For the eighth year in a row thousands of adventurous spirits will load camping gear on their bikes for a weekend adventure. Here at Swift, we believe there’s little better than spending the longest day of the year on a bicycle, and the shortest night sleeping under the stars. In the lead-up to Campout, we seek to inspire and educate, sharing fun stories and deep knowledge to help newer Campers with some confidence-boosting tips before they head out on their first bike-camping adventure. We surveyed some of the most trusted and most experienced folks in our community to get to the bottom of some burning questions and glean some insights from their years of touring on bikes. The first topic of conversation is Camp Luxe.
You can only bring so much stuff with you on a bike-camping adventure. That hard truth forces some difficult decisions about what to make space for vs. what to leave behind. Just the same, experienced bike-campers always seem to have that one luxury item they’re personally attached to and willing to make some compromises on to bring along. Whether for camp comfort, entertainment, or extracurricular activities, we wanted to find out what that one thing our panel would never leave behind on Swift Campout is. Responses ranged from the practical/comfortable (pillows, camp chairs, camp footwear) to the just plain fun (frisbee!) to downright surprising (ukulele???).
Camp comfort seems to be the dominant motivator here though. Our pal Brandon says, “I roll up a small wool blanket and strap it to my bars. It’s useful as a doormat for the tent, draped over the shoulders at camp, a towel, or anywhere else that needs resurfacing.”
Pillows were a hot item! Chris (aka @slimwonder) says, “When you’re beat and ready to crash, whipping that inflatable pillow out and knowing you don’t have to put your head on a stuffsack full of clothes is the best!” Zack from @keystone.bike agrees, “I used to think that a pile of clothes did the job, but my sleep improved 10,000% when I started using an inflatable camp pillow. A great night’s sleep is critical for waking up and getting back on the bike.” Camp footwear, i.e., that which you wear when you’re not actually pedaling your bike, appeared in responses from two Swift employees. “A pair of ultra-lightweight, indestructible, fast-drying Crocs paired with a dedicated pair of wool camp socks is true end-of-day joy!” Or, cover all the bases with one pair of Bedrock Sandals and several changes of socks!
Falling into the Camp Comfort category was a popular response – the compact camp chair. Getting up off the cold, hard, possibly even wet ground has a ton of merit, but our pal Duncan brings up a great point – for proper Camp Luxe status this chair should have a back to it, so you can settle in and get comfy! A quick Google search using terms like “ultralight backpacking chair” should put you in the comfort zone.
Our Santa Cruz bud (and the Trip Leader of the author’s first-ever bike-camping mission many years ago), Covey P, makes a special exception for the added weight of a coffee grinder and Aeropress setup.
“I love how my micro bean grinder fits right into the chamber of the Aeropress. Man oh man, freshly ground coffee squeezed through an aeropress tastes so good on the trail!” That is Camp Luxe!
Lots of folks will choose to make room for a camera. The return on that weight/space investment can be shareable memories for the whole crew, or just for yourself. Our friend Blaire even levels up her MBs of RAM: “I always take whatever camera is my favorite at the time, and a notebook and pen. Most trips I’ve done solo and journaling at camp has become one of my favorite ways to wind down the day and remember the high and lows. I have notebooks from years past and have thoroughly enjoyed revisiting them; they are full of the small and delightful details and stories I otherwise may have forgotten!”
Swift ambassador Hailey Moore agrees! “I always make room for a pocket journal—it’s so easy to forget the feeling of a trip once you’re back home and I love to record little details at the end of the day, or during a coffee stop.” Along with that, packable watercolor kits like those from our pals at Art Toolkit are a stellar way to interpret your surroundings and experience in a personalized way!
Some other items that came up in our survey: binoculars, the titanium trowel and “soft TP” combo, and a compact folding saw. These all have obvious value, but I’ll add from experience that the folding saw has extra utility if you’re out on FS roads or trails in the early season when deadfall is still an issue! Compact binoculars are an item that’s great for at least one person in any group to have in their kit, as they can be shared around. From spotting wildlife to scoping your camp or route off in the distance, to simply whiling away the quiet moments at camp, we just love having a set of binocs available!
As your Swift Campout gear list takes shape, practice packing a couple times beforehand to get a sense for your true capacity, and to start to dial in the need-to-have vs the nice-to-have items. Only after you know conclusively what you can comfortably haul will that one Camp Luxe piece begin to float on the horizon in your mind’s eye. And only after you’ve gotten a couple trips under your belt will you know for sure whether or not it was worth it! Consider adding some extra Swift Straps or our limited-edition Blue Lug x SCO Cargo Net to your bike-camping kit for last-minute additions as you’re about to hit the road!