Adventure Cycling Association Forum

Bicycle Travel => General Discussion => Topic started by: Juan Burro on February 05, 2009, 10:35:09 am

 
Title: ‘Camping’: Is it really necessary?
Post by: Juan Burro on February 05, 2009, 10:35:09 am
I’ve criss-crossed Europe by bike, but always with a credit-card rather than tent. I happily manage 100 miles/day on a light tourer, staying at whatever ‘indoor’ accommodation (bricks, mortar, shower, bar etc) is available. I’m beginning to scheme a coast-to-coast US tour for 2010, but I keep encountering references to ‘camping.’ I appreciate that the US has a few more empty spaces than Europe, but isn’t it possible to route a tour hotel-to-hotel, comfy-bed-to-comfy-bed, nice-warm-bath-to-nice-cold-beer etc, rather than being weighed down with tents etc? Any advice/pointers would be most welcome, J’.
Title: Re: ‘Camping’: Is it really necessary?
Post by: paddleboy17 on February 05, 2009, 12:03:13 pm
I can't speak for all of the continental US...

I would think you could do a lot of the US riding from hotel to hotel.  I just don't think you could do everything that way.

In 2000, I did part of the continental divide route in New Mexico.  We carried 14 lliters of water each, as we did not think we could resupply everyday.  We went three days without resupply, because there was nothing.  A lot of the streams on the map were dry ravines.  On the 3rd day, we stopped at ranch and asked for water and were chased off by the owner.  We found water later on that day at a ranger station.

So it all depends on your route.
Title: Re: ‘Camping’: Is it really necessary?
Post by: DU on February 05, 2009, 02:17:25 pm
I think if you were able to ride long days when needed it would be possible. I ran into a British couple in Kansas on the transam in 2006 E-W and they were staying at motels. They had a journal on CGOAB but I can't find it now, I know they made it to Oregon. They always made reservations for the next day upon arriving in a town. Being willing to stay off route would be helpful also.

Title: Re: ‘Camping’: Is it really necessary?
Post by: litespeed on February 05, 2009, 02:38:08 pm
If you can do 100 miles a day you will virtually always be able to find a motel or hotel, especially if you call ahead. I prefer campgrounds but, frankly, they are usually harder to find than motels. In my travels I am often amazed at how even the smallest, scruffiest town will have a motel or two. This is mainly a result of immigrants, usually Indians, buying up motels over the past 30 years or so and getting them operating. I think this is just great.
Title: Re: ‘Camping’: Is it really necessary?
Post by: staehpj1 on February 05, 2009, 03:04:24 pm
Crossing the US on the TA we never had trouble finding a place to camp with permission, but I can think of a lot of places that we didn't see motels.  Our preference was to stay with hosts first, at free camping spots next, at cheap campsites next, and KOA type places as a last resort.

I think there was at least one and probably a few places where the motels were 80-100 miles apart.  It may have been possible to cut the distance by modifying the route, but I am not sure.  It would require some long days at the least to avoid camping.  It is certainly possible though and folks have crossed the US without camping.
Title: Re: ‘Camping’: Is it really necessary?
Post by: Westinghouse on February 07, 2009, 06:17:37 am
I cycled and train toured all around western Europe. Rarely did I ever have a problem finding a hostel or B&B. Hostels were much less expensive in those days. The most expensive hostel for me was about $10.00 a day in Finland. Others ran about $5.00 to $7.00 or $8.00 a day. So far as I know, such prices do not exist in the USA for similar accomodations, and did not then either.

Absolutely, you can cycle tour the way you want. For me it is a matter of cash outlay. When I begin a tour I have enough money to stay in motels  every night which can be very expensive. The way I see it is this, for every night I can free-camp it is that much more money I can keep in the bank as opposed to spending it out. The way you sleep for the night is up to you. As for myself, I am not about to dish out $35.00 to $60.00 a night just for some shuteye. Besides, I like camping. What I do not like is staying without a shower for days on end. It is a trade-off.
Title: Re: ‘Camping’: Is it really necessary?
Post by: jfitch on February 07, 2009, 11:22:29 pm
See Mike Noonan's journal at CGOAB (http://www.crazyguyonabike.com/doc/?o=3Tzut&doc_id=2522&v=si). San Francisco to Boston, motel every night.
Title: Re: ‘Camping’: Is it really necessary?
Post by: Westinghouse on February 08, 2009, 07:30:03 am
I went to that tour site. The pictures were taking so long to load. It would have taken half the night. I did see his mileage chart and Motel chart and the points between which he traveled. That must have been one very expensive tour. I did not see a price list for his daily expences.

Here are the problems with motels, as I see it. You cannot always find them, and if you constrict your cycling to where you can get one, you may have to cut short your cycling day. They are too expensive for the most part. Is it really worth that much just for a few hours sleep and a shower? It is less adventurous and toughening to stay in motels. Of course, I say all this because I could not afford to stay in motels every night anyway. I might have enough money to do it, but what I can do and what I can really afford to do are different matters.

A good campsite can be just as good as a motel. However, after several days on the open road it is a welcomed comfort to spend two or three days in a motel. When I use motels I make a practice of entering in the morning, and staying the full 24 hours. That way I get the full benefit of the rest. On one tour I stayed in motels one day out of every four days on the road. On another tour I stayed in motels one day of every six days. On one 93-day tour I stayed in motels only five or six days total. The big thing with me is getting a good night's rest, and having a safe secure place to do it.
Title: Re: ‘Camping’: Is it really necessary?
Post by: Juan Burro on February 08, 2009, 02:52:41 pm
Many thanks for all posts (esp’ the link): I should perhaps reconsider my prejudice against cycle-camping, [stemming from a middle-aged pining to be still racing thoroughbreds, rather than traipsing with a fully-laden packhorse, (I even resent donning mudguards in winter)]. Also; with riding all-year-round over the inclement lumps-&-bumps of Northern England, I often return home cold, wet & tired, & so-so glad of the sanctuary of ‘indoors’.
I’m firming-up my ideas: possibly-camping / probably-B-&-Bs/motels, (/ perhaps a little support from my wife in a RV), & maybe-maybe this May/June rather than next!
My temped route is the Northern Tier, as it links my acquaintances/family in the US. (Though a good friend raised in Iowa, is aghast with the soulless prospect of pedalling across some of the blandest county in the world!)
May I narrow my initial query, & request comments regarding ‘camping-avoidance’ through the western 1/2 of the Northern Tier? Or is it time to invest in canvass & a fat back-wheel?
Cheers, J’.
Title: Re: ‘Camping’: Is it really necessary?
Post by: staehpj1 on February 08, 2009, 07:16:06 pm
I haven't done the NT, but the AC maps are pretty complete when it comes to listing available services.  I'd say if you are pretty sure about the trip the maps would answer your questions very well.  Hopefully some one here can give a better answer.
Title: Re: ‘Camping’: Is it really necessary?
Post by: FredHiltz on February 09, 2009, 08:24:57 am
I was willing to pay for motels, but carried tent, pad, and bag anyway. The seven pounds gave me the freedom to select the really beautiful outdoor spots and the security of knowing I could stop short of the next motel town if I had to (never did have to). It worked well for this traveler; I would do it again.

Fred
Title: Re: ‘Camping’: Is it really necessary?
Post by: John Nettles on February 18, 2009, 10:55:40 am
Just be sure to verify in advance that motel is still open if it is in a small town (under 10,000 people).  A lot of them have been shutting down the past couple of years and more will probably close.  I am planning a tour in Florida for April and am running into this situation.
Title: Re: ‘Camping’: Is it really necessary?
Post by: RussSeaton on February 18, 2009, 12:50:13 pm
May I narrow my initial query, & request comments regarding ‘camping-avoidance’ through the western 1/2 of the Northern Tier? Or is it time to invest in canvass & a fat back-wheel?

Actually in the USA its much, much, much easier to find motels everywhere in the EASTERN half of the country.  Its the western part where you may need the camping gear.  In the east the towns are plentiful and close together.  In the west its miles and miles and miles between the tiniest of little towns.  So your plan is exactly opposite of what it needs to be.  Motel the eastern half, say from Iowa-Minnesota-Missouri east.  And camp from North-South-Dakota-Nebraska-Kansas west.
Title: Re: ‘Camping’: Is it really necessary?
Post by: mucknort on February 18, 2009, 01:26:07 pm
As for myself, I am not about to dish out $35.00 to $60.00 a night just for some shuteye.
If it were that cheap, I might consider motels, but these days it seems $50 to $100 is closer to the going rate.
Title: Re: ‘Camping’: Is it really necessary?
Post by: jwaynelee on February 19, 2009, 01:09:14 pm
I’ve criss-crossed Europe by bike, but always with a credit-card rather than tent. I happily manage 100 miles/day on a light tourer, staying at whatever ‘indoor’ accommodation (bricks, mortar, shower, bar etc) is available. I’m beginning to scheme a coast-to-coast US tour for 2010, but I keep encountering references to ‘camping.’ I appreciate that the US has a few more empty spaces than Europe, but isn’t it possible to route a tour hotel-to-hotel, comfy-bed-to-comfy-bed, nice-warm-bath-to-nice-cold-beer etc, rather than being weighed down with tents etc? Any advice/pointers would be most welcome, J’.

It's possible to do a coast-to-coast tour of the USA and never camp at all, but I don't think I would try it for the following reasons:

1.  You mentioned that the US has "a few more empty spaces than Europe."  That is a major understatement, especially in the western states.  There are some days on the TransAmerica and the Northern Tier when you will be FORCED to do long days, despite the terrain, the weather, or how tired you are, in order to get to the next motel.

2.  I would think you would need to plan fairly far ahead and get reservations if you're not carrying even minimal camping gear as a backup.  For me, a major part of the fun of bike touring is NOT needing to plan ahead.

3.  Even if you plan far in advance, there's no guarantee that a small-town motel (especially in one of the tiny, remote towns in the western states) will even still be in business by the time you get there - especially give the current economic recession.

4.  I'm not sure if cost is an issue for you, but you might be surprised at how much even some of the "cheap" motels cost.  You will find very few $10 per night hostels in the USA.  You will rarely (if ever) find a motel for less than $30 or $35, and most of the time they will cost $50 or more.

I rode the TransAm in 2006, and only camped a few times, but there's no way I would have done the trip without carrying the camping stuff.  I would have constantly worried about finding the next motel.  I did the Northern Tier last summer, (and camped a lot more often), and I seriously doubt that it would be possible to do the whole thing without camping, ESPECIALLY once you get into the western states.

These people did the TransAm without camping at all:

http://www.crazyguyonabike.com/doc/?o=3Tzut&doc_id=2522&v=si>Mike Noonan
http://www.crazyguyonabike.com/doc/?o=3Tzut&doc_id=1496&v=ad>Janice and Jon Risley

I'm not aware of anyone who did an unsupported Norther Tier without camping at least a little bit.
Title: Re: ‘Camping’: Is it really necessary?
Post by: gjjmtnus on February 20, 2009, 12:42:44 pm
To answer a question with a question:  What experience does anyone happen to have with riding light (personally this is all via mt bike) and just carrying a waterproof bivy and maybe a compact tent in ones pack so as to avoid expensive planned stays?  Is this not what has to be done for riders of say the near 600 mile Colorado Trail? I haven't done this type of stay-over yet myself, but have been entertaining the possibility.  Given the trails and 4wd roads that I ride on my multiday tours, most of which are not amenable to trailers/panniers, staying at a hotel or meeting a friend in a support vehicle has to date been the only option at the end of a long strenuous mtb trek. 
Title: Re: ‘Camping’: Is it really necessary?
Post by: rabbitoh on February 20, 2009, 01:27:21 pm
My own opinion is that camping is probably the best way of meeting other travellers, especially other touring cyclists. I sometimes lock myself away in a motel room when I'm touring, when I would be better off in a campsite, mingling with other people. Admittedly, the sanctuary and comforts of a motel, are often too inviting too resist.

I have cycled the NT (admittedly 18 years ago now), and mixed up camping and motelling. I found that a number of the campsites did not have showers, so after two or three nights of that, I needed to stay in a motel. But carrying a tent and sleeping bag, gives you additional options, should things go wrong with either the bike or your own body during the day on the road. The distances between towns along the western section of the NT are vast. Small towns indicated on your maps, might just happen to be closed on the day you pass through. Be prepared, but most importantly, enjoy the ride.



Title: Re: ‘Camping’: Is it really necessary?
Post by: wanderingwheel on February 20, 2009, 01:55:25 pm
What experience does anyone happen to have with riding light (personally this is all via mt bike) and just carrying a waterproof bivy and maybe a compact tent in ones pack so as to avoid expensive planned stays?

I've done it.  For short trips during the rain season with a very light load, I'll carry a bivy and a sleeping bag liner rather than a sleeping bag.  Works for me, and everything can fit in a small backpack.  For longer trips I prefer the full load, but it is convenient to just pack a small bag and head out the door for a long weekend.  This set-up has even got me through mild snowstorms.

Sean
Title: Re: ‘Camping’: Is it really necessary?
Post by: indyfabz on February 20, 2009, 02:12:00 pm
"My own opinion is that camping is probably the best way of meeting other travellers, especially other touring cyclists. I sometimes lock myself away in a motel room when I'm touring, when I would be better off in a campsite, mingling with other people."

Camping is definiely the way to meet people.  And if you are travelling alone you sometimes get hospitality.  I was given half a home baked pie in CT and all the beer I could drink in NH.

You can also miss some spectaculr experiences slepping inside.  In Wisdom, MT on the TA route I almost opted for a motel over the Lion's Club park on the edge of town because the minute I got off my bike at the local grocery store the mosquitoes were on me like you know what.  I mentioned this to the cashier and he told me that the park had a screened-in porch.  I set up my tent inside the porch and later read by natural light after 9 p.m. while a nearly full moon set behind the snow-capped Bitteroot range.

Title: Re: ‘Camping’: Is it really necessary?
Post by: RussSeaton on February 20, 2009, 03:24:25 pm
What experience does anyone happen to have with riding light (personally this is all via mt bike) and just carrying a waterproof bivy and maybe a compact tent in ones pack so as to avoid expensive planned stays? 

How much weight or volume do you think you will save?  Taking the newest latest and greatest modern day camping materials.  A down sleeping bag can easily be less than 1 pound.  Maybe 13 ounces.  How much lighter is a bivy?  2 ounces maybe?  Big deal.  Tents are 3-4 pounds now days.  Fully functional 2 person tents.  And these can be pitched/carried with just the outer fly and omit the body.  Lose another 1-2 pounds.  How much lighter is your compact tent?  Unless you go with a plastic sheet as a tarp and an aluminum foil emergency blanket as sleeping bag, its hard to get much lighter than the newest tents and sleeping bags.  Why suffer with something else for no gain?  Yes I know the newest tents and sleeping bags of super light weight cost money.  But a transcontinental bike ride is 3 months.  Seems to me you would get your moneys worth.
Title: Re: ‘Camping’: Is it really necessary?
Post by: gjjmtnus on February 20, 2009, 04:39:04 pm
How much lighter is your compact tent?  Unless you go with a plastic sheet as a tarp and an aluminum foil emergency blanket as sleeping bag, its hard to get much lighter than the newest tents and sleeping bags.  Why suffer with something else for no gain?  Yes I know the newest tents and sleeping bags of super light weight cost money.  But a transcontinental bike ride is 3 months.  Seems to me you would get your moneys worth.
[/quote]

Looking at a 1stx investment in a tent, and bivy/down sbag, but I'm not commited to anything yet.  The key is to find something that is efficient, decent quality and affordable.  Haven't chosen to carry so much extra stuff yet, given my routes of steep pitches and technical terrain on s-t and 4wd backcountry trails. For this guy 40-60 miles is a good day in high altitude off-road riding.  Thanx for the feedback. I'll keep all responses to my question in mind.
Title: Re: ‘Camping’: Is it really necessary?
Post by: Westinghouse on February 21, 2009, 06:07:17 am
For ultra lightweight cycling you might want to consult some books on backpacking. I have never been much of a hiker, but I have read some books. There seems to be some agreement that reducing gear-weight is more important for backpacking than it is for cycling. If through hikers on the Appalachian Trail can get by for four to six months on the bare minimum of light weight gear, perhaps their packing lists would be a good source of information for your inquiry. Generally speaking, summer weights should be less than winter.
Title: Re: ‘Camping’: Is it really necessary?
Post by: cyclebum on March 09, 2009, 11:33:11 pm
As there is a questionable stretch on the NT for motels, and you prefer light and fast, mail a bivy and light bag ahead to last post office, general delivery, before you leave civilization. They'll hold it for you for 30 days. Include whatever you plan on hauling the gear in. When you reach civilization again, ditch the gear by mailing ahead to your destination. Or, come up with a fun contest and give it away. I know a fellow who walked across the US and promised to give every penny he picked up to whoever guessed the closest. I think it was about $35.

If you are able to average 100 miles/day unloaded, your motel cost will be much lower than the average touring cyclist who only manages about 50 a day with a load. I'd guess about $1500.

I personally would not trade one day of camping for a motel, but that's just personal preference.   
Title: Re: ‘Camping’: Is it really necessary?
Post by: Westinghouse on March 10, 2009, 07:53:16 am
Camping may or may not be a necessity depending on who is taking the tour, how much money he / she has to expend on the project, and preferences. However, the question was---Is camping necessary to bike tour? There is no simple answer. For some people camping and stealth camping might be necessary for financial reasons. For some people, paying for motels every day might be pocket change; for others it might be an ubearable drain. As for myself, sometimes I use motels, but the vast majority of the time in the past several years I free camped.
Title: Re: ‘Camping’: Is it really necessary?
Post by: bobbyrob22 on March 11, 2009, 02:59:42 pm
With a 100 miles a day you shouldnt have a problem finding a hote/motel every day, a lot of campers camp to simply save money ( or at least thats why I camp.)  The hotels/motels can get exspensive but if that is your prefrence by all means go for it.

Happy trails.

Robert
Title: Re: ‘Camping’: Is it really necessary?
Post by: gjjmtnus on March 11, 2009, 03:40:18 pm
For all you biker/campers out there, what low weight set up do you use, or would you recommend for a short multi-day tour?

This is where I'm at for now, when packing light.  One downs bag good to 25 degrees Fahrenheit, and weights 2lb.  An emergency tent (>1lb), which could be used  only as a canapy/floor while it is low weight, but may be questionable under torrential rain. Thought of purchasing a bivy to better protect myelf from a rain storm. Note, there's no trailer or pannier, just a back pack carrying emergency kit, food, h20 etc. Riding technical back country trails vs. roads.   Any thoughts are welcome. thanx.
Title: Re: ‘Camping’: Is it really necessary?
Post by: RussSeaton on March 11, 2009, 04:31:10 pm
For all you biker/campers out there, what low weight set up do you use, or would you recommend for a short multi-day tour?

This is where I'm at for now, when packing light.  One downs bag good to 25 degrees Fahrenheit, and weights 2lb.  An emergency tent (>1lb), which could be used  only as a canapy/floor while it is low weight, but may be questionable under torrential rain. Thought of purchasing a bivy to better protect myelf from a rain storm. Note, there's no trailer or pannier, just a back pack carrying emergency kit, food, h20 etc. Riding technical back country trails vs. roads.   Any thoughts are welcome. thanx.

http://www.adventurecycling.org/features/ultralight.cfm

Title: Re: ‘Camping’: Is it really necessary?
Post by: GarySherck on May 07, 2009, 03:29:49 am

"A good campsite can be just as good as a motel. However, after several days on the open road it is a welcomed comfort to spend two or three days in a motel. When I use motels I make a practice of entering in the morning, and staying the full 24 hours. That way I get the full benefit of the rest. On one tour I stayed in motels one day out of every four days on the road. On another tour I stayed in motels one day of every six days. On one 93-day tour I stayed in motels only five or six days total. The big thing with me is getting a good night's rest, and having a safe secure place to do it."

Westinghouse.

This make a lot of good sense.  Also, the ACA maps, which may be the best way to travel cross-country, do provide lots of good camping/motel information.
In addition, I am sure, but not ridden across the country, one will find much good information from Locals along the way.

gary