Flats Challenge on the Road- on a BIKE. Guest Post from The Pedal Powered Family

This guest post is from The Pedal Powered Family.  I first learned about their adventure after they signed up for the Flats Challenge.  I asked Heidi if she would write a guest post about using cloth diapers and touring North and Central America by bicycle with 2 children!  I hope you will all follow their journey on their blog or Facebook Page.

It would have been difficult to take on the Flats and Handwashing Challenge while living at home – having the washing and drying capabilities and a good stash of fitted diapers that worked fantastically, I didn’t want to invest in another type of diaper. You would think that doing this challenge would have been even more difficult to attempt while travelling, however that’s when I realized that unless I did so, I wouldn’t be able to continue cloth diapering at all during the next year, as I would be spending the next year on my bike.

On May 21st, I left with my family (myself, husband, and 2 kids ages 4 and 18 months) on a year long North and Central American bike tour. We’ve gone on shorter bike trips in the past where it has always been easier to just switch to disposable diapers for the duration of each journey, but we didn’t want to compromise our eco-friendly values for an entire year as we continued to diaper little Harper on the road.

Better for Babies generously supplied us with a complete collection of fitted diapers and wool covers for our travels. We wanted to utilize wool covers as we would only need a rotation of 2 or 3, and wool doesn’t need to be washed very frequently. When they do require washing, they have a pretty long dry time, so we did take along a few Bummi’s Super Whisper Wraps for back up. After using the fitted organic cotton velour diapers from Better for Babies for several weeks prior to the start of our bike trip, we determined that they work very well, fit great, and never leaked. However, they did take forever to line dry. So we looked into flats as a faster-drying solution. Re-diaper, our local cloth diaper resource supplied us with some Osocosy flats. We learned how to fold them and have since taken 13 of them on our travels. We also took 9 flat hemp inserts, figuring this would be about a two day supply.

We have been on the road for about a week, and the diapering is going pretty smoothly. We wash each diaper as it is dirtied in whatever resource we have – a hotel bathtub, sink at a campground or in a bathroom in a gas station. Then we dry them on the back of the sun shade attached to my husband’s bicycle and they dry in the sun and wind. One night, we did a load of about 8 flats in a hotel bathroom and they were almost completely dry by morning after hanging all over the hotel room.

Ok. I’m struggling here. I have a confession. The diapers are currently in an electric dryer and I’m cheating. However, there was no way around this situation! Being on the road by bicycle means you are out in the weather almost 24 hours a day. And it has rained straight the last 2 days! We have no indoor drying rack as we are sleeping in a tent so the diapers had to be dried in a dryer. For this challenge I may have cheated but I’ll make up for it by participating in the handwashing challenge for the next year as we continue to travel by bicycle around the continent. {Editor’s Note- You are totally forgiven!  Your dedication to cloth on your journey more than makes up for using a dryer this week!}

Pros – we continue to use cloth diapers while travelling and don’t contribute to the mounting landfills with diapers that will never decompose; Harper is happier in cloth!
Cons – handwashing each individual diaper as we can uses so much water and takes a considerable amount of time – 7-10 min per diaper can equal almost 1 hour of the day – we have to wash them when we can as we can never predict where the next available resource to wash them will be; unpredictable and rainy weather means that we will be using a dryer when we have to; flats don’t contain poop as well as fitted diapers which means our wool covers will need washing more frequently which may be a challenge due to their drying time.

So far, this handwashing challenge has been just that – a challenge. I admit, I sometimes long for a disposable diaper that I can just throw in the next trash can. I dread every time I see Harper straining with his next #2 because I know I’ll have to scrape it out and get my hands dirty. But it does warm my heart every time the diapers dry within an hour on the bicycle or over a lunch rest stop hanging on a fence. Perhaps my next stop should be looking into “elimination communication” to eliminate the messy parts of this challenge… {Editor’s note: I posted about EC coincidentally today, check it out}

About The Pedal Powered Family: We are a family of four seeking to live simply, give generously, and travel slowly on our bikes. On May 21, 2011 we plan to live out our dream of exploring our continent on a year-long, 20,000km bicycle tour, starting and finishing at our home in Hamilton, Ontario.

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