Did you know house sitting is now called (by some at least) “rent hacking”? It sounds cool, but I prefer “camp hacking,” a term I coined for camping options beyond the usual parks and campgrounds. If you’re looking for a quick-and-dirty way to camp with your bikes, maybe it’s time to think outside the box.
With Dodge Park’s very unfortunate and recent demise, what I considered the best option for family biking camping is suddenly gone. Now there are only two other campgrounds I’ll consider going to with kids. In this week’s column I’ll offer my two-cents on close-in camping spots. Then I’ll share new ways to get those camp vibes without having to tackle long rides and/or scary highways.
First, here’s my take on the next best, currently available options:
My level of comfort may change as my kids get bigger, but currently these next three closest parks are on my “nope” list:
➤ Barton Park: At 20 miles from home it’s a relatively close option, but when I route-tested without the kids I really didn’t like the long and fairly steep hill with very small shoulder. I’d go here alone, but I wouldn’t want to put kids on that road.
➤ Champoeg State Park: 30 miles is just too far for my kids, plus there were a couple unpleasant spots on the road, teaching me that not all Scenic Bikeways are created equal (looking at you, Willamette Valley Scenic Bikeway!), and there’s no hill-free way through Oregon City.
➤ Milo McIver State Park: 27 miles is probably too far, but the roads are too busy for my taste when biking with kids. However, if there was some way to start from Milo McIver in Estacada, the Cascading Rivers Scenic Bikeway is beautiful!
So what to do? Well, there’s private camping, like Hipcamp. Currently there are no listings close enough for me to utilize, but I hold out hope it’s just a matter of time. In April I took a solo (well, solo plus Pixie the dog) trip to Eugene and Hipcamped one night along the way where there was no regular camping to be had. We stayed at an animal sanctuary (with 200 animals!) and while I originally intended to pitch my tent, the all-night rain convinced me to opt for the offered trailer, making this my first glamping (glamorous camping) experience.
There must certainly be nearby options using Warm Showers, the free worldwide hospitality exchange for touring cyclists. I don’t know for a fact that Warm Showers hosts with yards will welcome camping, but I’ve hosted many friends and friends-of-friends who regularly use Warm Showers and have asked to stay outside rather than in.
My friend Elle, who you may remember from our Trask River Road adventure to the Oregon Coast, took and documented a multi-day trip using Warm Showers with one of her kids. Granted they stayed indoors, but thinking about camp hacking calls this adventure of hers to mind.
➤ The backyard concept
Have you ever camped out in your own back yard? I’m too lazy to do that, but I know plenty of families who love camping with all the comforts of home a few steps away. What I like the sound of is having all the comforts of a friend’s house a few steps away. Here’s the real heart of camp hacking: a friend with a yard who lives a good biking distance away with a pleasant route to get there. Bonus if the route has any woodsy spots and some multi-use trails.
We camp hacked a few nights ago to see our former next door neighbors’ new place. It was less than six miles away via the Springwater Corridor Trail — almost too close and too easy! We were joined by several car camping camp hackers and the festivities (this was a post-wedding BBQ) made sleeping harder than at a traditional campground, but it was a blast! I intend to do more camp hacking in friends’ yards and host some camp hackers in our yard, too.
Have you done any creative camping or used Warm Showers? I’d love to hear about it. Thanks for reading!
Remember, we’re always looking for people to profile. Get in touch at madidotcom [at] gmail [dot] com if it sounds like fun to you.
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Madi Carlson (@familyride on Twitter) wrote our Family Biking column from February 2018 to November 2019. She’s the author of Urban Cycling: How to Get to Work, Save Money, and Use Your Bike for City Living (Mountaineers Books).
In her former home of Seattle, Madi was the Board President of Familybike Seattle, a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting bicycling as a means for moving towards sustainable lifestyles and communities. She founded Critical Lass Seattle, an easy social group ride for new and experienced bicyclists who identify as women and was the Director of Seattle’s Kidical Mass organization, a monthly ride for families. While she primarily bikes for transportation, Madi also likes racing cyclocross, all-women alleycats, and the Disaster Relief Trials. She has been profiled in the Associated Press, Outdoors NW magazine, CoolMom, and ParentMap, and she contributed to Everyday Bicycling by Elly Blue.