Bikepacking with kids is an opportunity to bond, explore, camp, and create lifelong memories. If you’ve ever dreamt of embarking on a two-wheeled adventure with your little ones in tow, you’re in for a treat. Today, St. Louis mom of three, Steph Hampton, is here to introduce you to the wonderful world of bikepacking with kids and share her family’s first bikepacking experience. She’s included practical tips to ensure a successful and enjoyable journey, advice on how to make the experience as smooth as possible, and what you need to be well-prepared for any adventure. So, fasten your helmets, pump up those tires, and explore the world of bikepacking with kids, one pedal stroke at a time.

The idea to try something new

My husband and I have been married for 7 years now, and he knows that I love to come up with unique adventures for our family. Very rarely does he ever say no to a new adventure, no matter how outlandish some of my ideas are. So, when I asked him one day, “Are you up for something crazy?” He responded, “Sure, why not?!” 

My idea was to try bikepacking, which would involve biking our camping gear (and our 3 young children) to a campsite for a weekend. After looking for a route and campground near us, we decided we could totally make this happen! Here’s our story, a bit of information about bikepacking, and some tips that helped us along the way. 

What is bikepacking

Bikepacking combines elements of backpacking and traditional biking. It involves using a bicycle as a means of transportation to carry your camping and outdoor gear to your campsite. It’s similar to backpacking (in that you’re carrying all your camping gear with you), but you have the benefit of being on your bike, which can get you farther, and faster. 

Benefits of bikepacking

Bikepacking is all about immersing yourself in nature and exploring remote areas that may not be accessible by traditional vehicles. Bikepacking allows you to cover more ground than traditional hiking, allowing you to explore larger areas within a given time frame. You can also travel between different campsites or explore multiple destinations in a single trip.

Cycling is an efficient (and eco-friendly!) mode of transportation, allowing you to carry more gear and cover longer distances without the fatigue associated with backpacking. However, bikepacking can still be physically demanding, as you may encounter steep climbs, rugged trails, and various weather conditions. It offers a satisfying physical challenge for those who love both cycling and the outdoors.

All packed up and ready to start our bikepacking adventure!

All packed up and ready to start our bikepacking adventure!

What you need to go bikepacking with kids

If you’re interested in a bikepacking adventure, the type and quantity of gear you need will depend on the specifics of your trip and your family. You’ll want to consider things like the duration of your trip, the terrain you’ll be biking on, how long you’ll be camping and the weather. Here’s a general list of essential gear you should consider for bikepacking:

  • Bikes — Each person on your trip will need a reliable, well-maintained bike suitable for the terrain you’ll be riding on. If you don’t have a bike trailer or one that carries kids, they’ll each need their own bike, too. Mountain bikes are commonly used for bikepacking, and e-bikes are growing in popularity (this is what we used…more on our bikes below).
  • Bikepacking bags — There are various types of bags that fit on bikes. They can attach to the frame, the handlebars, the seat, etc. You could also pack your camping gear in a haul-behind trailer (we love this Burley). 
  • Camping gear — You’ll need to pack all your camping gear in the bags to bring with you. This includes your tent and sleep systems, clothing, food/water, cooking and eating equipment, flashlights, first aid, etc. 
  • Tools and repair equipment — You’ll want to pack tools for bike repairs and adjustments. Items include a multi-tool, tire repair kit, spare tube, tire pump, chain and links, etc. If you have an ebike, bring along an extra battery or a way to charge your battery at your campsite. Also, it’s good to know how to repair your bike and fix tire issues before heading out so that you’re prepared. 
Just a reminder that no trip is perfect! :-) We came upon a part of the greenway that was closed and found a different way on our GPS.

Just a reminder that no trip is perfect! 🙂 We came upon a part of the closed greenway and had to find a different route on our GPS.

Assessing our bike setup

Our bike situation is a bit unique, in that we have two e-bikes, both designed to haul kids and gear. This means that we were at a huge advantage in the amount of gear we could bring with us, and how we traveled with the kids. Our children are young enough that they couldn’t bike this distance on their own, so having the ability to haul them on the bike was fantastic. Here’s a bit more about our two family-friendly e-bikes. 

Bunch Bike

I rode our Bunch Bike Original 3.0 cargo ebike

This bike is a game-changer in the world of family-friendly cargo bikes. It’s built to accommodate families, making it perfect for transporting kids (and everything that goes with kids). The Bunch Bike has a bucket-style cargo area in the front, with enough space to carry up to four children, groceries, or anything else you need to transport. 

It has an electric-assist motor, which offers pedal assistance to make riding effortless, even with a full load. This makes it easy to tackle hills and longer distances without breaking a sweat. The bike is designed for the rider’s comfort and ease of use, with a step-through frame for easy access, ergonomic handlebars, and high-quality components.

I felt very sturdy in this bike because it has three wheels instead of two, which brought me peace of mind while biking while pregnant with our 4th baby. We carried all our camping gear, the girls’ Woom Bikes, and our 4-year-old on this bike (she has a seat on the back)! I told you, it hauls a LOT! 

Radio Flyer ebike

My husband rode on the Radio Flyer L885 cargo bike. While this bike doesn’t have much cargo space for hauling gear, the battery power covers 30-50 miles and 2 kids can comfortably ride in the back. We carried our 2yo & 6yo on the back rear platform of this bike, and they loved it!

The Radio Flyer L885 also has pedal-assist and full-throttle capabilities, making hills and distances easy! It is a little more wobbly with two wheels, but a great eBike all the same!! My husband biked this one, while I rode the Bunch Bike. 

We did this trip while I was 18 weeks pregnant. I felt very comfortable riding our Bunch Bike with 3 wheels instead of 2 wheels.

We did this trip while I was 18 weeks pregnant. I felt very comfortable riding our Bunch Bike with 3 wheels instead of 2 wheels.

Practical tips for bikepacking with kids

1. Find a comfortable route & decide on a distance

If you and your kids are just getting started with bikepacking, I recommend starting with a short trip and staying close to home. This way you can test your gear, gauge your child’s comfort and endurance, and make necessary adjustments without being too far from help or home (just in case you need to bail).

Try to choose a kid-friendly route that’s suitable for your kids’ ages, interests, and biking experience. Also, look for bike trails with manageable terrain and minimal traffic. Unless you have e-bikes, try to avoid routes with steep hills or challenging technical features. 

I highly recommend taking advantage of a greenway system near you. We biked 10 miles on backroads/a few short rides on busier roads, and then another 10 miles on greenways to arrive at our campground! Our favorite was the Monarch-Levee trail, if you are in the St. Louis area.

Since we both had ebikes (and were comfortable with the distance and battery power/life), we chose 20 miles as a distance we could handle. 

2. Practice carrying gear beforehand

Both our ebikes are cargo bikes, so they are meant to carry a significant amount of gear for distances. The ebikes handled the majority of the work, so we didn’t need to do much practice or training carrying all the gear, but we did need to figure out how we were going to pack everyone on the bike safely and what our bikes could handle. 

We did a few test runs around our neighborhood beforehand so that we could shift gear around if we needed a better center of gravity. We needed to make sure that the heaviest items were low and centered for stability.

It was also our first time carrying all three of our girls’ bikes on the Bunch Bike, so we wanted to test this out before a larger trip. 

We biked on the greenway system for half of our route (10 miles), which was great peace of mind.

We biked on the greenway system for half of our route (10 miles), which was great peace of mind.

3. Choose a kid-friendly campground

If possible, try to choose a kid-friendly campground. These campgrounds are usually designed to cater to the needs and safety of children, with facilities such as playgrounds, family-oriented activities, and child-appropriate amenities. Sometimes these family-friendly campgrounds offer quiet hours and even foster a sense of community, allowing the kids to make new friends and play with other kids.

We camped at a local state park, which has great trails and a fun nature center. When we needed a break from the heat, we went into the nature center for a storytime! We looked ahead of time at the list of activities, but we were pleasantly surprised with a great nature center. Our girls had fun playing “I Spy” and drawing animals. 

4. Consider ebikes

I really can’t say enough good things about our experience with ebikes. If you’re been considering purchasing an ebike for your family, consider this the push you need. They really have made all the difference for us! Having two ebikes so we could carry the kids and the gear up some big hills was crucial for this trip and all our biking experiences lately (especially because I’m pregnant). 

Although, you do need to consider batteries and charging when bikepacking with ebikes. While we were at our campground, the hosts helped us with charging up our bike batteries, so that we were ready for the ride back home (since we had a primitive campsite). We were so thankful! We have two batteries for my Bunch Bike, which was perfect for the weight we carried. 

If purchasing an ebike isn’t in your budget, you could consider renting one for your bikepacking trip. 

5. Invest in ultralight backpacking gear

Having gear that’s compact and lightweight can make a huge difference. We used our backpacking gear (tent, sleeping pads & bags) all from Klymit (ultralight backpacking gear). Our largest weight was our cooler with our meals & ice. 

Even with light gear, we had to minimize the number of items we were carrying. Kids may be able to help by carrying their own clothing, sleeping bag, or a small portion of the gear if they can wear a backpack on the bike. 

Encouraging our kids to help us set up the tent really helps them to give responsibility in the campsite.

Encouraging our kids to help us set up the tent really helps them to give responsibility in the campsite.

6. Be flexible!

Just like anything with kids, it’s so important to lower your expectations and to remain flexible! No trip will be perfect, and that is okay. We worked together as a team and had a blast. 

Ironically, we found a huge hill leading up to the campsite.  

There was a large hill going up to the campground, which was too large for the Bunch Bike to make it up with all the weight we were carrying. My husband, bless his heart, walked the Bunch Bike up the hill! Thankfully, the bike has a walk-assist, which helped tremendously, but it was still a feat! This bike handles a ton of weight, but even some hills are too large…and this one was huge! 

About to leave our camp site! Mark rode the RadioFlyer eBike, while I rode our Bunch Bike cargo eBike.

About to leave our camp site! Mark rode the RadioFlyer eBike, while I rode our Bunch Bike cargo eBike.

7. Get the kids involved

Encourage kids to help with tasks like setting up the tent or preparing meals. Let them help pick the route or pack the bags. Have them be on the lookout for trailmarkers, or be in charge of singing songs along the way. Getting them involved instills a sense of responsibility and adventure. And give them lots of positive reinforcement and praise for their effort and cooperation. 

8. Have fun!

Camping with kids, no matter how you’re doing it, is always an adventure! Be prepared!

Our 2-year-old crawled over us all night, a raccoon stole our bagels, we removed some ticks, and the weather was hot, but we still had a blast. (Losing the bagels was the toughest one of these for our girls…ha!) Luckily, we had backup food for breakfast, and all was fine! To make it up to them, we made some homemade sourdough bagels when we arrived home, and that hit the spot!

No matter what happens, try to remember that the experience is worth it. Have fun and keep a positive attitude! That’ll go a long way! 

Bringing our kids' Woom Bikes along was worth it. After seeing their parents bike, they wanted their turn too!

Bringing our kids’ Woom Bikes along was worth it. After seeing their parents bike, they wanted their turn too!

Definitely worth the effort!

Being out in nature is our favorite way to connect and have fun as a family, and this was no different. Our trip didn’t go as we expected, but we had an amazing time, created some really special memories and learned a lot! 

Would we bikepack again? Yes!

This was such a fun and unique way to travel, camp, and be together. We had a great time unplugging from a busy week and enjoying the fresh air, sunshine, and adventure! 

You know it is a good trip when our 2-year-old fell asleep on our way home.

You know it’s a good trip when the 2-year-old falls asleep on the way home.

Have you ever considered bikepacking? 

About the author

Steph lives in St. Louis with her husband, Mark, their three daughters (ages 5, 3 & 1), and their funny pup. Steph taught elementary school for five years and became a stay-at-home mom when her first child was born. When the pandemic hit and the playgrounds were closed, she started taking her kids hiking on a different trail each day. Steph is also a NICU mama (her 2nd daughter was born 3 months early). The outdoors has been so healing for her and her family, not to mention fun!

Since the pandemic started, their family has visited over 175 parks and hiked over 200 trails around St. Louis and Missouri. Their family also loves to tent camp, canoe, and bike. Steph has a passion for exploring the outdoors, helping start a free, weekly nature playgroup, and sharing adventure tips with others. When she is not hiking, she loves baking, reading, and dreaming of being a Survivor contestant. 

You can find more from Steph in the following locations:
Instagram: @explorestlparks
RWMC posts: Steph Hampton