How to Camp With Just an ATV

Growing up in a mountain community instilled in me a love for camping. Few things are as peaceful as sitting around a campfire chatting, topped off with a night underneath the stars or nestled in a tent. However, many areas are not accessible via traditional transportation. Some of the most beautiful camping areas in America are not accessible via a truck or car, but many of these locations can be reached by an ATV. So how do you have an amazing camping trip, taking only what you can fit on your ATV? Here are a few ideas I have found that make an ATV camping trip incredible.

Tips and Tricks

1. Plan Ahead: Because camping with just an ATV adds a few wrinkles to your normal camping routine, make sure to do your due diligence. Get a map so you know exactly where you are going. Get your machine serviced, just like you would have your car checked before a long road trip. This can help you identify potential problems before they arise. Because your machine will be your primary mode of transportation, you do not want to break down and be stranded. As always, have a backup plan because even when you do your due diligence, your machine can still break down on the trail.

2. Pack Light: It makes sense that carrying all of your gear for camping on an ATV will mean you need to pack only essential items. Knowing that you can only carry a limited amount of gear and supplies means you have to prioritize your packing list. So what are those essential items you need to have with you?

  • Safety equipment (helmet, gloves, any other riding gear and first aid kit)
  • Sleeping bag and pad
  • Tent
  • Clothes (two pairs of pants, riding jerseys, jacket, socks, beanie, extra shoes and extra underwear)
  • Rain gear
  • Food
  • Cooking equipment
  • Flashlight and lighter
  • Knife
  • Tow strap
  • Tools (crescent wrench, machine tool kit and tire repair kit – all must haves)


Here is one of our machines outfitted for three days on the trail.

ATV Camping

3. Prepare Simple Meals: Bring simple meals that can be cooked easily over a fire or which need no cooking or refrigeration at all. I like to include a combination of both freeze dried meals (read reviews on these as some flavors are much better than others) and canned food with snacks. Bringing food for a week can be pretty easy if you are willing to eat simple and spend your time enjoying trails rather than cooking. Instant oatmeal, granola bars and canned fruit are great for snacks or dessert after a stew or freeze dried meal. I like meals such as these for several reasons; they produce next to nothing to clean up after and cook quickly. The freeze dried meals are mixed with hot water that can be brought to a boil quickly with a backpacking stove like the Jet Boil that is simple to use, safe and very fast.

4. Ignore Inconveniences: Keep your focus on the destination and scenery.

View from two track Trail

Sure you may miss out on some of the conveniences that your usual camping equipment provides, but you can ease those with a few simple tactics. Keep moving each day. Moving camp helps remind you of two things. One: Packing your stuff is way easier when there is less of it. Two: Moving acts as a constant reminder of how amazing and “worth it” these remote areas are. The exclusive scenery can have a great impact on you. To fully embrace the wilderness, take time to get off your machine and explore. While you may not have packed to go on long, extended hikes, you can stop and spend a few hours exploring and getting familiar with the beautiful habitat.

5. Bring a Trailer: If you are camping with a passenger, you will have a lot more gear and less room to put it on your machine. While I primarily suggest you each ride your own machine, if that is not a desired option, there are some really great trailers designed to go anywhere with you. These rugged trailers have large tires and are built to handle miles on the road under heavy loads. They will enable you to carry multiple days worth of gear for two or more people.

6. Bring Straps: Riding an ATV for hours each day on bumpy trails can really strain even the best tie-down jobs loose. Bring as many straps as you can pack, and secure your gear in a way that it will last for the entire day of riding. Nothing is more frustrating than having to stop and secure your gear regularly while on the trail. I prefer bungee cords as they can be used for a lot of purposes; however, no matter what you use, bring extras.

ATV camping can be a huge adventure and – if done right – may become your favorite way to spend time in the mountains. Have ideas on how to make ATV camping better? Please share in the comments.

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By Jared Oldham