Motorcycle Camping – Buying a Used Motorcycle Camper (Part 2 of 3)

Roomy camper for sale. Best suited for a Boss Hoss trike or diesel pick up. Best offer over $200. Cash only.

In the first installment of this article, I talked about looking in the right places for a motorcycle camper. In this installment I want to talk about questions you can ask and things you should evaluate that will help you determine if you’re looking at a good deal or a potential money pit.

An owner might not know every answer, but how they answer will tell you a little something about their history with the camper and whether you should take the time to go see it. That could be really important if the camper is 400 miles away.

Were the pictures you sent taken recently? This question is just a little integrity check. Did the owner send you pictures taken when he first bought the camper? Or did he set it up and take current photos? If the pics are only a year old, that might be okay, but I think we both know that if someone sent you pictures from 2005 and doesn’t “have time” to set up the camper to take new pictures…that’s a red flag.

What is the year, make and model of the camper? Some manufacturers make different models, so you’d want to know, for example, if the Time Out you are looking at is the Easy Camper (smaller), the original Time Out (mid-size) or the Time Out Deluxe (biggest).

Is this a camper designed for a motorcycle? If the camper is a name you recognize, Time Out, Bunkhouse, Aspen, Kompact Kamp, Roll-A-Home, Lee-sure Lite, Kwik Kamp, then you can be reasonably sure you’re looking at a camper built for the width and weight limitations of a motorcycle. If the owner throws out a name you don’t recognize, do your homework to make sure you know the camper is, in fact, a motorcycle-specific camper and not just because the current owner says it is. Motorcycle campers are generally under 400 lbs empty weight and not wider than about 40 inches. Anything heavier or wider than that may be a “micro camper” and might be fine with a trike, but not necessarily a motorcycle camper.

Is the person you’re dealing with the first owner? If not, how many have owned it before? Like cars, a first owner camper is usually a better deal that one that’s passed through multiple owners.

Is the title clear and do you have it in hand? Again, like a car, you only want to give serious consideration to a camper with a clear title that the owner has in hand.

Where has the unit been stored? Very important. “In a garage”is good. “Outside under a tarp” means one thing — Be. Very. Afraid. Some campers, especially older models made with an untreated composite wood frame, crumble away. Newer models of most reputable campers use weather-resistant pressure-treated materials that can better withstand exposure to weather. But in talking with an owner you find a camper has been sitting “out back,” unprotected for a few months (or a few years), take a pass and wait for a better opportunity.

When did you last use the camper? How often do you use it? Why are you selling it? These questions will help you get an idea if this is a camper someone bought on a whim, used once, put away wet, and hasn’t opened in the last five years. I’d rather hear someone say that they take it out a couple of times a year and have just decided they want something bigger, shinier, different, whatever.

In what condition is the tent? Any rips, tears, stains, mildew? Without a doubt, the most important aspect of a motorcycle camper is assessing the condition of the tent. I can’t tell you how many calls and e-mails I’ve gotten about replacing the canvas on a camper someone just bought from eBay. That might or might not be possible. You would expect some stains and some fading on a tent that has been used regularly.

Does the interior have any evidence of mice? You may or may not get the answer to this over the phone. Mice can find their way into just about anything that sits unattended in any storage unit outside of a hermetically sealed chamber. (And we know most places we store stuff aren’t hermetically sealed chambers.) So when you do happen to look at the unit, look for any damage that might be caused by nasty little rodent teeth chipping away at carpeting, wood, or tent canvas.

Does it have all its critical parts? Is anything missing? Broken? I sold a bike and my first camper to a buddy who bought it and rode it cross country to California. He didn’t want the camper, so he, in turn, sold it to someone out there. Six months later, I’m cleaning the garage and what do I run across? The poles for the tent. That means: When you go to look at a camper, have the owner take you through the setup to make sure all its critical parts are included. You can get by if it’s missing a table or sleeping pads need to be refurbished, but if you’re missing something crucial to the setup, it might not be a deal worth doing, or worth a substantial discount.

When were the bearings last serviced? Generally speaking, it’s not a deal-breaker if the owner hasn’t done regular service to the bearings. Most units use standard automotive bearings with replacement parts available at an auto parts store. Knowing the bearings were in good shape and well lubed would give you peace of mind if you planned to pull it home a few hundred miles or if you were heading out soon on a camping trip.

What options does it have? Helpful to know for establishing a good market value of the camper.

Does the camper require any repairs or restoration to use? Another market value question. Is the camper represented as “ready to camp” or does it need to have the tent replaced, new tires, and a new tongue?

Finally, is the company still in business? I wouldn’t expect an owner to necessarily know this. This is something worth finding out on your own. I typically advise folks to avoid purchasing used units from a name that is no longer in business for the simple reason that custom parts, like the tent canvas, will be impossible to find. Most of the companies I named above have been in business for a while. Time Out has been producing campers since 1974, Kompact Kamp, which makes the Mini Mate, has been building since 1982. One once-popular camper from the above list that’s no longer in production is the Kwik Kamp.

Having some answers to these questions will give you a good sense whether the deal you’re considering is real or not. In the last installment, I’ll discuss what you should do when you look at the camper in person.

In the meantime, if you decide you’d like to consider a new Mini Mate or Time Out motorcycle camper, please contact me. If you do find a good deal and just need a motorcycle hitch or motorcycle trailer wiring, I can help with that, too.

More on Buying a Used Motorcycle Tent Trailer

Buying a Used Motorcycle Camper, Part 1 – Better Places to Look
Buying a Used Motorcycle Camper, Part 3 – Evaluating the Camper in Person

Motorcycle Camping – Buying a Used Motorcycle Camper (Part 1 of 3)

FOR SALE: Lightweight, portable camper. Well-ventilated. Super fast setup. Comfy mattress that sleeps off the ground.

I get a lot of requests for used motorcycle campers. It’s not uncommon to receive a dozen or more inquiries a week during the peak riding season. If I could only manufacture a used camper, I could sell every single one!

Of course, I realize the reason demand is so high is because folks are looking to save a few dollars. If you are considering that, this article series offers a few tips to help you make an informed decision. (This is especially true when you’re looking at motorcycle campers as they have soft parts that are exposed to the elements.) Dollars are precious, and you want to make sure you really are getting a good deal, not someone else’s basket of problems!

The first rule is — don’t be in a hurry. This is the hardest piece of advice to take, but it’s also the most important. A lot of folks get the idea to purchase a motorcycle camper a couple of weeks before their trip. A good used motorcycle camper can take months to locate. If you’re in a hurry, trying to find a camper to make a specific trip, your haste increases the chances that you’ll take whatever you can find. Buy something sight unseen. Take a chance you would otherwise avoid. RUSH – it’s a four-letter word for TROUBLE!

Next, when you’ve decided to take your time and do this thing right, look in the right places. If you have a friend who tows a motorcycle camper and you know it’s been well cared for, get on their wait list. (This is the main reason why there aren’t that many used campers on the market. Friends often buy from friends.)

If you don’t have a friend with a camper, turn to a source where motocamper and mototrailer oriented folks tend to gather. I frequently send people to the For Sale section of www.gl1800riders.com, a very active Gold Wing forum, and to www.motocampers.com, a site of special interest if you are into motorcycle camping. Of course you should carefully vet any offers posted here just as you would elsewhere, but I generally find the quality of campers offered here to be better than your average Craigslist or eBay listing.

Finally, watch out for the too-good-to-be-true deal. If you’ve been scouring the Internet, you may have come across what looks like a super deal. A brand new camper for almost half the price of other similarly styled campers. Sound too good to be true? I think so.

Chances are good that what you’re looking at is an imported knock-off of the Time Out camper that I sell. Materials and construction of this particular unit are sub-par and if you look a little further you’ll find a long history of “F” ratings from the BBB, frequent company name changes, and a lot of customer complaints on the same forums mentioned above. Hey, you’re free to spend your money as you like, but why patronize a business that steals American designs and jobs to deliver a crappy product that they don’t support? Enough said.

In the second installment, I’ll cover the questions you should ask and things you should look at when you do identify a potential deal. On the other hand, if you decide you’d like to consider a new Mini Mate or Time Out motorcycle camper, please contact me. If you do find a good deal and just need a motorcycle hitch or motorcycle trailer wiring, I can help with that, too.

More on Buying a Used Motorcycle Tent Trailer

Buying a Used Motorcycle Camper, Part 2 – Questions to Ask Over the Phone
Buying a Used Motorcycle Camper, Part 3 – Evaluating the Camper in Person

Motorcycle Camping – My Non-Essential Essentials

Every motorcycle camper has a list of personal essentials to take on a trip. In addition to the real necessities, like a tent and a sleeping bag, for example, there are a couple of things that add enough to the experience that you just have to find a way to bring them.

For me, those non-essential essentials are two items that I can trace back to my childhood. No, I’m not talking about a blanket and a Teddy. My two must-haves are a small battery-operated fan and a shortwave radio.

The fan is a habit I developed at an early age, simply because we didn’t have AC until I’d almost left home. That meant many summer days and nights spent within the blast radius of a box fan that noisily recirculated warm, moist central Virginia air. I became so accustomed to the movement of air and the sound that I find it hard to sleep without it today. It doesn’t take much room, and my little fan puts out just enough to keep a breeze stirring.

If you didn’t pick up the fan habit, you probably grew up, as I did, with a transistor radio. Something small enough to hide under your pillow or the covers, so you could listen at night when you should be sleeping. (Did you ever accidentally bump the volume dial and get busted by your parents? I did.)

Time spent scanning the AM dial or shortwave bands meant you could pull in signals from stations around the country, or the world. Even today, there’s something less magical about clicking a link that takes me to a webpage in Brazil or Germany than listening to music from a different culture that I know is coming from a broadcast tower thousands of miles away.

Sitting under the stars at my campsite, panning the broadcast dial I realize that I spent my youth wondering what would happen in the years to come. Now that I’ve arrived at that future, I spend time looking back the other way.

It’s understandable, and natural at this point, I suppose, to reflect both on where you’re going and where you’ve been. I do that best when I’m removed from the dither of everyday life, which is why motorcycle camping suits me so well.

And all it takes to move me back and forth through time is a little staticky accordion music and a light breeze.

If you’d like more information about motorcycle campers, please visit my site. I represent US-made products (only!) from Mini Mate and Time Out that can be pulled by motorcycles, trikes and ANY four-wheel vehicles including the SmartCar, Prius, etc. Or e-mail me at dale@openroadoutfitters.com

Motorcycle Camping – The Best Season

Having sold motorcycle campers for more than a few years now, I know just about what to expect when I open my e-mail box on any given day during the year. When the calendar turns September I usually see a flurry of camper orders. And that’s when I know that camping’s “second season” is about to begin.

I understand that. I have to be honest, I dislike camping in hot weather. No matter how much air I get moving with a fan, it’s still uncomfortable many summer nights here in the mid-Atlantic. I suppose a ride further north would answer some of those issues. Even if I’m pulling a Time Out camper with an air conditioning port, I’m still sweaty by the time I finish setting up at night or preparing to leave in the morning.

Fall, however, seems to be the perfect time. The humidity drops and, excepting the occasional tropical system, the chances of a washout are lessened as well. Cool autumn nights make time spent around the campfire something to enjoy instead of something you do out of a sense of obligation. Another bonus: after the kids get back to school, campgrounds and parks have almost emptied out. And let’s not forget those vivid fall colors that make every bike-and-background picture look like a magazine cover shot.

Yep, autumn is my favorite time to fire up the bike, camper in tow, and head for the hills. Then again, even if it’s a little warmer than I like, any time I can get away for a motorcycle camping trip is the best time!

Click these links to get more information about the Mini Mate motorcycle camper or the Time Out line of motorcycle campers. I can ship just about anywhere!

Drop me a line with your questions, too. Contact me at dale@openroadoutfitters.com