Babes Ride Out

Motorcycle Camping with Bill Bryant of Biltwell : "What the Hell Do I Bring?!"

Sponsors, DIY TipsAshmore Ellis

Never camped on a moto? No worry! It's actually easier than you think. This article was written by Bill Bryant of Biltwell Inc. He's mowed down more miles than we can count and continues to be one of the best minimalist we've seen on the road. He offers advice on moto camping in any environment so this is a GREAT read for anyone looking for pointers and if you keep scrollin' you'll see a suggested packing list specific for Babes Ride Out 4. If it's not there.. you really don't need it! 

If you asked 100 riders what’s important to bring on a camping trip, you’d likely get 200 different answers. Since BRO is only a couple days in the dirt, even if you completely screw it up it won’t last forever so just suck it up and learn from it. A few key considerations would be: how much, location, safety, and comfort. 

The right amount of kit makes for happy campin’ : Image by Geoff Kowalchuk

The right amount of kit makes for happy campin’ : Image by Geoff Kowalchuk

1. How much to Bring?
If you are really honest with yourself, you probably don’t need much. Once you decide on all the essentials, lay ‘em all out and then reduce by as much as possible. We already covered how to pack your bike, and having less stuff is a great way to eliminate frustration later. Much like ultralight backpacking, part of the enjoyment for some people (me included) is seeing how little you can get away with and still be happy. The more you live from your bike for extended periods of time, you’ll figure out what you really need and what you don’t. Not to be gender-biased here, but I think women are generally cleaner than dudes on the road. My friends and I tend to not bring much in the way of clothes to change into over the course of a week or two. We just finished a two week trip on the east coast and I wore the same pants the whole time. I brought two t-shirts and bought a new one at a BBQ stand. Underwear and socks? Change ‘em as often as possible since they aren’t that bulky and good ones can be aired out, powdered, flipped inside out, etc to get more mileage. On a two-three day trip this isn’t as big of a concern, but I would say cut down on “outfits” and get away with as little changing as possible. I have no idea what to say about makeup except, you probably don’t really need it. Let your natural beauty shine through and skip the hassle, or bring just the minimum to make you happy.

2. Where you Goin’?
Some people like to totally wing-it and others like as much advanced planning as possible. I think the sweet spot is somewhere in between. Do a little research on where you are going. The last thing you want is to freeze your ass off because you thought the desert would be hot and then you found out it can change dramatically. It is not unusual to find a 50˚ swing in temperature between afternoon and early morning. If you have a light sleeping bag, consider sleeping in a base layer. I think it’s gross to sleep in funky socks so I’ll usually throw an extra t-shirt or outer layer in the bottom of a light bag to keep my feet warm. A beanie is essential to keeping warmth in and also works as an eye mask when the burning sun comes up early and you want an extra hour to fight off that hangover. Tents are a good idea in the desert to keep the crawly things out and provide shelter. I usually throw away tent stakes and pile up all my gear inside the corners of the tent and secure it to my bike so it’s not going to blow away while I’m partying. The desert can be notoriously windy. If I think I’m gonna really need tent stakes, I use four 1/2” x 6” lag bolts; you can beat them in with a rock and then screw them out of the ground when it’s time to split. We don’t usually pack food except for a few non-melting energy bars and always some water. If you have a hard time packing your water ‘cause it’s slipping out of bungees, etc. Take a big swig or two out of the bottle so it’ll collapse a bit and can be pinched down around the middle. A reusable bottle with a lid and carabiner is even better, but know that they can unscrew themselves while riding. If you know that you are going to torture your liver, bring Pedialyte for the morning. Food trucks will be available, but you may want to supplement with some simple stuff of your own. We usually get some chow at the last stop before camp, or go back to town for supplies after unloading.

PRO TIP: Accuweather is the best source to know temperatures : CLICK HERE

The desert is a wild and wonderful place but be prepared for huge shifts in temperature : Image by Bill Bryant

The desert is a wild and wonderful place but be prepared for huge shifts in temperature : Image by Bill Bryant

3. Keep it Safe
This should go without saying, but make your camp obvious. Pitch your tent by your bike and try to be near other people or have trees or structures between you and where a drunken asshole might ride a bike or drive a car. Make sure the kickstand is secure and not in soft, shifty sand. Use a board or rock under it if need be, but make sure it’s not gonna fall over on you. This sounds dumb, but you might be surprised! Let your bike cool down for at least two beers before tying anything to it. Keep your boots inside your tent at night, and in the morning, tip them over and shake them out to make sure no critters crawled in. Bring a headlamp. These rule for hands-free operation in the dark. Think 2:00AM and you gotta pee. Keep your phone, knife, smokes, wallet and light in your boots so if you are startled awake in the middle of the night, you know where all your essential stuff is and it’s readily available. Keep your tent zipped up any time you aren’t using it. Open the rain fly and tie it back if you want it to stay ventilated. Your phone is an important safety tool. Learn how to wire up a charger on your bike or at the very least bring both a car and house style charger so you can plug in somewhere else. Put it on battery saver or airplane mode, stay off it as much as possible and enjoy the analog experience with the confidence that it’s ready to go if you need it. Figure out what you are going to do with your keys so you aren’t that person wandering around Sunday morning wondering how to get home. Leave it in the bike, neck lanyard, hip sack, whatever–just make sure you stick to the routine so you can always find ‘em.

4. Comfy = Happy
Figure out what you need to not be miserable. Just because you can’t bring a lot doesn’t mean you can’t be content in camp. Sleeping is probably the number one source of irritation, so attack that with forethought. Pick a decent spot that isn’t full of fire ants or rocks. Clear a space at least as big as your tent. A small tarp under your tent keeps the bottom from getting beat up and gives you a slightly cleaner area to take off boots, etc. Absolutely bring a high-quality sleeping pad. Not only will your hips and back thank you, it keeps your body temp up. If you are worried about ants, grab a can of borax when you go to town and make a little perimeter around your tent. I don’t know if it really works, but we always did that as kids and it seemed like it might work. Share with your friends and replenish as needed. Use an inflatable pillow or learn to be satisfied with your jacket rolled up. If you have a strap or bungee to keep the bundle from unrolling in the middle of the night–even better. Consider coffee or tea. BRO will have coffee in the morning, but there will be a line of potentially cranky customers with the same idea! So, you could choose to bring a small stove and make your own. Don’t light it in your damn tent. Bring something to drink it out of. Again, sounds dumb, but I’ve had to cut the top off a water bottle more times than I can count because I forgot a simple cup. Learn to enjoy it straight or poach a couple sugars and creamers from a diner along the way. Beer is a pain in the ass to haul and keep cold. Wine and whiskey don’t need ice, create less trash and have more punch per ounce. If you forget the corkscrew, just push the cork into the bottle with a screw driver. Use that same camp cup. Of course a little Devil’s Lettuce is even more portable and easy to share. 

Lifeblood and the ever-useful camp cup. Sand makes a good abrasive for keeping the inside clean. Image by Geoff Kowalchuk

Lifeblood and the ever-useful camp cup. Sand makes a good abrasive for keeping the inside clean. Image by Geoff Kowalchuk

Side note from Ashmore - 100% of all proceeds from the Biltwell Camp Mug above go to the Semper Fi fund. The Semper Fi Fund provides immediate financial assistance and lifetime support to post 9/11 wounded, critically ill and injured members of all branches of the U.S. Armed Forces, and their families, ensuring that they have the resources they need during their recovery and transition back to their communities. Pick one up knowing you are supporting a great cause! Now back to Bill's advice.....

Being self-sufficient on your motorcycle is a satisfying experience. Even the mistakes are good teaching moments. Sometimes the best of times can be had in the worst conditions if you have just enough of the right gear and a good attitude, so pack light, pack smart, but most of all–do it as often as possible so you get good at it. 

A few things Ashmore and Anya suggest for a 4 day 3 night Joshua Tree experience: 

  • Sleeping bag
  • Tent
  • Camp pillow
  • Sleep mat
  • Headlamp
  • Microfiber towel
  • Ear plugs
  • Camera
  • ID, cash, credit cards, and insurance card, registration.
  • External battery pack for charging phones (Mophie makes a great one)
  • Tool roll (have a friend examine yours to make sure you have what you need)
  • Fuel reserve (never know...running out of gas is the worst!)
  • Triple A Card (AAA) with 100 mile towing (this has saved a ton of motorcyclist) 
  • Water bottle (we have tons of drinking water on site to refill your bottles)
  • Clean underwear for each day
  • 1 pair of pants (on your body)
  • 1-2 tank tops or shirts
  • 1 swimsuit 
  • 1 snapback hat (snap it on the outside of your gear for easy access)
  • 1 flannel (on your body)
  • 2 pairs of socks ( 1 pair on your body) 
  • 1 sweatshirt
  • 1 crappy pair of Target flip flops (for shower and to slip on if you have to pee at 3 am)
  • Motorcycle jacket (on your body)
  • Face wipes
  • Travel size toiletries (toothpaste, brush, lotion, hand sanitizer, sunscreen etc)

PRO TIP: Add a small tube of REALLY good hydrating face lotion and a really good chapstick (with spf / wind protection) to your kit. The desert is D R Y and windy!

PRO TIP: Pick up a compression sack from REI that will reduce the size of your sleeping bag. You can buy a 2nd one just for clothes. I fit 10 days worth of clothes in a sack the size of a summer melon...no joke. They work - Ashmore 

GREAT NEWS! If you forget something, there are grocery stores, CVS, banks, etc less than 10 miles away from the site. Give the site address a goog google to get familiar with the closest gas station, restaurants, banks, grocery stores. Being prepared and in the know is important and makes the experience more fun!

To learn how to pack ALL this crap down safely and successfully, make sure to give How to (Safely) Pack for a Motorcycle Trip | Expert Advice from Bill Bryant of Biltwell a read.