Tag Archives: motorcycle camper

How does a motorcycle camper affect a bike’s gas mileage?

The Impact of a Motorcycle Camper on Gas Mileage

I’ve read a lot of discussions about the impact of a motorcycle trailer on a bike’s gas mileage but had never tracked it for myself. On my recent run down to the Georgia Mountain Rally in Hiawassee, I decided to pay closer attention.

Heavy weight should be evenly distributed in the bottom of any motorcycle cargo trailer or camper
Heavy weight should be evenly distributed in the bottom of any motorcycle cargo trailer or camper

I thought it would be especially interesting since I was pulling a Mini Mate motorcycle camper loaded with four boxes of books. It would be the heaviest pull I’ve done in a while. The Mini Mate weighs in at 265 lbs. empty and I usually carry very little gear, so my total towing weight with the Mini Mate almost never exceeds 300 lbs. In this case, four boxes of books added 160 lbs., plus the additional stuff I needed for my booth at the rally. I figured by the time I was done, I was looking at a weight of something in the range of 420 to 450 lbs. That’s about the same weight as a Time Out Deluxe loaded with gear.

A lot of factors go into determining gas mileage. The biggest factors are speed and weight, but other elements play a role, too, like the size of the bike and its power (Honda ST-1300), riding style, terrain, and weather. Especially headwinds. More about that later.

motorcycle camper mpg table

The ride to the rally and back covered about 1200 miles of mixed roads including state primary routes, US highways and some Interstate. On the way down, I plotted a leisurely route that included a greater variety of roads than the return trip. About half way into the run to the rally, I picked up I-40 from Greensboro, NC to Asheville, NC where the pace picked up. I increased my pace to stay up with traffic.

After climbing for several miles on US 64, this scenic overlook provided the best view of the trip. It was wet and windy from here out.

After climbing for several miles on US 64, this scenic overlook provided the best view of the trip. It was wet and windy from here out.

The last segment included long pulls up steep hills on US 23 and US 64 to the turn for Hiawassee, but also corresponding long runs down those same grades. Borrowing a page from the hypermiler’s handbook, I pulled in the clutch and coasted. On one stretch down US 64 I coasted for 4 miles at or above the speed limit. That was kind of fun. It probably boosted my mileage on those long grades by 1 mpg.

Let’s just say the trip back was an entirely different story. After 3 days of unceasing high winds, toppling trees, 45 degree daytime highs and intermittent wind-driven rain, I was ready to get back. Right now. Seeing a break in the precip on my iPhone RadarScope app, I executed my escape plan.
The winds were unbelievable, and in my face for the first 100 miles from Hiawassee to Asheville. Believe it or not, having the camper attached to the back of the bike makes it feel better in strong winds, like attaching a tail to a kit. Headwinds tossed the front end around like a pup with a rag doll, but the rear end stayed planted.

Mileage, predictably, took a hit. While I wasn’t averaging very fast speeds, the headwinds added to the work the bike had to do to pull itself and the camper up those long grades, and the bike actually slowed on the downhill grades with the stiff headwinds buffeting the bike. I don’t think it would’ve mattered whether I was towing or not, the combination of hills and weather conditions caused my mileage to plummet for the first segment of the return.

Return mileage wasn't as stellar, but it still wasn't that much of a deviation from my regular hammer-down riding style.

At Asheville, radar revealed that a turn north would get me ahead of the weather front and out of the rain, so that was a no brainer. I-26 is an easy run over the Bald Mountains of the Appalachian range between Asheville and Johnson City, Tennessee. At this point, the path home was made clear by predictions of 3 to 5 inches of rain and the sight of animals lining up two-by-two. I would pick up I-81 and make a bombing run home.

Riding now on long straights with lower grades, my mileage ticked up just a little bit even though I was twisting the throttle at a decent rate, keeping up with or passing some traffic, what most riders would consider a normal, safe pace. I stopped for the night in Salem, VA. I’d gotten well ahead of the bad weather, but it was still chilly. Escaping the worst of it tired me out, so I decided I would make the final run home the next day.

I didn’t waste any time getting home. Let’s put it that way. It was a brilliant sunny day out, but the lack of cold weather gear made it uncomfortable. So I just put my head down and banged out the last 225 miles.

Comparing this to my usual mileage without a trailer revealed that the impact isn’t a much as I’d expected, even at the faster rates. My ST-1300 averages around 46 MPG when I’m making a long run at modest highway speeds, about 3 points higher than the best MPG I averaged pulling a loaded motorcycle camper at those same speeds. When moving at a faster pace on the Interstate or when I’m carving up some twisties, my average drops to 37 MPG or about 4 MPG better than when towing.
I would have thought the difference would be greater, especially on the return trip with higher speeds, but the numbers don’t lie. Over the course of a 1200 mile trip, towing the camper cost me about one extra tank full of gas, or about $21.

Considering the difference in comfort between camping in a puddle (complete with wind-driven whitecaps) and camping off the ground, high and dry, I’ll gladly pay for the extra tank of gas and bring the camper along for the ride, every time.

P.S. Incidentally, I should add the camper handled great behind the bike, even with that much weight. I inflated the tires to 50 lbs. PSI (max is 60), and made sure the bike’s tires were at their max as well. I loaded the books evenly across the bottom of the camper to keep the weight low and evenly distributed. I used engine braking when slowing for traffic lights so I didn’t add too much strain to my brakes. Even descending the mountains of western North Carolina in driving winds and rain, I never felt like the camper was pushing the bike. It was still a fun ride!

Time Out Deluxe Motorcycle Camper Setup

The Time Out Deluxe is a roomy lightweight trailer that can be pulled by a full-size motorcycle, trike, or any car, crossover, SUV.

In this video, I’m demonstrating how the camper arrives at your house, how to unpack it, and how to assemble it.

If you like this video, consider subscribing to my Open Road Outfitters YouTube channel. You’ll be notified when I post new videos about motorcycle trailers, campers and motorcycle travel-related topics.

—– Video transcript ——

Well it doesn’t look much like spring yet but the arrival of my Time Out Deluxe motorcycle camper must mean that spring is just around the corner, and I thought you might like to take a look at how these are assembled.

After I get it off the truck, I like to go around and take a look at the carton to check for any potential damage. I’ve got a hole here, but this looks like it’s okay. There’s nothing wrong here. So I’m going to go ahead and pop these metal straps off and put this together.

The first thing I’m going to do here is pull out the aerodynamic cooler out of its box and check that to make sure that’s okay. That looks like that’s fine.

So now I’ll lift the top off and I’ll use that to hold all the stuff I’m going to get rid of. These are wrapped up pretty well so I’ll take this off and just take a look at the exterior to make sure it’s okay. I’m sure it is.

All right, the next thing I’m going to do is pop the latches on either side of the lid and I’m going to open this up. I’m going to prop the top and the bed area together and that will hold it open and let me unload it.

Let’s see, so what have we got here? Well, we have the Add-A-Room. We’ll take a look in another video about how to set that up. We also have the l-shaped awning. We have the air conditioning stand. We’ve got some poles that you can use to support the tent if it’s wet outside. I have ten poles associated with the Add-A-Room. These can also be used for the l-shaped awning.

Let’s see what else do we have here? Well, we have a bag of cat crap…(record scratch noise)…wait a minute. A bag of cat crap. She kind of snuck that in there. I guess I’ll deal with that later.

This is a tripod in case I want to use the table outside of the camper. I’ve got a chair. And these are the standard wheels that come with it. 12″ white steel wheels. I might change those later. I’ve got a queen-sized air mattress, a cover for everything.

The I’ve got some instructions, license plate frame, wiring harness, brake controller, center caps, a coupler for the tongue, some safety chains and some hardware. So let’s take a look at how all this goes together.

The first thing I’ll do here is remove the tongue. As you can see, that has the VIN on it. If you’re looking for the sticker, that’s on the tongue. Now, I’m going to take the screws out of the jackstands in the front of the camper so that I can use this flat jack to jack it up. And that will make it real easy to put the wheels on.

Center cap goes on and then I will slide a wheel in place. I’m going to tighten these down just enough to move the camper. Before I take it out for the first time, I’ll tighten those down to about 50 to 60 foot pounds of torque.

Now I’m going to pull out the wiring harness so I can run that through the tongue. I got the lighted cooler package and the wiring harness is prewired here so I have a pair of leads for the cooler package. On the front I’ve got a five pin flat plug for the lights and a two pin plug for the brakes. You can always change that. I might change that later to something smaller but for now I’ll leave it as it is.

So after I run the wiring harness through the tongue, I’m then going to run the tongue back through those two brackets on the front of the camper and I’m going to use the Grade 8 hardened bolts that come with it to lock that into place. This comes with nylock nuts so you don’t need to use washers with it.

And now, looking under the camper, I’ve got a nice solid powdercoated steel frame, an independent rubber torsion suspension. I’ve got a spot in the back where I can mount a spare tire underneath. It’s just a nice, clean, sturdy setup. This camper will last for a long time.

Now, I’ve run the two bolts through the coupler and I’m ready to pull this off the pallet. I would recommend that you either put a set of runners or something under the tires to run it off the pallet. Or, since I’m not going to keep the pallet, I’m going to cut it up. Because if you try to run it off the pallet, the wheels will drop down into the center section and you’ll be stuck.

Well, this is just the start of the snow we’re supposed to get this spring, so I’ll put this camper away for now. If you’d like to learn more about the Time Out camper, visit my site here at OpenRoadOutfitters.com. Feel free to drop me an e-mail.

So until next time, this is Dale Coyner for Open Road Outfitters, wishing you many happy journeys.

10 Reasons Why Motorcycle Camper Trailers Rule

Dale Coyner and Mini Mate Motorycle Camper
Dale Coyner enjoys the view from the “side porch” of a Mini Mate motorcycle camper.

by Dale Coyner

There’s a lot of truth in the cliche “less is more,” especially when it comes to small pop up campers. I’ve spoken with a number of folks over the last few years who are selling off their full-size travel trailer and going to a class of small, lightweight camper that are marketed primarily for motorcycles.

A motorcycle camper doesn’t offer quite as many conveniences as a larger camper does. There’s no kitchen or stand up shower. No cedar lined closets or flat panel TV. But small pull behind campers have advantages that make up for some of those missing conveniences. Here are ten reasons that a lightweight motorcycle tent trailer might just be the solution you’re looking for, whether you’re getting your first camper or thinking about downsizing.

Low up front cost. Of course a mini camper is less expensive, often by a lot. Pop up camper prices for a comfortable, US made, 2 person camper begins at around $3,000. How is that an advantage? For starters, that’s low enough that many folks can buy one outright, avoiding costly interest payments. If you decide to finance, check with your bank or credit union. A mini camper is a vehicle with a VIN, so many financial institutions would consider a secured loan. That means a much better interest rate. And, if you go a couple of months without using your camper, you won’t feel the nagging guilt you would every month you stroke a payment check for that big travel trailer that sits unused in your driveway.

Time Out Pop Up CamperTow with any vehicle. While mini campers are most often marketed as motorcycle campers, they can be towed by any vehicle, a tiny Smart Car, a three-wheel Spyder, or even a mid-size motorcycle. There’s no need to buy an expensive diesel-sucking dually pick-up to pull a mini camper. Two-seater sports cars like the Miata can handle one easily. That means any compact or full size car or truck can tow a small pop up camper. When towing with a four-wheel vehicle, a motorcycle pop up camper will have nearly zero impact on your gas mileage. Any model can be wired with a flat-four plug which fits most vehicles equipped with a hitch. Here’s what it looks like to tow a camper with a motorcycle. I’m towing at a responsible speed, but it ain’t slowing me down.

Easy maintenance. When you have a big camper, there are a lot of things to take care of, whether you use it or not. It’s like taking care of a boat. Mini campers require a lot less. At the beginning of the year, I set mine up and spray it with Scotchguard to improve the fabric’s rain repellency. I’ll hit the hinges with a little silicon lube. During the year, I just make sure it’s clean and dry when I pack it up. Once every couple of years I’ll check the bearings to make sure the grease is still fresh. That’s it.

Easier and less costly to store. There’s no need to rent an expensive parking spot or build a hangar-sized addition to your garage to house a mini camper. In the winter, take off the tongue and your camper would consume up a manageable 65” x 43” space in the garage.

More outdoor experience. At what point does camping with all the conveniences of home cross the line and simply become “living in a different place?” That’s what travel trailers signify to me. When I go camping, I want to be closer to the outdoors, not insulated from it. To me, that’s one of the big advantages of pop up camping. I don’t want to bring along the 24 hour news channels or the microwave popcorn. I want the four C’s of camping: a campfire, a comfy chair, good conversation, and a cigar. And a beer.

Comfortable where it counts. While you do give up a lot of built-in amenities, a pop up camper offers the most important conveniences. You get a roomy bed area comfortable for two. Some campers feature sitting areas that give two people plenty of room to relax inside a fully screened living space.. If needed, some models feature add-on rooms that allow you to create a much larger space. Air conditioning is an option. Some folks tote along a porta potty, which is a matter of personal preference. For more covered space outside, some models like the Time Out camper offer an L-shaped awning that creates a lot of covered space.

Time Out Motorcycle Camper
Put a small motorcycle camper almost anywhere, on a friend’s lawn or in a tight camping spot that a bigger camper just can’t fit into.

Access to more camping spots. Lightweight mini campers are narrower than any car or truck and much lower, which means you can park them in more remote spots than larger campers. I frequently camp at friends’ homes in the Appalachian mountains. I can park my camper on their lawn and not worry that I’ll leave ruts behind. Mini campers much easier to maneuver which means anyone can easily park one with confidence. And if you can’t get it in just the right spot, you can unhook it from the vehicle and move it by hand. Try that with a fifth wheel! You can tow them pretty much anywhere, even Alaska, as this Mini Mate customer will tell you.

Ready to go, so you camp more. When I come home from a camping trip, I take about ten minutes to vacuum out the inside with a battery-operated hand vac, wipe down the roof, and organize my gear. When I close up the camper, it’s immediately ready to go. Now I know you can do this with a travel trailer as well, but the task is a lot larger. It’s like cleaning a house. The fact is that having the mini camper ready to go, with less fuss, means you’ll do more camping. Just pull it out, hook it up, and drive away. Camping really doesn’t get any easier than that.

Fast, easy set up. In the videos I create that show how to set up a pop-up camper, it generally takes me, alone, less than ten minutes to set up camp. The Mini Mate camper sets up in two minutes. That’s less time than it takes to set up most travel trailers and way faster than setting up a tent. Likewise, striking camp is equally fast. In the morning, I can be packed and ready to go in twenty minutes. When you’re traveling point to point, that’s a big plus. You can either get an early start, or sleep in a little longer. Plus, you don’t need to go through an arm’s-length checklist to make sure you’ve stowed and strapped everything. If you’re traveling on a motorcycle, you know what that’s like. It’s a pain.

Very low depreciation. Finally, if there does come a time that you decide to sell your mini camper, you’ll be surprised at its resale value. Used tent trailers that are small enough to be pulled by a motorcycle are in high demand. It is not an exaggeration to say that a well-kept motorcycle camper can hold up to 90% of its value over the first three years, and more than 75% over five years.

I know the folks at “GoRVing” would have an issue with this, but as you think about your next camper, consider what you really want from a camping experience. If you’re looking to create a home away from home, a big fifth wheel trailer or Class A motorhome might be the right fit. But if you’re looking to enjoy more of the great outdoors, the way it was meant to be enjoyed, then a lightweight motorcycle camper might just be what you’re looking for.

Visit www.openroadoutfitters.com for more information about motorcycle campers or contact me directly at dale@openroadoutfitters.com. I wish you many happy journeys!

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

A used motorcycle camper advertised online. It looks pretty sweet in this picture. Will it measure up when you check it out in person?
If you’ve looked in the right places and asked the right questions, the chances are better than average that the used motorcycle camper you’re preparing to go see, and maybe purchase, is a solid deal.

This last installment covers some of the same points you asked about over the phone. But pictures an owner sends can only tell part of the story. And sometimes, the answers you get from an owner may overestimate things (like condition) and underestimate others (like that gaping hole in the tent fabric).

This list of questions may not cover every minor detail but a camper that passess all of these visual checks is likely to perform well for you.

Do they have the title in hand, and does the camper have a VIN that matches? You would have asked the owner ahead of time if they had a clear title. Before anything else is done, it’s time to see it. Locate the VIN sticker on the camper and compare the numbers. If you can’t find the VIN on the camper or the paperwork and camper VINs don’t agree, stop here. You could have trouble getting this unit registered. (Pennsylvania, for example, goes to great lengths to verify the VIN.)

Where is it stored? A camper that’s stored in a garage or other well-built structure is optimal. Not only is the exterior less exposed to the elements, it’s less exposed to critters. A camper that’s kept “under the deck out back” or outside but covered may be okay as long as it hasn’t been exposed to too much moisture. A camper sitting alone, under a tree, uncovered, is not a good sign.

How does the unit appear on the outside? You would expect a motorcycle pop-up camper to show some wear. After all, they’re built to be used. A little wear on the jack stands, external floor stands, some nicks or dings on the exterior finish would all be normal for a unit that’s a couple years old or has been used a lot. Again, a unit stored in a garage will generally show less wear, especially less dulling of painted or gel coat surfaces, because it’s had less exposure to the sun’s UV rays.

In what condition are the tires? Four-ply camper tires are usually good for about 20,000 miles and four or five years. If the camper’s old than that and has its original tires, the sidewalls will likely show some cracking from UV exposure. Rubber also cracks a bit as it dries with age. Figure on replacing those, for safety sake. Good tires aren’t expensive, about $40 each.

How well does it set up? Beyond the external cosmetics, it’s time to see how much “pop” is in your prospective pop-up. Have the owner show you how to set it up. It’s better if you do the setting up and they tell you how. You’ll get a better feel for how the camper unfolds and you’ll instantly become aware of any problems that an experienced owner might, errr, gloss over, as they set up the camper. For example, when you set up the leg supports on the roof of the Time Out, you can tell by how they extend if they’ve been bent over the years. That’s not a deal breaker, and it doesn’t need to be fixed. But it’s better to know the sum total of all the quirks in a used tent camper before you hand over your hard earned moola.

How does it smell? How does it smell, indeed. This may be the most critical test in your evaluation. The tent fabric and soft parts in motorcycle camping trailers are sensitive to dampness. And it’s not that unusual for someone to come home from a long ride with a camper that’s a little damp, dump it in the garage, and go in the house for a long soak. After which, they totally forget to open the camper and let it air out. Until they decide two years later to sell it. Oops. So, when you crack open the top and start setting up the camper, pay attention to what you smell. Mildew isn’t easy to get out. Neither is smoke. If the odor is faint, you might be able to air it out well enough.

Is it clean on the inside? Does it show excessive wear? These are subjective measures of course, but as you know, a clean camper is likely to be a well-maintained camper. One that has a funky odor and dinghy fabric, well, you’d just as well spend your money at Motel 6. You’d be getting the same thing, only with a shower and a toilet.

In what condition is the tent fabric? After smell, this is the next most critical thing to examine. I had a fellow contact me having just purchased a 1994 camper online who said, “I got it home and the zippers are missing from the windows.” Oh boy. Replacing the tent fabric is expensive, and that’s assuming it’s still available from the manufacturer. Setting up the camper will give you the chance to look at every zipper, every screen, and identify any rips or tears. If the camper canvas folds at any point, look for stress tears. Also be aware–untreated nylon tent fabric with a lot of exposure to UV rays will become faded and brittle over time.

Is all the hardware present? Does the camper have all the poles it’s supposed to have? If the tent fabric snaps around the base, are all the snaps working? You don’t want to get home and find that the owner forgot to include the poles to set it up or forgot the awning. Speaking of which, set up the awning, too. If the camper has options like a cooler or an AC stand, insure those are present and in good working order too.

Are the suspension and bearings in good shape? There isn’t much to the suspension on a motorcycle camper, but you want to look for obvious problems. The camper should be level, meaning, one side shouldn’t be measurably higher or lower than the other. You can set the camper on its jackstands to get the wheels off the ground. Tug on the top of the wheel. There should be an absence of movement in and out. Any movement other than in the direction of travel could indicate loose bearings. If you’re planning to tow the trailer home and the owner can’t verify maintenance on the bearings, it might not be a bad idea to pop off a wheel, pull the dust cap, and check the condition of the grease. Generally speaking, wheel bearing replacement isn’t expensive, so the need to replace bearings isn’t a deal breaker. You just don’t want to tow a camper a few hundred miles with dry or worn bearings.

Do all the lights work? Aside from weather exposure to the soft components, electrical issues are about the only other common issue with any lightweight tent camper. It’s not unusual for an owner to change the plug on a camper, so make sure it’s in good shape. Ask to see the camper’s lights in action. You might choose to bring a 12 volt source with you (like a used bike battery), just to test the lights in case the owner no longer has the ability to demonstrate them. Camper wiring is not complicated, but some folks can make a mess of it if they get into it and start modifying it to add auxiliary plugs or tack on extra lights.

What other modifications has the owner made? Finally ask the owner to point out any modifications they’ve made. Some may be obvious, others not as much. This will just give you some idea of the history of the camper and whether there are more things that need to be maintained than you were aware of originally.

Well that’s all that comes to mind, but when you look in the right places, ask the right questions, and do your due diligence when you check out a camper, the camper you settle on should bring you good service for many years.

Of course, if you decide you’d like to consider a new motorcycle camper like the ones I sell from Time Out and Mini Mate, I’d welcome the opportunity to speak with you as well.

Thanks for your time. Hope these tips will help make you a Happy Camper!

Didn’t see the other parts?

Buying a Used Motorcycle Camper, Part 1 – Better Places to Look
Buying a Used Motorcycle Camper, Part 2 – Questions to Ask Over the Phone

Motorcycle Camping: What does a camper feel like behind a bike?

A lot of folks ask me what it feels like to pull a motorcycle camper or trailer. I never know exactly how to answer that because when I say it doesn’t really alter my riding all that much, I figure they’ll think I’m just saying that.

So when I went out this summer, I shot a little video from the perspective of the Mini Mate motorcycle camper as I ascended US 33 between Brandywine, WV and Harrisonburg, VA. Again, I can’t tell you how you’ll feel when you tow a camper, but maybe this will give you some perspective.

As always, if you have questions about campers, motorcycle trailers, a motorcycle hitch or the trailer wiring you’ll need, feel free to contact me!

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

Comparing the Mini Mate and Easy Camper

Q:What is your opinion regarding differences in the Mini Mate vs. the Easy Camper??? For instance—should my wife camp with me ?

A:First, watch this video. Then join me afterward (below), for more commentary.

If your better half will be joining you once in a while, then I think either camper would work for you.

P1010660The bed area is exactly the same between the Mini Mate, Easy Camper, and regular size Time Out — 6.5 feet long, 4.5 feet wide. The Easy Camper bed area probably feels a little bigger because you have the extra covered space inside, but that’s just an illusion.

(Little Known Fact: You can put a queen air mattress in any of these units. When you inflate it, the mattress pushes the tent material out a little and creates a couple of extra inches of space. A queen is only six inches wider than these beds anyway.)
If I were regularly traveling two up, the Easy Camper or regular Time Out would be more comfortable for two because it has the sitting area inside. I think the Easy Camper is the best value in the Time Out line. It uses all the external accessories as the Time Out and Time Out Deluxe, and has almost as much inside space, but is lighter and less expensive.

P1010666The Mini Mate set up is faster and easier and the unit is 60 lbs lighter. I know you’re pulling with a trike, so weight isn’t as much of a factor in how it affects handling, but it would have a reduced impact on your gas mileage.

So to recap, both have the same bed size. Easy Camper has more interior room and options, but is heavier. Setup requires medium effort. The Mini Mate is lighter, sets up faster with light effort. It has fewer options.

To be honest, I think they’re both great campers and you would quickly adapt to whichever you choose. I would gladly tow and camp with either of them.

Be sure to check out videos of both the Mini Mate camper setup and the Time Out camper setup. (The video shows the regular size Time Out. Setup for the Easy Camper is essentially the same.)

For a comparison on any other aspects of motorcycle campers, please feel free to contact me at Open Road Outfitters.