Family Bike Camping: Tips and Essentials

By Eric Awwy, 22 Jan 2020

So you’ve thought about it, and you’re finally ready to take up your family for that camping trip. There’s only one hitch; you don’t know how to go camping with a bike.

We get it. Camping with family can be a bit hectic if you don’t know what you are up for; especially challenging when bikes are involved.

How do you pack all your stuff along with your kids? Where does everything fit? Which route should you use? Which bikes are the best?

Well, family bike camping doesn’t have to be strenuous. In fact, once you’ve figured it all out, it becomes more invigorating and less challenging.

That is why we have taken it upon ourselves to answer all these questions for you so you can finally pedal your way through that much- anticipated camping trip in peace.

Hack your way through family bike camping with these useful tips!

1. Practice Family Biking at the Local Park

Chances are, you are still skeptical over whether you should or shouldn’t pursue bike camping. And the truth is that your skepticism hails from the fact that you are not sure whether or not you are fully ready for that trip.

Preparation starts from the basics meaning that everything has to be in order before your test-drive at the local park.

Take your bikes to the mechanic

Much like ensuring that your hiking gear is in the right condition when backpacking when bike camping you want to ensure that your primary means of transport is in the right shape.

From tire pressure to the functionality of the brakes, everything ought to be in good working condition. 

Other than that, ensure that you polish up on doing your own repairs such as fixing flats.  Your bike is by far the most integral gear for bike camping and having it in the right condition sets the tone for your journey.

Practice bike camping at your local park or beach

To get you and your family prepared, practice bike camping at home before you head off to more established campgrounds. This is not only helpful in familiarizing you with the concept of bike camping but also preparing your kids for a much lengthier trip.

You want to start small, say a picnic at your nearby park or beach, so that you can get used to the approach for bike camping without being overwhelmed.  

At the end of such trips, you will realize that you have a general idea of what you need to pack as well as what you need to deduct for the multi-day bike camping trip that lies ahead.  

This short trip is also helpful in familiarizing your family with the concept of a bike being a regular mode of transportation. Observe whether your kids are receptive to the idea of riding to and from lengthier distances. If they are, then you can easily introduce bike camping.

Test your skills and endurance

Apart from familiarizing your family with bike camping, a pre-planned jaunt will also help you to test your limits. By the end of such trips, you can easily determine how many miles an hour can you go. That way, you can then estimate whether it is possible to embark on the trip solely via bikes or whether you should incorporate other means of transportation.

That, of course, depends on how far your destination is but stick with us, we’ll cross that bridge when we get there!

2. Pick a Reasonable Destination

Where you decide to go for camping matters a lot and might even have an enormous impact on the turnout of your trip. There are thus a couple of factors you need to consider before settling on your ideal destination.

Consider the accessibility of your desired campground

It is important to research ahead in order to know whether your destination is reasonable. What we mean by a reasonable destination is one that is easily accessible via bike trails as your bike will be your main mode of transportation.  

To do this, simply look up beginner-friendly trails or roads that other people recommend in the internet. This research will also help you gauge how long it will take you to get to your destination.

Many natural spaces in the cities are accessible within a day’s ride, and this is exactly the type of camping ground you want for your first-time bike camping adventure. As you become more experienced in bike camping, then you can try out multi-day bike camping with your family.

• Opt for a private campground

The advantage that bike camping has over car camping is that because the process is much slower, you and your family will get to appreciate and bond with nature more. You will be surprised by how much more appealing those lush green trees and meadows are when you are even closer to them.  

As a novice bike camper, you do not want to wear your kids out by cycling through nature with them then having them sleep in the woods. In other words, settling for a remote campground after cycling miles away may not be the best idea.

We recommend a well-established campground for beginners to ease your kids into the whole concept of bike camping. After all, you want them to associate bike camping with adventure and comfort as opposed to contempt. 

Private campgrounds are the ideal trailblazers for novice campers as they have a lot of amenities that offer comfort. These amenities range from running water to electricity, picnic tables, designated tent areas and even restricted trails for hikers and cyclists in some campgrounds.

Some even have exclusive playgrounds where you kids can play with other kids.

• Check weather forecast

Bicycle camping is becoming more popular by the day, and you have no reason to be left out. However, bad weather can be a hazard to the entire turnout of your trip.

You do not want to experience riding in the rain with your kids and gear as this will only dampen the general mood. Therefore, check for weather updates in order to postpone your trip in case of an upcoming storm.

• Invite other families to join you

As a plus, inviting another family that is seasoned at bike camping will put you at a greater advantage. They can point out tips that have worked for them in their bike camping experience.

Other than that, your kids will also have other people to bond with during your two-wheeler engineered journey.

3. Plan a Route

You have already identified a suitable campground for your family and know that it is accessible by bike. Now you need to establish which route is the best for you and your family. Use your phone, map, or GPS to aid with this.

• Identify the best secondary roads

If there are no designated bike trails leading to your campground, then you need to identify secondary roads that will get you there.

Again, the internet will come in handy in not only identifying these secondary roads but also enquiring whether bicycles are allowed access. For your safety, ensure that the roads are used frequently by other bike campers or backpackers.

Bike camping is advantageous as you get to cover more miles in a shorter while as compared to backpacking.

Additionally, the longer the trail, the more you get to bond with nature. These unpaved areas may even be more rewarding as they open more doors for adventure by giving you insight into areas that car campers do not have the luxury of witnessing.

• Establish breakpoints

Now that you have decided to pedal your way to the campsite, you need to go a step further and identify locations along your route that would be great areas to take breaks.

It is vital to break the monotony of cycling, especially when on the move with kids. Remember, you are only as strong as your weakest member is and with toddlers, it is only a matter of time till they find a reason to throw a tantrum.

An ideal breakpoint is thus a place where you can sit down and eat to replenish your energy and keep your kids engaged.

Carrying extra food and looking out for places to eat along the way has always worked for us. It has also been resourceful to include activities that will keep your little one’s energy and excitement levels up for the remainder of the journey.

 For instance, games that involve identifying a certain type of flower are not only entertaining but also educative.  

4. Get geared up

At this point, you have already determined that your family is open to bike camping. You also know where you are headed and how you will get there but tell you what, having the right gear makes all the difference in the turnout of your little escapade!

Based on what you packed for your first attempt at bike camping, you can establish what is needed for your next camping trip.

• Pack light

If you choose to remember one thing from this whole article, let it be that “packing lightweight is key.”

Unlike other forms of camping such as RV camping, you do not have a large trunk where you can store extra goods. Therefore, the key to experiencing a smooth ride is to have the right gear and to look for lighter alternatives.

What we have always found helpful while packing for these types of trips is asking, “Is this a need or a want?”

If you want to include something merely because you like it, then you might want to reconsider packing it and leave room for the more important stuff.

The goal is only to add goods that have an insignificant effect on the overall weight of your load. If you’ve had a hand at backpacking, try aiming for the same weight.

Additionally, there are certain gears that are designed to ease your load and increase storage space. These include a trail-a-bike or an array of panniers that will store your essentials. Be sure to check them out as well as other gear we have included in the list of essentials that we have assembled down below.

• Organize food meal by meal

Plan ahead what you will eat during your trip but do not go overboard. While you want to remain energized, you do not wish to your load to be weighed down with unnecessary foods.

Maximize on high energy foods such as protein bars as they save on space and do a great job at keeping you energized. As for your stay, having a site with a camp shop or nearby shopping areas would be ideal.

• Weigh your load

After you are done packing, be sure to weigh your bags as you do not want it to overload your back or your bike. The rule of the thumb is for the bag to always weigh less than 30 % of your overall weight.            

 As such, the last step to checking whether you are ready for the trip is to try out your bike when it is loaded with all your essentials.

Family Bike Camping Checklist

What you need to pack for a bike camping trip is quite similar to a regular backpacking trip. For those reasons, you ought to be equipped with the gear that has been condensed in this minimum gear backpacking checklist.

It entails a checklist that ranges from food to water to cooking supplies to sleeping gear, first aid supplies and even clothing that is suitable for the much cooler night temperatures. 

Here, we have all the gear that is specific to bike camping.

1. Bike and bike accessories

Of course, the most important gear to have for a bike camping trip is your bicycles.

The first thing you need to ask yourself is, “is your bike capable of handling the terrain you’ve chosen?” We recommend mountain bikes as they can handle rough terrains well and won’t give you a hard time during your journey.

 As aforementioned, just ensure that it is good shape and that its accessories are also up to standard. These accessories include your bike shoes, handlebar grips, pads, and bike helmet; which all contribute to the smoothness of your ride. 

2. Sleeping gear

Ensure that your tent is fit enough to accommodate you and your family.

Aim for one that is small and light yet roomy enough for your family and also easily folds up for storage in your bike rack. Camp nights are notorious for being cold, therefore ensure that it is waterproof and free of holes so that you remain warm, dry, and safe.

As for sleeping accessories such as sleeping pads and mats, ensure that they are lightweight.

Our recommendation is that you check out expert reviews of the best sleeping gear for camping before settling for any. As always, the burden of research lies with you.

3. Racks and panniers

Racks help take the weight off your back and distribute it across your back. They not only hold heavy items but are convenient in that they can attach to a variety of cars.

They also have the advantage of not only being easy to fold and attach but are also extremely lightweight.

As for panniers, they come in different sizes and are convenient as they can be positioned either on front or back racks.  

4. Bike trailers

Carry your camping gear as well as kids so they can sleep during the ride. Additionally, they provide shade and protect you from the rain.

5. Patch kit

I hate to break it to you, but you should always anticipate an accident while on the trail.

To remain safe and avoid leaving anyone behind with a flat always have a repair kit that has every single thing that you would need for basic roadside repairs.  From an air pump to chain lube, this kit will save your adventure.

6. Multi-tool

We swear by this gauge as it is not just convenient for a bike camping trip but for any other type of trip in the outdoors.

As we said, we are big on increasing storage space, and this is just the tool for that.  A multi-tool is resourceful as it stores tools such as a stainless steel knife to a bottle opener that you will appreciate when you least expect to.

Its compact nature helps save on space while still incorporating tools that would be handy for your adventure.

7. Combo lock

I know it’s at the tip of your tongue, but I’ll say it for you: why do you need to lock up your bike in the woods? Well, you can never be safe enough, especially considering your bicycle is your main transportation mode.

Combo locks are great for securing your bikes.  They are also lightweight and folds away neatly, but the selling point of this machine is that its mechanism requires no keys. Just lock away, and you are good to go!

8. Chain lock

Chain locks are perfect for locking up bike accessories such as helmets to the bike.

They are super thin and lightweight, and some also have a combo dial.

9. Trail-a-bike

This gear is the perfect tool to use with kids who can ride but are not strong enough to cover the whole ride. Attach your child’s bike to yours in case they get too tired and you won’t have to make unnecessary stops.

10. Bike lights

Safety always comes first in the woods.

In addition to your headlamp, mount bike lights on your handlebars for you to be able to clearly see your surroundings at night. Just ensure that you also pack extra batteries to keep you light up.

But just how do you bike camp with kids? In an article on "how to bike camp with kids" published on, you will find all the meaningful answers.

That’s it, folks! You’re all ready for that long-awaited bike camping trip. Remember, a family that bikes together stays together!

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