I recently returned from a 9 day, 2000 mile motorcycle camping trip covering the middle two thirds of California. A good deal of the fun in planning an adventure of this sort is the acquisition of all the toys… I mean gear that you want to (play with) on your trip.
For me, it’s often more fun than the adventure itself!
Part of the sense of discovery is not only finding the amazing, snaky, hairpin mountain crossing, but also seeing if the Jetboil Flash Cooking system really can boil water in under two minutes, if your Mountain Hardware UltraLamina sleeping bag actually will keep you warm in sub zero temps and if that Space Pen really can write on Mars. Upside down. Under water.
I’m happy to report being pretty satisfied with my planning and and the performance of the gear I ended up selecting for this trip. Prior to setting out, I did a couple “dry-run” overnighters (you can read about them in First Motorcycle Camping Trip)
Before setting out on my first trip, I read a number of motorcycle camping books, consulted with my expert daughter (she’s somewhat of a backpacking expert having taken actual college courses in it!) and cruised the aisles of my local REI store. One of my GZ250Bike.com buddies strongly recommended a Thermarest air mattress to improve my chances of getting in my beauty rest on the ground. (The Prolite Plus is what I got and it was unbelievably comfortable for such a thin and light piece of equipment.)
I did bring some things that I didn’t use. Rope, for instance. And my Jetboil frying pan. But I ended up using nearly everything else at least once.
There were a few questionable items that could maybe have been scratched to save weight and space, among them my Kermit chair, the aforementioned JetBoil Flash Cooking System and my swim trunks. – but when I had a use for them, they came in handy and performed well.
It’s hard to plan for everything. Camping in a National Park can be very different from camping at an RV park.
Here are a few items that really performed well for me:
1) Thermarest Prolite Plus sleeping pad. Awesome. (see photo above, it’s about the size of a small watermelon.)
2) REI Half Dome 2 Plus tent. Up in 5 minutes, down and packed in 10. Amazingly clever design. Packs down really small, bungee’d it under my sissy rack along with the Kermit chair. Very lightweight but held up well in wind. One drawback I had was getting it staked down where the ground was hard. I packed a half dozen Really Large Nails as backup to the stakes.
3) Mountain Hardware Ultra Lamina 32 sleeping bag. Light, warm, a little too short – go for the long if you get one and you are over 5’10”.
5) Scorpion Exo VenTech mesh jacket. Fantastic. Good for hot, not so bad (with liner in) for normal temps. Add TourMaster Sentinel Rain Jacket for outer shell, add or subtract underlayers as needed and you can handle anything. I use the Scorpion nearly year round, my ICON Motorhead leather jacket mostly hangs in my closet. (note, the Motorhead provides better protection, but it probably weighs twice as much and is a lot hotter on hot days.)
6) Lowa Renegade GTX Hiking Boots. Good for riding, good for hiking. Kills two birds with one shoe. I didn’t want to pack a pair of riding boots and hiking boots, and these were the perfect combination. Not too heavy for hiking, but substantial enough for highway riding. Come up above the ankle. Waterproof. Very comfortable right out of the box – virtually no break-in.
7) Teva sandals – good for everything else, even easy to moderate hiking, especially in rivers/wading. The Lowas and the Tevas were my sole (get it?) footwear for the nine days.
8 ) Ex Officio polypropylene underwear or whatever it is made out of. What do they say? “17 countries. 6 weeks. One pair of underwear. Okay, maybe two.” It’s true. I have five pair. What can I say, I’m an ex-Boy Scout. Boxer briefs if you must know. Can’t commit to anything.
9) REI Sahara convertible pants Yes, somewhat dorky, but they work as advertised.
10) Super T with Top Roll and Net from T-bag Super T. Easy on, easy off, holds an S-load of stuff, rock solid at 90mph plus a 30mph headwind. Occasional 60 mph side gusts no prob. Lots of straps to hold other stuff if so inclined. Optional Roll Top add-on for two up campers. I took the Roll Top on my Dry Run, but found with more judicious packing, I didn’t need it. When motorcycle camping, less is almost always more.
11) Starbucks Via instant coffee. Had the JetBoil coffee press – but this is way easier and tastes nearly the same.
12) SureFire Saint Minimus LED Headlamp. Pricey, but really increases your options once it gets dark.
13) Surefire 6P LED Flashlight. You could find your keys in deep grass on the Dark Side Of the Moon with this baby. (BTW, the batteries they came with lasted the entire week and are still going strong.)
14) REI Picnic Cooler. Big enough to hold a bag of ice, an eight-pack, a steak and kitchen stuff. Small enough to sit on the pillion seat. Kept my Diet Doctor Pepper and Red Bulls icey cold in all-day 100 degree plus desert riding.
15) Kermit chair. This one is iffy. If you want to sit next to your fire, you want this chair. If you don’t have a fire or don’t care to sit near it, it’s a big packing price to pay. It is small, lightweight, well made and assembles and disassembles in under 2 mins. But it is the third largest piece of gear after my tent and cooler.
16) REI Quick dry towels. Small one as a washcloth, bigger one to dry off. Stay clean, dry quick and don’t get mildewy if packed damp.
17) Toob Travel toothbrush. Nothing special, but compact, stores your own brand of toothpaste in the handle, good size.
I took and used a lot of other stuff, including a nifty camping knife, a small hatchet, leather gloves, water bottles, a waist pack, hiking shirts, camp shirts, rain gear, etc. but those are all pretty standard. The stuff in the list made me forget I was living outside for 9 days.
Camp gear has come along way since I was a Boy Scout (Think leaky canvas tents that weighed 1000 pounds and set up with 2 by 2’s… and Spam.)