An Unofficial Guide to Packing for Motorcycle Camping
Posted on May 27 2021
A Checklist and Tips for Motorcycle Camping
by Jodi Drew, owner of Spoke & Dagger Co.
Photo by Mikey Revolt of Lowbrow Customs
Motorcycle camping is by far my favorite way to spend riding two wheels. There is something about packing up everything you need to live for a weekend in one bag and slanging it on the back of your bike.
Anyone who knows me knows that I like to be prepared and am by far not a minimalist (I used to be that bitch with 3 suitcases for a weekend trip to Florida #sorrynotsorry) So it’s pretty hilarious I’m so into motorcycle camping. Most of the dudes I ride with could put a change of underwear and their toothbrush in a bag and be set for a long weekend on the road. Not me. (side note: the dudes also ask me if I have x/y/z all fucking weekend because they forgot it… be the prepared friend, it's not as bad as it sounds.)
A version of the checklist below was given to me on my first camp trip seven or eight years ago and you’d be so proud to know that motorcycle camping has changed my entire outlook on what I need or use while on the road. My current pack list is even half the size of this one provided. I learned how I didn’t use half the shit I packed but if you’re new to this, it’s a great list to eliminate some packing anxiety for such a unique experience.
Let’s start with your sleeping arrangements. I have a two-person Polar tent that I won at the Babes Ride Out / M.O.T.O Fam raffle a few years back. Definitely bigger than I need for motorcycle camping but it fits on my bike solid so having the extra room to get off your rain soaked jeans and snuggle up after a long day of riding is worth it to me. I also have a battery powered light or a glowstick I keep in my tent and always have a headlamp I just hang around the campsite with so you can find your way back or maybe even create a strobe light dance party in the middle of the field if you feel inclined, I know I have.
My sleeping bag was the smallest one I could find from a local hunting store. I found buying one online was hard because I wanted to see how small it rolled up. I’ve learned with mine that it being the smallest rolled one = not fucking warm. So, I also have an inflatable bed mat for comfort, and I bring my S&D co. Camp Blanket.
SPACE SAVING TIPS: I roll my bed mat inside my sleeping bag real tight so that it is one less thing to find room for. I also strap my camp blanket to the front of my handlebars and roll my rain gear inside of it. This allows for quick easy access to my rain gear without having to un-bungee my sissy bar bag but also, again a space saver. If you don’t want to spend money on a compression or inflatable pillow, bring a pillowcase and just stuff your hoodie or clothes into it at night.
The last thing I want to do after riding 8 hours straight is to not have a spot to chill when I finally get that campfire going. My camp chair packs as small as my water bottle. I literally HATE to plug amazon but that’s where I got mine, if you find somewhere local that has them, LMK.
The food situation: I carabiner my S&D Co. camp mug to my sissy bar bag. I use this for coffee, oatmeal, soup, etc. I just love that it’s metal so I don’t have to worry about it breaking. I have a little pocket knife style silverware gadget and always have a knife strapped to my boot or belt. Always keep a bottle of water or canteen readily available as the ride there sure will dehydrate you but it’ll also aid your next day hangover from the beers you didn’t realize you downed while chillin’ by the fire. A Jet Boil is how I cook all my food while camping. I stuff oatmeal packs in it for storage, as well as tea bags or some ramen. I’m bougie AF so I also have a handheld camping espresso machine and milk frother. I promise you I’m one cranky bitch if I don’t get real caffeine in me in the morning, no instant coffee pack is cutting it for me. Typically there is grocery stores near by so we will get food and drinks once we get there but always have snacks in your pack for the ride. My road dog will forever be beef jerky and a gas station hard boiled egg (don’t judge). Lastly, I have a tiny bottle of dish soap and a washcloth I bring so I can clean out my Jet Boil pot.
Dirtbag City: So, I’m just gunna be honest, there isn’t a whole lot of showering that happens on these motorcycle camping trips. Embrace it. You’re a biker after all. I thrive off of wet wipes and face wipes. That’s the type of shower you’ll get during a long weekend. Also, this method provides you the most satisfying shower of your life when you get back home after your trip. I pack a zip lock bag with some torn-off-the-roll toilet paper, paper towels and tissues just in case the campground is without actual bathrooms. The opposite of dirtbag city is leaving your campsite as you found it, clean and garbage free. I always fold up a garbage bag and throw it in that zip lock, so I have it with me. I’ve used it a time or two to keep things dry during a rainstorm but it’s a great place to keep your snack wrappers too. The towel I bring in case of swimming or rain, etc is a microfiber towel that rolls smaller than my socks. It’s amazing and perfect for motorcycle camping on those days you want to rip to dip at some roadside waterfall.
Emergency kit: I pack my S&D Co. toiletry bag with travel size sunscreen, bug spray (I even have a little citronella candle I bring), a lighter, ibuprofen, travel first aid kit, a needle and thread, zip ties, shop rag, fire starters, and hand warmers. Don’t forget some Benadryl. If a bee hasn’t yet decided to commit suicide by diving into your helmet between the padding and your ear at 80mph, it’s coming.
Rain gear: Don’t be a dip shit. Don’t be that guy that’s too cool for rain gear. We all look ridiculous but what looks way dumber is when your ass is dripping water into a puddle in the checkout line at the gas station. I have rain pants, jacket, waterproof gloves, and boot covers. After 14 hours in a straight downpour that included 50 miles of hail, I stayed completely dry (other than some seepage on my wrists) thanks to the proper rain gear. My sissy bar bag is waterproof but keep that in mind too as you’ll want a dry place to throw your phone and wallet.
TIPS for riding in the rain: stick to the center of the road, all the oil from the street is going to be washed to the ditches. Take your time, stop under a bridge if you need to, or just fucking send it if you’re on a timeline like I always tend to be. If you have a shield on your helmet, instead of wiping it with your wet gloves, while riding, turn your head to the side and let the wind/motion pull the water out of your eyesight.
Tool Roll: I always have a tool roll on me. If it isn’t me digging into it on the side of the road it sure is always someone in the group that needs something from it. Throwing extra spark plugs or taillight bulbs into that wouldn’t hurt. Zip ties can be a life saver. I have a tiny peanut gas tank so if I’m ever riding with some bagger daddies or dyna bros I’m the annoying one who needs gas every 90 miles so I strap my Lowbrow Customs reserve bottle to my bike just in case (also great for starting fires at the campground).
Keep it together girl: I have a few sissy bar bags I use depending on my mood or the amount of shit I need to pack. My favorite is the “Hairy Nutsack” Sissybar Bag by Mad Squirrel. A giant black and white hairy cowhide bag that has it’s own straps that secure it to my tall sissy bar. I then strap my tent and sleeping bag to the back of my sissy bar securing it with some bungees and lastly a cargo net over the entire thing for safe keeping. My go to when I have a lot more stuff to pack is Biltwell’s Exfil-80 which is rad because it has a rain cover and a tool roll built in. Thrashin’ also makes a rad duffle that I love. I also never go on a trip without at least two external phone chargers, my Ram mount for holding my phone on my handle bars and my Lexin intercom headset for tunes and gps while riding (all of which will be available at S&D Co. in the next week or two).
Overall, if you want it, you have to be able to safely pack it on your motorcycle (or grab it once you get to your destination and be cool with leaving it behind). You want your pack secure and not janky, I’ve definitely had to dodge flying objects coming off of the back of people’s bike ahead of me a time or two (I’m looking at you Paddy Keefe). Pack things inside of other things to save space. Use compression bags to squeeze all the air out to pack your clothes tight. And lastly, don’t be scared or anxious of your first motorcycle camping trip. I promise you, it’ll be memories for a lifetime and have some wild unforeseen elements that come into play that will rewire who you are as a person in the best ways possible.
Feel free to reach out at any time if you have questions about what to bring or how to pack it up on your bike. I’ll be more then happy to walk you through it or help you find solutions that work for you.
See you at the next campout!