Bikepacking with a Toddler: Inner Dialogue Q&A

What could be better? I love bike packing, and I love my boy. I’d like to introduce one to the other.
I don’t have the answers to these questions yet, but this is one direction I’d like to go. This is my inner dialogue. Maybe an odd blog format? Whatever, dig in. Read on if you’re pregnant, have kids, or want to have kids, and you think bike packing is rad. I’ll sort it out as we go.

My urge to get out “over the horizon” has been stronger lately than it has been in a while; similar but totally different than how it’d been before my son was born. Before then; I’d had a lot of fun, managed to live pretty much happy-go-lucky from one trip to another until “we” got pregnant. Things changed after that, and I won’t bother going into the how or why here.
But he’s pretty much a big kid these days, and that’s been changing things, again.
Now he’s becoming my best buddy, and I want to show him some of the world as I see it.

Life as a hard-charging badass ain’t over just because I’ve become a dad.

I want to go big, in my own way- or more specifically- in his way. It’s not the “big” I’ve known before; going fast for 12 or 24 hours, or what have you. I can’t care less about riding day after day without sleep, chewing caffeine pills or setting new records. I want to break new ground with my son, even if that’s not really groundbreaking at all. It might not even be that “big” to anyone else, really, but so long as it’s big in his world, I’m into it. By extension, what’s big for him will be big for me.

Can our “Big” be a bike pack? Maybe. Kids love bikes. Just the same as they love trains, planes, and automobiles, riding bikes are one of the de facto rites of passage for every kid. And kids love camping. Can traveling by bike with mom & dad be in the same realm of cool as riding one?

I’d like to show him a night under the stars, under our own power. 
My son, Alexander, is pretty talented with his push bike. He’s 2-1/2 years old, still enjoys riding in his trailer, but he likes to get out into the dirt and get his wiggles out. He’s not familiar with pedals yet. He isn’t ready for a Tag-a-long yet.

Here are some considerations I’m working through for our upcoming bike pack:

How far can we go?
I definitely think we need to measure in terms of time rather than distance. It all boils down to how much time he spends sitting in that trailer. There’s the short attention span to contend with here, and nap time is bonus time. Perhaps a bike pack will be best started with nap time in mind, one way or another.

What kind of riding?
Speed seems to only be a good thing, he loves it. Bumps, not so much. A few are fun, but I’ve already found that getting keyed in between two rocks on technical single track isn’t the way to dad & son bliss. When he declares game over, it’s over. Best to avoid that for now, keep it fun.

What should we bring?
It’s got to be fun. The Buzz Lightyear sleeping bag is a must. Certain key stuffed animals too. Some toys, maybe small ones. Maybe some empowering bits too, like “mountain bike gear,” which consists of his helmet, gloves, and sunglasses. And his own water bottle.

And, like it or not, a fully charged iPad with downloaded cartoons might be a get-outta-jail-free card.
Additionally, pack heavy, with creature comforts like cold milk, and maybe some bedtime books. This might be a white gas stove kinda trip rather than an Esbit stove trip. Fresh veggies? Why not?

What if he doesn’t like it?
We need to plan some buffer time in. Plan as though forward progress on the trip can stop at any moment and we’ll be alright. We will go in with low expectations, ready to return if we need to. Maybe we’ll have somebody in the wings to swoop in if things get pear shaped?

Can I geek out on the gear?
Definitely. It’s a brave new world here. The 4-1/4″ tires I put on the trailer the other day provide a bigger contact patch, and if you ask Zander, a noticeably smoother ride.  Around 10 psi, for reference.
We need to figure out a fender or some other means of deflection. He complains a bit that dirt & sand get in his face. Yeah, that’s the rear wheel right there, out in front of him. Knobby and throwing up dirt. Gotta fix that.

Bottom lines:
When I ask him if he’d like to go camping, with our bikes, he’s excited. We’ve been working up with longer rides after work, and he’s getting into the “bike” lifestyle. What 2-1/2 year old doesn’t like some adventure?

We’ll start with a modest mileage attempt soon, somewhere fun, and go from there. I don’t know what I don’t know yet… and that’s both a little daunting and little exciting. We’ll write more about it as we go. No matter what, it’ll be an adventure. I want it to be big, for him.




2 thoughts on “Bikepacking with a Toddler: Inner Dialogue Q&A

  1. We are approaching this cusp with our 2.5 year old as well. If you are planning some bumpy stuff, this trailer is the cream of the crop:
    Peter white can import them for you i believe, check out these videos of little kid singletrac bliss

    All while rocking the fuzzy bunny


  2. Brendan, yes you can go bikepacking with a toddler, even if it’s only a few miles and you have the creature comforts of home. My first trip was with my 3 year old to a local state campground. We drove to within about 10 miles of the park, rode a few miles to a quick dinner on the edge of town, and then rode into the park. It wasn’t fast, it wasn’t far, but it was an adventure for us. This year, we worked up to a 40 mile ride over 2 days on the tag-a-long which was a little too far, but we still made it and had a great time together.


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