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A Getting Started Guide to Motorcycle Camping


Now we’re talking. Just because you’re camping does not mean that you have to starve or even go hungry. Most of us will not be riding our motorcycle to a third world nation, not yet anyway. So the simple facts are you will be riding on roads that go thru towns, which support neighborhoods filled with people. Those neighborhoods are supported by shopping centers that contain food stores. The people in the neighborhoods also have food choices, restaurants. Starting to get the picture? You don’t have to pack food and cooking supplies unless you want to. What we are not going to chat about here are camp stoves, fuel sources and packing food for trail preparation. Those are subjects that are way too extensive for what we are doing here.

We will talk about carrying snacks and nutritious energy for your travel on the road. I am going to make the presumption that you will be stopping for a good meal at least once-a-day. So here we go, beef jerky, fruit that you get daily or at least every other day at the food store and water. For the beginner motorcycle camper, this should be you focus as you explore this new aspect of motorcycling.

One of the things that may be going through your head is where do I empty my tanks. Well, there is the key to food on the trail. If you drink water in moderation and eat moderately, you will sweat out most of the fluids. Just keep an eye on your condition, how you feel and when you do empty the liquid tank, check to be sure you are not dehydrating yourself. If your urine is dark in color you are dehydrating. The key here is to drink water often throughout the day. Drink before you are thirsty. I can’t stress that one enough. Beer, alcohol, even coffee and soda are not good substitute for plain old water. You’ll feel so much better as you ride.

Solid foods are our next consideration. My suggestion while getting acclimated to motorcycle camping is beef or chicken jerky. A visit to your local health food or warehouse store will afford you plenty of selections of easy to pack, little or no preparation selections for daily road snacks. Whatever you pick, pick things that are nutritious and healthy. These foods will insure that your “machine” (not your motorcycle) operates smoothly and you are alert and ready for whatever happens during the day.

Please remember, whatever you take with you, one of the basic tenants of camping is “Leave it better than you found it”. In other words, don’t trash the place, pack your trash out and put in the proper receptacle.

Here is our Do and Don’t list for food:


  • Drink lots of water throughout the day.
  • Pack snacks for your travels.
  • Leave it better than you found it.
  • Pack out your trash.
  • Drink beer and alcohol, especially while riding.
  • Eat heavy meals during the day.
  • Try to go without eating and drinking water during the day.
  • Ignore the signs of dehydration.

The Motorcycle

I can’t begin to stress to you just how important your motorcycle is in the grand plan of motorcycle camping. You already know all of this, but let’s just bring it up to the front of consideration for this activity.

When you are finally ready to load up and hit the open road, you should be considering weight distribution and balance. You will be adding considerable weight to your vehicle. You will also be moving the center of gravity. If you are traveling with a passenger for this activity, well you could be setting yourself up for disaster before you even leave.

You need to consider what MOM (Motorcycle Operators Manual) has to say. Your MOM will tell you the weight limits and positions of loads between the axels. In any case, don’t exceed the maximum carrying load of the motorcycle and the tires. Ignoring the weight limits of your motorcycle and its tires will lead to potential catastrophic failures. Also consider your rear shocks. You may want to do what is called preloading of the rear suspension. Some motorcycle manufactures allow you to preload or compress your springs with no weight on the motorcycle. The suspension is compressed more to handle extra weight in the rear of the motorcycle. Check with your MOM. Don’t load all of your heavy stuff on one side of your motorcycle – distribute the weight across the vehicle.

As with every time you get on your motorcycle, do a detailed pre-ride inspection of your motorcycle. You should consider the length of the trip, the condition of your tires, the type of roads you will be traveling and when the last time you changed your vehicle’s fluids. Look at everything.

If you are planning to travel with a passenger, be sure that they understand how important it is that you work as a team on your motorcycle.

Our Do and Don’t list for the Motorcycle includes:


  • A comprehensive safety check of your motorcycle.
  • Be cognizant of your additional load and its placement on your motorcycle.
  • Check your tires.
  • Check your fluids.
  • Ignore MOM
  • Ignore your passenger. Make sure they understand their responsibilities.
  • Pack all of the heavy gear on one side of your motorcycle.
  • Ignore weight and balance issues.

Putting the pieces together

All this talk is great, but whats the best way to actually try motorcycle camping? If you're just getting started, my suggestion is to visit your state parks. These are usually not very far from home, are staffed by knowledgeable rangers and have controlled access to camp sites. Assemble your gear, pack your motorcycle and head off for the week-end.

As you get better and you refine your style of camping you can expand your radius of travel. Yes, you will soon be able to travel to the far off events and activities feeling more confident and capable and not being a stranger to the outdoors.

Just remember, you’re not far from home. If something doesn't work out, you run into trouble, or maybe you find out you just don’t like it, in most cases you're only a short drive from a nearby hotel.

Don't forget your camera to capture lifetime memories.
Motorcycle camping is not right for everyone. I urge you to try it enjoy the outdoors. You are going to meet new friends, learn from others and see things that not everyone will ever see. You need to include two other pieces of important camping equipment that I neglected to mention until now – your camera and your cell phone. Your camera will capture in a fraction of a second an image that will define your experience and last as a lifetime memory you will be able to look back on. Don’t forget your cell phone. It’s the quickest way to help.

Cell phone.
Don't forget your cell phone... just in case.

I want to leave you with something that I have always written and said throughout my aviation career, that I believe is applicable here and is my true thought for you as you venture out into the motorcycle camping community.

It is simply: As the stars reveal themselves from their day time hiding places and they shower the earth with light, one of those lights, slightly brighter than the rest is my wing tip passing over you and blessing you and the good earth below.

Happy and safe motorcycle camping. Enjoy it.



MotoWanderer says:

I was just talking to my wife today that it time to start going through our camping gear. Great info here. A hammock is also a great alternative to tent camping, though there is a learning curve to getting it all just right.
Thu Sep 17, 2020 at 7:49 PM

jimmycruze says:

Good point about sleeping in the clothes that you cooked in. Never would have thought about that!
Sun Apr 15, 2018 at 11:09 PM

hwbevins says:

very informative! Thank you
Fri Nov 10, 2017 at 9:01 PM

bulldawg says:

Good article, I hope to go Motorcycle camping this year.
Wed Jun 15, 2016 at 4:27 PM

Ady3cb says:

I really appreciated this article. Lots of important information. My first camping/ long distance trip is in March. Lots of stuff to prepare for so I might as well get started. 1/19/2016

Tue Jan 19, 2016 at 3:16 PM

hermotorcycle says:

We are heading to colorado from ohio on the bikes this summer and camping. I appreciate the article. Wondering how I am going to pac it on my bike?!
Tue Jan 27, 2015 at 6:44 PM

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