Canvas opinion: Best motorcycle camping kit

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If you’re heading off on a long, multi-day trip or tour, then you’ll need to stay in different places overnight, and motorcycle camping kit can be a great way to do it.

While many people in this situation will favour hotels, warm and dry, with the potential for anything from home-cooked to gourmet dining and the need to carry only your clothes with you in your bike luggage.

The best motorcycle camping kit at a glance:

Others, however, may prefer the excitement of camping. It’s cheaper, and many like the freedom it offers; pitch where you like, when you like, eat what you like and know exactly what you’re getting when you get there. Motorcycle camping kit needs to be compact and light enough to carry on your bike but also able to stand up to the elements.

Useful motorcycle camping kit:

Best value tent

A decent tent is perhaps the most important bit of kit, as it will be your main shelter from the elements. While many hard-core motorcycle campers like tents that sleep one person and are little larger than a sleeping bag, we would favour something with some space to allow you to get out of, and store, wet gear and relax for an evening.

So we'd go for something like this two-person dome tent (for stability) from Coleman – a brand with huge heritage in camping. There's a compact version with no porch area (1.4kg lighter), but we like the space to store and dry kit.

Pros

  • Plenty of room for you and your kit
  • Porch area to keep wet kit separate

Cons

  • Not the smallest when packed
Sleeping area: 2.9m2
Packed size: 57cm x 16cm x 15cm
Weight: 4.2kg

Best lightweight 3-season tent

If, however, small and light really is what you want, this is your best option. It's a one-person tent from the Terra Nova sub-brand Wild Country. That's good because the Wild Country label means value and performance.

Our colleagues at Live For The Outdoors tested the two-person version of the Zephyros in Scotland and found it to be very good indeed and a true three-season tent, standing up to the elements, easy pitching, and being easy to pack away if not a little snug.

Pros

  • Small and compact
  • lightweight

Cons

  • No room for changing or storing/drying kit
Size: 220cm x 96cm x 92cm
Packed size: 30cm x 18cm
Weight: 1.57kg

Best touring sleeping bag

After the tent, your sleeping bag is probably the most important piece of kit. It will need to keep you warm and comfortable during the night so you are rested the next morning. The Treeline TII ticks all the relevant boxes: its responsibly sourced RDS certified down insulation keeps the sleeping bag light (roughly 1kg) and compressible but warm (comfort rating of 2 °C).

The down is also hydrophobic to protect itself and you from any dampness. There's nice touches, too, such as a storage pocket for valuables. If you do wish for a synthetic sleeping bag that does not use animal products or is cheaper, consider the Marmot Nanowave 25.

Pros

  • Lightweight
  • Warm
  • Storage pocket

Cons

  • Might be too much in summer
Size: (Interior) 183cm (regular) or 192cm (large)
Packed size: 20cm x 32cm (regular) or 21cm x 34cm (large)
Weight: 0.97kg (regular) or 1.12kg (large)

Best self-inflating sleeping mat

The emerging pattern we hope is becoming clear is that, like most things, outdoor gear and equipment is best done properly. This sleeping mat is a case in point. Berghaus is responsible for producing the nation's best-selling walking boot and this excellent sleeping mat (among other things, of course). This self-inflating mat has proved first-hand to be excellent both in comfort and build quality.

The self-inflating nature of the mat is a nice touch, and you can get a 120cm-length version to save a little space, but we suggest sticking to the full length. When inflated, it's 3cm thick, and it also comes with a repair kit and storage bag (including straps).

Pros

  • Self-inflating
  • Repair kit included

Cons

  • Quite big when packed, but 120cm version available
Size: 183cm x 51cm x 3cm
Packed size: 27cm x 14cm
Weight: 0.65kg

Best for organisation

These inner bags will keep your luggage organised, so it's easier to get to what you need in a hurry, and you get an added layer of waterproofing if the outer luggage leaks, too.

Tested by Simon Weir for four years, 60,000 miles. Quality 4/5, Value 3/5: "These three bags are an invaluable part of my packing process. Clothes go in the largest red one – it'll hold four days' T-shirts and underwear comfortably. I put shoes in the medium green one, though it could hold another three days' clothes. I use the small one as my bag of power: adaptors, chargers, leads, extra power banks and headphones live in it – but it's big enough to take much more.

Packing kit in these keeps it all organised and dry, even if the outer luggage leaks. I've used them enough that the branding has worn off, and they're looking a bit battered, but they still work as well as ever. My only gripe is that you can only buy them in sets like this, not individually or in packs of the same size: I'd like a couple more of the most-useful red ones."

Pros

  • Great for organisation
  • Keeps your stuff dry

Cons

  • Only come in packs of mixed sizes

Best lightweight cooking kit

A stove is an essential kit for cooking up hot meals and brewing tea when you're out on the field, but, like all your camping gear, careful consideration must be given to its size and weight.

Trangia makes some of the best hiking and trekking cooking gear around. Part of its 27 Series, this set is amazing. In total, it weighs under 1kg, but you get a pair of one-litre pots and an 18cm frying pan (all non-stick aluminium), a 0.6-litre kettle, and a burner. The burner is not gas, it's a spirit burner - aptly named, it uses spirits such as methylated spirits for fuel. It's simpler and more robust than a gas burner.

In addition, are windshields and a simmering ring for the burner. It's hard to appreciate this kit without using it. It's ideal for lightweight bike trips.

Pros

  • Hot meals or drinks on the move
  • Lightweight
  • Simple and robust

Cons

  • Takes up quite a lot of room in your luggage
Weight: 980g

Best lightweight chair

After a day in the saddle, you might want something a bit more comfortable than the ground to sit on while you enjoy your sumptuous meal and a cold beer. While a folding stool will be light and small, they can also be uncomfortable, but this folding chair from Helinox is comfy but packs up small enough to make it worth considering. It comes in its own storage bag and takes moments to set up. Granted, it's not cheap, and there are cheaper lookalikes around, but they come with the predictable drawback of not being anywhere near as durable.

Pros

  • Lightweight
  • Compact

Cons

  • Takes up more room than a stool
Max user weight: 145kg
Packed size: 35cm x 12cm x 10cm
Weight: 0.96kg

Best water containers

This pair of collapsible water containers is Amazon's Choice, and it's not hard to see why. You will always need water when you're camping, and these fold up flat when not in use but expand to hold five litres and ten litres, respectively.

If you're on a campsite, all good, but if you're wild camping and getting water from a stream, then add a packet of water-purification tablets to be safe. A great solution to storing water.

Pros

  • Pack down completely flat
  • Very lightweight

Cons

  • Will need replacing more often than a sturdier option
Size: 5l & 10l

Best towel

We all know how good microfibre is at drying things - I use these cloths to dry my bikes all the time. So it's no surprise that they also make really good camping towels. This one will absorb as much water as a bath towel at home yet dries far more quickly and packs up tiny. Whether after a shower at the end of the day or drying you and your gear following a wet ride, this is essential.

Pros

  • Packs up small
  • Absorbs as much water as a normal towel

Cons

  • Needs space and time to dry
Size: 120cm x 60cm
Packed size: 22cm x 14cm x 15cm
Weight: 0.14kg (dry)

Best lantern

You'll always need light when you're away, and this operates as a lantern when the telescopic sections are extended or a torch when they are not. Powered by a built-in rechargeable (via USB) battery or a hand crank, it should be all the light you're likely to need - though a headtorch is always useful too.

Pros

  • Packs away small
  • Rechargeable

Cons

  • There are brighter lights out there
Packed size: 10cm x 10cm x 10cm
Weight: 0.22kg

Best power bank

Rrp: $39.95

Price: $29.89

There are mountains of power banks on offer, all broadly the same. So why choose this one? It's just as good as any power bank, but we recommend this one alone because it gets bonus points for being made by a company with a fantastic ethos.

In regards to ability, the Flip 36 stacks up well, being good for the equivalent of three smartphone recharges before requiring to be recharged itself. If you're going off-grid for a while, consider one of Goal Zero's solar chargers.

Pros

  • Three smartphone charges worth of storage
  • Simple to use

Cons

  • No solar panel
Size: 9.4cm x 6.1cm x 2.1cm
Weight: 0.193kg

Things to keep in mind

Of course, there are downsides to camping, however good your motorcycle camping kit is. The weather is a huge one, which is why your choice of tent is crucial. It will be, after all, your only shelter, and so you need to make sure you can pitch it quickly in case it’s chucking down when you arrive at your campsite, but also, it has enough room for you, your kit and your – now-wet – riding gear.

You can, of course, get huge tents, but these are not very transportable on a motorcycle, and so we arrive at the key point with motorcycle camping kit – the compromise between size in use and packed size for carrying on the bike and weight. The same goes for stoves and cooking gear, sleeping bags and sleep mats.

The key is to plan ahead. Sure, you can’t always plan for the weather, but you can get an idea of likely conditions on your trip. If you’re heading to the south of France in August, you probably won’t be needing a full four-season sleeping bag. Conversely, a trip to Nordkapp in late autumn means plenty of layers and a good sleeping bag.

You may be sleeping next to your bike, but it’s still worth using a portable motorcycle lock to make sure it’s still there when you wake up.

About the author: After qualifying as a mechanical engineer, Jim Blackstock began working on magazines in the early 1990s. He remains passionate about product testing to ensure readers know what products offer good value and why. He relishes torrential rain to see if riding kit keeps water out and an hour or two to tinker on a project bike in his workshop.

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