure the water is fresh and running as stagnant water usually means mosquitos. Running water is perfect for washing yourself and dishes.
Go for a dry run. Pack what you think you need and head out for a long weekend of camping in your home country. Be sure to camp in multiple spots and not just stay in the same place as that’ll help you get a feel of your packing system too. You’ll quickly realise what you do and don’t need and if you’re missing anything. Motorcycle camping is a brilliant experience, so don’t stress it, just enjoy it!
And most importantly, check out our Ultimate Motorcycle Camping Guide
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