Bikepacking with your family

Adventure traveller Vedangi Kulkarni became the youngest woman to circumnavigate the globe by bike in 2018 at the age of 20 and now inspires others to get out on their bikes and try bikepacking for themselves

One of my favourite childhood experiences was when my parents and I hiked up Tiger’s Nest in Bhutan together. My father had severe asthma and had decided to challenge himself by seeing how far he could get without using his asthma pump. Safe to say, we were quite proud when he got to the monastery and back down without needing it at all.

It was an incredible experience to see my resilient parents working as a team to overcome challenges. It’s an experience that taught me that if they could overcome physical and mental challenges in that way, then maybe I can do so too, in all walks of life.

Recently, I had the wonderful opportunity to lead bikepacking trips for some families. The idea was to go on an introductory trip during which the group learns how to be comfortable in the outdoors and how to do it responsibly. Theoretically, we had planned the whole thing properly. But in reality, we barely stuck to the original plan and ended up having far more fun with it.

Why you should go bikepacking with your family

Aside from adventurous activities being a great opportunity to spend time together as a family, they also help curiosity bloom in children and adults alike. For example, if an important piece of cooking equipment is left behind, it becomes a family exercise to figure out what can be used instead. In turn, who knows what new side of your child’s, your partner’s or your own personality you might find out?

If you plan on heading for a bikepacking adventure with your family soon, here are a few things to remember!

There’s always something for everyone to do

Always! On the second morning of the most recent family bikepacking adventure that I was leading, the seven-year-old daughter seemed quite bored. Her parents were taking the tent pegs out, I was making chai and the toddler was, well, being a toddler and playing around.

During breakfast, I asked the seven-year-old what she was keen to do. She seemed pretty open to anything, but picked up on stuffing tent, sleeping bags and down jackets into their respective pockets quite quickly.

That became her responsibility for the rest of the trip. We only really had another night and half of the next day left, but the next day, she was trying to teach the toddler how to do it! When it comes to spending time outdoors, there are always tasks that need to be done and most of them, apart from the ones involving sharp objects or fire, can be done by anyone.

There’s no such thing as “enough food” or “too many breaks”

Luke Douglas, co-founder of Outdoor Provisions, explains this better. He says: “This applies to most trips out with kids in trailers, as the last thing you want is to make the trailer somewhere they don’t want to be. ‘Short’ stops aren’t really a priority when you’re two and three years old. So when you do stop, lean into it.”

An important thing, according to Ines Thoma, about the food situation when off on an adventure with kids is the usual timings when the little ones feel hungry.

In this article featured on Canyon’s website, she says: “Something you have to bear in mind when bikepacking with kids is that when they’re hungry, they’re hungry now. You don’t have the chance to seek out the best coffee shop you would if you were on your own.”

Keep the plan flexible

You know how it is. You get a puncture. Someone loses something. You’ve forgotten an important piece of kit. Or the dog’s run off the leash. Shit happens, and plans get derailed. As with any adventure, it is important to focus on what’s important for that particular trek.

With the families that joined me for this trip, they wanted to have fun. So when shit did hit the fan, we just changed our plans and decided to have fun with it!

From his recent #dadpacking adventure, Luke Douglas also tells us that it’s always a good idea for the loop to not go too far from the camping spot for the night and to plot bail options, just in case.

It’s all about having a good time together!

So far, I’ve only had the opportunity to take five families out on a bikepacking adventures. I’ve loved to see kids have their first ever camp out and their perception of it. I’ve enjoyed seeing people get more curious about the world around them, getting inspired by it and asking important questions.

And most of all, it’s always fun to see people get comfortable spending time in the nature. Because that’s what this sort of family activities are all about – learning to have fun together!

Remember, if you’re off on a family bikepacking adventure this summer, take your litter with you and resolve to leave no trace. Oh, and when you post those beautiful photos on social media, do use the hashtag #12nightsoutin1year so that we can see them!