Touring on a motorcycle is an exciting way to explore the outdoors. But if you plan to camp along the way, there are some important things you need to know.
Camping while touring on a motorcycle requires careful planning and preparation to ensure your journey is safe and enjoyable. From choosing the right gear for camping with your bike, finding optimal campsites that are suitable for motorcycles, packing efficiently and staying comfortable while sleeping outdoors – these are just some of the considerations when it comes to camping with a motorbike.
With this guide, we’ll cover all of these topics so that you can begin planning your next motorcycle camping trip.
Overview Of Camping While Touring On A Motorcycle
Camping on a motorcycle trip is a very visceral experience – being in nature, cooking over a fire, enjoying a beer, watching the sunset, and waking up with the world.
But it’s also practical, saving you the cost of hotels whilst offering views and experiences that no hotel could ever offer.
Camping while touring on a motorcycle is an experience like no other. It’s a chance to get away from everyday life and fully immerse yourself in nature. Whether alone or with friends, camping on a motorcycle trip can be an enjoyable and transformative experience.
Camping is a cost-effective way to travel on an extended motorcycle tour – thanks to the significant savings against hotels. And all of this gives you more money to spend on petrol!
But if you want to go a step further, wild camping is completely free and provides the opportunity to enjoy remote areas of natural beauty.
So, let’s look at the differences between camping and wild camping.
Benefits of Official Campsites
Official camping sites provide an array of amenities that can make camping on a motorcycle more comfortable and enjoyable. These camping sites often include access to running water, showers, restrooms, and electricity.
As such, camping at an official site can be a great way to stay clean and comfortable throughout your journey. Though they come at a cost.
Wild camping is an attractive option for touring riders because it’s free and affords you time in nature. There’s no need to pay camping fees or reserve a spot, and you can choose the perfect pitch wherever you go.
Wild camping offers total freedom and autonomy – but it also lacks the amenities of campsites.
For shorter trips, stick to campsites. For longer trips, mix and match campsites with wild camping to get the best of both worlds.
Where to find Campsites
When touring on a motorcycle, it’s important to choose suitable camping sites. There are several websites and apps available that can help you find camping spots along your route.
For example, Campendium is one of the most popular camping directories, featuring over 10,000 campgrounds located throughout the United States and Canada. The camping spots are sorted by price, facilities offered, and user ratings, making it easy to find the ideal camping spot for your journey.
All camping sites have different rules and regulations, so check before booking. This will also help you determine what amenities are available and what camping fees may be required.
Check Local Rules and Laws
You’ll find that some countries are more relaxed about wild camping, whereas others are strict. Scandanavian countries make it easy for touring riders who want to wild camp, but here is a list of others:
And here are a few countries where you’ll need to check before you pitch:
- United States (it depends on the state)
- Canada (depends on the province)
- Australia (varies by state and territory)
- New Zealand (varies by region)
Be Respectful when Wild Camping on a Motorcycle
Campers take pride in their behaviour when wild camping! As such, always ask permission where required, don’t leave a trace, and cook with a stove rather than a fire.
Be respectful of the local wildlife by leaving them alone and pitching far enough away from water sources so as not to disturb them.
Finally, drop money in upkeep boxes if provided, and buy local produce from farmers or local businesses rather than supermarkets.
Head for Water Sources
When wild camping, look for pitching sites near running water sources for washing, cooking, and drinking. That said, stay away from stagnant water as it attracts mozzies and bugs and it generally isn’t safe to drink. Your presence may also put animals off from drinking there.
Head for rivers where the running water is cleaner and can provide enough water for everything you need.
Camping in Plain Site when on a Motorcycle
This isn’t something I enjoy, but it’s fine in many places. In locations such as Norway, they put up signs telling you where you can’t pitch – everywhere else is fair game.
Wherever you choose to do it, observe any signs and rules, and keep out of the way by pitching late, leaving early, and leaving no trace once you leave.
Can you Camp in Service Stations?
In the UK, camping in service stations is generally not allowed. Service stations are private property, and camping on their grounds is considered trespassing.
However, some service stations do have camping facilities that can be used overnight, usually for a fee.
In Europe, camping in service stations is also largely prohibited – depending on the country and jurisdiction. Some service stations do allow camping as long as it is done in a designated camping area, and permission is granted.
In the United States, camping in service stations is typically not allowed as they are usually private property. However, there are some exceptions.
Some highway service areas and truck stops offer camping services for a fee, usually within a designated camping area and with permission from the station manager.
Choosing the Right Gear
There’s no right and wrong answer to this. In general, I advise you to be brutal with your packing list – taking only what is necessary. Minimal is the way to go when camping – especially if you have a pillion!
That said, some people will happily carry more gear if it means they have a more comfortable stay when they get there. And that’s fine, it’s whatever works for you.
For a more in-depth post on packing, check out our comprehensive post on camping essentials: Motorcycle Camping Gear Checklist.
The Importance of Size and Weight
Another aspect of choosing the right gear is weight and dimensions. As a rule, the lighter and more compressed something is (such as a tent or sleeping bag), the more it costs!
If you’re a once-a-year camper, it’s probably not worth shelling out for the very best. But if you camp regularly, in all seasons, and for extended periods, it’s worth its weight in gold.
Use a Dedicated Camping Bag
When preparing for your trip, find ONE bag that can hold all your camping gear – and find a designated place for it on your bike.
Keeping your camping gear together in one bag (rather than spreading it out between panniers, top boxes, and rucksacks) means everything is together in one place.
Not only does this makes things easier for packing and unpacking, but it also prevents everything from getting lost.
What to Look for in a Tent when Camping on a Motorcycle
When choosing a tent for motorcycle camping, look for waterproof materials, durable construction and reinforced seams. This will ensure that your camping tent can withstand the elements and provide a comfortable camping experience.
It’s also important to consider weight and size. Look for lightweight tents that are easy to carry on your bike and small enough that they won’t take up too much space in your luggage.
What to Look for in a Sleeping Bag & Mat
You could argue that your sleeping bag and mat are more important than your sleeping bag – and you’d have a point.
As with the tent, they need to be lightweight. But they also need to be insulating to prevent the coldness of the floor from ruining your sleep.
If you’re a regular camper, and often enjoy extended tours, I’d thoroughly recommend spending whatever you can afford on a sleeping bag and ground mat.
Pros & Cons of Hammocks & Bivvy Bags
Hammocks and bivvy bags are popular camping options for touring riders. But it’s important to consider the pros and cons of each before making a decision.
Hammocks offer camping enthusiasts a comfortable camping option that can be easily set up anywhere. They are lightweight and compact, making them ideal for camping with a motorcycle.
However, they’re not ideal in every location – like, ones without trees!
Bivvy bags offer a lightweight and waterproof alternative to camping tents and are perfect for carrying on bikes. They provide shelter from the elements while also allowing you to experience camping in the great outdoors.
However, they can be cramped and uncomfortable and favour those who value the minimalist approach.
Cooking Pots, Pans, Stoves, and Food
When camping with a motorcycle, it is important to pack the right camping cookware and food for your journey. Pots and pans are essential for cooking meals, but be sure to choose ones that are lightweight and compact enough to fit in your camping bag or luggage.
Also, pack food and snacks that will keep you nourished during your journey. Choose foods that are lightweight, easy to prepare and can provide you with the energy you need for a long day of riding. Dried fruits and nuts, breakfast bars and dehydrated meals are all camping staples that provide plenty of nourishment.
Dehydrated food pouches are great for shorter tours. For longer trips, you’re usually better stopping off for supplies along the way.
Additional Extras when Camping on a Motorcycle
When camping with a motorcycle, feel free to bring along any extras you may need to make your trip as enjoyable as possible.
Depending on your needs, these might include food seasonings (salt, pepper, spices), sugar, chopping boards, decent pots, washing-up liquid, and camp chairs.
The purists will scoff at camp chairs. But if you’re planning on enjoying an extended trip outdoors, camp chairs can (and do) make all the difference!
When enjoying shorter camping trips, take plenty of clean and safe water. Fill up your containers in the morning (so you know where it’s come from), and it should last you all day.
To ensure that you have enough water for your camping needs, it is recommended to bring along a large water container such as a camping jerry can. This type of container is lightweight, sturdy and easy to transport on your motorcycle.
If on an extended trip, you can always opt for water purification tablets or systems. Just make sure you pitch near running water to make your life easier!
Staying Comfortable while Sleeping Outdoors
I generally stay away from hard surfaces – namely because they’re uncomfortable and open. The last thing you want to do is set up camp unintentionally on a live vehicle track that the locals use!
Aim for tree-covered areas that provide shelter from the heat and/or wet. They also offer more seclusion.
If you do have to camp in the open, look for shelter from the wind by using large rocks, or trees, or by pitching in shallow ditches.
Camping on a Motorcycle: Get There Early
The last thing you want to do is ride all day only to pitch your tent (and cook your evening meal) in the dark.
To keep things easy (as well as dry and clean), get to your destination early. From here, you can pitch your tent while it’s light and get dinner on the go.
You’ll also have time to clean all your pots and pans and put them away before dark.
From here, you can spend the evening in peace, with everything in its place – leaving you to enjoy your experience.
Pack Warm Clothing
When camping with a motorcycle, it is essential to pack plenty of warm clothing. While it might be hot during the day on summer trips, temperatures can plummet in the evenings.
Prepare for this by taking extra layers (such as a fleece or down jacket), but also a hat or a snood to keep your head warm.
Zipping two sleeping bags together if you’re with a partner also offers superb warmth.
Keep Yourself & Your Kit Clean
There’s a reason the military emphasises keeping yourself and your kit clean! Not only do you feel better, but you (and your kit) also perform better.
Sleeping bag liners are excellent for prolonged tours. Not only do they stop it from getting manky, but you can use them by themselves on those warmer nights, too.
Wash and dry your clothes each night rather than saving up a bag’s worth and trying to do it all at once. It’s easier washing and drying one t-shirt than twelve!
Finally, wipe down your tent and let it dry before putting it away. If there’s one thing that’s sure to make a mess, it’s a wet tent. Plus, it will likely get everything else wet in the process.
This also goes for pots, pans, and cooking utensils.
Take Mozzie Rep when Camping on a Motorcycle
It always amazes me how midgies and mosquitoes can ruin a trip – but they absolutely can.
Avoid them by staying away from stagnant water. You can often see swarms of them – so stay clear if this happens.
Use a net on your tent to keep the little blighters outside, and use mozzie rep or DEET to stop them from eating you.
Take Things you Enjoy
I know I said to pack light, but a little bit of what you love goes a long way. After a hard slog in the saddle, what’s needed is a beer and something you enjoy to make the experience worthwhile.
This could be a book or some earphones to listen to your audiobook whilst lying next to a river.
It could be your pencils and a sketchpad or a camera. It’s whatever you enjoy!
Camping when Motorcycle Touring: Conclusion
Motorcycle camping is an exciting way to explore the outdoors. But it requires careful planning and preparation.
Choose the right camping gear for your motorcycle, find suitable campsites, pack efficiently, and stay comfortable while sleeping outdoors. If you can do these, you’re already onto a winner!
With the right tips and tricks in mind, you can easily plan your next motorcycle camping adventure. So whether you’re touring across Europe or simply exploring local trails at home, utilise these tips and make the most of your trip!