There is something very freeing about loading bikes with all the food, water, and gear needed for an overnight camping trip and bikepacking lets you do just that.
For years, my husband and I talked about loading our rigs and riding off along forgotten forest roads where no cell service or social channels could be found. We wanted to take on the challenge of packing only the essentials to survive a week or more so that we might indulge in the freedom of pedaling as far as our legs would take us. Then, our first child arrived!
Needless to say, our bikepacking expectations naturally honed themselves to a more realistic level (thankfully, I might add!). After a few trips, it’s safe to say we’ve learned a thing or two about bikepacking with kids. Spoiler alert: it’s totally possible! And we’re a testament to that. So here are a few lessons learned from our time bikepacking with kiddos!
1. Plan it out
While a spontaneous day trip can be successful with very little effort, our most successful overnight trips happen because of good planning. We start every bikepacking trip planning session by first identifying the location and then creating a packing list. Knowing where you want to go will tell you the type of gear you’ll need. For instance, high country with cold nights will require warmer sleeping bags, lakeshores with nearly-guaranteed rain will require good rain gear, and sun-filled desert country will require extra sunblock.
2. Prepare for the unexpected
It’s easy to find packing lists online, but what you won’t find is all the unexpected things like an entire bottle of water that somehow spilled all over your child and everything in the trailer, diaper blowouts (yes, they happen!), and medical accidents. My words of wisdom here: over-plan, bring extra everything, and learn from your experiences. Bring the basics like extra layers, food/water/extra snacks, first aid kit, and helmets, but also remember that not every trip goes according to plan. Adapt, roll with it, have fun and soak up all the memories you’re making with your little ones!
3. Bring the “extraneous”
I’m not talking about tablets and speakers, I’m talking about your kids’ favorite stuffed animal, book, and snuggly blanket (if it’s not too bulky). By bringing the comforts of home and everyday life, we helped our kids feel more comfortable on overnight trips. Depending on some trip destinations, we also bring along a few crayons and coloring sheets/construction paper/journal to document the trip.
4. Let them ride, but have a backup plan
Our youngest is not yet comfortable on extended bike rides with her MyKick, but she loves the coziness of the D’Lite X on longer rides and the freedom of the Dash RM for shorter rides. Meanwhile, our oldest loves to pedal until we hit the 5-7 mile mark, then he’s checked out and, as he says, “just can’t go any further”. We have learned to use Burley gear to our advantage. While on shorter rides, the Dash RM works great for our youngest and a pedal bike for our oldest. On longer rides, we switch it up. We let our oldest ride as far as he can so he can have ownership of a longer trip, too, but bring our double trailer (D’Lite X). This allows both of our children to enjoy the experience in several different ways. Now, you may be asking “But what about his bike?”…luckily, we have found ways to carry his pedal bike, like safely strapping it to an extra trailer or to the D’Lite X, so it doesn’t get left behind!
With every trip we take, some new lessons are bound to be learned. We take them in stride and indulge in each and every experience. For us, having the right gear (like our D’Lite X), we are able to share our passion for bikepacking with our kids and hopefully inspire them to make cycling a priority in their lives.