Off-Road Family bikepacking

slightly overambitious, but very rewarding 3 day wildcamping and bikepacking experiment...

Words & photography by Luke (OP co-founder)

Earlier this year Christian and I took our eldest kids Dadpacking for #12HoursOfMay. After a summer of nursery runs I decided to take it to the next level and plotted my young family's first multi-day trailer touring trip. Here's how it went.

Having been up repping OP at the Fjallraven Classic in September I stayed north and rendezvoused with the rest of my crew, ready to swap my wonderfully lightly packed backpack for a massive unwieldy double trailer, the 35kg weight limit of which was about to be put to the test.

As per some of the advice at end of the Dadpacking write up, plans were kept modest in terms of distance, if made a little spicier by a desire to head off-road where possible / where a massive double trailer would allow. Three days, two nights wild camping in the Highlands with enthusiastic (at the time of leaving) crew I could assemble.

Bikes and sleeping arrangements

Needing to have loads of kit should ideally not be a barrier to getting out on bike trips with the family but is undoubtedly a big consideration. We’ve compiled a selection of gear from pre-kid life and a bunch of second hand finds. The Burly X-Lite trailer we have was an eBay purchase pre lockdown and has opened our eyes to what we could do with kids. It rolls well with the 20" wheels, can have stuff (like a whole balance bike) strapped to it and sapce for a tent and all the sleep mats in the back. The kids feel safe in there and it’s off road capable. We think, anyway. I tow it with my mtb as the massive gears are good for hauling up hill and it feels like an extra sturdy combo.

Flora rides a bike we toured on years ago that's built around a late 90s mtb with two big panniers on the back for cooking equipment, sleeping bags and clothes. We strapped things to her forks and her big front bar bag held all the things you might need for kids at anytime in 2022. Oat milk, OP bars (obvs), wet wipes, toy fire engines, hats, gloves, whistles, etc... you get the idea.

We have a 3 person Alpkit tent and used two of the egg shell style sleep mats for this trip. So our packing was minimal, but we still had a LOT of stuff.


In summary: over ambitious, but worth it.

We had a rough idea of where we wanted to head but nothing beats local advice. The Backcountry Scot shop crew helped us tweak it and gave us some encouragement. We packed up, left the van somewhere I knew I could get back to easily if it all went tits up and wobbled out onto NCN route 7 from Aviemore towards Feshiebridge.

I’d been through Glenfeshie before on two wheels on my own and always wanted to go back. It's the site of a huge re-wilding project and is genuinely stunning.

There’s a very well maintained bothy called Ruigh Aiteachain a few miles up, with plenty of space to camp outside. The tarmac ended and with it, the first sucessful nap session. They would have woken up soon after anyway as we promptly rolled the trailer (slowly, they were both fine!) as we adjusted to the delicate approach needed for the rougher sections.

As the crow should fly we only had 6km to go, but it took 9567 hours to do it. Mainly due to a washed out section that required shuttle runs up and down the valley to a easier crossing point. Recce to check. back. Luggage + kids. Back. Trailer. Back. My bike. Back. Flora's bike. Cross. Repeat. I loved it really.

The trails were a bit much here, with lots of pushing required once legs / tecnical ability ran out. But the stunning remnants of old Caledonian Forest we were picking our way through made it worth while. As we sweated our way into a final, mercifully flatter section and better condition bit of trail, Zog was just being played for the second time from within the trailer.

We ate in the bothy just to experience how ridiculously plush it was and escape the midge, then camped under a huge Granny Pine.

Keen to avoid battling our way back the way we came, we opted to head towards the Feshie and cross a ford, it was only knee high in the middle and the shuttling was much easier. Plus, river crossing = adventure in my eyes so it was a good addition.

This happily led to a cruisy winding descent down the Glen, which also sent both kids happily off to sleep. A real, ahh, this is bloody nice, moment. Pure freedom with your family in tow, literally. We joined the Speyside Trail which kept us away from traffic a bit longer before commiting to a section of road progress. That would in fact be most of our progress for the day.

Headed back into Glenmore Forest past Loch an Eilien and into what the map suggested was a wild, deadend double track up Loch Einich, armed with the info that a good camp spot was available before the path kicked up significantly.

This site was dreamy. Completely on our own, enough breeze to keep the midge off and a magical camp spot. We had a small fire to keep the chill away - fires are permitted in Scotland if you are responsible. The kids loved these kind of task, gathering wood, putting tents up. I mean, so do I.

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.

Thoughts on family bikepacking

If you're looking to go beyond a day ride, you don't have to wild camp, or even camp. 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. Book a camping pod, a YHA room or a cheap hotel if you fancy and carry a bit less stuff.

This trip took some planning, not least as it was being fit around other life commitments, but getting the kids involved in the planning early on was a big help. They knew we were going on an adventure and loved being part of the preperation.

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.

For some far more impressive inspirational trailer touring from Jeannie LePoix - watch La Mini Passagere


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