bikes canada general moosling trip reports

Elk Lakes overnighter

Last minute trips are the best trips! We got an invite to bikepack out to Elk Lakes, and who could say no to that?

We’d been kind of planning to hike Arethusa Cirque with Tanya on  the Saturday morning. But it had snowed a lot, and hiking motivation wasn’t high. I struggle more with hiking than biking, and the boy wasn’t in a hiking mood. So rather than fight that, we decided to keep it short, and get to the trailhead for the bike trip.

It was a bit chilly – the forecast had been threatening snow, or maybe freezing rain, or maybe just to be generally unpleasant. We gambled and won. Except for having to carry all those pesky waterproof layers. Thankfully the boy is carrying a bigger load on his bike these days, which helps matters.

We were taking it slow – our friends were already in at Elk Lake, and we’d ended up leaving the trailhead with plenty of daylight up our sleeves (or in the sky, which is where you’d usually keep it).

Anyway, we were pleasantly surprised when we got to Elk Pass to discover this rather awesome gateway feature had been installed.

Some online research showed that it had been installed just recently, and was a joint project between Elkford , Sparwood and Fernie schools and the Ktunaxa nation. The students chose the imagery and helped carve the poles – there’s one pole representing the human elements of the valley, and one pole representing the animals.


Very cool.

Anyway, it was all downhill from here! Thankfully only literally and not figuratively.

Down into British Columbia we went, with the day actually warming up and turning out pretty pleasant.

On arrival, we walked into Elk Lakes to lie in the sun and throw rocks, and not fall in the lake (much).

After some wood chopping, fire feeding and rabbit chasing outside, it was time for dinner and lego and other important cabin-based fun.

Bikepackers assemble! Elk Lakes Cabin is one of the few bike accessible Alpine Club huts, and definitely a fun destination. It’s not the best beginner/kids bikepack destination though, just because of the number of hills that are a bit demoralising on the way in and out. But if you’re ok with pushing your bike up a hill occasionally – then have at it! It is only 10.5km after all.

Some of the group was hiking out, but the seven of us were biking. At least, mostly biking. Except for the hills that were too steep to bike up, or the hills that were too steep to bike down.

The best bit about joining other families on trips like this is seeing the kids biking together, hanging out and chatting (and  assuming as a result that this is a totally normal thing that all kids do MUAH HA HA HAH!).

All outdoor clothes and gear should only be sold in bright colours. I love the current colour trends!

There’s nothing like seeing kids having a blast battling up enormous hills on their tiny heavy bikes to inspire you to be as awesome as them.

And there’s nothing like convincing a tired kid to keep pushing a bike up a hill to make you really appreciate the times when you’re out on the trail alone and it’s just your own cranky hungry tired meltdowns  you have to deal with.

(He didn’t actually have a meltdown, but it did need some entertainment and bribery to keep him going for a while there)

Once we were over the pass (where we stopped for a nice long lunch in the sun), it was pretty fast going. The other two boys had fatter tyres than Finn, at 2.8″ and 4″ and they really handled the rough track well compared to his tiny 2.1″ tyres – he might have some fatter tyres in his future.

Beautiful day to ride out, and a great trip. Let there be more bikepacking trips with kids!

bikes canada general moosling trip reports family overnighter: Part II

A post that was split into two not because I have so much story to tell, but because there are so many photos it was getting a little overwhelming.

Before everyone started heading off on their separate ways, we got some photos. Chris and Jeremy and their daughters had arrived at dusk last night, having made it through on the Big Elbow side of the loop. The kids were absolute troopers, and were all set to head back via the Little Elbow side today.

The one hiking family set off back via Elbow Lake, and the rest of us set off on Big Elbow – which hadn’t exactly been the plan originally, but who wants to do an out and back if you have the option to do a loop? And we knew it should be technically possible to get the Chariot through, and seeing as Team Jeremy and Chris had done it… well.

The Big Elbow side of the loop is definitely more technical. Between trail that’s more singletrack in nature (and techy singletrack with rock gardens and roots), and the rebuilt post-flood trail further north, it’s definitely the harder side of the loop.

We made it though! With our vast array of bikes, skinny tyres, fat tyres, towing luggage and kids.

The reroutes built after the flood involve a few steep up and downs, on loose trail. Good hike-a-bike practice!

It’s definitely still beautiful out there though, and one of the advantages of climbing up out of the river valley occasionally are the views you get as a result.

Mike was a bit dubious about this being a Chariot-friendly trail. In my defense I never claimed it to be Chariot-“friendly”, just Chariot-doable, which is a completely different matter.  And at least Zion wasn’t in it when it flipped!

It was warming up as the day moved on. Blue skies, lovely sun, hot summer bikepacking, Canadian Rockies style. And the boy was learning the art of standing on the pedals and cranking up steep climbs.

The river made for a nice cool break by the time we reached it.

Kat and Zion had actually made it over to the far side of the river, but decided to go back and have another go at it, just for fun.  And they made it! I was convinced to try and ride across – it didn’t end so well, my legs just didn’t have enough go in them for the final push, and I scored myself a bruise on my knee that lasted a few weeks.

But a river is a good excuse to stop and snack and throw rocks, even when you don’t have to bandage up a Megan with bleeding legs.

And then onwards – the final push started to feel a bit bakingly hot and dusty, and cheering on the boy proved more challenging. His legs and spirits were beginning to fade.

But then – the suspension bridge that’s essentially the finish line. We made it!

(Oh, and don’t pay any attention to the elapsed time in the Strava thing below, I’m pretty sure it’s counting moving time only, which is only vaguely accurate for this sort of thing … from memory it took about 5 hours to ride out?)

Doug’s write up of the trip is here – his son Tadhg is Finn’s new hero after a couple of bikepacking trips together this summer. Thanks to everyone who came, I’m pretty sure it was fun, but I was so fatigued it was hard to properly enjoy it!

bikes canada general moosling trip reports family overnighter: Part I

A tentative booking of Tombstone campground earlier in the year turned into a crew  of seven families heading out to the campground, one way or another. In hindsight it might not have been the best option for a big family trip – the idea had been that it’s ideally placed for quick access from the Elbow Lake side, but in reality that side isn’t great for bikepacking, and access from the other side means a longer day for small kids. Oh well! Everyone needs an epic every now and again.

A few of us started from the Little Elbow campground trailhead (whatever the proper name of that trailhead is… the one at the end of the 66!)

Not sure who this cool dude is. Too cool for the likes of me, that’s for sure.

We were riding in via the Little Elbow trail, which means we got to check out the fancy new bridge a few kilometres in. And I could nap on it – my energy levels were still not super high.

After the bridge comes the turn-off to Romulus Campground, and then – the big big hill. Well, really the trail just keeps climbing until you hit the pass, but that first steep hill often feels like the worst of it.

There was a fair bit of bike pushing, but then it got a little more rideable again. If you’re sneaky, you can convince your partner to tow a Chariot with a whole lot of food in it, while you tow your son. Bikepacking in style!

Then we were over the pass and away! Nothing but downhill to go!

And down into the campsite where we  scored some camping spots overlooking the valley. And got to nap some more.

We met Doug there, and the other families started turning up, arriving from various directions and by various modes of travel.

We scored a pretty sweet spot for the tent – and yes, had left the fly at home to save weight.

Zion even learnt how to make fire! Although me, I spent most of the evening napping, and then went to bed as early as I could get away with.

bikes general moosling

Packing for bikepacking with kids

Before the Moosling was born, we went on a big bike tour of the more traditional style, with Surly Long Haul Truckers and panniers. But even on that ride we were seeking out gravel roads and connectors as much as we could. Our heart was with the gravel and singletrack, and so our first overnight bike trip with him four years ago turned into the beginning of our love of bikepacking – and the beginning of our trying to acquire better gear for it too.

I’ve been thinking about packing lists, and the logistics of travelling with kids recently. Partly because we just took Kat and Mike on their first bikepacking trip. Partly because I was getting ready to present at the Bikepack Canada conference on the subject of bikepacking with kids. And partly because someone (thanks Christina!) asked about it on my last bikepacking post.

First up, here’s some of the setups we’ve used over the last few years.


Just a Chariot with a backpack strapped to it and a shopping bag hanging off the back. I think I was just carrying a backpack too.


This is the year we got the Tout Terrain Singletrailer! It meant we were able to get out into all sorts of terrain that just wasn’t accessible with the Chariot, and opened up a lot more local route options without having to pedal on gravel roads.

We still didn’t have any ‘proper’ bikepacking gear, but were just wearing running backpacks and strapping stuff to our bikes (not very well). I upped my water carrying capacity by clamping bottle holders to my fork – which can go wrong if they’re not on solidly, but it was fine for this trip.


We got awesome bike bags from Porcelain Rocket! This made life much easier, but in hindsight enabled us to start bringing along more gear than we had done in 2013, and so a heavier load.


The switch to travelling with the trail-a-bike. Our setup was otherwise mostly the same, but we ended up strapped a seat bag and a handlebar bag to the handlebars of the trail-a-bike.


More of the same in 2016, although we’ve started managing to get out bikepacking with other families. More of this to come in 2017 I hope! And maybe even in winter 2016-2017.

Below is our list of gear we’d consider taking on a one or two night trip, showing how it’s morphed over the years as we acquired new gear and the kiddo got bigger. Some items are luxury items that we’d only bring along on an overnight trip – others we could get away without on a short trip, but would definitely want along for a longer trip.

Disclaimer: With only one kid we can get away with taking more luxuries while still travelling lighter than people out there with extra kiddos.

As always, your mileage may vary – your essentials may be unnecessary for our comfort, and our favourite items may seem weird and unusual to you. We’re always working on refining our packing and gear too – slowly, some of our heavier items are being replaced (yes, I’m super excited that we’ll finally be getting rid of our ancient pock-marked Aluminium ex-Tefal coated pots this Christmas) and we’re always trying out new ways of doing things. The best way to find out what you need is to head out for an overnight trip and start experimenting.

The bike-packing with small kid packing list:

We used to use a Tarp Tent Rainshadow 2. It was very light (1.2kg) and packed small, but we found we were often getting cold in it, and there wasn’t a lot of space in the tent given how large the footprint was. Then for a while we were using our old Big Agnes Seedhouse 2 (1.36kg). It’s a great tent, but as Finn got bigger, we decided to upgrade to a Big Agnes Copper Spur UL3. It’s what we’re using now, and is a little heavier at 1.8kg, but has kept as perfectly warm when we’ve been using it in temperatures as cold as -5oC. If the weather’s looking great we’ve left the fly behind and it’s just 1.3kg.

We really like having the mesh to keep the bugs out. This summer hasn’t been too bad, but sometimes we’re camping in a sea of bugs. And having two doors and two vestibules is great for being able to sneak in and out of the tent around a fast asleep kid (or tired out parent).

Sleep system
We’ve used a range of things here. When Finn was small, it was our old Prolite Thermarests, plus just throwing some extra layers on the floor of the tent. I always seemed to end up sleeping on the cold tent floor without a mat (and despite my best efforts, I just don’t seem to sleep well without a mat).  So we tried bringing a basic foam/ridge mat for him. That never worked out well, it wouldn’t stay put. These days we’re all on Neoair Thermarests, two regular length and one 3/4. That’s working well, and they’re pretty light.

Once he got big enough that he wouldn’t fit in fleecey sleep suits, I made a down quilt and we tried sharing that. As he grew, it no longer really worked to have us all in there. So we tried having him in an enLIGHTened equipment ProtegeX sleeping bag (synthetic insulation, very light). When he was small he would always squirm out of it and end up under the down quilt with Alex, while I tried to drape his tiny sleeping bag over me to maintain some level of warmth when I was kicked off my thermarest and out from under the quilt.

But the past couple of summers he’s been really good about sleeping in his bag, and then we’ll either bring two sleeping bags for the adults, or just the down quilt if it’s warmer. Sleeping bag liners also help for extra warmth.

I’ll be hacking up my 15 year old down sleeping bag and converting it into a kids bag for him this winter, as he’s getting to the point of outgrowing his Enlightened Equipment bag.

Cooking and eating
Here we just use what we already had – an ancient MSR pot set, heavy spandongles, 3x titanium sporks. We’re currently using an MSR Pocket Rocket for a stove. Cutting knife & spreading knife.  Small and light washing kit – teatowel, scrubber, Dr Bronners (we don’t always bring these). Also a couple of flatpack plates/bowls from Orikaso – they’re bombproof and have been with us since 2008. Sometimes we’ll bring mugs as well.

Food and water
Water – depending where we’re going we try to carry at least 1L each. We’ve tried using a water filter, Steripen, Aquatabs (or similar) and Pristine, but our favourite is the Pristine system. Having to spend the time sitting around while we are getting water is never an issue, it’s actually preferred for entertainment value.
Headlamps x3
Dinner- we often do some kind of pasta, tuna, cheese and veggies variant, but are probably going to get more into dehydrated meals in the future. Easier to manage in camp if we’re just boiling water!

We try to bring enough clothes so we’ll be warm and dry when it’s as cold as it’s going to be, but no spares for the grown-ups if it’s a short trip (and minimal spares on a longer trip). Everyone’s clothes are stored in a different colour light-weight dry bag. The default pack list for all of us is:

Legs: shorts, sometimes long pants, sometimes thermals, sometimes rainproofs, often fleecy pants for the kid,underpants, socks, shoes. No extra shoes for camp usually.
Top: t-shirt/jersey, then some combo of wind shirt/light shell/light fleece/softshell/heavy shell jacket/down sweater – weather dependent.
Extremities: gloves (sometimes also warmer gloves/shell mitts), buff, toque/warm hat, sunglasses. No extra shoes for camp usually.

For Finn we’ll bring extra pants, underpants, socks and upper body layer. When he was small we tried cloth diapers (a hassle to cart around wet, but doable overnight), disposable diapers (last a long time and light before use) and biodegradable diapers (as we’re alpine so often, the main benefit was being able to shred them into backcountry long-drops, or burn them, if necessary).

Phones (loaded with audiobooks and podcasts for listening to half the night, when kicked off thermarest by restive toddler)
EOS 7D Camera
Spot tracker
On longer trips we’ll bring cache batteries

Other bits and pieces
Sunscreen, chapstick, 1000 WETWIPES!, hand sanitiser, TP, toothbrushing things, first aid kid (we keep the first aid kit pretty light, but include tick remover, fire, bandaids, sling & roll bandages, hand warmers). Spare plastic bags (especially when he was younger, for diapers or possible potty training accidents). Some of these things are left behind if we’re just going for a night, or depending on the weather, but wet wipes always come. Sometimes a pack of cards. Bear spray and bear bangers. Plus helmets, bikes, bike repair gear!

I’m looking forward to refining our setup a little more for next summer, and lightening it a little. But hopefully getting in our first winter bikepacking trips before then too!