This roundup of the best motorcycle camping gear was brought to you by Grubstick, the makers of lightweight, collapsible campfire cooking equipment that lets you enjoy the romance of flame-cooked food wherever two wheels might take you.
Motorcycle camping is a thrilling way to explore the great outdoors, one long ribbon of highway at a time.
Whether you’re meeting up with your community at the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally or cruising Route 66 in search of classic Americana, it’s important to have the right gear tailored specifically for motorcycle camping. Like bikepacking and bicycle touring, it’s important to not only have camping and outdoor gear that fits your rig, but also the right luggage and accessories to safely store everything you want to bring along for the ride.
The Gear You Need to Go Camping with Your Motorcycle
If you’re looking forward to a motorcycle camping adventure, here’s the gear that will help you head out on the highway with nothing holding you back:
Motorcycle Camping Panniers
Saddlebags are a crucial part of any motorcycle camping kit. With no back seat or trunk, you need a place to stow everything you need, from your tent and sleeping bag to clothes, food and extra water. There’s a little extra variety when it comes to motorcycle panniers, however, and you’ll want to narrow down your choices first and foremost by what’s compatible with your motorcycle. A brand designed to fit Harleys won’t always sit right on a Kawasaki, and so forth.
Hard Bag vs. Soft Bag
Beyond compatibility with your ride, you’ll also want to choose between hard bags vs soft bags. This is partially an aesthetic choice, but also has a lot to do with your riding style and travel approach. Hard bags often have locks integrated and are a little more secure, especially with the way they bolt or clip to your bike. Others prefer soft bags for the weight, ease of removal at the campsite, and packability. You’ll also want to consider which style best suits where you’ll be traveling— a very wet destination like the Hoh Rainforest and the dry Anza Borrego Desert present different considerations for keeping out damp or dust.
A set of soft-but-rugged panniers like the OGIO 110093_36 Stealth Saddle Bag Duffel are a relatively inexpensive entry point with nice features like a heat-resistant, silicon-infused bottom layer to stand up to your tailpipe, integrated rain cover, soft neoprene to protect your ride’s paint, and wide openings with chunky zippers so it’s easy to access your stuff.
Another good choice for motorcycle campers who will likely experience all weather conditions are the VUZ Moto Dry Saddlebags. Made with a roll-top design and air valve, like your favorite drybag for rafting or kayaking, and constructed from waterproof PVC tarpaulin with a neoprene shield, VUZ took a very outdoorsy approach to these panniers.
A third choice is the hard, and higher-end, Givi Outback 37 Liter Side Cases. Made of strong, lightweight aluminum, these tough cases are designed with adventure travelers in mind. The Givi Outbacks can hold a total of 44 lbs of gear as a pair, snap on and off their mounts easily, and can be fitted to a variety of bike frames. That’s great if you need to get a move on in a hurry or amidst fowl weather, and the Givi design is totally waterproof.
There’s a few different approaches you can take with shelter when you’re motorcycle camping. You can seek out cabins, yurts, and lodges along the way, but miss out on the experience of waking up to the warm sun and campfire smell wafting through your tent walls. You can bring your regular old lightweight backpacking tent along for the ride, as long as the poles fit in your panniers. Or, if you’re serious about motorcycle camping on the reg or for an especially epic trek, you can purchase a tent designed specifically to house you, your gear, and your bike.
The great thing about a tent that doubles as a garage is that you have a safe, dry place to work on your bike if you run into a situation that has you reaching for your motorcycle repair kit. There are almost as many types of motorcycle camping tents out there as there are hogs, choppers, sport bikes, and cafe racers. You can choose from brand-specific designs like Harley Davidson’s 4 Person Motorcycle Dome Tent to holistic styles like Lone Rider’s MotoTent to ultra-minimalist styles like the Stay Exposed Motorcycle Bivouac and beyond.
Sleeping bags don’t require quite so much thought. The main goal of motorcycle camping is that the sleeping bag shouldn’t take up too much room in your saddlebags. Compact and lightweight are the name of the game. Beyond packability, you’re free to choose the best sleeping bag for your camping style and the temperature ranges of wherever you’ll be traveling. Whatever type is right for your adventure style, be sure to pack your rain gear, tent and sleeping bag last so they are first things you unpack at campsite! A ground pad is a must for insulation and comfort, and if there’s room in your panniers for a few niceties, it’s hard to beat camping pillows over your balled up laundry after a long day chasing yellow lines.
Motorcycle Camping Kitchen Kits
The great thing about motorcycle camping is that, panniers and a tent that can accommodate your bike aside, everything else you need is probably already in your gear closet. A soft cooler backpack with a dry-bag design can easily be strapped to your panniers or sissy bar and keep your road trip snacks and perishables cold for over twenty four hours.
Groceries aside, the rest of your motorcycle camping kitchen is a piece of cake to set up. A lightweight camping stove, camping pots and pans, and camping utensils are as well-suited for motorcycle camping as they are for car camping, backpacking, or overlanding. Collapsible, lightweight campfire cooking equipment will give you a convenient, easy-to-clean way to roast sausages, vegetables, and other treats directly over your campfire.
This article was brought to you by Grubstick.
Grubstick’s lightweight cooking stick is a great addition to your motorcycle camp kitchen.