Thursday, May 31, 2012

The Joys of Camping: Honey – I Shrunk Our Stuff

Written By: RoadRUNNER Motorcycle Touring & Travel

My campground neighbors must have enjoyed the show, watching the idiot, yours truly, wander over to a small coffee pot sitting on the ground, lift the lid, and peer into it every couple of minutes. They were probably somewhat bewildered as I poured steaming water into two cups, brewing some Starbucks instant coffee for my wife and myself. What they couldn’t see was that the pot sat on a tiny denatured alcohol stove about the size of a hockey puck. Made of titanium, the stove had been irresistible when I saw it clearance-priced at $15. It featured two heat settings, flamethrower and off, and promised a burn time of about 15 minutes per fueling. Did it live up to its promise? Sort of, as long as the moon was in the proper phase and the correct sacrifices were made prior to using it. Actually, it boiled one cup of water pretty well, but two cups was a toss of the dice. The stove was yet another step in my quest to assemble the ultimate collection of compact gear for motorcycle camping.

No matter how you simplify it, carrying enough gear on your bike for camping requires careful attention to detail. Limiting what you take is only half the battle, the other half being reducing the size of every possible item. Decreasing size without sacrificing function is the goal, and each piece of equipment should be selected with that in mind. I’ve even resorted to packing only collarless shirts to save space. (RoadRUNNER T-shirts do nicely.)

The stove problem has been vexing since size, functionality, fuel cost, and availability must be considered. My first motorcycle camping stove was a single-burner propane model, which worked well but was bulky, both in terms of the stove itself and the small propane cylinders that fueled it. The cylinders would also leak once the burner was removed. It is now one of those items taking up garage space that I mentioned in my last article. I now take two stoves, allowing me to boil water for a constant infusion of vitamin C (coffee) with one, while preparing food with the other. The two that I’ve been using are a Jetboil stove and an MSR PocketRocket stove. They both use the same butane/isobutane/propane fuel canisters, and both perform extremely well. A good lower-cost alternative is either of the two aforementioned stoves used along with a fold-up Sterno stove. The Sterno stove is about as high-tech as a stone axe, but it gets hot enough to cook an egg or heat a can of stew fairly quickly.

You’ll need something to put that food on, of course, and there are opportunities for saving space here as well. We’ve been using collapsible and nesting bowls and mugs made by Sea to Summit. The only drawback we’ve found is that the soft plastic compound tends to absorb odors from drinks. We use a Teflon Bugaboo mess kit made by GSI is for cooking, and we prefer the nonstick surface to plain aluminum for easy clean up. We eat out of the mess-kit skillet and lid instead of taking plates, and we use Lexan utensils to avoid scratching the Teflon surface.

Flashlights and lanterns are other items that need a serious diet before
motorcycle-camping duty. My current favorite is a small Coleman LED lantern, which features two light intensities and a flash setting for emergency use. I recently saw another interesting LED flashlight/lantern combination that I may not be able to resist. It is the “Joey” model by Outback Flashlights and features a flashlight, red flashing emergency light, and rows of LED bulbs down the side of the handle for use as a lantern. While not packing the punch of larger lights, the compact size and versatility of these relatively new lighting products are a perfect match for motorcyclists.

Other diminutive but useful items include a quality multipurpose tool such as those made by Gerber and Leatherman; a small cutting board; a 30-foot piece of strong cord for clothesline use; such clips as the S-Biners sold by Aerostich; a collapsible bucket; and a soft or folding cooler. If your plans include cooking over a fire don’t forget a small cooking grate and something to wrap it in, as the fire rings with grates provided by many parks look as though they were salvaged from a sunken Spanish galleon.

It is amazing how much performance can be squeezed into some of these small products, considering the enormous size difference compared with conventional camping gear. There’s a special sense of self-sufficiency that comes from carrying everything you need on a motorcycle, and it’s fun watching your weekend neighbors wonder how you managed to pack it all. It’s also entertaining to observe them search their own site for a geothermal vent like the one they’re convinced exists on yours.

2 comments:

Camping Blog said...

Even i do agree with you. While in a camping, it would be better to keep extra thing for safety purpose... Anywaz you had enjoyed the motor cycle camping!!!

Rachel Matteson said...

Campouts are very fun especially when you're going out with family or friends. Indeed, the problems comes in packing the needed stuff for the camping with careful considerations of the weight and coompleteness of materials.
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