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Britta and Joe Noonan
It's All About The Ride was founded by Britta and Joseph Noonan. Britta and Joe are a happily married couple who share a love for travel, exploring and experiencing all that life has to offer. Currently on a work assignment away from their home in beautiful Coeur d' Alene, ID, they are presently living full-time in a fifth wheel near the Superstition Mountains in Arizona. Both Britta and Joe are adventure seekers with experiences and insights into all aspects of exploring and visiting unique locations. From camping off the back of a motorcycle to living out of an RV and exploring off the beaten path, their product and trip reviews come from first-hand knowledge and a love of seeing and experiencing all that life has to offer.

The Ultimate Camping Gear Guide For Beginners: Car Camping and Motorcycle Camping Advice

Camping while on a road trip can be one of the most inexpensive ways to afford an extended getaway. Camping will also be one of the most rewarding aspects of a great trip when you properly prepare. When you are on the road visiting areas unknown for the first time, outdoor camping brings you in touch with the location like no hotel or motel ever can. If you are dead set against the great outdoors, meeting and socializing with great new people and immersing yourself in a historic or famous location, just stop reading now.

View of Sullivan Lake from the South Shore looking North towards Canada
The view from the East Sullivan Camp Ground on Sullivan Lake is spectacular. This is a great example of a simple to access, easy to get to campground that is surrounded by beauty. If you had stayed in the nearest town of Metaline, WA., you would have missed this experience completely!

Still with me? Great! Camping will be one of the most rewarding experiences of your trips from here on out. Like motorcycling, camping puts you in direct contact with the sights, sounds and ambience of the area. 

copyright@ 2017 Joseph Noonan Photography
Captured this sow moose on a recent camping trip in Northern Idaho outside of Sandpoint, ID.

 
copyright@2017 Joseph Noonan Photography
To make a 4 day weekend affordable, my good friend and I camped the whole way down to the Blue Ridge Parkway from NJ. He was on his Harley and I had my big KTM. It was a perfect inexpensive road trip. State Park Campgrounds are usually very clean and have showers and clean restrooms. This trip just cost us gas, camp site fees and cheap eats on the road.

 
copyright@2017 Joseph Noonan Photography
A view of our go-to spot in Northern Idaho. The closest blue tote is all our camping gear (tent, sleeping bag, chairs, tarp, lanterns). The small blue container is our weekend cooler. The beige tote behind is all kitchen items and cooking utensils. Three small totes always stocked and ready to camp! Refresh when you get back home with consumables: paper towel roll, toilet paper, fire starter, hand soap, cooking oil, spices and garbage bags.

copyright@ Joseph Noonan Photography
Britta "roughing it" with a nice glass of Red in one of our secret camp spots while she waits for me to finish cooking the ribeye steaks!

copyright@ 2017 Joseph Noonan Photography
Couple steaks on an open fire are one of life's simple pleasures. Notice the grate. We just pack that up in a couple newspapers and a garbage bag. It packs flat and no need for a BBQ.


copyright@2017 Joseph Noonan Photography
A view no motel room could ever provide. After the initial investment for your gear and camp set-up, a weekend camping like this cost you just gas and food for the weekend.

 

Alright, first things first, preparation and an initial investment for the proper gear is necessary. Buy good gear! It only hurts once. I have friends who refused to buy a good tent and ended up curled into a ball in the center of the tent to avoid the streams of water running by them during a midnight thunderstorm (see wht/blue $29 Walmart special pictured above). Our Coleman's Evanston 6 man tent that we purchased from Costco is still going strong. It has been used average of 10-20 times per season. Never leaked once. We are still on the original poles. The floor has zero rips or tears and no zipper inside or out has failed. In writing this post, I wasn't sure if it would still be available. To my delight and your benefit it is still made by Coleman and has a 4.5 star rating from over 1000 reviews on Amazon! So, that's a very positive affirmation of my purchase and experience with this tent to be sure!

Great value and function from Coleman Evanston tent
Coleman Evanston with the rain fly on. The rain fly offer's excellent ventilation via two side widows and the interior screen door.

great design and easy set-up Colemen Evanston tent
Coleman Evanston without the rain fly.

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Coleman Evanston view from behind. This is good view of the center cross pole and how it creates lift on the fly. The cross ventilation when the inside window flaps are down is excellent.

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The front porch is a nice design for a small tent. It is a multi functional feature.
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Another shot of the front porch. Besides keeping your bag and dirty boots out of the sleeping area, it is also nice to be able to sit inside a screened-in porch during drizzles or high bug infested areas.


Simple advice. Put your tent down on clean, clear ground. That means remove any sharp objects. Always try to use a tarp or footed "footprint" to protect your floor from rips. The most important rule you can follow is to never force your zippers! That is the first thing to fail on any tent. Secondly, your aircraft grade aluminum poles will have an elastic shock cord running through them. Do not pull and over-stretch the cord. Our poles are still perfect after 7 years from just taking our time and not rushing the set-up or take-down of the tent. 

The minimum gear you will need will vary but I highly recommend the following:

Tent- The size will depend on several factors. Camping from a motorcycle will require a much more packable and lightweight tent vs car camping where the sky is the limit. We have three tents. One is for extended camping vacations. It is a beautiful and roomy 10 man multi-room tent, Because of its size and complexity to set-up, is really only feasible to bring when it remains set-up for 5 days or more, otherwise it is not worth the effort. Because this review is to help you get into camping, I will not review that here. If you have a large family then look into family-size tents and pay attention to the features that will make your camping as positive and comfortable as your budget allows. Our family tent is the Coleman Signature Prairie Breeze 9 . If you are interested in this tent it also includes a combo overhead interior light and fan that works great. Features abound in this family tent.

Coleman Signature Prairie Breeze 9 Tent. This is our tent for extended car camps. If you are looking to extend your camping gear to accommodate a larger family, then this tent is fantastic.

 

 Next is our workhorse, the previously mentioned Coleman Evanston 6 man tent. We bring it on every weekend getaway. It is large enough to hole up in comfortably in the event of inclement weather. This is due to some nice functional features. It has an entrance vestibule they call a porch that allows our bags and dirty shoes to remain outside but covered. This porch space is also used as a sitting area to protect from insects or rain. Inside, it has storage pockets on every side as well as an overhead hook to hang our lantern from. The rain fly keeps us bone dry inside. We have never had a leak yet, even during the worst of thunderstorms  We experienced a monster storm staying in Bannock Ghost Town in Montana one Memorial Day weekend. Britta and I have a fond memory of just sitting inside cozy and warm playing games, listening to music and sipping wine. A drop never entered the tent while it deluged outside. For maintaining the waterproofing, I seal the seams once a year with Coleman's seam sealent. (Tip: never touch the interior walls during a rain storm. It breaks the hydrophobic barrier and creates an area that will eventual seep.)


Our third tent just replaced my personal workhorse single man tent that I used for years on my motorcycle trips. We got it last year for our 2 week PCH 101 trip. It is a Mountainsmith Morrison 2 Person 3 Season Tent
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Simple side by side layout. Dashed lines indicate the vestibule space outside the tent under the fly when it is on. Having two doors is a great feature.

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Mountainsmith Morrison 2 without the fly. The Morrison offers very nice open air sleeping under the stars feel without the rain fly on during a nice summer nights. The Morrison 2 set-up is simple. Just two poles cross to create the frame. The tent clips onto the poles.

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The Morrison 2 with the rain fly installed creates a private, dry environment. The fly just rests on top and is secured on each corner. Tent pegs pull out each zippered fly-door to create the vestibule space on each side. Raisable vents on the top create ventilation if the sides are completely zippered closed. This is a well made full featured back packing tent that performs great on a motorcycle camping trip.

copy@ 2017 Joseph Noonan Photography
Shot of our Mountainsmith Morrison 2 from our Pacific Coast Highway tour last fall. This is at Brighton Beach State Park.

Size and weight are spot-on for motorcycle camping. Set-up is super quick, which is important after a long day of riding, as well as setting up in the dark. As mentioned, just 2 poles create the frame and the rest of the tent and fly just clip on to them. Super quick and easy.

Ask Britta, I research everything I get thoroughly. What ultimately made me settle on the  Mountainside Morrison 2 tent were some key features that make two-up motorcycle camping much easier. Most important was the two door / two vestibule layout. This is a huge convenience and well thought-out engineering, which is a great feature when nature calls in the middle of the night. When camping two person in a tight tent, this layout allows my wife to exit her side without disturbing me in the middle of the night and vice versa. Shoes and gear are quickly within reach right outside your own side of the tent and kept dry in their own vestibule space created by the rain fly. Really nice touch. Interior dimensions fit our Big Agnes Dream Island bag and Nemo Cosmo 50 L double wide sleeping pad perfectly with enough room left at the base of the bed for your gear and small items you frequently use inside at night. 

Pack weight and dimensions were perfect for my BMW K1200LT's saddle bag. Coming in at 7.5" x 18" long meant its length was perfect inside my 21" long saddle bag. (This also meant that the poles, the hard items for the tent set-up, were 18" or less) Pole size is a packing consideration. Check this dimension against your own bike's interior I.D before purchasing. Being able to lay the poles flat saves a ton of precious cargo space inside your pannier. Otherwise, you might have to strap them outside which creates wind resistance and also a security issue. Nothing would be worse then having your tent or tent poles, stolen while on the road! 

Like our Coleman tent, the Mountainsmith features a bathtub design floor. This means the flooring material continues up seamlessly approximately 4 inches on all sides creating a waterproof tub. Very important feature IMHO.

  • Two door / Two vestibule layout
  • Two person layout
  • Three season, free standing tent
  • Tent fly ventilation windows
  • Bathtub floor construction

Mountainsmith Morrison footprint is a perfect match for this tent and packs small.Make sure to pick one up. Footprints are cheap insurance from tears and rips to your tent.



 

Sleeping Bag, weight and size depend on car or motorcycle as well as the temperature you will be camping in.  As a veteran of many cold night camping trips, trust me on this, you will want a sleeping bag rated for at least 30 degrees. 

Sleeping Pads are the second part of your sleep system. You cannot have just a sleeping bag to camp. Your pad serves as essential insulation from the ground and comfort. Most newer sleep systems include the temperature rating when using a matched pad as well. 

 If you are new to camping a sleeping bag and mattress or cot can make or break your experience. After years of using two inexpensive bags from Ozark and zipping them together, we have invested in arguably the most comfortable bag/pad combo you can get. This system fits in our motorcycle's rear cargo trunk as well! Our system is so comfortable the only thing making us want to get up in the morning is the alluring call of the coffee bird. Britta and I use a Big Agnes Dream Island 15 double sleeping bag with a Nemo Cosmo 50 L sleeping pad.

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The Big Agnes Dream Island 15 is a luxury double wide sleeping bag. When used with a compression girdle, it will  fit in most motorcycles rear trunk space. If you want your significant to camp with you more on or off the motorcycle, this is the way to do it!

 
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Side view shows the amount of insulation loft and the mattress pad when inserted into the sleeve.


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After inflating the Nemo Cosmo 50 L via the incorporated foot-pump, simply insert  into the sleeve on the bottom of the Big Agnes Dream Island Bag.
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View of the Big Agnes Dream Island from the bottom with the pad inserted. You can use two smaller pads side by side in the sleeve or opt for one double pad.


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Fine tuning the firmness of the pad is easy via the built-in pump on the Nemo Cosmo 50 L.

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I think this picture speaks for itself. Yes Britta is as comfortable as she looks! Heat loss through your head at night in a cold camp situation is negated by the super warm hood built into this bag. Built-in pillow sleeves keep your pillows from falling off the back or sides while you sleep.

Obviously this tent/pad combo is big and expensive. Here is a tip for those of you that would love to get your significant other to camp with you, make them warm, comfortable and happy! Your investment in good gear will only hurt once. Take care of it and it will last for years. (Tip: never store your sleeping bag in the bag for extended periods, as it will lose its insulation loft and thermal insulation properties. Always take it out and hang in the closet when feasible.)

For solo motorcycle camping, you can get ridiculously small bags and pads nowadays. Motorcyclists owe a debt of gratitude to the Outdoor Industry. They have lead the way for smaller lighter products that cross over. Products now have better fabrics, better waterproofing and better breathability.  I use a Therm-A-Rest NeoAir sleeping pad that replaced the standard green self inflating Therm-A-Rest pad that we all used for years. The diameter was fine on the old self inflating ones but you could not fold them. So the roll was  8" x  29" or so. This meant they were always packed outside your bags exposed to the elements.

Enter the Therm-A-Rest NeoAir. It is ridiculously small and radiates thermal heat back against you for great comfort and insulation properties, plus it weighs in at just over a pound!

 

The NeoAir packs about the size of your water bottle.

Depending on your budget you can get amazingly lightweight and small pack size sleeping bags for your solo motorcycle camping. Remember the goal is saving as much space as possible in your panniers. Industry Rules seem to be that the lighter you go, the more you pay. Luckily you aren't an ounce shaving back packer. 3-4 lbs on a motorcycle for a single sleeping bag is awesome. Time to get rid of that old huge musty canvas bag you had since the boy scouts! Don't get caught up in the numbers too much. There are currently so many bags on the market right now that recommending just one would be difficult. 

Follow this link to see the selection at Campmor or here to see the selection at Amazon.


I would advise you first determine your needs. How many seasons will you be using it? How much room do you have to pack it? Fully loaded, what is the pay-load max rating on your bike? You can get a sub 2lb sleeping bag now if you have the cash. A 3-4 pound bag will do fine for most of us. What type do you like? There are mummy bags, rectangular, semi rectangular and double. For solo I much prefer a rectangular bag with as wide a foot box area as possible. At 6' 3" I need space. Make sure you match your mattress size to your bag. If it is not wide enough you will be miserable because part of your shoulders or back or leg is always hanging over onto the cold ground.


One of the best ways you can save vaulable packing space is with compression sacks. On our motorcycle we use them for our rain jackets, sleeping bag, mattress, tent, clothes and layered clothing that stays on the bike. Things like fleeces, thermal jackets etc. We use compression bags for everything when on the motorcycle. They reduce the pack size of your items by up to about 1/3!  We put our Dream Island bag in a Big Agnes Super Light Girdle.

The Big Agnes girdle works great for compressing your larger bulk items like a sleeping bag or your clothes bag.

Because we have so many I can not recommend just one. We have sacks from Nelson-Rigg, Kelty, Granite Gear to name a few. They are sold in s, m, m, l, ,xl depending on the volume of the item(s) you need to compress. You will use this every where you need space. Packing for vacation? Compress your small clothes. Packing for camping? Compress your bulky hoody and fleeces. You get the idea. They are the item you never knew you needed!


  
When car camping, you can afford to bring a nice multi-burner camp stove  or charcoal bbq. Most of the time, we bring a Coleman Guide Series Powerhouse grill and a simple fold up cooking grate that I can place over the fire. Britta has declared my steaks cooked over an open fire as the best she has ever had!

dual fuel burning Coleman Powerhouse grill
The Coleman Power House grill is old school camping at its finest. It is dual fuel which I love. I can burn white gas or in a pinch, unleaded gas. Try that on a fancy new propane only stove, plus it is built like a tank. It has a huge loyal following that means Coleman not only still makes them but also maintains inventory on spare parts for maintenance. I'm 10+ years strong on mine and it shows no signs of slowing down. I love this grill!

 
copyright@2017 Joseph Noonan Photography
Joe whiping up breakfast on our trusty Coleman Powerhouse Grill. 

For Motorcycle camping, I borrow heavily from the backpacking industry. They are all about weight shaving. I use two super small Etekcity backpacking camping stoves.

Just buy a small propane camping canister. Then simple screw on! This is the smallest simplest stove I have ever used.

The Etekcity stove packs super small in it's own case. I carry two when we are on the motorcycle.

The Etekcity stove is simplicity at it's finest. Simply screw on the propane canister, turn the wicker slightly and push the piezoelectric starter button to ignite. Place your pot on and you'll have soup or boiling water in 3 minutes!




You will also need a good cooler for car camping. Igloo, Yeti, Coleman if you are like us, we have 5 or coolers already. Try to remember to keep the lid closed as much as possible of the weekend when away from civilization if you want your ice to last. I keep reusable frozen ice blocks in the freezer that I bring camping. They will last all weekend when we car camp. They augment the ice nicely and I never worry about spoilage. If you are motorcycle camping, I use a saddle bag that is empty. After I set up camp. I run to a local store and grab my groceries, beer, sodas, and ice and fill the saddle bag. Works great for a night or two when on the road.  

Like a bug-out bag, I like to keep a camping container. In it, we keep everything needed for a weekend camp. It is ready to go on a spontaneous "let's go camping" text from my wife. I organize it for car camping. In it I keep the following:

Coleman 6 man tent, 
dual sleeping bag
dual mattress pad
camp pillows,
lantern and flash lights
fire starter gel blocks from Dura-flame
zip lock bags,
garbage bags, 
butane lighter, 
waterproof matches,
bug spray,
dual-burner camp stove,
bbq grate 
frying pans, 
sauce pan,
kitchen utensil kit ( metal spatula, spoon and a couple small dining kits from Ka-Bar )
Salt and Pepper and vegetable oil.
collapsible 2 1/2 gallon water container with a spigot

The 1300 Hobo Outdoor dining kit folds small and looks like a Swiss army knife. We use them every where.  They pack small and work great! 


The Ka-Bar 1300 Hobo kit is great for camping. The three utensils click together to form a solid pocket like knife. They separate nicely into individual utensils. No more plastic utensils camping!

Last on my list but very important items are your chairs. It you already own fold-up outdoor chairs, great! If you do not, then I have a couple suggestions. If you motorcycle camp as well, you can buy one small chair and use it car camping too.

For our car camping we have used the Sport-Brella recliner chairs that we got from Costco. It has a great built in cooler and drink holder in the arms, an SPF50 rated sun umbrella and an optional reclining foot rest that is removable. They are going on 7 years and just starting to look rough. We constantly keep saying, "We sure got our money's worth out of these chairs!".

The Sport-Brella chair has been on every camping trip we have taken for over 7 years! The umbrella folds and tucks away neatly to hang on the side. The arms have a built in cooler on one side and a mesh drink holder on the other. The footrest works well and is completely adjustable.


We have so many memories camping. Our Sport-Brella chairs are there on every adventure!

The functional umbrella really comes in handy. Evening sun blocked!

What do you do when it is 100 degrees on the 4th of July? Head to the woods where it is 20 degrees cooler and relax near a stream with a good book and a beer. Our Sport-Brella chairs have withstood the test of time.

The beautiful Britta Kay chilling stream side on the Sport-Brella.


For years chairs and motorcycling do not mix. A motorcyclists only choice was strapping on a huge clunker or buying the heavy expensive wooden Kermit Chair that the BMW riders preferred. Again, having the Outdoor Industry to thank, chair design has evolved and size and weight have plummeted. With the Trek Ultra I can now fit 2, not 1, but 2, chairs in one side pannier and only be half full! Are you kidding me? Love these chairs. They are weight rated up to 350lbs!

Our Trek Ultra's stay in the trunk at all times.

Did I mention our Trek Ultra's are in our trunk at all times?


The chair ergo's are very comfortable. They are not too low to the ground and are not hard to get in and out of.

Motorcyclists, are you seeing these specs? Did I mention that we have our Trek Ultra's in the trunk at all times!

Product Details:
  • Portable Compact Foldable Travel Chair
  • Soft Breathable Mesh Seat
  • Heavy Duty Aircraft Grade Aluminum
  • Shock Cord Quick Frame
  • Weighs: 2.6 lbs
  • Supports: 350 lbs
  • Includes Travel Carrying Bag

Our Trek Ultra's now go on all our outdoor concerts, picnics, motorcycle camping and canoe trips. I cannot say enough good things about these marvels of engineering.

copyright@2017 Joseph Noonan Photography
Britta and I relaxing at Brighton Beach State Park on our Trek Ultra chairs.



With a few camps under your belt, you will fine tune what works best for you. There is no perfect system. The only the system is the one you develop that makes life easy for you. My check list works for what Britta and I like. It is a great place to start, then make it your own. Borrow items from your kitchen until you get dedicated camp ones. (e. g. pots , pans, utensils, spices).

Please ask me any questions you might have. I will be more than happy to help you select some gear to set up your camping kit. Camping has so many wonderful benefits that is is hard to imagine not doing it. As John Muir once said, "The clearest way into the universe is through a forest." Go out, stay in the forest and discover for yourself, just how amazing nature can be.

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It's All About The Ride

Joe


 

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