last updated 11/01/2019
I've searched around and asked people I trust to help me put together a list of all the stuff I need for motorcycle touring camping gear. I've accepted and rejected some advice, and included the gear with which I'm familiar to come up with this list. This list is here for your review, amusement, and quite probably some judgement. This stuff works for me but might not work for you. I've categorized the gear mainly by how I use it but also by how I pack it. The right gear packed the right way will make your trip much more fun and comfortable. And this is a process. If you're at all like me, and the fact that you're reading this page probably means you're at least something like me, you'll be changing your gear after just about every trip.
Tent: If I can more than one motorcycle there's no reason I can't have more than one tent, right? Here's how this works, at least in my mind. After spending a long, rainy weekend in my trusty Eureka 4 Person tent I decided I needed a tent in which I could stand up. I did weight and size research regarding tents in which I could stand up. Carrying all that information in my head I was wandering around the local Bass Pro Shop and stumbled upon what they now call their Base Pro Shops Eclipse Done Tent. It isn't an ultralight tent, it isn't made of space-age material, and I can't park my motorcycle inside. What I can do, however, is stand up inside! It is liberating to be able to stand up to put on my pants!
Having two tents is much like having more than one motorcycle - each tent is useful in its own way and for different situations. If rain is in the forecast I pack the stand-up tent so I can move around inside and go a little less stir-crazy. If it is forecast to be a dry weekend I'll take the Eureka tent. Neither one is exceptionally heavier that the other but the Eureka is easier to set up and packs a little smaller.
Tent Pegs: I have these listed separately because I couldn't find mine when I re-packed my gear for the 2015 rally season. I'm calling out the need for tent stakes separately because its a good thing to make sure you have them packed! I bought two of the MSR Ground Hog Stake Kits so I could have extras if needed.
Tent Peg Mallet: I used to recommend getting a plastic tent peg mallet. At the most recent MOA rally my relatively new plastic mallet didn't survive driving my tent pegs so I had to replace it. I found the MSR Stake Hammer a nice, sturdy replacement. While more expensive than the plastic mallet it is light and held up well at my most recent camp out.
Lantern: I keep one Black Diamond Voyageur Lantern in the duffel bag. I keep it in the duffel in case I need a strong light for setting up camp due to a late arrival.
Interior Tent Lighting: I use MoonLit LED Micro Lanterns for interior tent lighting. These neat little lights have a hook and swivel allowing me to hang them from various interior hooks, loops, etc. so I can have interior tent lighting. The best test - they provide me with enough light to find my glasses at night!
Exterior Tent Lighting: I have a handful of Nite Ize SpotLits I can attach to my tent's guy lines. It is difficult, if not impossible, to see a tent's guy lines when it is really dark. Also one of these, in orange and attached to the entrance of your tent can help you find your way home among a sea of other tents. Trust me, this has nothing to do with drinking the magical beverage called beer.
Another key part of the camping experience is what I call the "campground" gear. This consists of:
Tarp: Having a tarp makes shade where otherwise there would be none. This is important at events like rallies and music festivals where shade is a luxury item. I pack an REI Co-op Camp Tarp 12. To keep two ends of the tarp off the ground I pack a pair of REI Co-op Adjustable Tarp Poles. I packed a pair of 6' poles most recently. The 8' poles don't fit in my duffel so I need to find a way to pack the 8 footers so we'll have more head-room.
- The poles are sold individually so be sure and order two if you decide to go this route.
- Packing the tarp is another reason I pack extra tent pegs.
Chair: The Kermit Chair in Forest Green. I tried one of the ultralight chairs that are all the rage but they weren't stable for me (which means I ended up on the ground before I had a beer or two). I also tried a different ultralight chair with a wider base but it sits so low standing up was a challenge.
- Because gravity and I have a love/hate relationship I picked up a set of Kermit Chair Leg Extensions. They help me get higher off the ground so I don't have to work so hard to stand up.
- Because I discovered this wonderful beverage called beer, and because I like keeping this beverage close to me, I also added a Kermit Chair Cup Holder. There was also some peer pressure and taunting involved in this purchase.
Table: The Kermit Table. I like to be able to place my coffee pot and coffee cup on a table rather than on the ground. It's also nice to be able to have a light up off the ground when needed.
Select a system that keeps you warm in the spring and fall, cool in the summer, packs small, and allows you to sleep comfortably. This is a where an REI membership can pay off. If you order it and it doesn't work for you, return it and try something else. If you can't sleep, your trip will be awful so take this seriously. I'm still trying to figure out how to be comfortable sleeping on the ground.
Sleeping Bag: I like the Big Agnes sleeping bag and air mattress system. I haven't researched the entire line but the sleeping bag I selected has a sleeve in the back for the air mattress. This prevents the sleeping back from sliding off the air mattress in the middle of the night. This feature alone sold me on the Big Agnes system! I chose the Big Agnes Buffalo Park 40 sleeping bag because of the features and temperature rating (40 degrees). In reaction to a recent cold camp out I'll be adding another Big Agnes bag with a lower temperature rating. Stay tuned for that choice!
Sleeping Pad: As described above, I like the Big Agnes "system" so the bag doesn't roll off the air mattress in the middle of the night. I added a Big Agnes Q-Core sleeping pad to the sleeping bag and it works pretty well. I'm still not 100% comfortable sleeping on the ground with this air mattress so there will be additional experimentation!
Pillows: I have gone through several other pillow styles but right now I'm using inflatable pillow so I can adjust the thickness when needed. I pack a pair of these pillows because they pack small and don't weigh much. Cocoon Ultralight AirCore Travel Pillow
Blanket: This is an optional item depending on the season. Decide whether or not to pack something like this based on your tolerance of cool/cold evenings. I pack an ultralight blanket just in case but I generally don't get too cold. As an aside, this is a nice item to pack when you're traveling by air since not all airlines offer complimentary blankets (or pillows!) these days. Cocoon CoolMax Travel Blanket
Inflator: Because I pack things that need to be inflated, and because I don't want to get lightheaded (by blowing up an air mattress and pillows anyway!) I found a little battery powered inflator that works great for my inflatable gear. If you have inflatable gear you should get one of these little air pumps! Therm-A-Rest NeoAir Mini Pump
Packing the Sleep Gear
Gather up all your sleep system bits and find a compression sack that holds it all AND fits in a pannier. I chose an Extra Large Sea to Summit eVent Compression Dry Sacks. This sack allows me to compress all the gear down and vent the air out as I close and compress the sack. It also keeps things dry. The compression sack with the sleep gear gets packed in one of the panniers.
Keep It Clean
Keeping up with the daily health & hygiene rituals is very important and even more so when I'm on the road. To make sure I can stick as close as possible to my daily health & hygiene rituals I make sure I have my dopp kit packed to get me through the entire trip + some extra. While we all live and die by schedules and timelines at work sometimes motorcycles, the weather, or other issues can delay arrivals and departures. As a suggestion, don't be overly precise when preparing this portion of your travel gear. Expect delays, pack extra, but you can still hope everything works out. If you're a seasoned business traveler this section may not be all that informative but there are some minor differences when touring and camping.
Medications: Chances are you have some form of daily medication ritual so don't forget to pack your meds. Pill organizers are great and I typically fill up a 7 day pill organizer - even if I'm only going for a long weekend.
Toiletries: This is personal preference but make sure you have the stuff you need. Good campgrounds will have showers, and this is typically a key consideration when motorcycle rallies are planned, but you'll need to bring a towel, soap, shampoo, and all the stuff necessary for you to feel clean. I won't start any debates about the brand of soap or shampoo to pack but if you care about these things, pack your favorites. You won't be subjected to TSA regulations but the travel tubes you use for business travel will work great here as well. I have a small pile of dopp kits but, because I like things to match, I bought a North Face bag that matches my duffel bag.
Camp Towel: REI MultiTowel. Even though you'll be in the wind, you'll still get hot, sweaty, and smelly so you'll want to take a shower whenever you get the chance. Be sure and pack a good camp towel because they are designed to be absorbent and dry quickly.
Shower Shoes: Campgrounds and rally sites do their best to keep things clean, but sometimes your clean up timing doesn't match theirs, so when you go to shower be sure and take your shower shoes! I suppose I could call these "flip flops" but ever since seeing the movie Bull Durham I've called them shower shoes.
Packing the Keep It Clean Gear
The medications go in the toiletries bag (do "they" still call these dopp kits?), the bag itself, and the shower shoes typically go in the same pannier as the Sleep gear. If you're a top case person the camp towel could go up top. If you're not a top case person find a place in one of your dry bags. You don't want to show up with a dirty camp towel so keep it clean and dry on the way there!
Eating and Drinking
If you're attending a rally the organizers typically figure out how to make food available for sale - especially at the larger rallies. Be sure and read the rally description to make sure you know what's going to be available on site. The same is generally true of coffee - most rallies will provide coffee on site. So, do some research and then let your tastes and willingness to explore the area around the rally or campsite be your guide.
I enjoy brewing my own coffee when I motorcycle camp so I pack the appropriate gear. Now that I've discovered this thing called beer I like to have a beer or two at the end of the day. I'm fortunate to have zero dietary restrictions so I don't need to pack in any food. I can pack in cash or a credit card to purchase food. As above, let your reality lead you to the beverage and food options that work for you. The following gear list is simply my preferred gear for eating and drinking when motorcycle camping.
Stove: My personal preference is the Jetboil Flash Cooking System. Because I enjoy good coffee I also have a standard coffee press kit for the Jetboil. Jetboil fuel is readily available and the Jetboil stove is popular among motorcycle campers so you can probably beg some fuel from a fellow motorcyclist/coffee addict if you run out. FYI - a small fuel container fits inside the Jetboil system when packing!
Cook Set: I pack the Snow Peak Titanium Mini Solo Combo. The set weighs in a 5.5 ounces so weight isn't an issue but if space and weight are a challenge and food is readily available where you're going, you can leave this behind.
Dinnerware: I added dinnerware to my gear for a recent long weekend event. I chose the Sea to Summit Delta Camp Set in orange (of course). This set includes a plate, bowl, cup, and utensils. This turned out to be a good call as the food vendors used the smallest possible packaging to reduce the amount of trash. Having a plate and bowl handy makes meal time much more enjoyable and less messy!
Coffee Cup: I have a Snow Peak Titanium Single-Wall Cup. I got the small one so it will fit inside my cook set but pick the size you like best.
SILIPINT: I picked up an MOA-logoed silipint at the 2015 Billings, MT rally and just love this cup. It is unbreakable and, with dogs and cats in the house, having an unbreakable cup is pretty handy! This packs easily and seems pretty much indestructible.
Packing the Eating & Drinking Gear
This collection of gear gets packed in the top case. There's nothing fragile so this gear goes in where it fits.
Tools & Stuff
Be sure and know what tools you need for common maintenance and repairs when you're on the road. There's a point where on the road repairs either exceed my skills or my ability to carry the necessary tools, so be honest with yourself when it comes to what you can and can't reasonably repair when you're away from your garage.
AAA membership + card: My advice - make sure you have your card with you and that you have the right coverage. AAA considers motorcycles Recreational Vehicles so make sure you have RV coverage added to your membership. This is especially helpful when nothing else in your toolkit will make your bike run!
motorcycle toolkit: BMW provided a very good toolkit with my airhead and the majority of the tools are still present. I've added a couple of things here and there but my stock toolkit is great. If you want to be able to repair a flat be sure you include tire irons and try to use them from the comfort of your garage BEFORE you try to use them with all your riding buddies watching!
multi-tool: You'll need this at some point so get something versatile and light. I'm going to go out on a limb here by assuming this is a piece of gear you probably already have. If not, my choice of mult-itool is the Leatherman OHT.
knife sharpener: Knives get dull with use so keep a small sharpener in the tool bag. I use a Lansky PS-MED01 BladeMedic.
mechanic's gloves: Don't use your riding gloves if you have to work on your motorcycle. You can get mechanic's gloves lots of places. I happened to be at Sears the last time I thought about buying gloves so I picked up a pair there. Nothing magical about them but like I said, don't use your riding gloves when making repairs.
shop rags: nothing special here either - just pick up a package at the hardware store and keep them with your tools so you have a way to wipe road grime off the bike, gunk off your hands, etc.
air compressor: I wired my bike for a Battery Tender so I have what's known as an SAE plug hanging off the battery. Get a small air compressor that will run from a cigarette lighter power port along with an SAE to cigarette lighter socket and you'll be set. I carry the Slime Tire Inflator. Whatever you select make sure it can inflate your motorcycle's tires to the recommended pressure once you've made your repairs.
patch/plug kit: If your bike's tire system requires tubes, make sure you have a patch kit to repair the tube and the tools necessary to remove the wheel and tire on the side of the road. If you or your touring companions ride tubeless tires, be a pal and pick up a plug kit as well. You can pick up patch kits and plug kits when you pick up the portable air compressor.
batteries: When camping you will run out of battery power at the worst possible time - like when you're setting up camp in the dark after riding all day. Keep spare batteries with you and, if you can, standardize on one battery size. I was really, really close to standardizing on AA until I bought my air mattress inflator. Now I carry spare AA and AAA batteries. As an aside, I have three additional recommendations related to batteries:
- Pack GOOD rechargeable batteries. I've experimented with several brands of rechargeable batteries and have selected Panasonic Eneloop Pro. Aside from carrying batteries in my motorcycle kit I also use batteries elsewhere and these batteries perform the best of all the brands I've tried.
- When you buy your batteries also buy the appropriate number of battery cases so they don't roll around in your bag!
- Remember to remove all batteries from your stuff when you're done for the season. This makes it easier for you to make sure they're all charged up at the beginning of riding season!
duct tape: It does everything - even temporarily patches a cracked rocker cover!
super glue: It glues most things. Its just a good idea to have a tube or two with you.
paracord: I don't know anyone who has actually taken apart one of those paracord bracelets in a survival situation but I do know that paracord is strong and handy. Also check your tent's setup instructions for a diagram of how to set up your tent in high wind conditions. The extra paracord will come in handy in this situation. You can also use it to set up a clothesline for drying out your camp towel.
zip ties: Almost as versatile as duct tape and always in demand.
first aid kit: There are far too many first aid kits out there to figure out what's best but throw one in your bag. Cut fingers bleed and you'll want to stop the bleeding. I got the Adventure Medical Kit Ultralight.7.
motor oil :Take along a quart and don't forget a small funnel! Better to have a quart of oil and not need it than need a quart of oil and not have it.
Packing Tools & Stuff
The tools & stuff go in one of two places - the toolkit provided with the motorcycle goes in the tool box under the seat (where is was designed to be stored so no bonus points for me figuring out that one!). The majority of this gear gets organized in a tool tote that rides in the top case. There's nothing magical about the tote - it was a basic car survival kit - crappy jumper cables, largely useless emergency blanket, road flares (I think the kids used them for something other than their intended use but I'll likely never get the real story on that), etc., but the contents slowly disappeared and all that was left was the tote. It fits nicely in the top case so its new job is keeping these tools from rolling around the top case while I ride.
The gear gets organized inside the tote using four Eagle Creek Pack-It Cubes (medium). Through some odd coincidence four cubes fit in the tote with room to spare for the first aid kit. The Jet Boil, the cook set, and the motor oil/funnel fit in the top case around the tote. The SILIPINT fits nicely in the empty spaces around the tote.
- (updated) dry sacks - I recently switched to Sea to Summit eVent Compression Dry Sacks for the bulk of my gear. I went with XL size because even if I don't need all that room I can roll the bag down to fit the gear. The neat thing about these bags is that, even though they're water resistant the extra air will vent out when packing. I primarily use two of these bags; one for my sleeping gear and one for the tent.
The general gear is very much about personal preference. You do not need to take a coffee system to motorcycle rallies. You can generally count on there being a large supply of coffee. It may not be the best coffee in the world but it will be hot, contain caffeine, and be generally available. Read the rally description to make sure you know your coffee options if you're a junkie like me.
As for food, again, the rally description will tell you what to expect. For example, at the Top O' The Rockies rally, the sponsoring club provided dinner the last night; at the MOA rally, there were food trucks. There's also the option of going off site for meals. You probably don't have to bring in food but do what you're comfortable doing.
- TP - Roadside rest areas and rallies will provide facilities but sometimes TP can become scarce or if you need to stop urgently by the roadside you'll be glad to have a couple of rolls of this essential product! A couple of rolls in a one gallon freezer bag fit nicely in the top case and I didn't think a picture was really necessary.
- Headlamp - It is really, really important to me to have a headlamp handy and I use my Petzl Myolite 3 a lot. This light is discontinued but the reason I selected it was because it uses AA batteries and I was trying to standardize on AA batteries. When it dies or disappears I'll move to a AAA model (at which time I'll be forced to reconsider my camp lanterns as they will become the only AA-powered gear).
- The battery struggle is real. Carrying multiple sizes of batteries is a pain.
- Water Bottles - You don't want to run out of water because no water means dehydration and dehydration makes you do stupid stuff. I have two Polar Insulated Bottles.
- Most motorcycle jackets and coats will hold a water bladder so you can stay hydrated while you ride but I generally need to stop before I'm really thirsty. Do what's right for you but don't allow yourself to drive beyond the point of exhaustion.
- Cash - If you're used to using your credit card everywhere around town that's great but there are still places between cities where cash is king. Take enough cash to get yourself back home if you do something stupid like leave town with an expired credit card.
- Spare Set of Keys - You will misplace your keys at some point. While you will want to make sure you turn over every stone to find your primary keys, be sure you have a spare so you can continue riding. This also includes anything else you lock. If your bags require a separate key, make sure you have spares for those as well. And if you're locking your bike along the way, make sure you have a spare key for that lock as well.
- Clothes - Avoid cotton and instead wear synthetics. Synthetics breathe better, dry faster, and wick sweat away more effectively. Also limit the number of changes of clothes you take and assume you'll do laundry on the road. The other thing to keep in mind is changing weather conditions. Be able to add and subtract layers when riding and camping.
- Camp Shoes - Don't plan on wearing your riding boots everywhere. A pair of sandals like Keens are great when the weather's warm! I also take my shower shoes just to make sure I can keep my feet off the community shower floor.
- Hat - Depending on the size of the rally you may be walking a lot. Don't get sunburned - wear a big brimmed hat. My personal favorite is the Tilley Traditional Hat hat because it wicks away sweat very effectively. It also allows me to display my pin collection!
- Rain Gear - If you're not comfortable riding in the rain, pull over and wait it out. If you are comfortable riding in the rain, and if your riding gear isn't waterproof (or whatever the correct term might be) have a layer you can put on when its raining. While it may not bother you to get wet, when the rain stops you'll still be wet and you'll then be riding at speed. You'll get cold. Don't get cold!
- AAA membership + card - My advice - make sure you have your card with you and that you have the right coverage. AAA considers motorcycles Recreational Vehicles so make sure you have RV coverage added to your membership. This is especially helpful when nothing else in your toolkit will make your bike run.
So this is it - the massive amount of crap I haul around with me when I motorcycle camp. This is a list of stuff that works for me. If you find any of this information useful, great! If you buy one of these products and hate it I'm sorry. As the EPA says, your mileage may vary