Nancy from Family On Bikes Shares How to Pack For a Bike Tour with Children

Meet the Vogel family, composed of Nancy and John, and their twins Davy and Daryl who now hold the world record as the youngest people to cycle the length of the Americas.

Family On Bikes, as they call themselves, rode their bicycles over 17,000 miles from Alaska to Argentina. They spent one year cycling around the USA and Mexico, then spent three years cycling from Alaska to Argentina!

Here’s Nancy to share their cycling adventures, the bags they used during their trip, and much more!

Family On Bikes

I’m Nancy. A mom, a wife, a former schoolteacher, an artist and metalsmith. We now live in Boise, Idaho. Our sons are now 20 years old, and in their second year in university. Davy is studying Electrical Engineering at Boise State University; Daryl is studying Computer Science and Software Engineering at University of Texas at Dallas.

Family On Bikes

How and why did you get into cycling?

I got my first “real” bike my senior year of high school when my older sister moved to Japan and left her bike with me. I quickly decided I LOVED the freedom the bike afforded and started riding everywhere. One thing led to another; one encounter led to others, and soon I was biking around the world.

How do you prepare for your cycling adventures?

Prepare? Surely you jest! It’s best to have a general idea of where you’re headed, and then go.

Family On Bikes

How do you finance your cycling adventures?

Although we had a few sponsors, we self-funded our adventures. For our PanAm journey, we tapped into our retirement account – figured we would rather have the time with our kids when they were young, knowing that when they were adults they would not want to spend three years biking the Americas with ol’ Ma & Pa.

We tend to travel on the cheap – the four of us spent about $2,000 per month.

Family On Bikes

How do you eat and sleep on the road?

This depended entirely on where we were. In Alaska, Canada, and mainland USA, we camped pretty much exclusively. Once we hit southern Mexico, it was just too hot to sleep in the tent – with four of us crammed in there, it was a sweatfest and nobody slept. Throughout the tropics, we used our tent only as an emergency backup – stayed in hotels nearly always. When we reached southern Peru/Bolivia, we started camping again.

How do you bring your things with you?

We had a variety of types, sizes, and styles of panniers, plus we had two bike trailers with us. We made it work.

Family On Bikes

How do you organize things in your bags?

Although things were pretty chaotic early in our journey, it didn’t take long for every item to have its place. Packing and unpacking were fairly easy since we knew precisely where everything was.

As for waterproof bags? No. The problem with them is that while they are good about keeping water out, they keep water in if/when you happen to introduce moisture to the bag. Put a wet swimsuit in a pannier? It won’t take long before everything in that bag is wet. Didn’t dry your dishes completely? Everything in the bag is wet. We found we preferred breathable panniers, and then we used plastic bags inside the panniers to protect our gear from rain.

Family On Bikes

How do your bags and gear hold up?

Panniers are expensive, but it’s something that is worth investing in if you plan to do a lot of touring. We are still using panniers that we purchased 30 years ago.

I’m not positive, but I think our panniers were from Kangaroo Bags (long extinct), Overland (no longer making panniers, but they do make awesome purses), Jandd (okay, but nothing to write about,) and some Ortliebs (not our favorites.) Here is a review I wrote a while ago.

If we were buying new panniers today, we would get Arkels – they are similar to the old Overlands in many regards, with many new wonderful features.

Any gear you wish you had brought with you from the beginning?

It’s a constant struggle to figure out what you need and what you can get rid of. It’s an ongoing thing. There were items we needed in Alaska (water filter anyone?) that would have been ridiculous to carry in Mexico. We adjusted as we encountered new situations.

Family On Bikes

What has been your best bicycle-related purchase below $100?

Wool. Specifically, merino wool. I don’t know how I would have made it through the tropics without it. I really liked my Ibex wool stuff, but there are a lot of great merino companies out there.

What is your best advice for other cyclists?

Go. Just go. More dreams die from overplanning than any other reason. Stop the planning, get on the bike, and go.

Family On Bikes

What will the future bring?

My adventures are now of a different sort. I’ve left my biking days behind for now – although I’m open to possibly returning to it in the future – and am now focused on my art. You can see my jewelry at www.nancysathrevogel.com.

Visit Nancy and her family on their website


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