This document was begun to prepare camping newbies for the first annual Greater Pacific Northwest Dryside Gather. I've been updating ever since. Many folks have offered valuable input, including, but not limited to JonM, !dk, Jeff Earls, Vic Swan, Guy Pace, Dave Svoboda. Possibly more, I've forgotten.
This write-up is primarily aimed at folks who will be camping out while touring. If you're planning on just cruising motels, adjust accordingly.
If you want to learn about equipment and techniques, a good place to start is in books about back packing. Back packers are very careful about what they have to carry. Weight is all important and every item should have 2-3 uses to justify being carried on a trip. In bike packing, weight isn't all that important, but I find that bulk is. Small, tight luggage makes for pleasant riding, and better mileage.
Some folks like soft luggage. I'm one. I like the fact that when you take the gear off the bike, you have a bike ready for some unburdened, fun riding. No brackets sticking out to catch clothing or whatever. Soft bags are the color you get when you buy them. You can't change that.
Good soft bags keep your gear pretty dry. Sometimes things will get a little wet, but outside of a monsoon-like downpour they stay dry. Soft bags can be packed away into a small space (one of the bags, for instance) when not needed. Also, some sets come with a tank bag. Some people don't like tank bags, but they have their purpose. They can hold a dry map for ready reference in a top pocket, coins for the toll booth in a side pocket, extra batteries for he fuzz buster in another side pocket, first aid kit, rain gear, extra gloves, tools and other handy items.
Yes, I use a tent. What can I say, I'm getting soft in my old age. I also go to commercial camp-sites a bunch while on the road and the privacy issue does become important. When using a tent, make sure that you have enough room so that you do not touch the inside of the tent while in your bag, even with a lot of enthusiastic thrashing about. Good tents invariably have a breathable inner shell and a rain fly (DON'T BUY A WATERPROOF TENT). Even so, natural condensation on the inside of the tent will cause it to become very damp. Leaning on this with your sleeping bag will cause wicking and your bag will get wet. That makes for uncomfortable sleeping. Not fun.
Get a _big_ tent, as big as you can afford. Avoid tents with fiberglass poles. They break with alarming regularity. If you do, make sure that replacement poles are available at nominal cost. Aluminum poles cost a bit more, but are worth it.
Good tents invariably have screened windows/doors for cross- ventilation and a few hanging pockets for glasses and watches. Avoid tents with interior poles. Tents which hang from some sort of external framework are nice. Dome tents are nice in this respect and there are a bunch of them on the market.
Always use a good ground "cloth" or ground sheet with a tent. This is nothing more than a heavy duty piece of plastic, but it will dramatically increase the life of the tent. It'll also make the inside of the tent a bit drier.
There are lots of good bags on the market at reasonable prices. Goose down use to be the only way to go. I've got one I never use. If it gets damp, you're gonna be uncomfortable. Go with one of the new fibers, I use Holo-Fil II. I have two bags. When space is not an issue and I am not worried about bulk I use the biggest I could find, a rectangular model that can open into a comforter for a king size bed. For trips where bulk is an issue or I want to easily get the bag inside of a smallish stuff sack inside my luggage, I got a high quality REI bag. Sale price was about $75.
A bag with nylon inside and out is easier to maintain. A damp rag will wipe down the inside of the bag and 15 minutes in strong sunlight will do wonders to freshen the bag up. Plus, it makes washing and drying back home easier.
Hint on using any self-inflating air mattress. Store it open. When you use it, unwrap it and give it a chance to inflate by itself. Sometimes it will take 20 minutes or so. When setting up camp, I will set up the tent, and then unroll and start the air mattress inflating. Blowing into the air mattress to inflate it will introduce moisture into the air mattress which can lead to cold sleeping if enough gets inside.
There are bunches and bunches available. I use a Coleman model that burns unleaded regular. It is easy to fill at gas stops and has saved Vic's butt once. A good stove can boil water faster than you can use it and is handy as all get-out. Makes morning coffee a meaningful experience. I even got an espresso maker that works over a small camp stove. Right up there with pneumatic tires, I tell you!
Other types of stoves are available. Using unleaded gas can be tricky, if you aren't used to it. I prefer to use stoves that burn butane or propane. I have a butane stove that folds into a pouch no larger than a cigarette box. The butane cans are about the size of a coke can. The butane can be had for about $3.00 per can. You can get these stoves from outdoor outfitters for about $15 to $20.
Propane stoves (Coleman makes a nice single-burner for about $15.) are another alternative. Propane cans are larger, and disposable, and cost about $4 to $5--depending on source. These stoves are nice for a hot fire and even, reliable cooking. The propane stove and fuel can are no larger than a 32-ounce drink from Taco Time.
What I like about butane and propane stoves is that a can of fuel lasts a long time. I've cooked over one can of butane--meals for two--for three days, and still had fuel.
When packing a gas-fueled stove for travel, depressurize the fuel. Also make sure that it's never more than about 3/4 full. The heat of the day and altitude changes might otherwise make for a nasty surprise.
Unless you're riding a bike with easy access to the petcock hose, carry spare fuel. Get a good backpacking gas container. Do not skimp here. You can get a good one, anodized red, from REI for about $10. Make sure you mark it's contents with a big black indelible marker. It's also much handier to fill a bottle at a pump than it is to try to fill the stove from the pump nozzle.
What? You were thinking about a camp stove that only burns white gas or butane? Shame.
(ed. comments. See, I told you this would happen.)
A scrub pad, a small bottle of dish soap, and a small device to lift hot metal pots (came with the cook kit) rounds out this part.
I must fully admit the more bike touring I do, the less cooking I do. Lately I've taken to getting up early, and after perhaps a cup of coffee I break camp and try to get on the road by 6:45-7. I ride until 10:30 or so and find a smallish town with a little cafe that normally serves the local farmers. I've had great meals well prepared and relatively low prices. Hitting places like that at odd hours puts you there between local peaks and assures (usually) good service. I will then ride until maybe 4-5 and hit someplace with a salad bar. A bowl of soup/can of ravioli or some other such one-pot meal in the evening ends the day.
Don't forget a Bic lighter or equivalent for lighting your stove. I gave up on matches a long time ago.
This makes a certain amount of sense. The dump-a-bucket-on-your-head strategy is perhaps appropriate when using those regular faucet-type water sources you find on concrete aprons at most camp grounds these days.
You could also think about using an environmentally friendly soap. It's hard to believe that anyone will actually walk 100 feet for every bucket of water they will need to wash. Also in some popular campgrounds 100 feet from one water source puts you within 100 feet of another. Since many of them are simply underground pipes coming from a pump house someplace, I'm not convinced this is always or absolutely needed. Use good judgement and remember to pay attention to the environmental concerns.
If you accept the simple fact that you might not have the same opportunity for cleanliness that you have at home, you can stay quite comfortable on a camping trip. I don't think I have ever had to walk more than 100 yds for water. I carry several water bottles with me on each ride (several are easier to pack and if one leaks, you can chuck it and still have water.) I found a plastic coated folding bucket is handy for washing people, bikes, clothes. Avoid the canvas models as they can take awhile to dry.
I also have been carrying a product called Baby Wipes with me. These come in a rectangular plastic box available in every super market I've been in, near other baby and child care products. These are damp paper towelettes, moistened with water and other soft things. They are great for a last wipe-down of arm pits and other vitals before crawling into a sleeping bag. Your sleeping bag will love you if you do. They are also hand when using outdoor toilets. Invariably these outdoor potties have something akin to wax paper for TP. Using Baby Wipes makes life mellower. The moisturizers/lubricants also makes sitting on a bike for miles a bit easier to take.
Of course you should also take a towel with you in any case. It is the single most important piece of traveling gear you can name. :-) HINT: When using an outdoor toilet, always tap on the seat before you sit down. On one occasion I did this and a _large_ juicy spider came running up to the seat rim expecting its next dinner. Gave me a moment's pause.
Make sure that your seams are not pointing into the rain and that your rain suit and camera is somewhere near the top of something.
Put anything that will be ruined by water into baggies of some sort. The style designed for freezer storage are made out of a heavier, more durable polyethylene.
Finally, you might want to pack all your bags about 3/4th or 4/5th full (you were planning on taking too much stuff anyway). Then, when out in the field you can repack easily. You can never repack as carefully out in the field as you can in your living room. I like the _Toss and Stir_ method of filling bags.
I generally plan on spending 2-3 nights in forest service camp grounds and then hit a KOA or similar commercial spot. They have laundry, showers, swimming pools, pool tables, beer, and other things that are real nice to visit/use while on the road. Often KOA's are a couple of bucks more expensive, but with the discount card you can get via AMA (cost $3 and provides a 10% discount) plus their usually higher standards of cleanliness and maintenance and the _unlimited_ hot shower time, they are worth it. Typical KOA charges are $14-$18 before discount.
Maybe once every 7-10 days or so, crashing in a motel, sleeping in a real bed is a nice reality check. Hard rain and cold weather will drive me into a motel so fast it ain't funny.
MTS breakdown insurance: $49/year 1-800-999-7064
I've seen the sun set from 9,600 feet in the Sierra Nevada's and watched the alpenglow in the Bitterroots.
If you gotta ask more, I'm not sure I can explain.
Ride Free,The fine Folks of WetLeather & GPNDG!
This list was compiled by Vic Swan with input from rec.moto. It is as big a is as I've seen, yet I doubt that it is necessarily complete for _you_. There is no suggestion that each person take everything on this list for each trip. This is a list of all the possible things you may be interested in taking. It is formatted so that you can print it off and use it as a check-list. I invariably will print off the list and, working with the whole list, decide what I want to take. Next I will prepare a smaller list and work with that as I pack. 231 + 1 ITEM BIGGEST BIKE-CAMPING LIST EVER The Categories of Items CAMPING/SLEEPING EQUIPMENT COOKING/EATING EQUIPMENT CLOTHING PERSONAL EFFECTS BIKE PARAPHERNALIA TOOLS CAMPING/SLEEPING EQUIPMENT ___ air mattress ___ bivouac bag/sack ___ candle lantern ___ candle lantern candles (spares) ___ compass ___ ear plugs ___ feces shovel ___ flashlight ___ flashlights (magnilites (2)) ___ flashlight batteries (spares) ___ ground tarps (1 per 2 days - split and trash 1/2 each day) ___ knife (Buck) ___ knife sharpener ___ nylon cord ___ pillow (travel) ___ poncho liner & stuff sack ___ sleeping bag ___ sleeping bag waterproof-bag ___ sleeping hood (hat) ___ sleeping pad (insulated) ___ sleeping pad chair/sling ___ sven saw ___ tent ___ tent rain fly ___ tent waterproof-bag ___ waterproofing spray and seamlock COOKING/EATING EQUIPMENT ___ bags (plastic large garbage) ___ bags (plastic small trash, 1 for every 4-5 days) ___ can opener ___ cup & spoon ___ cup/beer stein ___ dish towel ___ food ___ coffee bags ___ coffee creamer ___ coffee mug (insulated) ___ coffee sugar ___ energy bars/raisins ___ soy (2-3 small boxes) ___ fork ___ jack knife ___ knife ___ match case ___ matches (farmers) ___ matches (in sealed plastic bag/bottle) ___ matches (waterproof) ___ napkins ___ paper towels ___ pepper ___ plate ___ pot gripper ___ pots ___ salt ___ soap/scrubber pads ___ spoon(s) ___ stove ___ stove gas (white gas) ___ stove wind screen ___ water bottle(s) (2) ___ water carrier (1 gallon) CLOTHING ___ Riding Gear ___ boot sock liners ___ boots (canvas mukluks or rubber type) ___ chaps ___ gators ___ gauntlets ___ gloves (cold weather) ___ gloves (electric & wire harness) ___ gloves (hot weather) ___ gloves (rubber) ___ gloves (wool liners and dish washing rain gloves) ___ hat (wool) ___ helmet ___ jacket ___ jacket (polypro ski) ___ jacket (wind breaker) ___ jacket liner & stuff sack ___ neck warmer/long scarf ___ pants (leather) ___ pants for riding (Levis) ___ rain gear (boots, vest, etc.) ___ rain totes & stuff sack ___ rain suit ___ sailor hat for riding without a helmet on hot days ___ shirts (long-sleeve, turtle-neck T-shirts) ___ ski goggles for riding without a helmet ___ ski warm-ups ___ socks (cotton) ___ socks (neoprene) ___ socks (wool) ___ spandex shorts ___ sunglasses ___ sunglasses (spare) ___ underwear (insulated, long johns) ___ Camp Clothes ___ camp shoes/slippers ___ changes of clothes (3-5, rolled up) ___ down vest ___ jeans ___ jeans jacket ___ laundry soap ___ layers of clothing (like cross country skiing) ___ moosehead hat ___ pants ___ shorts ___ socks ___ sweat shirt ___ sweater ___ swimming suit ___ T-shirts ___ underwear ___ warm clothes for evenings/nights ___ washing shorts ___ wind breaker PERSONAL EFFECTS ___ backpack (small) ___ book (paperback) ___ camera & film ___ campground guides ___ chapstick ___ cigarettes ___ contact lens stuff ___ DoD lighter & fluid ___ ear plugs ___ electric razor ___ fanny pack ___ first aid kit ___ fishing gear ___ grease pencil ___ hand cream ___ hand soap ___ hand/nail brush ___ hi-liter ___ insect repellent/bug spray ___ knife ___ maps & magnifier ___ prescription medicines ___ membership cards (AMA, VRC, RPAA, Parks, campgrounds, etc.) ___ negotiables ___ cash ($25-$30/day/person) ___ checkbook ___ credit cards (gas) ___ credit cards (MC/Visa/AmEx/Discover/etc.) ___ travellers checks ___ pen ___ pencil ___ post-it's ___ radios/tape players with mini speakers ___ radios/tape players batteries (extras) ___ reading glasses (if you are over 40) ___ sewing kit ___ shampoo ___ skin moisturizers ___ sun glasses ___ sun screen/block/lotion ___ tapes ___ toilet kit ___ toilet paper in sealed plastic bag ___ toiletries ___ tooth brush & paste ___ toothbrush ___ towel ___ visine ___ wash cloth ___ watch ___ weapon (optional) ___ weather radio BIKE PARAPHERNALIA ___ anti-fogger (detergent) ___ bags (large ziplock garbage) ___ bike rain cover ___ bug rag ___ bungee cargo net ___ bungee cords ___ chain lock ___ chain lock key (extra) ___ chain lub ___ chain masterlink ___ chamois (to clean windshield) ___ cloth rags ___ communicators (bike-to-bike radios) ___ duct tape ___ emergency equipment ___ fork protectors ___ fuel bottle (backpacking type, 2-quart filled with extra gasoline) ___ glue (gorilla snot) ___ glue (super) ___ helmet face shield/visors (clear, tinted, & extras) ___ ignition key (extra) ___ insurance certificate (for Canadian travel) ___ insurance papers & info ___ lamp, headlight (spare No. ______) ___ lamp, instrument panel (spare No. ______) ___ lamp, taillight (spare No. ______) ___ lamp, turn signals (spare No. ______) ___ maps ___ padlocks & cables ___ radar detector & extra batteries ___ rain-x ___ saddlebag key (extra) ___ seatcover (sheep skin) ___ seat rain cover ___ shoe laces (leather -- loop at one end for strapping) ___ sidestand plates ___ stuff sacks (weather-proof) ___ tank bag ___ tarp (small reinforced or rain parka) (for gear during storms) ___ vehicle registration ___ windshield polish TOOLS ___ duct tape (flatten the spool) ___ electrical system schematic ___ electrical tape ___ emergency blanket (Space Blanket) ___ emergency warning light (trouble light) ___ fuses (extra) ___ Leatherman Tool ___ multimeter ___ pliers (channel locks, aka water-pump pliers) ___ pliers (needle nose) ___ pliers (standard) ___ screwdrivers (assorted or set) ___ socket set ___ suspension adjustment tool ___ tire inflator ___ tire patch/plug kit ___ tire pressure gauge ___ tire pump (small hand/foot) ___ vise grips ___ wire & alligator clip ___ wrenches (combination) ___ wrenches (crescent 4" and 10"; good ones) ___ wrenches (metric Allen) ___ wrench (spark plug) ___ gas-fired soldering ironClick here to return to Lessons Learned Page