written for Countyline Publications and printed in Wisconsin and Illinois Biker Information Guide – third quarter 2009 by Frazier Douglass In the early 1900’s, camping was a necessary part of motorcycle travel.  Motorcycles were unreliable. Wrecker service and cell phones were unavailable. And motels were difficult to find in most parts of the country. Riders never knew when and where they might have to spend the night. Consequently, those who wanted to travel by motorcycle had to pack camping gear and cooking staples. These early days of motorcycle camping are described in a very interesting article reprinted in the recent 2009 Rider Wearhouse Catalog. The article, originally published in a 1916 issue of Recreation magazine, describes camping gear and technique that was popular almost 100 years ago. Other reminders of the connection between camping and motorcycle touring can be seen in many movies such as Easy Rider and Wild Hogs. Today, camping is no longer necessary on motorcycle touring trips. Reliable motorcycles will usually get you where you want to go. Cell phones, credit cards, wrecker service, hundreds of motorcycle repair shops, and thousands of motels allow us to leave the camping gear at home. But, wait! There are other good reasons to camp on your touring trips. For example, camping provides an economical way to travel. One night in a state or federal park campground costs about $20 while the same night in a motel costs $50 to $150. After covering your initial gear investment, you save $30 to $130 a night. If you get the right gear, camping can be just as comfortable, if not more comfortable, than a motel. Recent advances in camping gear technology has produced tents that can stand up to high wind and rain, air mattresses that are more comfortable than many motel beds, and complete kitchen sets that nest into the space of one small pot. Modern campgrounds have picnic tables, fire rings, running water, electrical outlets, flush toilets, hot showers, and laundry facilities. Bugs and critters rarely cause problems. And camping allows you to enjoy America’s great outdoors. If you enjoy the feel of riding down the highway in the open air, you will love the sights, sounds, and smells of camping in the woods. To get started, you will need a few essential items. These items include a 3-season backpacking tent that is about 8-feet long by 5-feet wide, an insulated self inflating air mattress, warm clothes, a 3-season synthetic-filled sleeping bag, a headlight, polyester shirts and underwear, a water bottle, a backpacker’s towel, a pair of Crocs or shower shoes, a small hatchet to split firewood, duct tape,  a tarp to cover your table, and cord to tie your table cloth onto the table, hang a clothesline, and set up a tarp. Some optional items you may want to consider include a book, MP3 player, camera, and the current Biker Information Guide. If you have limited packing space, leave the food and kitchen set at home.  Eat meals in restaurants or buy ready-to-eat food from grocery stores. Or, you can cook burgers, brats, and vegetables in aluminum foil packs on the grill or campfire. The best way to pack your gear on your motorcycle depends upon the type of bike you ride and whether you have a backseat companion. If you ride solo, you can pack most of your gear including your tent, mattress, and sleeping bag in a duffle bag and tie it on the backseat. Pack the rest of your gear in saddlebags or in a T-Bag. If you ride two-up on a touring bike, tie your tent, mattresses, and sleeping bags on the luggage rack. If you ride two-up on a cruiser or sport bike, you may need to invest in a smaller tent and more compressible (expensive) sleeping bags that can be packed in saddlebags and a T-Bag. Whether you want to return to the early roots of motorcycling or just want to save a few dollars, try motorcycle camping this summer. If you do it often, you will learn to stay dry, warm, and comfortable in a variety of weather conditions. Plus, you will come to love the many pleasures that camping can provide. You will enjoy the warmth of a campfire and the smell of coffee and breakfast cooking in the morning. You will see a variety of wildlife that you could never see in your normal daily life. You will enjoy hearing a gentle rain hitting the sides of your tent and an occasional owl hooting in the night. And you will better appreciate the independent spirit of our pioneer forefathers. For more information about motorcycle camping, visit my Web site  and read my book, Lightweight Camping for Motorcycle Travel.
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