Family camping with a cargo bike (and no car)

Several months ago Beki, mum of two daughters, became the proud owner of a cargo bike.  In her new blog she tells us about her first experience of going camping with a cargo bike.

Camping without a car – the idea

Since getting our new cargo bike, we’ve been wanting to take it on a proper adventure before we consign it to years of running the children to school and back. We thought about taking it along a cycle path somewhere, but cycle paths aren’t really built to accommodate Pippi the Beast, and it falls foul of the bollards erected to keep cars away/slow down the lycra-clad gang. Perhaps nostalgic for our pre-children cycling and camping trips, we decided to take it camping. Me, the girls and various belongings in the Babboe; G on an electric bike pulling our old children’s trailer, packed-to-bursting with the tent and the rest of our camping belongings.

Packing a Babboe cargo bike on a family bikepacking camping trip

Packing the cargo bike for a family camping trip

The main challenge was packing. I don’t know about you, but when we normally go camping, we like to stuff the car so full that we’re unable to immediately discern our children’s legs poking out from the various detritus we hope to fill our tent with.

So packing knowing that a) we had less space than a mini with a sheep in the boot and b) we were going to be cycling up a hill that only those who live in the Stroud area can fully appreciate (unless you live in the Himalayas that is); was an eye-wateringly difficult challenge.

Luckily I married an actuary, so immediately a spreadsheet was drawn up to lighten the task; because what’s more fun than a spreadsheet?

‘Camping Lite.xls’ went through several rounds of editing, before we came up with something we thought might work. I think we managed it thanks to the weather. We packed only one thing long sleeved garment each, and not a kagoul nor a brolly in sight.

The journey – bikepacking by cargo bike

After carefully packing (ie ramming) the trailer, the cargo bike, the panniers, the rucksack, and the children’s pockets, we were ready to go! Batteries charged and faces beaming, we set off. It actually wasn’t too bad pedalling with all the stuff. Being concerned about the battery life (needlessly as it turned out) I had a good work out on the flats, but pumped up the power for the hills. It was hard-going, but never why-have-I-done-this-to-myself agonising like cycling up a steep hill normally is.

The campsite was only six miles away, and I think this is the key to the trip’s success. When you’re camping with a cargo bike, very small children and no car, it’s comforting to know you’re not too far from home if things go wrong.

The campsite

Another reason why the trip worked so well is because the campsite was a truly magical place –  Thistledown near Nympsfield. You are not allowed to park next to your tent (unless you brought a BIKE, then you could be unspeakably smug when you cycled past all the campers lugging their stuff down to the pasture in wheelbarrows). You are not assigned a pitch but told to camp in one of three locations. The locations are sprawling and full of little nooks and crannies that comfortably fit one or a few tents. The views are gorgeous and the walks to nearby Woodchester Park offered cool relief from the relentless heat.

Bikepacking and camping with kids using a cargo bike at Thistledown campsite near Nympsfield

The ups and downs of camping with a cargo bike

Aside from the undulating landscape, the trip had a few ups and downs of its own. The ups were the campsite itself, the freedom the children had to be little wild things, the lovely time spent with friends without a screen in sight.

The downs were few and far between. Not having a car meant we weren’t able to pack our own food, and had to go to the nearest shop and buy meals that were easy to rustle up. So it was slightly disheartening to see all the packaging that we usually manage to avoid, although ironically it was precisely because we tried to travel in a more eco-friendly way. We also had a brief midnight vomiting incident with the youngest, during which I was mentally working out how we could get us, the kids and the stuff home before we all started puking. Luckily the incident was a one-off and we were all fine, but I’m glad I wasn’t any further from home.

Having the cargo bike and the trailer with us meant that we had on-hand entertainment, as our two daughters and our friend’s child loved being cycled around the campsite by G.

Bikepacking fun using a cargobike at the campsite

Bikepacking with a cargo bike and kids – good idea, bad idea?

Overall I’d say it was a splendid idea. We were so lucky with the weather in that we could pack minimal things (we were a bit stinky when we came back mind you). The children weren’t ill and no calamities befell us, so it felt like an excellent thing to have done. Perhaps if something had gone wrong we wouldn’t have felt so good about it, but planning for the worst isn’t always the way to live your best life.

Our friends who joined us and brought their cars did have some things that we didn’t, (a better stove, a kelly kettle, outdoor games) but nothing that we couldn’t have coped without if we’d had to. Next time we go camping with the cargo bike I’d plan my meals more carefully and maybe try to add a tupperware or two of precooked dinners. But overall I’d say if you have a similar set-up to us then spread your cargo bike’s wings and have a jolly adventure!

Camping with a cargo bike and young children - family bikepacking

Thanks to Beki for this great post about camping with a cargo bike. If you’d like to share your Cycle Sprog adventures to help inspire others, please do get in touch.

If you’ve enjoyed Beki’s post, then check out these other articles:

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