Light weight, spacious and durable are the three features that I consider when purchasing camping equipment. Over the years I have carefully upgraded and experimented with a lot of equipment. This is my current setup and a setup that I would recommend to anyone with similar requirements.
Tent – Nordisk Oppland 2 LW
This high-end Norwegian tent is the tent that I decided was right for my “It’s not a race to the end” trip. Coming from a hiking background I already had a Terra Nova Starlite 2, a lightweight hiking tent coming in at around 1.3kg. I knew that I wanted a tent of the same quality as it had stood up to years of harsh weather, extreme sun and high winds. I also wanted to travel as light as possible, countless “motorcycling tents” are way too heavy in my opinion. I began looking at larger options than my hiking tent, which have a good sized porch for cooking and storing wet motorcycle gear. I narrowed it down to the following: Terra Nova Starlite 3 , Hilleberg Anjan 2 GT and the Nordisk Oppland 2 LW. In the end I chose the Nordisk for it’s weight, porch size and height. I am pleased with my decision as it has proved to be a great tent for motorcycle trips. I can sit in my chair inside with my camping table next to me and cook my food. The ventilation and design are very good but ultimately, the pack size of the tent is simply amazing.
Sleeping Mat – Sea To Summit Comfort Plus Insulated
For a few years I had been using a self inflating foam mattress from Thermarest. To sum that mattress up, it was “okay”. As I was preparing for my extended overland travel trip across Europe and beyond I knew that I wanted to upgrade my sleeping setup to something more comfortable. A good nights sleep is invaluable when on multiple night trips. Usually our bodies can function with one or two poor nights sleep but after a few days, our bodies can really start to fatigue. I chose this Sea to Summit comfort plus insulated mat for a number of reasons.
Firstly, it is a recognised brand known for their quality, durability, comfort and lifetime guarantee. Secondly, the design of this mat makes it great for side sleepers like myself. It is also dual sided, this means you use the pump sack (incredibly easy to inflate) and inflate both sides, meaning that should the worst happen and one side be punctured, you can get by with just the one side. Dual sides also gives you the option of getting creative with the amount of pressure in each side, giving you a really personalised setup. I tested this mat for the first time on a 4 night trip. My 60+ year old father also had this mattress and we both found it amazingly comfy, even when the temperatures dropped. It was like sleeping on a cloud, therefore, I would recommend this mat to anyone. If you would like to check it out view this sleeping mat here.
Luggage, Panniers and Storage
Perhaps the first logistical question to come to any new motorcycle camper, where do I put all this stuff?! Since my initial motorcycle camping tours in my first few years of motorcycling I have gone through many variations and upgrades to my luggage system.
For my first touring adventure I used a pair of classic Oxford panniers. These straddle over the back of the seat and hang fairly high up over the sides of the bike. You can pick these panniers up on Facebook Marketplace fairly easily and inexpensively. I found that the panniers were shaped in a horizontal orientation which seemed to restrict the carrying capacity. There were also too many straps required. Straps take time, they are fiddly and required careful setup and re-adjustment. I’m a firm believer that successful and enjoyable touring comes from an efficient setup, the straps and Oxford Panniers had to go.
Altura Dryline Panniers
After the Oxford Panniers, I upgraded to Altura Dryline Panniers. These 56 litre (per pair) panniers are actually made for bicycles, featuring a quick release system that attaches securely to a thin strut on my rack system. I am a fan of using bicycle luggage, yes it may not be as good in terms of durability, but they are usually decent enough, and inexpensive to replace. These panniers are waterproof and have a good carrying capacity with an attractive depth to them. Some models have a small internal pocket alongside the main compartment which is a nice feature. Alongside the smaller pocket is a hidden Velcro compartment at the back of the pannier, I use this for storing flat items such as maps, spare cables and gaskets.
Gorilla Vinyl Record DIY Top Box
You may have noticed by now that most of my bike luggage and storage is on the inexpensive side. I wanted a lockable and sturdy top box for my bike with the vision of crafting some dividing partitions inside to organise my equipment and items better. This box is perfect for a DIY project. It’s waterproof, lockable and inexpensive so I don’t mind drilling holes in it to add extra brackets.
BTR Top Box Bag / Pannier Top Bag
Inspired by the pannier top bags that traditionally sit on the lids of hard luggage. Originally, when I used to run my Oxford Tail Pack, I carried my gloves and “warm gear kit”, hat, waterproof socks, buff etc in a rear pocket on the tail pack. However, now that I am using my DIY hard-luggage top box I lost that storage space and it no longer make sense to keep this warm gear kit in my top-box. So I decided to add this bicycle rear rack bag on top of the top box. I created my own brackets attached to the lid of the box and secured this bag to them. It’s a simple, quick to access setup for storing things you may need in a hurry.
Small/Medium Tank Bag
The addition of a small tank bag came about when I wanted to carry my camera on my bike with me. It would need to be easily accessible, even without getting off the bike, and somewhere where I could keep an eye on it. That’s where the tank bag came in to it’s own. After a couple of purchases, I finally found a bag that was big enough for my camera, yet small enough for the small XT225, where the tank is angled from the seat like most dual sport bikes.
Fuel, Oil and Water
The three critical liquids for any motorcycle trip. Continue reading below to see how I came up with the best arrangement for my bike in order to store these liquids. As usual, I wanted to keep these items in their own dedicated space where they would not interfere with other items.
23l Acerbis Fuel Tank
The standard XT225 holds 8.8 litres of fuel, enough for around 140/150 miles. For longer trips it is nice not to have to fill up every single day, or even multiple times per day. The large tank also allows the more adventurous to explore further off the beaten path where fuel is not guaranteed. Although it is possible to store fuel on the bike in different ways, such as auxiliary fuel bottles, I find it much simpler to just have the single tank, fill it up, then fill it up again when it runs out.
My XT225 has been known to use a bit of oil here and there over the many tours that It has undertaken. Although the root causes of these oil losses have been dealt with, I still carry 1 litre of oil with me when I am touring. The XT225 only requires 1 litre of oil for a change, (plus a little more if doing the filter), so I carry enough to do this change at a regular interval with the hope that it will serve my 30 year old bike well for many more miles to come. Initially, I used to carry my oil in my panniers. Inevitably, the bottle became oily and dirty. I like things to have their own space on my bike, I did not want to have to encounter my oil bottle before reaching my toothbrush bag for example. So I had my Dad weld a bracket to attach these water bottle carriers to my pannier frames. This allows me to carry my bottles on the outside of the bike.
Using the same bottle carrier as above, just on the other pannier frame, I carry my water bottle. These bottles are of 1 litre capacity and made of metal so they are suitable for long term use. I am actually in the process of turning this bottle into a water dispenser, as on my quest for ultimate optimisation, I grew tired of having to unbuckle, unscrew and then reattach my bottle to the carrier. To do this I drilled a hole in the bottom and attached a piece of pipe, molded it a little with some heat to create a better seal and attached a small valve to the end of the pipe. This allows me to fill up my cup like you would as from a tap, meaning that I only have to go through the hassle of securing the bottle when I fill it up at the start of the day.
Garmin Zumo 396LM – Full Europe Mapping
Unfortunately my old Zumo (550?) was too old and no longer worked reliably. I think the rubber buttons had deteriorated and let water in perhaps. I needed a reliable Sat Nav to navigate in (or out) of cities and to get to specific locations. Usually I ride following a paper map when out in the countryside. I purchased this Zumo over it’s competitors as I wanted the software to be as close as possible to what I was used to on my old model. That way the learning curve would be less. So far it has not disappointed.
Sat Nav Sunshade
Such a simple item but can be so useful. I bought this for my older model Zumo as the screen was not that bright and could be hard to read in sunny conditions. My newer model has a much brighter screen yet I still take this nifty sunshade with me.
The standard head light on the XT225 which I do most of my touring on, is not particularly strong. Once I was riding along a narrow country lane on my way home from a late summer ride under the tree canopy, I honestly could not see where I was going! It was definitely time to get some simple spotlights to show me the way!
Nothing fancy here. A pair of inexpensive spotlights. Hook them up to a handlebar mounted switch and they are good to go. Mine are wired through a fuse box which is connected to the ignition. However I have previously run these straight to the battery with no issues.
Naturally, motorcycle touring often involves a good few hours on the bike, it's important to be comfortable! My bike is a trail bike, lot's of wobble, a narrow seat and a general lack of comfort. See below for the modifications I've made to try and help my body along a bit.
Rejuvenated Seat By Tony Archer
Tony Archer is one of the top upholsterers specifying in motorcycle seats. He has a number of distinguished bikes and his work is highly regarded. Based in the north of England he was quite local to me. I had him evaluate my Serow seat, replace and bulk up the foam in my standard seat. He then recovers the seat. Time will tell how much difference he has made but it surely cannot be worse than the standard, 30 year old foam!
Oxford Heated Grips
Having cold hands is no fun as I’m sure you are all aware. If you haven’t invested in a pair of heated grips then what are you waiting for?! I use the Oxford grips, tried and tested by tens of thousands of bikers. These feature a smart controller which is easy to use and provides multiple levels of heat. Having only a small alternator on my XT225 I use my heated grips conservatively but having toasty hands makes every cooler trip awesome.
Handguards and Extensions
A pair of hand-guards is a common sight on a lot of dual sport bikes, an easy aftermarket add-on that helps protects the levers and your hands better. The pair of handguards I use on all my bikes are inexpensive and feature a spoiler/extension. This helps keeps the worst of the weather off of your hands and does seem to keep a lot of the wind out of the sleeves of your jacket.
Tents, Tarps and Bivvy Bags
Camping is an great addition to motorcycle travel, it allows you to tour deeper into the wilderness and away from the beaten paths without having to worry about finding a place to stay. It can also help keep the cost of a trip down by staying in generally cheaper campsites than staying in a hotel room. On my extended Europe and beyond tour (here) I took a tent, a bivvy bag and a tarp! This decision was not taken lightly, I spent a great deal of time ensuring I picked the right type of tent and justifying taking both a tarp and bivvy bag along with the tent. Read below to see why and what I chose to take with me!
Tent – Nordisk Oppland 2 LW
Choosing a tent would be a critical decision that would make a huge difference to the trip experience. When touring and camping I find it very important that you have plenty of space. Some days you may be stuck in the tent, either because of whether, mechanical problems or perhaps you just need a day or two in one place. The tent is your home away from home, invest in something that will work for you. I have found that I must have a large porch area, somewhere to sit in, somewhere to cook in, to change out of wet clothes and store biking clothing. I like my tents to be lightweight and pack down small, that’s why I don’t mind investing more than the average motorcycle tourer.
Bivvy Bag – Terra Nova Jupiter
It’s important to have a versatile setup when touring. You never know where you may find yourself at the end of the day. I carry a bivvy bag with me for a few reasons: firstly, they are discreet and easy to set up and pack away, I can pull my bike up behind a wall, in some trees, lay my bag out and sleep in it, then when I arise, shake it, roll it up and I’m away again. I sometimes prefer to use them when the weather is really wet or windy, where I would not want to expose my tent to too much weather. Finally, I can take a bivvy bag in my backpack and go hiking for a number of days without having to haul my tent out with me.
In addition to my bivvy bag, I carry a medium size tarp. Usually this is tied between the floor and my bike or between a number of bikes to create a quick and easy bivouac while I eat and sleep. Not only can they be used to keep the rain off, but they can prove useful for keeping the harsh mid-day sun off you while you eat lunch In Morocco!
Sleeping Bag – Vango Venom 600
A good quality down sleeping is a great investment if you intend on doing an extended motorcycle tour. Even in summer, the temperatures at altitude can be very cold and miserable weather spells are always possible. A cold night is something that can be prevented and a good down bag is definitely a worthwhile investment.
Photography & Filming
Adventure Bike Modifications
Altura Dryline Panniers (Quick Attach)
Gorilla Vinyl Record Top Box
BTR Top box bag
Lions Mini Tank bag
General Tactical Storage pouch/bag
Additional Kits for behind panniers
Fuel pipe splitter & tap to fill stove up
DIY Chain oiler
Gel seat insert
Oxford Heated Grips