Continuing on with the nomadic life series is my ‘What to Pack’ post.
- Just Leave
- The Best Car for the Road (and its addendum)
- What to Pack
- Where to Visit
- Tips and Tidbits
I took completely different things on the USA portion of my trip versus the international portion, so I will create two appropriate posts. The USA portion, which this post will cover, allowed me to bring more belongings since I was traveling by car and my car was essentially my “home”. When brainstorming the necessary items, I created 7 categories to ensure I wasn’t leaving any necessities behind, while also not over packing. Over packing, in my mind, is actually worse than not bringing a necessary item as it just creates clutter you must deal with the entire trip whereas if you forget something you can easily buy it along the way.
This pile consisted of all of my belongings except boulder pad that I used for my 8 month USA portion of my trip. This handful of items was perfectly adequate.
Prior to my trip I was mainly a sport climber, did a little trad climbing and had bouldered a handful of times. I decided to leave my trad gear (a mere 1/2 a rack) at home thinking I would mostly sport climb. I threw in my boulder pad just in case I didn’t find any partners. But within two months of being on the road, I found it difficult to consistently find sport climbers I could trust and transitioned to a full time boulderer. Depending on what type of climbing you do, this category will be different for you. Yet, this is what I packed:
- 70 meter rope – I purposely took a 70 meter rope so that I wouldn’t ever have to worry about the length of a climb.
- Rope bag – I use one of the black diamond packs that is large enough to carry all my belongings
- Backpack – I also had a crag backpack that I usually carried my belongings in. Looking back I would probably only take the rope bag but then again it never hurts to have a spare backpack.
- Draws – I believe I took all my draws, equaling approximately 20+ at the time.
- Locking biners – I believe I had 3
- Two ATCs – I took two just in case one was lost or dropped
- Grigri – I prefer to belay with a grigri so this was a must have.
- Shoes – I took 3 pairs, but think most people take more. I had two pairs of anasazis (my current favorite shoe) and a pair of Mythos for trad climbs. There were times on the trip when I wished I had a more aggressive shoe, especially when in Hueco.
- Plastic bin – in the South I was rained on quite a bit and I quickly learned that moisture could seep into my vehicle. This scenarios is horrible, especially for a rope. I found a thin, long bin that fit perfectly into the alloted trunk space that ensured my climbing materials stayed dry.
- Bouldering pad
I slept the majority of the time in my vehicle as it became surprisingly comfortable and was definitely warmer. Pictured you can see my actual bed with the right side floor holding the spare stove (aka “night stand”) with my books and night time down booties. The left side of the floor held a basket full of my morning items (brush, face wash, etc) with spare books.
- Tent – I did have a tent and would pack one again as on occasion it was useful.
- Sleeping bag – I had a 10+ bag. It was sufficient.
- Spare blanket – I had a spare blanket that was real nice for the extremely chilly nights.
- Sleeping pad
I packed too many cooking supplies considering I HATE TO COOK. Trust me, if you hate to cook at home, you will especially hate to cook on the road. I ended up sending many of my belongings home and found I needed a small bag to keep me happy. The few items below are seriously all I needed.
Cooking in a parking lot while doing laundry and keeping the dog in place by tying her to the cooler. Yes, this IS life on the road. =)
- Cooler – I did carry a cooler, which is not a necessity. I found that I really liked being able to buy things that needed to be chilled. I purposely carried a big cooler because it was nice to be able to buy blocks of ice, which melt slower than bags. Yet, in the south I could rarely find blocks of ice making my big cooler inconvenience not worth it. I would take a small cooler next time.
- Stove / Propane – A friend suggested I carry a two burner stove and a small camping stove. The two burner stove was useless since I didn’t want to cook a big meal and seriously ended up being a “night stand” in the back of my Honda. For the next trip I would take only a small camping stove. The propane for these small stoves can be more expensive, but the small space taken up and the convenience make it worth it (in my opinion).
- Small set of pots with lids
- 2 or 3 sporks
- 2 sharp knives
- Can Opener
- Matches and Lighters
- Bottle / wine opener – needed of course only if you drink
- Food Bin – I had a food bin that contained mostly pastas, peanut butter, soups, bread, etc.
- Coffee cone and filters – I actually sent this home as well as I became a tea drinker on the road, mostly due to the convenience.
I had two small drawers that I took for clothing and misc. items. Only clothing that could fit in these bins was taken. Essentially one of them was full of clothing and the other had misc. items and held perhaps a hoodie or two. The clothing I had transitioned a bit due to losing items, wearing out items or buying new things to combat the cold. In the end, this was what I had.
You can see one of the two clothing drawers in this picture.
- 3 pairs of comfortable pants – I picked up 3 pairs of cheap cargo pants at Old Navy for $15 a pair that became my favorite bottoms. They were comfortable, were good for climbing, but also didn’t look too scroungy if I needed to wear them around town.
- 1 pair of jeans
- Around 10 shirts – mostly tank tops or layering items. If going on a road trip during prime season, it will be cold.
- Hoodies – I wear a lot of hoodies, especially when climbing because the hood can be helpful when hanging out in 30 degree temps. I packed four.
- Pair of capilene long underwear (top and bottom)
- Down jacket – I carried one down jacket with me. I almost wished I had taken another because at one point (in Arkansas) the main zipper had broken, while another perfectly good down was back home in Utah.
- Down booties – I have a pair of down booties and to be honest, these were awesome during the chilly nights around the campfire.
- Running shoes / Approach shoes
- Pair of Chacos
- Pair of Flipflops – these were perfect when I was in Hueco.
- Gloves / Beanie – I was traveling during the winter as this is often prime season for climbing. But prime season also means that it can get cold.
- Scarf – I actually bought a scarf along the way because it helped me feel “dressed up” on my rest days.
- Laundry detergent – though this can easily be picked up along the way.
I carried more than I needed to in this area as it was harder than expected to go from a office job, where I needed to be dressed up all the time, to the life of a dirt bag. In the future I would pack the following.
- Shampoo / Condition – I didn’t carry any body soap, instead using a tiche of my shampoo instead.
- Towel – I packed a quick dry towel that I got from REI. This was perfect.
- 2 brushes – trust me, you will lose one at some point
- Hair ties / Bobbie Pins – this items are a necessity for me.
- Package of Razors – I like freshly shaven legs. Odd for a dirt bag, I know.
- Face cleansers (if you use them)
- Medications / Over the Counter Drugs – if bouldering I would suggest carrying a bottle of good old Vitamin I (ibuprofen) as your body will start to ache from 5+ days of climbing per week. Bandaids and neosporin are helpful as well.
I loved traveling with my dog as she gave me some companionship on my trip plus was a great guard dog, warning me of anything that came near my vehicle (even friends). =) I took the following for CB.
CB’s “place” soon become the back window. Oh the joys of owning a small dog. =)
- CB’s Bed – Even though CB doesn’t use her bed much at home, we had used it for training purposes and I noticed that she would use it especially when we drove.
- 2 leashes
- Sweaters – um, I own a chihuahua. Sweaters are a necessity.
- Tick / flea medicine – I picked this up along the way because CB did get fleas while we were in the south. Next trip, I would take some preemptive care to protect her prior to actually getting the pests.
- Guidebooks – I don’t like to own many belongings, but I do love owning guidebooks. I bought the guide for every place I visited.
- Books – Take books that you can either mail back to a library or discard of when finished. This way you aren’t lugging around spare items.
- Laptop - I was working from the road, so carried my laptop. Even if I wasn’t working I would carry my laptop because wi-fi in the states is ubiquitous. I did carry a laptop lock.
- Software / Operating Disks – I did NOT carry this with me and got into a bind when my harddrive decided to crash in North Carolina. I ended up buying a new operating system disk (as mine was who knows where in storage so couldn’t have a friend find it) and then used all open source software (perhaps will write up a further post on this).
- Blackberry – I found my blackberry, with google maps installed to be invaluable! I can’t tell you how much Google Maps helped me!
- Ipod – an iPod is far superior to cds because of space.
- Baby Wipes – these things become your best friend. Carry them.
- A couple items that remind you of home – I packed a boomerang my friend had sent me from Australia, a postcard my British friends had just mailed me, and a little climbing comic a friend had recently left on my door. =)
But out of all these things … the best thing to take with you is a good attitude. Traveling is fun, but there are going to be some hard times. At some point you will definitely get lonely (especially if traveling solo), your car will need repairs, you will get tired of sleeping in your tent and not having access to a shower, you might simply get sick of climbing (trust me it happens) or will long for a good friend. Remember how lucky you are to be bumming around in your car, how few people actually get long extended periods of travel, and try to remain cheerful even during the rocky patches.
If you have any additional beta, I would of course love to hear it. Please feel free to comment, email or IM me.