There are as many ways to camp as there are riders. I have been camping while touring and seen a Goldwing trike pull in next to me towing a 'bunkhouse' trailer. I befriended them and got the tour, and watched them set it up. It was cool and I could appreciate it, but its just not me.
I also saw a long distance Ninja rider have the 'bare-bones' camping set-up and have this individual bivvy - like a tent coffin - where the top of the 'tent' was about 6 inched above his prone face while sleeping. Again, cool set-up but not my idea of how I enjoy camping.
My first foray into motorcycle camping involved a '2-person' tent (and that is a manufacturer misnomer) that fit well on my then bike, but barely held my air mattress and left no room for my bags or gear.
Let me tell first why I like camping versus motelling. First and foremost, I get to talk to people. I always walk around the campsite once my rig is set up and strike up conversations with all sorts of people. A quick comment on their set-up or rig, and the conversation just flows. I met some of the nicest people that way - and ended up having a cold one or sharing dinner with them.
I just don't get that same experience at motels.
I also like sleeping with and on my own stuff. I like setting up my tent and making everything just the way I like it. It is a familiar ritual - and these little familiarities on the road make me feel connected to the process of traveling but being in control of my surrounding.
Let's talk about the gear.
Tents - Well, I have had three tents in all, and I don't know if I found the 'mother of all tents.' I started out with a nice North Face Frog tent, that was nice, but I broke a pole which could not be replaced. The second tent I bought was too small.
My current tent is a 6 person tent I bought on the road at Cabela's in Wyoming. To much tent? Yeah, I admit it. I would have bought a 4 person tent but, out West and on the road, I couldn't find one driving through three etates. But I can strap it on my bike and it offers many benefits.
In actuality, there is enough room for 2 persons and all their gear. But here is the real reason I like it: I can stand up in it at the center point...and I am 6'3". Ever try to change your clothes in a small tent? Miserable experience - especially as I get older and bit less flexible. Also, there have been occasions when I was stuck in a tent due to weather, and it is nice to have room spread out and relax.
The amount of room I lose packing and hauling a slightly larger tent is offset by the above features, in my opinion.
Air Mattress - I am not a camping purest in that I need to sleep on the ground or have some high-tec, wafer thin sleeping pad that doesn't make me comfortable. I make room for an air mattress...and the requisite air pump. Yes, I lose some packing room for shirts, socks and/or underwear...and I don't care. I like sleep...and I sleep better when comfortable. Not only is this old boy sleeping much 'cushier' on an air mattress, the trapped air acts as an insulator from the cold ground - making me that much comfier.
Once, I set-up camp in the dark where I didn't have a chance to get the lay of the land and see the high point of this assigned tenting site. I later learned I was in low channel, and the storm during the night (which I slept through) created a running creek through and in my tent. I didn't notice because I was perched high on my air mattress (aka, raft) and was bone dry. There was an inch of standing water in my tent and all I did was chuckle. So, when I camp on the beach and my tent gets dragged to sea in high tide, I will be safe on my raft!
Sleeping Bag - I have a Sierra Design, 3 season bag rated down to 30 degrees. I also have the kind that is squared at the bottom, instead of the mummy bag. I like it better because I can roll without the bag wrapping itself around me. Also, I can unzip my sqaured bag and just use it as a cover if I don't need to trap all my body heat. The lowest temp I camped in was in Yellowstone Natl Park and it got down to 30 ish degrees. I was toasty warm except for my head - but once I put on my ski mask I use when cold riding, I was set for a good nights sleep.
Towels - Man, micro-fiber towels are worth their weight in gold! No more terry or cotton towels that take forever drying. I have two small ones for washing and drying the bike, and a bigger one that I use to shower with. I can shower, dry off, wring it out and by the time I pack up the tent, it is dry and ready to get packed. No, they are not as cushy as your towels back home. When you buy one, rinse it out a few times to make it softer. You won't regret having these!
Water Bottle - Listen, when its 35 degrees outside at night, and you're snug and toasty in your sleeping bag; or, it is a muggy night and you hear the telltale sounds of squadrons of mosquitoes buzzing around, the last thing you want to do it exit the safe confines on the tent. I keep a wide-mouth empty water bottle close at hand for these encounters. Man, it is a life saver. Have one in a different color so you don't confuse it with your drinking water bottle....you don't want to make that mistake.