Going Minimal

Ideally, a camping road trip looks a little different than my current set up.  In addition to all of my needed gear, I happen to be carrying some extra baggage for a friend who moved to Florida.  Getting to the back of my truck is near impossible right now.  When we stop for rest, I am sleeping across the front seat with the girls on top.  Buddy is in back in his kennel. The original plan was to meet up with my friend and spend some time catching up, color her hair, see her new place, and finally scale back on “stuff” in the truck.  Now that is all up in the air.

I need some breathing room.

I’ve enjoyed plenty of trips to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area with nothing but a 60lb pack containing everything needed to survive for 7 – 10 days.  That’s not this trip.  But I am striving to “go minimal” as much as I can with 3 dogs tagging along, and a growing number of purchases that I’m running out of storage room for.

Here are some ideas to keep space, cost and sanity in check during long hauls on the road.

Two categories seem to be the biggest space and weight robbers on trips—food and clothes.

Food:  Simply don’t bring it. Sure, pack a small plastic container of various cooking spices, coffee, sugar and other staple needs, and maybe a meal or two, but when it comes to bringing a lot of canned goods or beverages—just don’t.  There are plenty of grocery stores, Sams, Walmart or something usually within an hour of most places.  There’s always somewhere to get food, so why fill your vehicle with it?  I keep a small cooler handy for “traveling food”.  The big cooler doesn’t kick in for use until I’ve established camp and am going to be there awhile.  Remember, if you carry a bunch of food that needs to be refrigerated, you may need to get ice daily to keep it cold.

One thing I do bring is food and water for the dogs. Why water?  Because I have had the horrific experience of seeing what happens when they consume water they aren’t used to—with their sensitive systems, the last thing any of us need is dogs with the runs on the road. Once the carried water is gone, it’s all purchased purified water—never local tap.

Clothes:  Consider the fact that you’re “just passing through”.  Since I’m not going to be in any one place too long, I don’t feel as inclined to bring a bunch of clothes (no worries like “what if people saw me in the same outfit for days on end?”)

That said, I need to be packed for 4 seasons, since I’m spending time in all of them. Two changes of clothes for the cold (least time spent) and 4 changes of clothes for the warm (most time spent).  If I’m certain that I will need to be dressed for business or formal entertainment—ONE suit with two coordinating tops, and ONE dressy outfit.  There’s always a launder mat somewhere.

After that, it’s all about camping accessories.  They are typically broken down into categories of safety, dwelling, cooking, comfort, and recreation.

Accessories:

Safety lights, ropes, tools, batteries, etc.  This is an area I try not to skimp on.  I’m traveling with a GPS, compass, matches, medical kit, white gas, lighters, reflectors, flares, bungies and straps, shovel, extra tarps, a small electric heater, small battery operated fans, blankets, a set of tools including pliers, hammer, axe, tape measure, duct tape, tie wraps.  In addition I carry a small duffel bag of emergency items for dog care. 

Dwelling: 

Back of the truck is set up with a cot for me, storage underneath and kennels for the dogs, and a bug net to drape over the back end to keep out the bugs at night.  In addition I’m carrying a 3 room Coleman tent that is lightweight and takes 15 minutes tops to get set up.  It sleeps 8 people comfortably, so the 4 of us have plenty of room.  Firm rule number one—no food in the tent, ever.  I am also carrying a 10×10 pop up canopy that goes up in 20 minutes or less.  What I really like is that both items are easy for me to set up or take down in the dark, and they pack down to not take up much space.

Cooking: 

I have a 3 burner Coleman stove that takes care of all my cooking needs in remote settings.  In the short haul, I use sterno under tin cans for a super quick meal when I don’t want to deal with unpacking.  I also carry a 1 burner electric hot plate, a small George Forman grill and my rice cooker for campsites that offer electric. All 3 are compact and ideal for just one or two people.  I carry minimal dishes, too.  Plastic dishware, two of each—and a bag of plastic disposable silverware.

Comfort: 

While I have spent many nights sleeping on the ground in a small tent, this trip isn’t about that, either.  I’m carrying a heavy-duty canvas lawn chair for a cot, a square fold up canvas table, a fold up super light aluminum cook table, and two fold up lawn chairs.  The plastic tubs I use to carry my cooking items in, double for additional table (or flat surface) space.  The big ticket item I’m toting on this trip is dog fence.  Sections of 4 foot high metal fencing with gate doors.  Enough sections that all 3 dogs have room to move about. This I set up around the 10×10 canopy on two sides, with tarps closing off the remaining two sides creating lots of secure room for them, and the space becomes a great cooking shelter. Along with this I have a bag of ropes, stakes, and clips for any structure modifications. A cargo rack on the hitch of the truck allows me to carry larger items in back so there is more room in the cab or in the actual truck. 

Recreation: 

This trip includes my gun, two sets bird hunting attire, my bow, two sets of deer/pig hunting clothes, small day pack with binocs, rangefinder, miscellaneous hunting accessories, ropes, knives, trail markers, skinning & butchering equipment.  I’ve brought a lightweight, compact archery target to pass time and keep tuned up with.  I’ve brought snorkel gear, and my prescription scuba mask (the rest of that gear I can rent if I find a good scuba dive opportunity). I also brought my workout mat, and a 2lb weight to maintain a routine while traveling.

Ok………so…. I use the term “going minimal” loosely….it’s all relative!

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