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The Two-Wheeled Adventure: Tips for Bike Camping

Biking down the roadLooking for an eco-friendly alternative to car camping? Bike camping, or bike touring, can be one of the most physically demanding as well as rewarding ways to experience the outdoors. Climbing hills while towing 40-50 pounds of camping gear has the potential to exhaust, but the freedom that the bicycle affords and the contemplation that it fosters is worth the effort. Nevertheless, bike touring is not as simple as just hopping on your beach cruiser with a backpack and peddling off into the wilderness, as a considerable amount of preparation is essential.

We spoke with Raymond Bridge, the author of Bike Touring: The Sierra Club Guide to Travel on Two Wheels, to learn how to plan a successful bike camping trip.

Know your bike

Bridge says that perhaps the most important preparation for bike camping is knowing your bike and knowing when something is wrong. For beginners, "The main thing is to do a lot of riding around home first," said Bridge. "You need to be fairly familiar with your bike, because if you need to make adjustments, it's helpful to know what you're doing."

Get the right gear

Not all bikes are made for bike touring, and it's extremely helpful to have rear bike rack with panniers. You'll want to put your most cumbersome camping equipment here, such as tents, sleeping bags, and sleeping pads. It's also possible to strap some equipment to your front handlebars, but using a rear bike rack is safer and makes handling easier. 

Pack Light

Bridge stresses that it's important to be relatively familiar with lightweight camping before going on any bike camping excursions. For Bridge himself, it was lightweight camping that introduced him to the world of bike touring. "I'd been backpacking and climbing for most of my life, and I just incorporated that into biking." One of the most important aspects of lightweight camping is making sure that the food you bring takes up as little space as possible, but is also nutritious. Check out our list of the best foods for lightweight winter backpacking.

Bike touring has taken Bridge throughout the US and through parts of Europe, including the UK, France, Switzerland, and Germany. But while riding to Patagonia, the holy grail for many bike tourers, may be beyond him now, he still finds adventure in the Rocky Mountains of his home state of Colorado. "I'm pretty enamored with the Rockies," said Bridge. "I can take off from home and do a weekend tour from my front door."

So if you're considering bike camping for the first time, make sure to bring a helmet, get a tuneup, start with an easy one- or two-night trip, and then in no time you'll be on the way to Patagonia, living out Raymond Bridge's South American touring dreams. 

--Image by iStockphoto/naumoid

Callum Beals is an editorial intern at Sierra. He recently graduated from UC Santa Cruz where he studied history and literature. He enjoys hiking, camping, and waking up at ungodly hours to watch soccer games.


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