Now that you know the where and when of your first s24o (sub 24 hour overnight), it’s time to figure how you’re going to stay dry and cozy at night! This week’s camp prep will include our recommendations for sleeping bags, camp pads and tents.
While it can be super easy to get bogged down in the gear game, there’s no need to go all out for your first s24o. Gear that is good enough to get the job done is all you need. If you car-camp and already have some gear, and if you are using an Xtracycle kitted out with cargo carrying accessories, you can very likely use what you have. Let’s take a look at what is needed!
Sleeping bag / blankets
The night time temperatures will determine the sleeping gear you need. If you expect chilly nights, you will want a sleeping bag that zips up. A sheet and blanket will not keep you as warm when the temps drop. If it’s going to be warm, even at night, a light blanket and sheet might fit the bill. To bring a pillow or not is a matter of personal preference. I get chronic neck pain when I camp without one so I include a pillow with my bedding needs. But people with less finicky bodies can typically get away with no pillow or bringing just a pillow case and filling it with clothes to use as a pillow.
Pre-Trip Sleeping Bag Prep: in general, it’s best not to store your sleeping bag in a compression sack at home. Those are great for short term portability but can compress the fluff over time and make your bag flat when you actually need to use it. Before your trip, pull your bag out of storage to fluff it up, air it out and test the zippers.
Your comfort level is key in figuring out what will work best for you as a camp pad. Some folks can sleep on the ground (no pad needed!), others can camp on a yoga mat or thicker exercise mat, while some need more cushioning. I fall into the latter category and when car or cargo bike camping with some capacity, I use a small inflatable twin mattress. This requires bringing a manual or battery powered pump when I’m packing mats for my whole family. When solo bikepacking or backpacking, I’ll use a less comfortable Thermorest mat. If you have an air mattress, this may be a good option especially if you are family camping and you have a way to blow it up.
Pre-Trip Pad Prep: inflate your mattress and leave it inflated overnight with some weight (like books) on it to check for leaks. If it has leaks, use a patch kit to repair them and test out the inflation again. Testing your pad out a few days prior to your trip will give you enough time to fix any leaks that you might find or to replace your pad.
For most folks, a shelter when camping means a tent. If you already have one for car camping, it likely can be loaded up onto your cargo bike. If you are traveling with your family, a tent that can fit you all is ideal. As long as your tent can fit you and your family and doesn’t leak, you are all set. Other shelter options include bivys (tiny tents that fit a single person and are typically used for their light weight portability), tarps or hammocks. I personally consider this gear “next level”, good for folks who already know they love camping and want to refine their gear game.
Pre-Trip Tent Prep: set your tent up in your yard to make sure everything is in tip top shape. Check the poles, the zippers and the rain fly. Rain flies are the first thing to fail on old tents or tents that have been stored in attics. Be sure to use a hose with a sprayer to test out your fly prior to your trip.
Tips for getting the gear
What if you need gear that you don’t have? I’m a huge fan of the first two R’s in the Reduce-Reuse-Recycle mantra so I always try to borrow or buy used gear before heading into the box store to get what I need. Here is what I recommend:
Ask friends and family
Text your sister who has a shed full of camping gear, ask your outdoorsy co-worker, post on social media pages like your local attachment parenting page or cycling community page. Camp folks tend to be pretty chill and most jump at the chance to loan out gear if it means getting another person hooked on camping. It’s always important to test out gear before heading to camp so be sure to prep your loaner gear a few days before your trip.
If you can’t find any to borrow, try finding used gear at thrift stores, on Craigslist, Facebook market place, local used camping gear outlets. There are likely a few options available to you. Keep in mind with used gear that it’s extra important to test the gear out before heading to camp.
If you can’t find any gear to borrow or buy used, you might need to look at new gear. When I first got into camping, I didn’t know if it would be something I would like to continue doing so I invested in the bare minimum gear for my shelter. A low cost tent, an air mattress, and a blanket I already had. It kept my costs low, got the job done, and when I upgraded my gear down the road, I was able to pass this gear on to another family.
You now have your first s24o marked on your calendar, your camping location planned out, and your shelter and sleeping situation figured out. Join us next week as we discuss food and personal items!