Solitude motorcycle camping has become a small forte within the niche of motorcycle adventure riding. The term “adventure riding” has no hard and fast definition, and even more elusive is that of adventure camping. I describe my rough adventure camping as a search for solitude while others could define it as budget camping. Either description applies because when I find solitude camping it doesn’t need to have be done at great expense.
My choice has been the Kawasaki KLX 250S. This nimble bike had enough power to haul me and my limited camping gear up the rugged Dalton Highway to Prudhoe Bay in Alaska, as well as over many high speed interstate highways. It has taken me well over 10,000 miles along rugged terrain and smooth rolling pavement.
Heavy weight is not the adventure rider’s friend once the motorcycle has been taken off-pavement and into the rough stuff which is why I pack lightly. The KLX250S has been able to carry me and enough food and water 100 miles out and back if I pack and plan my route well. Usually 50 miles off-pavement will find the KLX250S and me enjoying the solitude of pristine adventure camping.
The Roads and Tracks
To get away from people, ringing cell phones and generators providing electricity to plasma TVs in RV parks and public campgrounds, means investing a number of miles and time in search of places where camping can be done alone. This often means traversing over tracks and trails that are rough and can take a hard day of riding.
I use a small tent, ground plastic for under the tent, an inflatable air mattress and sleeping bag. All fit within one waterproof bag or the two soft sided saddlebags which pack on the back of the KLX250S, affixed by a couple of bungee cords or sturdy straps.
The tent is large enough to house me and all my gear in case of wet weather, but small enough to pack tightly. The plastic ground cloth is used underneath the tent to protect the floor of the tent from pointed objects like sharp rocks or sticks. It also prevents moisture from seeping into the tent from the ground.
My air mattress takes several minutes to inflate by blowing air into it, but takes up less space than one that is self-inflating or requires a bulky pump. Blowing air into the mattress gives me time to reflect on my riding day as well as enjoy my location.
The sleeping bag is a medium priced down filled model that packs small. I find that if I am cold, I can wear extra clothing inside versus paying more for an extreme cold sleeping bag which also packs larger.
The preparation of food while camping in the rough has become minimalist to fight camping gear weight and manage a budget.
My cook stove runs on white gas or gasoline out of the gas tank of the motorcycle. It is a compact single burner model and is easily stored in a saddlebag.
Cooking gear itself has been an inexpensive Army/Navy surplus store kit that has two halves, one for cooking with a long fold-out handle, the other my plate.
Inside the cooking kit, I store a sharp folding knife, fork, spoon, small container of soap, dish cloth, metal or plastic scrub pad, cigarette lighter to light the stove and a campfire, and a folding can opener. Tossed in a saddlebag wherever it will fit is a plastic drinking cup.
Food has been simple, as are my tastes. I carry either a can of spaghetti or beef stew. In case of an emergency or for some reason my cooker does not function, both the stew and the spaghetti can be eaten cold. For vegetables, I buy a ready-mixed plastic bag of greens from the local market before heading off-road. The salad will stay fresh for a full day if I pack it away from the heat of the engine or muffler. For desert I take a plastic sealed cup of fruit or several fruit bars.
Long ago I quit carrying water purification systems or bulky water containers. With bottled water available almost everywhere, I add one or two bottles to my saddlebags. Some I use for drinking during the day, some I use for drinking at night with dinner, and some I use for evening and morning coffee as well as brushing my teeth and scrubbing my hands and face.
For the evening or morning coffee, I carry a sandwich bag of instant coffee mixed with creamer. When I’m ready for a hot cup of java, I light my gas stove, heat some water in my Army/Navy cooking pan and when hot add two large spoons of my coffee mix with the boiling water in my plastic cup. It’s not Starbucks, but my instant coffee mix still does the trick.
My reward for roughing it has been the solitude of a mountain overlooking a lake below while listening to Gray Wolves howl to each other, or looking outside my tent at night while a coyote sneaks around the dead campfire to see if I have left anything out for it to eat. In the bush of Alaska, I could listen to a moose plow through the bushes near my tent or a stream flowing next to my campsite.
All were the sounds of nature well away from the sounds of a cell phone or loud music from a nearby tent. In my quest for solitude, I had to pay the price with a little advanced off-road adventure riding and the lack of campsite luxury. Those prices are small when compared to the payoff.
photos: Dr. Gregory W. Frazier