S24O: Family bike camping

S24O bike camping with a family of four: Like car camping, except with bikes.

Grant Petersen’s “Sub 24 Hour Overnight” (S24O) bike camping trips seem typically to be done on touring bikes with racks, decent panniers, and light weight camping gear. My good panniers have disappeared (no idea where they’re at right now), and my cheap panniers are falling apart. Inspired by the guys with milk crates bungeed to their bikes, I bolted a large plastic tub to the heavy duty rear rack on the Urbana Bicycle (120 lb capacity!).

Ghetto Bike Camping

I stuffed the tub with your typical cheap car camping gear for a family of four: a large tent, two burner camp stove with fuel, griddle, utensils, sleeping bags and pads, camp food and drink, and even our small pet dog.

We’re fortunate to have a state park with bicycle camping just a couple of miles from our home in Santa Cruz County. A quick call to ensure the bike camping was available, and my family and I were there.

S24O: Bicycle Camping Only

The Urbana bicycle rear rack comes with bolts. I used fender washers to ensure the plastic didn’t rip loose. This setup worked well for the approximately 50 lbs of gear I had loaded up in the tub, even when cycling on the fire roads across the state park.

Powder Mill Road

Going home

My daughter and I were going down Pipeline Road when we got to the super steep section that she had problems negotiating, so she walked and I strapped her bike on top of the big pile of camping gear.

The plastic tub survived about a quarter mile of this is when the plastic failed around the bolts and the entire pile dumped out the back of my bike. Oops! I used some rope to perfect the ghetto look by tying the whole pile of gears and the tub remains to the top and sides of the rack.

What’s your S24O adventure story?


  1. Great post, man…thanks for sharing your weekend with us. My S24O adventures are yet to come. My kids just have to get a bit older and we'll be off on our own adventures. I can't wait.


  2. Brilliant mod to the bike – so simple and practical!

    btw – I'm planning to take Daughter camping for a night this summer on our tandem. It'll be her first night under stars, & I was thinking of simple rough camping – any tips?

  3. Looks like you had a great time! I have to go a little further for good camping, but it's good. I was going to go with friends last weekend 65 kms (40 miles) out of city, which was the Victoria Day long weekend in Canada, so we had 3 days off, but then it snowed! I am hoping to get out and do a trip soon now that it's warmed up.

  4. I love the Interwebs — I do something once and I'm an expert! 🙂 I've done S24O trips solo before, but this was the first time with the whole family.

    My wife likes biking, and she likes camping; she tolerated combining the two activities but wasn't thrilled with it. If she's gonna bike, she wants to be pampered. If she's gonna camp, she prefers to arrive at comfort. For a first time under the stars, you might think about easing your daughter into it.

    Another factor: My son's a teen and he purposely took a very roundabout route so that he wouldn't be seen biking with a huge backcountry backpack and his dorky dad.

  5. I've done something similar, but I had a strip of thin plywood in the bottom of the crate, with the bolts threaded through the plywood to keep the plastic from ripping,

    But my crate was small. Does heavily loading that crate, like you appeared to have in the photos, make your center of mass too high and make the bike feel unstable?

  6. I was planning to use a thin board as a large washer like you suggest to spread the load around the entire bottom surface of the tub, but didn't have any scraps handy.

    The fender washers would have worked just fine, even with the bicycle on top for most of the ride. It was only when I pointed the heavily laden bike up a 15% grade — with my daughter's bike perched precariously on top — that the whole thing tipped back and the plastic failed. I wish I took a photo of the whole thing when I had the chance.

    I expected swaying, but that bike rode rock solid even with all that stuff over the rear tire. On level ground the load was barely noticeable, even through turns at around 12 mph.

  7. We want to try bike camping this summer. From SF we can camp at Angel Island or Pan Toll (on Mt. Tam) or Kirby Cove or, if we feel ambitious, we could try Samuel Tailor. I have been trying to work out the logistics in my mind. My 2 older kids (15 and 11) are both pretty seasoned riders and each has a bike and luggage that they can use to help haul what we need. My youngest (5) kind of becomes baggage of his own in situations like this, so one adult becomes a kid hauler and the other one ends up with a lot of the heavy gear. We shall see.

  8. Hello Richard,
    I have been thinking about doing a bicycle overnight with my family, two adults and a 1 and 2.5 year old. Do you know of any route/camping site combos that could be accessed with two adult bikes, one with the ibert seat, and one with a two-kid trailer? Thanks in advance!

  9. Did my first s24o a couple of weeks ago. It was meant to be a three day/two camping nights trip to my sisters in the UK’s Lake District National Park. Unfortunately I picked the hottest day of the year 30+ C to set out and by the time I’d done 22 miles my head was frying so I stopped at a previously sussed out campsite overnight and returned home the following day. I’ll try again when the weather cools but S24O’s are definitely on my agenda for the future. It was a good test of my camping gear and to assess wether my old body liked crawling around the floor of a tent.

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