I love camping. I’ve been doing it my entire life. My family would camp numerous times per year for most of my childhood and as soon as my friends and I had our licenses, we were out in the woods or at a lake in the Midwest enjoying the great outdoors more weekends than not. Once motorcycles took a stranglehold on my life, it was only natural that the two would be intertwined. From solo camping during long motorcycle trips to pitching a tent closer to home with friends, there really aren’t too many things in life I enjoy more than moto-camping.
We’ve covered some of the motorcycle camping basics. Evans even brought us beyond the basics with a peek into some extra equipment to step up your camp game. One thing is for sure, not all campers think alike. Some won’t be caught dead without their espresso maker in the morning while others feel a tent and sleeping bag is all you need. I’ve tried plenty of camping gear over the years, used numerous products on the hunt for the best, and overpacked my bikes in silly ways during moto-camping trips. I’ve managed to slim down my pack considerably since those first few trips, but there are still a few things I grab every time. These are my top 10 motorcycle camping essentials.
I enjoy reading books about travel while I’m traveling or camping. Reading Jupiter’s Travels while nestled into a hammock with nothing but the blue skies and rising redwoods in sight around you is a special treat too few have enjoyed. Recently, I’ve been on an Anthony Bourdain kick – RIP – and have brought his books with me during plenty of off-road camping trips to be read in the evening and mornings. Finding authors you can relate to while traveling and camping can add another layer of fun to enjoying their books. On a good camping trip, there should be some down time to enjoy your surroundings. Reading a good book outdoors, for me, is one of my favorite ways of doing so.
I know what you’re thinkin’, but Ryan, if you want to pack light, do you really need both? No! No, you don’t. But I like to have both unless space and weight saving is a priority. I use a Black Diamond headlamp similar to the Storm375. This fully sealed waterproof and dustproof headlamp gives off 375 lumens at full capacity and has numerous settings for different situations. These include full strength in proximity and distance modes, dimming, strobe, red, green and blue night-vision, and lock mode. It also uses standard easy-to-find AAA batteries. I’m not sure why I learned of the usefulness of headlamps so late in life, but they are absolutely indispensable, more so even, than your standard flashlight.
But I bring one of those too! I’ve had a Surefire Fury flashlight for quite some time now. The Fury is made from Mil-Spec hard anodized aluminum with a tempered window and O-ring seals making it light, rugged, and durable. It’s also capable of cranking out 1,100 lumens with its standard 123A batteries and an even brighter 1,500 lumens when connected to an external battery via USB. With two brightness levels, the Fury will let you conserve battery should you not need all 1,100 lumens while you’re prepping dinner or searching for wood. They ain’t cheap, but I dig it.
The Estwing hatchet I purchased maybe five years ago now has come in handy on many different occasions. Most of the hatchet’s duty falls to processing wood for the requisite campfire, but having a flat surface on the back, it can be used for hammering duties as well such as putting tent stakes in the ground. The Estwing Special Edition Sportsman ax is 13-inches in length, has a black finish with a leather handle and comes with a black nylon sheath. Made of steel, mine is probably due for some sharpening but still gets the job done every time.
I recently acquired (as a gift) a TOPS Tahoma Field Knife. This monster blade has a plethora of unique features aimed at making it a versatile tool in the bush. The Tahoma Field Knife is made from high-carbon 1095 3/16-inch thick steel. At nearly 14-inches of overall length, as the Dundee would say, “That’s a knife”. It can handle chopping duties similar, though not as well as a hatchet, while also allowing for normal use as a knife in other situations. The knife is also designed to allow for multiple different holds, features a notch for scoring bone, breaking wire, or simply picking up cookware from a fire, and also features a pry bar at the pommel. If you’d rather carry a knife than a hatchet and still be able to chop wood, the Tahoma Field Knife is a great option.
Multi Tools are great to keep around anytime, really, but particularly so when you’re out on a moto-trip. Leatherman is the name in multi tools having invented the game in the early ‘80s. There’s a Leatherman for nearly every purpose. The new Free P4 combines Leatherman’s variety of 21 different tools with the ability to use each single-handedly. At 8.6 ounces with a closed length of 4.25-inches, it’s the smallest way to fit a toolbox into your pocket.
Cue the old-timers saying they don’t need electronic this and that while camping. Whatever, man. I like to know I have some back up juice in store should I need it. Whether it’s your phone, a computer, or other gadgets that need charging, an external battery allows you to charge whatever you need wherever you are. The Anker PowerCore I’ve been using for the last couple of years has two USB ports and holds 20,100 mAh of juice which is enough for approximately five charges of my Samsung Galaxy S9. I’ve also charged GoPros and computers off of the thing while traveling. There are plenty of power banks on the market of varying price, size, and capacity, but the Anker unit I’ve been using has consistently performed without showing any signs of degradation.
Essential? Maybe not unless you plan on actually sleeping in it, in which case, it’s a small lightweight packable bed. The Eagle’s Nest Outfitters (ENO) hammock I’ve toted around the country with me is a Doublenest, meaning it’s big enough for two, and is made from 70-denier high-tenacity nylon Taffeta which is strong, breathable, and quick drying. There really isn’t anything like stringing up a hammock in the woods, laying down in it, and letting your cares melt away. I usually bring the hammock in addition to a tent and sleeping bag. Think of it as comfy camp furniture. Mine packs, with the straps, to approximately the size of a large grapefruit.
Ah, the importance of layering. A good base layer combined with breathable lightweight mid and outer layers can help keep you warm dry and comfortable no matter what mother nature throws your way. A good mid-layer can also function as your jacket around camp. I recently got my hands on the REV’IT! Climate 2 jacket which is a high-tech lightweight mid-layer that also functions as a stand alone jacket. The Climate 2 uses Polartec Alpha, a material primarily developed to provide US Navy Seals with an active insulation layer that’s ultra-thin, lightweight, quick-drying, highly breathable, stretchy, water-repellent, packable and extremely warm, all at the same time. It has been fantastic under riding jackets and on its own around camp or while traveling.
There isn’t always a chair available at the end of the trail and sometimes, it’s nice to have one. The Helinox Zero chair I use weighs only 17 ounces and packs down to a 14 inch long 4x4in square. The chair is rated for 265 pounds and is incredibly strong for how lightweight the materials are. The only downside to this model specifically is that it doesn’t put you far off the ground and if the ground is soft, the legs will likely dig in putting you hind end that much closer to just sitting on the ground. Helinox does offer a “ground sheet” that connects the four legs with a square tarpaulin of sorts so the chair won’t sink into the ground.
Making sure that one has enough water while camping and riding is of the utmost importance to your survival. Most often, I prefer using a pack with some sort of hydration bladder. Klim’s Nac Pak and Ogio’s Baja hydration packs are two of my favorites. They both offer a good amount of storage as well as having dedicated pockets for a hydration bladder and routing for a drinking tube. Of course, sometimes an extra pack isn’t something you want to deal with. In those cases, I’ve packed a large Nalgene bottle and made due.
I’ve been happily using an older version of the Kelty Cosmic 20 for nearly five years now. It’s lightweight, rated at 2-pounds 6.6-ounces, and packs down really nicely. I’ve slept comfortably in this bag in temperatures down to its rated 20º F. Not only is it warm, but it also breathes well and is comfortable thanks to the nylon taffeta construction. Packed with 600 fill Dridown, this bag will also dry quickly should it get wet.
About the same time I picked up the Kelty sleeping bag I also got my hands on the Gunnison 2 two-person tent from Kelty. Rated for two, it gives solo motorcyclists the extra room needed to bring their luggage, gear, etc. into the tent with them or, with the rain fly up, you have two vestibule area for items you might want to keep outside of the tent. The Gunnison 2 weighs around six pounds and can be packed quite small. The easy to use lightweight poles make setting this tent up a cinch. A footprint is also included with the Gunnison 2. This has been my preferred tent over the past few years of moto camping.
We are committed to finding, researching, and recommending the best products. We earn commissions from purchases you make using the retail links in our product reviews. Learn more about how this works.