In this beginner's guide to bicycle camping, I'll cover the basics for those just starting out on their first overnight adventures on two wheels!
Why go cycle camping?
One of the great things about bicycle touring, is that it is a cheap way to travel. And one of the main things that helps keep bike touring cheap is being able to camp.
Camping while on a cycle tour has many advantages. It is much cheaper than staying in a hotel, and it allows for greater flexibility when planning your trip.
Plus, camping gives you the opportunity to explore wild and remote places that would otherwise be inaccessible!
If you want to start bike touring, but are unsure about how or where to camp, this guide will help you get started.
Related: Short camping quotes
You might have heard of people saying they are going “wild camping” or “stealth camping.” This simply means setting up a camp in the wild, away from designated campgrounds.
Wild camping is perfect if your bike tour is taking you through remote areas. It's also a great option for those who want to get away from the hustle and bustle of more commercialized campsites.
I prefer to wild camp when I can. Nothing beats looking at a sunset from a mountain top, or waking up next to a lake! Oh, and it's free!
Also read: How to go wild camping
Tips for wild camping
Some simple tips to keep in mind when wild camping include:
- Bring a lightweight and compact tent. Being able to set up quickly is essential if you're looking for a secluded spot!
- Pick your campsite wisely. Aim for areas that are already somewhat cleared, away from trails and popular sites.
- Leave no trace. When packing up camp make sure to leave the area exactly as you found it; no one should be able to tell you were there!
- Respect the environment. Make sure to stay away from protected areas and obey any local laws on camping in the wild.
If you're not comfortable with wild camping, or if it's not allowed in the region, then there are plenty of designated campsites to choose from.
Public campgrounds are great if you need amenities like showers and toilets, or want to meet other people – bike touring solo can be quite solitary after a while. They are also ideal places if you need to recharge the electronic gear you are using on a bike tour!
What do you need to bring bike camping?
So, it's all pretty straightforward so far, but what gear do you need to bring camping on a bike tour?
The good news is that you don't need too much!
Most people will take the traditional camping route: A tent, sleeping bag, and mat are the basic items needed.
There are variations on this of course. Hammock camping is becoming popular, and some people might opt for a bivy sack instead of a full-on tent. These have their pros and cons in different circumstances.
Additionally, you might want to take along other items to make yourself more comfortable. A foldable camping pillow, camping stove and cooking utensils all help to make the camping experience more enjoyable.
Check out: My bicycle camping gear list
How to carry your camping gear when cycling
Bikepacking using frame bags is also popular among cyclists who want to travel ultralight on relatively short tours.
I hope this brief guide to bicycle camping has been helpful for those just starting out on their bike touring adventures!
Having the skills and knowledge to camp will open up a world of opportunities, and you'll be able to explore beautiful places that could otherwise be inaccessible when relying solely on hostels or hotels.
Related: Cycle around the world
Bike Touring Camping FAQs
People planning their first bike trip that involves camping often ask questions similar to:
What do you need for camping by bike?
Essential gear to take when cycle camping includes a lightweight tent, sleeping bag, and sleeping mat. Additional items to consider are a travel pillow and cooking equipment.
What bikepacking gear do I need?
Bikepacking gear comprises a sturdy bike, frame bags or panniers for storage, a lightweight tent and sleeping system, cooking equipment, appropriate clothing, bike repair tools, navigation aids, and water storage with purification options.
What do I need for an overnight bike trip?
An overnight bike trip requires a lightweight tent or hammock, sleeping bag and pad. Anything else you take will depend on the level of comfort you like, and how many nights you expect to camp when cycle touring.
How do you store a bike when camping?
Bike storage options while camping include secure locking to a nearby tree or post, bringing the bike inside the tent (some tents have a bike shed awning), and using a bike storage bag or cover for protection from the elements.
What do I need to start bicycle touring?
To start bicycle touring, you need a bike that is suitable for the terrain you plan to ride on, plus essential camping gear. You'll also need to know how to maintain your bike, and to make simple repairs such as inner tube changes.