Bike camping with a Brompton

Ottawa is a multi-modal transit island. If you want to combine using a train or bus to get you out of the city with a standard roll-on / roll-off service you are out of luck. This is where having a folding bike comes in handy.

I’m planning a short-ish bike-camping trip around Quebec’s Eastern Townships and I wanted to give my set-up a test-run before the big outing. (Hey, it’s big trip for me.)

My creation

With pastries in hand, I set off for a quick overnight trip to Nepean Nepean It’s Lovely to Be In. Or something.

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For my set up, I used my rear rack for carrying “housing” (tent, sleeping pad, sleeping bag and pillow). I packed the Brompton front T-Bag with my clothes and other quick access items (camera, Jetboil, coffee, coffee cup and toiletries).

I’ve followed the Path Less Pedalled and watched their Brompton touring videos many times. They strap their hiking backpacks onto the rear rack. Not having a big backpack like theirs, I went with the gear that I already had: a waterproof Arkel pannier.

All the comforts of home… almost.

The Brompton tucked nicely into the tent’s vestibule.

For this trip, I would say 95% of the set-up worked perfectly. I didn’t add a transit test to the trip and that’s the one weak spot in my set-up. While the pannier worked fairly well, there were some minor issues with heel strike if my foot was too far back on the pedal. And while the pannier comes with a shoulder strap, I just don’t have enough arms to carry a bike, T-bag, pannier and manage getting on/off transit. It became clear that some sort of bag with backpack straps was going to be an essential piece of luggage.

Making coffee (instant Starbucks is .. well…
convenient)

Cozy.

I like the simplicity of strapping a slimmer duffle-style bag on the rear rack, but maybe long-term I’d be happier buying a proper hiking pack like the Path Less Pedalled team. Decisions. While I ponder the great backpack decision of 2105, here’s what else did work well:

  • My bike-camping packing list
  • Brompton! Don’t judge the clown wheels, it’s a nice bike
  • North Face Stormbreak 1 tent – easy set-up, cheap, light
  • Jetboil Minimo – even a camping noob like me could operate it
  • MC2 container with collapsible lid/bowl (coffee storage container)
  • Black diamond Orbit lantern Monarch chair (love this thing)
  • Wine platypus

Here are some things that could be improved:

  • Starbucks VIA coffee. The single serve instant coffee packages are hella convenient, but overall, the coffee tastes like a dirt floor. Even with scoops of vanilla flavoured Coffeemate in them. I wonder whether a generic instant coffee brand would taste just as good. Probably.
  • The JetBoil really isn’t a container for cooking. I burnt some of my creamy pasta sauce on the bottom and it was super annoying to clean off. Best to stick with simple water boiling.

Simple tips to make things easy:

  • You’ll want a few things always within easy reach: phone/camera, tissues, and water. If you’re stopping along the way, make sure your snacks are at the top of your pack. No one likes to rummage for treats.
  • I like keeping my phone, bike keys and wallet in small bag that’s easy to remove for any quick shopping stops.