Good Night 2023 Roundup: 10 of our Favorite Campouts
Last month, readers worldwide answered our call to pedal out for a final night under the stars to wrap up 2023 as part of our fourth-annual Good Night Campout challenge. We sorted through hundreds of submissions and selected our 10 favorites. Find a varied collection of photos and vignettes from overnight getaways around the United States, Malaysia, Canada, Australia, Brazil, and beyond here…
When we launched our inaugural Good Night Campout in 2020, we had no idea that people would embrace the concept with open arms and turn it into a meaningful annual tradition, but that’s precisely what they did. Whether as a solo overnighter for some reflective time alone or as an excuse to reconnect with friends and revel in the excitement of a fresh year, we’ve been thrilled to see our little overnight campout challenge blossom into something that unites folks around the globe.
This year saw our biggest turnout yet, and several hundred individuals and groups closed out 2023 by squeezing in one last bikepacking trip. Many of you shared beautiful photos and videos with us using the #GoodNight2023Campout hashtag on Instagram and in the comments here on the site, and we loved following along. Several of us on the team got out for short trips, too, and we’ll share a look at those shortly.
Adding to the incentive to ride out for an end-of-year overnighter, we gathered up six excellent prize packages from Tailfin, Old Man Mountain, and Teravail, and we’re excited to share the list of randomly selected winners from our group of 10 below. You can find the list of winners and prizes at the bottom of this post. With that, please enjoy this assortment of short stories and images. If you didn’t make it out this year, we hope you’ll consider joining us for our Good Night 2024 Campout in December!
The clock is ticking slowly. It’s been a while since we’ve had anything but cloudy skies, and today it’s a beautiful day. The bikes are at the back of the shop, and the guys and I know it’ll be dark when we get out. Too bad, but headlights will split the night when the time comes. Last customer. Thanks, happy new year. Let’s get out!
It’s a good hour’s cycle out of Victoria to a stretch of beach that I’ve been told is peaceful. Although I like arriving at the camp well in advance, there’s also a charm in arriving when it’s already well into the night. Tomorrow is a new day. In the morning, I’ll find out where I spent the night. And it’s also the start of a new year. We patiently start a fire with what damp wood we can find. The chairs are arranged around the fire, and we each have our little New Year’s meal. It’s also the first one I’ll be spending without drinking any alcohol at all. Good resolutions don’t have to be made just once a year.
Other friends from the shop meet up with us a little later. One advantage of working in an outdoor shop is that people understand your desire go camping in winter. Plus, it’s a little family that I wasn’t expecting. We all share stories around the fire—different stories that are all linked to the great outdoors. In a way, we understand each other without having to talk too much. From left to right, the fireworks adorn the night with colour, then it’s time for resolutions. I have to put the great journey I’m on on hold for a while, as I’m letting the winter pass while working in Canada. And out loud, I resolve that this downtime will not be a burden, but that I’m going to make every day a celebration.
I go to bed hoping for a year as great as the last. I wake up with the certainty that this precious happiness of mine, this capacity to marvel and this curiosity about what is foreign to me is intact, and that it will carry me far again this year.
To celebrate the holidays and the end of another trip around our sun, I booked a sleepy little cabin just north of town and invited my friends and their dogs for a glamping-style overnighter on Harlow Lake. We packed up our bikes with extra snacks and layers, added our luxury items to our non-biker friends’ vehicles, and rolled out of town with a local brew in our bellies.
When making the reservation, I had anticipated a slow and snowy trek with questionably groomed singletrack and potentially rutted-out dirt roads to our destination. Everyone was down to clown no matter the weather, but thanks to an unusual Michigan winter, we were treated to a mix of sunshine and rain, fast flowy trails, and mud-puddled dirt roads.
Pizza, chicken and dumpling soup, jalapeno cheddar sausage, bacon and eggs, tequila sunrises, bags of wine, and more—we ate our fill while drinking up the moonlight, enjoying one last campout with the company of close friends and our four-legged companions. Thank you 2023, for everything.
Summer in Brazil usually means rain, especially if you live in the southeast. Still, participating in the Good Night Campout seemed like a great idea. I’d needed some time for myself for a while, and only one night outside could solve that.
I live in a region that was extremely important for the occupation of Brazil. A territory that was turned upside down during the gold rush. As a matter of fact, the only reason people came to Brazil was because of the gold found here. Back in the 1700s, my city, Ouro Preto, had twice the amount of inhabitants as New York. These people crossed mountains and rivers in search of Eldorado. They scavenged these hills, and they died hoping they would become rich overnight. Nowadays, I’m usually always alone roaring through these mountains. It makes my soul shiver.
I’m passionate about the stories of the explorations that happened here. I transport myself to that time and try to put myself in the place of the adventurers, understanding how I can move through the terrain. Spending the night outside for me always means reconnecting a bit with these stories and stepping out of my comfort zone. December 28th was one of those days. I didn’t have a specific destination in mind and ended up leaving a bit later than I would have liked. As a good Virgo, I like to have my routes well planned, but this wasn’t a typical day for my zodiac sign. I headed toward Itacolomi, a peak that can be seen from afar. In fact, Itacolomi itself was the reference point for the gold rush adventurers. Following the peak, they would reach the epicenter of the discoveries of the precious metal. As I pedaled, I observed a dense cloud forming and covering the peak.
Involuntarily, at some point, I started heading toward another mountain that seemed more inviting. I crossed some trails that only a few cattle usually use, and before I knew it, I was on top of Bico de Pedra, one of the most incredible mountains in the region. If there’s a paradise, it must be here. While doing a hike-a-bike on the final part, I observed an incredible sunset. It was only when I reached the summit that I realized the cloud forming on Itacolomi was coming in my direction. I had time to change and choose the best place to set up the tent before the wind arrived. The cold wind announced that soon the rain would come too.
I was at the summit, and I chose what seemed to be the best place to set up the tent. I kept debating whether it would really be necessary. Summer storms usually come with lightning. I thought maybe it would be better not to set up the tent at all. In the end, I gave in. I set up the tent, drank the wine I had brought, and fell asleep. Shortly after, I woke up to the sound of thunder. My tent seemed like a club with a strobe light. The lightning, increasingly frequent, was accompanied by ever closer thunderclaps. A mountain nearby is called Serra do Trovão, which means “Lightning Hill,” as it’s the second most frequent place in the country for lighting to strike.
The rain was coming, with lightning, and I was camping at the top of a mountain. Even if I tried to seek shelter elsewhere, I was still near the highest point. The cerrado vegetation is low at the tops of the mountains. At that moment, I was afraid. I wondered if the adventurers of past centuries camped on the mountaintops. Then I remembered a mummy they found on top of a mountain in Argentina that had been struck by two bolts of lightning. I felt chills. In less than a minute, I dismantled the tent and, still somewhat sleepy, and began to descend without thinking about what I was doing. As I descended, things became clear. It was indeed foolish to camp in those conditions.
To be able to camp again, I needed to be alive, and the chance of surviving a lightning strike, well… I could say it was a failure, but looking back, it was a great lesson. The mountain will always be there. So, to make my night out worth it, I slept in the hammock on the porch while watching the rain fall. Little did those prospectors know that sleeping out here is the true meaning of being rich.
Saying goodbye to the old year together with friends surrounded by nature near our city has become our tradition, and 2023 was no exception. The weather was favorable in terms of temperature; it was really hot for this time of the year. Our cheerful group of five met just before sunset the day before New Year’s Eve. We did a little shopping for dinner and hit the road. Passing through a tunnel for animals under the expressway with the inscription “Patoświat” on it, we left the city toward adventure.
It had been raining almost every day for the last week, so most of the time we were driving on slightly muddy gravel roads, soggy sand, and forest roads torn apart by clearings that were also full of mud. It wasn’t easy, but the smile never left anyone’s face. Armed with glowing flares, Bartez treated everyone to a light show several times. When we reached the place, we saw a beautiful view of the Odra River Valley illuminated by the moon and covered with fog. Before hanging up our hammock beds and lighting a small fire, this time Mario created an amazing show with a small fire show without fire. Then we prepared the bacon, heated the wine, started talking about the old year, and before we knew it, we started yawning and gave in to the urge to sleep.
In the morning, we woke up to a beautiful spectacle of sunrise colors. We drank coffee, ate a small breakfast, collected trash, cleaned up the remains of the bonfire, and headed home. This time, however, we chose a more accessible, paved road.
Skyler and I spent the end of 2023 on a five-day bikepacking trip outside of Phoenix, Arizona. Mostly followed The Queen’s Ransom route from John Schilling. We stitched together dirt roads on some singletrack sections and want to come back and ride them unloaded. Highlights were the yellow cottonwood trees in Arnett Canyon, the flowy singletrack in Usery Mountain Regional Park, the sweeping views of the Superstition Mountains, and the plentiful citrus trees along the canal path in Mesa.
Overall, we experienced lots of sunshine, singletrack, dirt roads, bike paths, and of course some hike-a-bike. Since you’re never too far out from town, resupply was pretty easy, which is nice when bikepacking in the desert. The terrain was tough in sections, but we were able to modify to fit our needs pretty easily. I would highly recommend the Queen’s Ransom for wintertime bikepacking!
“Can I bring my toy cars?” my five-year-old son asked excitedly. “Can I take my notepad?” my daughter asked. “Sure,” I beamed back, seeing the look of excitement on their faces, knowing full well I’d end up carrying them. After many rounds of debate over what to take, we were finally ready to go, fully laden with everything from the essentials to the borderline ridiculous. I wouldn’t have it any other way, though, if it’s what they really wanted; the only goal for this trip was that they were excited about biking and camping in the woods. Bring on the Collins Family Good Night 2023 Campout!
A short drive later, we began to turn our pedals just outside Trentham in regional Victoria, heading into Wombat State Forest, an area steeped in history from the gold rush days. We were reminded of this many times as we headed towards camp; there were giant scars in the hillsides and warnings of abandoned mine shifts everywhere. Sharing this with the kids felt incredibly special. We dodged some of the biggest puddles we’ve ever seen, went zooming down gravel hills with our feet off the pedals, tackled steep and rough tracks and everything in between, eventually pulling to a stop at a wild camp on the banks of Yankee Creek.
We were lucky enough to see people panning for gold when we arrived, watching from afar as they swirled their pans with hope in their eyes. We drifted into setting up camp, getting a fire going, and cooking dinner as the light slowly faded and a cloudy, windy night took hold. I lay awake in the tent thinking about what a special set of memories were in the process of being made; the sowing of a seed with my children which will hopefully develop into a love of the outdoors and riding bikes.
The following day, we finished off our circular route back to Trentham, not without a last sting in the tail—a punishing hike-a-bike just before we returned to civilization. We celebrated with a pizza and two tired but really happy little bikepacking converts. The beginning of many trips to come!
My final overnighter of a very busy 2023 was exploring new roads close to home. I decided on the Ranchita Rambler the night before heading out and started pedaling the following afternoon after wrapping up work.
The most special thing about my local dirt roads is the topography. The San Ysidro Mountains, a range that stretches from Southern California to Baja California, rapidly give way to the Colorado Desert to the east. This route begins in Ranchita and travels through Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, the western end of the Colorado, before climbing back up into the mountains. I rolled out with five liters of water, was quickly humbled by my loaded bike on punchy climbs, and enjoyed a nearly 20-mile descent through winding canyons and washes on sandy roads to the desert floor below. My favorite element always is the stark shift in flora that accompanies the drop in elevation. White California sage, juniper, and the occasional ponderosa pine rapidly shift to ocotillo, cholla, and creosote.
The unique part of this route was traveling through two cultural preserves: Angelina Spring on the way down and Culp Valley on the way up. Both of these regions have been used by Indigenous peoples for centuries, offering springs and respite from the desert sun during seasonal travel between the mountains and the desert. As a guest in these areas, I was treated to quiet roads, a surprising amount of coyote melon (traditionally used for food and medicine!) sprawling alongside the roads, and the occasional skittish, big-eared black-tailed jackrabbit as the afternoon sun shifted off of me and onto the surrounding canyon walls.
The sun set as the descent ran out, and I rode the final miles on Old Borrego Valley Road with a veggie burrito on my mind, which I ate immediately once I rolled into Borrego Springs in the dark. I pedaled my final miles to camp in Palm Canyon, sipped a canned margarita a stranger in town handed me, passed out, and woke up to the sun illuminating the surrounding peaks I couldn’t see the night prior. What goes down must come up, and I ended the ride with a 3,500-foot, 12-mile climb back to my car in Ranchita. This year’s Goodnight Campout was a nice reminder that getting out locally for one afternoon, one night, and one morning is always worth it.
The year had come to an end. As we began to wind down 2023, our crew from the Outsiders was excited to reunite again for our Good Night 2023 Campout. This year, we picked River Garden, Kerling, as our campground.
Our goal was to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city. We were eager to get closer to nature, enjoy bathing in a pristine river, surrounded ourselves with the greenery of the tropical forest, and take some time to be immersed in the calmness of the night outdoors accompanied by the echoes of mother nature.
The campout was really fun, and the campground really offered great facilities. We will definitely come again to explore the other side of the rivers and nearby waterfalls before too long.
Last year, we took part in the Goodnight Campout in hopes of getting folks out on their first bikepacking ride. We had a nice group, but no first-timers. Heidi and Kara help run a women’s mountain bike group online, and they spread the word using last year’s ride as the carrot. This year, we made more of an effort to attract new bikepackers. We pooled our extra gear and loaned out a tent and bags of all shapes and sizes. I hosted an informal gathering in my garage in the days leading up to the ride to see what bags worked and how to set everything up. Success!
We’d be riding one of our more popular local trail networks, Hawes. It’s national forest land right next to suburbia. Convenience, familiarity, and accessibility are key when trying to get riders to take the plunge into something new. Our route would use mostly double green and blue trails, and it was only 10 miles for the first day with a 2 p.m. rollout. We met at a commuter park-‘n’-ride lot next to Hawes. We had 12 riders total: seven women and five guys, and best of all, three first-time bikepackers!
This ride was all about fun and learning. We stopped often to stay as a group, and who doesn’t want great desert riding photos when Red Mountain is your backdrop? It was unseasonably warm, a good 10 degrees above normal, and most of us were dressed for the predicted cooler temps. What that meant was a pleasant night sitting around the campfire roasting marshmallows, swapping stories, and gazing skyward for the elusive shooting star. All while the glow of the big city was over the next hill.
The second day was a few more miles, but overall easier riding. You could tell right away that the newbies were hooked. This was such a fun group, full of enthusiasm and great questions. We plan to make this an annual tradition as it’s the perfect way to end the year and introduce a new way of riding to others. This time of year is prime for desert bikepacking and sets the stage for the rest of our cooler months. Our goal is to put together another introduction to bikepacking ride before the heat kicks in.
In my youth, my dad taught me the importance of biking and camping–sanity tools. Winter in Logan, Utah, is always chilly, it’s winter, it’s the desert, and it’s home to one of the coldest recorded temperature locations in the US, Peter Sinks.
From the dam, up the brutal steeps, traverse to the gentle climb. A local team grooms the trail for fat bikes, but the snow conditions proved to be rather non-cooperative for this ride. We slipped and slid our way, fully loaded, with our lights as guides. Pitch the tent, warm the toes, snap some photos, mushroom soup from a thermos, warm the toes some more. We talked about life; his minting into grandfatherhood, my minting into fatherhood. As we slept, a nearby weather station recorded a nightly low of 6ºF.
Morning coffee, tea, oats, and pastries, then a frigid pedal back down the canyon to our respective homes. There was no fanfare, no wild stories, just a boy and his dad, enjoying the outdoors, the new year, and holiday season, just like the good ol’ days.
Good Night 2023 Prize Winners
Thanks to this year’s sponsors, we had six prize packages to give away, and we randomly picked the winning submissions from the group of 10 presented here today. Molly Sugar and Oliver Hulme will be receiving a kit from Old Man Mountain that includes an award-winning Elkhorn rack, a versatile front or rear rack, and a Juniper trunk Bag worth around $300. Jordan Khodabande and Collin Crane will take home a set of Teravail Ehline or Rutland tires worth roughly $150. Lastly, Meon Hafiz and Clotaire Mandel will receive a cargo cage and bag bundle from Tailfin worth nearly $350. Congratulations to all of our winners, and thanks to everyone who took part in this year’s Good Night Campout! We’d be thrilled to see your photo and video submissions in 2024.
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