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ADV PreppingPacking Tips for Two-Up Motorcycle Camping

Packing Tips for Two-Up Motorcycle Camping

 Bringing just enough for two to be comfortable without overloading the bike.

Published on 12.09.2015
packing tips two up motorcycle rides

If you’re like me, your computers and mobile devices are full of information regarding adventure motorcycle travel, along with tips and tricks, telling you how to pack your gear. And for the most part, just about any motorcycle can act as a sufficient pack mule for the things we take with us on the road.

But what if it’s not just us? What if we find ourselves in the fortunate (and maybe unique) position of having loved ones who want to come with us? Over the years, I have had the pleasure of traveling many places, with my wife right behind me. But in order to do this, we both had to do a good deal of research to find a way in which we can travel together and not feel like two sardines in a can.

The following is what we take with us on our journeys, and the reasoning behind our decisions. I should also state that the following covers gear specifically associated with camping, and does not include specific clothing items. However, I will cover clothing briefly in the article.

Finding Your Priorities


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First, let me give you our general objectives when traveling together. It goes without saying that adventure motorcycle travel requires a certain sense of minimalism when it comes to gear. That is one of the aspects of this form of travel that we love. But we do not claim to be heroes when it comes to this, and we want to afford ourselves as much comfort as we can. So we have put a lot of effort into maximizing our comfort, while minimizing the size and weight of what we take with us. With that in mind, we knew we wanted the following general amenities when traveling together:

  • A spacious tent that will give us room, while keeping our riding gear with us;
  • A place to sit comfortably at the campsite. This became very important after long days of riding;
  • A way to cook without needing a fire;
  • The ability to handle both cold and warm nights in the tent;
  • Sufficient light in the evenings to read or work on gear…or the motorcycle;
  • Weather protection to keep our gear dry in wet weather.

Two-Up Motorcycle Camping Gear

two up motorcycle rides
Our camp set up looks like this. The 4-person tent and hiking chairs are fairly light and pack easily.

Once we established these priorities, we started our search. We wanted to look for gear that would work with both hard luggage and soft luggage. For more rugged terrain we use soft panniers and for more street-oriented touring we use hard cases. Multi-day backpacking equipment was a great place to start because size and weight are very much considered in the development of this equipment. So we went to our local camping supply store and started playing with all the toys. It was there that we were able to find many of the items we now use.

packing for two up on a motorcycle
A short list of the basic motorcycle camping necessities we pack on our two-up journeys.

Be Like an Onion

We approached our sleeping arrangement the way we approached our clothing. We realized that we could save a lot of packing space if we got thinner, higher temperature sleeping bags, and then add thin, thermal layers as we entered colder climates. Thermal liners can be added to this list very easily for colder areas and take minimal space within our luggage cases. So we purchased two, 45-degree sleeping bags and two +25 degree thermal liners. This also works well for sleeping in warmer climates, where a sleeping bag may not be needed.

Also, we went with a tent specifically designed for hiking. Although it is a 4-person tent, it has a smaller base than regular 4-person camping tents and has a lower roof. This makes it much lighter and smaller when packed, but still gives us the room to keep our riding gear in the tent with us at night. Plus, we can sit in it comfortable and play cards on rainy evenings.

Without factoring in clothing, tools and other minor necessities, we were able to get the gear we wanted for our campsite to a total weight of 31 Pounds (14 Kilograms). This seemed like a satisfactory weight, and so we moved on to where we would carry the gear on the motorcycle. Because of the smaller size of these items, this proved to be very easy. Here is the placement of the items on the bike.

Click the “Next Page” to continue.

Packing for a two-up motorcycle camping trip requires a clear focus on minimizing the size and weight of your gear to minimize the impact on the bike’s handling and ensure both riders can sit comfortably on the bike.
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Author: Jim Vota
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19 thoughts on “Packing Tips for Two-Up Motorcycle Camping

    • Harold.

      Very good point! And we do use soft luggage, depending on where we are headed and the terrain we will face. Honored to have you comment here! Ride safe out there!

    • Just to add one more note. We sometimes even forego the hard top case and replace it with a Wolfman Duffel if things are gonna get really rough. 🙂

  1. Very interesting article, I enjoyed reading it. My wife and I just started our first year motorcycle camping with our 2011 Kawasaki KLR 650. We really enjoyed camping as a family when our children were young and now we are rediscovering it all over again via an adventure motorcycle. Planing what to take and how to pack are part of the fun along with mapping out the route, stopping for sightseeing along the way and just enjoying each others company during the entire experience. Motorcycle camping is one of our favorite activities. Thanks for the helpful information you have provided, you have given me some new ideas to consider for our own future adventures.
    CLW

    • Chris. Thanks for the kind words. Choosing camping gear is very personal. You can go minimal or aim for comfort. And you are right. Some of the best fun was sitting with my wife and finding everything we would want. The planning of adventure trips is just as exciting as the trips themselves. I am glad to hear that you guys are enjoying the process. And please feel free to post any questions here. I will do my very best to answer them. Ride on and ride safe!!

  2. I’m sure that you get a great deal of suggestions of other things to bring, but two things I like are the hiking cot (now owned by Thermorest) and a battery powered motion detector/alarm. I “velcro” the alarm to the bike so anyone messing with it will be warned off and in bear country I put it outside my tent to alert me to visitors.

    I may have to try the bag liners since I’ve needed to sleep in clothes to stay warm from time-to-time.
    Thanks for your article.

    • Andy,

      These are great tips, and are certainly logical additions, depending on where one is going! Thanks so much for sharing! I’m gonna look into that cot for when I’m traveling on my own. 🙂

    • Jodi.

      We tend to stack up on smaller, travel size items when it comes to toilet paper and tissues. That way we can place them wherever there is room.

      Here is a list that I have on general toiletries and quantity for both of us:
      – Deodorant (2)
      – Toothbrush (2)
      – Toothpaste (one for both of us)
      – Dry Shampoo (1)
      – Body Spray (2)
      – Baby Wipes (one pack or each of us)
      – Razor (for her)
      – Portable beard trimmer (for me…I don’t shave much on trips)
      – Wet Ones (1 can)
      – Sun screen (SPF 100 minimum) (2)

      Typically, this kit will go in one of two places. We will place it in the duffel with our clothes, or in the right side case. When we pack our camping gear, along with our clothes and electronics, we have the extra space in our right case. We keep our food and fluids in the left case because there is nothing in there that will go in, or on our tent. We feel it is important to separate the food from any clothing or anything that will be in the tent. That way we can avoid getting animals snooping around. Because of that, we tend to fill up the top case and left side case faster. This leaves room in our right side case, which really only holds our tent, tent foot, tent spikes (possibly), and some other miscellaneous items. Hope this helps. Please ask any other questions you have! Thanks for contributing here!

  3. This is a really great article and particularly helpful for us 2-up riders who don’t have a set of panniers each! I’m sure we don’t take much more than you have but it doesn’t seem to fit nearly as neatly and with as much space free as yours! Am going to try your way exactly and see how it goes! Thanks for taking the time to post pictures and links too.

  4. Amazing tips! Really appreciate it as I’ll attempt a 2 week tour here in Europe… Just a question, how do you lock up the clothes dry bag if you leave the bike to explore the city/ go to the beach?

    • Jacob. Thanks for the kind words! The panniers and top case were made by Hepco Becker. The panniers are called Juniors. They come in two sizes and these are the larger size. Please reply here if you have any other questions.

      • Jim – Great post… glad I stumbled upon it! Love the set-up with Juniors on the sides and top… curious if the sides are 30L or 40L, Is the top-case Junior as well? What size?

  5. Great article and comments! We’re getting ready to take a two week journey and because of where we’re going I need to add one weeks food to our bike. We’re completely maxed out with the panniers, tour pack, and a soft clothing bag as you suggested. Any suggestions?

    • Jenn.

      You may want to consider adding a tank bag to your bike. Even the smaller tank bags can make a big difference. That will give you some extra room to move items from another bag to the tank. Don’t put anything too heavy in the tag bag, though. Also, try to look for a tank bag that will have sufficient resistance to rain. It will be on top of the bike, so it will get wet.

      Concerning food, and this is just what I do. When I have to carry provisions with me, I look to camp food and MRE’s. They are light weight, give you a lot of calories (which you will need), and they pack easily. They don’t always have the taste one may want. But they cook easily, needing only hot water. And they do not add much weight at all to the bike. I use camp food and MRE’s when I travel longer distances. But food is a personal thing and this is just my way of doing things.