Motorcycle Camping – Shelter
Posted In: Road Trip
written for Countyline Publications by Frazier Douglass Years ago, motorcycle riders who embarked on long touring trips had to be very hardy and resourceful people. They usually had to camp in remote wilderness areas with crude shelters and had to be prepared to endure a wide range of inconveniences. In addition to having to find potable water, cook, clean up, and bathe with limited gear, these riders never knew what to expect after dark. Some nights were pleasant but many nights brought rain, wind, wet ground, cold, mosquitoes, ants, other bugs, and sometimes animals. Today, motorcycle camping can be much more comfortable, largely because of good quality three-season backpacking tents that pack into very small spaces. These tents are designed to protect occupants from the weather, bugs, and small animals. Most of them are double-walled, free-standing, dome tents. They have sturdy waterproof floors that provide a barrier to dirt, wet ground, ants, and other insects. They have waterproof rain covers that keep occupants dry even during long heavy rain. They have netting that helps to keep the interior ventilated but keeps mosquitoes and other bugs out. Good quality tents are constructed with aluminum poles and durable nylon materials that will stand up to moderately strong wind. And they help retain your body heat when closed up—making them warmer than sleeping in the open. When you combine one of these tents with a good sleeping system and camp in an established campground with electricity, potable water, flush toilets, hot showers, and laundry facilities, you can sleep just as comfortably as you could in most motel rooms. What size tent is best for motorcycle camping? The answer to this question depends upon the type of motorcycle you ride, your luggage capacity, and whether you ride solo or two-up. If you ride solo and plan to tie your tent on the backseat, you can get a large four-person tent with over fifty-five square feet of floor space. These tents are relatively heavy and require a considerable amount of packing space but provide plenty of room for sleeping, dressing, and storing your gear. If you ride two-up on a touring bike, you probably will have to consider a three-person tent with about forty-five square-feet of floor space. And if you ride two-up on a cruiser or sport motorcycle, you may have to settle for a two-person tent with about thirty-five square feet of floor space. Two-person tents will feel cramped, especially for large people, but pack into a relatively small space. What price should you expect to pay for such a tent? Three-season tents range in price from about $30 to over $400. The price you will pay depends upon the amount of protection you want and the number of times you plan to use it. Cheap tents sold in discount department stores are ok if you only plan to take one trip in good weather, but they are typically made with flimsy fiberglass poles and nylon material that may fail in stormy weather or after several uses. More expensive tents provide more protection and usually will last for several years. These more expensive tents typically are sold in camping supply specialty stores and cost at least $100. My recommendation is to find a tent that costs between $200 and $250 if you want to use it for several years. What brand should you look for? Some well-known makers of moderately-priced, good-quality tents include: Eureka, Big Agnes, Kelty, Marmot, Mountain Hardwear, REI, Sierra Designs and The North Face. I have camped in tents made by most of these companies and currently use a Mountain Hardwear Lightwedge 3. To find a good tent at a good price, you must do some homework. Visit camping specialty outfitter stores near your home and talk with sales people. Try to learn as much as you can about different tent models. Also search the Web for three-season backpacking tents. During your search, you will find several camping specialty outfitter retail stores such as Backcountry.com, Campmor, REI, and Sun Dog Outfitters that offer discontinued models and special sale prices. Also look at E-bay. Sometimes you can find a good tent at a bargain price there. For more information about tents suitable for motorcycle camping, visit my Web site and read my book, Lightweight Camping for Motorcycle Travel.