Bike camping adventures offer the perfect antidote to 2020
Camping: It’s an adventure and an opportunity to unplug and get away from the city for a few nights. Bike camping is all of that plus you’re on a bike. How great is that?
Bike camping does not have to mean bike touring. There is no requirement to overload your bike with bursting panniers and a sky-high backpack slowing your speed to that of a svelte box turtle. This is bike camping with an emphasis on camping. For those who don’t have the time to plan a grand odyssey, all you need is a minimum of gear to bike to a nearby campground, spend the night or the weekend, and bike back home. Easy. And you can just grow it from there. Here are a few details to help get you on your first bike camping adventure.
No one is suggesting that cycling straight from your door to the great outdoors is the only available option. Most public transit systems will whisk bike campers near the city limits or beyond. This lets you bypass the exhaust fumes of four-wheeled weekend warriors. In addition, passenger trains are starting to appeal to passengers with bicycles by providing easier boarding on some routes. Consider options within two to three hours of urban centers so that your time on the trip isn’t robbed by too much travel.
Sometimes the most direct route is not the most comfortable or accessible. Plus a safe and scenic route to your campground is going to be more enjoyable. There are a number of resources that can help you find a suggested route including Google Maps, Bikemap, and Bikely.
There is also a slew of established and new cycling routes with helpful websites or printed maps. The ideal is, of course, a pleasant off-road trail or rail trail to your destination. Try to choose locations with this in mind and plan possible stops along the way for refreshments. If your campsite is within a few hours from home, leave in the afternoon after a strong espresso. Leave time for transit troubles, minor repairs, and general this-is-maybe-farther-than-I-thought issues.
Where to go?
There are plenty of options across the country, and anywhere you can camp, you can bike camp. But there are some spectacular routes just for cycling and entirely off-road worth checking out.
Along Quebec's Le Petit Train du Nord cycling route
Route Verte: Quebec is pretty amazing when it comes to cycling. The province has invested heavily in cycling infrastructure specifically for tourism and created a provincial network of cycling routes dubbed the Route Verte, or Green Route. There are dozens of incredible pathways that make up the Route Verte but one of the most popular is the Le Petit Train du Nord. This 200-km cycling route stretches along an old rail corridor from Mont-Laurier to Saint-Jerome, all off-road. It is spectacular and offers plentiful camping opportunities along the route as well as a slew of picture-perfect B&Bs and inns if that’s more your style.
In Ontario, there are a number of routes similar to the Route Verte including the Waterfront Trail and the new Guelph to Goderich Rail Trail that allows pedal pushers to bike from Wellington County more than 125-km to the shores of Lake Huron. There is also a popular option to take the VIA Bike Train from Toronto to cycling areas such as Niagara and start the trip from there.
Kettle Valley Rail Trail in British Columbia
In British Columbia, there are numerous popular trails such as the Kettle Valley Rail Trail that runs from Hope to Castlegar for amazing bike camping adventures or the epic BC Trail, which is a 1,200-km Trans Canada Trail (The Great Trail) route through southern BC from the Fraser Valley to Fernie.
Bike Camping Gear
Lightweight, compact gear is best. For camping: a tent, sleeping bag, camping pad, toiletries, food, a cooking vessel, a single-burner stove (optional), and a headlamp are essential camping items. For cycling, take a repair kit including pump, bike tool, tire levers, spare tube, and patch kit. Ideally, all of your gear can fit quite easily into two rear pannier bags and on a rear rack if required. Keeping your back free of a pack will ensure a more comfortable, less sweat-drenched ride.
Win this Mountain Hardwear Mineral King 2 Tent
Looking for the perfect tent to bring along on your bike-packing adventures check out this beauty. The Mountain Hardwear Mineral King 2 Tent ($350 for two-person, $425 for three-person) offers top-notch components and construction in a package that is light, durable and easy to assemble. It maximizes interior living space with huge oversized doors as well as an adaptable fly to take in the starry skies on a warm summer night. The fly rolls back and secures halfway for serious stargazing potential. Full mesh upper canopy optimizes ventilation and enables unobstructed views.
For one of our amazing readers, we have arranged to give away one of these awesome tents from Mountain Hardwear. The contest runs from July 4, 2020, until July 18, 2020 at 12 p.m. when we will announce the winner. All you have to do is hit up our Instagram, follow us and Mountain Hardwear and tag your ideal bike-packing companion in the comments. It is that easy.
And the final step, have fun!
Thanks to Marek Piwnicki for the lead image