Archive for the ‘motorcycle camping’ Category

Summer Is Coming: Roughing It On Two Wheels

Thursday, February 15th, 2018
motorcycles in campground

Motorcycles are great for camping.

Days are getting longer, although the temperatures are still low. But summer isn’t that far off and that means it’s time for touring motorcyclists to start thinking about hitting the open road. For most that means planning routes and making motel reservations. And then there are the campers.

No, not those humongo Runnamucca RVs, we’re talking about two-wheeled travelers who prefer to rough it, with tents and sleeping bags.

For anyone accustomed to car camping, where you take the cooler full of food and drink, an axe to cut firewood, a two-burner Coleman stove to cook on, along with eating utensils and everything else you can throw in, camping on a motorcycle might seem impossible. How do you carry all that stuff?

You don’t. Motorcycle camping is an exercise in minimalism. In fact, there is very little that you actually must have, provided you’re really prepared to rough it. Let’s start with the essentials.

Staying Dry
More than anything else, you need to stay dry. Getting wet means getting cold and that means all kinds of misery. Generally you’ll need a tent. Sure, you can sleep under a bridge if a raging storm is beating down but that’s not exactly camping–that’s survival.

Obviously the smaller your tent packs up the better. A simple nylon one – or two-man tent will do the job, preferably of the pop-up dome tent variety with shock-corded poles. The kind with a rain fly that extends out to form a sheltered vestibule is especially good, particularly if there won’t be enough room inside for all your stuff.

Next, you’ll need something to sleep on that will cushion you from the rocks and/or uneven ground. An air mattress works well but may be bulky. A thin foam pad takes up less room and doesn’t require blowing up. It’s your choice.

Sleeping bags are probably the bulkiest item on your camping list, so choose carefully. Yes, a down bag stuffs down to the smallest possible size, but if it gets wet it is worthless. It’s probably better to accept the larger bulk and get a fiber-fill bag.

One tip: Be sure you have some way to carry these things on your bike that keeps them dry, or that, conversely, you can pack them into wet without making a mess of everything else.

Everything Else Is Extra
So what do you do about eating when you’re camping on your motorcycle? Some campers carry the small, one-burner stoves that take up about as much room as a two-pound coffee can. But that then requires that you also carry utensils and something to cook in. That works best when you’re riding something like a Gold Wing and pulling a trailer.

For everyone else, there are three options: eat at a restaurant near your campsite, pick up food that doesn’t need to be cooked, or carry one of those hand-held grills that fold over to hold food in place over the campfire.

And of course you need something to drink. A small water bottle or canteen is easy to carry, but hey, if you picked up a steak at the last town it’s pretty darn nice to wash it down with some red wine. Just be sure to carry a corkscrew or buy wine with a twist-off cap.

All that other stuff you throw in the car when you go camping? Excess. You don’t have room to carry it and you really don’t need it. Sure, if there’s something else you feel you must have, and you can find room for it, take it. It’s your ride. Yes, it’s nice to have a hot cup of coffee first thing in the morning, but knowing that that cup is 20 miles down the road is a powerful incentive to get up, break camp, and get rolling right away.

For the Hard Core
The bottom line on motorcycle camping, as long as the weather is good, is that all you really need to do is pull over and throw your foam pad and sleeping bag out on the ground. Or on top of a picnic table.

Two other tips: Lacking the enclosure of a tent, sleeping in your helmet keeps bugs off your face, provides a pillow, and keeps your face out of the dirt. And sleeping in your rain suit keeps your clothes clean and dry.

Biker Quote for Today

Feel safe at night, sleep with a biker.

Two-Up Motorcycle Camping Take Two

Thursday, August 27th, 2015
The kawi at Cold Springs Campground

The Kawi at our campsite.

Judy and I went camping on the Kawasaki yesterday in the rain. Are we hard core? How hard core is that?

Fortunately, Colorado weather being what it is, we only caught a few raindrops, although as we approached Golden the entire town was smothered in dense, grey rainclouds. But we skirted west of town on still-rain-wet roads and turned up the Golden Gate Canyon road and never did need to stop to gear up.

We weren’t going far. If you take the Golden Gate Canyon road (County Road 70) west to the Peak to Peak Highway and then go left about 50 yards you’ll find Cold Springs Campground, which is a Forest Service campground. We weren’t looking for anything fantastic, we just wanted to go camping somewhere and try out the new, more compact camping gear we have gotten since our first two-up motorcycle camping experiment last year.

As it turned out, the gear is great but the campground is pretty darn nice, too. Much better than we anticipated. First the gear.

We got new Thermarest inflatable mattress pads and they take up less than one-third of the space of our old ones. That made a huge difference all by itself. It meant, for instance, that we had space to carry food, which we did not have the last time.

It also gave us room for a JetBoil, an extremely compact one-burner camp stove. This little giant boils water in two minutes, even at higher altitudes, so we could cook. Hot meals! Hot dog!

Food, of course, can be one of the bulkiest things you can carry. For dinner we took a Backpacker’s Pantry freeze-dried entree, Katmandu Curry. Freeze-dried entrees have come a long way since I first ate a few back in about 1973. It comes in a sturdy, foil-like package and all you do is heat water and pour it in. Give it a stir and then let it do its thing for about 20 minutes. We poured it into these super thin, take-up-almost-no-space-at-all bowls we got from REI, and that and part of a loaf of sour dough bread made a good, amazingly filling dinner.

For breakfast we had brought bananas and some Starbucks instant coffee that is way better than what instant coffee ever used to be like. Plus we had some granola and took a zip-lock bag of dry milk. We mixed water with the dry milk and poured it over our granola and Judy used some in her coffee. As Judy noted, we’d probably gag trying to drink the milk straight but the longer it soaked into the granola the better it tasted. Oh yeah, coffee was drunk out of a collapsible cup and out of the JetBoil container.

So the stuff we got worked well and did its job of freeing up space. Now we want to try going for two nights. We figure if we’re on the Kawi there is still space to bungee a bag of clothes with the tent, on the back. Don’t really know yet how all this works on the V-Strom.

Then there’s the campground. First off, it’s a gravel road but it’s really, really good, which is to say, even the Concours didn’t mind, and the Concours hates gravel.

We walked around and at the western extent of the campground there was a trail leading on so we took that and ended up connecting with an old road, so we followed the road. And there were old campsites along this road. We deduced that the campground originally ran all the way down a mile or more to where the road once again hits the Peak to Peak. And there are abandoned campsites all the way to that intersection. Closed at both ends (as we found out), there is no traffic and it was a very nice walk. Then once we got back to where we had first followed the trail we saw a sign pointing to a trail up a hillside saying only “Vista.”

The spiderweb of intermixed trails going up this rocky outcrop all eventually led us to the top and from there we could see half of Gilpin County laid out before us (or at least it seemed that way). And while it was an easy climb on the one side, on the other side the cliffs drop off straight down at least 70 feet. Very dramatic, but probably very few people even know these cliffs are there because the trees below reach just about up to the top of the outcrop and completely hide them. But it was very cool. Our stroll around the campground ended up lasting probably three hours as we explored all this. And then there were trails leading up the hill behind our campsite that we did not explore on this visit. We’re going to have to go back.

So yeah, two-up motorcycle camping works. And you don’t even have to go far from home.

Biker Quote for Today

The road is eternal, the wind is constant — what else comes with a guarantee like that?

Tips for Two-Up Motorcycle Camping

Monday, August 11th, 2014
Tent with space for motorcycle

Thyrza sent this photo of the tent they use, which has room for their motorcycle.

I was discussing two-up motorcycle camping recently and got a response from Thyrza, who has done this a lot. She agreed to allow me to reprint what she sent me. Here it is:

So I found your website while searching for motorcycle rides in Colorado and noticed from some of the stories that people thinking camping 2-up without a trailer is difficult or impossible even. My husband and I live in Ohio and have traveled to Michigan, Maine, North Carolina, South Dakota and this year will be going to Colorado. We tent camp the entire time and ride 2-up. I thought I would share how we have made it work.

We ride a Honda VTX-1800 – it’s a large cruiser style bike so can easily handle the weight of anything we strap to it. We currently have soft bags so there isn’t a lot of room in them. However, we just bought new hard bags and are waiting for the paint job to be done. They will hold at least half as much more stuff as our current bags, so I’m quite excited to see what more I can take with us! We added small luggage racks to the tops of the bags so we could still strap on the sleeping bags.

First and foremost, compression/dry bags are your friend. We put his sleeping bag in a compression bag alone, and mine w/both of our small camp pillows, a sheet, and two hoodies in another (his bag is quite a bit bigger than mine). Each bag compresses down to just a little bigger than a lumpy basketball. We use bungee nets to strap one to the top of each saddle bag. The compression bags are also dry bags so they keep everything 100% dry – and we have been caught in more than one torrential downpour. We use our saddle bags for personal items – each of us gets one and whatever fits is what you get. Lucky for him I’m a light packer and reasonably low maintenance. We have a large bag on the back that we put all our “stuff” in. We love our JetBoil – it heats water in about 1 minute so you never have to go w/o coffee on a cold morning. We also bought the cooking pot and frying pan and they work great! Instead of a sleeping pad, we first used Big Agnes air mattresses, but got tired of having to manually blow them up. We just replaced them this year with new ones that inflate with a built-in foot pump. These each role up to about 6-7” around and about 11” long. They are bit bulkier than the Big Agnes but more comfortable. We also have a tank bag that we use for his camera, all our charging cords, and miscellaneous items that we want quick access too.

As far as rain gear, my husband is quite a safety freak, so he insists when traveling that we are in full gear. So we made sure that our coats and pants double as raingear, so one less thing to have to pack. I used to whine quite a bit about how ugly it looked (because it is after all, all about fashion), but after going w/o my jacket in 100+ degree heat riding into the Badlands 2 years ago and getting sun stroke/sick, I learned the value in keeping my jacket on. Gym shorts under the pants make them actually quite comfortable and less hot than bluejeans. Hard to believe, but true! And ladies, all the pockets in the jacket eliminates my need to haul a purse. Plus, when you ride into an unexpected rainstorm and there are no overpasses to hide under, it’s nice to stay dry w/o taking the time to get re-dressed.

Our biggest purchase was the tent… as you can see from the picture, the tent has a built-in garage for the bike! In the actual sleeping area, you can fit two people comfortably (husband is 6” and has no trouble end to end fitting), but there isn’t a lot of extra space. We store our gear in the vestibule area of the tent. We strap the tent onto the top of the tail bag with rock straps. And then to top it off, we have a small soft-side cooler bag (rectangular in shape and just tall enough for a short can of soda), that we strap on top of the tent. It’s a tight fit, but we make it work. Last year we found small folding chairs – they have 2 back legs and then you use your legs for the front and sort of rock back… comfortable, but hard to get into initially. Not something to sit in if you are drinking a lot! We connect these with straps to the D-rings on our tail bag and they tuck down between the bag and sleeping bag on each side. We got tired of having to sit on a picnic bench or the ground, so they were a good investment. (You can see the chair bag – it’s the red little bit sticking out on the left – the other one is on the other side.)

There isn’t a lot of extra space, and we really have to think twice about everything we take, but we manage and it’s a lot of fun! When we go on long trips, we take 3-4 day’s worth of clothing and just plan on doing laundry every so often. If someone wants brand names on any of the gear, I can dig the stuff out and get it.

The pink jacket is where I sit, and the yellow jacket is his seat. I joke that we won’t get hit by someone cause they can’t see us, but more because they’ll be laughing so hard! (I have gotten rid of the pink jacket and bought a nice conservative black one – got tired of looking like the Pink Power Ranger!)

Anyway – tent camping on a motorcycle without a trailer, riding 2-up is 100% doable! We have a great time! Our goal is to hit every state in the continental 48 – after Colorado this September, we’ll be at 25!! In just 5 years of traveling. Not too shabby!
So there you have it. It can be done, if you’re ready to be selective and resourceful. Thank you Thyrza. Here, below, is the other photo she sent showing the VTX loaded for camping.

VTX Loaded For Camping

The VTX loaded for two-up camping.

Biker Quote for Today

The Journey Truly Is The Destination

Monday, May 21st, 2012

I knew I had missed my turn when I saw Shiprock up ahead on my right.

I’m home after six days on the road and while I enjoyed the Overland Expo, the object of this journey, it could not be more clear that my favorite parts were the two day ride down to Flagstaff and the two day return trip.

The best parts of those days were the mornings. Each day I woke with the sun, rolled out of my sleeping bag, packed and broke camp, and got on the bike. And there I was, riding through forest and mountains with the day just beginning, with colors so vibrant–it was heaven.

This morning I started the day in a campground about midway between Creede and South Fork. I don’t know the elevation of the campground but South Fork is about 8,100, so the campground was higher. It was cold! Plus, the campground was in a spot where the canyon walls keep the sun off it until probably 9 a.m. I put on my long johns, plugged in my electric vest and turned it on, and hoped my hands didn’t freeze.

But it was glorious! It was so beautiful and I was right there in it all. The morning after my first night camping was the same, though not so cold. I had ridden from Denver to just a little east of Mancos and stayed in a campground there. Next morning I headed out and could not get over how beautiful it was and how happy I was not to be waking up in the city and heading for an office somewhere.

At Mormon Lake, in Arizona, the Overland Expo was good, I sat in on a number of good sessions that gave me more confidence if I ever find myself needing to change a tire on my bike and other useful things like that. And waking up there was nice, too, surrounded as we were in trees and hills. But it wasn’t the same as the morning I left and was out riding through it all. The beautiful morning light. The cold, crisp air. The deer that stood in the road and looked at me as I approached, only to scamper away as the sound of a car coming the other direction persuaded them it was time to go. It all came back to one thought: This is why I ride a motorcycle.

Trite as the phrase has become, it just doesn’t get any better than this.

Recent from National Motorcycle Examiner
Anticipating adventure at the Overland Expo

Biker Quote for Today

I have no idea where we are, but at least it’s getting dark.

Motorcycle Touring with a Trailer

Monday, August 30th, 2010

Motorcycle trailer

Camping on a motorcycle trip is a good way to go but if you’re riding two-up you might as well forget it. If you manage to get all of two people’s camping gear on the bike you’re not going to have room left for much else.

Unless you pull a trailer. Then it’s whole new ball game.

Ken and Janet Knox are motorcycle travelers who stayed with us recently, via the Motorcycle Travel Network, and behind their Ultra Classic they pull a trailer. It was custom-painted to match the bike and the pair look great together.

Asked about it, Janet initially responded that, “The only advantage for me is that I can pack more stuff.”

Ken made the point, however, that it enables them to carry camping gear with them. Of course, he points out, “If Janet would bet her license and ride her own bike we could camp without pulling a trailer.”

“That would mean work for me, and I’m not into working,” she retorted. “I’m on holiday.”

Turning serious, she continued that she likes that, “When we camp we pull in at 3-4 p.m. and look for a site, then interact with people. We meet more people that way. That aspect is nice, although the comforts of a motel are better.”

Ken added that “Campgrounds are generally in a beautiful spot, whereas motels are on the main drag.”

Still, if they get into town later, or if it is raining or looks like rain, they’re not likely to camp. But it’s nice to have the option.

As for how the trailer affects the ride, Ken said, “You don’t even know the trailer is there. It does increase gas consumption, and on long, steep uphills you have to upgear, at least on a Harley.”

There’s one other advantage: Their trailer has a 12-volt plug so they can charge their cell phones while riding. Hey, what else do you need?

Recent from National Motorcycle Examiner
Full Throttle Saloon: Building for bikers in a big way

Biker Quote for Today

You’re a biker wannabe if your longest road trip this year was to Hooter’s for bike night.

Sturgis Bike Week: The Cheaper Alternative

Monday, August 9th, 2010

Camping at Sturgis

I’m in Sturgis for the rally but it’s not like when the OFMC did the rally in 2006. This time I’m alone, and I’m here to work. And I want to make money, not spend it, so no $500 per night hotel rooms in Rapid City this time. Sure, we split that four ways, but that’s still $125 per person per night. Ouch!

This time I’m camping. That’s my tent and my Kawi in the picture above. I’m actually right in Sturgis and it’s amazingly inexpensive at the Vanocker Campground where I’m dug in. The cost is just $15 a night and they have showers and a little cafe for breakfast. On top of that, coffee is free at the cafe and food is good as well as affordable. The one guy running the operation cooks up your order on a small stove while you sit at the table outside and chat with fellow campers. My large breakfast taco was only $3.

As always, there are pluses and minuses. There isn’t much shade, so when I arrived yesterday at about 3 p.m. I was lucky to find one of the only two somewhat shaded spots left. And if it rains hard, as is predicted for later today and tonight, camping could be fun, not to mention riding my road bike across this field.

And then, of course, there are the neighbors. I’ve always heard that it’s the campgrounds where the fun is at Sturgis, but that may be referring to places like the Buffalo Chip, where they have concerts. At places like Vanocker it’s more a matter of meeting and getting acquainted with the folks next to you. Except that guy.

There’s always a “that guy,” isn’t there? In this case, that guy is some jerk who drove his semi-sized rig and large trailer in and set himself up this morning at about 5:30 a.m. Far be it from him to just stop along the road somewhere and get a couple hours sleep, before arriving after everyone was up. No, he came right in while it was still dark and made damn sure everyone was aware he had done so. There’s something about a semi maneuvering back and forth about 20 feet from your tent that makes it difficult to get a good night’s sleep. Not to mention his Doberman, who got out and started barking. Thanks, asshole!

So anyway, I’m looking for the real Sturgis experience this year. Maury LaRue, the mayor of Sturgis, tells me they estimate rally-goers spend an obligatory 2 hours and 37 minutes in Sturgis, and the rest of the time out cruising or hanging out at their motels/campgrounds elsewhere. I’m figuring on more like 70 hours, myself. And if, unlike yesterday, I don’t have to spend it all working I may even have some fun. Wish me luck.

Recent from National Motorcycle Examiner
Destination Sturgis: Joining the motorized river

Biker Quote for Today

All who wander are not lost. Be a traveler, not a tourist.

Ken’s Awesome Trip to Laughlin

Friday, April 23rd, 2010

OK, I’m a pretty rugged guy, and I don’t mind sleeping on the ground or in less than comfortable conditions. But I met my match here in Laughlin, where I came to report on the Laughlin River Run.

dry camping site oneLet’s face it, motorcycle rallies are expensive events. If you have buddies with you to split the hotel room rate that is quadruple what it normally is you can get by. Alone, as I am, you figure out something different. I figured I would camp.

Getting on the Web I found an RV park that offered “dry camping” for $10 per person per night. Great! I can do that. Well, I had no idea that “dry camping” is a known term for RVers who understand it means a place to park the rig with no electric or water hook-ups. And in this case, it meant a piece of dirt scraped semi-level by a bulldozer, with nothing but dirt and rocks.

my new homeOK, I’m game, I figured I’d give it a try. Of course, the wind was blowing like a banshee and by the time I got the tent up everything I had, especially the inside of the tent, was covered in a quarter inch of dirt. I’m talking serious filth.

So I slept there my first night and actually slept well, but the dirt was too much for me so I grabbed a motel room for $30 for the next night, the last night before the rates went up to $160.

Where to sleep the next day and the rest of the rally? Hmmm.

Well, as luck would have it, I found out about a state park just south of Laughlin and went to check it out. It’s beautiful! And the campground is gorgeous. And they had lots of spaces. I checked in and that’s my new home. The pictures will give you a bit of an idea of the difference between my first camping site and the new one. I don’t mind a little dirt but when you’re talking a heck of a lot of dirt, even I rebel.

Recent from National Motorcycle Examiner
Laughlin River Run 2010: Forget Laughlin, the action is in Oatman

Biker Quote for Today

The best alarm clock is sunshine on chrome.

Motorcycle Camping: The Ultimate in Low-Cost Travel

Wednesday, September 17th, 2008

Are you a camper? Is sleeping on the ground in a tent something you like to do? I know that for a lot of people the answer is no. Heck, even for the guys I’ve gone camping with for 30 years the answer lately is no.

That’s really too bad because motorcycle camping is a great, and incredibly inexpensive way to do some terrific traveling. It also allows you to be more flexible in your trip. With hotels and motels you usually need to have a reservation, which locks you in.

In the earlier days of the OFMC we didn’t plan. Before we left we picked a direction to head and we took off. Then we would just go until we decided to stop. Or we’d go in this direction until we decided to go in that direction. Two things made this possible: there were only three of us and we all carried tents, sleeping bags, and foam pads or air mattresses. On more than one occasion that gear was a life saver when we rolled into some town late at night and found no room at the inn. There’s always some place to set up your tent.

And it’s not like you need a lot of gear. We never carried things like stoves or cooking implements. We would just eat in town before riding on to the camping site we chose, or, if close enough, we would set up camp and ride back in for dinner. Then in the morning we’d get up in a pretty quick manner, load up, and head into town for that cup of coffee we all had foremost in our minds.

Some people do carry more than we did. I know some folks on the big rigs have room for cooking gear. And then there are people like Rider magazine’s Clement Salvadori who likes to travel alone and pull off somewhere in the wild and drink wine with his campfire dinner. Clem really knows how to do motorcycle camping.

If you’re even remotely interested in camping on your bike you really ought to give it a whirl. I’ve made a point on the website to help anyone so inclined to find good motorcycle-accessible campgrounds. There are a lot of campgrounds in Colorado that are not motorcycle-accessible and they’re not included. If I’ve included it you can be assured that a campground is accessible on two wheels. There’s no better way to really experience Colorado.

Biker Quote for Today

The best alarm clock is sunshine on chrome.