Motorcycle Camping Gear Buyer's Guide – The Basics

Brent Jaswinski
by Brent Jaswinski

Less is more, trust us

Motorcycles and camping go hand in hand, and it’s one of our favorite pastimes. There’s nothing like hitting the open road with everything you need to be self-sufficient strapped to your bike – it’s quite liberating in fact. It kind of makes you feel like a modern-day cowboy. Whether you’re camping overnight, for a few days, or an entire month, there are a few necessities you need to bring with you, and truthfully, not much else. When it comes to living off your bike, less is more.

It’s easy to overpack and bring more than what you need, and most of the stuff you thought you needed usually never even gets touched. Every rider is different, though. If you’re diabetic and need your insulin, why not try a few days without it? Just kidding, bring that, but you can leave your entire wardrobe at home and in the closet. One change of clothes is usually enough. Motorcycle camping is an ongoing learning process, even for the most experienced, but we’re here to share what necessities you’ll need to make your life on the road that much easier.


A tent is definitely the first thing that comes to mind whenever camping is mentioned. Since you’re on your bike, you’ll want something small. There’s no need for a family-sized tent that takes a village to put together. We prefer to use one-man tents. Not only are they small (usually the size of a bread loaf when packed up), but they’re super easy and quick to erect – and tear down and pack up for that matter, too.

For all your camping gear needs, check out Amazon.

Mattress Pad

Everyone sleeps differently. Some people can sleep like a rock even if they’re lying in the dirt, but most others would prefer some sort of cushion. Because you’re limited by the amount of stuff you can carry, an inflatable double-tall, queen-sized mattress is out of the picture – save that for a different camping trip. Our favorite option is a mattress/sleeping pad. They’re usually about two-inches thick and provide a surprising amount of comfort. Most are also self-inflating with a nozzle valve to blow into for additional firmness, offer insulation and warmth a foam pad doesn’t, and quickly roll up to be super compact and lightweight when not in use.

Check out Mattress Pads here.

Sleeping Bag

Well, this one is a given. There are endless options when it comes to sleeping bags, but one thing to look for especially is the temperature for which any particular sleeping bag is rated for. Don’t bring a thin summer bag when overnight temperatures dip down into the 50s, 40s or even 30s. Just because it’s nice and warm during the day, doesn’t mean it’ll stay that way overnight. Check your destination(s)’ weather forecast to know what you’re up against and pack accordingly.


Don’t leave home without one – seriously. Often times you won’t roll into camp (or even figure out where you’ll be camping) until after dark – that’s just a given unless you’re the type of person who has to schedule and plan everything out to a T ahead of time. Not that there’s anything wrong with that – the world definitely needs people like you – but if that description hits a little too close to home, then maybe motorcycle camping isn’t for you. Or maybe it is, to help loosen things up – live a little! Motorcycle camping has always been more of a go with the flow type of activity, especially if you’re traveling in a group. Setting up camp in the dark is common, and you definitely want to have both hands free. An LED headlamp is bright as hell and worth its weight in gold. It’s also nice to have a spare flashlight in addition to your headlamp, too.

For a headlamp like this Petzl Tikka and many others, find them at Amazon.


Like mentioned before, a major part of motorcycle camping is being self-sufficient, and bringing a good set of tools is incredibly important. It can be the determining factor between an easy (or big) fix with an epic story to tell afterward, or a costly tow bill and ruined trip – not to mention a blow to your ego. Know your bike and bring what you need tool wise. Also bring a tire patch kit, a pressure gauge, an air pump (a small bicycle pump or a CO2 cartridge kit), and possibly even tire spoons if your motorcycle’s tires aren’t tubeless. There are even small air compressors you can buy, but a bike pump or CO2 kit is just as easy to use and takes up less space.

Other tools to bring are safety wire pliers (and safety wire), zip ties and paracord – all three are super cheap and can be used in endless ways to save your bacon out on the road. Or maybe to save your butt from becoming bacon… A spare spark plug or two never hurt either.

Check out more motorcycle-specific toolkits at Cruz Tools.

Small Axe or Hatchet

Camping isn’t camping without a fire, and building a fire is slowly becoming a lost art. Having a small axe or hatchet will make your life (and building a fire) much easier. It will allow you to make kindling and smaller logs out of bigger ones, and ultimately, a better, hotter-burning fire. The other flat end of the hatchet can be used as a hammer to drive down tent stakes and whatnot. Finally, it’s an incredibly useful tool while camping, and you can even practice your axe throwing for fun. It’s also a great idea to carry a knife and a Leatherman (or similar multi-tool). Your author once knocked out a bear with a thrown hatchet.


Wherever you go, bring water with you. There’s almost nothing worse for your body than dehydration. Anything can happen out on the road (or in the woods/desert/mountains) on your motorcycle, so it’s a good idea to make sure you at least have something to drink. Canteens come in all sorts of different shapes and sizes, and you can even get a hydration pack like a Camelbak.


A small tarp is a good idea to bring with you on your motorcycle camping trip. Its uses are endless, but they’re especially great to put underneath your tent if the ground happens to be wet or moist, or if it’s going to rain. A tarp can also provide quick shade or even shelter from rain or hail.


As mentioned earlier, you don’t need much. One change of clothes (maybe two depending on how long you’re on the road for) is all you really need. Who cares if you get a little smelly, you’re a biker for Christ’s sake, act like it. Definitely bring a bathing suit or pair of shorts to jump in the water and perhaps a small towel. Of course pack for the weather, but don’t over pack. If it’s going to be cold, bring a sweatshirt and perhaps a beanie, but don’t bring two because one will match better with your other outfit. Remember, less is more, and no one cares if you’re color coordinated or not. Bring a pair of more comfortable shoes or flip-flops too, if you want to give your feet a break from whatever riding shoes or boots you have or if you plan on getting in the water.


Obviously, don’t leave your toothbrush or deodorant at home, but this section is everything else you might need, and everybody is different. If you’re diabetic, bring your insulin. If you’re a mosquito magnet, bring some bug spray. If you have red hair and fair skin, bring your sunscreen. Bring some snacks, of course, but don’t bring the kitchen sink. Another nice thing to bring with you if you have the room is a little mini propane bottle and burner. It’s a nice steady heat source to cook over or make coffee with in the morning.

With each and every passing motorcycle camping trip, you’re going to get a better idea of what you need (and perhaps didn’t have) and what you brought but never even touched. It’s a learning process that takes time and experience, but with each trip, you’ll refine what you bring and how you pack it. Above is just a list of the necessities. Tweak it how you may, but if you bring nothing other than what’s outlined above, you’ll make out just fine. Now get out there, have some fun, and try not to kill yourself.

Brent Jaswinski
Brent Jaswinski

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4 of 20 comments
  • Steve Clark Steve Clark on Aug 08, 2018

    How about a chair you can sleep in ,packs small . https://uploads.disquscdn.c...

    • See 1 previous
    • Gruf Rude Gruf Rude on Aug 10, 2018

      Another classic is the Kermit chair. I did 9000 miles in a month, solo camping to Alaska on a KLR and I don't think I could have done it without that Kermit chair to collapse in at the end of each day.

  • Wilby Wilby on Aug 10, 2018

    Nice article and ever netter responses. Leaving on a TAT trip in a week and always nice to hear from those with experience. Thanks!