‘Bikepacking’ is a treat when toddler gets too heavy for your back

If you want to get away from it all overnight, seek out riverside roads that are closed to cars but open to bikes, and get yourself a sturdy bike and trailer.

Sharing the outdoors with my 3-year old son has been one of my greatest joys as a father. Ian has been camping with us since he was just 2 weeks old and he’s continued to love sleeping outside as he’s grown older.

But as he has gotten bigger (and heavier) we’ve reached the point where backpacking just isn’t an option for our family. He’s too heavy to carry.

Necessity is the mother of invention, and last summer my wife, Amanda, and I started brainstorming ways we could achieve some of the upsides of backpacking and still bring our toddler with us.

One solution was to try a form of camping we had never considered before: bikepacking.

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Basically, we would take what we needed for a typical backpacking trip, plus a squirming little boy, and haul everything for an overnight trip on mountain bikes.

The perfect campsite, it turned out, was waiting by a river in an abandoned campground near a washed out mountain road. And the experience was all I needed to become a believer that bikepacking could tide us over until Ian is old enough to hike with his own gear.

Gearing up

We’re not advanced bikers by any stretch of the imagination. My mountain bike is a clunky relic from the 1990s and my wife’s bike is more of a cruiser designed for paved roads.

While many bike campers use an assortment of racks, saddlebags and panniers to hold gear, we simply used a bike trailer that we found on Craigslist. These trailers are popular even for those bikepacking without kids.

On our first outing, we put Ian into his seat and began loading sleeping bags, food and clothes around him. I was surprised at how much gear our little trailer would hold.

With a bit of help from some cargo straps, it soon gobbled up almost everything from my pack, and about half of what Amanda usually carries.

Sure, our son was a bit cramped, but he had the easy job of kicking back and enjoying the ride.

Experienced bike campers with kids say you can expect to tow about 100 pounds, so you’ll need a sturdy bike that can handle that kind of stress.

Find a road

Many online resources point bikepackers to state parks with ample campsites and roads where drivers are accustomed to bikers. But we wanted more solitude and decided to look for…

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