Motorcycle Camping Lessons Learned

The Open Road

I recently returned from a 9 day, 2000 mile ride crisscrossing central and northern  California.

Although I am only a recent convert to motorcycle camping I’ve “roughed it” before. When I was a kid, I was in the Boy Scouts and earned all the major merit badges.  More recently, I’ve done many weekend and weeklong camping trips with my kids. I’ve done solo backwoods hiking in Yellowstone, Yosemite, Grand Tetons, Rocky, etc. I have also done a few weeklong (and a couple of months-long) RV trips, which, are more akin to driving than camping, but uses a lot of the same natural resources.

Nonetheless, venturing out with just two wheels and all the crap you can pack on therewith is a somewhat different animal.  I did a couple of short test runs to iron out the major gear wrinkles, but the 9 days gave me an better opportunity to learn some overall “do’s and don’ts.” 

1) Develop and practice a consistent technique for riding twisties. Approach, throttle control, etc.
2) At campsites, eat stuff that doesn’t require dishes, pots, pans, utensils (or cleanup.)
3) Gas up at a half tank in the Boonies. Trust me.
4) Avoid riding on Fridays, especially Friday afternoon and evening.
5) Keep your “layers” in a handy spot (top of saddlebag is good.)
6) Adventure riding is pointless, but if you go places you’ve never been and ride challenging roads, it is more interesting.
7) Riding is not the same as driving.  Your mileage may vary.
8 ) 30 miles of twisty = 90 miles of highway.
9) Plan 2-4 “sessions” of riding per day with breaks/meals.non-riding diversions in between. Don’t ride all day. Pick interesting roads for “sessions”.
10) Some days are mostly fun days, some days are mostly “getting there” days. Try to maximize the first.
11) If you really hammer you can do 600 miles in one day. Don’t plan on doing it more than once if you are over 50.
12) Tires are expensive and they don’t last long.
13) Always check that your saddlebags are really closed.
14) Key in ignition, then jacket, then earplugs, then gator, then helmet, then glasses, then gloves.
15) Don’t read books about mass murderers loose in the National Park at night in your tent in the middle of nowhere.
16) Bears are cute, and can run very fast.
17) Eat where the locals eat, but don’t piss them off. The food and service is better and cheaper. Tip well.
18) Park your bike where you can see it.
19) Look for places where you can recharge your phone. Turn your phone off – (not on standby) when not in use.
20) Riding is more fun than camping. Plan accordingly.

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