First Camping Test

After dragging our camping gear out of the shed we realised that we probably had most of the gear we’d need for our first weekend away camping on the bike. The only thing we really only needed a bigger stove.

So we packed the bike and headed down to Eden on the south coast of NSW for a couple of nights camping. This was a good chance to ride the bike fully loaded, ride a mountain range and hang out for a couple of days on the coast and chill.

First stop at Nimmitabel for coffee after being blown around

The following is some thoughts on our gear and any changes we’d make for future trips.

Tent

There are a lot of tent options out there.! I really like the idea of a fast pitch tent, especially if you are camping at a new place every day. The down side of fast pitch tents is that they are long and don’t pack up very small making them harder to pack and manage the weight distribution in our small trailer and at only 120cm long it limits the size of tent that will fit.

The sort of tent I’m looking for is something that can be set-up relatively quickly, tall enough to stand-up in, has enough room for us and our gear, it also needs to provide enough room to shelter if we get stuck for a couple days with bad weather. Oh and it also needs to fit in the trailer and isn’t too heavy. Easy right.?!

In the shed we have an older Oztrail 6 man dome tent, which is certainly bigger than we need, but packs up well. It did take a bit to set up but that was largely due to the fact that we hadn’t put it up for a few years and doing it high winds is always going to be a struggle. However, it did give us a good idea of things we’d want in a tent for traveling on the bike.

Thoughts on our Oztrail – with a floor space of over 5.5m x 3m it is certainly bigger than the two of us need and weighs (19kg) which is the same as the much smaller fast pitch tents. Since the weekend we have chatted a number of times about what we did like and what we would like to see in any tent purchase.

Things we liked –

  • It had plenty of room to stick all our stuff without being cramped.
  • The enclosed vestibule with a floor was great as we could store bike gear, cooking gear, and our chairs/tables when we weren’t using them rather than leaving them outside or having to pack them back in the trailer.
  • There was plenty of room to sit and play cards when the weather wasn’t great.
  • Great for multi-night stays.
  • It packed down well and the packed shape was ideal for the little trailer.

The downsides –

  • It was too big for the two of us.
  • It wasn’t great in the wind and we broke a couple of poles, so we’d need a tent that was good in all weather conditions.
  • It took longer to pitch (especially in the wind), however I’m sure after a few times we’d get much quicker. For over-nighters it may get annoying.
  • It took up a lot of ground, so this isn’t the sort of tent you’d put up on the side of the road.

As I mentioned earlier I like the idea of a fast pitch tent and being able to pull into camp and pitch the tent quickly. There are a number of different manufacturers who put out a variety of these tents – below are four of the fast pitched tents that would fit our trailer –

Blackwolf 240 x-lite

  • Sleeps: 4
  • Floor space: 240 x 240cm
  • Packed size: 120 x 25 x 25cm
  • Weight: 14kg
  • Enclosed vestibule (no floor)

Blackwolf Turbo 240 Lite

  • Sleeps: 4
  • Floor space: 240 x 240cm
  • Packed size: 121 x 28 x 33cm
  • Weight: 19kg
  • 1.8m awning which is able to be enclosed with additional panels.

OzTrail Fast Frame Lumos 6P

  • Sleeps: 4
  • Floor space: 300 x 280cm
  • Packed size: 115 x 22 x 22cm
  • Weight: 18kg
  • Enclosed vestibule (no floor)
  • Integrated LED lighting

Colman Instant Up Gold 4P

  • Sleeps: 4
  • Floor space: 240 x 240cm
  • Packed size: similar to the Blackwolf x-lite
  • Weight: 16.8kg
  • Enclosed vestibule (no floor)
  • Integrated LED lighting

Dome tents on the other hand have the advantage of having a larger floor space, while being lighter and packing smaller, and being able to store poles and tent separately means you can distribute the weight, which is a big thing in a such a small trailer. However they do require a bit more effort to pitch. Each of the following options provide approximately 180 x 240cm additional floor space (over the fast pitch tents) and pack to close half the size.

Oztrail – Family 6P

  • Sleeps: 6
  • Floor space: 420 x 240cm
  • Packed size: 70 x 25 x 25cm
  • Poles: Duraplus Fibreglass
  • Height: 200cm
  • Enclosed vestibule
  • Weight: 13kg

Blackwolf – Classic 6+

  • Sleeps: 6
  • Floor space: 440 x 240cm
  • Packed size: 61 x 32 x 30cm
  • Poles: Fibreflex
  • Height: 195cm
  • Enclosed vestibule
  • Weight: 13kg

Blackwolf – Tuff Tent 7

  • Sleeps: 6
  • Floor space: 420 x 240cm
  • Packed size: 75 x 35 x 35cm
  • Poles: 19mm Steel
  • Height: 205cm
  • Enclosed vestibule (no floor)
  • Weight: 19kg

Conclusion – There really isn’t the perfect tent, just a series of compromises you have to weigh up to decide what is more important for your style of camping: floor size; material, weight, pack size, and ease of setup. For us the pendulum has swung against the fast pitch tents towards something that is slightly bigger, and that packs smaller and lighter. While a fast pitch tent would be great it just won’t suit the trailer and we want something with a bigger footprint so as to make it more useful and livable.


Camp Furniture

Speaking of livable, we aren’t proposing on roughing it too much and want to be comfortable while we’re on the road. With all the camping gear I have experimented with over the years I have a nice range of gear.

Not roughing it too much – not a bad setup from such a small trailer

For bedding we took my Helinox stretcher, an old self inflating mat to throw on the stretcher, and my new Klymit mat. While I don’t take the stretcher on my trips as it’s too big for my little tent. It works a treat and is really comfortable with a mattress on it. In fact I think I’ve lost it to Deb who claimed that setup.

Helinox stretchers are not cheap! But the are extremely good quality, pack up small and only weigh a couple of kilograms. So I’ve already bought another one for our next trip.

When camping I like to have somewhere to sit that isn’t on the ground or log. Okay I’m a walking advertisement for Helinox as I love their products. I’ve used their little camp chairs and table for a number of years and they are fantastic for bike camping as they are small and light. Here’s a review of my Helinox chairs and table.

While we weren’t planning on buying any furniture prior to our weekend trip – a small Colman folding aluminum table caught our eye which looked great for cooking on. This table worked great as a general preparation and cooking table – that’s it behind the chairs in the photo.

Overall this setup worked great and the only change to the current setup we are making is an additional Helinox stretcher.


Cooking Setup

For cooking the only thing we supplemented my little Trangia gas setup with, was a cheap single gas burner and we grabbed a saucepan (we didn’t use) and fry-pan from the kitchen.

Overall the setup worked well, although the burner really needed a shroud of some description when it’s windy as the heat was having trouble getting to the fry-pan.

And the esky on the front of the trailer did a great job of keeping things cold.


Towing the Trailer

After loading up the trailer I pulled out my luggage scales and measured the tow ball weight at 22kg. A bit heavier than I would have liked but I’ll see how that goes and try moving more weight back next time.

This was the first time I’ve had a full load, top box, panniers, pillion, and loaded trailer. While the ST isn’t a slouch it did notice the additional load, and I certainly had to peddle the gears more than normal. It certainly wasn’t as spritely as it normally is and when over taking you not only have the additional lag but have to remember the additional length when pulling in.

Heading from Cooma to Nimmitabel is often windy but it was the worst I’ve ever experienced and it was really blowing us around. The big bike presents a big profile for the wind to push against and while I was fighting the bike the trailer seemed to handle the wind pretty well. It was noticeable but not in a concerning way.

From Nimmitabel we headed down the range, the Brown mountain, this was the first time towing a trailer down a mountain range. Not having trailer brakes made the bikes brakes work harder and the use of gears to slow down more important. The ST1300’s brakes didn’t have a lot of feel or bite which made it hard to ride the mountain with confidence.

Since getting home I have replaced the slightly worn Ferodo pads with a new set of EBC HH pads. I have never liked this range of Ferodo pads and find the EBC pads provide much better initial bite and feel. This has completely transformed the braking of the bike and I think the same ride will be much improved, with much more confidence.

Heading home on Monday and heading up the Clyde mountain was a good opportunity to test the handling. Even with a loaded trailer and the big bike on song you can still really hustle through the bends, much to the amazement of motorists with the bike banked over to the pegs and trailer sitting low and proud on its tail.

I’m still figuring out parking…


End Note

This was a really successful test of the trailer and our camp set up over the weekend. It proved that this mode of travel and camping is not only possible, but it can be done quite comfortably. While our current setup isn’t perfect, there are only really a few changes that we need to make.

Now I’m looking forward to the next ‘test’.

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