Roughing it on two wheels but still looking for a good night’s sleep? Here’s our fast-and-dirty list of go-to motorcycle camping gear that we’ve put to work all around the world.
A hot shower and a cold beer… Bacon and eggs… Mick Jagger and Keith Richards… Some things are just meant to go together, but few things pair quite so well as motorcycles and the great outdoors.
And why shouldn’t they? Motorcycles are fun and inexpensive travel, and camping is the epitome of fun and inexpensive lodging. Moto camping keeps adventure travel simple and affordable, and there’s not a resort in the world that can truly compare to the original million-star hotel.
Good motorcycle camping gear can be a bit of an investment upfront, but there are also some damn good products out there on the cheap that can get you out enjoying remote places without putting a second lien on your home.
To that end, we’ve listed all the essential pieces of a two-wheeled camping kit below, and have included our favorite picks as well as our favorite budget-friendly alternatives to boot.
Table of Contents
- The Essential Motorcycle Camping Gear List
The Essential Motorcycle Camping Gear List
Tents and Shelters
Sleeping outdoors means putting yourself at the mercy of Mother Nature, and having a dry place to hang your helmet at the end of the day goes a long way toward getting a good night’s rest. There are a few different ways to go about this (hammocks, bivvys, tarps, etc.), but we prefer the simplicity and reliability of a traditional backpacking tent.
Splurge: Big Agnes Fly Creek HV UL 2
The folks at Big Agnes make some of the best backpacking gear money can buy, and their two-person Fly Creek ultralight model is currently our go-to shelter for motorcycle camping. Weighing in at just over two pounds yet delivering a full 28 square feet of floor space, the Fly Creeks packs down small but delivers great livability for the money.
We’re particularly fond of the Fly Creek’s sizeable front vestibule, which gives you enough space to stash your helmet and a pair of muddy boots out of the rain without taking up space inside the tent. We also love that the Fly Creek measures a full 86 inches in length, which means taller riders have room to stretch out inside a nice roomy bag without rubbing up against the tent’s walls.
Budget: Mier Lanshan 2P
When it comes to outdoor gear, you almost always have to pay a premium for the lightest and most compact stuff. That’s why we love the Mier Lanshan two-person backpacking tent: It uses high-tech sil-nylon fabric to keep its overall weight below three pounds, yet costs well under $200 for the roomier two-person offering.
For your money you’re also getting a double door/double vestibule layout, which means you’ll have even more dry exterior storage than the Big Agnes listed above. It doesn’t look or feel quite as premium and you’ll need to pack a pair of trekking poles to set it up (or just grab a few good sticks off the ground), but the Mier delivers solid water and wind protection at a price that can’t be beaten.
Alternative: Wolf Walker Motorcycle Tent
Motorcycle-specific tents have come into fashion over the last few years, and there’s a good reason for that: By adding a separate “garage” outside the front door, you’ve got a safe space to store your bike out of the elements and away from prying eyes while you sleep.
We’re also fans of these tents because they give you a sheltered place to wrench on your bike should you need any mid-trip repairs. We like the Wolf Walker for its agreeable price point, and although it’s considerably heavier and bulkier than either of our backpacking options, it also provides a lot more space to stretch out and store extra gear.
While your tent of choice keeps you dry and out of the elements, it won’t do much to keep you comfortable. Without a sleeping pad, you’re still essentially just sleeping on the cold hard ground, so here are our favorite recommendations for putting some space and insulation between you and the dirt.
Splurge: Thermarest NeoAir Topo Luxe
Thermarest has been the first name in sleeping pads for decades, and we’ve been using their pads almost exclusively for the better part of 15 years. Our current favorite from their lineup is the NeoAir Topo Luxe, which is light and compact yet luxuriously comfortable.
We love the Topo Luxe because the mattress is a whopping 4 inches thick when fully inflated, which means it works great for side, back, and stomach sleepers alike. We also appreciate that it delivers an R-value of 3.7, which adds enough insulation to keep you cozy on cooler nights without running too warm for use in the summer.
Budget: Thermarest Z Lite Sol
Say what you will about old-school foam pads, but there’s a reason the Thermarest Z Lite has remained almost entirely unchanged since 1986: This thing just works. The closed cell foam is puncture-proof, super lightweight, and doesn’t absorb water, and it can even be cut to shape to match your personal preferences without impacting its effectiveness.
Z Lite pads aren’t nearly as plush or warm as their inflatable counterparts, but their bombproof design is the most reliable and affordable sleeping pad option out there. We also love that you can fold them up around camp to use them as an impromptu chair or for a little extra knee protection during roadside repairs.
Alternative: Helinox Cot One High
Even with a nice thick sleeping pad, laying on the ground isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. To that end we’ll say that we’re big fans of Helinox’s ultralight cot system, the Cot One High, as either a sleeping bag alternative or just an extra supplement to your camp sleep system.
Using collapsible superlight aluminum legs and a 300D polyester sleep surface, the Cot One props sleepers a full 15 inches off the ground, yet adds a mere 6 pounds to your motorcycle camping gear loadout. This is also a great addition for anyone looking to cowboy camp out in the open on clear nights, or for older riders who want to spare their knees and hips from long trips to and from the ground.
Once you’re out of the elements and up off the ground, you’ll need a sleeping bag to keep you warm at night. Due to the rough and tumble nature of motorcycle camping, we generally recommend sticking with synthetic-filled bags rather than down bags, so here are our two favorite options for a cozy night under the stars.
Splurge: Nemo Forte Ultralight 35
There’s a lot to love about the Nemo Forte. From its unique extra-roomy spoon shape to its proprietary “thermal gill” system that allows you to vent as much or as little body heat as you want with changing conditions, this is an utterly premium bag.
We also love that Nemo uses top-shelf PrimaLoft RISE insulation, which delivers all the low-maintenance benefits of synthetic fill while still retaining the warmth and compressibility of 650-fill down. Pound for pound this is arguably the most versatile three-season sleeping bag on the market, and while it’s by no means the cheapest bag out there, it’s surprisingly affordable for such a premium product.
Budget: Kelty Mistral 40
Kelty sets the bar for budget-focused outdoor gear, and their Mistral 40 sleeping bag is our favorite synthetic option for motorcycle camping. The summer-weight fill means it’s ideal for warmer season camping, but also makes it much more compact than your typical synthetic bag.
Despite its outrageously budget-friendly price tag (the Mistral typically only costs around $50), we also love that Kelty designed this bag to take a beating. Everything from the 190D polyester exterior fabric to the meaty perimeter zippers feels bulletproof and ready to rumble, so you can stuff this one into your panniers however you please without fear.
This one is pretty self-explanatory, and while you can always just stuff your spare clothes into a jacket or pillowcase, many riders prefer adding a travel pillow to their motorcycle camping gear. Camp pillows definitely aren’t mandatory, but if you’ve got enough space in your luggage to bring one along, you won’t regret it.
Splurge: Sea To Summit Aeros Down Pillow
While most traditional camp pillows are basically just a bag of air wrapped in soft fabric, Sea To Summit’s Aeros Down Pillow takes things a step further. By adding an extra layer of soft down feathers to the pillow’s sleeping surface, the Aeros adds an extra plush and insulated feel to the mix while also minimizing the usual “crinkle” sounds associated with inflatable pillows.
The down also happens to be super-compressible, which is why despite the Aero’s generous 14”x10” measurements, the entire pillow packs down into a pocket-sized 3”x3” cube. The whole assembly weighs in at just 2.5 ounces as well, so you can easily just toss this into your tank bag if you’re running low on pannier or duffel space.
On the opposite end of the price spectrum, we’ve had many a restful night’s sleep using the Trekology Ultralight pillow. We love this budget-friendly pillow because it upgrades the usual inflatable pillow design with a soft and stretchy face fabric and an ergo-friendly kidney shape that cradles your head and neck whether you’re on your back or side.
Trekology’s pillow doesn’t pack down quite as small as the Aeros and it weighs a bit more as well, but in terms of comfort it’s a huge step above your typical travel pillow. At under $20, the price is also tough to beat, especially considering the Ultralight is significantly more plush than other options two or three times its asking price.
You can only eat dry ramen noodles and trail mix so many times before you start to lose your mind. There’s nothing like a hot meal in the middle of nowhere after a long day in the saddle, and to that end you’ll want to add a compact camp stove to your motorcycle camping gear.
Splurge: Jetboil Stash
We’ve been using the Jetboil Stash on backpacking trips for years, and it’s a great companion for two-wheeling camping as well. This thing is the definition of fast and light, combining a titanium burner with Jetboil’s patented “Fluxring” cook pot for a ready-to-use stove system that weighs just 7.1 oz.
Jetboil is arguably the first name in powerful burners, and their Stash system is no exception. Boiling a full pot of water in this rig takes just 2.5 minutes, which means you’ll be eating long before your riding buddies and also saving precious fuel in the process.
MSR’s camp stoves are world-renowned by thru-hikers, world travelers, and alpine expeditionists alike for good reason. Their Pocket Rocket 2 is our favorite of the lot, and packs a respectably powerful burner for the money that takes a full liter of water from cold to boiling in under four minutes.
We recommend picking up the Pocket Rocket 2 in kit form, which includes everything you need for backcountry cooking including a burner, a cookpot, a bowl, and a lid for under $100. The whole kit is designed to nestle together along with a mini fuel canister as well, so you can literally stash all the essentials inside a compact 5” cylinder.
Misc Motorcycle Camping Gear Essentials: Tools, Repairs, etc.
Over the years we’ve found a few choice accessories always come in handy when hanging out off the grid. This list is by no means comprehensive, but here are a few essential accessories we recommend every rider add to their motorcycle camping gear.
CruzTools Metric Tool Roll
All the trailside repair essentials for damn near any metric bike on the planet: Wrenches, hex keys, screwdrivers, pliers: You name it. CruzTools even throws in duct tape and zip ties for those impromptu rig-jobs that always seem to pop up when you least expect it…
JB Weld SteelStik
Cracked cases, broken brackets, sheered fasteners… A lot can go wrong out in the woods, but with a little JB Weld SteelStik, you’ll never stay stranded for long. This stuff has saved our butts more times than we care to admit and you should never leave home without it.
Bikemaster Tire Repair Kit
Flat tires are an all-too-common occurrence out on the road, whether it’s from picking up nails on the highway or pinch-flats on rocky climbs. This kit from Bikemaster covers all your bases whether you’re rolling on tubes or tubeless, and costs a hell of a lot less than a tow truck to boot.
Motion Pro Enduro Tire Irons
Speaking of tire repairs, no motorcycle camping gear loadout is complete without a pair of packable tire irons. We’re fans of the Motion Pro Enduro irons because they’re big enough to muscle most tires on and off the rim, but compact enough to slot into even the smallest panniers or tank bags.
There are countless budget-minded options for rechargeable power banks out there, but nothing quite compares to the performance and reliability of an Anker product. We’ve been keeping our phones, laptops, and cameras running with these bad boys for years and can’t recommend them highly enough.
Panniers to Haul All the New Motorcycle Camping Gear
Now that we’ve covered all the moto-camping gear basics, you’ll be needing somewhere to stash all the essentials. That means adding a set of panniers to your bike, and you’ve got a couple of different options when it comes to motorcycle luggage.
The biggest decision to make here is the choice between luggage racks and rackless systems. Both have their merits, so let’s touch on a few of the pros and cons here.
Hard Mounted Luggage Racks
When most riders think of motorcycle luggage, hard-mounted bags are typically what come to mind. These are the big aluminum boxes and trunks you’ll often see on world-traveling bikes like the BMW GSA, but they can also be made from textiles as well.
The main advantage of hard-mounted bags is that they can be easily locked to the bike, which bodes well for security. Hard panniers are particularly good in this regard, as they typically both lock to the bike and lock closed themselves, keeping your precious motorcycle camping gear out of the hands of would-be thieves.
Whether you opt for soft or hard bags, there are a few drawbacks that come with any luggage rack system. The main one is cost, both in terms of money and time, as these systems require you to pay for extra parts and then either install them yourself or pay someone else to mount them for you.
The other main drawback here is weight, as even the simplest universal rack systems add around 20 lbs to your bike’s static weight. It’s not a big deal for larger ADV bikes, but on smaller rigs like lightweight dual sports, pannier racks, and bags can have a noticeable impact on performance.
Rackless Motorcycle Luggage
Rackless motorcycle luggage (AKA “soft bags”), come in a few different flavors as well, but all rackless systems share one major benefit: Simplicity.
Whether you’re looking into the rough and tumble textile luggage often used on adventure and dual sport bikes or the classic leather bags popular with cruisers, all you’ll have to do to use most rackless systems is strap them down onto your existing frame mounts (grab handles, foot pegs etc.) and hit the road.
We’re fans of rackless systems because they’re lightweight, easy to use, and typically just as waterproof as dedicated hard panniers. Rackless systems are also a great option for offroaders as they’re virtually indestructible and won’t dent, scratch, or crack from the occasional low-speed off-road tip over.
The main disadvantage to these systems is security: Because rackless luggage is designed to be easily taken on and off the bike, they’re also much easier targets for thieves while you’re away. This isn’t a major concern when you’re off in the woods and away from civilization, but if you plan to mix in any stops around town or overnights in hotels, chances are you’ll be pulling them off and taking them with you when you walk away from the bike.
Top Picks for Motorcycle Camping Gear Worthy Luggage:
- Giant Loop RTW: Best rack mounted soft bags
- Givi Trekker Dolomiti: Best rack mounted hard bags
- Giant Loop Great Basin: Best rackless luggage overall
- Tusk Highlander X2 Rackless: Best budget rackless luggage
- Saddlemen Highwayman Slant Saddlebags: Best for cruisers
Thanks for reading and I hope you found the right motorcycle camping gear for your next adventure!
I’m a motorcycle adventure travel addict who has been rippin’ two-wheels across remote lands and working in the motorcycle touring industry since 2018! I’ve since developed MotoMoves to offer tips and tricks on adventure motorcycling as well as take you along for a few rides here and there. Enjoy!