the weather warming up and Wisconsin Bike Week this June 6 to 11, the
trails are beckoning. Whether youíre a canoe camper who commutes by
bike or a recreational rider hoping to explore more of the landscape,
consider a new adventure: bike camping. Itís exactly what it sounds
like: You carry your camping equipment with you on your bicycle. The
lighter the load, the easier on you.
My husband is an
avid bike camper and loves combining his favorite mode of travel with
a good nightís sleep under the stars. Over the years, heís planned
quite a few solo and group trips from the Milwaukee area. In fact,
bike camping with his sisterís family has become an annual family
tradition, with the next outing taking them to Michigan.
If you havenít
tried bike camping yet and the idea intrigues you, you donít have to
be nearly so ambitious. You can hop on your bike and head to one of
several local campgrounds for a quick, active getaway.
That said, do
your research, advise Carolyn Weber and Tristan Klein, owners of Coast
In Bikes in the Walkerís Point neighborhood. The two have planned
their own bike camping excursions and started offering group trips
last year. They like to follow blogs of the Adventure Cycling
Association, Brew City Biker and The Path Less Pedaled, all of which
include tips from experienced bike campers.
Map the route
before you go, they add. "Check out amenities along the
way," Klein says. "You can pick up what you need as you
If youíre a
newbie, they recommend starting with a one-day trip on a paved trail
and maybe even forgoing a tent, opting instead for a room with a
comfortable bed. After a test run, get ready to pack your camping
gear, but donít feel like you need to buy a lot up front. "Find
a friend to go with," Weber says, adding that you can share
supplies. Bike shops can connect you with other bike campers, she
says, and you can rent equipment from the Urban Ecology Center.
to pick a campground near a gas station or grocery store, so you can
buy food rather than carry it," says Dave Schlabowske, deputy
director of the Wisconsin Bike Fed and a fan of one-night bike-camping
trips that he can do in less than 24 hours. "After you do it a
while, you may want to invest in a lighter, packable down sleeping
bag, compression bags and a fancy stove, but you donít need that
stuff to have a great time," he says.
Weber and Klein suggest packing the following on your bike: rack,
panniers, sleeping bag, tent, camp stove, water bottle, lights, money,
map, zip ties, flat kit, multi-tool and lock. People tend to overpack,
so try to keep your bags light.
figure out what doesnít work," Klein says, adding that the
least prepared bike campers from a group trip last year were the first
to sign up for another overnighter this year.
And donít feel
like you need to turn your trip into a race. "Build in stops
every 10 to 15 miles," Klein says. Youíll enjoy the experience
more if you slow down, and youíll probably make a friend along the
way because bike camping brings people together. "Even if you go
alone, youíll meet people," Weber says.
the website of the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR), to
find out if youíll need a trail pass.
bicyclists on the Glacial Drumlin State Trail need one, but you donít
need a pass to ride the Oak Leaf Trail or Ozaukee Interurban Trail.
The DNR encourages making campsite reservations, especially if you
know when youíll arrive, but state parks will accommodate bike
campers without reservations. You can pitch your tent at one of these
State Park, Belgium. The paved Ozaukee Interurban Trail and newish
campgrounds make Harrington an ideal trip for first-time bike campers.
Stretch your legs on hiking trails,