Bikepacking with Children
21 May 2021
How to have a successful bikepacking adventure with kids
Bikepacking is becoming more and more popular and with another year of staycationing ahead of us it could be the perfect way to have a microadventure with your family.
You may have heard of cycle touring, this was a popular hobby among many cyclists who liked to combine their bike and their love of the outdoors. However, touring bikes were quite heavy, sturdy vehicles rigged up for panniers to hold all your camping gear. Many of us don’t have the room or need for multiple bikes and this is where bikepacking comes in!
Bikepacking doesn’t require a special bike, you can just strap a range of bags all over your bike frame and you’re good to go. There’s nothing stopping you from using panniers too if your bike happens to have them but if it doesn’t then bikepacking offers you the flexibility to use whatever bike you have for your next adventure.
If you have a mountain bike or hybrid bike then you might want to strap on your bags and enjoy off-road trails to get to your overnight camping spot, maybe you have a road bike, in this case then whizz down some country lanes for your bikepacking adventure. Whatever bike you have and route you choose you can pack a lot of fun into a short period of time!
Like any outdoor trip, preparation is key, we’ve all heard the quote from Benjamin Franklin - fail to prepare and prepare to fail! This is never so true as when it comes to bikepacking and even more so when your bikepacking buddy is only young. So how can you try to make your family adventure a fantastic and memorable experience for everyone? We have made a little list of top tips and the things you might like to consider when planning your first bikepacking adventure.
What to consider when bikepacking with children?
Everyday adventures don’t have to be huge, one night under the stars can create long-lasting memories for kids and encourage a love of the outdoors. Start small and make sure that your adventure takes place, it’s far better to plan a one-night microadventure that you enjoy together than to spend weeks planning a huge adventure that doesn’t happen.
Get everyone involved from the beginning, don’t do all the planning yourself, get children involved in this stage too. Include them in the decision-making process, discuss route ideas, look at maps together, let your child help you to pick the camping spot, after all, it is their adventure too.
When camping with kids a good destination is key, if your route allows, try to find a beach campsite. Who wouldn’t love to finish their day with a game of frisbee on the beach or dipping their toes in the sea?!
Picking the right route is likely to be the key to the success of your trip. The right level of challenge can result in an enormous sense of achievement and off-bike activities can add to the adventure and make the trip a well-rounded experience. But if you pick a route that is too difficult then not only will it be a less positive experience at the time, it is also likely to put your family off any future two-wheeled adventures.
For help when planning your family-friendly route take a look at these resources:
🐸 CyclingUK have a fantastic site listing routes by county and region
🐸 Sustrans offer lots of family biking ideas and the site includes a map showing the National Cycle Network
🐸 Komoot can help you to plan your route on and off-road showing the elevation of the route to help you gauge its suitability. Then download the app to have the route handy during your trip
Think about the daily flow of your ride, a family trip is as much about time on the bike as it is about time off the bike. Keep the mileage low and don’t expect to be able to cover huge distances, little legs get tired quickly and you’ll find children need regular breaks.
Adults like to fill their bikepacking trips with as many challenges as they can, but when it comes to family outings think the opposite. These trips should not be rushed, it’s all about travelling slow and exploring along the way.
Regular stops will prevent boredom from creeping in and keep excitement and energy levels high. You may want to consider a towing device too if your trip is longer or more challenging. There are many ways to attach your child's bike to yours to give them some respite. A simple towing device can be lightweight and easy to attach and allows your child to coast along when they want to and watch the scenery go by.
You can explore the best option for your trip and your family in our Towing Kids Bikes blog post here >>
Fuelling is important throughout the ride, it’s not just your evening camp dinner and morning breakfast to think about. Why not ask your child to help you choose the menu to ensure it is their experience as much as yours.
If you are buying a camping stove especially for this type of trip, why not consider a wood-burning stove. If your adventures are going to be off-road then on one of your (possibly many) breaks you can enjoy foraging for kindling and twigs to power the stove that evening!
If you are not cycling off the beaten track then why not buy food locally, to save you carrying extra unnecessary weight. If you are somewhere new with different local specialities this can also increase the fun and adventure.
Alternatively, you can consider dehydrated meals for that true camping or even astronaut feeling! There are many companies offering pre-packaged dehydrated meals where you just add hot water to the packet and don’t even need to carry a mess tin or mug to eat out of. Expedition Foods offer different calorie options of breakfast, lunch and dinner plus vegetarian options and Firepot dehydrated meals are even available in compostable pouches.
Pack some treats to look forward to on your overnight camp like marshmallows to toast on the fire. As you may find yourself travelling quite slowly it’s important to pack enough food and water for the time you are riding, it’s possible this could be a lot more than you think!
If you have chosen a location that isn’t hugely challenging and without too much riding then you hopefully won’t need a backup plan. But weather can change, energy levels can vary from day to day and a tired child is an unhappy child. Always have an emergency route planned that allows you to cut the distance short if legs are getting tired or moods becoming low.
Keep it Fun!
The shortest of adventures can still result in an amazing sense of achievement upon completion. At its bare bones, this is simply a fun trip for you to share your love of cycling and being outdoors with your family.
Like anything, with a little extra thought and preparation the fun level can be raised that little bit higher! You could prepare a family activity or challenge to enjoy at the campsite, such as geocaching or if there is a stream or lake nearby then why not pack some swim kit and have a dip?
Don’t feel bad about taking a phone or tablet with something downloaded to watch together at night, entertainment for a night under canvas such as an episode of Planet Earth or a nature documentary can be enjoyed together whilst cosy inside your sleeping bags.
Find the balance between taking the minimum amount of gear to make the bikes lighter and the cycling easier and allowing for a few little extras that will keep everyone happy. Whether it’s a bedtime book, a frisbee or football, or just leaving space in one of the bags for all the fun things that might be collected along the way!
Don’t forget to pack some special colourful bikepacking plasters for any scratches or bruises that occur along the way. It’s amazing how quickly the tears will dry up after a fun plaster is offered!
Different Bikepacking Bags Available
Bikepacking bags are amazing, easily strapped on, durable and waterproof bags that can be filled with clothes, tools and food allowing you the opportunity to have lots of microadventures at the drop of a hat. What’s not to love about that?! There are different bags to choose from which attach to a different part of your bike. You don’t need to buy them all, just get as many as you need to carry the amount needed for your trip.
The most common and preferred set-up includes:
🐸 A front bag for your handlebars
🐸 A smaller top tube bag
🐸 A triangular frame bag
🐸 A bigger rear bag that attaches to your seat post and saddle rails
There are lots of companies out there offering both ready-made and bespoke bikepacking bags that will fit all shapes and sizes of bike. They vary in price, but a good quality bag will last you years and many trips, so if it is something you think your family will love and do regularly it really is worth the investment.
Some great bikepacking bags that would be worth considering are:
And then there are panniers, you can always consider doing a mix of the two if your bike allows for a pannier rack to be attached, like our Frog Hybrid bikes do.
When working out how to spread the load don’t completely ignore your child's bike. Giving them a small bag with a light load will give them a sense of purpose.
For younger children carrying just one or two small, lighter items will help them to feel more included and part of the team. If your child is older then you could let them carry their own clothes in a small frame bag or small handlebar bag, but get them to take the bike for a test drive fully loaded, it will behave differently with the bags on and they will have to be a little more careful when riding, especially downhill!
Items like hip packs (also known as bum bags) can be great for kids to carry, they can wear them around their waist or wrap them around the handlebars and keep their gloves, sunglasses and snacks at easy reach. Smaller top tube bags can be great for children too, you can even leave these empty and have this small pouch as their own pack to collect shells, stones or whatever catches their eye along the way!
Ready to Go?
You’ve planned your route and worked out everything you will need to have a successful trip, so what now?
And that’s it, you’re now ready to embark on your first family bikepacking adventure, we hope you have an absolutely amazing time, make some fantastic memories and create a future generation of cycling enthusiasts!