This is a motorcycle road trip gear review, in installments, from my 23 days living on the road and off of my motorcycle. I keep a personal “motorcycle diaries”, cataloging “lessons learned” and “bring next time”. These are some of my notes. More gear review categories can be found here.
- Silk liner
- Compression sack
- Ultralight tent that can fit in a pannier
- Small, light lantern
This was the first trip I had used a silk liner for my sleeping bag, by Cocoon. It packs small, keeps the sleeping bag clean feeling and smelling, adds warmth if cold out, and can act as a lightweight sheet if warm out. Definitely something I will continue to bring camping, for quick overnights or longer trips.
I also started using a compression sack for my sleeping bag when motorcycle camping, which cinches down the packed size quite nicely. Supposedly a compression sack will not harm a sleeping bag when the bag is being pulled out to loft every night, but it definitely should not be the long-term storage space for a sleeping bag. A down sleeping bag is lighter and will compress smaller than a synthetic bag, which is something to consider. When down gets wet, however, its heat retention reduces, so some companies are treating the down to make it water-repellent.
For comfort I wanted a travel pillow, but was not impressed with the options I saw, and felt they still took up quite a bit of space. I was already packing my puffie jacket and a vest, and so instead of a pillow I brought a small drawstring bag, and would stuff my puffie and vest in it to make a pillow each night. This took up much less space and utilized items I was already bringing. It felt much more like a real bed pillow than any of the travel pillows I tried and stood up much better to my side sleeping tossing and turning than the blow-up balloon type of travel pillows.
In terms of sleep pad, my personal preference is to take up a little bit more pack space for the gain of a little bit more distance between me and the ground. Depending on the exertion during the day, soreness and stiffness is eased by some cushion between the body and the hard land. Currently I use a Thermarest I purchased several years ago, but at some point will probably try and look for a pad that rolls up smaller.
Tent-wise, an ultralight tent that can fit in a pannier is nice. Riders who are on the road for years at a time seem to care less about the weight and pack size, and more about being able to stand up and maybe even walk around in a tent. For me at this point, something I can lock in my panniers is preferable. Get at least one-person sized bigger than how many people will be utilizing the tent, and remember that your riding gear may end up in the tent with you, and takes up quite a bit of room. (Two riders’ gear takes up even more room.) Ample space in the vestibule should be considered for keeping bags and boots close, dry, but not in the tent. My ultralight tent I use for solo camping is the Big Agnes Fly Creek UL2. Not the biggest fan of how the sides at the foot of the tent seem to slack and hang inward, and if the rainfly is not used, there is no extra tension which makes the sagging walls toward the foot of the tent worse. Luckily, this can be minimized by threading some string through the exterior loops, and staking those to the ground. Would I recommend the tent? Yes. Am I keeping an eye out for future other options? Yes.
According to the humorous ultralight backpacker Don Ladigin, the major systems (shelter, sleep system, pack) should and can be less than three pounds each (lightweight) and is possible to even get down to 1-2 pounds each (ultralight). He has suggestions in his Lighten Up! book for achieving these weights without spending a lot of money on the latest ultralight materials and designs. I do not quite achieve those weights, and a motorcycle does give more flexibility in terms of gear weight. However, I think choosing gear based on that ultralight backpacking advice is wise, because lighter and smaller means the motorcycle is less weighed down and is easier to handle (at least for me and my thin frame), and it frees up space for other items if needed or desired.
Finally, if you are someone who likes to read or write before going to bed, having a small, lightweight lantern like the Snow Peak Mini Hozuki is nice – it fits through the little tent ceiling loops above and make the bedtime routine comfortable.
 Tischler, S., et al. (2015). Sleeping Bags for Backpacking: How to Choose. Retrieved February 18, 2016 from REI: http://www.rei.com/learn/expert-advice/sleeping-bag-backpacking.html.
See the rest of the Motorcycle Diaries