Written by Navdeep Khatri
Ah, the serenity of a campsite. The fresh air. The crackling campfire. The RV so big it should have its own ZIP code.
For a growing number of nature lovers, it’s time for something simpler. They’re putting themselves and their camping gear on a bike. Economical and eco-friendly, bicycle camping is a way to get away from it all without taking it all with you. Just don’t start pedaling for the woods without doing a little planning.
1. Give Me Liberty or Give Me a Campsite
It sounds so liberating. You ride when you want and camp where you want. In reality, setting up camp just anywhere can be both illegal and risky. Established campgrounds with amenities such as showers and faucets at every site can fill up quickly, so you likely need to reserve a campsite in advance. Don’t be disappointed if you have to trade a little freedom for the certainty of securing a place to pitch your tent and string your hammock.
2. Does This Bike Make Me Look Fat?
Somewhere down the road, you’ll pay for those extra pounds your bike put on when you overpacked it. Think lightweight for everything: tent, sleeping bag, clothes, cooking gear, and food. Now, where do you put that stuff, as well as the must-have accessories like first-aid supplies and a bike repair kit? Specialized saddlebags for bicycles called panniers of the bike can hold a surprising amount of gear, but a better option may be to tow a small trailer. You can carry more, and it makes for better distribution of weight and a more comfortable ride.
3. No Sweat Cycling
From the seat of a bicycle, the hill ahead can look like Mt. Everest. So, flip a switch and it’s no sweat, literally. E-bikes present a way to cover a lot of miles without your legs threatening mutiny. The battery-powered electric motor means you can go faster and carry more gear. You don’t have to use the pedal-assist mode at all, but it’s there when you need it. You’ll need to find places where you can recharge batteries. Some e-bikes get 90 miles to a charge, delivering more exploration with less exhaustion.
4. Water, Water Everywhere
Perhaps the most important thing you’ll take on a bike camping trip is something you’ll be getting rid of continuously, one way or another; water. This isn’t the Tour de France, but pedaling a bike is work that requires hydration, a challenge for a bike frame’s limited storage space. A backpack with a water bladder offers hands-free hydration, while a camping water filter can help replenish supplies when no potable water is handy.
5. Man Does Not Live by Jerky Alone
Hot meals at a campsite are a lot easier than they used to be. Add water and boil for easy to pack dehydrated delicacies like soup, stew, chili, and pasta. Ultralight stoves add only a few ounces of weight to your load, and, depending on your campsite, you may save those precious fuel cannisters by cooking over a campfire. For others, there’s nothing wrong with subsisting for a few days on gorp and roadside food. You’ve earned those cafe calories.
6. Camping With Critters
One of the joys of camping is being close to majestic wild animals, but there is such a thing as being too close. Does your planned camping destination have any animal alerts posted? Is it bear country? Are there snakes, and what kind? Knowing something about the animals you may encounter makes for a richer experience, and a safer one.
7. Take a Test Ride
Before you hit the road, make sure your two-wheel camper is ready for the trip. Have a mechanic give your bike a once-over. Brakes, tires, gears. If they need repairs or a tune-up, better to find out now instead of when you’re miles from nowhere. Then, take a fully loaded spin to see if your bike, and you, are ready for the adventure ahead.
Navdeep Khatri is an avid cyclist and runner. He began his love of cycling and jogging as a college student when a bike and his feet were his sole means of transportation.