The joy of adventure touring is clear to all of us. Exploring on two wheels is fun and peaceful. Setting up camp amongst the stars and enjoying a starry slumber is the stuff dreams are made of. Pun intended.
However, ask any seasoned adventure rider, and they’ll tell you those moments don’t happen very often. Instead, you’re always checking the weather forecast and hoping for the best while preparing for the worst.
The worst being terrible weather catching you by surprise. And while we’d prefer not to, if you adventure ride long enough, you’ll eventually ride—and camp—in the rain.
The good news is there are ways to manage this situation. Here, we’ve put together nine tips for adventure riding and camping in the rain.
1. Pack Smart
Before you even leave your house, consider what you’re going to take with you. If your motorcycle comes with saddlebags or luggage from the factory, check to see how weather-resistant they are. Even if the manufacturer claims they are waterproof, assume they’re not. Just to be safe. If not, make sure you have a good set of waterproof bags such as the MotoBags.
Pack at least two waterproof bags to keep important items dry. One bag will stash things you know must be dry at all times. The other should have enough space to place items inside in an emergency in case you get caught out by a flash storm.
When it comes to actually packing for your trip, be sure to place items that must stay dry first so they have the most isolation from water. Then items can be packed accordingly based on how important they are to remain dry.
When you get to your campsite, these must-stay-dry items will get removed last, after the rest of your camp is set up, to have the best chance of escaping water.
2. Bring a Tarp
In rainy situations, a tarp will be worth its weight in gold as it’ll provide instant shelter and buy you time while you get your motorcycle tent ready.
Make sure it’s in a safe spot on your bike that’s also within easy access because it’ll be the first thing you take off when you get to your site.
Tie two ends to trees (or poles, or any suitable stake), then stake the two other ends low, or even to the ground, to provide a sloped shelter that will deflect water. Don’t forget to face the tarp in the direction of the rain. Otherwise, your shelter will be meaningless.
Make the tarp taut, so water doesn’t pool on top of it. Then, get to work building your campsite. Once the weather clears up, the tarp is also nice for having a shady place to relax if you need it.
3. Pick a Smart Campground
When it’s wet outside, or if it’s going to be wet outside, you have to be extra careful where you choose to set up your shelter for the night. It should go without saying, but avoid the low ground, the bottom of valleys, and any slopes.
Basically, anywhere water can pool or anywhere water can flow is not where you want to try and get some sleep.
Pick high ground. It doesn’t have to be the highest ground, but somewhere water will move away from you, not towards you. Imagine where water would want to flow or settle—then pick somewhere else.
4. Cargo Nets
If you find yourself having to use any of the other tips here, it’s because the trip isn’t going exactly to plan (i.e. it’s raining). This means you’ll likely have to pack a few things you originally intended to go inside your luggage, outside.
Or you might grab hold of a few items along the way that you have no place for. Cargo nets are excellent for strapping down items you don’t otherwise have a place for. Have a wet sleeping bag or tent? Strap it down on top of your other items and let the wind dry off your stuff as you ride.
5. Gear Up
So far, we’ve focused on what to do when you’re ready to set up camp, but we haven’t said anything about the actual ride.
You’re going to want to wear waterproof gear. The good news is plenty of companies make excellent waterproof jackets, pants, gloves, boots, and anything else you can think of. Use them.
And don’t forget to layer up. Wind and rain lead to instant cold once you start riding. Keeping your body temperature up could be the difference between life and death. This leads us to:
6. Avoid Hypothermia
As said in the last post, hypothermia needs to be avoided at all costs as it literally could kill you. Riding a motorcycle while you’re wet instantly makes you colder, even if you’re going slow.
What’s worse, hypothermia can creep up on you slowly. Which is all the more reason to keep track of yourself if you find yourself still cold despite wearing everything you’ve got. This is especially true if you’re riding alone.
Shivering is the first sign your body is cold. It doesn’t mean you have hypothermia, but it’s the first warning sign your body needs to get warm.
Take off any wet clothes you may be wearing and put on something dry (in extreme cases, if you don’t have anything dry, it might be better not to wear anything at all).
Seek shelter if you can, and if you have a stove, heat up some water, put it in a bottle, and hold it in your hands or on your neck. For this reason, it’s wise to bring hot compresses with you. Just in case.
7. Beware of Road Conditions – Part 1
The most dangerous time to be riding on the road is when it just starts to rain. Those first drops of rain can bring up oil on the pavement left behind by cars and other vehicles, making the road super slick. Then there are the obvious dangers that come with consistent rain, wet roads, and slick conditions.
Leave plenty of room between yourself and other motorists. Wet conditions emphasize the importance of being smooth with your inputs on the motorcycle.
Be gentle with the throttle, don’t grab the brakes suddenly, and realize you can’t maneuver your bike as quickly or with as much lean angle as in the dry.
If your bike has electronic safety aids, now is a great time to take advantage of them as a safety net. At least on the pavement.
8. Beware of Road Conditions – Part 2
You obviously have to be cautious off-road when the weather changes but in different ways. Adventure riding brings another challenge when the rain comes down, as the off-road conditions can turn dramatically.
A light dusting of sand, or silt, can turn into the mud with enough rain, and if you or your motorcycle aren’t ready for muddy conditions, things can get dangerous quickly.
Even if you’ve got brand new knobs on your tires, we all know all bets are off when we’re dealing with mud.
There’s also the matter of gentle streams turning into wild rivers when the rain really comes down. Basically, know your terrain well. If you don’t, then stay clear if the weather looks like it’ll turn for the worse.
9. Stay Home or in a Hotel
There’s a way to avoid having to use any of the tips above: Stay home or, if you’re on the road, in a hotel—especially if the storms are ferocious.
We get it. Sometimes even the best-laid plans can get upended by surprise weather changes. But if you’re monitoring the weather conditions before your trip and it doesn’t look good, ask yourself if you really need to make the trip during that time.
Can you push it back by a day or a few? If the answer is yes, then it’s much more enjoyable to let the bad weather pass from the comfort of your couch and hit the great trails when the sun comes back out.
The key to riding and ADV camping in the rain…is not to. If you can avoid it, then don’t. This isn’t always possible, so knowing some basic riding/camping skills and tips to make the most of a bad situation will turn a miserable time into a little inconvenience.
It’s all fairly basic knowledge: pack accordingly, ride cautiously and put yourself in situations with the greatest chance of a positive outcome. That’s sage advice, no matter what the riding conditions.