We got the question below from a reader, and figured we’d answer it here in case someone else had similar concerns. While we live just a few hours from Joshua Tree, we do like to think we know a thing or two about motorcycle camping. (Oh, and we love reader questions! Feel free to ask us anything in the comment section of any post, or by sending us an email.)
Hey from El Paso, TX! I’ve been following [@cylinderella] on Instagram for a few years and need some advice! I’m thinking of going to BRO for the first time, as my first big trip on my own. I don’t even know where to start- what to pack, how to pack, etc. I’ve been riding for about 5 years but never something like this. I’ve been camping, but never had to pack in on a Nightster. ANY advice is appreciated! Thank you again
Katie: Wooo!!! Buy your ticket!!! Don’t wait! You won’t regret it! Now that that’s out of the way, onto some advice.
Sanna: First, go read this super helpful, detailed article on What to Pack for Your Motorcycle Trip. It’s written by my friend Staci Wilt, who rides more than anyone I know. She is also from Texas and spends big chunks of the year basically living on her bike, so her advice is coming from a place of real-life experience.
Katie: Ooooh! That’s a good resource. Babes Ride Out did a blog post last year with some similar advice. I would look into some (new or used) backpacking stuff. Tents, sleeping bags, bedrolls, and cooking supplies built for backpackers are the easiest things to get onto the bike with all the other stuff you’ll need to carry. I picked up a cheapo tent on Amazon, a sleeping bag from REI, and a kind-of-huge bedroll from Costco. If I camped on the bike more often, the first thing I’d upgrade would be the sleeping pad. Mine is GIANT and it feels a little like a sail on the bike sometimes. But most of the time I’m a luxury traveler with a chase car or a hotel reservation.
If you’re not planning to camp until you get to BRO (hotels are great, no one would judge you) – you can probably skip the cooking supplies since there are food trucks available at the event, and you’ll be on the move leading up to it so you can stop for food along the way.
I brought everything I needed for Babes Ride Out 4 on the back of a Triumph Street Triple R. It was tight and required some yoga moves to get onto the bike, but I got it all there. A Nightster is going to be a lot better suited for carrying gear than a sport bike – especially if you have a sissy bar.
A cargo net is indispensable when it comes to loading things to the bike – I’ve taken to just leaving mine on the bike at all times just in case I need to stop for something on my way home from work.
Sanna: Yes, get a cargo net! It’s the single most useful thing I own as a motorcyclist, I literally don’t go anywhere on my bike without it. Cycle Gear (and plenty of other places) has a number of them for less than $10. These are basically magical, you can fit SO many things onto the bike without using a single bungee strap.
My last bike before I got the Dyna was a Nightster, and it was great for longer trips. I had forward controls and 12” z-bars on it, which helped with limiting physical fatigue from long days on the road, plus a tall sissy bar for easy packing. I second Katie’s advice on investing in some compact backpacking gear. REI has some great stuff for motorcycle camping. For an option that doesn’t break the bank, I have one of these kids tents from Walmart. It cost me less than $20 and is still going strong after four years. It also packs up super small and fits into the gym bag I usually carry on my bike during longer trips.
Katie: I wouldn’t worry too much about casual clothing either. You’re going to spend most of your weekend on the bike (without all your camping gear!) and when you’re at camp you’re going to be filthy. So there’s no point in bringing a big wardrobe other than your riding gear.
Sanna: Plus, you’ll need room for all the Babes Ride Out t-shirts and other branded stuff you’ll inevitably end up wanting to buy. But definitely bring a swimsuit and shorts. It gets hot during the day, and there are hotels not too far from camp that will let you use their pool for a fee.
Katie: October weather can be weird in the southwest – so I would prepare to get rained on at some point. You might be tempted to pick up a $20 slicker set – but make sure it’s a good one. Sanna has had hers for many years, but mine didn’t even make it five minutes through the rain on the way home from the Grand Canyon earlier this year.
Sanna: Oh yeah, I really don’t shop at Walmart very often (or ever, really), even though this post makes it sound like it. But I do have a $15 rain suit from there that has saved my ass on multiple occasions when getting caught in a surprise rain storm. But for longer trips, where I know there is a risk of rain, I carry a one-piece Harley-Davidson rain suit that is actually made for riding in and won’t melt onto my pipe like the cheapo one does. After Katie and I got rained on for a solid two hours on our way home from the Grand Canyon, I also invested in some boot covers. Since you’ll be riding through several states with different climates, I definitely recommend hoping for the best but planning for the worst as far as weather goes.
Katie: And waterproof gloves! I’d rather have a cold wet butt than cold wet hands.
Sanna: As a side note, Cold Wet Butt should probably be the name of our debut album when we finally start a band.
Katie: LOL! And if you’re nervous about riding alone, you can also post a note on the Facebook event page for BRO5. There’s definitely a group ride leaving out of Phoenix, but I’m sure you can find a road dawg or two coming from the El Paso area. And I’m almost positive that you will have company on the ride back home. A girl who camped with us last year rode in from Texas with one group, and home to Texas with a different group while her original riding buddies took the long way home up the Pacific coast.
Sanna: Have fun, and say hi if you see us at BRO!