Luci and I just returned from Mt. Lemmon for a wonderful father-daughter camping trip.

This time we did it with four wheels, when it cools down, however, I am determined to do it on two.

I used to camp a lot as a kid and have fond memories of camping with my mother, but as I got older I didn’t do it and didn’t have the equipment to do so.

I got the camping bug several months ago and have been acquiring the equipment we needed. This was our second camping trip and our first trip without Irene. We were joined by slow bike rider, Jay Rochlin.

When it cools off I want to make the next trip by bicycle.

I know there will be a few more items we need to purchase, like a backpacking stove. I can’t imagine I’ll appreciate hauling around my giant camp stove.

For all those bike touring pros, what equipment to you use? What are the essentials? Anyone done bike camping trips with kids? Leave a comment. I’d love to hear what works for you.


9 thoughts on “Camping-by-bike tips?”
  1. Where are you going? How long? Cargo bike? Multi modal?

    As Mrs Red Star put it, “I’d rather teach a cat to do calculus.”

  2. For the first one, I am thinking Catalina State Park because it’s ~15 miles and has a lot of amenities outside the gates should something be forgotten. 

    The other option it Gilbert Ray, but that is 20+ miles and has less close by in case of emergencies. (I think that would be preferable when the setup is dialed in.) 

    I’ll either take the bakfiets or the Xtracycle. 

    I was just thinking about how fun it would be to rent a group site and get a bunch of Tucson Velo readers to join us. 
    Sounds like Mrs Red Star wouldn’t join us, but would Mr Red Star?

  3. I’ve done a fair amount of camping by bike, including breaking my chain (twice!) carrying gear up to camp at Madera Canyon.

    The number one item I think for bike camping is to use Sea to Summit dry sacks on your xtracycle. If you’ve ever dealt with panniers, using dry sacks is signifantly easier. Cheaper, easily replaceable, modular. Packing your bike can take a while, this will make it less difficult and faster.

    One of the cooler items for bike camping is my thermarest chair attachment:

    This product adds practically no weight but gives you a chair that you can use both inside and outside your tent.

    Folgers makes their ‘coffee singles’ which I think is a lot easier to deal with than taking a pot or single cup filter.

    The dragonfly stove is lightweight and works great. Very freaking loud. Uses unleaded gas, which is really useful when you need fuel in the middle of Kansas:

    Happy camping!

  4. I haven’t done a bike tour yet, but have been backpacking and mountaineering for over 35 years. When I do get out on my first tour, I plan to translate what I’ve learned to the bike: Keep it simple and as lightweight as possible. As Red Star implies, this can be a big subject and what gear you take (and invest in) does depend on your goals. Of course there are books on the subject, but you might want to check out On this site, people keep a journal of their bike tours and often list the gear they used and how it worked. It can get expensive fast, so you might want to see if you can borrow items until you decide this is something you want to get into.

    When I backpack, I like my lightweight MSR Pocket Rocket stove -and I have a 1-1/2 lb down sleeping bag rated to 20 degrees. Down loses insulation when it gets wet, but that’ easy to prevent and not usually a problem in the desert.

    I do have a tent, but often go with just a lightweight ground cloth and tarp. With a child, you may want to start with a tent.

    I use a Thermarest Z-lite sleeping pad. Had the inflatable ones, but they always seem to get leaks.

    I’ve used the Folgers packs, but got tired of the taste. Now I  have this little portable filter holder that sits on top of my cup (you can get at any grocery store) and grind my own before the trip.

    I recently started dehydrating my own dinners which is a great alternative to the expensive and awful freeze-dried meals. Mealtime is one thing you want to make fun for Luci. I have friends who take their kids backpacking all the time and make pizza and cookies in a lightweight oven similar to this:

    You can buy the ingredients at the grocery store. Just stay away from cans and repackage boxed items in ziploc bags. I think they use Boboli pre-made crusts for pizza and the Pilsbury pre-made cookie dough.

    Of course you’ll want to bring some games, other entertainment for Luci but I’m sure you’ve got that down.

    I purchased a used Burley cargo trailer last year to take to Burning Man and plan to load that up — lightly — and get out off the feet for some camping fun soon.

  5. Thanks everyone! I am starting to put together a list. I have a decent tent. It’s a little on the heavy side and too big when it is rolled up, so I am looking for something smaller and lighter. I like the Big Agnes Copper Spur Ul 4, which will fit our entire family. It’s $449, so I am looking for some alternatives. 

    Luci and I both have pretty good sleeping bags and I just got a big agnes pad that folds up nice and small. I’ve been checking out and they like the Trangia stove. Anyone have any experience with that?

    I’m a gear guy, so I am enjoying the research! 

  6. We use the Trangia – its a good lightweight stove, but make sure you take a wind shield and boil times can be a bit on the slow side.  But its cheap to use due to the variety of fuels it can use.  Our preference would be for the MSR Microrocket – you can read the review at our website if you wish – its lighter, and faster boil times….The downside is that the fuel is not as easy to come by, as say, metho for the Trangia.

  7. I’m about to leave on a northwest solo bike camping tour. I’m taking a lot of backpacking gear including a Mountain Hardwear 2-person backpacking tent, a 40 year old down winter sleeping bag, a mini thermarest inflatable pad, and the MSR Pocket Rocket stove (I highly recommend this stove — it’s tiny, no priming, and it takes regular backpacking fuel canisters). For food, I like to keep it simple and have hot cereal for breakfast, sandwiches for lunch, and quinoa or red lentils with vegetables for dinner. The tent and down bag may not be as important for desert camping, but they’re a nice thing to have if you plan on doing more bike camping or backpacking. Let me know if you have any questions — I’ve only done this a couple times so I may or may not have good advice.

    Let us know how the adventures go!

  8. The Trangia burns alcohol.  It has no moving parts and is bullet proof.  Alcohol stoves are a bit slower that gas and propane stoves but are lighter.  The weight advantage shifts to the gas and canister stoves if you need to carry fuel for several days.  Alcohol has fewer BTUs by weight, so you cary more weight in fuel.  If you’re out for just a couple days, you only need small amount of alcohol.  It is essential that you use a windshield w/ an alcohol stove or the wind will greatly lengthen the time you need to heat something.  The wind may also blow out the flame.  I recommend you watch some videos of alcohol stoves on YouTube.  You can make your own stove, there are videos showing how to do that.

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