Camp Life

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So you are new to ALC and wondering what life will be like in camp? You are in the right place!

Let’s assume you have read the many excellent resources on packing such as the ALC Packing List and this Packing Clinic with photo’s and descriptions of not only what, but how to pack. Bear has also posted a packing blog – Packing Slip.

With that lets start with a typical day in camp beginning with arrival at bike check.

UPDATE: We are getting some great feedback in the comments. Please make sure to read those as well and leave any additional tips. Thanks! — Curtis

Bike Check

ALC2014 - Bike CheckAs you ride in you will be directed to bike check. Keep a mental note of the row name (or text/send a photo to your phone) so you can find your bike in the morning. As you park your bike remember to remove water bottles, ID, money, anything you need in camp that might be packed in your seat bag or top tube (bento) box. Many people bring a very lightweight, pack-able, bag that they can stuff in a jersey pocket to cart their stuff. If you have a seat cover don’t forget to slip it on. (pro-tip a shower cap works great!) If you have clip covers for your shoes, now is a good time to put them on as it can be a hike to camp from bike check.

Gear Truck

gear truck Next up you’ll want to head over to the gear truck to claim your luggage and tent (if you arrive before your tent-mate). Usually the roadies will have the bags spread out before the truck so having something to help your bag stand out doesn’t hurt. By the way… don’t forget to genuflect and profusely thank your roadies. They are the heart and soul of camp life as well as the rest stops and lunch.

Camp Site

ALC2014 - Tent CityWith your luggage and tent it’s time to find your camp site. When the camp team arrives in each city they will stake out a grid with each row marked with a tall flag and the corresponding letter of the alphabet. Last year I was in row C spot number 55. As folks arrive and begin setting up their tents the spot number markers can get knocked down or inadvertently covered so don’t be shy about asking what number folks are. Once you know your neighbors it gets much easier on subsequent nights.

But what if I get up in the middle of the night to use the restroom, how will I ever find my way back? I’m usually pretty good about finding my car in a parking lot. If you have troubles with that task you might want to consider something to mark your tent. Some folks bring battery operated LED light strings, various flags or signs to drape over the tent etc. The most creative one I saw had a mini white picket fence with some flamingo’s.

Porta Potties

Thanks to our PP model Simon!
Thanks to our PP model Simon!

The dreaded porta potties… travel as lightly as possible if you are making an extended stop (you know what I mean, don’t make me go there). The less you are carrying the better… I mean you really don’t want to lose your phone in there. Do not let the door slam as you exit, your fellow campers will thank you! Without exception, USE the hand wipes and sanitizer after exiting, you really don’t want to get sick.


alc-showersSo how do the showers work? There are large mobile shower trailers. Each trailer has a door on either end. You will stand in line (usually depending on the time) and when one person exits another enters. Right before entering you will need to slip off your shoes since they are not permitted inside, make sure you wear something easy to slip on and off. Once inside you will see 5 or 6 (sorry I didn’t count) shower stalls across from a long bench and hooks to hang your gear. Find the empty stall, disrobe and carry in your shampoo, body wash and any other shower essentials. I found it easiest to use a combo shampoo/body wash product to make the whole process easier. If you aren’t as low maintenance, consider a collapsible bag you don’t mind getting wet to tote your supplies in (there is body wash provided in each shower in case you forget.) When finished, exit the stall and proceed to dry off. Pro-tip, use extra caution and don’t drop your towel, no not why you are thinking… because the floor is not so appealing. The caretaker comes in every half hour or so to clean and squeegee the floor, but the water and dusty feet add up to a mess pretty quickly. The tricky bit can be slipping into your pantaloons and shorts/sweats/trousers without dirtying them up with wet feet.

Also, it is worth it to buy a good ‘microfiber’ camp towel that will dry quickly.  If you are shy there is a ‘gender neutral’ shower truck that offers some privacy for dressing/undressing. Be prepared to look very natural or earthy…and to not know since mirrors are missing the whole week.

Outside the showers are bays of sinks that pull out of the trucks, 3 sinks per side, 6 sinks total per bay. Depending on your routine you may want to use the sink prior to showering to shave, brush teeth, etc., otherwise plan to use them afterwards.

SO… your tent is setup, you are porta pottied, showered and ready for FOOD!

Mess Hall

ALC2014 - Mess HallAfter showering I found it easiest to return to my tent to drop off my shower gear and grab water bottles to refill at dinner. It’s not necessary but if you wake at night, thirsty, you will be glad you did. After dinner there is a nightly show with highlights of the day, news and entertainment. Don’t forget to grab a snack for the tent if you are normally peckish before bed.

Camp Amenities

alc-tent-city signageEach participant is entitled to one free massage, make sure to make an appointment early on during the ride to guarantee your spot. You will want to take advantage of that amenity! In addition to the medical tent, massage, sports medicine, morning yoga and or stretching… the following services are listed on the ALC “Life in Camp” page:

Info Services

The Info Services tent is open from 6:00am – 8:30am and 1:00pm – 9:00pm and is the place questions are answered. Lost and Found is located here, as well as a message board (if you’re trying to reach another participant), guest check-in (for camp visitors), snacks, water and sports drink, information about the campsites and more. When in doubt, come to the Info Services tent—if they can’t answer your question, they’ll direct you to someone who can.

Participant Support

If you experience a non-medical related problem (anything from a lost helmet number to a family emergency), you can visit our Participant Support team located in the Command Center at each camp.

Camp Store

The Camp Store will carry a full line of official AIDS/LifeCycle merchandise as well as miscellaneous toiletries and sundry items. The store will be open on Orientation Day and each day in camp from 6:00am – 8:30am and 1:00pm-9:00pm.


This year FedEx will be offering an In-Camp shipping service for personal items you wish to send home early. They will also be able to make or confirm bike shipping reservations at the Finish Line Festival! This service will only be available in Camps 3 and 5 from 3PM – 8PM. There will also be additional boxes for purchase from FedEx. Only FedEx accounts and major credit cards will be accepted for this service. For more on bike shipping, please check the Travel Planner.


Bring some Tide! Hoses and buckets are provided so you can do some hand washing. Bring some clothespins or binder clips to hang your laundry on nearby trees, fences, etc. However, keep in mind the fact that nothing dries overnight. This is the best argument for leaving early and getting to camp while the sun has time to dry anything you sweated up or washed.

Sleepy Time

Quiet time starts at 9:00pm. While walking through camp, please keep conversations to a minimum. If you must converse make sure to wrap up the conversation while still in the mess hall. It’s a good time to stop by the porta potty right before retiring. You don’t want to get comfortable and then realize you should have made a pit stop.

A headlamp works great for reading in tent and going to the bathroom at night. I put my riding clothes in the sleeping bag so I can slip them on warm in the morning.

If you are a light sleeper, consider bringing ear plugs. Once settled in make sure your phone is on silent so its not making noise through the night. Some people like to use this time for posting on their social networks, etc. however, it’s not a good time to call your mother. Do that in the mess hall.

Tear Down and Pack Up

In the morning you will need to figure out what routine works best for you, but I liked rolling out of bed, getting into my kit for the day and then slipping on sweat pants and hoodie since it’s still pretty cold. Then I would head over to breakfast to have some coffee and wake up. Bring your toothbrush, its a long way to the sink bays. FYI, I’m normally a morning shower person but evening showers worked best for me logistically. Back at the tent, caffeinated and ready to go, I found that packing my luggage, setting it outside the tent and then tearing down the tent while still wearing my warm sweats/hoodie made all the difference. Tear down and setup are easier with two people but one can manage just fine. Last year my tent mate was a very fast rider and had the tent setup by the time I arrived at camp each day. Since he also was an early riser and departed at the 6:30am ride out, I would tear down the tent. If you are having any troubles, ask for help from your fellow camp mates, they will be glad to help… I promise.

I found it helpful to create a checklist of items I would need for the day such as water bottles, sunscreen, sunglasses, gloves, helmet, bike shoes (don’t laugh, I’ve packed them), etc. Review your checklist before dropping off your luggage and tent.

Ride Out

Each morning the course will open at 6:30 (with exceptions for weather or other conditions so pay attention to any announcements in the morning newsletter, previous night at the camp show, etc). Proceed to go find your bike and remember to grab a route sheet, refill your water bottles (there is always a refill station near bike check). Once you find your bike, grab a pump (they are spread around) and make sure your tires are at optimum pressure. Also double check your brakes!

Ready? Go have a great ride! See you in the next camp!

Odds & Ends

FYI – The above represents the routine that worked best for me. Please mix and match as you desire to whatever fits your normal routines.

Please comment with any questions, hope you found this helpful!

— Curtis P


3 thoughts on “Camp Life

    Ron Hirsch said:
    February 28, 2015 at 3:06 am

    Hi. It’s “bike parking”, not bike check. On Day Zero, your bike is checked and parked by volunteers. In camp, it’s self-service.

    On all nights but one, there’s a dining tent. I think of a mess hall as indoors. In Paso Robles there’s a mess hall. On other nights it’s a huge dining area under a tent-like covering.

    Lots of good pointers here. I suggest a bathroom bag or pouch that can easily hang on hooks. The shower area has hooks, so you can keep your stuff off the dirty wet floor.

      Patrick Wolf said:
      March 1, 2015 at 2:02 am

      Leave it to Ron and his red pen. Another pointer for the shower trucks: shorts are never to be left inside out! We don’t need to see and/or smell your biker funk!

    dianehourany said:
    March 1, 2015 at 11:55 am

    Great list! Another thing to mention is that there are two lines for dinner: vegetarian and regular, so be sure to look for the signs. Your wristband allows you to stand in one line or the other. Also at breakfast, there are two lines: one for quick breakfast, ie oatmeal, fruit, and coffee. The other, usually much longer line, is for hot, full breakfasts, like eggs and bacon.

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