Bikepacking with a Six Year Old

Words by Heni Gould & Mattie Gould
Photos by Mattie Gould
Illustration by Heni Gould

4 minutes

Last year I managed to take my six year old out for his first bikepacking trip. It’s been a few years in the making and it was a total success. Kind of! I’m counting it as a success because we got out there and both had a great time, most of the time. At other times there were tears. 

Actually, to be perfectly honest, not much went right during the ride, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. That’s the great thing about adventures, they don’t have to be perfectly planned, or perfectly executed, to be memorable and enjoyable. 

Once the dust had settled, I got my son to write his reflections from the trip. So here they are. Next time I’ll get him to take the photos too. After Heni’s story, you’ll find a few tips that helped me take my kid bikepacking for the first time. Some of them might work for you, others maybe not. But trying is half the fun, so hopefully this helps you get out there.

Bike Camping with my Daddy

We had lots of fun and lollies.

We saw 2 eagles and about 100 kangaroos.

We saw huts but they were a bit scary because I thought there were humans inside them.

We did lots of bike pushing.

I helped put up the tent.

We cooked pesto noodles for dinner.

By Heni, age 6

Bikepacking with a six year old, riding towards a historic hut
Bikepacking with a six year old, stopping for lollies
Bikepacking with a six year old, helping to put up the tent
Bikepacking with a six year old , helping to read the map
Bikepacking with a six year old by Mattie Gould
Bikepacking with a six year old by Mattie Gould

Tips for Bikepacking with Kids

Here’s a couple of tips that worked for me and helped me encourage my six year old out there for his first bikepacking trip:

  • Keep it short – this is totally dependent on how confident and competent your kid is. For our overnighted we rode (pushed) about 7km to the campspot. This was close to the edge of the abilities of my little boy as he’s very used to cycling 6km into town along a flat bike path, but hasn’t done many longer rides.
  • Give them responsibilities – having a job to do keeps kids busy. For our trip, Heni had a map to follow and route markers to look out for. He was also responsible for carrying his own clothes, toys, head torches and a few other bits and pieces in bags strapped to his bike.
  • Lollies – Heni doesn’t have lollies very often at home, but for this ride he was in charge of the lolly supply and in charge of when lolly stops would be. Which turned out to be every five minutes!
  • Home comforts – in addition to our food and camping gear, we also packed four hardcover books and a card game. The extra weight didn’t matter as we were riding at Heni’s pace and the game was a welcome addition to our camp.
  • Let them help – in addition to map reading and lolly stops, Heni was in charge of blowing up the pillows, helping erect the tent and unrolling sleeping bags. We’d done a few trial runs in the garden during lockdown, so this was a fun and useful extra job for him.
  • Be prepared to change your plans – the route we took (which I should have scouted first!) was way harder than I’d anticipated. Meaning it took longer than planned. No big deal, we changed our plans slightly and took a shortcut to shorten the route. We were also less than an hour from the car at any one point of the ride and I was totally prepared to abandon the ride at any time, and head for home. A little hardship is part of the experience, but if the little one really starts hating the trip, it’s probably best to stick a pin in it and try again another time.
  • Every kid is different – these are some of the tips that worked for me and Heni, but ultimately you know your kid best, so do whatever works. I should note that Heni and I have done a fair few overnight trips together camping and sleeping in the van before this one. Some of those early trips ended early because he missed his mum, or wet the bed, or ‘just wanted to go home’.
  • This particular trip was nearly a year in the making. We talked about it often, and by we I mean me, and it took a while for me to convince Heni that it was a good idea.
  • Hopefully it will be the first of many trips together. But there’s no rush and there’s plenty of fun things to do together in the mean time.