Motorcycle Camping Mistakes - and How to Avoid Them
So you’re finally going to do it—cut the cord, get off the beaten path, let ‘er rip and do some real motorcycle camping! Good for you!
But, there are those nagging doubts. You try to rationalize by saying, “Aw go on—it’s just a camping trip—what could go wrong?” Of course, the answer is “plenty” but you knew that. So, what’s the best strategy to try to avoid those trip-busting mistakes?
Here is our list of the top 10 motorcycle camping mistakes and tips on how to avoid them.
- What’s on your list?
Perhaps the biggest mistake you can make is failing to plan ahead. Don’t hesitate to make a list of things that come to mind as you consider the trip. It’s helpful to use in organizing things that need to be done before you leave, things to take and can even be useful in deciding what not to take. As you go through your list, you may realize that some things can serve dual purposes, which can eliminate the need to take something else.
- Don’t leave without filing your flight plan.
Filing a flight plan is a must for most pilots, and it’s not a bad idea for motorcycle campers, either. Heading for the back country is exciting stuff, but whether you’re going with friends, a buddy or going it alone, making sure somebody back home has an idea of where you’re headed is just practical planning. Particularly for a solo trip, having somebody back home who knows about where you plan to travel and when you should return can literally be a life saver if something goes seriously wrong.
You can’t count on even the best cell phone and network coverage to work in a lot of back country. More than once, a rescue has been launched by someone on the homefront realizing a trip is taking longer than planned.
- Maps aren’t just for fuel systems anymore.
It’s a mistake to ignore good ol’ paper maps. Good maps, especially some topographical maps of the area you plan to cover can not only prevent you getting lost, they can enhance the enjoyment of the trip by helping to locate points of interest, natural features worth seeing such as waterfalls and by helping to avoid obstacles such as swamps. GPS systems are great, but like and device, they can fail or get damaged, so at times like that, low-tech countermeasures are handy. A number of companies produce printed map books by state and region and others may be available for download from the internet. Indeed, leaving a hard copy of a map showing your anticipated route at home is a great way to handle item #2 above.
- Dead batteries are a downer.
Don’t forget to charge every battery-powered device you plan to take. Having fully charged back-up batteries is a good idea and double-check that battery in the bike. If it’s a flooded cell battery, make sure the electrolyte is up to the right level and if it’s a battery with a number of years of service on it, consider installing a new one before the trip.
- The provisions proviso.
If your camping adventure doesn’t include fast food for most meals or restaurant dining, but instead campfire cooking, Sterno stove or propane stove cooking, be sure to pack foods that are easy to prepare that way. The right cookware and utensils are key as well as taking along a little seasoning to make the cuisine just right—even out on the trail. Prepackaged camp foods can be great ways to make both planning and packing easier. Hauling foods that don’t keep, aren’t sealed or can’t be resealed is a mistake.
- Hope for the best, plan for the worst.
It’s a mistake to assume nothing bad can happen when you exit the fast lane for the woods. Even the most cautious rider/camper can get hurt out on the trail. Heading into rugged country without a first aid kit and some basic knowledge of how to use it is a real mistake. The American Red Cross (www.redcross.org ) offers classes in first aid and CPR through a variety of organizations and individuals across the country.
- Keep it wet; your whistle, that is.
Staying hydrated is crucial and becomes a key issue when your body is getting a workout, particularly in hot weather, maybe accompanied by the use of adventure riding gear. If drinking water sources are a question mark, you have to plan to pack a sufficient supply to get you between water holes. Packing a survival straw (such as a Life Straw (www.lifestraw.com ) for example is a good idea, but being able to carry enough to get by if there is no surface water and for any cooking (just add water type prepacked meals for example) is essential, too.
- Missing gear (not as in missing a shift).
There’s an old saying, “Better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it.” Deciding what to take along can be tricky, especially in the details when you’re just starting out as a motorcycle camper. And the flip side of that expression is “you only have so much room to pack gear in.” Experience is a great but tough teacher.
Some of the key indicators of what to take along is where you plan to camp; along with that is time of year, prevailing weather conditions, types of terrain and so on. The further off the beaten path you plan to venture, the more diligently you’ll have to plan.
For example, if your trip is in the desert southwest in August, heat and hydration are factors in what kind of gear you may need. Yet, the desert and high country can be pretty cold at night. Camping in the north woods? Forget a little detail like insect repellent and you’ll regret it!
Unlike backpacking, there is a piece of gear that has gear demands of its own—your motorcycle. Key maintenance and repair items and the tools necessary to use them must also be given due consideration; tire puncture repair kit and inflator, spare spark plugs, master link kit (if applicable), and so on as well as do-it-all tools like locking pliers, a few heavy duty cable ties, electrical tape, survival tape and any odds and ends you have found to be useful for the needs unique to your bike.
- Multi-tools can come in handy.
Multi-tools come in all shapes and sizes from tiny pocket-sized jobs to hefty items that come with their own ballistic nylon belt case. Over the years, I’ve found good cause to use both types; for camping, the larger ones, some of which include a functional saw blade, can really earn their keep. Good stainless steel models can stand up to years of hard use and bad weather, but tend to cost a little more.
- Off site.
Getting off the highway and into the backcountry for overnight means finding a good campsite. Getting into one that is too low will quickly be revealed as a mistake if a downpour moves in overnight. Setting up camp on boggy ground can present moisture problems even if it doesn’t rain. Pitching a tent in an area prone to rock falls or flooding can prove to be a serious mistake.
There are a great many other items that could be on this list that you could add—do so by all means! Plan ahead, pack wisely, take your time and have a great motorcycle camping adventure!