Motorcycle camping is an adventure. But space is limited, so what to pack?
Our motorcycle camping checklist contains all the essentials you’ll need for your camping trip, plus a few luxuries you can wedge in if you have the space.
This list has been refined over many weekend motorcycle trips around the UK. One thing I’ve learned is that whether you’re going for two nights, or a week, you’ll be packing a similar amount of stuff.
The Art of Packing
My best tip is to take your time packing. Lay everything that you’re going to take in one place (I use the spare room, so I don’t have the family marching all over it).
Gather your stuff up, lay it out and check it off. Once it’s in the room and checked off, you know you’ve got it. Forgetting an essential is a total pain when you’re miles from anywhere and all the shops are shut.
When you have laid out your kit and checked it off your list, now you need to figure out the packing. Work out where you’re going to pack everything and whether you have the right luggage. A good process is to place your luggage in different parts of the room and move the stuff you want to pack over to those zones. This might sound borderline obsessive but it works! Pack the heavy stuff at the bottom. Pack the stuff you need access to at the top.
The Big Food Question
The biggest factor that affects how much stuff you need is whether or not you’re going to cook.
Yes, we all want to be like Bear Grylls but the reality is that bringing your own food and cooking can be a bit of a mission, especially when you’re camping on a motorbike.
My preference is not to cook. Pretty much every camp site I’ve stayed at has a cafe or a pub within walking distance and at the very least you can almost always grab a cuppa at the camp site and grab food later on.
So it all depends on where you’re staying and what you’re prepared to do. Even though I never prepare my own food when I go campaing on the motorcycle, I always pack a mug (there’s almost always someone offering you a brew), some cutlery and I take some dried fruit and nuts to keep me going.
Pitching Your Tent
Setting up camp is the fun bit. It’s also the most important. If you’ve bought a tent for your trip, set it up at home before you go. You don’t want to be figuring it out at 10pm in the p*ssing rain when you’re knackered after a long ride.
Before you pitch your tent, check out your surroundings. Here are a few things to consider:
- Is your idyllic riverbank spot going to resemble Niagra Falls when it rains?
- Where is the sun going to be?
- Is there any natural shelter?
- Is the ground too hard to bang your stakes in to?
- Is there livestock around?
- Are you on a slope?
A few minutes to choose a good spot makes all the difference.
Motorcycle Camping Packing List
This list is broken down into the following sections:
- Riding Kit
- Personal Care
Do a lap of the campsite before you pitch your tent. It is a total pain in the wotsits to relocate once you’re getting set up.
There are hundreds of tents on the market. If you and a mate are going camping, one larger tent beats two tents hands down; it’s less faff to set up and you’ll have more room. Most one-man tents are way too small when you take into account having to store your biking gear. A tent with a porch is a great option so you can keep damp motorbike kit out of your sleeping area.
Skimping on a sleeping bag is a false economy. A top quality sleeping bag will pack down to a small size and will weigh far less. A budget skeeping bag will fill a rucksack, a quality one will fit in a rucksack pocket.
There’s not a lot worse than getting on the bike after a terrible night’s sleep. That’s why a roll mat is an essential as it gives you a comfortable base to sleep on.
Personally I never use one. Instead I stuff my fleece into a T-shirt (see below). However if you are going for a travel pillow my tip is to buy an inflatable one as they are comfortable and take up next to no space.
A ground mat has multiple uses. You can sit on it outside to keep yourself dry, or locate it under your tent to improve the waterproofing on wet ground and improve your comfort. You an locate it in your porch area to allow you to get changed without getting set. Multiple uses, always handy. Make sure you buy one with eyelets.
Similar to a ground mat but a tarpaulin sheet has a slightly different use. It’s thinner but highly waterproof. You can use it as a sunshade to stop your tent baking, or an extra layer of waterproofing to keep your tent dry. They can also be used as a makeshift porch or a windbreaker. If it’s peeing down with rain, you can construct a pretty good shelter with a decent tarpaulin, which is far better than spending hours cramped in your tent. Make sure you buy one with eyelets.
You might not think you need a camping chair but a small and light one is well worth packing. Sitting on the floor for a weekend is miserable – a camping chair adds a bit of luxury.
I’m not talking about something you can sit and dine at. However a small camping table that’s big enough to sit a couple of plates on is an ideal way to keep bugs off your food and stop you treading in your own dinner. Handy to keep your phone and electricals off the ground too.
Gadgets make your life easier but they need power. I always take a portable motorcycle jump starter as it also works as a USB powerbank and has a built in LED torch. Pretty much all of my devices use the same USB cable, so I only need the one.
This really doesn’t require a description. Much as I hate to admit it, my phone is a camping essential.
Phone charging cable
I have a 3-in-one cable to charge my stuff and anyone else’s.
Most campsites have power and a USB plug means you can use your cables to charge your gadgets. No power at the camp site? Then your local cafe will probably let you use their power while you sip a cuppa!
A quality battery booster can jump start a motorcycle but its main use for me is a portable powerbank to keep my gadgets from going flat.
I have a cheap headband torch which is compact and super useful.
A lantern is handy in the tent but also in the evenings when sat around the campsite. It’s better than an LED torch which has a harsh light and is directional. Mine has a rechargable USB-powered battery and different lighting modes. It lasts for hours.
These make it onto my packing list because they are tiny and useful. If I’m camping on my own, I’ll listen to podcasts and if I can’t sleep for whatever reason, these have proven to be good company.
With a bit of thought, your riding kit will also double as kit to wear on the campsite. If it’s hammering it down with rain, you’ll be able to wear your riding jacket with a waterproof top to keep your spirits up.
Yep, you need one of these.
Waterproof textile jacket and trousers
I never skimp on my riding gear but when you’re touring or camping, arriving wet and miserable is a sure-fire way to have a rubbish trip. Gore-Tex gear is generally more expensive than regular motorcycle textiles but it’s built to a higher standard and well worth the money. If it’s cold or wet you’ll probably spend the trip wearing your motorcycle jacket, even when you’re off the bike, so that’s why a decent quality one is well worth having.
I pack short leather summer gloves, lightweight motocross gloves and long waterproof winter gloves. you’re pretty much covered for everything.
Waterproof boots are a must.
I never ride without a back protector and when I’m camping I use it as a base to build a ‘pillow’ on.
Great for reducing wind noise and wind chill.
If I don’t wear ear plugs, I always arrive feeling knackered. They’re also super handy on the campsite to help you get a better night’s sleep.
Good quality long socks make your boots more comfortable and keep your feet warm and dry.
I pack a waterproof top and trousers. I use them on the bike in heavy rain but the waterproof top is also handy on the campsite as a windbreaker and waterproof.
I always go light on clothing. It’s tempting to pack a jumper and jeans and shoes but these all add a large amount of bulk. My riding kit always doubles up as useful stuff to wear off the bike. For example, a light fleece and your motorcycle waterproof top is all you need on a cold evening. Then your fleece stuffed in a T-shirt doubles as a pillow. Jeans just get wet and stay wet. Same goes for shoes. As a general rule, steer clear of cotton clothing and instead opt for moisture-wicking kit. Cotton hangs onto moisture and sweat and takes a long time to dry out.
You can carry a lot of useful stuff in a tiny washbag the size of a pencil case. Buy your tablets and cut them into strips and just take a few of each type. Take a manual toothbrush not your fancy battery-powered one.
Compact wash bag
Ideally one that’s waterproof.
A little travel-sized one is ideal
First aid kit
A basic one is all I carry. It contains a few plasters, some steri-strips, safety pins, a few different-sized gauzes and a bandage.
Deals with mouth ulcers and helps with any toothache.
Riding can take it out of me and a bad night’s sleep is a killer. Plus I never eat healthy food when I go camping. A good old glug of Berocca at least makes me feel like my body’s got what it needs to crack on!
Useful to deal with small cuts, also handy at cleaning off dirt and grease.
Travel tissue packs
A much better choice than toilet roll in my humble opinion. Toilet roll is big and bulky, almost always gets wet. Sealed travel tissue packs are the way forward as they’re compact and stay dry. That said, almost every camp site has a toilet and toilet roll these days..
Luxury toilet roll and a shower in a packet! Also handy for a thousand other things. You can buy travel packs with 10 or so wet wipes. Super handy.
These are great as they are compact, absorb a lot of water and dry quickly too. Hang it under your tarp in the day to dry out. Handy pillow-fodder too.
A few choice tools make all the difference and don’t take up that much space. These handy extras will help you sort out any bike problems but also will help you set up a comfortable camp.
Puncture repair kit
A puncture can ruin your trip but with a repair kit you can keep going and not have to wait for a recovery truck or a local bike shop to open.
As long as it has a knife and a bottle opener you’re sorted but scissors, a screwdriver and a saw are all handy extras.
You can never have enough! I genuinely pack about 30 in three different sizes. I have used them to: hang lanterns, secure a tarpaulin to a tree to act as a shelter, attach luggage to the bike and hang wet kit. Definitely pack these.
Velcro cable ties
As above but reusable. I only discovered these a couple of years ago. Best use is for handing wet kit, towels, wash bag etc.
Useful for all manner of things, like patching up holes, holding on fairings, mending tent poles..
A small tin is ideal and not only keeps your chain lubed but is also handy on anything that squeaks or rusts.
Useful to secure your tarp and build a shelter or as a washing line, a belt or to strap down luggage. I take two 2-metre lengths and one 5-metre length.
If you are going to be catering al-fresco, the right stove and utensils make all the difference. When I’m hiking, I camp and cook but when I’m riding the bike I stay at campsites where there’s a cafe or pub within walking distance as I don’t want the hassle of managing my food.
The choices are almost endless. I use this Jetboil system when I’m hiking as it’s compact, fast and reliable even when it’s blowing a hooley.
However your needs may differ to mine, so here are some other options to consider.
You can cook on a campfire if you want to live the dream (and you’ve got loads of time, patience and you like your sausages burnt on the outside and raw in the middle).
You can cook on a wood-burning camp stove (but you’ll need a fair bit of timber and patience).
You can cook with an army hex burner if you want the rugged approach and you like the taste of kerosene.
If you have the space you can take a regular portable gas camping stove.
If you really want the adventurer look you can use a petrol-burning stove. I have used a friend’s one in the past and the advantage is that it runs off petrol, so can use what’s in your tank. However, I’m not a massive fan of these as I don’t like the petrol/flame/tent combo.
A Jetboil is safer, faster and more compact.
A disposable lighter has a lot of uses.
A proper cooking set is a worthwhile investment as they are compact, built to last and easy to use.
You might have a knife on your multi tool but a proper chef’s knife will make food prep a sinch not a chore.
Camping utensils set
You can get bags that contain everything you need. They’re handy but weighty on the bike. You obviously need your knife, fork and spoon but it’s handy to have something else to stir your creations with or flip your omlette. A few extras make the difference. Metal cutlery is heavier than proper plastic camping cutlery plus it will scratch your pans. Camping-grade plastic utensils are the way forward.
A luxury perhaps but you can get small and flexible boards that take up no space at all but save you getting grit and grass in your stew.
Those little green pads are handy to clean up your cooking kit. I take one cut into three pieces as they make washing up a damn-sight faster.