Cargo Bike Camping (wittco posted on March 17th, 2012 )

We rolled into the Estacada Thriftway parking lot, Oregon. The rain had subsided, bringing with it a refreshing splash of needed sunshine. We parked our bikes in a group just left of the door, next to the propane can exchange. In the front of the store, a troop of Girl Scouts put forth their most compelling sales pitches. One scout was dressed in a cookie costume and greeted people to the store. Another scout danced about with a sparkling pinwheel. And a third scout, clearly the youngest in the troop, yelled out, “Free cookies—just four dollars!” and everyone enjoyed the silliness of youth.


There was no hurry. This was a well timed stop before traveling the last stretch of highway 224 and forest road along a PGE reservoir, to reach McIver State Park, about 4 miles away. However, my wife and I started 48 miles prior in North East Portland, OR.

My wife, Ruhiyyih, and I talked about going camping this spring and the possibility of traveling there by bike. The next day, in my inbox was an email from Matt Picio (peachy-o not pissy-o) that Cycle Wild would lead their first bike camping trip of the season.

If you have not gone on a Cycle Wild bike camping trip, I recommend it. Get on their email list and utilize the abundant information regarding routes and campsites.

loading up

Our bikes of choice were a Yuba Mundo v.3 with Go-Getter bags, and a Bullitt John Player Spezial with a repurposed Navy storage box. On these bikes, we carried it all, and even more (probably too much). Clearly, a person can go bike camping with a lightweight road bike as the rest of our group did. We don’t own road bikes, so with knowledge of what we were doing we loaded up our cargo bikes.

Route to Gresham

Leaving Inner Portland
Biking around Portland is something my wife and I often do on a Saturday, so this morning started like many, as if on a ride to a café. We took a leisurely roll through town, over Alameda Ridge, to southeast Portland.

Multi-Use Path on the west side of I-205
A highlight of the trip was using this multi-use path. I had not used this path before. Knowing of its existence opens so much more of the Portland area. It is a fast way to travel north or south along the east side of Portland. I found the path clean and open with plenty of ways to exit into neighborhoods and commerce. A bonus is that a MAX line parallels this path.

Springwater Trail
This is a great trail if you want a ride that has the feel of the country but close to Portland. The Springwater trail is a leisurely ride through county brush and trees, on a smooth path, with a bit of industrial here and there and before you know it, you are in Gresham. I know what the trip from Portland to Gresham is like on the freeway. The Springwater Trail is nicer.


A little after 10 am, we pulled in to the MAX station at the end of the Blue Line (Cleveland St), and met up with our group; there were 8 camping this weekend. Our group had ridden MAX out to this point. We could not. Cargo bikes are not allowed on MAX so we road the previous 20 miles. These previous 20 miles were my favorite as we road on paths that connected together locations I had not known were so accessible by bikeways. From Gresham to McIver State Park is a tad over 32 miles.

Route from Gresham to McIver State Park

Bike Camping

The thing about a cargo bike is that it can carry a great deal of weight, and on the flat, the weight is almost unnoticeable. It is not until a hill that the pace goes from 20 mph to something more like 10 mph.

We were the slower moving people on bikes for the trip. Gratefully, Tomas stayed with Group 2 (Ruhiyyih and I) as we made our way, slowly, over the rolling hills. Group 1 was always in sight, but far out in front. Tomas knew the way. Next time, I will have a GPS or full map so that we can be our own group. It is hard to not feel responsible for slowing a group down, when you do, actually, move slower. We moved at a consistent pace, like a tortoise, working our way to camp.

Amisigger Hill was outstanding. A 300 foot elevation drop over 1.37 miles. What a rush.
While not a hill I wanted to bike back up (And we didn’t, the route home circumvented the hill, leading toward Clackamas, OR), the hill was super to blast down. I do not have a speedometer on my bike, but typically, I go fast down hills. This is due to (a) my cargo bike weighing a great deal, and (b) I happen to like speed and push these situations.

Bike Camping

We set up our camp with intermittent rain; enjoyed a hot meal and beverage; and relaxed with the conversation of our group. Everyone in the group was new to us. New people. New contacts. New friends. A bonus of taking this adventure was the people we met. We went to bed at a reasonable time, knowing that we had a long haul of 40 miles ahead of us.

One of the most important traits of any activity is knowing when to accept that an end has been reached. This end was at a 76 gas station in Barton, OR, about 10 miles after leaving camp Sunday morning. Ruhiyyih had injured her knee.

We regrouped at the gas station for the second of three flats our group would experience this day. While Wyatt worked on his flat, a gusher heard 12 feet away, Ruhiyyih and I sough out our options for being picked up by someone with a large enough vehicle for our bikes and cargo. We sent out a text of need and Quentin responded that he would leave in 10 minutes.

If you need to stop in the area of Barton, OR, let me recommend the 76 gas station. It has an inside sitting area where we did, indeed sit, solving the Sunday crossword, munching on jo-jos and sipping coffee, until our ride arrived.

A final downpour of hail assaulted us as Quentin and I loaded the bikes on his truck. It was the end of this trip, but the enjoyment will be repeated again. We will go back to McIver. It is a nice spot and the ride is beautiful. Heading back will allow us to take another trip, using a known route, so we can focus on the process.

Camping by cargo bike is possible. The benefit of a cargo bike for camping is the amount of cargo that can be carried due to frame design and increased weight capacity. It is not for everyone.

Partially Packet Camping Box

For us, it would work well because we have 4 children. Cargo bikes open up the possibilities of bike camping with our kids. My wife and I could carry the gear, and our children could just bike. If needed, along the way, we could carry a child on our cargo bike, giving them a break.

Cargo Camping photo set

8 Responses

  1. Eric Bergson says:

    Thanks for writing the next episode of Portlandia!!!

    • wittco says:

      HA! Funny, Eric. I like the way you think. You write the episode and send it to them and I will loan you my cargo bikes. Whaddayathink?

  2. Michael Henry says:

    This is my first read off this site and I enjoyed this post. I’ve didn’t know the type of cargo bike in your pictures even existed. I camp off my bike but it is a hybrid and I use a more traditional trail pack to haul my gear.

    I got here by the REI link on facebook.

    • wittco says:

      Michael, thank you for the read and comment. The cargo bikes in the photo are two of the more common styles. The orange one,a Yuba Mundo, is a “long tail” whereas the black one, a Bullitt, is a “longjohn.” I will have to check out the REI post. That was nice of them. I saw their tweet of our camping trip.

  3. Suzanne says:

    Super cool bikes! I’ve been wanting to do some big bike adventure and I keep hearing of more and more that sound interesting! There’s a local bike group here in Fort Collins that did a bike camping trip this past summer, but it was just an overnight mostly on road bikes. A friend of mine did a ride across 12 different states that sounds like the most amazing experience.

  4. Travis A. Wittwer says:

    Check out Stacy Biskers’ cargo camping trip,

  5. [...] Andy … looks like you had the same camping spot that Ruhiyyih and I did, but much (MUCH) better weather than we had for our ride in March. [...]

  6. Sounds fun! I enjoyed cargo bike camping with my own family this weekend. Here are a few photos from that:

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