Preparing for Motorcycle Traveling/Camping

I like to keep lists of what I brought on different motorcycle trips. I find it really helpful so you don’t forget anything and its cool to see what you’ve brought and what is or isn’t worth carrying again.

I pride myself on keeping it simple and only packing just enough stuff. Over packing just weighs you down with excess shit that’ll distract you from just having fun. I think this mentality comes from BMX trips where you pretty much leave with your bmx bike and a backpack… Simple and fun.

This is my pack list (with some explanation) for a multi day/week trip:

Basics

  • Water proof bags: I’ve been cheap and done trips with just trash bags but its worth the money for a more durable bag. Seal Line makes nice ones that you can get at Army Navy stores for $20 to $40.
  • Tent
  • Sleeping bag/pad
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cyclecamping
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Clothing

  • Thermals and Knit hat: It always ends up colder than you think certain places even in the middle of summer.
  • Multiple socks: wear them for a few days, use them as a rag, then toss them, clean them or buy new ones. Clean socks is a must.
  • Clothes: Leather jacket/Boots/Jeans/Tshirt/Flannel/Hoodie. Just leave with the clothes your wearing plus an extra tshirt and bathing suit… that’s it. Anything more is not necessary
  • Rain gear: It will rain and being soaked is the worst. A good pair of rubber over-boots and the Rev-it jumpsuit work great
  • Water shoes: not always necessary but if its hot and you’ll be swimming a lot they’re nice to have. Pick them up at Kmart for like $10.
  • Tatical scarf: Great for a lot of obvious reasons. I also like to use mine to make a pillow by tying up my sweatshirt and jeans in it. Not the best but it works.
cyclecamping-3

Cooking

  • Cooking pot: Use it for cooking and boiling water and then storing food afterwards
  • Water bottle: The stainless steel water bottles are nicer than the plastic ones
  • Burner: This isn’t necessary but nice for making cooking easy especially in bad weather or if it s not possible to have a open fire.
  • Spoon: The only piece of silverware you need. The fancy outdoor store sporks and other dumb shit is way over priced. Just grab a spoon from the kitchen and pack it.

Food

  • Whiskey: Offer anybody a swig of whiskey and you’ll find people helping you out.
  • Instant coffee: Starbucks insta VIA packets make a pretty good cup of coffee
  • Peanut butter/honey/tortillas: Something that will fill you up and doesnt matter if it gets smashed in your bag
  • Cliff bars and sunflower seeds: My favorite stuff to always have in my jacket pockets
  • Couple cans of food: Beans, soup, chili, just enough to keep you full for at least 2 days at a time.
cyclecamping-2

Tools

  • Shovel: digging fire pits and shit holes. Gerber makes a really small folding one that I use
  • Leatherman: Great for the pliers and make sure it has a can opener
  • OEM tool set: I like to add standard box wrenches to replace the open ended wrenches
  • Fresh set of spark plugs
  • Channel locks
  • Lighter
  • Flashlight
  • Pocket knife: Every man should carry a pocket knife. Borrowing another mans knife is lame.
  • Electrical tape
  • Zip ties
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Parts

  • Spare clutch and throttle cables: You can store these wrapped up in your headlight bucket.
  • Fuses

Hygiene

  • Tooth brush/paste
  • Neosporin and band-aids
  • Toilet paper

Electrics

  • Phone
  • Camera
  • Chargers: Keep your phone charger in your jacket so you can get at it easily to charge your phone anytime you stop. Or get a charger that hooks up to you battery.

Other

  • Pull straps for your bags. fuck bungee cords, rope, ratchet straps etc. pull straps are quick and secure to tie your bags down to your luggage rack.
  • Dr Bronner’s soap: Cleans anything and everything
  • Notepad and pen
  • Paper maps. Yea I know nobody wants paper maps anymore but I like picking them up at the Welcome centers and using them in addition to the iPhone.
  • Zip lock bags to keep shit dry even in your water proof bag. Some phones even have dry cases/bags that are really nice.

General Tips

  • Obviously, make sure your bike paperwork is all legit. Keep insurance/registration papers in your wallet and not buried somewhere in-case you get stopped or will be crossing borders. Inspection is stupid, don’t waste your time or money getting your bike inspected. You can’t (that I’m aware of) get a ticket for no inspection once you’re out of your home state. Another thing to think about if you only have a permit, you’re not supposed to cross state lines or ride after dark… so get a license and make any interaction with authority a little less problematic
  • Make it easy to pack up quickly and get on the road. Should only take 15-20 min to break down camp and be on the road. if not, you have too much shit or too complicated of a setup.
  • If there’s a chance of rain keep your rain gear at the top of your bag for easy access.
  • If you have a luggage rack use it. Having a nice secure rack to tie your stuff down to is worth it regardless if it looks good.

Random Notes

  • Depending on your particular old bike, you’ll probably only get about 100 miles to a tank. Planning to stop every 100 miles is a good plan. Any less and you’ll barely make it anywhere by the end of the day.
  • Doing 300-400 miles per day sucks but possible. Doing a couple long days and then lots of short days is a lot more enjoyable unless you’re somebody that needs to prove how long you can ride for. Fuck that.
  • You don’t need a big bike to travel. People I know have done long trips on cb350’s or cb200’s. Ed and I rode our CB500t/450’s from Philly to Denver Colorado and back. Ride whatever you have and don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do something because of your bike.
  • Before you get on the road change your oil and filter, lube chain, and tire pressure. Check oil level everyday of the trip.
  • Spray your bike down with WD40 or wipe stuff with motor oil. This makes a nice layer to keep everything from rusting.
  • Keep you chain well lubricated. Once rust starts you’re chain is done. Lube it every night before the dew sets in and multiple times if you’re riding in rain. My favorite stuff is the Napa Auto Part chain lube.
  • Live free, renegade camping is the only way to go. Take the money you saved on a campsite and buy yourself some booze or go to the local strip club. The best way to find renegade spot is any state park, national forest, graveyard, etc. You’ll be surprised how easy it is to setup camp. Avoid reservoirs, water tower areas, school areas, etc. If you can’t find a spot, hangout at the local bar/strip club and you’ll probably meet a fellow motorcyclist that might be able to tell you where to go or even offer up a spot at their place. Sometimes things get weird though but that way it’s never boring LENO’S PLACE.
  • Do several distance shake-down runs before actually doing your trip. Don’t change little shit on the bike the day before.
  • If you break down on the road, be prepared to fix it. Little stuff like throwing in new plugs is obviously easy, but if you snap a clutch cable. Can you replace it? If not… be prepared to have it towed into the closest town. If its something you can fix, get a motel room and roll your bike into the room.
  • The pic below is what happened last year an hour outside Philly on the start of Ed’s and my Great Lakes trip. My starter plug failed and I lost a lot of oil. Be prepared for something random like this to happen in the middle of nowhere regardless of how well you prepped.

Overall, traveling on old motorcycles is some of the best times I’ve had. If you’re contemplating doing a trip, stop talking about it and just do it.

Read through the last trip I did to get a sense of how stuff generally goes.
Great Lakes Camping Trip.

8 responses to “Preparing for Motorcycle Traveling/Camping”

  1. Brad says:

    Really glad you posted this. As a non camper trying to do a trip, this is gold.

  2. Dan P says:

    Great post Adam. One other thing I will add is that Goal Zero makes a really small and quickly packable solar charger (nomad 7) for charging all your small electronics. If you don’t have a battery charger on the bike you can just attach the Nomad 7 to your bag when riding during the day and it will keep any iPhone at a near full charge.

  3. LLubers says:

    Nice list.. As I’m doing more and more trips this summer I’m finding out some of this stuff as I go along but this helps.

  4. Mikey c says:

    I always like seeing other people’s pack lists. Nice work – just put the wheels in motion for a long weekend ride for me.

  5. Devyn says:

    This is excellent! I’m using this for sure.

  6. Jim says:

    Anyone up for a ride from Philly -> Skyline drive -> Philly next week ?!? Thinking about leaving after the rain goes away and coming back before Friday evening.

  7. Danny says:

    Hey guys, I’m thinking of heading out of town this weekend for a little moto-camping. Anybody have some ideas on trips within a 2-3 hour ride, preferably near the water somewhere?

    Thanks,

    Dan

  8. John says:

    Great post! Could you by chance tell me what helmet that is in the photo? I’m after a new open face and yours looks sweet.

    Cheers
    John

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