Having a baby doesn’t mean you have to give up those adventures you used to live for, it just means adjusting them slightly. Jonathan takes us step by step through how to bikepack with a baby.


When my wife and I announced to the world that she was pregnant, a common response was that we’d have to give up our outdoor hobbies. We’ve spent our fair share of nights in a tent, but the prevailing narrative was that taking our son on adventures was too risky to consider, and in any case, would just be ‘parenting in a different location’.

But experiencing the outdoors is something we love, and we wanted to instil that love in our son. And what better way to do it than to strap him into a bike seat and seek out some dirt?

The rewards of taking your kid on a bikepacking trip are immense. First, you get to do an outdoorsy thing that the naysayers said was off the table. But more rewarding than that is watching your child develop a love of nature.


Instil a love of nature in the next generation


Continuing to have adventures also models healthy hobbies for your kid and is incredibly beneficial for your own physical and mental health.

This guide is intended to give you an idea of what’s involved in taking a toddler on a bikepacking trip, an activity that I like to call babypacking.

If you’re a parent with kids between one and four years old, this is for you! It’s the perfect time to go babypacking – when your kids are old enough to handle being on a bike but before they’re able to ride along with you.

Read more: 4 Things Learnt on our First Road Trip With Our Baby

Step 1: Set Your Expectations

Face it, you won’t be setting any FKTs with a toddler in tow, unless by that you mean Fastest Kid Time.

Your bike will be heavier, you’ll be riding slower, and taking more breaks, so expect your daily distance to be about half of what you’d manage solo. You’ll sleep worse as your toddler slips and slides around the tent all night, and your lowered risk tolerance will preclude you hucking any jumps.

But there are many joys to be had in babypacking: the squeal of joy when your kid sees a wallaby, the view from a rest stop, a kind offer from a passing farmer. It’s also a great way to introduce your partner to bikepacking.


It’s incredibly rewarding watching your little one discover the world

Step 2: Get the Right Gear

If you’ve already got a bikepacking setup, the only additional gear you’ll need for babypacking is a baby seat or trailer and a helmet and sun protection for your tyke.

Seat vs Trailer

Your first big decision is whether you’d prefer to go with a baby seat or a trailer.

In short a seat will be lighter and more nimble, with the downside of giving you a higher centre of gravity and making seat packs impractical.

Most child seats require that you ride a hardtail, so if you’re committed to dually life or just want more carrying capacity, you should consider a trailer. A trailer will also be more stable, albeit while being more expensive, heavier, less singletrack-friendly (especially two-wheelers), and potentially requiring an axle adapter.

I use a seat, and after some trial and error I picked up a secondhand Hamax Siesta. I like the recline function and inbuilt suspension, although it does tend to bottom out and give my boy a fright if I go over too big a bump.

It also attaches via a module that clamps onto the seat tube, so can easily be switched between bikes if you have more than one adult on the trip.

Cargo Capacity

You’ll generally need greater luggage capacity for babypacking than normal bikepacking. If you’re lucky your toddler will be happy to play with sticks, but baby stuff is bulky, especially if your babe is still using nappies (which you absolutely need to pack out!). You’ll also need to take additional clothes, sleep gear, medication, and food for your bub.


What gear you need will change once you add a kid into the equation!


If you’re using a trailer, luggage space shouldn’t be an issue, but if you’re using a baby seat you’ll have to make do without a seat pack. Frame bags and big stuff sacks attached to your handlebars and fork will be your friend in this regard. You can also strap lightweight items to the baby seat itself.

This is another benefit of travelling with a partner; one of you can lug the baby while the other takes a greater proportion of the accoutrements.

Slip Slop Slap

The Australian climate can be brutal, and young children aren’t as able to let you know when they’re hot, cold, or feeling sunburned.

It’s a good idea to buy them some technical fabric long-sleeve shirts and a hat that fits under their helmet, and it’s also helpful to tether a water bottle and a toy to their seat.

A lightweight tarp can be used to create a shady spot during the day, and is also useful if you need something to sit under after your kid’s bedtime and before your own.

Step 3: Do Some Trial Runs

Building Bike Resilience

From around 12 months of age, you can start with short and gentle road rides, gradually increasing your distance and introducing some gravel or dirt.

Riding to playgrounds or other fun places is a good way to get your child to develop a positive association with bicycles.

On these practice rides, pay attention to what time of day your kid is the most resilient or most likely to fall asleep on the bike.

This’ll help you to plan your longer adventures; my son will snooze for a couple of hours during a mid-morning ride, but is also perfectly capable of screaming inconsolably and kicking me in the buttocks for hours in the late afternoon.


Some sleep stops may be necessary


As you get a sense of your child’s rhythms, you’ll be able to map out how many hours of riding are feasible for you on a standard babypacking day.

Practice Camping

Separately from these rides, take some backyard or car camping trips with the gear that you propose to take on your first babypacking trip. Fortunately, most toddlers love tents. The challenge will be to get them to associate the tent with sleeping.

Take notes on what goes well and what could be improved. Is your kid content to watch ants and play in the dirt, or are they at a loose end?

Are there items that you packed that they don’t end up needing? Will they eat the food you brought along? Are they happy to snuggle on your mat or do they need a separate sleeping space? This process will help you to rationalise what gear you truly need to bring and what can be left in the nursery.

Read more: Remember to leave no trace!

Prepare Food

Toddlers are notoriously picky eaters, so you’ll want to have your food options dialled before you head out for your first trip.

We’ve had good luck with keeping muesli bars, bananas, and pouches of puree in a stem bag, where they can easily be accessed and passed back to my boy for on-the-bike snacks.

Stable items such as pre-made falafel, wraps, and fruit cups are handy for lunch, and pasta is usually a good dinner option. And if you happen to be passing through a town, country town bakeries are a win for carb loaders and toddlers alike.

Step 4: Your First Overnighter

Route Selection

By this stage you’re hopefully keen to get out there and introduce your child to the wonders of bikepacking, but please don’t follow my lead and make your first babypacking trip an untested and unexpectedly hilly multi-day suffer-fest.

Instead, I recommend selecting a route relatively close to home and doing a scouting run before you strap your kid into their seat. A relatively smooth route with little elevation gain is going to be preferable, and it’s a good idea to have some bailout options.



And remember, there’s nothing wrong with credit card touring if your route goes through a town. It’s certainly easier than trying to stealth camp with a toddler.

Enjoy Yourself

Now’s the time to saddle up and surrender to the process. You’re about to do something that most people wouldn’t dream of, so take the time to savour the experience.

When your kid needs a break, don’t stress about timing or your average speed, but watch as they explore the new and exciting places that you’re taking them to.

And if you can, try to emulate a bit of that wide-eyed wonder that kids have, and reflect on what a privilege it is to be able to travel with your kid across our incredible country.

Read more: Sailing the Whitsundays With a Baby

Final Thoughts

It’s tempting when you have a young child to fall into the trap of putting anything beyond mere survival in the too-hard basket. But with a bit of preparation and the right mindset, bikepacking is surprisingly kid-friendly.


Get out there and have fun!


You’ll not only get to enjoy the experience yourself, but you’ll be providing your child with the kind of formative experience that helps them become an outdoor adventure aficionado.

So get out there and take your kid for an overnighter. It’s definitely more than ‘parenting in a different location’.