Weather or Not: Be Prepared When Weather is the Wildcard in Your Moto Camping Trip
Last week of September while roaming the upper Midwest of America: the average daytime high temperatures tend to run in the low seventies on a sunny day. But this year on a late September day, the overnight low exceeded that and daytime highs soared into the low to mid-nineties.
Lesson: the weather is a wildcard in any motorcycle camping plan.
That could make packing for a camping trip, particularly the longer ones, a real challenge. These days, weather extremes seem to be diverging from long-term averages more than ever, so gearing up to meet the range of weather conditions and keeping in touch with weather forecasts is essential.
Fortunately, modern riding and camping gear has really stepped up in terms of versatility and durability compared to what was available not so many years ago.
Let’s discuss motorcycle camping from a weather-preparation perspective.
- Layering for the Unexpected
For personal wear, the old adage of dressing in layers is still good advice. For both riding gear to get there and togs for around the campfire and hiking, the multilayer approach allows quick, easy adjustment from multiple layers for cold overnights and mornings to one or two layers as temperatures rise during the day.
While selecting the outer layers, it’s important to consider the bulk of the inner layers. Size the outer layer items a little larger than you might if they were to be the only layer. Ironically, the outer layers can actually defeat their own insulating value, and those of the inner layers, if they are too tight and compress the dead air space inside that actually provides the warmth.
Great base-layer options are available, but for many environs, a good ol’ cotton T-shirt is still a great place to begin. Over that, there are a range of thin, flexible material long-sleeved base layer garments that add amazing warmth without adding bulk. A balaclava that fits inside your helmet and hat can make a real difference when the winds turn cold—and even does a good job for rejecting annoying bugs like mosquitos. Don’t forget to have both thin and thick insulated gloves. Riding gloves, particularly those with armored knuckles may not be very good all-purpose camp gloves.
- Motorcycle Weather Prep: Motorcycle Jacket Talk
Modern riding gear is not just durable, but versatile in terms of interior climate control options. High-strength mesh riding motorcycle jackets with removable inner liners provide great air-cooling during the hotter rides, with easy conversion to a warm jacket when temperatures descend. The same can be true of non-mesh textile and leather riding jackets and pants equipped with closable vents and/or removable liners.
A design drawback to be aware of when picking out the motorcycle jacket is the lack of an interior or exterior storm flap over the main zipper. This seemingly minor detail can lead to cold air rushing into the entire front of the jacket, especially at speed, as well as potential for water penetration. Knit cuffs on the sleeves or adjustable closure sleeves are also great features to help seal out the cold and damp.
- Motorcycle Weather Prep: Motorcycle Boot Talk and Personal Wear
Good motorcycle boots that are waterproof and comfy—for both riding and all-day hiking—are crucial. Packing a pair of light tenners or cross-trainers can also be handy for around the camp or down the trail afoot. And socks—well, bring plenty of comfy socks. If you are a person with diabetes, protecting your feet and keeping them dry is crucial. Take a hat or two, as well; important for sun, wind and rain protection. Packing the dry goods in a high quality dry bag helps seal out the weather come what may.
- Motorcycle Weather Prep: Protection from Nature
Once the personal motorcycle wear items are sorted, consider the weather protection for the campsite, as well. A good tent well-placed on a carefully selected site is the essential start point. Extra ground cover under the tent can improve comfort and extend the life of the tent floor. A good ground cover pad or inflatable mattress can really add warmth and comfort in nearly any setting. An extra lightweight tarp or two can come in handy for extra rain and sun protection. Anchoring tent, tarps and awnings very well against the wind is crucial.
Use natural landforms to help counter weather changes; for example, use foliage or geography to provide a windbreak, shade campsite drainage. Check out trees and treetops adjacent to your site to avoid being endangered by dead trees or tops being felled on your site by the wind.
- Motorcycle Weather Prep: Duh...Follow those Forecasts!
Stay in touch with weather forecasts—these days, it’s easier than ever. When the forecast is for extreme weather, be it high heat, cold or violent storms, it may be well to head to more substantial shelter than a tent can provide.
- Duh 2.0: Sleeping bag?
Selection of a good sleeping bag can involve the layer philosophy, as well. A relatively lightweight bag used with a liner can handle colder temperatures, yet be able to be comfy without the liner when the night is warm.
- Duh 3.0: Check that gear!
Check all your gear before setting out. Make sure all the necessary parts and pieces are there—stakes, poles, and cords; check zippers and closures to make sure they work; bring extra tie-downs and cord; and if you’ve never set up your tent before do a practice run-through before heading out. Check it out for any problems and maybe even overnight at home using all the gear, ground-cover, bag, the works. Best to find out the theoretical camp set-up has drawbacks and fix them before you are miles from home with storm clouds moving in.
Then, take it all down, repack it and load it on the motorcycle to make sure it will fit after being used; it is a mystery of science how items seem to expand in volume once unpacked and used once never to achieve their original size and shape again.
The weather is indeed a wildcard that can make any outing an unexpected challenge, but it you prepare wisely, it can be a part of the adventure.