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Camping on a Motorcycle

By David Harvey

Camping on a motorcycle can present a real challenge, because you can't carry much weight or volume, and there are few places to store your equipment on a motor bike.

Most motor cycle riders use bags or panniers at the back of their machines to hold the camping gear. These have to be tough and waterproof - a bit like their owners - to keep the camping equipment safe from the weather. And you don't want anything coming loose and flying off either. It might cause an accident and you could be held liable for damages - or worse.

With a truck or an automobile, you can put your camping gear on the inside. But with a motorcycle, it's got to be fitted pretty much on the outside of your machine. Some fancy fairings (wind breaks) have small pockets, but they don't hold much camping gear at all.

You can usually fit a large cube-shaped bag on the rear luggage rack or pillion seat, and maybe a tank bag on the motorcycle petrol tank, and that's it.

Some bikes may have a couple of large panniers at the back, like the leather saddlebags you see on some Harleys, or the stylish 'fat briefcase' types you see on a German BMW tourer. (I've always wanted one of those.)

All your camping gear has got to fit inside that limited space, so camping on a motorcycles gives you the same kind of storage constraints as a backpacker, except you can travel a lot faster than on foot.

Depending on whether you're riding the bike solo or two-up, you'll want a small tent, sleeping bag (or bags), sleeping pad(s) between you and the ground, a small camp stove, cook kit, plastic mugs, bowls, spoons and maybe knives & forks as well.

Have tea or coffee-making supplies, including powdered milk in an airtight container or sweetened condensed milk. (Anything else leaks or spoils too easy in my experience.) As for myself, I love to sleep in a Hennessey Hammock it's perfect in the warmer weather and keeps the mosquitos away from you, so you get a good night's sleep.

Just carry enough food (and water) to make a couple of hasty meals for when you're tired, cold and hungry and miles from a diner or a McDonald's.

Then include a change of clothing and extra socks and underwear. Toilet kit - toothbrush, toothpaste or powder, half a bar of soap (or a small cake or soap from a hotel), a small towel, comb, a few band aids, some asprin or Tylenol pain killers, and any feminine hygiene stuff or prescription medicines needed.

Out in the country or on the interstate highways, the larger gas stations that cater to truckers will have hot showers as well. That can really refresh you if you've been camping away from the comforts of home for a few days. Buy a meal there as well, to pay for the shower.

For camp lighting carry a small flashlight and / or a candle. Some will take a mechanic's 'trouble light' which has a long cord and runs of the motorcycle's 12 volt battery. If you're going to be in a campground with mains electricity, by all means carry a mains-powered 'trouble light'.

These are the things a mechanic uses when crawling under your auto to inspect it at the garage.

Your motorcycle should already have it's own small tool kit, but it could be wise to carry a spare inner-tube and a pump. In case you get a flat tire 50 miles from nowhere. Here's where membership of an auto club would be a good idea, just as carrying a cell phone (mobile phone) would also be cheap insurance.

The only other thing you need when camping on a motorcycle is a sense of humor and a large helping of common sense. You also need to show courtesy for other road users. Why? Because just about everything out there is bigger than you are! Ride your motor bike carefully, and stay safe and in one piece!

The author, David Harvey, has been camping since he was a boy and riding motorbikes since 1967. He now lives in Australia where he still enjoys camping and motor cycling. David has picked up a tip or two during those 40 years that he's happy to share with you here and on his camping website http://www.All-Camping-Supplies.com.



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