When you decide to go motocamping, the first thing most people start thinking about is a shelter system. I call it shelter because there are options other than a tent. But, only you can decide what's best for your adventure.
It's pretty easy to throw a tent in the trunk of your car, but if you're even more adventurous like us at RideApart, the rear seat (if you have one) on your motorcycle is pretty scarce, limiting your camping options. Here are some things to consider before heading out on your next motorcycle camping adventure, Spring is coming.
Packable Size and Weight
If you are riding your motorcycle off road, size and weight make a huge difference in handling. Space is limited on a motorcycle, especially if you are riding a smaller bike like a Yamaha WR250R or a Suzuki DRZ400. Unfortunately, price is an important factor to packing small and light, and it's a wise move to spend as much as you can afford to keep your shelter limited.
Not all shelter systems need poles, but if you choose a system that needs it, try to pick one that is as simple as possible. Gimmicks will cost more and leave you with a less reliable system, and if something happens (say you break a cheaply made pole), you will have to figure out a way to make it work. Good quality shelters will include light aluminum poles and will also include a splint to help repair a pole if you break one.
Ease of use
After riding all day and it begins to get dark (or if it begins to rain), you will be glad you chose a system that is quick and easy to setup. If you choose to go for a tent, pick a self-standing one, which will allow you to pitch it and then easily move it to an ideal location. Any tent that require guy lines for it to stand up will be more difficult to pitch.
Based on the trip they have planned, many experienced motocampers have multiple shelters they can choose from. Some riders prefer to go ultralight and use a hammock or a bivy. Other riders go the opposite way and opt for maximum room with something like a Redverz specialty tent, which is large enough to park your bike inside. Most riders choose a shelter that has a two-person capacity so they can have extra room for gear.
There are several options when it comes to sheltering your gear from the elements. Some hammocks come with ways to hang gear underneath. As previously mentioned, you can pick a tent that has extra room, or there are some tents that offer vestibules that make great gear shelters. Other riders may opt for something as simple as a tarp for gear protection. Either way, it's a wise choice to have some kind of gear shelter—the last thing you want in the morning is soggy boots or snow filled riding pants.
Camping Locations and Conditions
Where you camp has a lot to do with the shelter you choose. If you are camping in the desert, a hammock is a poor choice since there are no trees. On the other hand, if you will be in a forest-type environment with uneven ground, a hammock may be the best choice available. If you are camping in the snow, a four season tent is the best option because it will keep you warmer and withstand the weight of snow. If you're going to be in a very wet and rainy situation, it would be wise to pick a tent that can be pitched with the rain fly on first so you can keep your sleeping area dry.
Ventilation and Rain Fly
Picking a shelter system with great ventilation prevents condensation from building up on the inside of the tent. The colder it gets, the more condensation will build up. Rain fly setups are a good place to spend your money because obtaining a sturdy one will give you thorough coverage—and it will protect you and your belongings if it gets wet. In a single-wall tent, a rain fly can get wet and start to sag into the inner tent, and I=if that happens, a leak could occur. A high quality rain fly and tent design will have very little sag when it gets wet. It will also have an adequate amount of air space between the fly and inner tent.
This may seem trivial, but the color of your tent can make it more comfortable. If you have a light colored tent you will be able to see better when the sun comes up. Your headlamp will spot it better at night and this will help to find it easier if you stray from camp. In fact, the only downside I can think of with a light colored tent is for reasons of stealth. If you are camping in a place where you don't have permission to be there, a color that blends with the surroundings can help you remain unseen.
No matter what, make sure to tape the seams before you go camping. Any high quality shelter will come equipped with taped seams, but if you opt to purchase a cheap shelter, make sure you tape them yourself because shelters will leak without taping them.
Breakdown By Styles
All shelters are not created equal. When most people think of shelters, they immediately think of tents. But there are a few different options that will enable riders to sleep better when they're out in the wilderness.
- Small and lightweight
- Quick and easy to setup and take down
- Easy to find a camp spot when there isn't much open space
- Can feel restricting if you get stuck for a long period of time
- Not much room to shelter gear from the weather
- Condensation can be a problem since there isn't much air space inside
- Hard to change clothes or prepare meals inside the bivy
- Thicker clothing and heavier sleeping bags (required in cold weather conditions) can be tough to fit in a bivy
- Use a ground cloth to help protect your bivy from the wet ground and thorns
- Pitch a tarp or poncho over the entrance of your bivy to help keep water from seeping in.
Example: Black Diamond Spotlight Bivy
- Come in a variety of shapes, sizes, prices, and features
- The most versatile of shelter types
- Warm and comfortable
- Enough room to protect your gear, especially with a vestibule option
- Needs poles and stakes, which can potentially break/fail
- Some styles can be complex to pitch and may not be freestanding
- Choose a tent with a footprint available, which will extend the life and add extra water protection
- Purchase the smallest, lightest tent you can afford that suits your needs
- Choose a freestanding model
- Look for features like vestibules for extra gear protection
- If you will be sharing a tent with another person consider a model with two entrances
Example: MSR Hubba Hubba NX
- Very small and lightweight
- One of the most comfortable for sleeping on uneven ground
- Quick and easy to hang and pack up
- Can only be used where there are trees
- Can be cold in the winter since you have cold air coming in underneath
- Make sure you have a good hanging system
- Choose an option with a gear hanger underneath and a tarp above you
- Be sure to get an insulated sleep pad to help stay warm in the winter
Example: ENO OneLink Hammock Shelter System
This category is for the garage style tents like the Redverz.
- Tons of room to protect all of your stuff
- Spacious enough to stretch out in if weather is bad
- One of the largest and heaviest tents
- Difficult to pitch and pack up
- Not freestanding
- Harder to find a suitable place to pitch since you need a larger area
- Since guy lines are required, make sure you have some good stakes that work well for the terrain you will be camping on
- Carry extra paracord to repair any guy lines
- Share the tent with somebody: If you spread the load it will reduce the burden of the extra size and weight
Example: Redverz Expedition II
Where to Buy
There are many options for where to pick up the equipment, but one place a lot of the staff prefers is Aerostitch. They manufacturer their own riding gear and sell various brand boots, tents, sleeping bags, etc.
This article was written by Adam Owens.