Bikepacking with toddlers - Juliet Elliott

I'm a bike racer with a love of brakeless fixed gear circuit races, such as the infamous Red Hook Crit. I ride (and occasionally race) Downhill and Enduro mountain bike events.

I've 'bikepacked' in the wilderness, days away from food and water.

I love fast, thrilling, supremely challenging events.

Yet for some reason, I’m kind of nervous about going for a ride with a toddler. It’s such a leap into the unknown for me and it feels like there are so many things to consider.

Since becoming a parent last year, I’ve been dreaming of taking our daughter on a pedal-powered overnight adventure and in preparation I’ve spent hours and hours scouring the internet for tips and an even greater amount of time researching the best set ups for carrying both a child and the inordinate amount of paraphernalia they require. 

There is some information online about on the best way to go bikepacking with a toddler but it’s been quite hard to sift through the various different blogs, Instagram accounts and Facebook groups I’ve discovered and pick out what’s actually relevant.

Furthermore, everyone has an opinion on how to best go about it because there’s no one-size-fits-all answer.

Some people make the case for miniature versions of everything whilst others poo-poo anyone that falls outside of their very specific eco-hippy sphere. The bikeseat vs. trailer debate is another hot thread on Twitter.

Maybe I’m overdoing the planning and research part but I hey, that’s just what I’m like and I so very much want our daughter to enjoy herself and to be happy.

For something that can and should be as simple as going for a bike ride, it can be a bit confusing.

Regardless, I’m inspired by the fun-looking adventures families have documented and can’t wait to begin my own.


First steps in family bikepacking

Getting to the point where I can even consider taking my daughter bikepacking has involved lots of small steps.

After beginning with short rides on a bike seat or in a trailer, we’re now at the stage where we can go out all day, providing there are plenty of stops to play, eat, pick flowers or admire wildlife. 

We’ve taken camping step by step too. We first went by car, in a big, house like tent on a campsite and just for one night.

Evening sunshine - bikepacking with kids

A longer spell followed, a dreamy trip to Hay on Wye that our daughter loved ever so much. Recently, we tried wild camping by foot in a small, backpacking style tent and despite getting soaked the following morning it was a big success.

Mainly thanks to the marshmallows we packed, but hey, a victory is a victory.


Let's go!

Packing is going to be interesting.

I'm actually slightly worried I won’t be able to pedal my bike once I’m fully loaded – our recent camping/hiking trip opened my eyes to just how easily the gear mounts up when you’re carrying everything that two people need.

Bikepacking - making fire

Making fire - some techniques are more efficient than others...

I’ll be taking my stove as my last attempt at fire-making was an abject failure and the ritual of cooking outdoors is such fun for children (and adults).

Then there will be plenty of dried fruit bars in case the going gets tough, a ball for beach or campsite kickabouts, plus the tent, two sleeping mats and bags, cookware, cups, cutlery, toiletries and ample clothing. Oh, and Teddy!

For our first trip, taking inspiration from Lost Lanes West, we’re going to head to the Tarka Trail to ride the traffic-free route from Meath to Braunton (and back).

The route seems to tick all the boxes I need it to – it’s not overly long, there are plenty of campsites, lots of things to see and do. Plus there are supermarkets and cafes, so that we won’t go hungry – hungry toddlers are no fun. Neither are hungry cyclists, for that matter.

Over the coming months, I’d like to share my journey with you as I get to grips with this entirely new world.

I’ve spent so long debating the merits of the various kinds of trailers (Weehoo, Thule, Tout Terrain) that I feel dizzy, so I figured I’d save you some leg work and let you know what’s worked (and what hasn’t) for me.

Wish me luck as I embark on this new, exciting chapter - and send tips if you have them!