What is cycle camping all about then?
The clue, as they say, is in the name. Cycle camping is when you go camping, and you cycle to your camping spot, carrying all your camping gear on your bike.
Different types of camping
I’m South African and when we say “I’m going camping” we mean what Brits mean when they say “I’m going wild camping”. I don’t like camping at formal camp sites, and the very notion of someone going on a week-long camping holiday, in a camp site chocka-full with other holiday-makers, fills me with dread.
However, you may enjoy it, and if you do, then please do go camping in a camp site. Some people do what I call car camping: they drive to the camp site, and park right next to where they’ll pitch their tent. In fact, most camp sites in the UK cater almost exclusively to people like that, plus the caravan and campervan crowd.
Cycle tourism is big business
People like me don’t factor in the planning done by camp site operators at all. That makes sense from their perspective, as they think I’ll (at best) stay only for a single night. By focusing on the individual, the fail to cater for the group. The reality is that cycle touring is big business, worth millions each year, and camp sites are losing out in a big way by not catering to cycle tourers.
Carrying your kit
If you’re going cycle camping, it follows that you will be carrying your camping kit on the bike. ALL the camping kit you need. That means you need to have some method of carrying luggage on your bike, but also that you need to consider both the weight and size of each item. After all, you’ll have limited space, and every extra kilogram of kit is an extra kilogram of weight you need to drag up hills.
I use two panniers, plus two Podsacs on the front of my bike. That works well for me, but you may have different preferences.
You need to decide for yourself what sleeping arrangements you would like. Some people prefer a bivvy, but I prefer tent. Mine is a (supposedly) 2-person tent, from Aldi of all places, and I love it. It has enough space for me and all my kit (except the bike) inside the tent, and I can sit upright inside it.
Some people are perfectly happy in their bivvies, and some don’t even bother with a bivvy!
A good night’s rest is important! This means you will need a good sleeping mat, and you have to ensure that you’ll be warm enough overnight. Mine’s an entry-level sleeping mat, but I supplement it with a closed-cell foam mat. Together, it means I’m very comfortable, and crucially, I don’t feel any ground cold.
It’s not a lot of fun to be freezing cold, and camping is meant to be fun! I don’t buy into the image that camping is meant to be an SAS-level survivalist exercise. In simple terms, think Ray Mears, not Bear Grylls!
Keeping warm overnight starts with insulating your body from ground cold, hence the importance of a sleeping mat. A good sleeping mat also means that you won’t feel every pebble or bump underneath you.
Next, keeping warm means dressing in layers. Plenty of thinner layers are usually better than a single thick layer. When doing cold-weather camping (yes, I go cycle camping in mid-winter!) you need to extend that principle to your sleeping bag.
I have two sleeping bags: a small summer bag, and a larger bag, meant for camping in spring, summer and autumn. When camping in winter, I take both, and that works well for me.
Going camping doesn’t mean sacrificing on the standard of coffee I get to enjoy.
I take my AeroPress Go with, and still enjoy good coffee. To boil water and cook food, I rely on my little Vango gas stove. Just be aware that gas stoves don’t work particularly well in very cold weather! Because of this, in cold weather I also take my copy of a Trangia with.
Too many people think that you have to compromise of food when you go camping. While many people do just that, the reality is that you don’t have to. One option is to buy ready-cooked meals in pouches, such as the Wayfarer range. These simply need warming up.
Alternatively, many people cook from scratch. If you don’t believe me, have a look at some of the recipes you can use. As an added bonus, I still have 5 copies of my recipe book, Food For The Road available. It contains those same recipes (just slightly reworked) and was printed by book publishers. I sell these at cost price, and they’re glossy-covered and pocket-sized.
Go on! You know you want to!
Go cycle camping! Go have an adventure. It will put the wind back in your sails!