We‘re ditching our cheap tent and are moving into the luxurious world of swag camping with the OZTrail Biker Expedition Single Swag. But is a swag really a better option than a tent? Here's our review of the experience.
When it comes to packing for a motorcycle-based camping adventure, it pays to try and pack sensibly. Rather than packing a tent and bulky bedroll onto my bike as dedicated separate units, I decided I would give a swag a go and ordered myself the OzTrail Biker Expedition Single swag to use for my moto camping adventures.
My thinking for going for the swag over a more traditional hiking tent was that it would simplify my overall camping experience. I not only wanted the set-up and pack-down to be as straightforward and quick as possible, but I also wanted to make packing gear onto my bike a bit simpler as well.
So the idea of a swag, which rolls both a waterproof shelter and bed all into one, seems to tick off both those main requirements.
All In One
The swag is a bit of an all-in-one solution to camping. Rolled away into itself, the swag includes a sleeping pad and its pegs/poles into one unit. The OZTrail has a pouch at the foot end of the swag that holds its poles and pegs and it’s all neatly packed away when you roll the swag up. You can even roll your sleeping bag and other assorted camping kit up inside it to reduce the stuff packed in your bags too, although this will impact how small the swag will ultimately pack down.
In my experience, the OzTrail packs down to roughly the same size as a 40-litre roll-top bag - and can even fit inside one at a push - but with my old bulky sleeping bag rolled up with it this increases the size by about 50%. I've since dumped the bulky sleeping bag for a much more compact unit so this isn't a problem anymore, but it's worth noting.
Strapping it down to the bike is really simple. Being made of quite durable materials, I feel pretty confident about just slapping it on the back of the bike and using cam buckle tie-downs to secure it. It does weigh around 4kg so you'll want to ensure you have secured it well.
How Does It Sleep?
Perhaps the biggest question about moving to the swag from a traditional tent setup is just how good do you sleep at night?
From my experience, it's not bad!
While there are definitely pros and cons - in a nutshell, the swag is a cosy place to spend the night. You've got a reasonably comfy foam mattress built-in that insulates you well from the cold hard ground, while the low canvas ceiling (while claustrophobic to some extent) ensures heat doesn't dissipate nearly as quickly as a traditional tent.
One of my favourite bits about the swag is that I can open up the canvas and have fresh air enter right next to my head, yet remain out of sight thanks to the "no see 'em" mesh. I can also crawl out of the swag through this opening if I feel like looking a bit comical to my mates.
I've even tried sleeping with the canvas rolled back, which means you can lie down in relative comfort and stargaze all at once.
You'll still want something for a pillow
Where It's Not As Good As a Tent
The OzTrail swag has plenty of ticks in the pro column, but it still has a few negatives against it too, especially when you're comparing it to a traditional hiking tent favoured by many in the moto camping community.
When it comes to camping with the swag, the biggest negative is the lack of space for storing your kit. There's enough room for a few items, but compared to a tent this is one area the OzTrail falls down. Unlike other swags, there isn't a built-in vestibule at both ends which further restricts where you can store items out of the elements.
As a result, I've started packing a small tarp to cover my filthy riding kit and boots with, as I'd rather keep them out of the small space inside the swag.
The only other negative is the joking from my moto camping mates and their more traditional tents. Yep, the swag can look a bit ridiculous at first, but I definitely find it a decent place to spend the night while out on a ride.
Lastly, and as previously mentioned, the swag doesn't pack down as small or weigh as little as a small dome tent. If ultra-light camping is what you have in mind, then the swag isn't for you.
If, however, you want something that you can literally just throw on the back of your bike with a full sleeping system inside, a swag could be for you.