It was a dark and stormy night; the rain fell in torrents…” Ah, my ol’ pal Snoopy. He was always writing those wicked tales of adventure in his little tent. He and I have long been kindred spirits and have spent many a night together in the wilderness.
I remember my old not-so-trusty sleeping bag clearly. The material was a red cotton print with a vibrant blend of primary colors. A unique variety of scenes and quotes printed on the useless fabric made me smile through my misery. One scene shows Snoopy on top of his doghouse. “There’s nothing cozier than a sleeping bag,” he said. The scene where snoopy uses his dog dish as a pillow, as he lays peacefully looking up at the sky, was my favorite. I imagined he was probably dreaming about his cool, fedora-wearing, desert-dwelling older brother, Spike.
After one too many bike camping trips that resulted in me shivering under a picnic table with nothing but a drenched cocoon for protection, I upgraded from my cotton death trap to more modern camping supplies. Instead of waking up miserable before a 600-mile ride, I now sleep in comfort. Instead of having my childhood sleeping bag strapped to my bars I am now able to fit and protect all of my camping gear and extras inside weatherproof hard saddlebags.
Toph, the editor of this fine magazine, and I set out on a two-week camping-riding adventure and tested some camping equipment for our readers. We dealt with rain, wind, heat, cold, bugs, and even some gnarly drunk women while on the couple-thousand-mile trip. No hotels, motels, no real plan—just two Harley and Victory baggers, two men, supplies, and a desire to explore. We hit bike rallies, national parks, little known gems, and met great people along the way.
Here’s a good place to start for your camping adventure, whether it be overnight or a cross-country tour. We also consulted with Joel Felty of Moto-Camp for advice and must-have camping necessities. There are a few key elements to look for while shopping for motorcycle camping gear. You want something small enough to easily fit in your bags and something light enough as to not affect the handling of the bike. This is not a full packing list. This is just stuff we tested and liked. Prices are listed with both suggested retail and the best price we found while shopping around.
Clothes are your choice but remember that nearly every burg in America has a laundromat or a store so you don’t have to pack much.
A good sleeping bag is vital. Your crappy Dora the Explorer cotton sleeping bag from the kid’s section at Walmart just won’t cut it. Pull out your wallet and spend some of your hard working money for a hard-working sleeping bag.
There are two choices in bag fill/insulation: synthetic or down. A down bag will be lighter than a synthetic and takes up less space so you have more room for other crap. Mother Nature is a fickle beast and rain does happen. Down loses most of its insulation capacity when wet, synthetics don’t. Baggers recommends down bags since we have a tent or tarp during most of our trips. But with today’s advanced materials, you can’t go wrong with either type of quality-made gear.
Choose a bag rated for the coldest temperature you expect to encounter. Bag temp ratings are at the lowest temperature that will keep the average person comfortable. Some people sleep colder than others. The temp ratings are made up by each individual manufacturer that serve as a guide and not a guarantee. Recently, the outdoor gear industry has adopted the European Norm (EN) test process that provides a standardized laboratory test for all sleeping bags so consumers can make relative comparisons of the insulating value of different bags. Not all sleeping bag manufactures have adopted the EN ratings yet.
Tip: Store your sleeping bags in the provided storage sack while not in use, to prevent a bag’s insulation from becoming permanently compressed. Repeated and long-term compression wears out a sleeping bag faster than anything else.