Bike Camping. How it's different from touring, and why you may actually have time to do some of it. And about the bike camping gear we like, use, and stock.
Bike camping and bike touring are alike enough to require the same kind of gear, but bike touring emphasizes the journey, and you stop only so you can refresh yourself and do it again the next day. Bike camping emphasizes the destination and what you do once you get there, and you just happen to get there on a bike.
If you have to work for a living and don't have summers off, bike camping is easier to fit in, and the easiest way of all is with Sub-24 Hour Overnight (S24O) trips. You leave on your bike in the late afternoon or evening, ride to your campsite in a few hours, camp, sleep, and ride home the next morning. It's that simple, and that's the beauty of it. You can fit it in. It requires almost no planning or time commitment. In the past 9 years I've done more than eighty of them, and I'm no planner.
The S24O is like the movie Groundhog Day, because you get to refine your style over and over again, without major suffering or consequences. You can take notes in the evening about what you should've brought and what you didn't need to bring. After a few of these, you'll have a kit-of-gear that works for you, and how to modify it for conditions.
If you're slightly interested in this, you're probably thinking about where to go. The ideal destinations are regional parks & open spaces, ideally ones that allow overnight camping. You can discover good spots on trail rides, or look at maps. Any place that offers a good view and is out of sight of the rangers-on-patrol, or early morning hikers is a good spot. Bike touring doesn't require stealth; bike camping usually does.
If there isn't a good place to go that you can ride to, drive a car. Get far enough out of Manhattan or downtown Cleveland so that you don't spend an inordinate proportion of your less-than-24-hour trip mixing it up with thick traffic. Don't go Green and pay for it in stress. It's better to drive to the edge of the woods and take off from there.
Try to get somebody to go with you. It may be hard to find a friend who's game, so go alone if you have to. People always have excuses. The first few alone may be uncomfortable, but they get easier, and eventually somebody'll want to go with you. Exaggerate about how much fun they are.
Many of our catalogue covers and most of the photos on our home page were taken on S24Os. The wettest, windiest, worst ones are more memorable than the fluffy ones. Have you ever noticed (if you're a guy) that your beard grows faster when you're outside?
About our small selection of bike camping gear
The camping gear we offer in the shopping section is by no means the only stuff that works, but is our favorite for S24Os, and it's all useful for touring and general camping, too. Here's some information about some of the companies that make the gear we like.
Our focus is bikes, but a small assortment of good camping gear lets you use you bike in more ways, and that's our justification for including it. You may notice, if you're REI/Campmoor savvy, that most of what we sell they don't. They sell good gear, of course, but when it comes to slightly quirky gear that is actually better, or more pleasant to use, or offers some kind of advantage BUT isn't high on the pop charts because it's not New and Improved, those places can fall flat.
You won't find a Wiggy bag there, or the Trangia cookkits we offer, for instance. There's some overlap (Snow Peak bowls, plates, spork), but for the most part the gear we offer is hard to come by other places, and we've boiled our selection down to what the exact same stuff we use ourselves, no exceptions.