I admit that the idea of cycle camping with kids is daunting. Either of those activities on their own has the potential to be a lot of work. And combining them is quite an adventure.
However, as someone who has gone on a number of cycle camping trips with my kids, I hope to dispel your fears and encourage you to take on a little bit of adventure this summer!
Why take your kids cycle camping?
Whether you’re packing your kids into the car for a trip to Grandma’s or loading them into a bike trailer filled with camping gear, travelling with children is a lot of work.
However, cycle camping offers more than just the usual travel experience. It is an opportunity to truly take a break from your busy life.
Here are a few reasons why I love cycle camping with my kids:
- The journey becomes part of the trip rather than just a way to get to your destination. Ice cream and coffee breaks are a must!
- It is a chance to experience a slower pace and enjoy the scenery that normally passes us by.
- If you are lucky enough to live in a region where you can head out cycle camping from your front door, then it is an inexpensive and environmentally-friendly way to travel.
- You’ll get to visit every park and playground on your route.
- My favourite reason to go cycle camping is the shared feeling of accomplishment that we have when we arrive somewhere new.
General Cycle Camping Tips
Wondering what you need to know in order to have an amazing cycle camping trip? Here are some useful tips and tricks whether you’re camping with kids or just going solo.
- Rent, buy or borrow good quality bikes. And use trailers or panniers to carry your gear. I do not recommend wearing heavy backpacks as it makes for a hot and miserable cycle.
- Remember the journey is a big part of the experience. Stop at roadside stands, pick blackberries, count sheep and enjoy the outdoors. Stopping for ice cream along the way is essential!
- You may want to plan your routes ahead of time with a few ideas for stopping points along the way. It’s nice to have short goals to work towards.
- Only carry the food you need. If possible, buy food right before getting to the campsite. Shopping in campground supply stores adds to the adventure and reduces your weight.
- Only take the camping gear you need to have. For our family of four, we pack a tent, sleeping bags, a small first aid kit, very few clothes, very few books and a few special toys (a deck of cards, ukulele and teddy). For cooking, we have a single 6 cup cooking pot, a camp stove and fuel, four nesting bowls and sporks, a Swiss army knife, a thin plastic cutting mat, and several collapsible prep bowls.
Tips for cycling with kids
While all of the general cycle camping advice still applies when you’re travelling with kids, it’s also important to consider how your kids are going to manage the trip.
Kids that are properly prepared and geared up for the trip really love cycle camping. Whether they’re an active toddler, busy kid or a reluctant tween, there’s something about the spirit of adventure that gets them excited. I’ve also found the promise of ice cream and chocolate to be hugely motivating.
Babies, Toddlers and Younger kids
In some ways, cycling with younger kids is a lot easier. They take naps, go to bed early and can be entertained for hours with nothing more than a few sticks. However, they also can’t haul any of their own weight.
Here are a few tips for cycle camping with younger kids
- Figure out how you are going to carry your kids. The best option is to use a combination of a trailer and a bike seat. However, if you can only take one of those, then I recommend the trailer. It even comes with space to store camping gear!
- Try to time the bulk of your cycling so that you get it done during nap times. Children usually sleep well when lulled by the rhythmic motion of a bicycle. Even a 5-year old who doesn’t normally nap may fall asleep during a two-hour cycle.
- The weight of toys can quickly add up. Just pack a few small things that they can play with during the cycle ride (bubbles and a plastic kazoo are fun). Once they’re at the campground rocks, leaves and sticks will provide plenty of material for imaginative play.
Big Kids, Tweens and Teens
Cycle camping is a great way to connect with older children. Away from the distractions of screens, you’ll have plenty of time to engage with your kids.
- Guage the length of the ride based on the ages of your children. Plan for shorter rides with lots of breaks, especially if it’s your first-time cycle camping.
- Make sure your kids are prepared for the distance. Spend a few weeks doing practice rides. Cycle to nearby destinations, slowly increasing the distance to your max daily ride.
- Kids often don’t know how to pace themselves. They tend to burn up all their energy at the beginning of the day by going as fast as possible. It’s a good idea to practice some hill climbing so that they learn how to save up some of their energy for getting to the top. Expect to walk up steep hills and focus on how fun it will be to ride back down the other side.
- A speedometer that has lots of stats can be motivating. Try to beat your previous day’s average speed!
- The goal is to have fun, so make sure you emphasize how exciting and fun it is. It’s not about pushing your capabilities, it’s about exploring new places, experiencing the outdoors, and having a few treats along the way.
- It’s also important to make sure that everyone is well fueled for the journey. Focus on snacks with complex carbohydrates and protein that will give lasting energy. I find make your own trail mix is usually popular.
- Always carry some high-quality chocolate as an emergency snack. A few squares of a fruit and nut chocolate bar is the perfect way to get up that last hill of the day.