Aren’t weekends great?! For those working a five-day week, the weekend presents two whole days of opportunity and freedom. Plenty of time to get out on the bike and into the wilderness for a night camping under the stars. But, when you’re living for the weekend, those two days are often over far too quickly. You spend all week looking forward to Saturday and then in a flash it’s already done and you’re back to work.
So, how about we change the narrative? What if bikepacking trips weren’t only saved for the weekend? What if, and hear me out on this one, what if bikepacking trips were casually slipped into the middle of a working week?! Like a Tuesday night campout, or a Wednesday, or even better, a Thursday.
I’ve been adding midweek overnighters to my bikepacking repertoire for the past few years and I’ve come to really value and relish them. A cheeky midweek night in a tent may not deliver the best sleep, but that night out in the wild delivers so much more soul-filling energy that the trade-off is definitely worth it.
Remember, campouts don’t have to involve riding huge distances. One of my favourite midweekers went like this and lasted less than 12 hours:
|7pm:||Help put kids to bed after dinner|
|8pm:||Ride out to camp with a mate|
|10pm:||Pitch tents in the dark and go to bed|
|5am:||Wake up for camp coffee and sunrise|
Read on and let me try to convince you that bikepacking during the week is actually the best thing for you, and your weekends.
First up, let me hit you with some maths. Only two days of the week are weekends. That’s it, just two. Whereas a whopping five days are not the weekend! That’s over 70% more days during the week than on the weekend. And if you look at that over the year, you’ll get 104 days of weekend, compared to an enormous 260 weekdays (that’s still over 70% more for those of you that like percentages).
Secondly, weekends have other commitments, mostly related to family and friends, but also other things, like sports, parties, shopping, weddings, and so on. If you were to add in all these other commitments to the maths, you could probably halve the number of weekend days available for bikepacking. Add in a couple of sick days and you’ve probably only got 20 weekend days up your sleeves.
Ok, so we’ve already established that there are over 70% more weekdays than weekends, so weekdays already have an edge. But what else makes weekdays great?
Let’s kick off with some maths again. Say you’re working a 9-5 job (that’s just 8 hours of your day committed to work) which means that you have twice as much time not committed to work. 16 hours. That’s 16 hours of freedom that you could be used to adventure every day! You could leave work at 5 pm, ride your bicycle for three hours, sleep in your tent for a solid 8 hours, and still make it back to work on time the next day. Sounds crazy but maths don’t lie!
Another benefit to bikepacking on a weekday is that besides work, there are much fewer external commitments that are likely to pop up. Most of the time everyone’s so busy working that evenings are just for eating, resting, and sleeping. I mean, when’s the last time you had an invitation for a mid-week wedding!?! And even if you did, that’s just one weeknight - you still have four of them to play with.
By now we’ve established that there are far more opportunities for camping on a weeknight than on the weekend, so now we just have to think about how to make it happen. These five tips should get you started on your journey to unlocking the power of a midweek overnighter, all you have to do is give it a try (it’s actually quite easy).
The first step to making a midweek overnighter a reality is to plan something simple and local. Sure you’d love to head deep into the wilderness, camp at your favourite spot, or ride the most epic trails; but this is a midweeker, not an expedition, so keep your plans simple. Take a look around your local area and investigate your closest camping sites. Chances are that some of them are so close you might not ever have even been there before.
My closest campsite (ignoring the caravan park less than one km away as that’s just too close!) is about 15km away by the most direct route. This is a perfect distance for the midweeker because I can dash home in less than an hour if I need to, but I can also modify the route in various directions to make it more interesting and wild. I’ve camped here many times, but despite it being so close, many of my friends had never been there. That was until I suggested it as a spot for a midweek overnighter and suddenly it became much more tempting.
This is a crucial step and will be different for everyone. You need to work backward on this one and think about what time you need to be at work the next day. You also need to work out what you need to be ready for work, again this will be different for everyone. When I was working as a teacher a few years ago, we had a staff locker room, with showers, so I could turn up to work grubby and smelly from a midweek overnighter, knowing I’d be good as new after a shower and a clean shirt.
"We’re not aiming for ideal, we’re aiming to beat the system and go camping on a school night. "
Once you have your arrival time sorted, you can work backward to think about how long you can spend getting from camp to work, aka your riding time. This will impact other aspects of your midweeker, such as camp location. In an ideal world, it’s fun to ride immediately from work to camp and back again the next day. But we’re not aiming for ideal, we’re aiming to beat the system and go camping on a school night. This means that if it makes more sense to drive somewhere, than ride and camp, then that’s ok too.
A fun thing to do is to plan a longer ride for the evening, when you likely have more time and more flexibility, and then make the morning’s ride significantly shorter, so you don’t have to get up at too crazy an hour and you’re not stressing about being late for work.
Planning a midweeker is all about removing barriers. Packing your bikepacking rig in advance will mean you’re ready at a moment’s notice. This means that you can be a bit more flexible during the week, changing your schedule if something crops up and you need to go on a Tuesday instead of a Wednesday. When it comes to planning food, you can either pack your dehydrated meal in advance so it’s ready to go, or you could plan to eat out as part of your ride. On some midweek campouts, I’ve even stayed home for dinner, then gone out riding at 7pm, nicely fed and just looking for somewhere to sleep.
Your advance preparation can also play into your work schedule. If you know you’re camping on a Wednesday night, maybe don’t schedule a meeting for 9am the next day. In addition to making sure you have work clothes available for the next day (either at work or in your pack), you could also make sure you’ve got extra food and snacks at work in case you have to skip breakfast on the way in.
My midweek camping gear is usually more streamlined than the usual multi-day setup. In summer, it might be as streamlined to consist of only a sleeping kit, a toothbrush, water, and my book. But more often than not the heaviest and most complex part of my midweek camping gear is the coffee setup. We’re talking beans, grinder, Aeropress, and milk.
This tip is probably a no-brainer, but I’m saying it anyway. If you’re planning your very first mid-week campout, the last thing you want to do is be late for work/home commitments the next day - so get up early! Give yourself plenty of time in the morning to maximise your chances of getting to work on time. This may mean a 4.00am wake-up, but hey, that’s ok, you’ve got the whole weekend to catch up and recover.
If you’re waking up early, it’s probably a good idea to go to bed early too. But hey, that’s your call. Morning coffee can help (see previous section) and for a fast overnighter, this might come in a pre-made can or thermos—not as good as a fresh brew but hopefully packing enough punch to get those pedals moving.
Finally, getting out on a weeknight is all about maximising fun—whatever that means to you. Personally, my favourite part of camping out is waking up somewhere quiet and natural, brewing up a coffee on my aeropress and enjoying it from the solitude of my tent. So when I plan a midweeker (and any trip really) I tend to focus most of my attention on the campsite and surroundings. I don’t really pay much attention to how far I’m riding or what my paved / unpaved ratios are.
However, if your love affair with bikepacking is more about the trails and the riding, then you might want to focus on a location with the best riding, which might mean bivvying on the side of the trail afterwards. The main thing is to plan the ride you want, otherwise what’s the point.
Hopefully these tips will help you get out and try a midweeker bikepacking overnighter, even if it’s just once. But somehow, I doubt it will be. Once you realise how easy it can be to go camping midweek, a whole new world of opportunity will open up for you, especially if you’re someone with busy weekends that finds it hard to get out there.
I’m lucky enough to get out camping for the odd weekend, but I still absolutely love the midweek campout. And, better yet, my wife really likes it when I camp midweek too. When you disappear midweek it’s like you’re cheating the system and often you’re barely missed. The other bonus of midweek camping is that you then have a whole weekend free to do whatever you want - even if that ends up being more bikepacking.
In addition to getting out for those midweek campouts, I’ve also set myself a challenge for this year of bike-camping at least once a month. As mentioned at the start of this article, camping is all about refreshing the soul and enlivening the spirit, so this monthly challenge is just a helpful reminder to myself to get out and sleep in the wild - even if it’s just for one night in the middle of the week.
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