Camping n00b seeks advice

Discussion in 'GS Boxers' started by 1200gsceej, Apr 26, 2012.

  1. 1200gsceej

    1200gsceej wanabee overachiever

    Apr 30, 2007
    San Francisco Peninsula
    Note to Moderator: I could not figure out where to put this, so please move as appropriate.
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    Except for when I was in the Boy Scouts, I have not been much for camping out. In all my previous motorcycle trips, whether solo or with a buddy, I have stayed in motels. However, now I am considering perhaps more frequent and longer trips &#8211; e.g. taking 3-4+ weeks to ride back from the East Coast in July. At a motel-a-night, that gets expensive. I have read many ride reports of folks who camp all the time. I have found the list of Inmates who kindly offer a plot in their back yard for those on the road. So I am thinking about camping. However, for me it is a big step (I have no history to fall back on) so I&#8217;d appreciate help from the Collective Wisdom.
    1. No Cooking. I am looking at camping only, not cooking. I am perfectly happy to get my breakfast and dinner at a restaurant. I am OK with carrying some packaged provisions should I have to camp where I cannot get one or the other.
    2. Tent. What are the critical issues? I have looked at the following tents: REI Half Dome 2 ( and Marmot Limelight 2P ( They are both have a nice floor area, are tall enough to sit/change clothes, supposed to be three season, and in my price range. But I don&#8217;t know how appropriate/practical they are for motorcycle travel. I have seen others swear by Big Agnes, but that seems a notch up for me.
    3. Cot. I&#8217;ve slept on the ground before, and on a mat, and don&#8217;t think much of either. I&#8217;m thinking I&#8217;d get one of the two compact cots that I have seen. Here is one: What do folks think of them? Notwithstanding what the marketing material says, how do they do inside tents?
    4. Sleeping Bag. I have no idea what to shop for in a sleeping bag. I don&#8217;t plan any winter weather camping. Mid-spring to mid-fall most likely. How do I get started on research and selecting a sleeping bag?
    5. Camp Sites. As a n00b, I am unlikely to do any &#8216;free camping.&#8217; So where /how do folks find places to stay? Are state parks a reasonable option? The only commercial option I know about is KOA. What should I look for/expect? Is safety an issue (and how would I know what was unsafe)? I have a Garmin Zumo 660. Are there POI files I should get?
    6. Packing and Carrying the Gear. Is there a &#8216;best practices&#8217; to packing the gear on the bike? I have heard over and over that the most important thing is to keep your sleeping bag dry. Do people put such things in dry bags (I have an Orthlieb bag already for my clothes, etc; Vario sidebags are for bike gear and rain gear).
    7. What else? I don&#8217;t know if I can take any more, but have I omitted something important?
    Thanks so much,<o:p></o:p>
  2. Snarky

    Snarky Vodka Infused.

    Feb 24, 2011
    Old El Paso and Swamp Houston
    This should probably technically be in the Equipment forum, but if we're talking GS related camping, this is probably fine.

    1. Bring some water and peanut butter crackers or something at least. Life sucks without a snack or drink.

    2. 3. I have a 'Hammock tent' setup up. I like it. You are off the ground, relatively comfortable with no rocks in your spine. Mine has an insect net and a rainfly for a private, moisture and insect free life style. But you need trees or "something" to tie to. When there are no trees (in the desert) I use a Kelty 1 person tent. You can get some lightweight cots if you arent fat or too tall, they work fine inside tents, bring a tarp or something to put your tent on, it protects it from abrasions from rocks under your tent rubbing against your cot feet. If are you fat or tall, you should just get used to the ground, most people use a lightweight/expensive camp mat. The stupid blue thing at wal-mart is fine for me.

    4. I live in Texas, it's either hot or cold here. I carry two things: A sleeping bag liner and a 32 degree bag. When it's hot I sleep on top of the bag, inside the light weight liner, which is comfortable and cool but keeps the wind off me. When it's cool I put the liner inside the bag and sleep inside that, it keeps the sweat off me.

    5. In Texas state parks ARE an option. You mileage may vary in other states. Here, there is usually a gate fee and a camping fee. But in exchange you get a sealed gate to keep undesirables out, and usually patrolled by rangers of some sort.

    6. I keep my camping gear in drybags (especially the sleeping bag) strapped outside of my panniers. It allows me to keep valuable items in my locked panniers. Nobody wants your smelly camping gear.

    7. Don't forget some kind of chair, or camp near a stump. Sitting on the ground blows. Also bring your own toilet paper if you go to a public camp site.
  3. twinsig

    twinsig Been here awhile

    Feb 23, 2012
    Middle Alabama
  4. Gruesome

    Gruesome Alter Heizer

    Apr 28, 2007
    Sounds like a great plan! Maybe start with a shorter trip to somewhere not totally overrun but still with good facilities.

    My attempt at some answers:
    1. no cooking should be fine. You could relax that rule a bit and use the fire pit (see below) for grilling meat. That, a bit of toast, some mustard/ketchup/mayonnaise, a beer or two, and you have a balanced meal!
    2. Both tents look ok. The marmot is a bit lighter and packs 3 inches shorter, but has only one vestibule. Not sure the vestibule matters if you travel alone.
    3. I've always used a self-inflating foam pad. Transporting the cot might be the tricky thing.
    4. sleeping bag: Better a bit too warm (just sleep on top) than too cold. They come with temperature ratings.
    5. State Parks and National Parks are great. At least in the western US they usually come with fire pits for grilling and benches by the individual camp sites. Also, the spots for individual tents are easier to get than those for RVs (or at least were 20 years ago).
    6. Packing: side cases and a duffle across should be sufficient. Sleeping bag and tent can be strapped outside the duffle if necessary. Tools and other heavy stuff (tent stakes, cooking gear if you bring any, beer, mayonnaise jar :D) should go low in the panniers.
    Disclaimer: my last multi-week camping trip through the western US was 20 years ago.
  5. Phoenix101

    Phoenix101 Long timer

    Nov 24, 2008
    Right Side of WA
    as suggested before, we did a "camp trip" that was within 30 minutes of our house, built a fire, set everything up, made a meal, stayed the night and figured out what we still needed (i.e. chairs!)
  6. Snarky

    Snarky Vodka Infused.

    Feb 24, 2011
    Old El Paso and Swamp Houston
    Yeah, chairs are kind of a big deal, the first time my buddy and I tested our stuff out at the beach within a half hour of our house, we didn't bring them. It was an evening of sitting in the sand.

    Another thing I suggest: Area lighting. If you can't have a fire, which is most places when it's dry, you need (imo) some kind of lantern to sit around at night. I carry a double mantle cheapo chinese one and some matches. You can get the 1lb cylinders at a lot of gas stations around here, I pick them up as I need them. A single mantle lantern (and extra mantles) would be more ideal as they fit easily in gear and are small without the tank.

  7. openboatt

    openboatt Don't harsh my mellow

    Jul 21, 2005
    Palouse Country, USA
    Someone already mentioned thermarest pads. Those are good, but there are very comfortable, packable mattresses these days that make for a great night's rest. Worth it's weight in gold...
  8. Tonopah

    Tonopah Been here awhile

    Mar 23, 2009
    New River, AZ
    2. Tent. What are the critical issues? I have looked at the following tents: REI Half Dome 2 ( and Marmot Limelight 2P ( They are both have a nice floor area, are tall enough to sit/change clothes, supposed to be three season, and in my price range. But I don’t know how appropriate/practical they are for motorcycle travel. I have seen others swear by Big Agnes, but that seems a notch up for me. -- those tents are good choices. So is the REI Passage 2 (the one I prefer). Lightweight and packs small.

    3. Cot. I’ve slept on the ground before, and on a mat, and don’t think much of either. I’m thinking I’d get one of the two compact cots that I have seen. Here is one: What do folks think of them? Notwithstanding what the marketing material says, how do they do inside tents? -- I just recently bought this (expensive) cot and like it a lot. It is small and light and easy to take on a m/c trip.

    4. Sleeping Bag. I have no idea what to shop for in a sleeping bag. I don’t plan any winter weather camping. Mid-spring to mid-fall most likely. How do I get started on research and selecting a sleeping bag? -- the guy who suggested a mid range sleeping bag ans a liner is right on. The liner might be the Sea to Summit Reactor. That would be a good choice.

    6. Packing and Carrying the Gear. Is there a ‘best practices’ to packing the gear on the bike? I have heard over and over that the most important thing is to keep your sleeping bag dry. Do people put such things in dry bags (I have an Orthlieb bag already for my clothes, etc; Vario sidebags are for bike gear and rain gear). -- I like Exped lateral compression waterproof bags. Also, consider ROK straps as they work well and are easy to use. Watch the ROK strap video to see how they attach.

    7. What else? I don’t know if I can take any more, but have I omitted something important?
  9. L-Train

    L-Train Dirt......Good.

    Jun 27, 2008
    Livingston, Montana
    I think you are on the right track. Sleeping bags have temp ratings. I bought my last one at Sierra Trading Post online. Good deals.

    I think a great resource is the book Beyond Backpacking by Ray Jardine. It's about techniques for ultralight backpacking long distances. It has some of the best advice about camping anywhere. Especially good is the info on site selection. Many of the ideas can easily be applied to moto camping.

    Above all, just go and do it. You will learn what to do and not to do pretty quickly. Worst case: you get wet, or cold, or a squirrel eats your breakfast before you do. Sleeping outdoors is a great pleasure. Go for it!
  10. rritterson

    rritterson Been here awhile

    Oct 19, 2010
    Bay Area, CA USA
    This is a hard question to answer. Camping, by it's nature, means you are giving up something you'd have at home or in a motel, but what each person is willing to give up varies from person to person. For example, physical comfort is not too important to me, but I hate bugs crawling on me. That means I might leave a sleeping pad behind for an insect net instead. Your questions are all a matter of choice and you ask them because you aren't sure what the best option is, but I think the best option is the one that works best for you, not the one that works best for us.

    The advice of going on "one night stands" nearby is a good one. Just like you don't change an ignition coil for the first time on the side of the road, don't make a 4 week cross-country trip your first camping adventure, unless you are okay with buying things as you go and throwing away the things you brought but don't need.

    On the other hand, if you are heading out into the bush away from civilization, the rules change. There you really do need to have a minimum standard of survival supplies in order to get by should the worst case become true. But if you are just crossing the country and staying in campgrounds, worst case you end up in a motel for a night because you don't have what you need for the weather.
  11. rebelpacket

    rebelpacket four-stroke earth-saw

    Apr 12, 2009
    Missoula, MT
    First off, I highly recommend the half dome 2. I got mine after reading many positive reviews, and I absolutely love it. Easy to set up, easy to pack up, smal compact and you can't beat the REI warranty.

    Secondly, pay campgrounds are shrinking up quick. As more and more people use RVs, I've found that many camp areas don't allow tents for insurance reasons. It seems people in RVs tend to back up over the tents. Sometimes with people in them. National forests and blm lands offer dispersed camping options. This means that in general, you can ride into some blm land, find a nice spot, park your bike and camp. No need to look for a developed campsite, especially if you don't need a fire ring.

    I will also agree with others that you should consider a stove. I understand that you won't be cooking, but sometimes just a hot cup of coffee or tea while the sun rises, or a nice quick bowl of oatmeal before the day will get you started on the right foot.

    As far as storage, I've found the Wolfman expedition dry bags are fantastic. I get my tent, sleeping pad, stove, cookware, shit tickets, sleeping bag and most of my dry food in with room to spare. It lashes down nice and tight, and comes off with relative ease.

    Good luck, and enjoy the woods.
  12. Beezer

    Beezer Long timer

    Oct 26, 2004
    Anchorage, formerly Spenard (hub of the universe)
    yes... you can make a lot of stuff with hot water.... everything from tea to complete dinners that are at least OK & damn good when you are cold & hungry. A good stove is a campers friend on many levels. MSR stoves are the top of the line. The International burns almost anything.

    Check out Big Agness bags and tents. All are well thought out. The bags don't waste material on the bottom where you mat will do the work... this saves weight and (more importantly) volume. I have owned and used a lot of top stuff (Bibler, Black Diamond, Patagonia, North Face, Kelty, Marmot, Eureka & more)... these guys are my current favorite.

    I have been an avid back country traveler & camper in my home state of Alaska since about 1964. Big Agness is affordable and as good as high digit stuff like Bibler and Patagonia. Good camping stuff makes camping fun, and you will want to do it more... bad gear makes you miserable. REI brand products are good quality & really hard to beat for the price... and the guarantee is the best (I've been a member for over 30 years). I've seen stuff returned that has obviously been abused for a long time, yet they took it back. They carry most of the good brands and I would recommend you buy from them just for that reason alone.
  13. astrolump

    astrolump Been here awhile

    Jun 11, 2011
    S flatlandia

    last summer-fall I did about 60 days camping on the bike. 30+ at one stretch.
    when i started the trip i was in your i think i have a good system down.
    im looking forward to doing it again this summer
    1. No Cooking. I don't bring food on the bike for 2 reasons....BEARS and i cant be assed to do the dishes.
    do bring high protein snacks, a few cans of tuna,power bars etc just in case you get stuck somewhere remote.
    this year i may do some camp cooking. it can be hard to get a good meal if you are out traveling by fire road and trail...i had quite a few rotten meals...and sometimes you run out of daylight.
    bring water..i have a camelback that hangs on the bike..i can drink while riding, and 2 ss bottles for coffee and brushing teeth. i have a tiny alcohol stove and coffee pot. works great/
    2. Tent. having clips for the poles rather than sleeves is a great feature that makes setup a breeze.
    After using a tent last year i will be using a Hennessy hammock this year. so much better than sleeping on the ground.
    whatever tent you get set it up in your backyard and seam seal it. buy a footprint/ground tarp for it. i keep the tent/rainfly/footprint in a separate dry bag because it is usually still damp from dew or rain when i want to hit the road...having s separate bag keeps your sleeping gear dry. having glow in the dark zipper pulls is great when you have to pee at 4am and forgot your piss bottle. you do have a piss bottle right?

    3. Cot. i started with a great air mattress with a built in pump. it got a slow leak and i ended up on a foam pad for awhile...then sprung for a thermarest basecamp self inflating job. it was comfy but hard to stay on it on uneven ground. and it packs big.
    now ill be in my hammock all comfy.

    4. Sleeping Bag. this is tough...i bought a few last year trying to find the right setup to get me from the deep south to Canada. in the end i settled on a very inexpensive 20 degree bag from it is actually very nice and packs up quite small. also i have an underquilt for my hammock. in addition i have a fleece liner and a cotton liner. i have not decided if i will bring the liners this time with the hammock. maybe just the cotton one or a fleece throw. sleeping bags don't work well in hammocks.
    5. Camp Sites. get the apps "we camp here" and "allstays camp and tent" they are available for android, not sure about i phone. they are not perfect but are a great resource for finding camp sites along your route. public campgrounds can be great...or a loud, buggy pain in the ass. this year i will be doing as much stealth camping as possible.

    also you can look for motorcycle friendly campgrounds and find other two wheel campers.

    6. Packing and Carrying the Gear. i use hard panniers and dry bags. one dry bag for my sleeping bags etc. and one for my tent. you may want a top box so you can lock some stuff up..or get one of those steel net things. a small bicycle cable lock is a great way to lock up your jacket and it through the sleeve and chinbar of your lid and lock it to the luggage rack.
    7. What else?
    first aid kit, it is up to you how comprehensive of one you want. i travel very back roads alone so i have as a minimum a small basic kit, quick clot, suture kit,sawyer venom extractor, a loud whistle, and signal mirror.
    lights...carry at least 2 small led flashlights, a led headlamp, and a led lantern....this one is amazing...
    yo can find it for about $20 online.

    microfiber towels for showers etc

    rather than toilet paper which is so flimsy i carry kleenex brand paper towels..they are great as tp, nose tissue, or anything else. i just save a few half used rolls for the bike..squish em and they pack flat.

    don't go crazy trying to get it all right before you can tweak the small stuff on the road. you will see other campers setup and get ideas.

    most of all have fun

  14. go gonzo

    go gonzo The Mustard of Pants

    Aug 7, 2011
    Los Angeles
    Nothing like camping to make you realize how many times you piss at night.

    Headlamp/ hands-free RED light
    Easy slip-on camp shoes(Merrell)
    Baby wipes & toilet paper

    Glow in the dark zipper pulls! I wish I had thought of that.

    One time I did a week of primitive in Colorado. The latrine was dug about 250 yards away from the campsite. The middle of the second night I had to deuce. I walked out into the darkness in just shorts and boots. It took me an hour to find my way back to camp. I had a flash light, but I did not use it until I got out of camp; then it ruined my night vision, and I got turned around. A ranger had come by earlier that day and warned us that a bear had mauled an olympic trainee three days before. I was half naked, freezing and freaked out.
    Moral: Don't Poop.
  15. Chat Lunatique

    Chat Lunatique aka El Gato Loco

    May 9, 2011
    Niagara, Canada

    Easy fix. When mountain climbing we take an empty one liter Nalgene bottle into our bag when sleeping so we don`t fall off in the dark. Fill `er up as required, just like at the gas station (nice mental picture eh?) DO NOT MISTAKE THIS BOTTLE for your drinking water bottle :1drink

    A cot will punch a hole in your tent floor as it sinks into soft earth unless you have a heavy canvas bottom or a wood sheet to rest the legs on.
  16. Tonopah

    Tonopah Been here awhile

    Mar 23, 2009
    New River, AZ
    Stuff I like for motorcycle camping:

    Black Diamond Orbit Lantern -- small, effective, great hanging inside tent or at picnic table.

    Headlamp is a great thing to have. One that will provide red light is a good idea.

    Passage 2 tent -- weighs about 5 pounds and packs 7.5 in by 22 in; reasonably priced, simple with only 2 poles

    ROK straps

    Exped lateral compression waterproof bags -- fits well packed on a motorcycle
  17. viz

    viz I Ride Ms Piggy

    Nov 12, 2006
    Sydney, Oz
    OK here we go. I live in Oz, not the US but I reckon the requirements are similar. We only have drop bears here though and only are dangerous if you camp under a tree...

    I went through this exercise a coupla years ago. I am a 4WD camper so had to downsize.

    Get a good dome or half dome tent. If you plan to be camping in all weathers on a say week long trip, get a 4 season tent with a good vestibule. 4 season tents have a high water rating (usually measured in mm which is the length of a water column. 5000mm for a fly is good; 8000mm for a base ("tub") is also good). I use this tent for me and the missus and it has proven to be very comfortable in all weathers so far (not snow yet). I am 6'4" and it is important to be able to sit up in the tent. It has two good vestibules for storing extra gear or to do some cooking in bad weather. It packs down to fit into a pannier. Caution - expensive but very well made.

    Cot - it will damage the floor. Get a good inflatable mattress - again Exped or Thermorest. I use an Exped Downmat which really packs down but you have to hand pump it (built in pump) which while is a pain only take a coupla minutes. Alternative is the self inflating mattresses - also good but bulkier. Use a cotton sleeping bag liner to go around the OUTSIDE of the mattress to protect it, stop if from squeaking (annoying) and to provide better comfort. The Downmat is very good in cold weather - very warm. You can sleep on snow with it. Disadvantage - if it leaks it goes down. These pegs are worth their weight in gold. Actually they are gram for gram the strongest tent pegs I own, though they will snap with too much abuse.

    Sleeping bag. I have a wonderful down bag with a temperature rating of -8º C (18ºF). Too hot for climbing into above say above 40ºF, but below that it is pure heaven. Go below the rated temperature put some good merino wool thermals (e.g. Icebreaker) on and you will have a cosy night's sleep :D If it does get too hot, open the foot section up or open it right up and just place on top of you.

    Small plastic tarp - well worth carting along - use it as a ground sheet for under the tent or/and placing gear on it when the ground is wet.

    Camp chair - I use a cheap concert chair - basically a folding camp chair with no legs. Packs down to a size that can be strapped across the bike. There is this though: Kermit Chair... I am intrigued by this chair, though I have not tried it.

    Luggage etc. I use side panniers and 3 x 40 litre roll top bags strapped to the panniers and to the back rack. Heaps of room in them as long as you don't take the kitchen sink - you can't quite see it in this pic
    but you get the drift.

    This is with a 60 litre roll-top on the back and a duffel on the pannier but we found them too cumbersome - ok for that real big trip but for the shorter long weekend type trips, unnecessary.

    Have fun researching!

  18. LaurelPerryOnLand

    LaurelPerryOnLand Long timer

    Jun 9, 2009
    Denver, CO
    1. No Cooking.
    In 3 trips into Canada and Alaska...I've taken a JETBOIL cooking pot and small 7" frying pan. Great for oatmeal (plus craisins) in the morning...also good for instant coffee. No need to hike to town for breakfast. Also...stop during the day at local grocery store and pick up a steak and some mushrooms to saute. People at RV parks felt bad for me...camping in a tent and invited me for dinner...told them I couldn't because I had a steak and sauteed mushrooms that needed cooking! Hah! They said I was eating better than they were!
    Take some of those juice pak size containers of SHELF STABLE MILK. Great for the oatmeal and to add to coffee. Expensive...$1 each...but convenient. Also use in scramble eggs...if you take a dozen eggs in a protective container.

    2. Tent.
    Get one that's waterproof and has enough room for your sleeping bag and all of your riding gear. Lots of them on CL for $60 or less. Don't need to buy NEW!
    I FOUND a brand new tent that somebody decided to pitch...never used. The thought of camping and bears must have been too much to contemplate.

    3. Cot.
    I've used a quality Coleman air mattress. Buy an inflator and plug in to your 15 amp outlet. Mattress inflates in 20 seconds. Gets you off the ground (4" thick). Deflate and carefully fold.

    4. Sleeping Bag.
    Warmer is can always take it off.

    5. Camp Sites.
    RV parks and National Parks are good choices. Lots of people around to hear you scream "BEAR". Hah! And...RV parks usually provide laundry facilities.
    If 62 or older...get National Park Pass for $10. LIFETIME FREE ENTRY into US National Parks!

    6. Packing and Carrying the Gear.
    Pack LOW and towards the center of the bike. NO HIGH TOP CASE that can wiggle around.

    7. Chair?
    Took small Kermit chair on 1 trip. Nope. Didn't need. Sold upon return home. Almost every campground has a picnic table.

    8. Carry some (2 quarts) of water so you don't get dehydrated. You'll be lifeless for a couple days if you get dehydrated. Drink lots of fluids...particularly during the summer and at higher altitudes. Don't ask me how I know this!

    There you have it. Hit the road and enjoy the world.
  19. SkiFly01

    SkiFly01 Govna Racepipe

    Nov 18, 2009
    Gainesville, FL
    I have the REI half dome 2 and its a great tent, i carried it on the top of the side case. The cot idea i totally get but they are bulky to carry, I have a thermorest I used on my last camping trip but just got back from a recent trip where I used the big agnes sleeping pad, I am sold on it, I will get one for my next camping trip, plus the idea of being able to insert it inside the big agnes sleeping bag is a big plus. One additional thing I would recommend is the Alite Monarch chair, I carry this thing every day in the side case.

    Tent setup

    Alite chair
  20. rboett

    rboett posser noob 205

    Nov 5, 2002
    wow. reading about camping gear is so much more fun than working.

    Here is a ref:

    pictures worth a thousand words:

    My set up: some of it is kind of pricey, but I pieced it together watching for closeout sales and using rei member discounts

    MSR Mutha Hubba tent and foot print (yeah its for three, ,,,elves maybe) bomb proof, clips not sleeves, you can set up the fly first in case of rain

    Big agnes summit park warm bag, just has a sleeve on the bottom for a mat, so you save space, compresses down to an 8" ball

    Cocoon coolmax liner,, a giant moisture wick for your body, plus can use when warm and keep the bag open.

    exped 9 dlx downmat (fits in Big agnes sleeve so you don't roll off)

    Kelty large sunshade , nice to have a roof over your head outsie sometimes

    old optimus stove (mine is 40 years old though)

    hope this helps