Bicycle Camping – The Best of Two Worlds


My parents both loved to go on camping trips, and I grew up sharing their love of the activity. I always found it exhilarating to be out exploring in nature, away from the hustle and bustle. As an adult, I took up backpacking, and enjoyed going with my kids, although unfortunately they never wanted to go on longer trips of more than a day or two.

An even better way to get in the longer distances I discovered, is bicycle camping, which allows one to go further and explore new areas.  To me, cycling from one nice campground to another for a week or two and enjoying the scenery along the way is the ideal vacation. There are so many beautiful areas in the US (and abroad) to do that, and you get the added bonus of getting great exercise!

So set up a trip and get out there! Do it safely, though. Don’t just start riding on the spur of the moment. Plan your trip! First, take a look at your riding level. If you haven’t been riding lately, go out and do some training. There’s nothing worse than getting out on you bike for six or seven hours if your rear end hasn’t been prepared for it. I’ve done some long rides where I was in shape to do it physically, but afterwards my seat was so sore I could hardly sit. 😉 Not fun, especially if you’re going for several days.

Next, figure out where you and your friend(s) are going; the key point here is don’t do this alone. I know there are people who like to go solo, but it’s not a good idea. If you get out by yourself and have an accident, or feel ill, or get lost, or … you get the idea. It’s best to have someone with you. Be reasonable about the distance you can comfortably ride. If try to do 80 or 90 mile days when you’ve been riding 25 mile trips, you’re going to be miserable. If you are going for a couple of weeks, or some longer time, start out with shorter days and work up to the longer days. And don’t forget to schedule in a rest day or two. 

Okay, so what to take on the trip; check out the Camping Checklist page for a list of recommended items to take on your trip.

if you ride a $7,000 pro road bike, don’t take it camping. It’s likely to get a little beat up, plus you don’t want to get it stolen! Ride a metal frame hybrid bike, or touring bike or something similar that’s heavier duty and can take rough roads. If you’re planning to buy a bike, check out the all-terrain bikes that come with racks such as the Trek 1120, for example.

Try to go as light as possible; you’d be surprised how quickly the weight goes up as you add items. If you’re not sure if you need something, leave it behind. If you find you really do need it, maybe you can get it on the road.

Don’t take too many clothes, but at the same time it can get pretty cool at night, even in the summer. Be sure to check the weather forecast before you go!

Be sure your cookware is lightweight. You don’t need multiple pots, for example; one medium sized pot will suffice. Backpacking cookware is a great choice to keep the weight down. Also, try to buy groceries when you get close to your nightly destination. You don’t want to schlep around heavy groceries any further than you need to.

Last but not least, prepare yourself mentally.  Know in advance their are likely to be some really tough hills that can be demoralizing when you’re on them. But they don’t go on forever, and there’s likely a great downhill on the other side!  So get out there, and have a great trip!

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