Camping Gear For Your Family Mountain Biking Road Trips

Our favorite camping gear for mtb road trips

Our family has been camping together for over 15 years. When the boys reached the ages where we could introduce bikes, new experiences and fun produced a synergistic effect that was second-to-none whenever we hit the road. In this article, we’re going to let you know about some of our camp gear essentials when we load up the van instead of booking a room.

Our favorite camping gear for mtb road trips

Marmot Limestone Tent: 6-Person, 3-Season

Our old tent had a few tears, a couple of busted zippers and bent poles. Instead of getting all these things repaired we opted for the Marmot Limestone 6-person 3-season tent. Even though there’s only four of us, we really like the extra available space for storing additional gear in the tent. We’ve used it well over a dozen times over the the last couple of months and it has held up very well. We can easily transport it in our roof rack on the van (shown below) and it sheds the rain very well. Working it into the stuff sack can be a bit of a challenge so you have to make sure you compress and roll it tight.

Coleman Even-Temp Propane Stove, 3-Burner

What does one do when you forget the stove for a 3-day car camping trip with the kid’s mtb team over a holiday weekend? You hustle your butt back to the closest town and buy whatever they have available. We lucked out and got the last stove in the store. The surface area for this Coleman camp stove is big enough for our small griddle as well as a medium-sized saucepan. If you have safe-cracking sensitive fingers, you can carefully dial the burner knobs to control the flame to a nice simmer. This Coleman stove is easy to clean and store, too.

Coleman griddle:  Amazon

Marmot Trestles 15 Sleeping Bag

A good night’s sleep is an important part of a successful mtb camping trip. That’s why our kids have the Marmot Trestles 15 sleeping bags. As the name implies, they’re rated down to 15º F for comfort. The sleeping bags feature durable zippers and the mummy-style design helps keep the heat in on chilly nights. We’ve washed ours several times and the insulation and color has remained good as new. Mom has the women’s version of this sleeping bag.

Eureka Super Cush Sleeping Pads

This season we replaced our old 4-inch thick foam sleeping mattresses with these Eureka! sleeping pads. You inflate them by pumping them up using a valve system in the built-in pillows and applying your body weight until the pad with built-in pillow is fully inflated. They are space-saving additions to our gear because the old rolled up foam pads took about 6x the space. The Eureka! Super Cush Sleeping Pads are comfortable, too.

Goal Zero Yeti 400 Battery And Nomad 50 Solar Panel

The Goal Zero Yeti 400 allows us to power the family’s laptops and phones on the road without hotel/condo stays. A useful tip is to pick up the Goal Zero 12v car charging cable and you can charge/use the battery while you’re driving. The battery allows us to get about 3 full charges on a laptop and over 20 smartphone charges. To test it out prior to our last big trip, I powered our flat screen TV and DVD player for over an hour. Do the research and make sure the battery you choose can power the item you want to use.

We paired our Yeti 400 with the Nomad 50 Solar Panel to harness the power of the sun to supplement charging when we weren’t using the mini-van’s power port. For solar panels, the bigger the better. Our foldable, easy to store/transport Nomad 50 has pulled close to 40 watts in direct sunlight. Multiple panels can be daisy-chained together to charge a battery faster.

Goal Zero Nomad 50 Solar Panel:  Amazon
Goal Zero 12v Car Charger:  Amazon

The Black Diamond Moji lantern

Black Diamond Moji Lantern

We picked up a dozen of these during a Black Friday sale a couple of years ago. The kids use them for last-minute birthday gifts for friends. The soft glow of the light is perfect for using while cooking or evening tent games. They run on three AAA batteries and come in multiple colors.

The Helinox high back chair is a must-have

Helinox Chairs

We always get asked about our Helinox chairs and we love-love-love them. They’re comfortable, durable, lightweight, easy to transport/store, and easy to assemble. They come in several colors so a lot of families can choose a separate color or pattern for each family member.

A simple but useful cooler bag

Jumbo Insulated Cooler Bag

This is just a basic item we like to use for transporting soft goods, bags of ice, food and beverages, laundry, whatever. When not in use, you can easily compress them and tuck them away in your vehicle to save space.

These Kryptonite chain locks are not unbreakable, but they're an excellent deterrent

Kryptonite Bike Lock

When camping, we lock our mountain bikes up next to the tent at night. We will either stack them by laying them down on each other, or use a nearby tree as an anchor. A Kryptonite chain lock is just one of the locks we use. We also use a cable lock and u-lock to wad up our bikes in a big ball of mtb love.

Thule Roof Storage Box

Our lockable Thule roof box increases our storage space dramatically. We can store our 10×10 canopy shade, 4 sleeping bags, 4 sleeping pads, tent, and hydration packs on the roof of the mini-van. There’s no way we would be able to do a proper mtb car camping road trip with our family of four without one of these.

Trek Fuel EX 8 Review

Trek Fuel EX 8 Review

The Trek Fuel EX 8 is a mountain bike capable of handling all types terrain. To prove this point our kid was able to test the bike completely in many different locations. From hitting the jumps at the original Red Bull Rampage site in the desert to a junior devo NICA cross-country race in the alpine, the Fuel Ex 8 was up to the task.

Trek Fuel EX 8 Review

Trek:  Website | Instagram | Facebook

Who Is Trek Fuel EX 8 For?

This mountain bike is designed to fit riders 4ft 6in tall (XS) all the way through 6ft 7in tall (XXL). That’s quite a range, isn’t it? A Fox suspension package means the bike is ready to go for trail rides and cross country loops, bike parks, technical terrain and dirt jumps. Novice riders through experts will enjoy riding the Trek Fuel EX 8. If you were to put a pin in the bike spectrum from light-weight cross country racer on the left to downhill freeride machine on the right, we’d place the mark a couple slots to the right of center. Tyge is just a touch over 5ft tall and he was paired with a Small frame with standover height of 27.79 inches.

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A Quick Overview Of The Trek Fuel EX 8

standover height icon


Min ~27.55 inches

drivetrain icon


1 x 12

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27.5in (xs, s), 29in (m and up)

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~30 lbs sans pedals

Frame Style And Tire Sizes Vary

Because the bike is available in seven different frame sizes, there are a couple of secondary features you should be aware of. The XS and Small sizes will have a curved top tube. This is a great because it will allow shorter riders to comfortably straddle the bike with both feet planted firmly on the ground. This also enables the rider to get a foot down quickly if bumpy or uneven terrain dictates a dab or quick stop. XS and Small frame sizes for the Fuel Ex 8 will also come with 27.5in wheels. This is also a plus in the design-and-fit column. We have seen other brands with XS and Small frames and 29in wheels where the length of the frame is too short and the rider’s foot makes contact with the front wheel of the bike.

Top tube - Trek Fuel EX 8 review

About The Trek Knock Block

The Knock Block is a proprietary function of many Trek mountain bikes. This feature is designed into the stem of the bike and it prevents the handlebars from turning 90º. With the addition of the Knock Block, Trek is able to tinker with geometry and ergonomics that result in a bike where the suspension fork cannot strike the frame. Does it limit your turning radius? Technically it does. But not many people are capable of throwing down a 90º turn over a very small distance. Some have mentioned that the Knock Block negatively affects how a bike is stored/transported on a truck’s tailgate or inside a car. This video from Trek explains the Knock Block feature a lot better than we can.

Bontrager Parts

As you may know, Bontrager is Trek’s house brand for components. Some folks are not fans of this approach, but the trade off is a lower overall price for the bike with parts that function very well. Tyge did his best to beat this bike up and it would be reasonable to believe that at the very least – the Bontrager Line Dropper would surrender. But after several months of rough treatment and transport, the dropper works as well as it did when we built up the bike.

Grip detail Trek Fuel EX 8 review
Trek Fuel EX 8 - Knock Block

Frame Aesthetics

Overall the design of the frame is appealing. It’s no-nonsense linkage design is clean and unobtrusive. The front- and rear-wheels are attached to the bike with thru axles. Internal cable routing and an under-the-bar dropper remote keep additional lines on the bike pleasing. Because we have a small version of the frame, there’s not a lot of room to work with for a bottle cage on the down tube. The solution was obtaining a side load bottle cage. You may like the Bontrager Left Side Load Water Bottle Cage for your small frame.

Internal cable routing on the Trek Fuel EX 8
Top view of the Trek Fuel EX 8

Trek Fuel EX 8 Suspension

A Fox Performance Float EVOL, RE:aktiv 3-position shock with 130mm of travel fills the space for the shock. The fork on the bike is a Fox Rhythm 34, Float EVOL w/air spring and 140mm of travel. Both the shock and fork have lock-out features. We easily added or removed air for the suspension depending on the day’s terrain. And, you can also adjust the rebound for the fork.

Trek Fuel EX 8 with a Fox shock

Measurements And Angles For The Trek Fuel EX 8 [small]

Top Tube (effective)567mm
Seat Tube C-T355mm
Head Angle66.5º
Seat Angle75.5º
BB Drop14mm
BB Height341mm
Wheel Size27.5"
Front Travel140mm
Rear Travel130mm
Trek Fuel EX 8 - Shimano brakes and SRAM drivetrain
Tire detail - Trek Fuel EX 8 review

Trek Fuel EX 8 – Build Specs

FrameAlpha Platinum Aluminum, tapered head tube, Knock Block, Control Freak internal routing, downtube guard, ISCG 05, magnesium rocker link, Mino Link, ABP, Boost148, 130mm travel
ForkFox Rhythm 34, Float EVOL air spring, GRIP damper, tapered steerer, 44mm offset, Boost110, 15mm Kabolt axle, 140mm travel
HeadsetKnock Block Integrated, cartridge bearing, 1-1/8" top, 1.5" bottom
Rear ShockFox Performance Float EVOL, RE:aktiv 3-position damper, tuned by Trek Suspension Lab, 210x55mm
AxlesFront: 15x110mm / Rear: 12x148mm
Rims/WheelsBontrager Line Comp 30, Tubeless Ready, 6-bolt
TiresBontrager XR4 Team Issue, Tubeless Ready, Inner Strength sidewalls, aramid bead, 120 tpi
CranksetTruvativ Descendant 6k Eagle, DUB
Bottom BracketSRAM DUB, 92mm, PressFit
ChainSRAM GX Eagle, 12 speed
Rear DerailleurSRAM GX Eagle
Cassette/Rear CogsSRAM XG-1275 Eagle, 10-50, 12 speed
ShiftersSRAM GX Eagle, 12 speed
HandlebarsBontrager Line, alloy, 35mm, 27.5mm rise
Tape/GripsBontrager XR Trail Elite, alloy lock-on
StemBontrager Line, 35mm, Knock Block, 0 degree
BrakesShimano Deore M6000 hydraulic disc
SaddleBontrager Arvada, steel rails
Seat PostBontrager Line Dropper, internal routing, 31.6mm
PedalsNot included
Weight~30lbs. without pedals
MSRPLive Price
Trek and NICA : Trek and Trek retailers make up the largest annual contribution to the National Interscholastic Cycling Association (NICA). If you have a registered NICA athlete in grades 7-12, or if you are a registered NICA coach, you may be eligible for a discount on select Trek mountain bikes. Check with your local Trek dealer.

Riding The Trek Fuel Ex 8

Tyge loved the suspension on the bike. He only weighs up to 95 lbs with gear and his flyweight build was a good match for the Fox squish.

140mm of suspension was perfect for demanding downhill riding

We got the right size Fuel EX 8 and it made a difference. Your kids are growing and they’re not going to be on the same bike for more than a season or so. Know that your investment goes beyond the money spent. When you purchase a proper fitting mountain bike for your kids, you’re giving your children the opportunity to enjoy the sport with safety, progression, and fun in mind. Also be aware that a good bike is going to have a good resale value. Families all over are looking for good used bikes and you can usually receive over 70% of what you pay for a new bike.

Wheelie mode on the Trek Fuel EX 8 in Park City

Tyge loved the tires. He’s never been on 2.6in wide tires before and they immediately granted more control, stability and confidence. On loose surfaces, there was more tire in contact with the ground. On skinnies, there was a wider footprint which resulted in more support and security. Market year 2021 Trek bikes will ship without tubes and with valve stems and rim strips from carbon builds down to the 7-levels. This is good news – tubeless tires out-of-the-box!

The Trek Fuel EX 8 with SRAM Eagle drivetrain was comfy when pedaling

The 1×12 Eagle drivetrain has a 50t ring on the cassette and 30t front ring. That provided plenty of pedal power for long, sustained climbs. If your child has not yet experienced a drivetrain with this set-up, they’re going to be pleasantly surprised at the additional climbing and pedaling capabilities the drivetrain provides. Shifting was smooth and simplified.

Zooming along at Powder Mountain on the Trek Fuel EX 8
Sending a drop at the old Rampage site aboard the Trek Fuel EX 8

Riding with flat pedals or clipless pedals was determined by the task. For cross country, some trail riding, and a couple of NICA races, Tyge sported clipless pedals. At the bike park, dirt jumps, and technical terrain – flat pedals were the accessory of choice. We have learned to travel with both sets of foot platforms for extended outings and road trips.

Taking an optional line at Grafton Mesa on the Trek Fuel EX 8

On jumps and bumps, Tyge was able to control the bike very well. Be sure your kid uses the dropper to get that seat out of the way so your can get low on the bike when needed.

Racing the Trek Fuel EX 8 at a NICA event

Racing the Fuel EX 8 on a couple of Utah’s NICA courses proved to be very fun. The 1x transmission and gear range was very beneficial. And, the dropper was used throughout races. We certainly tightened up the suspension and tires for more grip for one flowy, firm track. On another course with a lot of loose corners and and a layer of dust, the 2.6in wide tires were perfect with lower air pressure. If your kids are cross country speedsters, you can explore additional options in the company’s catalogue that are lighter and have features favored by world-class racers.

Step up your game with the Trek Fuel EX 8

Being comfortable with a bike’s geometry allows the rider to progress on technical terrain and in the air. Blend this in with the will to succeed along with finding the right speed and you will get favorable results aboard the Fuel EX 8.

The Knock Block did not limit or impede the cornering or handling of the Fuel EX 8

Cornering with the Knock Block technology was not prohibitive and it functioned as engineered by Trek’s design team.

Dropping in at Trailside Bike Park

140mm of suspension is plenty for a kid of Tyge’s stature and riding style on big jumps and technical terrain. He could only bottom out the fork and shock if we let out all the air. And, both components had enough range to allow us to tinker with the sag and find the best settings.

Our small Trek Fuel EX 8 was the right size for technical desert riding

The bike really shined after the turns were earned. On open descents, the Fuel EX 8 was is in its element and an extension of the rider.

The 2.6 inch wide Bontrager tires made the Fuel EX 8 a confident cornering machine

Braking power provided by Shimano was always reliable and easily controlled. When you get your Fuel EX 8, be sure to set up the cockpit so the levers are at the proper angles for safety and ergonomics. You can reduce finger cramping and arm pump by simply setting the levers up the right way.

Topping Off The Trek Fuel EX 8

Our child enjoyed this bike because he’s a good fit for it literally and figuratively. The size range of the Fuel EX line-up has him covered so we were able to choose the right size, right away. He also has access to a lot of different terrain due to the west’s never-ending mountain bike season. From the rough and please-don’t-tumble red rocks to the flowy NICA race courses, the Fuel EX 8 has what it takes to make its riders happy. The geometry and build are great for beginners through experts who would like to get better at bikes. And, the bike is a good choice for those who are ready to drop a proper amount of money for a machine that will enable kids to grow their love for the outdoors; on bikes – together.

Riding the Trek Fuel EX 8 on the rocks