by Emillie Parrish
Source: Family Summer Guide 2016
Originally Published: July 2016
I admit that the idea of cycle camping with children may seem daunting. Either of those activities on its own has the potential to be a lot of work. Combining them can seem more than just a bit adventurous. However, as an avid cycle camper with two young children, I hope to dispel your fears and encourage you to take on a little bit of adventure this summer!
Whether you’re packing your kids into a car for a trip to Grandma’s or loading them into a bike trailer filled with camping gear, traveling with children is a lot of work. Cycle camping offers you the opportunity to truly take a break from your busy life. With cycle camping, the journey is part of the trip rather than just something to get you to your destination. It is a chance to experience a slower pace and enjoy all the scenery that normally passes us by. It is an inexpensive and environmentally-friendly way to explore all of the islands that we call home. My favourite reason to go cycle camping is the shared feeling of accomplishment that we have when we arrive somewhere new.
Well, if you’ve gotten this far in the article then you’re probably wondering what you need to know in order to have an amazing trip.
• Rent, buy or borrow good bikes with trailers or pannier racks. I do not recommend wearing heavy backpacks as it makes for a hot and miserable cycle.
• Figure out how you are going to carry your children (if they are younger). If they are old enough to cycle on their own, plan for shorter rides with lots of breaks. Remember the journey is a big part of the experience. Stop at road side stands, pick blackberries, count sheep, and enjoy the outdoors.
• Only carry the food you need. If possible, buy food on your way to replenish your supplies. It adds to the adventure and reduces your weight. Stopping for ice cream along the way is encouraged.
• Carry only the gear you need. For our family of four we pack a tent, sleeping bags, a small first aid kit, very few clothes, very few books and only our special toys. For cooking I take one cooking pot, a camp stove and fuel, four bowls and spoons, a Swiss army knife, a thin plastic cutting mat, and several collapsible prep bowls. Even if you’re not backpacking, the weight quickly adds up, especially when kids are involved. They don’t need toys to camp on our beautiful islands. There is usually a beach nearby and the forests provide plenty of material for imaginative play.
If you are worried that your children aren’t up to the journey, then take a few “practice” day trips. The goal is to have fun, so make sure you emphasize how exciting and fun it is. It’s not about pushing your capabilities, it’s about exploring new places, experiencing the outdoors, and having a few treats along the way. With younger children, try to time your cycling so that you get the bulk of it done during nap times. Children usually sleep well when lulled by the rhythmic motion of a bicycle.
If your older children are going to be cycling on their own, make sure they are prepared for the distance involved by having them spend a few weeks regularly cycling to nearby destinations. Children often don’t know how to pace themselves. They tend to burn up all their energy in the beginning by going as fast as possible. It’s a good idea to practice climbing hills so that they learn how to save up some of their energy for getting to the top of any hills.
Plan your routes ahead of time with a few ideas for stopping points along the way. Expect to walk up steep hills and focus on how fun it will be to ride back down the other side. It’s also important to make sure that you and your children are well fueled for the journey by providing plenty of high-energy snacks. Focus your food on complex carbohydrates and protein that will give you lasting energy. I find a “make your own” trail mix is usually very popular.
With all that in mind, it’s just a question of where to go. We are lucky to live in a region that is filled with beautiful places to camp. Here are a few ideas:
1. Start by going to your local campgrounds. I think most of us probably live within a 30 km ride of a campground. If you live near the Galloping Goose or Lochside trails, then you are in luck. You are guaranteed to have a nice flat ride filled with interesting sights, and there are campgrounds at Goldstream, Thetis Lake, Island View and McDonald Park.
2. Many of our smaller Gulf Islands have campgrounds that are within cycling distance of the ferry terminal. If you aren’t up for a really long ride, then start your journey at a ferry terminal. The Gulf Islands tend to be quite hilly, but the distances are usually short enough that you can just walk up the hills as needed.
3. Take an international trip by taking a ferry to the San Juan Islands, Anacortes or Port Angeles. There are great opportunities for camping, and it does feel like a different country even though you’re only a short distance from home.
Happy Cycle Camping!
Emillie Parrish loves having adventures with her two busy children. She lives in Victoria and is the author of the fermentation-based blog fermentingforfoodies.com.
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