The pandemic has changed how we live our daily lives, including how we spend our weekends. Two years ago, most of us would spend our weekends inside air-conditioned malls or eat at fancy restaurants without a second thought.
For most motorcycle riders, an ideal weekend consists of a quick breakfast ride to destinations like Marilaque or Kaybiang Tunnel. For big bikers, their idea of a weekend involves having breakfast or brunch in Clark, Subic, or as far as Baguio City by taking advantage of the expressways.
Being in the middle of the pandemic with many health and safety restrictions, going to the mall or dining with a large group of people are no longer considered safe. This is why, when travel restrictions were eased, people turned to outdoor activities to temporarily get away from everyday realities while still being compliant with health restrictions.
It started with overlanding enthusiasts using highly-modified trucks and SUVs to get to hard-to-reach campsites. Yet many enterprising resort owners have now opened up their easier-to-access venues to campers, eliminating the need for hard-core off-road capability and specialist equipment like portable grills, showers, and small generators. It's allowed many budding campers to experience this activity in vehicles like an Innova or Ertiga, and simple equipment like a tent and sleeping bag.
With camp sites now easier to access, moto-camping is steadily growing in popularity too. The best part is that moto-camping is generally affordable even for the average Juan Dela Cruz rider. You don't need a big adventure bike or tourer. So long as you can carry a few items on your bike and can handle a little mud or sand, you're good to go.
Moto-camping is pretty straightforward. It’s basically camping out with your motorcycle. You just have to strap on your tent and some camping gear to your motorcycle and find a nice place to camp. That’s about it. You can even do it solo, or with a couple of riding buddies.
To better help us understand what's needed to go moto-camping, we asked one of our friends who’s been into it for a couple of years now, his name is Victor Lacreo, aka Pobreng Manlalakbay (literally “The Poor Traveller”).
Plan ahead before your trip. This includes contacting prospect campsites to check if they're open, availabile, and to get an idea of their going rates.
Pobreng Manlalakbay (PM) says that while moto-camping can be enjoyed for as little as PHP 1,000 (including gas, food and entrance), it is still wise to bring extra money just in case. This extra cash will come in handy for unpredictable situations like a flat tire or busted spark plug in the middle of the trip. Bring enough budget to cover the repairs. It will save you from having to call your friends for help.
It is also prudent to make sure that your motorcycle is in tip-top condition at least a week before the moto-camping trip. You can read through our motorcycle preventive maintenance story here.
You could say that moto-camping, in some way, is similar to mountaineering. Since we can only strap so much to the motorcycle’s tiny frame and racks, our moto-camping gear should be few and light enough to ride with, just like those used by mountaineers.
Bags are easily the most essential as you'll need these to store your clothes and various items needed for the trip. You don't need saddlebags, though they're definitely more convenient and easier to secure to your bike. You can also make do with regular bags and tie-downs or garter straps to secure them to your bike's frame.
Waterproof bags are another good idea as they will keep items dry, especially if they must not get wet, like clothes or electronics. You'll never know when you'll encounter rain on your trip. It's also no fun when all you have are soggy clothes.
As you can see in the photo above, you'll need lots of tiny pouches to help organize the many gear you'll bring from utensils to tools and trinkets that will help make camping easier. These pouches help keep similar or related items together and save you the trouble of rummaging through your bag to look for one particular item.
According to Pobreng Manlalakbay (PM), getting a genuine camping tent is a good idea. While there are lots of cheap tents available in places like Divisoria or online marketplaces, PM recommends that newbies invest in a quality camping tent. Cheaper tents, based on his experience, only last 2 camping nights. If there's a sudden downpour while you're camping, water could leak inside making for a very uncomfortable night's sleep. These quality tents can also be bought online or at stores like Decathlon and their price starts from PHP 1,800.
You'll need something comfortable to sleep on, bring something that can be easily rolled up and takes up little space on your bike. Bedding can be as simple as a banig, thin foam mattress, sleeping bag or air mattress. It all depends on how fussy you are with what you sleep on. Naturally, items like a sleeping bag or air mattress are a little bit more expensive.
4. Collapsible furniture
While the tent will be where you'll sleep, it might be also wise to get a collapsible chair and table. These will provide you with a place to eat or simply lay back in between cooking, eating and sleeping. Bringing these along will save you a lot, especially if the camping venue charges rent for chairs and tables. Select collapsible furniture that folds as compactly as possible. Also, if you can, invest in higher quality chairs and tables as the affordable ones tend to break after a few uses.
It is also important to invest in camping cookware and utensils. PM says that these can also be bought online and the price starts from as little as PHP 180.
The one in the photo above is a portable grill that can be placed over a fire to cook food. If you want to avoid the trouble of building a fire, it might be better to get a portable butane stove. This will help you prepare your food if there are no provisions at your chosen campsite and will save you the trouble of having to start your own fire, which may be prohibited at the venue.
If you're camping solo, you can save yourself some money and get a camping cooking set that can double as a plate to eat with. These will typically be stainless steel and may be hot to touch when cooking, but will save you the trouble of washing many plates.
Naturally, you'll need utensils to eat the food with. If you're not fussy, a small foldable knife will do for cutting food. Of course, the same spoon and fork you use at home will be more than enough. However, there are camping utensils that fold together to be more compact if you've got the budget to spare. Finally, you'll also need a cup for your drink. You might get one with your cookware set or thermos, if not, bring along a small but durable cup or tumbler to hold your drink.
7. Essential tools
Besides the basics, you'll need a few tools to help you while you're camping. These will come in handy when securing your tent, or making make-shift items, or simple modifications to the campsite.
The most essential is an LED flashlight as it will help you find your way in the dark. LED is preferred as they're brighter but use very little battery.
Bring along a multi-purpose knife. It doesn't have to be big, just as long as it can cut nearly anything as you'll never know when you might need to cut rope or fashion a make-shift peg from a stick.
Another thing you'll need is rope. Most riders opt for bungee cords or para-cord, however even simple braided rope will do for most uses. Rope will come in handy when securing your tent or making a laundry line to dry wet clothes.
Finally, never underestimate the usefulness of tape. This will probably be the most useful during your trip. Duct tape or electrical tape are recommended as they have a variety of uses whether for quick bike repairs or to mend anything that might have broken.
8. Trash bags
Perhaps the most overlooked item is trash bags. The last thing you want to do is spoil the campsite with your trash. Bring along trash bags to throw away any waste in a responsible manner which you can easily dispose of at the proper venue before leaving. Always try to leave the campsite as clean as how you found it.
Where to camp
Since we’re still in the middle of the pandemic, some camping places may be open to the public, while others, may have a different protocol in place. “For newbies that want to try moto-camping, the first thing to do is to contact the place where they would like to camp,” says PM.
If the campsite is open and accepting guests, use this opportunity to ask any questions you may have and tell them what you intend to do. This will let them know if what you want to do is allowed or not. Ask things like if cooking with a butane stove is allowed, what facilities they have (sink, shower, toilet), and even how easy access to the venue is (paved road, gravel, sand).
Don't forget to ask about COVID-related protocols (mask and faceshield, or vaccination card required), and other pertinent information.
The next thing to ask is if they will allow you to park your motorcycle where you’re camping.
“For example, at a beach or mountain campsite, I would ask if I could park where I would camp. If not and they have a separate parking lot, that’s an automatic pass.”
“We want to be in an area where we can pitch our tent beside our motorcycle,” added PM.
The idea is, since this is moto-camping, our motorcycle should be near or beside where the tent will be pitched. It makes unloading of camping gear easier. Packing and strapping them back to the motorcycle the next day would be the same. Not only that, we can enjoy the company of our beloved steed.
We asked PM for a few examples of campsites where moto-campers are welcome.
It's better to prepare food in advance, says PM. While cooking is the fun part, having it semi-prepared in advance can save you some trouble.
Prior to the trip, riders can marinate food to be cooked on the campsite or bring pre-cooked food that has a long shelf life like adobo or pork barbeque that will not turn bad during the trip. Doing this not only saves time but also avoids the situation where campers have to contend with food from the few local stores around. Remember, nice campsites are usually far from the town center or any stores or groceries.
For PM, sometimes he brings canned food or pre-prepared food, depending on the trip. These are stored in a small cooler.
The amount depends on how long he intends to camp. For example, if it is a two-day trip, he’ll pack food good for two days. If it’s only an overnighter, light snacks should be enough. Don't forget to bring lots of water for both hydration and cooking.
Tips for moto-camping newbies
The most important tip, says PM, is to practice the “Leave No Trace” mantra. It simply means don't leave trash, don't vandalize the surroundings like writing your name on tables, trees, or rocks or even picking up plants, don't put stickers, and respect the wildlife. It should be as if you were never there.
This is important because the rest of the moto-camping community may be judged based on one irresponsible moto-camper's actions. If you set a bad example, the campsite may opt to ban all moto-campers after, leaving others to miss out on this wonderful experience.
The whole idea is to enjoy the experience, disconnect from the modern world, and appreciate the simpler things in life.
These are just the basics of moto-camping. As you go along and experience more moto-camping weekends, you'll learn more about what's needed and what's not to make these weekends more enjoyable. Some needs may arise while camping, so you will probably want to buy new camping gear to make your moto-camping experience more comfortable.
If you are unsure of some things or still have questions, there's also a growing moto-camping community online. Ask around on social media. Chances are, your friends list will definitely grow with like-minded individuals and resource persons as well.