Bicycle Camping – a New Experience

Doug Williams
 
Keithonearth - Own work CC BY-SA 3.0
Keithonearth - Own work CC BY-SA 3.0

Cyclists are sometimes on the road for weeks or even months. Bicycle trips can offer the rider escape from the stress of life unless one must stay in a hotel for the night and are exposed to TV and newspapers.  In order to maintain an escape from world events, bicycle camping is the answer.

 

Bicycle camping is more economical than staying in hotels every night, and it allows the camper to take any route rather than staying close to towns or cities. One must have the correct equipment in order to get the most out of camping while on a bicycle trip. It is always best to buy the best equipment one can afford so it will last for years.

First, a tent must be considered. Some are comfortable sleeping under the stars with just a sleeping bag, but others prefer some shelter from the elements. A small, lightweight tent is best. A tarp and a ground cloth are good to have in case of rain. For the best comfort, an inflatable mattress is also a good choice.

Many prefer the mummy style sleeping bags as they hold heat in better than the rectangular type. Make sure it is a quality sleeping bag preferably from a camping store to insure long life and comfort.

If one plans to prepare their own food, cooking utensils will be needed. A medium size pot with a lid and a lightweight frying pan that preferably uses the same lid. A fork and spoon as well as a sharp knife and scissors are needed and can all be included in a Swiss army knife. A small spatula, a can opener and a cup that can double as a measuring cup, a bowl and drinking cup will work.

A small foldable plate is much more economical and more sturdy than paper plates.  If one is not sure of the legalities of an open fire or if there is no safe place to burn, a small propane stove with fuel tank can be the best way to cook. For cleaning up, a small scrubber pad and drying cloth should do the job. Be sure to bring along water purification tablets just in case the closest water source is not potable.

Tools will be necessary just in case the bicycle breaks down. Allen wrenches, a small flat and a small phillips screwdriver are necessary. One can purchase a screwdriver that has interchangeable heads to keep the inventory small. A set of cone and adjustable wrenches, pliers, a bicycle chain tool, a spoke tool, crank extractor, rear cassette remover, inner tube repair kit and a tire pump can all be found at a local bicycle shop.

Spare inner tubes, chain lube, extra spokes and a brake cable should also be carried. It is essential to bring a flashlight. The new crank style eliminates the need for batteries.

Personal hygiene items such as a comb and brush, a small mirror, toothbrush and toothpaste, shampoo, sunscreen and lip balm with a high SPF, a first aid kit with bandages and antiseptic, a towel and washcloth and a few cleanup rags are important to bring and don’t forget toilet paper.

Even though one is not driving, a driver’s license or some other form of identification is crucial. Emergency contact information, traveler’s checks and extra change for a phone call if one is outside of cell phone range can be lifesavers in an emergency.

A headlight powered by pedaling and a red light for the rear as well as reflective tape will keep one visible at night. A GPS unit can be invaluable when traveling in unknown areas as well as paper maps. Be sure the GPS has the latest update so closed roads and detours will not be a surprise.

It’s always good to have a pen or pencil and a small writing pad in case an address or directions need to be written down. A bike lock and cable will keep the bike safe if one needs to go into a store or restaurant. A digital camera preserves memories and does not need film.

If the cyclist’s cell phone is equipped with a camera that will eliminate the need for an extra camera and one can also record video. Even if there is no cell service, the camera will still work.

Of all the things brought along, clothing is probably the most important. The type of clothing depends on the destination as well as the predicted forecast. For cold and wet weather it is best to bring along a waterproof set of pants and a jacket.

A poncho won’t do because it could possibly get caught in the tire spokes or the chain. A hat with a full face mask or at least ear warmers and gloves will help keep one warm. A fleece hoodie will do for chilly evenings. If one is riding in the rain plastic grocery bags tied over shoes can keep feet dry. Always bring extra bags to store dirty or wet clothes.

For average weather, a few pairs of padded cycling shorts and short sleeve nylon shirts will keep one cool. A nylon windbreaker, light gloves, and quick drying socks along with bicycling shoes are best. For when the ride has concluded for the day relaxing in jogging pants, and a t-shirt are very comfortable. The time between laundromats should dictate how many shirts, pants, socks and underwear one brings. Flip-flops and tennis shoes come in handy and bring a bathing suit just in case the opportunity for swimming arises.

In order to carry all of the equipment previously mentioned one can add a rack to the back of the bike or pull a small bicycle trailer. With a trailer, one is not as limited as with a backpack or bike rack.

Depending on the route taken one can easily find campgrounds along the way. Unfortunately, many of these are filled with RVs carrying TVs, stereos, dogs and kids. This does not make for a quiet evening. Some campgrounds charge as much as motels. Primitive camping allows the most privacy.

At times one can find themselves too tired to go on, but no campground is in sight. Sometimes farmers will allow camping on their property. Make sure permission has been granted and leave the area exactly as it was found. Be sure to be careful during hunting season and be aware of what wildlife habitats the area.

By following these simple suggestions and adding a bit more research bicycle camping can be a very rewarding and enjoyable experience for one person or the whole family.

 

 
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