Cycle camping with kids

I got back into cycling because of my kids. When my eldest two were old enough, we got them bikes and I taught them to ride.

They would ride up and down the pavement, and regularly I’d take them to the local park, a block or two away, but soon enough they were getting bored, and wanted to go further.

Cycling is the most efficient form of travel ever invented by human beings. In practical terms, that means I very soon found myself unable to keep up on foot with two young kids on bikes, and the only way forward was for me to get myself a bike.

The bike I got was a Boss Stealth, just like in the pic. It was cheap, heavy, slow, shiny black, and I loved it. Many people refer to bikes like that as BSOs – bicycle shaped objects – as in their view those aren’t real bikes, but I’m no bicycle snob. To me, it doesn’t matter what bike you ride, as long as you ride, which is why I have very fond memories of that bike.

Soon, I was cycling further, initially with my kids, but when riding on my own I was doing far longer distances than what they could do, and gradually my fitness grew. This was important for what followed.

I’ve taken my kids camping often, always in formal camp sites, where the three of them and I shared my 4-person tent. The kids enjoyed camping, and my youngest especially loved cycling, so I often took bikes with. As they grew older, my eldest daughter went off both cycling and camping, as some kids do. I never forced my kids into any activities, so camping for a while was with my son and youngest daughter.

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Wild camping with my son, who built that shelter 

When cycle camping with kids, the first thing you need to understand is the distances cycled will obviously be far less than what you’d do on your own, but that’s not the only difference. Your kit list will look radically different, too, and with younger kids will inevitably include a teddy bear or two. Importantly, though kids will insist on carrying “luggage” on their bikes, you will carry most, meaning you will carry considerably more bulk and weight than if solo camping.

With my youngest daughter, we had a tag-along, which meant that she and I could cycling go much greater distances than what would’ve been the case if she was on her own bike. Tag-alongs are great, but a better option would be a trail-gator, which allows the child’s bike to function like a tag-along, or to allow them to ride freely, on their own.

I’m a huge fan of wild-camping, but with kids I’d suggest sticking to formal camp sites, at least initially. Having limitless water, washing up facilities, showers and toilets readily available will make things easier. Having said that, I’ve taken my son wild-camping, though my youngest daughter’s preference is for camp sites.

When camping, I have several lights I take along: a Cree T6 zoomable torch (I used to take a torch for each child, plus one for me), a head torch, and an LED lantern. Especially my youngest didn’t like the dark when she was little, so I’d leave the lantern on all night.

When cycling, I’d take snacks, like peanuts and raisins, as well as fruit along, and I tried designing routes that would allow us get grab an ice-cream along the way. After all, camping trips are meant to be fun! We’d also break up the trip by having one or two mini picnics along the way.

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With a bit of forward planning, a cycle camping trip with even young kids can be a wonderful adventure that the kids will love, and remember for many years to come.

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