3 Ways To Enjoy Bikepacking With Kids

by Andy Amick on December 18, 2014

in Bikepacking, Kids

When talking of bikepacking, I think it was Paul Revere that said “one if by tag-a-long, two if by trailer”. Well, maybe not, but that’s a good strategy for sharing the world of bikepacking with young kids.

chatfield bikepacking

My kids and I have been bikepacking together since they were three years old. The trips have been single overnight trips covering much shorter distances than I would if going solo. However, the fun factor is just as high. For the first few years, we used a trailer before migrating to a tag-a-long. They now ride their own bikes and that are partially loaded with gear.

How do you actually make a bikepacking trip happen with kids? Here are three ways my family has been able to enjoy bikepacking trips. A lot depends on your child’s age and their desire to ride on their own.

As with everything camping and outdoor related, there is no right answer.  Do what works best for your family and also use whatever gear you have available.

Trailer

bikepacking with kids, trailer bikepacking

Helmet? Check. Snacks? Check. Ready to go!

For younger kids, a trailer is generally the best option. It allows kids the chance to get a free ride while still getting outside to enjoy camping. When packed with snacks and a few favorite toys, most kids are happy to ride in a trailer and may even fall asleep for a nap while mom or dad pedals away.

When it comes to gear, a trailer offers the most storage space. Because of the way trailers connect to the parent’s bike, it’s possible to have a fully loaded bike as well as a fully loaded trailer. This allows for a few comfort or luxury camping items (more toys, more food, larger tent, camp stove, etc) that are key to making the trip fun for younger kids.

With a trailer, route options are generally limited to wider paths, multi-purpose trails, and sidewalks. If camping options such as a state park are too far from home, a good compromise is to drive most of the way to the park and then ride the final few miles to your camping spot.  Kids won’t be upset if you don’t ride the entire way from home.  Even a two mile bike trip can be an adventure for them.

Pros

  • Best option for kids that are not riding their own bikes
  • Offers the most storage space for carrying gear

Cons

  • Route options limited due to width of a trailer
  • Generally the heaviest option

Tag-a-long

bikepacking with kids on the colorado trail

Excited after conquering singletrack and camping in the backcountry for the first time.

A tag-a-long or trail-a-bike opens up an entirely new set of camping options for bikepacking with kids because you can travel on all but the most technical trails.  With a tag-a-long, the kid has the option to pedal or coast – they have a good knack for not pedaling but asking lots of questions while you’re huffing and puffing trying to get up a hill).  As long as they are comfortable on the seat, you can start to ride longer distances.

Gear storage is limited due to the way tag-a-longs connect to the bike.  It’s not possible to use a bikepacking seat bag with a tag-a-long. Other than the space in front of the kid’s handlebar, there are not a lot of storage options on the tag-a-long itself.  Gone is the ability to thrown a bunch of gear behind the seat like you can with a trailer. It’s a good idea for both parent and child to wear backpacks that can carry water, food, spare clothes to make up for the lost storage on the bikes.

The biggest drawback of a tag-a-long is stability. Since everything is connected, when your child leans or turns around to look at something, the entire bike wants to lean over. It takes some getting used to the wobble that comes with a tag-a-long. The first time your child actually pedals on an uphill to help you out, that extra oomph makes the wobbles worth it.

Pros

  • Kids can pedal and they are out of the confines of a trailer
  • Almost any trail is an option

Cons

  • Lack of stability
  • Less gear storage options

Their Own Bikes

OwnBike_Chatfield

Carrying his own gear and enjoying every minute.

The ultimate freedom for kids is riding their own bike and carrying their own gear! With that freedom comes giant smiles, a sense of accomplishment, and a desire to go for another trip.  It also opens up family bikepacking to all trails and routes.

With kid’s riding their own bikes, the trip distances are generally shorter. If they have been on a tag-a-long, they may not be used to pedaling for more than a couple of miles. The good news is that most kids can ride further than they think as long as plenty of breaks, water, and snacks are part of the actual riding. My 9 year old managed 20 miles round trip on dirt trails for his first bikepacking trip riding his own bike.

As with tag-a-longs, gear storage becomes tricky. You have gear for two people, but not enough on-bike storage for two.  I definitely recommend letting kids carry some of their own gear – maybe a sleeping bag on the handlebar and a hydration pack with their food, water, and clothing.  Although, this leaves a lot of gear for the parent to carry, it’s doable with a backpack for the gear that won’t fit on the bikes.

Pros

  • Freedom!
  • Any trail, any route is an option

Cons 

  • Distance covered is less since they are doing all of the pedaling
  • Gear storage is limited on kids bikes

Get Out There

No matter which option you choose, bikepacking with kids is a great family adventure. Start with small trips and make having fun the only objective.

For more information on trailers, tag-a-longs, and pedal bikes for kids, check out Two Wheeling Tots guides and buying guides.

PushingUpTheHill

About Andy Amick
A little bit nutty in general, a lotta bit nutty about bikes. Each of his boys received a bike helmet for their first birthday and the three of them have been biking together ever since.

Follow me on Twitter ·

  • Hey! We are way late to the party here, but thanks for using Two Wheeling Tots, https://www.twowheelingtots.com/, as a resource! We really appreciate it, especially coming from an experienced rider like yourself. Getting kids out can be a lot of work, but it can also be a lot of fun!

Previous post:

Next post: