Friday, August 17, 2012

Camping equipment thoughts

This post is inspired by Vstar Karen when she asked me a question about my new sleeping bag.

Vstar/Karen: relaxing in Baker City, Oregon

I am new to camping. I like “facilities” and while I have done lots of reading regarding tents, sleeping bags, sleeping pads, stoves . . . I have no experience using them so I have to rely on what I read and what others use. You can’t really go wrong with brand names but they are more expensive so when you are in the “testing” phase you buy what you think will do for the moment keeping costs down.

As for my tent I wanted something lightweight and packable for motorcycle use. I had a tent all picked out at Mountain Equipment Co-op ( which is the Canadian version of REI, or Capellas. Something for summer use, not the best, but not the cheapest either. I thought that the Tarn2 would be the one

but then I found a Marmot on sale at Atmosphere ( which was previously known as Coast Mountain Equipment for a much better price and I think the Marmot is a better tent

Then I bought a minimal Woods brand sleeping bag for summer use, after all we were heading to Hells Canyon in Oregon and it is always hot there. We are talking about 100F hot and this bag was rated to 45F which worked out fine for Baker City but not so fine when I went to the Coast in Waldport. Now that I found out that I like camping (with facilities), I decided to purchase another sleeping bag good for cooler temperatures. I like so I went on-line to check them out and I decided to buy

the MEC Ziz which is duck down filled, small and packable which is what I wanted. But then I saw another bag on sale for $50. less so I bought the Marmot Cloudbreak 20 instead to save some funds.

the Marmot is rated to 20°F (-7c) and I don`t plan on camping when it is that cold anyway. Since I don`t wear pajamas I decided to also buy a micro-fibre liner. When I decided on this Marmot I thought that I wanted a Mummy style to be warmer, and also with less material it would pack smaller. Anyway I climbed into this bag and zipped it up to try it out and it makes me a bit claustrophobic as I am not used to being confined in this small space, and there is no where to put your arms. It feels like you are in a strait jacket. Anyway, I am going to keep it anyway and see how I like it under field conditions. Maybe having confined arms and warm is better than unconfined and cold.

I may eventually also buy the MEC Ziz anyway. It is a barrel design, not so confining and is down filled. Plus in hot weather you can unzip the bag and use it as a duvet.

On my trip to Oregon I didn`t know if I needed to buy a sleeping pad or not.

Marmot trail light 2p tent with inflatable pad, Baker City, Oregon

At the last minute I decided to buy a cheap self-inflating sleeping pad from

I mean it worked okay but it was bulky. It was on sale for about $30. so I thought that was a bargain. Now that I am refining my camping equipment I decided that I would buy something more packable so I went to and bought

Small: MEC Reactor 3.8 vs Large: Escort from Cdn Tire

the MEC Reactor 3.8 self inflatable sleeping pad. It is less than half the size.

My new MEC Reactor 3.8 is about half the size

I also bought a larger 35L dry sack, so now I have two. I found that I didn`t have a suitable packing system and I was fumbling to find everything when I was setting up and packing up. Everything was in disarray.

My new system is to pack as follows:

20L dry sack: holds my Marmot Trailight 2p tent
35L dry sack: holds my Marmot Cloudbreak20 sleeping bag, MEC Reactor 3.8 sleeping pad, camp towel and sleeping bag liner

My MSR international liquid fuel stove and fuel bottle and misc camping stuff will be stored in my left side case. The two dry sacks will be held onto my rear seat using Rok Straps

I downloaded the Allstays Camp & Tenting app for iOS and I wished I had this in Baker City. It would have made it easier to find campsites (with facilities) along the way . Unless it is raining, I think I would prefer a tent instead of staying in a motel.

Karen prefers camping too


  1. My wife and I did a lot of motorcycle camping when we were younger and our bones didn't mind a week or two of sleeping on the ground. I am amazed at the choices you have today for tents, bags, mats and so on. We had a CTC pup tent, bulky low-temp bags, and no mats - just wasn't room. No hi-tech stoves - relied on campfires for cooking. And all those fancy travel bags? I had an army rucksack strapped to a luggage rack and everything else was wrapped in plastic garbage bags and bungeed to every available protruberance on the bike. And we had a great time, so I can only imagine how much easier it would all be today to do the same kind of tripping.

    1. Canajun:

      new equipment is engineered to work better, smaller, lighter and more efficient. When I was young I used to have a PUP Tent and used it all summer, but other than that I have never really camped, until now. It was just a test to see if I liked it, and so far my experiences have been positive

  2. It sounds as though you are getting things al sorted out Bob.

    I know I was amazed when you were setting up your sleeping bag here, at how small and light it was.

    We bought some inexpensive oversized mummy sleeping bags from Costco and they seemed to work well last year when we went moto-camping to Crater Lake. They didn't pack as small as yours but in a stuff sack managed on the back of Max fine.

    1. Trobairitz:

      when you are starting you don't know if you like it, so it is a compromise between cost and something reasonable. That was a micro sleeping bag, packs small but only good to 45°F which I thought was okay for summertime in Eastern Oregon. It was only marginal on the Coast. Now I know I needed something better. I now have the Marmot which is good to -7°c (20°F), mummy style but I have found another one which packs smaller and not so confining.

      I'm looking forward to testing all this stuff soon

  3. The first time we went camping, we ended up with a lot of things (creature comforts) as we were pulling our bikes on a trailer. So, we used our back seat of the car and trunk for a lot of things.

    Camping is difficult for me as I have some annoying back issues and have to be as comfortable as possible if I am going to do it. We had a 4 person tent; A Ozark trail Windigo Dome which we put two inflatable twin mattresses in...ha. Took an egg crate mattress to put on my bed as it was too uncomfortable without one, our pillows from home with ratty pillow cases. For a stove we used a Coleman, but originally had found a little Fondue put complete with the little burner unit that we intended to use. AND a cooler which we had fresh breakfast food, etc in. We used the melted cooler water by boiling it to make coffee and wash and rinse dishes.

    We found two sleeping bags for a buck each after learning how cold it can get on the coast at night sleeping on the ground! The bags were used. One was an Ozark Trail something and the other was just gold in color, but lighter in weight. That one worked out well for hubby and the Ozark one worked for me since I get cold easily. I still needed pajamas and ended up sleeping in all of my clothes, but an extra shirt.

    I like facilities too, so the spot that we picked always had electricity and water as well even though we would boil it too if we used it. It was near bathrooms which had a hot shower as well. I don't think I'm the "roughing it" type since I did that for years in the US military....ha. I cannot even believe that after 23 years I started camping again VOLUNTARILY this time! haha.

    On the trip coming up next month, we will be taking our trailer again and pulling the scooters. Camping is still under discussion since we are going to be gone this time for almost 2 1/2 months. Saving money is top on the list running neck to neck with comfort. Nothing worse than a miserable experience while on the road! So, we may camp a couple of days and hotel it other days until we get there.

    1. ScooterChick/Pat:

      I am trying to reduce travel cost and see if I liked to camp or not so I only bought minimal equipment, but I did buy a good Marmot tent and MSR internationle Liquid gas stove. I have just upgraded my sleeping bag and inflatable sleeping pad. I don't want to trailer my bike so it must be small to pack on my bike and I am trying to come up with a "system" to setup & pack up. Of course you wouldn't necessarily be camping every single day, you need a motel once in a while to clean up, or when you run into a storm

      As for your trip, if you are bringing your trailer then you can also bring your camping stuff, even if you decide not to use it, but saving money is always a good thing

  4. I used to backpack and sleep on the ground a lot in all seasons and weathers. But something happened -- the ground suddenly got much harder. Last time I did a scooter camping trip -- one night -- I was ready to swear it off. But it must be like childbirth -- doesn't seem so bad now with some distance.

    Good look at sleeping bags and stuff. You're thorough!

    Steve Williams
    Scooter in the Sticks

    1. Steve:

      I'm anticipating the limited funds of retirement. Camping would allow me to extend my trip and also save some money. this trip was an experiment to see if I liked it. I think you need some sort of sleeping pad to "soften" the ground, that's why I just upgraded my self inflating pad, and also a new sleeping bag good for lower temperatures.

      I always try to read reviews and check out the specs before I buy. sometimes it is a compromise between price and how you will use it. I don't intent to camp during colder weather but don't mind having higher quality equipment if price allows

  5. Camping has been a part of traveling since I was a kid. Some of the gear that I'm still using I've had for years and it still seems holding up fine. Since I used to do a lot of backpacking and bicycle touring, I got used to camping without "facilities". On the motorcycle (or a bicycle), you have tremendous flexibility in finding a suitable campground and in the amount of gear you are able to carry. And, since you are generally on the road, you don't need to carry enough food for days or weeks. Potable water is readily available as replacing things forgotten or lost. If you just hiked in 20 miles, pull out your stove and discovered that you forgot the matches, you would be pretty annoyed with yourself. (Which is why my old MSR stove had a built in ignition source.)

    You may want to carry your tent in something besides a waterproof bag since it really doesn't matter if it gets wet. And if you pack it up wet, it'll help it dry out. Is the new sleeping pad full length? This is more important with a down sleeping bag as there is no insulating value when compressed under your feet. Fiber insulation still provides some insulation when compressed which is why it doesn't compress as much.

    So when's your next trip?

    1. Richard:

      you are right that a motorcycle is more flexible. I can carry more weight but packed size is still a consideration but smaller usually equates to higher prices.

      I only intend to be heating up prepared food, not actually cooking. It is better than eating cold food out of a tin, plus be able to dring a warm beverage in the morning or in the evening. The plan would be to have emergency food and if you eat it you can replace it the next day when you hit a town.

      Following your advice I bought a MESH bag today to hold my tent. This way it can breathe to dry out, or just get wet. Most down bags are hybrid. Down on top and synthetic on the bottom, and the sleeping pad is full length

  6. Bob - I'm not sure who wrote the review of the Tarn2 but that's what I have and I love it (my little paprika tent). I have a mummy bag from Mec but rarely actually zipper it closed cause my feet have to stick out. I think I'd like to get a new bag that has a pocket for Big Agnes cause I hate sliding off. I left the self inflating mattress in Boise when I met Big Agnes, and Big Agnes packs smaller (just wish I had a little air pump.) I'm with Richard, I save the dry bags for things that need to be dry, the tent is packed (now stuffed) in it's own bag. If it's pouring rain, I'm looking for a cabin or motel anyway. Love your reviews and your enthusiasm - it's fun (as long as there's a modern washroom, and pool!)

    1. Karen:

      LOL, I like my feet to stick out too. After a long hot day they need to be "aired out". Is your bag too small ? I bought the Reactor 3.8 sleeping pad from , it packs very small, actually folds in half then rolls up. I did buy a mesh bag for my tent today so it can air out.

      I want to try all this stuff out but I just can't disappear for a weekend. I'm trying to find an excuse, I have to find out how Erik manages to leave all the time

    2. Bob, I've come to realize that it's important to do things when you can, because you never know what cards life will deal you in the future. Also, it helps that Nancy is so understanding. In fact, she often tells me I need to go for a long ride.

    3. Erik:

      I think I like Nancy too. Mrs Skoot is understanding too but I am not yet retired so I only take one motorcycle trip a year. I can't hog all my vacation time for myself. Soon I hope to be free just like you and I can take a much longer trip. That's why I am exploring camping the the subsequent cost savings. I am lucky that so far I am liking it, but fair weather only

      As for doing things while you can, I agree. It's just that the world economic meltdown has got us caught in thoughts about where the next dollar is coming from, so I continue to work for a little, bit longer.

      so far I still have my health minus this irritating foot problem, but I am still mobile and working on plans to head your way . . .

  7. We found when we were outfitting for kayaking camping we had to balance cost versus weight and size. We were poorer then, so didn't always buy the best, just the 'best that I can afford right now'. Then I started hiking and we not much of the stuff translated between the sports. Luckily motorcycle camping usings the same stuff and we were able to use what we have. I feel for you having to repurchase things when you realize the capabilities of some items.

    1. Lori:

      cost is always a factor, small and light usually means more expensive, so most of the time it is bigger and cheaper. Life is always about compromise.

      As previously mentioned, you can't buy the best until you know if you like it or not. this trip I did several tests, one was to test if I liked to camp or not. The other test was to ride somewhere for a few days alone. Now I know I need more quality equipment. It's not the end of the world to have a "spare", or something to loan or give away to someone else

  8. Bob, my camping gear has evolved over the years. I started camping off a motorcycle 14 years ago.
    I've gone through 5 tents. The first was too small, 2nd too big and too poorly made, 3rd not bad, but the long poles are hard to pack, 4th the poles too weak and they bent in the wind, the 5th is just right. I still have a few of the tents.
    I've gone through 4 variations of sleeping pads. 1st too heavy and bulky, 2nd too thin, 3rd wouldn't pack small enough for motorcycle use, but very comfy, 4th packs small is insulated and just right!
    I've only tried 2 sleeping bags. A Woods, 45f bag that has served me well and a light fleece bag as an extra when it gets cold.
    I've never felt the need to carry food or cooking gear. I always figured that's what restaurants were for.
    I'm glad you enjoy camping. I love to nap in the tent during a nice afternoon shower. The only thing I don't enjoy is setting up in the rain or packing a wet tent. I guess that's what camping cabins are for.

    1. Agree, don't expect to get evything perfect right out of the gate. I'm on my fourth tent and for me, the perfect one was #2 but I need to replace the zipper. Two man tent and only 1.9 lbs. Plus I can say that I made it myself.that one has been on a lot of bicycle and mountaineering trips because it is roomy and very light. Tent 3 was a 3 man North Face winter tent designed for a base camp and weighed 9 lbs. I traded that one for a rifle.

    2. BTW, I'm really enjoying your series of posts on camping as well as the comments....

    3. Erik/Richard:

      The internet makes it easier to find the right things, read the right reviews and check out pricing so it is harder to make a mistake. It's always about the price and the utility you will get from using it. In most cases, higher costs = better and longer lasting. I am honing in on what I need but if what I have will work, then that is okay too. I have to have my "Kit" assembled while I am still working as I am still in the work force. Once retired you are working with limited funds, or the generosity of others

    4. I have to agree Erik, there's nothing as relaxing as a nap/sleep in the tent when it's raining ... and nothing so frustrating as breaking camp or setting up in the rain. I remember trying to stuff a wet tent into it's sack, it's like trying to squeeze a fat lady into a spandex bathing suit. It really does take a bit of cash to get started, luckily Bob you already have the bike and just need the camping gear. But I'm glad you tried it and liked it.

  9. We've done a lot of (car) camping. One thing I've never regretted was a good dry tent, a warm sleeping bag and a good mattress. It's one area I won't scrimp.

    I have mixed feelings on camping. We've done plenty of it in cold, wet conditions and I think now I'm just a fair weather camper. Bring a tent, but look for a motel if the weather turns bad.

    1. BlueKat:

      I've never car camped but that would be easier as you are able to lug more stuff. On a bike, smaller is better but often more expensive. I am trying to buy compact equipment. My sleeping pad is a MEC Reactor 3.8 self inflating. ( = Mountain Equipment Co-op) It is R3.4 insulation factor. It packs very small, like a therm-a-rest, and now I have a quality sleeping bag: Marmot Cloudbreak20°F .

      I hope my tent keeps dry but my plan is to do what you do. Look for a motel if the weather is bad. Camping is merely an option but I like the idea of being more self sufficient. I am sure you get this same feeling when you are bicycling and getting there on your own pedal power. I've never camped so I don't know wet, but I found out about cold, thus upgrading my equipment already

    2. Bob car camping is great too - you should see the size of my car tent. I'm fairly certain a family of four could live comfortably in it most of the year ... and my sleeping mat, a full queen size, 6" thick complete with it's own electric motor. It's a whole different life, but honestly, I kind of prefer the simpler way on the bike.

  10. Thank you for sharing your list and some tips on motorcycle camping. I've been looking for the exact information because I'm planning to take a long trip also.