Author: Adam Bratton
Read Time: 4 mins - Short Film: 5 mins
Exactly one year ago, I had just completed a 650+ mile solo bikepacking trip through a hurricane from Charlotte, NC to my hometown of Montoursville, PA. Reactions to that adventure from the HPM community varied. Many were inspired to knock out their own multi-day beatdowns while others responded along the lines of “Yeah, I could never do that”. This Journal and Short Film aim to address the latter and provide inspiration to get you started on your own adventure, in your own way. Join me as I take my boys, ages 5 and 7, on their first bikepacking trip … in our backyard.
(For the record: Yes, you 100% can do more than you think. Stop making excuses, set a goal, and work feverishly to achieve it!)
Bikepacking simply combines backpacking with biking, and I’ve fallen more and more in love with the sport over the years. It provides a sense of freedom and exploration, the mental challenge of how much or little to pack, and the ability to cover significantly more distance on two wheels than two feet. There’s a ton to be learned, experienced, and gained through this sport. We even did an “Intro to Bikepacking” session to kick off our Recreation 101 series to share this amazingness with others. Give it a view if you’re intrigued.
As with all parents, there’s a tendency to want to get your kids into the things that you love. I’ve done plenty of bikepacking in my day (Huracan 300 in Florida, 350+ miles to my alma mater, The Palmetto Trail on numerous occasions, and even bikepacking 800 miles across Cuba), but I’ve never experienced it with my boys and it was about time to fix that. We routinely do backyard campouts but now that Maximus (age 5) is marginally stable on his high-end PJ Masks bike and Miles (age 7) can easily handle his own, it was time for our first backyard bikepacking adventure!
Naturally the conversation (aka: bribing) started with “Who want s’mores?!?” … if I could get them stoked on filling their bellies full of sugar for dinner, throwing sticks in the campfire and looking for fireflies, I knew I could get them on board for this backyard adventure. At this stage, the boys also know my routine … diving into the gear closet to pull out whatever goodies I need for my upcoming excursion, they joined me for the hide-and-seek style gear hunt which made it even more fun. The final result included a balanced mix of my ultra-light and highly packable/technical gear with cumbersome and non-essential items like stuffed animals, hardback books, and entirely way too many snacks. I happily embraced the extra weight and spatial needs to ease them into this whole “bikepacking” thing.
Once we loaded our bikes it was time to start pushing pedals. Our loosely planned “route” included 1-2 miles of gnarly neighborhood sidewalks, 3-4 intense traverses at quiet crosswalks, followed by a steep “hike-a-bike” descent into our campsite for the night. We did have to overcome one spill, scraped knee, and crying session, but quickly focused on the gooey chocolate at the end of the tunnel.
We settled into our backyard campsite and the boys went down to the creek to do what boys do in creeks (throw rocks into the water over and over and over again) while I popped open a Pale Ale, built the fire, and prepped our 3-ingredient dinner. Miles & Max are well versed in marshmallow toasting and made quick work of the meal before heading back to the creek to scare more frogs and let their creative minds wander as the sun started to set.
We took turns sharing tales around the campfire, then retreated to the tent and finished the night with a few bedtime stories compliments of Miles and his "Dog Man" book. I fluffed their sleeping pad and pillows, tucked them into their sleeping bags, laid down on my own set up, and appreciated the opportunity to share this experience with both of these young men. Maximus was the first to doze off, followed by Miles after a number of tosses and turns. Once they were asleep, I carefully escaped the tent to embrace some quiet time by the campfire before it was my time to turn in for the night.
After a few restless hours of sleep, thanks to Miles joining me on my already low-profile sleeping pad and Maximus moving in on our over-booked space, I decided it was best to sneak back out of the tent to join the smoldering coals of the fire, and enjoy the cool pre-dawn sounds of the new day with a hot cup of coffee.
As the sun creeped over the horizon, the boys started rustling from their slumber, and it was time to pack up their things and hike-a-bike back up the seemingly mountainous climb to the house for some previously promised (aka: bribed … again) chocolate chip pancakes. The boys fell straight back into their routine of playing with their toys and wrestling with each other without a care in the world while I spent the rest of the day exhausted from very little sleep but bursting with stoke that the experience was well received and a small bikepacking seed was firmly planted.
Time will tell if that little seed grows into something big and beautiful like life-shaping adventures that I have been fortunate to experience. For now, we just need to snag more marshmallows during the next grocery store trip.
Journal - Behind the Scene's of HPM's Short Film - "Backyard Bikepacking"
Human Powered Journal
Writings and musings of an active lifestyle
Adam Bratton is the Founder and Head Enabler at Human Powered Movement.
Guest Contributors are more compelling in written word and life in general.