Looking for a perfect way to rejuvenate your bicycle touring or bikepacking trips? Well, wild camping can be your best bet.
Wild camping is not only an enjoyable way to spend your adventure nights but also a great way to spend less money to ensure that your trip lasts longer.
When bicycle touring or bikepacking, nothing beats having a good place to rest in the evening after a long cycling day. True, mountain biking is fun, but so is sleeping on a safe and tranquil site, mainly under the stars when the weather allows.
But how does this happen? How do you get a good place to camp with all the private properties and restrictions in various countries?
It’s not always easy to find a legal place to lay your weary head, especially when exploring a country with many camping rules and regulations.
You don’t want to set up your camp shelter only to get busted in the middle of the night. You need to play it safe and responsibly to ensure that you spend your night comfortably.
In this article, I’ll share my tips on how to wild camp when bike touring or bikepacking.
I’m not going to lie, most of these tips and tricks have been learned after lots of mistakes and stumbles.
What is Wild Camping?
There is no accurate definition of wild camping, but it’s used to refer to the experience where you set up a tent or camping shelter on an unpaid campsite or caravan park.
Different folks can use varied terms for wild camping, including stealth camping, free camping, guerrilla camping, and rolling off into the woods.
The key to wild camping is staying hidden such that no one knows about your existence during and after you leave the wild camp spot.
You achieve this by camping late in the evening and leaving the campsite early in the morning without anyone detecting you.
Depending on the area or country you are exploring, there are various wild camp spots to choose from where no one will bust you.
You could wild camp in private land with the owner’s permission, grasslands, national forests, national parks, or even on the beach.
However, it’s important to note that wild camping is illegal in some countries, but there is no significant harm in doing it, provided you look after the environment.
But if you plan to ride in Norway, Turkey, Poland, or Scotland, you’ll be free to make your own wild camp spots in different areas.
Wild camping is not for every cyclist, though. It usually takes some time to master the best strategies, but it becomes easy as you get used to it.
When I started traveling by bike, I was pretty nervous about wild camping, so I spent most nights in paid camping grounds or hotels.
Later, I realized that this was quite an expensive way to explore nature, and I started rolling off into the woods whenever I went on a bike touring or bikepacking trip.
Since then, I have wild camped for nearly all my tours in the US and other countries like Japan, Scotland, New Zealand, and Finland.
And in most of these bikepacking and bicycle touring adventures, I’d say that wild camping is one of the most rewarding experiences.
Today, I spend most of my traveling nights in the wild, especially during multi-week tours or adventures that involve cycling across more than three countries.
If you are getting started in wild camping and fear breaking the rules or being busted by the property owners, you can always ask for permission.
I have discovered that most property owners are actually more than happy to let you camp on their land.
Why Should I Wild Camp When Bicycle Touring or Bikepacking?
There are lots of benefits you can reap from wild camping. As I mentioned earlier, I find stealth camping to be the most exciting part of my adventures.
If you don’t think it will be a fun experience, there are many more benefits to enjoy.
While some people believe that wild camping is for hardcore adventurers, this is not always the truth.
Nature has a lot to offer, and there are wild camping options for everyone, regardless of their adventure experience.
With wild camping, you can spend your night at the most incredible places you’ve been dreaming of.
If you are looking for a great way to camp alone and connect with nature, stealth camping is perfect for you.
Wild camping offers much flexibility as you can quickly get a place to set up your tent, from forests to beaches.
Where to camp depends on your needs and preferences since you are not restricted to spending your nights in designated campsites.
You only need to ensure that you don’t camp in areas with “No Trespassing” signs or inside a gated fence without permission.
In general, it’s easy to incorporate wild camping into your bicycle touring or bikepacking adventures. With such a great combination, you’ll be able to explore your neighborhood and your dream destinations freely.
Wild camping is free. It’s a perfect way to save your money instead of spending it in hotel rooms, motels, or vacation rentals.
This will allow you to explore for more days than you would afford when relying on paid accommodation.
You don’t have to spend lots of money in a campsite or hotel when you just need a place to sleep while on the move.
Moreover, wild camping also calls for some bit of minimalism, which means that you won’t have to spend much money on expensive gear. You only buy the essentials to keep your bags light.
Allows You to Connect with Nature and Find Unique Adventures
Sleeping in free space under the stars will expose you to new challenges and adventures. It calls for your creativity to find a fit place to set up your tent and spend the night.
You get to enjoy a peaceful night in the calm and serene locations with no noisy campers who can ruin your mood and distract your sleep. No smelly camping toilets or loud generators.
What I find to be fascinating about wild camping is that it gives me the freedom to camp in areas I feel absolutely safe and confident in.
Increases Self Confidence
Wild camping activities like searching for a good spot, pitching a tent, and arranging a decent place to sleep will make you confident once you complete them successfully.
Nature offers you a lot of choices and helps you to understand various situations. You also get to learn the consequences of your decisions, which in turn enables you to discover new things and enrich your camping skills.
And if you are camping with your children or teens, rolling off into the woods will help them develop greater self-worth and acquire some essential survival skills.
Builds Your Resilience
While stealth camping allows you to enjoy your trip more, it may be filled with many challenges, which will help you develop endurance.
Trying to find effective ways to overcome these challenges and move forward will make you stronger and more resilient.
It will also help you develop a sense of responsibility, like waking up on time and taking care of your own camping items.
Effective Tips for a Successful Wild Camping Experience
If you are wondering how to start wild camping when bikepacking or bike touring, here are a few good tips and strategies you can use for a successful experience:
Talk to Local People
Are you having trouble deciding where to camp, or are unsure of safety in the area you want to spend your night in? You can ask a local.
You can try to have a little chat with a friendly local and see how they can help. But this doesn’t mean that you should go asking people to allow you to camp in their backyard unless they are super-friendly.
I have met friendly locals when bikepacking in places like Colorado who even offered to give me a comfortable bed for the night.
They probably have a better idea of a suitable place where you can set up your camp and enjoy your night.
Wait to Setup Your Camp as it Gets Dark
When adventuring with a bike, you can be tempted to end the day early and rest after long cycling hours, especially in remote areas.
However, this is not always a good idea as setting up your tent early means that people will easily spot you.
The best way to wild camp when bicycle touring or bikepacking is to wait until dusk to set up your camp.
You need to put up the tent when it gets slightly darker to ensure that you don’t need a torch, which would otherwise make you more visible.
Sometimes it can be possible to wild camp early, especially in remote areas with very small communities.
If you need to prepare a quick meal at the campsite, be sure to use a torch with a red beam as it’s hard for people to spot it easily at night.
In the morning, you also need to pack up and leave as early as you possibly can. You don’t want dog walkers to spot your tent and bust you.
However, on expeditions areas like Sahara Vancouver Island, or the Mongolian steppe, you can set up a camp and rest anywhere, anytime, as one will see you.
Don’t Start a Campfire
You can be tempted to start a campfire to keep yourself warm when it gets cold out there.
However, I do not recommend this, especially in a dry season, as it could lead to wildfire, which could cause terrible trouble.
Moreover, a campfire will likely be noticed easily and can attract people’s attention. You can use a camping stove with a protected flame for your cooking tasks instead of a campfire.
And when you need to use a torch, be sure to use the red light as it’s harder for the human eye to see in the dark.
Leave No Trace
Whether you are wild camping in the wilderness or coastal areas, you should leave the campsite as you found it or even better if possible.
Leaving no trace will ensure that no one knows about your presence in the camp. It will also allow another adventurer to comfortably camp in that spot.
Carry all your litter to ensure that you leave the campsite as clean as possible. This will create the right impression to the landowner if you wild camped in a private property.
Another thing to keep in mind is that all your foods and dirty utensils should be tightly closed to prevent attractive animals like rodents, badgers, or hedgehogs.
Always Trust Your Gut
While you may be tempted to ignore your inner feelings when wild camping, it is always wise to trust your gut while still cautious.
If you roll up into a place and feel that it’s not giving good vibes or don’t feel comfortable at all, the best thing to do is move on and find a better camping spot.
When you feel that you need to ask someone about a particular place that you want to set up your camp, don’t hesitate to ask. There are higher chances that they will help you find a safe camping spot.
Finding a place that you are happy with will satisfy your heart and ensure that you sleep well. Keep in mind that bicycle tours and wild camping are meant to bring happiness and peace of mind.
Have the Right Mindset
If you already have a negative attitude towards wild camping, setting up a camp and spending a night in a secluded place can be difficult.
As a beginner, you probably have too many doubts and worries. What happens when I get caught? What if someone comes to rob me while I sleep?
But don’t worry as you are not alone. I also couldn’t stop wondering the same during my first wild camping adventures.
Luckily, I had traveled with my buddies, who helped me acquire the right mindset and gain some confidence for wild camping.
I realized that I only needed to change my attitude towards sleeping out in a stealth camp. Right now I’m very optimistic about wild camping, and I actually enjoy it more than spending a night in a designated campground.
I can even camp in natural forests or private property alone, of course, with permission from the owner.
So, don’t let negative thoughts dominate your mind and scare you from wild camping. The easiest way to overcome them is by doing more wild camping and appreciating what nature offers.
Camp Far Away from the Road
To ensure that no one sees you as your wild camp after a long cycling day, you need to get off the road and find a good camping spot.
Avoid camping near cities or densely populated areas as there are higher chances of being noticed.
An area away from the beams of passing cars’ headlights has more privacy. Don’t stealth camp on areas that seem to be motorists’ stops as someone will find you in one way or the other.
Ideally, go a bit further from the road until you find a safe camping spot to spend your night on. When no one knows about your existence on a campsite, you can be sure that no one will disrupt your sleep in the middle of the night.
Nonetheless, you need to be cautious of the areas as you don’t want stranger danger ruining your night. Check if there are any warning signs like no trespassing signs or bear warnings.
For example, if you are adventuring countries in Eastern Europe or North America, you’ll need to follow bear safety tips unless you want a scary Grizzly bear tramping around your tent.
Be As Self Sufficient As You Can
If you want your wild camping to be a successful experience, you need to be as self-sufficient as possible. This calls for some little planning and adequate preparation for your bicycle tour.
Self-sufficiency means having all the essentials needed for cycling and camping, from clothing to bicycle repair kits.
You should be able to prepare your own meals, purify drinking water, or even repair your bike in case of punctures.
When you have the right gear to keep your trip going, you can be able to quickly solve any problems that arise while you are on the go.
For example, you can cook your meals when hunger strikes, purify some water when you come across a reliable water source, and stay warm when it gets chilly.
Being self-sufficient will give you confidence and make you flexible to wild camp in any place you desire. It allows you to relax and enjoy every moment of your journey.
Try to Blend In
Wild camping is about remaining as invisible as possible. You can do this by trying to blend into nature.
For example, you can buy a green or brown tent instead of a red or yellow one. People will hardly see a green tent in a green field at night.
Such a tent will serve you well in different environments and make you confident of your inconspicuousness.
If there are any shiny labels on the outer side of your tent, you may want to unstitch them and replace the guy lines with non-luminous lines.
Better still, you can use a bivvy bag instead of a tent, and it’s far less conspicuous. Bivvy bags are also easy to pack and unpack for easy setup and set down.
It’s also important to keep the tent dark as even the least torch beam can be seen from several miles. You don’t want an axe murderer or investigating dog walker to intrude on your sleep in the middle of the night.
The reflective parts on your bags and tires are essential for locating them at night, but they could also show passengers exactly where you have stealth camped.
To prevent this, you need to ensure that your tires and bags face away from the road or cover them with dull tape.
Before leaving in the morning, search your campsite and ensure that you pack all your things, used and unused. You don’t want to leave anything behind so that no one will know that you camped in that area.
Understand the Local Laws
When traveling to new places, you need to read and understand the local laws regarding wild camping to ensure that you don’t break them.
While I know that I can wild camp in most places in the US, I always read the local laws when planning a bicycle tour in a particular state.
Wild camping may be allowed in your country but restricted in another. I was surprised when exploring the Black Sea Turkey and Balloch Scotland as these countries allow wild camping anywhere on public land.
And while I have wild camped in areas where wild camping is not allowed due to various circumstances, I always ensure that I leave the place as I found it or even better.
Taking care of the environment and using some stealth camping tricks minimizes the possibility of being busted.
How to Find the Best Wild Camp Spots
If you want to get the best out of your wild camping experience, you need to ensure that you find a perfect spot.
However, when fatigue kicks in, it can be quite a turmoil to find a good camping spot, especially if you are unsure what to look for.
You can be tempted to stop and simply put up a tent where you are, which may lead to a problematic situation later on.
Fortunately, there are many apps you can use to find decent wild camping spots while out there. You can download it at a small fee as this is a great app for any bicycle adventure.
As you might have noticed, wild camping is not just about setting up your tent in a hidden place where no one will see you.
You can use Google Maps to scout a potential camp spot for the night or simply ride along to see what nature has to offer.
As a cyclist traveler, you want to find a camping spot that offers more opportunities to explore nature and make the most out of your adventure.
So, you need to know what to look for when searching for a camping spot. Let’s take a deep dive into exactly what to consider when looking for a camping spot.
Things to Look for When Choosing an Epic Camping Spot
Shelter from Wind
Strong winds are a major problem in the world of wild camping. If it’s gusting, you need to find a place that is sheltered from the wind.
While wind will not blow away your tent with you in it, strong winds may break the tent poles and rip off the fabric.
It goes without saying that your night’s sleep will be full of disruption and worries that everything will blow away in the middle of the night.
In this case, boulders and big trees are ideal windbreakers.
Nearby Water Source
While camping near a water source isn’t necessarily essential for most cyclists, it may be your chance to pack and filter more water to keep you going.
However, this doesn’t mean camping right at the water’s edge. You need to ensure that you are a few feet away from water sources like lakes, ponds, and big rivers for maximum safety.
About 100 to 200 feet away from the water source will be okay. This will make it easy for wildlife to access the water source at night when they need to.
You’ll also be preserving the water source as all your waste won’t collect at the water source when you camp several feet away.
Remember that wild camping right at the edge of water will expose you to mosquitos and bugs.
If you are exploring a coastal area and want to wild camp on the beach, you need to choose a spot beyond the tide line for obvious reasons.
When looking for a perfect place to set up a camp, you want to go for flat ground such as sand, compacted dirt, or dry grass. Remove any branches and sticks that may have fallen before putting the tent up.
Avoid setting up your camp near plants or trees that seem to erode easily as they may fall on you while you sleep.
If you have a camping hammock, the ground vegetation will not affect you, but you still need to find strong trees to attach it.
Views and Sceneries
A camping site with lovely views and sceneries can inspire you to explore the area more and discover new things.
Camp on the beach, go to the mountains for a plethora of lush views. You just need a good mountain bike that will handle steep climbs and rough terrains well.
Is Wild Camping Illegal?
Whether wild camping is legal or illegal will depend on the area you are exploring. Some countries allow cyclists to wild camp virtually anywhere provided it’s safe, while others don’t.
If you want a bicycle tour or bikepack in the US, you’ll have it easy. You can legally wild camp in national forests and grasslands unless you find a sign warning you otherwise.
In Canada, you can wild camp in the backcountry of a national park and national monuments. You can also set up your camp on someone’s land with permission.
The European countries have different rules and regulations regarding wild camping, with some restricting it strictly and others allowing it.
During my long bicycle tour across Europe, I stealth camped in several countries, including Turkey, Norway, Romania, and Slovakia, without any obstructions.
My friends and I had to stick to designated campgrounds in Iceland and Finland. But we were happy for the friendly property owners in France who let us camp on their private land.
In the UK, only Scotland and some parts of Dartmoor allow the public to wild camp on any enclosed land.
For an Australian bicycle touring adventure, you are free to wild camp in the free camping sites in national parks, picnic areas, national forests, and rural areas.
On my New Zealand multi-week cycle tour, I spent most nights in wild campsites as the regulations were quite relaxed.
It was fun sleeping under the stars for nearly every night of the trip with my best cyclist friend.
What Equipment Do I Need for Wild Camping?
The best wild camping gear is one that strikes a balance between comfort and weight. Remember, you’ll be cycling with your gear mounted to your mountain bike for quite a long distance.
At the same time, failure to pack some essential things will hinder you from having a comfortable and enjoyable experience.
So, what exactly should you pack when planning to wild camp when traveling by bike?
Well, here is a comprehensive list of the equipment you need to carry to ensure an incredible wild camping experience when bicycle touring or bikepacking.
The first thing you need for your trip is a good mountain bike that will help you carry all your essentials and still ride comfortably.
While you can use any bike you have for the start, a good bikepacking or touring bike will meet your travel needs and handle even the most challenging terrains well.
I also love using a fat bike, especially when exploring remote places with rough roads or coastal areas.
A handlebar bag is a perfect way to carry the items that require easy access, like a phone, GPS handheld device, snacks, and a tissue roll.
Be sure to keep the weight low on the handlebar bag. Otherwise, you’ll have difficulties handling the bike.
You can mount a frame bag at your bike’s frame for hauling weighty items like a tent or the cooking stove. They will help in maintaining stability when riding your mountain bike on varied terrains.
Seat Post Pack
A seat post bag is ideal for carrying bulky, lightweight items like sleeping bags and sleeping pads or mats. You can also use a seat post bag to pack your clothes.
You can also pack your gear in panniers if you don’t have the bikepacking specific bags. Whether your bike has eyelets or not, you can always find a way to mount rack panniers or dry bike bags.
Panniers are spacious rack-mounted bags that allow you to pack bulky, heavier items on your bike. They are common for bicycle touring but rarely used in bikepacking. But I don’t see any harm in using panniers for any cycling trip, as long as you don’t over pack.
For a comfortable night’s sleep, pack a lightweight synthetic or down sleeping bag that suits your needs. If you don’t have a sleeping bag, you can carry a bivvy sack, quilt bag, or a camping blanket.
Whether you want to explore a national park or ride across countries to reach your destination, you need a sleeping mat or pad for better sleep when camping.
A self-inflating sleeping pad is the best for wild camping when on a bike tour as it takes less space and is still very comfy.
While you can sleep under the stars when the weather allows, having a tent adds to your protection.
Tents provide the best shelter from cold winds, snow, or rain. I usually wild camp with my four-season tent that keeps me warm and dry all the time.
However, I have gone out without a tent many times, especially in the summer. There are also several camping tent alternatives, including bivvies, tarps, and hammocks.
With a camp stove and fuel, you won’t have to eat in hotels and restaurants as you can prepare your meals within a few minutes while out there.
You can also use it to boil water for coffee or just for purification. Using a camp stove instead of a campfire will ensure that no one will quickly notice your presence.
You don’t need to bring all your cookware for wild camping. A camping pan, mug or foldable cup, spork, lighter, and a folding knife will help you prepare your food at your camping spot. And if you are a coffee fanatic, you may want to bring a camping percolator.
Water Filtration System
Water is essential for bikepacking or cycle touring, as you’ll need to stay hydrated. You’ll also need water to cook or wash your face in the morning.
However, water is super heavy, and it can be difficult to bring enough of it for the entire trip.
The best way to ensure that you have adequate water throughout the journey is investing in a good water filtration system. This way, you’ll be able to purify water from various water sources while out there.
You also need to pack enough food for your trip. I pack foods like salted nuts, energy bars, instant noodles, oatcakes, and dried milk for most of my cycling adventures. Feel free to bring your favorite snacks as long as they are not perishable.
Your bicycle touring or the bikepacking closet should be as compact as possible. Some breathable shorts, a shirt or blouse, rain clothes like a waterproof jacket, and padded cycling knit shorts should be okay.
I also love bringing warm socks and gloves for maximum comfort and insulation in colder temperatures.
First Aid Kit
A first aid kit is another essential thing you need when bikepacking or cycle touring. It will come in handy when you sustain injuries out there.
However, if you are cycling with some friends who already have a first aid kit, you may not have to carry one.
Your toiletry bag does not have to be so complicated. You just need to bring some mini-sized essentials like soap, a mini shovel, tissue, sunscreen, and lotion.
A travel toothbrush and toothpaste also weigh less, and they won’t take up too much space in your bag.
Bike Repair Kit
This is another handy kit you need for successful bicycle touring or bikepacking and wild camping adventures. It will help you fix your bike whenever it sustains punctures, which may be an inconvenience.
You’ll need a map, compass, or GPS location device for navigation to avoid getting lost. The GPS tracker on your phone is also a great app to use, especially if you’ll only be out for a few days.
But if you are planning to adventure for more than a few days, don’t rely solely on your smartphone Google Maps, as the battery will die soon.
You also need to bring a security kit to secure your bike when you need to rest during daylight hours and keep the bags safe at the camp site.
If there is nowhere to lock up your bike at your camp spot, you can use a string on the front wheel that will drop the chain off when someone tries to steal your bike. Put your bags into the tent porch at night or attach them to your bivvy bag with a string.
Other accessories that I usually include in my gear include a compact camera for taking photos and binoculars for watching wildlife and beautiful landscapes. A head torch also comes in handy when setting up a camp when it’s already dark.
Q: What is the Difference Between Bikepacking and Bicycle Touring?
A: Bikepacking is the type of cycling adventure where you pack your essential gear on specific bikepacking bags and attach them to a particular part of your bicycle. It’s simply a combination of mountain biking and minimalist camping.
On the other hand, bicycle touring is a broad category encompassing all forms of loading a bike with your camping or travel gear and cycling in different kinds of terrains.
Bikepacking focuses more on rough terrains or unpaved surfaces, which is why the bags’ shapes are optimized to address the specific challenges encountered.
A typical bikepacking setup includes a handlebar bag, seat post bag, and frame bag. If your essentials don’t fit in the three bags, you can use extra packs like a stem bag, top tube bag, and cargo bag.
For bicycle touring, you can use any dry bag and panniers to carry your gear. You can also mount a luggage rack where you attach your bags for a stable ride.
Bikepacking typically involves packing as lightweight as possible as the bags are usually small with minimal carrying capacity.
However, you have more room to pack your gear for bicycle touring, allowing you to carry everything you need for a successful touring experience.
While the bikepacking setup is usually smooth and quiet as you ride, bicycle touring racks and panniers can rattle and be quite noisy as you ride on rough roads.
To be honest, I find a bikepacking set up to be a little more relaxed and stable when mountain biking than huge touring bags and panniers mounted on racks.
But I prefer the latter when I want to haul more gear, especially during the winter when I need more layers to stay warm while out there.
Both cycling adventures can be paired with other activities like mountain biking and pack rafting to connect with nature and enjoy more.
Bikepacking is the best way to explore extreme locales and spend more time on the bike as it’s light and can handle most terrains.
Nonetheless, it may cut your comfort and make you spend more money on the route since the bikepacking bags can’t carry as many things as panniers and racks.
It’s also quite trickier to pack for bikepacking than cycle touring, as coming up with a good organization is vital.
Now, you might wonder which is better for a long-distance tour. Bikepacking bags or racks and panniers?
In my opinion, there is no clear-cut answer to this question, and I cannot advise you to ditch panniers and switch to bikepacking bags just because it works perfectly for me.
I’d say that this really goes down to your preferences and priorities. If lightweight and the ability to ride on all terrains, including single-track trails, are a greater concern, then stick to bikepacking bags.
But if you want to be comfortable while out there and love riding on paved roads, then racks and panniers are your perfect option. You’ll be able to carry everything you need to stay comfortable, from a tent to a sleeping pad and extra snacks.
Q: How Do You Camp Undetected?
- Camp late and leave early in the morning.
- Use a dark-colored tent, tarp, or hammock, like green, brown, or camouflaged, to blend into the environment.
- Do what your inner feelings tell you, and camp on wild camping spots that feel safe.
- Leave no trace of your presence by cleaning any mess and packing all your litter.
- Don’t start a campfire unless you have to.
- Avoid using a torch with bright light.
- Don’t camp on private land without permission, and be respectful to landowners.
- Be aware of any irrigation systems or sprinklers in the area you want to camp.
- Look out for surveillance cameras in a national park or on the road.
- Be flexible in case the authorities move on you.
- Avoid camping in places where people are likely to pass early in the morning, like running trails.
- Keep some distance from the water when camping near lakes, ponds, beaches, or rivers.
- Keep your gear organized to take the least time possible when setting up the camp and packing.
- Cover any flashy material on your tent, bike, or bags that flashlights can easily detect.
- Minimize noise. If you are wild camping as a group, be quiet and avoid loud laughs.
- Avoid areas with animal tracks.
- Finally, use common sense and remember to have fun while out there!
Q: Can I Camp in the US on a Bicycle Tour?
A: Absolutely, you can camp in the US on a bicycle tour on free or paid campgrounds. After a long day of mountain biking or exploring the coast, you need a safe place to rest and spend your night peacefully.
I cycled across the US from the East Coast Region to the West Coast, and I spent most nights in camps.
If you want to explore the US with your bike and spend less and enjoy more, camping is a perfect option. Spending lots of money in hotel rooms can be quite a boring experience for cyclist adventurers.
Whether you are on a solo cycling trip or traveling with friends, you can always find a decent place to camp in the US. Here is a list of places where cyclists can camp when exploring the US:
National Parks and Forests Campgrounds
National parks and forests in the US are treasures for cyclists mountain biking in various states. The best thing about the US national parks and forests is that they are easy to find on Good Maps.
These forests often have accessible or affordable campsites where you can set up a camp and sleep comfortably. I had a thrilling experience camping in the White River National Forest in Colorado.
Public land in the US is managed by the Bureau of Land Management which provides designated camp spots for cyclists and other adventurers.
To find a great place to camp, you can use Google Maps to determine whether your cycling route passes through a public land where you setup camp.
But you’ll need to keep in mind that camping rules and restrictions may be different in varied public lands.
You can also camp in RV Parks in the US. However, they are a gamble as some allow camping while others don’t.
If you’ve found an RV Park and wish to spend the night, you can always ask, especially if it’s a small town. The chances are that the RV park owners will be happy to let you camp there.
If you find yourself in the middle of a small town with no dispersed campground, you can camp in a suitable in a public space, including a community church, post office, or a public school yard.
This applies when riding in rural areas with very small towns where you don’t have many options as in big cities.
You may also have a bit of good luck asking the police to let you camp at their station or one of the petrol stations in the area.
Avoid camping in the open or gas stations when cycling in urban areas like San Francisco or Portland since camping is not allowed in such cities.
If you want to camp in an area where you suspect it’s illegal, you can always opt for stealth camping. But you need to do it right to avoid getting caught.
Ride off to quiet roads and look for a hidden place. Then do your things quietly and leave early in the morning before anyone sees you. Don’t be tempted to enjoy the morning sun while you still haven’t broken the camp.
Camp on Private Property
You can also camp on someone’s property with permission. This means you’ll need some little planning on how to approach the owners and tell them what you need.
Worst case, they say no, bang the door behind you, best case, they ask you to come over for dinner and allow you to use their shower.
I have done this several times in the US and France, and I was pretty amazed at how some property owners can be friendly and welcoming.
If you are exploring an area where you can access a clean public restroom, it will be a great place to rest and get quality sleep behind a locked door.
Public restrooms may not be an excellent option for leisure and more adventure, but it comes in handy when there is heavy rain or really bad weather.
Q: Can I Wild Camp When Cycle Touring in the Winter?
A: Yes, you can wild camp when bicycle touring in the winter. I have traveled on my bike, and wild camped all year round in different parts of the world.
When it comes to winter, it gets extremely chilly while out there, so you need to be well-equipped for such weather.
You need to bring warm clothes and a tent or bivvy that is up to the task, as you don’t want to freeze at night.
The good thing about bicycle touring is that you can use panniers and racks to carry more gear like an extra jacket and warm socks. But you’ll need to be careful to avoid overloading the bike.
It’s also important to ensure that you have a good bike that can handle ice and frosts well, particularly a fat or mountain bike when cycling during the winter.
A good bike will help you haul all your gear easily and roll over any rough terrain to reach your desired camping site.
Wild camping or sleeping rough when traveling on a bike may seem like a daunting experience for beginners.
With all the fears of something terrifying happening, you can be intimidated to wild camp. But you don’t have to cling to these thoughts because wild camping is actually not as risky as you think.
You need to have the right mindset about stealth camping and enjoy adventurous nights under the stars.
Whether you want to do a local bikepacking or a cycle touring adventure abroad, you can wild camp in an appropriate place while on the move.
From national forests to privately owned lands, you always find a safe place to wild camp when bicycle touring or bikepacking.
So there you go. Everything you need to get started on wild camping when bikepacking or bicycle touring!
You can now go out and wild camp when touring with a bike to save money and have more fun. Just remember to wild scamp responsibly and leave no trace so that no one will know you are there.