Off-Road Family Bikepacking

Off-Road Family Bikepacking

By Luke Douglas>

After a summer of nursery runs I decided to take Dadpacking to the next level. I plotted my young family’s first multi-day trailer touring trip.

We kept the plans modest. We added in a little bit of spicy off-road where a massive double trailer would allow. Three days, two nights wild camping in the Highlands with an enthusiastic (at the time of leaving) crew.

Kit list

Alpkit tent with sunlight in the background

We’ve compiled a selection of gear from pre-kid life and a bunch of second-hand finds, including The Burly X-Lite trailer. It rolls well with the 20” wheels, can have stuff(like a whole balance bike) strapped to it, still with space for our Alpkit tent and mats. The kids feel safe in there and it’s off road capable.

family riding their bikes down a dusty trail

Flora rides a late 90s MTB with two big panniers on the back for cooking equipment, sleeping bags and clothes. Her handlebar bag held all the things you might need for kids at any time. Oat milk, Outdoor Provisions bars, wet wipes, toy fire engines, hats, gloves, whistles, etc... you get the idea.

Over Ambitious, but worth-it

Our route took us from Aviemore to Feshiebridge. On the first night, we headed to a very well maintained bothy with plenty of space to camp outside. The tarmac ended and with it, we had the first successful nap session.

We took a delicate approach for the rougher sections. As the crow should flies, we only had 6km to go. But it took 9,567 hours to do it.

2 children watching their mother cross a river with her bike

The trails were a bit much here, with lots of pushing required once legs / technical ability ran out. But the stunning remnants of old Caledonian Forest we were picking our way through made it worthwhile.

A cruisy winding descent down the Glen sent both kids happily off to sleep. A real, ahh, this is bloody nice, moment. Pure freedom with your family in tow, literally.

This campsite was dreamy. Completely on our own, enough breeze to keep the midges off. Magical. We had a small fire to keep the chill away - fires are permitted in Scotland if you’re responsible. The kids loved these kinds of tasks, gathering wood, putting tents up.

Mother and son putting a tent up

Really relaxing into it by the third morning, we felt like we’d just cracked the rhythm. We packed up lethargically and retraced our ride from the previous afternoon all the way back to Aviemore, where we had a room for the next two nights. Feeling full up on life, we all went for a shower, a group nap, then watched Zog.

"It’s cliche but with little ones in tow it’s very much about the journey and all the little things you as an adult might not pay so much attention to. Where you go, or where you stay doesn’t really matter as long as it allows you to move somewhere new the next day and find that touring rhythm".

child asleep in a tow along bike trailer

Thoughts on family bikepacking

  1. If you’re looking to go beyond a day ride, you don’t have to wild camp, or even camp. It’s cliché but with little ones in tow it’s very much about the journey.
  2. This trip took some planning. The kids knew we were going on an adventure and loved being involved in the planning.
  3. Riding on tarmac helps cover distance and keep momentum, but seeking out a traffic free route is a massive plus for me. Letting them ride stretches, having the freedom of the trail and being able to stop however frequently you need.

Bikepacking Bags

Frame bag for road and gravel bikes: UK made, weatherproof, available in 3 sizes
Top tube bag: UK made, weatherproof, available in 3 sizes
Top tube bag: UK made, weatherproof, available in 3 sizes
Lightweight stem-mounted bikepacking bag in 1 and 1.5L sizes
Handlebar bag with roll-top closure: UK made, weatherproof, 5L expandable capacity
Canister handlebar bag: UK made, weatherproof, 4L
Dual-ended handlebar bag: UK made, weatherproof, 13L
Loop bar handlebar bag: UK made, weatherproof, 4L
Fold-out saddle tool roll: storage for the "every ride" essentials
Saddle pack: UK made, weatherproof, 0.5L
Saddle pack: UK made, weatherproof, 2L
Saddle pack: UK made, weatherproof, 7L

1 comment

  • I cringed when I read “We had a small fire to keep the chill away – fires are permitted in Scotland if you’re responsible.” Given that a wildfire of devastating magnitude has been raging across Cannich the past couple of weeks, I think it’s important to clarify the context: Campfires may not be illegal in Scotland and being responsible is essential, but most land managers tell you not to have them at all, and there are very few places in rural Scotland where it’s actually safe to have a fire without it smouldering in the peat underground. The safest way is to use a stove no matter where you are, or don’t have a fire. Please think before publishing info like this without proper context.

    Jocasta C M

    June 06, 2023

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