June 25, 2021

My camping list for a two week tour in western Europe by motorcycle

This is a list of things (which I shall update) to take on the above tour. This is my first attempt to formalise the list, up ´til now I have been a last-minute packer, fling everything in and off I go, the upshots of this have been: no towel, no corkscrew, far too many clothes or totally inappropriate clothes for the places I went to, not enough tent pegs, taking wooden clogs and the list goes on. I have always taken far too much stuff so this is an attempt to try to take just enough or, at least, to think a bit more about what I´m taking before I go.

As usual, these sort of things come down to philosophy, do I want the ultra-spartan-experience, the medium-creature-comfort-experience or the whole-premium-hog? My theory these days is approximately the following (with weather and general well-being factored in): If I´m doing a 600 to 700 km approach march then I stay overnight under a roof with breakfast and a hot shower, I don´t need premium just uncomplicated. If I´m just doing day-by-day touring then I´m fine with camping, I sleep best in a tent but do need some sort of decent air bed or mat (frankly I´m too old for simple sleeping mats, I prefer air) but this does necessitate finding a site at a reasonable time ie to be there by about tea-time (4-5ish pm) so that setting up, shopping and cooking or finding a restaurant doesn´t get stressful. I´m hoping to maintain a rest day every 3-4 days for laundry and general looking about also as a buffer for unforeseen eventualities. I have included the foldable camping chair which I strap sideways on pillion seat as I can then whip it off when I stop at midday and relax in the shade, some would argue that they don´t need it, I think it´s great.

A quick thought about clothing. It is worth thinking about possible climate and weather zones you might go through. If you´re going to northern Spain via the French alps in autumn then you will be passing through very different zones. I go for the onion system ie bike jacket and trousers with removable linings, a thin fleece then normal clothes and one set of thermal underwear for above and below in case of serious below 10°C temperatures. Also vital is a neck wind-breaker and scarf. I have retro-fitted heated grips because I don´t like wearing thick gloves (I use leather race gloves with lining removed). It does mean the occasional strip-tease in a lay-by but I haven´t had any complaints yet.

Essentials:

  • My 2.5 man tent, a tarp or sun-shadow and enough tent pegs (ground sheet built in?)
  • some thin rope for drying lines 5-10m, a handful of clothes pegs
  • decent sleeping bag, inflateable pillow
  • air bed and pump or mat if you prefer
  • socks, underwear, t-shirts for 3-4 days
  • light shoes
  • swimming trunks/costume whatever
  • one net bag and some extra bungies for attaching shopping
  • one sharp knife (best foldable)
  • one loo-roll
  • a torch (small LED type)
  • spare trousers, shorts, sunglasses, spare glasses if needed
  • Microfibre towel (dries quickly)
  • wash bag with essentials
  • any medication you might need
  • corkscrew and can-opener
  • first-aid kit (small)
  • suncream
  • lighter
  • tools for peripheral jobs and adjusting chain, duct-tape, small wd40, small bottle oil, chain lube
  • spare keys for the bike and luggage
  • mobile phone and charger
  • Navigation device
  • Passport/ID, bike ownership papers, driving license, insurance
  • Automobile club travel card (AA, RAC, ADAC etc)
  • Bank card, Visa card, some cash
  • Aluminium panniers, waterproof sack, tank-bag, bungees
  • Spare gloves
  • Decent motorcycle jacket, trousers, boots and helmet
  • plenty to drink, isotonic drink, muesli bars, power bars
  • waterproof bags for wallet, phone and electronics
  • Rain overall
  • Neck scarf or similar for cold-days/sunburned neck

Sub-essentials:

  • Food for the first evening
  • Bin/trash bags
  • extra light cloth sleeping bag for hot weather
  • one set of smarter clothes
  • one foldable camping chair
  • Tilley hat (sit on it, wear it, wave it, whatever)
  • paper tissues (cleaning visor etc)
  • hand wash liquid or gel for laundry day
  • tyre repair spray
  • maps and guide books
  • A5 size notepad and pen

Optionals and cooking stuff:

  • a general purpose cloth, a vileda scourer or similar, washing-up liquid in a small bottle
  • gas cooker, gas cartouche, pan and pot with shared handle, small bottle of cooking fat
  • plate and mug
  • small Bialetti-type espresso maker, coffee in small tin
  • spoon and fork
  • salt and pepper in small container(s)
  • midge spray
  • camera and necessary cables
  • Action cam and cables (USB micro, C, and mini)
  • Camping CEE adapter and extension cable
  • Laptop/tablet for route planning
  • more waterproof bags for delicate items

download list as pdf to print here

(update: link to comments and thoughts on equipment after the trip)

These days a smartphone is a pretty useful tool when travelling and a computer of some sort is also useful beforehand. I use a Garmin Zumo 590 for navigation and as an extra brain and have it mounted up high behind the screen to give an overview over the route and the upcoming road. I´m not a militant route planner but I do collect or make up possible routes and a plan B at home beforehand and use an excellent planning system called My Route App (a dutch based company of motorcycle fans, link here) which offers a free version which is great for planning, but to transfer the route to your navigator you need the gold version which does it very well via a small extra communication programme. Of course Garmin has Basecamp and other manufacturers have their programmes too but I do find Basecamp wearing to use and the dutch app is just a whole lot easier. This system has an android app for mobile use but is essentially browser based so it works on all systems with online access. I have a few hotel search and camping search apps installed to find places en route which is very useful. Again it´s a personal philosophy thing but I do like to peruse a real paper map in the evening and a real paper guide-book to read up on what´s ahead.

One other issue is also where to put it all. I have two aluminium bins (small but good and not very expensive german company link here) on the side, a topcase, a tankbag with quick release and a waterproof “Ortlieb” travel pack. My system is:

Aluminium bin right (smaller one): camping kit, cooking stuff, airbed. Tools, which can be heavy, I try to balance left and right so weight is roughly equal.

Aluminium bin left: clothes, wash-bag, shoes, sleeping bag and stuff I won´t need till evening

Tankbag: travel documents, wallet, sunglasses, visor cleaning things and small things I need frequently. Also heavy small things to get a bit of weight forward.

Waterproof travel bag (Ortlieb type) with camping chair strapped/bungied over back seat sideways: anything too long to go in the bins like a sleeping mat, my sun-shadow for midday breaks, flip-flops and shorts if I want to change whilst en route without having to unpack the bins. Rain overall for quick access.

Topcase: anything I want to lock away, duct-tape, all-purpose loo-roll, drinks, food, small tools, chain lube, bike lock, energy bars

After the trip - thoughts about equipment/kit — Devenir Gris
the bike – my trusty steed, a Triumph Tiger 885 built in 2000 which I bought used about 5 years ago with 13000kms on the clock. Very solid 900cc triple adventure style bike which is certainly not ...

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