March 29 2011 by Jason Fogelson
My cousin Adam and his wife have a favorite vacation. They load up Adam's Harley-Davidson Road King, and go motorcycle camping. Last year, they went for a two-week tour of Nova Scotia, pitching a tent and cooking on a campfire all the way.
We have chatted about the possibility of taking a trip together, so I've been thinking about how I would approach motorcycle camping. I don't think that my wife and I would enjoy living out of a tent for two weeks, but we very well might enjoy it for a few nights. Wherever we chose to travel, I would make sure that we could break up our tour with stays at BEST WESTERN Hotels along the way. I'd check out the amenities at each hotel, and make sure that I found ones with guest laundry facilities available. That way, we could carry fewer clothes, but still be clean and fresh despite some camping. I'd also pepper in some BEST WESTERN PLUS and BEST WESTERN PREMIER properties on the route, to mix a touch of luxury in with the ruggedness.
Camping is one of those gear-intensive activities, and motorcycle camping demands compact, lightweight gear. Usually, gear that's intended for backpackers will work well for motorcyclists. When shopping for a tent, consider getting one that is large enough to sleep two plus your motorcycle. Bringing your bike inside the tent at night will keep it safe, warm and dry.
When you think about loading up for travel, remember that you'll want to keep heavier items as low as possible on the bike. If your bike is equipped with saddlebags, make them your primary storage, and keep your load balanced from side to side. If you must use a top box or tailbag, don't overload it. Too much weight carried too high above the bike's center of gravity will affect handling and stability.
There are several specialty retailers who carry motorcycle camping gear. Aerostich makes some great bags, and carries tents and gear designed for motorcyclists. Whitehorse Gear carries some great camping equipment, and publishes a book about motorcycle camping, Motorcycle Camping Made Easy by Bob Woofter, which is currently in its second edition.
If you simply can't get your gear safely packed onto your bike, you might want to consider towing a trailer to haul your camping stuff. Some companies like Roadman Campers even make pop-up motorcycle tent camping trailers. Imagine pulling in to a campground, parking your motorcycle and popping up a tent on your trailer in just minutes. You'd blow peoples' minds. Roadman Campers start at $2,600 for a trailer, $3,500 for a tent trailer. They weigh about 225 lbs unloaded, and require a 650 cc or larger motorcycle to tow. Any new Harley-Davidson motorcycle could tow a trailer, even a Sportster.
Motorcycle camping is sure fun to think about and research, but I keep remembering how nice it is to arrive at a hotel after a long hot day's ride. I just dump my gear in my air-conditioned room, change into my bathing suit and go for a soak in the pool or hot tub. I check my email via the wi-fi, watch a little Sports Center on the television and take a quick nap. When it comes time to eat, I hit a restaurant, not the picnic table. When I'm tired, I collapse on a nice soft bed, not the cold hard ground. In the morning, there's a free breakfast in the lobby, not a pan of scorched instant coffee on the camp stove.
I think I'll stick to the BEST WESTERN after all, and keep up with my cousin's adventures on Facebook.