People told me it couldn’t be done. Bike packing with a toddler? Madness. Now, I like to think that I have a can-do attitude, I love camping, I love bikes and I love spending time with my boy, and I refuse to be told that something is impossible.
Now, for transparency, I’m not a die-hard bike packer, I have a beard but I haven’t had to fight off a bear, I have never drunk my own pee or slept in a wet ditch. I’m not hardcore, I’m probably more like you, and now, probably like you too, I’m also a parent.
Our little adventure was one of those spontaneous plans that had come out of nowhere. It was mid-day, and the sun was beating down in the back garden. Our two-year-old boy was bouncing around as always, flicking between the critical task of overseeing a busy wooden train network, to keeping tabs on a troop of new-found caterpillar friends. A chance glance upwards, and I could see the summit of the 567 m Minch Moor behind the house, bathed in sunlight. Wouldn’t it be amazing to be up there right now? This train of thought started a cascade of conversation with the wife, and embracing the weekend YOLO spirits; we quickly assembled a basic bike-packing kit from the shed. The plan was simple: let’s haul ourselves to the summit, enjoy a sunset and sunrise and be back in time for morning coffee. As a tradition in Scotland, we chose to ignore the assembling black clouds on the horizon and the inclement Scottish weather forecast.
In minutes, the seat was installed onto the bike, dramatically increasing our range and fun potential, and just the essentials were crammed into our bike-packing trailer. Experience has shown us that successful bike packing is about carrying only the basics, just enough to sustain life. As such, it was a little alarming to see how many extra items we needed to accommodate for the toddler. After a quick consultation with the boy, it was confirmed that storybooks, toy cars and a massive teddy were indeed highly essential and could not be left behind. An hour later, our odd wagon train rolled out, three hours before sunset, to begin the haul to the summit.
It was not an easy climb, towing a brim-full trailer, but the monotony of the climb was eased by the excited chatter and running commentary from the front seat. Finally, rolling onto the summit plateau, squeals of excitement from the boy suggested that this had been a great plan. The tent was pitched with ‘help’ from the little camper, and the stove fired up. That evening we dined in the summit ballroom, a rival to any Michelin-starred restaurant, we drank cheap wine and ate the finest stir-fry pork and rehydrated rice you have ever tasted. As the sun dipped lower, we sat back and enjoyed watching our two-year-old released into the wild. No TV, no screens, no phones, no modern distractions, just a wide open space to run free and explore. As predicted, the clouds arrived just in time to close down the chance of a sunset, but we didn’t mind, the look of excitement on our child’s face as he explored his spot in the tent (which turned out to be a much larger area than we were anticipating) was reward enough.
To say that it was the best night’s sleep we have ever had would be a lie, but the boy slept like a log, his deep slumber punctuated only by the occasional involuntary parp-parp (his words) or lazy punch to my face. Seeing him fast-asleep and snuggled up in his sleeping bag, I hoped that we were building memories that would stay with him, memories that would later help build foundations of confidence and self-belief, the idea that anything is possible.
We woke to the sound of rain hammering off the tent, a beautiful agony of the comfort of being warm and dry contrasted by the crushing realisation that our shoes were still outside. Peeling open the tent flap, any hopes of seeing sunbeams dancing on the horizon were dashed as Scotland delivered it’s three specialities, damp, grey and cold. However, we had an ally on our side, gravity, we were now on top of a very big hill, with a beautiful trail rolling downhill back to our door. Bags were hastily packed, stuff sacks were stuffed, and we were ready to go. Leaping onto the seat the boy was in high spirits, hooting and hollering as our waggon train made swift progress through the berms and flow of the Plora Rig descent, grown-ups fuelled by the desire for a hot coffee and him on the hope of warm frothy milk.
So our insta-banger ‘sunset and sunrise’ story had been a failure, but we had also succeeded. We had tried, we had a great laugh and our boy had gained some amazing memories, and not every adventure has to end in success. As parents, given the right tools, it’s possible to create a story anywhere. Adventures don’t have to be epic; they don’t have to be type-two fun that requires a few months for the wounds to heal. Seeing our boy point to the top of the mountain from the garden, an Everest to him, and saying “we camped” is enough for me. Adventures can be found on your doorstep, and with a can-do attitude can be far more accessible than you think.