Author Topic: Camping or Cheap Moteling?  (Read 10462 times)

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Offline SKYMAX

Camping or Cheap Moteling?
« on: March 01, 2005, 05:34:27 am »
On my upcoming extended USA tour I planned to camp for 3 days out of 4 because I thought that Motels everynight would be much more expensive than mostly camping.
But today I talked to another Australian guy who toured across the USA 6 years ago and he said the cost difference between Campgrounds and El Cheapo Motels was neglible and worth the little bit extra for a good nights rest.(Campgrounds can be noisy).
Although he did say that the Campgrounds in National Parks were cheap, (but high-density).
In the 6 online journals I have read, the Campsites seem to be usually about $15 and the fleabag Motels about $30.
What say you all? I'm not as young and tough as I used to be. Should I abandon the heavy trailer or panniers and just take my credit card?
Clear Skies, Max.

Clear skies, Max.
Clear skies, Max.


  • Guest
Camping or Cheap Moteling?
« Reply #1 on: March 01, 2005, 12:05:41 pm »
How about a compromise? Instead of a full-on camp setup...heavy 2/3 person tent, full cook kit with fuel bottle, camp chair and so on, you could pack a minimal set with an ultralight 1 person shelter and maybe one of those tiny Esbit solid fuel stoves. This would give you the flexibility of sleeping indoors or out...with not too much extra weight or bulk.

Also, don't discount the chances for very inexpensive and even free campsites. On my travels in the States, I've slept for free numerous times in small town city parks, church yards, ballfields, even the front porches of kind locals.

Flexibility is really the key. If you go the credit card route, you may be limiting your experiences and forcing yourself to ride roads and distances not to your liking simply to find lodging for the night.


Offline LDiskin

Camping or Cheap Moteling?
« Reply #2 on: March 01, 2005, 05:25:01 pm »
In some cases motels will be a bit more expensive and in some cases campgrounds will be a bit less expensive the the rates you listed.

If money is not a major concern, the real question is what would you prefer. Motel to motel (affectionately also know as credit card touring) is very popular these days. It might cost around $1000 or more to do it that way but it provides a great deal of extra comfort for many folks. (actually, it might not be too big of a financial difference if you are not having to purchase all of the gear required for self-contained camping)

A lot of people have a much easier time toughing out bad weather and other undesirable conditions if they know they have a motel room at the end of the day. And clearly, not carrying all of that gear makes the riding less challenging physically.  

There would be some phenomenal camping experiences along your way but there would also be many that some people consider to be horrid.

So, I have found that unless a person is either very much looking forward to the camping, or already has the gear and needs to conserve money, they usually have a better experience staying in motels.

The number of times I've heard of people ditching the gear in the middle of the trip to opt for motels is quite large. To be blunt and from my experience, your comment "I'm not so young and tough as I used to be" is a good sign that this might apply to you...

Larry Diskin
Adventure Cycling Association
Larry Diskin
Adventure Cycling Association

Offline Peaks

Camping or Cheap Moteling?
« Reply #3 on: March 01, 2005, 08:48:52 pm »
Based on our trip using the Northern Tier, the average tent site was $12.28.  Nightly costs ranged from free to $34 per night in Maine.  The average for motels was $61.79.  Nightly costs ranged from $48 to $75, but none of that was in New England.  

Our decision to tent or motel included where we were at night and what the options was.  Some places, like National Forests and National Parks, there isn't much motels.  Likewise, some places don't have much for campgrounds either.  Other factors included the weather.

Offline RussellSeaton

Camping or Cheap Moteling?
« Reply #4 on: March 02, 2005, 12:18:37 am »
My comments mesh with the others.  I've never toured and camped yet.  I've always stayed with motels/family/friends in the US.  Or hostels/pensiones/distant relatives/friends I knew before leaving/friends I met along the way while touring in Europe.  But my next loaded tour will be camping because it will be a different experience.

In the USA I've toured Colorado and the midwest.  In Colorado motels in smaller towns varied from $35 in Hotchkiss to $75 in Ouray.  Back in 1997.  In the midwest motels have usually been around $40 on the low end.  In car travels I have paid less than $30 in the wilds of Nevada back in 1996.  So I'm not sure your $30 price will work very well as a cross country average.  I think it will be quite a bit higher.  But you do have privacy and a bathroom and shower.  And you are usually close to a restaurant so you can eat easily.  You will have to do some route planning to be sure you end up in towns with enough motels to insure a room.  And you may end up in a town at 5 PM and the cheapest motel is $60 and the next town is 30 miles away and you've already ridden 80 miles.

For campgrounds, expect to pay $20 for name brand ones such as KOA.  Somewhat less for out of the way no name campgrounds.

I guess it probably comes down to what you want out of the trip.  Camping and moteling provide different experiences to bike touring.  Restaurant eating and cooking your own meals provides a different experience.  Showering every night or roughing it provides a different experience.  The difference in money probably doesn't matter.

Offline dombrosk

Camping or Cheap Moteling?
« Reply #5 on: March 02, 2005, 10:28:37 pm »
I enjoy camping for the sake of camping, so I aim for 3/4 nights in the tent to every 1 in a motel.
I do not enjoy commercial (KOA type) campgrounds or National Park campgrounds even while car camping.  My favorite place to camp is in "National Forest" campgrounds.  They are usually much less crowded and provide more of an "outdoors" experience.  Also, cheaper, although that's just a bonus for me.  You'll generally find water, a pit toilet / latrine, and a fire pit, and that's about it.
Almost never will there be electricity, which is a huge plus, as far as I'm concerned!  ;)
Wherever you choose to sleep, I hope you enjoy your tour in the States!

Offline SKYMAX

Camping or Cheap Moteling?
« Reply #6 on: March 08, 2005, 05:17:08 am »
Thanks everybody for your experience and comments.
I have since read many tour journals on "CrazyGuyOnaBike.Com" and these have taught me the need to be flexible. It seems carrying a light tent and bag and pad is obviously a good idea even if you intend to mostly "card" it. One rider was equally happy with an isolated spot in the woods as he was with an air-conditioned Motel with TV and shower.
Staying in Hostels and Campgrounds is the best place to meet other riders, the smaller and least services the campground, the better the nights sleep.
Staying in Motels that are too cheap may mean bad neighbourhoods and scary/noisy guests. (Motels can not rent by the hour In Australia.)
A polite request to a landholder for one nights stay in their field will usually be allowed and render a peaceful night. (Leave nothing behind).
One thing I have noticed is that the first thing to get sent home is the stove, even by young, poor, camp-only riders who don't mind roughing it.
So I think I'll do about 50/50 because I want to discover the "real" America and avoid the usual international tourist spots.
PS The campsite and cheap-motel prices quoted above were gleaned from Earl Norman's Lewis + Clarke tour using AC maps.

Clear skies, Max.

This message was edited by SKYMAX on 3-8-05 @ 1:21 AM
Clear skies, Max.

Offline JunkMan

Camping or Cheap Moteling?
« Reply #7 on: March 19, 2005, 11:19:10 pm »
I usually stay at cheap/fleabag hotels when I travel, and the average price is probably closer to $50 a night nowadays.  Many will list prices under $50, but by the time you add taxes and such, its over $50.  

Here's a site that lists free places to camp in the west:

It's geared for RV's, but you might find something useful there.

Black Hills of South Dakota

Offline DaveB

Camping or Cheap Moteling?
« Reply #8 on: March 20, 2005, 02:07:34 pm »
This is strictly a personal choice but I prefer motels and restaurants to camping. I do enjoy backpacking so I'm not against camping for it's own sake but the amount of "stuff" you need to carry on your bike if you camp and cook takes the joy out of  riding for me.  

I can still enjoy my bike if I'm carrying only 15 to 20 pounds in small panniers on a rear rack but carrying 35 to 40 pounds with two sets of panniers on front and rear racks turns my responsive bike into a sluggish pack mule.  Everyone has their priority and mine is to enjoy the riding.

From a strictly economic standpoint, campground fees have increased and motels are so competitive (and usually have a complimentary breakfast) that the cost difference isn't that great.

Offline tgpelz

Camping or Cheap Moteling?
« Reply #9 on: April 05, 2005, 03:40:41 am »
One advantage of camping in people's front yards is that you get to meet some nice people.

When they see that you are riding a loaded bike, they are more prone to let you sleep in their yard.

It also helps to be traveling with a female (wife, children, etc).  Most people are more comfortable letting a family sleep in their front yard than a single male.

I have had people fix us breakfast in the morning.  Give us coffee, sodas in the evening, etc.

I even have slept on picnic tables adjacent to rural resturants (don't need a ground cloth or air mattress then).

So, my point is, talk to people.   You will have a more interesting trip.

Also, don't be on a schedule!   In my humble opinion, the trip is the purpose, not the miles.  

One day we only rode 15 miles.  Met some nice folks and spent the day talking!!!   On long days, the maximum we have traveled is about 77 miles.

IE, I am not in a hurry.  If I was, I would ride a motor cycle.


Offline 1cycleguy

Camping or Cheap Moteling?
« Reply #10 on: April 05, 2005, 07:59:43 pm »
Hostels and Campgrounds is my preference, I do have tour partners that will only do motels & hostels, and I really enjoy the camping experience. But it's hard to argue against motel after 60 miles of pouring rain.

Michael Hanson
To will is to select a goal, determine a course of action that will bring one to that goal, and then hold to that action till the goal is reached. The key is action.

Michael Hanson
To will is to select a goal, determine a course of action that will bring one to that goal, and then hold to that action till the goal is reached. The key is action.