Imagine opening your front door at sunrise to be greeted by the unforgettable sight of steaming geysers, snow-capped mountains or endless desert. With planning regulations in place pretty much everywhere these days, it’s unlikely you see any of these views each morning… unless you take your home with you.
If you do, whipping the tent out in the middle of nowhere on a big trip after a long day in the saddle can be one of the most rewarding things you’ll ever do.
Round-the-world veteran Kevin Sanders recalls one particularly eventful stopover he experienced with his wife, Julia: “I woke and tried to move my head, but it had frozen to the inside of the tent. The bike was frozen solid after a -15˚ night and I knew there would be a delay before getting going again. But the view was worth it.”
Kevin was in Chile and had ridden the corrugated road from hell to the Tatio Geysers; a geothermal field in the Andes mountains and among the highest in the world. Home for the night was a tent 4,300 metres up to see the natural wonders early in the morning when they are at their best.
The only way to travel
He says: “Bike plus tent is one of the most flexible and independent forms of travelling there is. You have transport that allows you to get pretty much anywhere and the gear to let you stay pretty much anywhere. So anywhere is possible.”
Convincing the – let’s face it – majority of people who have had a nightmare camping experience that it’s not as bad as memory suggests is easier than you might think if you get the kit right, says Julia Sanders.
“With the right gear, kept simple and to a healthy minimum, you can be warm, comfortable and raring to go the next day. And don’t forget, just because you take the tent doesn’t mean you have to use it,” she adds, reassuringly. Follow her guide for the perfect adventure under canvas.
Before you go
Congratulate yourself Let’s start with the obvious. If you’ve had a hard day of riding, it’s blowing a gale and civilisation is within easy reach, retire to the nearest hostel/hotel and drink a toast to making the right decision.
Budget v comfort Camping is a trade-off between where you want to go and your budget versus your comfort levels, but it offers a uniquely individual experience, peppered with unpredictability, so it can be an adventure in itself.
Don’t cut corners A special-offer tent won’t cut it, will weigh a ton, take up acres of space and won’t be much cop if the weather turns sour.
Check the spec Is it compact, light and durable? For two-up go with a two-man tent between 2.5 and 2.8kg, with an outside porch storage area to stash gear in.
Sleep tight It’s the difference between enjoyment and misery, so match your sleeping bag to the climate by reading the temperature rating. A good compromise is to have a three-season bag with a liner so you can add the liner if it’s cold or use the liner alone if it is hot.
Mat matters A good-quality sleeping mat is one of the most important things you’ll buy. Inflatables such as Thermorest and Exped might cost a bit but are worth every penny.
Divide and rule Keep your camping gear separate so the tent, sleeping bags, mats and cooking stuff live in their own waterproof Kriega backpack. Using a separate bag for your ‘mobile home’ leaves the panniers free for whatever you normally put in them for touring.
Box clever A clever choice of pannier would be Triumph’s aluminium boxes, which come into their own doubling as convenient tables, chairs or even chopping boards.
On the trip
Pick your spot Whether you’re on a proper site or camping rough, the main priority is to have stable ground for your bike so it doesn’t fall over in the night. If it rains, is your parking spot likely to become a lot softer?
Don’t lie low Idyllic spots near water may be picture-postcard settings but river water can rise!
Avoid trees Their shelter and shade can tempt you in but things fall off them.
Mind the wind Don’t pitch your tent with the entrance facing into a prevailing wind, as it will carry lots of lovely things into your tent, including smoke and creatures.
Rock ‘n root Check the ground for bumpy, spiky things.
Critter check Don’t camp in the middle of what might be an animal track and look out for ants and other creepy-crawlies.
Use your head You may prefer to pitch your tent on slightly sloping ground so your head is marginally higher than your feet.
Use your head 2 Stay on the right side of the law and wherever possible – especially in the UK – get permission from the landowner. If not, use your judgement.
Don’t do it in the dark It is always best to pitch your tent in daylight, but if you are late setting up, you can temporarily use your bike headlight to get your tent up – just don’t keep it on too long – or a head torch.
Keep your bike close Have the side stand pointing away from the tent, just in case it does fall.
Break it up You can use your bike as a windbreak if the weather is poor, for a bit of privacy for your entrance and to hang things on – maybe a washing line between bikes.
Cooking not obligatory Just because you’re camping doesn’t mean you have to cook. Plan to eat en route before you stop, or choose a site with a restaurant/cafe.
Correct kit A multi-fuel stove, aluminium or titanium pots, the basics of salt, pepper, olive oil and pasta supplemented by buying in local markets and shops each day. Plenty of water in pre-filled Kriega Hydro-3s and a spare bottle.
Roll on Never forget loo roll!
GlobeBusters couple Kevin and Julia Sanders are double Guinness World Record holders for the Fastest Circumnavigation of the World by Motorcycle and the Trans Americas by Motorcycle.