Article By: Chopper Charlier
Photos By: Kayla Koeune
Originally Published In The March 2018 Issue Of Cycle Source Magazine
I lay there awake, 2am, fantasizing of twisty mountain roads, desert black top stretching miles ahead and the warm breeze whistling through my ears. I walk to my garage to find it empty. I curse the 50° day in the dead of winter. I long for the throttle in my hand, the thunderous roar of my Harley-Davidson and the thrill of the open road. Life of a biker without a bike. I recently had to drop my beloved motorcycle off at the local shop to get a smattering of repairs done that I’ve been neglecting for months. Yeah, I know, it’s for the better. I’ll get her back in tip top shape and ready for another long summer but, that doesn’t mean I have to like it. The flip-side of this though is that at least I know I’ll be in a comfortable bed each night. Life on the road isn’t I so predictable. There comes a point in every day where you have to figure out where exactly you will be laying your head that night. If you aren’t careful you will find the sun below the horizon and yourself on a lonely road with quickly falling temperatures. But, if you use our head and your map you just might find yourself camped out on the side of a hill watching the most incredible sunset while enjoying the warmth of a campfire. I can tell you from experience that the latter is the preferred option.
This being said, I can also tell you that with the proper equipment it is possible to make yourself comfortable almost anywhere, even that parking lot in Boise, Idaho! Sure, it looks bohemian to have your Mexican blanket, tarp and oversized sleeping bag strapped awkwardly to your bike, but it makes about as much sense as off roading in a Mazda Miata. Over the years those sun burnt granola eating mountaineers got it figured out with light weight, durable camping gear that works as well on Mt Everest as it does set up on the side of a dusty desert road or an interstate rest area. With the evolution in sleeping pads, bags and tents it is very possible to pack small and light allowing room for other creature comforts. I’m speaking of food beyond beef jerky, liquids, camp stoves upon which to actually cook a warm meal and make a hot cup of coffee in the morning. The last few years I’ve been using a Jetboil (jetboil.com), a simple system that combines a burner, cup and even a French press. Using a small fuel canister, it is easy to use, heats water and other food quickly and is easy to store.
There have been countless cold evenings spent heating chili and drinking hot tea to warm myself after a cold day of riding followed in the morning by a hot cup of coffee to start the day right. As far as camping equipment goes, I use an MSR tent. MSR (msrgear.com) is known for their mountaineering equipment, therefore not cheap, but extremely durable, small and light. My 3-person tent, using a compression sack, compresses down to about the size of a football! That’s a three-person tent with a rain fly! The poles also fold down small and can be strapped to virtually anything. Sleep pads now pack as small as a mason jar and sleeping bags not much bigger than that. Let REI or your local backpacking/mountaineering shop be your friend when it comes to preparing for your next trip. Their equipment is top notch, employees are knowledgeable and return/ exchange policies are great. Now, after all that, I will admit that a lot of this equipment isn’t cheap. Here’s how I look at it- If I spend a few extra bucks for the good stuff I’ll be more comfortable, won’t be frustrated with low quality gear that doesn’t work right and I can easily avoid hotel rooms…Therefore saving money in the long run and keeping me on the road longer. I can ride a long way on the cost of one hotel room.
Along with quality equipment should come a quality storage vessel. I’ve run the gamut of them over the years and can tell you that a heavy dry bag is the way to go, preferably one with a roll top because, no matter what they say, a zipper is going to eventually leak during a long rain storm leaving you with soggy underwear for days. For the longest time I used a river bag, basically a rubber stuff sack. The downside to this is that inevitably the one thing you want is buried at the bottom. It gets real annoying real quick having to empty your bag for a fresh pair of socks. I’ve recently discovered the Wolfman Luggage dry duffel bag (wolfmanluggage.com). This bag has proven to be a perfect addition to my luggage and gear system. With built in mounting straps there is no need for bungee cords. Its heavy rubbery exterior has held up to the abuse a chopper can put them under and its roll top enclosure has kept my goods clean and dry even during the most relentless rain showers. Available in three sizes you can get one for any length road trip. I have found the medium size to be the most effective on a chopper, the large is a bit on the enormous side.
While on the topic of Wolfman luggage, I also recently started using one of their tank bags to store the small items I like to have readily available, things like a water bottle, beef jerky, wallet, pocket knife, camera and whatever else you may need “right now”. This addition to the motorcycle on long rides has proven to be priceless. I get asked on a regular basis about what sort of camping equipment is best for a multi-day ride, hopefully this helps. At the end of the day you have to find what works for you and your bike but ultimately you want a small, easy to set up camp set and a water proof bag to store everything in. From there, develop a system on how to pack it in a way that leaves everything easy to access. You will appreciate that when you are fumbling around in the dark trying to set up camp for the night. That’s about all the words of wisdom I can provide on that topic, now get to riding! As always, give me a follow on Instagram @charlietravelingchopper for photos of past and present adventures