So, What is Bike Camping? Is it Like Touring?
Bike camping is, simply, camping by bike. It’s self-contained touring over a weekend, where there is one destination, where you plan to camp one or more nights – where the focus is as much on the destination as on the ride..
Then Why Not Call it Touring?
Touring is a scary word for many people. They’ve come to associate it with having to buy lots of expensive gear and specialized equipment, and riding alone. Really you can get away with spending less than $100 (sometimes much less), and lots of people camp together in groups by bike.
What Do I Need to Camp By Bike?
Surprisingly, you need very little gear to camp by bike. All you really need is something to carry stuff in or on, and the basics to be able to sleep overnight. Everything else is just luxuries. The bare minimum is a rear rack or a trailer, something to shelter you from rain and wind, some food and water. Generally you’ll want a few “emergency” items for, well…. emergencies. Here’s a couple examples from when I started camping on my mountain bike with a friend:
You can also make a cheap system to lug things with by “acquiring” a milk crate and using Velcro strips or to attach the crate to the rear rack. The crate can be used to carry the loose gear, and your tent, sleeping bag and other large items can be strapped to the top and sides of the milk crate using bungie cords.
The biggest drawback to the rear rack and/or the milk crate is that it places all the weight directly over the rear wheel. This can increase the possibility of flats and broken spokes. To avoid these problems, you can get a beefier rear wheel, mount a front rack and bags to distribute the weight more evenly, or use a trailer.
Trailers take the weight off the back wheel, but add drag and additional weight. Depending on the trailer used, they can make it difficult to squeeze through tight spaces and can affect the handling of the bike. They also add another set of tires and tubes that you need to worry about repairing if a flat or blowout occurs – and those tubes are rarely interchangeable with the ones for the bike. They do, however cost less than a full set of waterproof bags, and they hold a lot.
Trailers typically come in two types. The trailer shown here is less than $100 and attaches to the rear skewer. Other mounting systems may attach to the rear triangle, or replace the rear skewer with a longer one built to accommodate the trailer mount. The second trailer type has a single wheel in the center and allows items to be stacked in front of or on either side of the wheel. These trailers are lighter and more efficient, but more prone to stability issues if the weight on them is not carefully balanced with the heaviest items centered at the bottom of the trailer.
No system is right for everyone – try them out and see what works for you.