The Go Wild Go West blog

Keen but Clueless: A Beginner’s Guide to Bike-Packing

Bike-packing is a fantastic family adventure. Something exciting, fun and slightly nerve-wracking all at the same time. Given a normal camping night requires an entire car-load of stuff, packing for a night away with only your bikes for transport is an interesting challenge.

That said, bike-packing is great fun, hugely rewarding and satisfyingly exhausting!

Welcome to our beginner’s guide to bike-packing….

family biking
Get set, go!

Get your bike-packing kit:

Not wanting to spend a fortune on new biking kit (that might only get one outing if all went wrong), we improvised with kit that we already had.

I’ve always been a huge fan of Lomo and our 20L dry bag is in constant use. We also have the 13L Lomo Seat pack drybag which is usually filled with snacks and drinks for our daily school-run bike rides. For a bigger outing, it was used to hold all our food for an entire weekend!  

If you have panniers, great. We don’t; not hardened enough bike-packers (yet!)

Minimalism is the key with bike-packing, especially when 2 members of the crew are small children and can’t carry much.

Essentials:

  • Bikes (needless to say)
  • Bags – see above for Lomo dry bag recommendation
  • Sleeping bags
  • bivvy bags (or lightweight tent)
  • warm clothes including woolly hat
  • torch
  • bike puncture repair kit (because a puncture would suck!)
  • food (pre-cooked if not taking a camping stove)
  • water
  • wine & wine glass
  • map
  • Snacks to keep the kids happy

Non-Essentials (if you can squeeze them in)

  • camping stove (lots of lightweight options like this awesome Jetboil – that’s one for the Christmas list!)
  • mess tins or small plates
  • saucepan (if needed)
  • cutlery
  • more wine
  • coffee
  • spare pair of socks (nothing worse than wet, cold feet)
  • tarpaulin and ropes just in case it rains

Plan your bike-packing route

Where do you want to go on your bike-packing adventure? There are a few things to consider:

  • how far do you want to travel?
  • Where will you set-off from?
  • Where will you camp?

We wanted to leave from our doorstep and have a good bike ride to cover some distance.
Reality check: travelling with a 9 & 6 year old means that ‘good’ is a relative term….

The route planning took some time as we wanted to avoid busy roads with the kids; instead charting a wiggly cross-country route that would take a few hours. Provided we had enough snacks to offer as bribery and a decent packed lunch, the kids would be happy with covering some distance.  

Where will you camp?

We opted to wild camp but you can also find a campsite which might offer additional comforts (water and facilities). Finding a descent looking wild camping spot to head for, our route was officially planned.

If you’re unsure about wild camping, take a look at our ‘Keen but Clueless; A beginner’s Guide to Wild Camping’

wild camping
After a good sleep in the wild

Pack

Let the bike-packing challenge commence! How on earth do you pack for 4 people to go camping on a bike!?

The kids packed their clothes and snacks into their own rucksacks. Any extra space was filled with more food.

We filled our large Lomo bag with the sleeping bags, bivvy bags and our own clothes. It meant the bag wasn’t too heavy and it’s actually really easy to carry.

In our seatpack bag we packed our food and some pastries for breakfast (luxury!)

I filled my large Osprey backpack with everything else… water (though we also had water bottles in our bike holders), cooking stove, mess tins & cutlery, torch, hats, coffee and mugs and WINE!

kids torches
camping by torch light

Go!

Get set… go!

On Saturday morning we set off. The weather forecast was set to be dry (luckily) and the roads were quiet.

Energised by many snack breaks and the spirit of adventure, the kids enjoyed the bike ride. We found a beautiful spot to camp by mid-afternoon and settled down into the ‘wild’ lifestyle. Setting up beds, playing in the trees, talking, laughing and cooking dinner.

*top tip: stash all clothes, shoes and things in the dry bags overnight as this will protect them from the dew or any rain.

By 9pm we were all snuggled up in our bivvy bags under the stars. The owls hooted above and the leaves rustled. Oh the romance! Honestly, no better way to fall asleep.

As soon as the children woke in the morning, they were back to playing up a tree. It was all very civilized; we enjoyed a little coffee and a pastry before packing up and setting off again!

The bike ride back was a little more challenging with already tired legs and over-tired children. But we made it! And enjoyed an enormous sense of achievement at having successfully enjoyed a bike-packing weekend.

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