Do you own a bike? If so, you have a ticket to adventure at any time.
If you don’t own a bike yet, there are lots of great, affordable, or even free ways to get a bike such as buying a beautifully refurbished bike at Working Bikes or even joining the City of Chicago’s free bike program.
Have you ever been camping? If so, you likely have all the essentials, tent or hammock, sleeping bag, and sleeping pad, all of what you need to go on a bike camping adventure right out your front door!
And if you don’t own camping gear, there are places like The Chicago Tool Library that lends camping gear for a very affordable price as do some retailers such as REI. Or maybe you are lucky and have a friend that can lend you their gear.
After those essentials of bike camping are secured, you likely have everything else you need in your home already, things like a water bottle, spare set of socks, some comfy clothes for at camp, a raincoat, bowl, spoon, cup, etc. OOFD has a blog here, here, here, and here that offers deeper insight into some gear our volunteers think are nice to have along on a bike camping trip.
Having a spare tube and basic tools to fix a flat is handy but if you don’t know how to fix a flat, don’t let that stop you. Worse case, you get a flat and you walk to a bike shop or decide this isn’t your weekend and take a bus or train home. If you have a tube and basic tools, chances are you or a bicyclist riding past you, will get that flat fixed. OOFD has a blog here that discusses three good tools to consider having on a bike trip though you certainly can go without.
Loading Up Your Bike
Ok. Now that we know what to bring, how the heck do we get it all onto our bikes? First things first, you will need a rack. Most folks start with a back rack which are very affordable and any bike shop will get one on your bike quickly. With a little bit of time and effort, you could likely get that rack on your bike yourself.
As for how to carry your gear once you have a rack on your bike, some folks will often buy saddle bags also known as panniers.However, deals and DIY’s abound which can make it easy to build up your own set of gear for relatively low costs. And if you want to embrace the real cheap and easy aesthetic, go the milk crate route, which really has some benefits, the main one being it costs about $20. All you need is a rack, a milk crate and some hose clamps or zip ties. OOFD has a blog that gives bit more detail on different ways to get your camping gear onto your bike here.
Where to Go and Getting There
Now it is simply time to choose a campground. Cook County has 4 solid, hyper-local campgrounds in the north and south burbs. Illinois Beach State Park and Indiana Dunes National Park are great, classic Chicago bike camping destinations especially since train lines run along the route in case you only want to ride part of the way or do need to bail part way through. OOFD has some classic bike routes and campgrounds here.
As you ride, it is a great idea to ride at a chill pace, take lots of breaks (before you feel tired), eat lots of snacks (before you are hungry), and certainly drink plenty of water (before you are thirsty). OOFD has a blog that gives some basics on what to consider when biking a long distance here.
Biking Safely and Getting Going!
Biking safely is important too, so make sure you do a bit of research on your route before to avoid super busy roads where you can. And be sure when stopping to pull completely off the road or trail, be predictable by pointing out your turns, and be visible (lights are a great idea if you end up riding after dark - though it's nice to avoid that if you can). OOFD has a super basic blog on biking safely here and there are lots of other resources out there with tips to bike safely such as this simple list by the City of Madison here.
Finally, gather some friends (or not), load the gear on your bike (bungee cords usually are very handy), hop onto your bike, and pedal away onto an adventure right out our front door!.
A welcoming bike camping community
Out Our Front Door is a nonprofit that leads bike adventures to immerse and educate in local history and nature. We believe in adventure, and we welcome you to join us on our immersive, inclusive, and educational bike camping adventures. We aim to deepen your reverence for the region by exploring local trails while learning about the culture, history, and habitats native to the beautiful Lake Michigan area and beyond.
We lead a variety of rides each year for adults, for families, for youth, and for folks with adaptive needs. We want to support you getting out into nature on a bike adventure, and we have a variety of ways to break down any barriers that you may have to having such an adventure. Some of our rides can offer all the camping gear you need, others are very short and extra chill pace for beginners. Some are epicly long and a bit quicker pace. We even have a fleet of adaptive bicycles to accommodate folks with disabilities that want to join us on an adventure.
So please, follow the advice in this blog and get out bike camping either solo or with some friends/family. And if you want a community of welcoming and adventurous folks, Out Our Front Door is here for you!
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"To immerse , educate, preserve & advance the history, culture, trails and native habitats of the Lower Lake Michigan Basin Area"