Bike Touring Sleep Solutions
Bike touring and sleeping away from home go hand in hand. It’s would be pretty difficult to go on a bike tour and sleep at home every night.
In this podcast episode, myself and my co-host Adam discuss various means of accommodation which will come in useful throughout a bike tour, such as:
paid accommodation, being hosted, hosted camping, paid camping, wild camping and stealth camping
The most common type of paid accommodation that will come to mind for most people is a hotel. Hotels can be very useful while on a bike tour for many reasons. One of the most common reasons to stay in a hotel while on a bike tour is when touring through a city and wanting to spend some time exploring the sights and cultural attractions available.
Of course, this is not the only reason to stay in a hotel. Other common reasons are when doing a short tour and not wanting to carry as much gear, when travelling in an area where hotels are very cheap, when it is too dangerous to wild camp at night, when avoiding inclement weather, or when wanting to take a break from sleeping in the tent.
While hotels are a good option for paid accommodation, when in North America and Western Europe, hotels are by no means cheap and it may interest the traveller to find cheaper options, such as motels, bed and breakfasts, and hostels. The advantage of a motel is that that they are generally cheaper and easier to bring your bike into your room. Bed and breakfasts allow you the opportunity to get to know a local family and enjoy some of their cultural dishes. Hostels are generally the cheapest option, particularly when touring solo. Before checking into a hostel, one should be aware that depending where you are in the world, a hostel can be quite the party place, and if you are looking for peace and quiet it may not be your best option.
There are several different ways to go about finding hosted accommodation. Two of the most popular methods are through websites such as Couchsurfing and Warmshowers. Couchsurfing originally came about as a means for backpackers to find likeminded people where they could sleep on the couch/floor/spare bed, get to know local people and later, hopefully provide an in-kind service to travellers coming through their area. Couchsurfing started in 2004 and has grown tremendously and now has approximately 14 million users around the world. Warmshowers was started in 2012 as a means for cyclists to find likeminded hosts which could offer a “warm shower” and a place to sleep for the night while people were on tour. Although a much smaller community, Warmshowers is my recommendation for cyclists as it is easy to verify the authenticity of someone’s cycling passion.
Obviously it is necessary to be careful when staying with strangers and you should only stay with people after you have carefully scrutinized their profile and read their references and reviews.
Another common means of hosted accommodation is simple being invited in by locals when bicycle touring. This is particularly common when cycle touring in countries such as Turkey and Iran, but can happen anywhere in the world. These authentic situations are my favourite as they provide us the greatest opportunity to see and experience the culture of the country we are cycling in.
Whenever you are camping it is important that you are aware of what animals are in the area and what kinds of problems they may cause for you. This could be anything from sand flies on the beach, scorpions in the desert, snakes in the jungle, lions and elephants in Africa, bears in North America and dogs anywhere.
It’s a good habit to not cook, wash, brush teeth and go to the toile away from the area that you are sleeping. Some animals can be very problematic and sometimes even dangerous.
While Adam and I were trying to figure out what it would be called when you pitch your tent on someone’s property or at a temple, church, fire station or police station we figured that hosted camping is a name that quite correctly encompasses the fact that your are camping while at the same time having access to facilities such as water, toilets and possibly even wifi.
One should never feel shy to ask someone if it would be alright to pitch a tent on their property, as people are generally extremely welcoming and enjoy to do nice things for people. By listening to this podcast recording, you can find out all our rationale for this. You can also watch one of Adam’s videos where we cycled together in Cambodia and did some hosted camping at a temple: Cambodia: A dark history but a bright future.
Another good sleep option is to stay in paid camping spots. The main reason why one might want to do this is because wild camping may be illegal or that you want a chance to access some facilities in order to get some laundry done or want to have access to electricity.
Probably one of the most common reasons to stay in a paid camp spot is that when in the early days of the bike tour, you may want to slowly perfect your camping skills and are still getting used to the tour, so by being in a paid site, it allows you to have some access to conveniences while allowing you to camp without fear of reprisals.
Be aware that paid camping spots put you at higher risk of having your belongings stolen.
The last reason why I think paid camping spots are a good option are when cycle touring with children, as it allows the parents to let their guard down slightly and the children can run freely without the fear of vehicles or wild animals. In Episode 2 of Bike Tour Adventures, Fin Madden talks about his bike tour through Europe on a Brompton and why he enjoyed paid camp spots so much.
Wild camping is perhaps one of the most enjoyable ways of spending the night while out on a bike tour. This affords the bike tourer the chance to sleep in places with some of the most beautiful vistas available, getting to sleep while watching the night sky or even the Milky Way, and to wake up looking over beautiful lakes and across amazing mountain ranges.
Wild camping is simple the process of camping in places where there is no access to facilities and you are completely on your own. One of the most amazing countries to wild camp is Sweden because of allemansrätten (everyman’s right), which is the freedom to roam, a law that allows the general public the right to access public lands and even private land under certain condition. Norway and Finland have similar rules while Canada allows wild camping on Crown land and the USA allows wild camping in US national forests and grasslands.
Many countries have rules as to where you can wild camp, with some being easier than others. Before openly wild camping, be sure to search online as to the rules and expectations of travellers.
The final type of camping to consider is stealth camping. This is a style of camping where you make every possible effort to avoid being seen, usually due to the fact that you are probably not allowed to be camping in that particular spot.
When stealth camping it is important to make sure you go at least 100 metres into the forest so that in the event you are using a light after dark, there is less chance of it being noticed. When stealth camping without being “hidden” you generally cook while it is still light and then only pitch your tent after dark and avoiding to use lights and make noise to as not to attract attention…aka…police. In my bike 2019 bike tour from Ottawa to Quebec City with my wife, we spent one such night on the grassy part of a heritage sight and were lucky enough to not attract any attention. It is also important to wake-up at before sunrise and get the tent all packed up before cooking breakfast and once again attracting attention.
I hope this information helps give you a greater understanding of all the different types of camping and places where you can sleep. If you haven’t listened to the podcast episode, click the play button in the header at the top of the page.
Enjoy your camping experiences. There is nothing in the world like travel and sleeping in wild places.
Cheers and keep on pedalling.