Preparing for any camping venture means more than a few extra trips to your local overpriced outdoor expedition retail outfitters. Preparing for a year-long trek across the US – starting basically from scratch, mind you – will not only test your patience but slowly bleed your bank account within an inch of its life.
Thankfully, we planned ahead. As soon as we started considering a nomadic cross-country romp as an actual possibility, we game-planned the mass allocation of stuff we knew we’d need to survive at some hospitable level of outdoor comfort. Be warned: this list is massive and detailed in a way only two obsessive compulsive Americans can manage to be.
This big ass gear post is broken into the following categories:
- Not-So Essentials.
- Complete wastes of space and money we are bringing anyway SO LAY OFF.
Within those categories we’ll do our best to go from most essential to biggest wastes of money. You can thank us for our industriousness later. Or now. Why don’t you just thank us now.
2010 Honda Fit (Jane Honda)
There isn’t a piece of finely-engineered Japanese machinery we’d rather be able to call our own. The Fit is the perfect road trip car. Gas mileage: check. Deceivingly robust interior volume: check. Dead sexy, ruggedly masculine exterior: double check. Lucky for us, we were already pin-balling this beauty through the congested streets of Seattle before even thinking about making our career getaway. You can read all about our unnatural love affair with sweet Jane Honda here.
Marmot Tungsten 2P Tent
No more important piece of gear exists outside your tent. Well, perhaps your fanny pack, but we’ll get to that later. I can’t say enough good things about this little orange beauty. It’s roomy, easy to erect (heh), and, most importantly, doesn’t look like a drunk flamingo trying to swallow a weather balloon (other tents, you know who you are).
Turns out, tough choices have to be made every once in awhile. Eager to get our grubby hands on the mother of all open cell memory foam camping pads (see below), we sank a small college tuition into one without measuring our beloved Marmot Tent. After about an hour of square peg-round hole frustration we realized something had to give. What was it going to be? Marmot or MegaMat?
Well, if you’ve ever had the pleasure of sinking your cheeks into the soft, supple sleeping surface that is the Exped MegaMat Duo 10, you’ll understand how easy the choice ended up being. Don’t let the door hit you on the way out, Marmot!
Eureka Apex 2XT Tent
We were immediately smitten with the Eureka Apex 2XT for reasons we scratched out of the Marmot description above – which you should read for a joke about a drunk flamingo swallowing a weather balloon – but this time with enough legroom to contain our behemoth of a sleeping pad. Yay!
Exped MegaMat Duo 10 Air Mattress
The cause of many pre-trip logistics headaches is also the reason we plan to stay sane on the road. The biggest piece of advice from my cousin and his world-traveling life partner was simple: sleep. We’ve invested many hours of research and American dollars into our sleep system in the name of nocturnal comfort. Call it glamping (I’m sure someone will), but it could be the difference between road trip ecstasy and me hitchhiking my way home with foot shoved firmly in mouth.
REI Co-op Trail 29 Sleeping Bags(x2)
My wonderful travel (and life) partner, Iza, had a single concern to air before we started planning our mass allocation of gear: snugging is non-negotiable. An easy concession to make on my part. However, when finally settling on sleeping bags, practicality reigned supreme as the need to keep us warm in potentially poor mountain weather had to be covered. I ensured her there’d still be ample opportunity for spooning under the stars in the fiery depths of the American Southwest. And at least now we have matching mummy sacks!
Coleman Triton Camp Stove
I have romantic visions of Iza and I settling in each night with a fresh box of wine and simmering plate of piping hot bone marrow. Reality tells me I’m in for a luke warm budweiser and a tasteless slop bowl of undercooked pasta. Nevertheless, we are pretty stoked to fire up this two-burner bad boy and crank some serious butane fueled BTUs (that’s Badass Temperature Units, for the layperson).
Husqvarna 13” Hatchet
Ah, a birthday present only a perspective road trip car camper would love (thanks, babe). The smile on my face when I opened this magnificent piece of Swedish craftsmanship could have cured worldwide chronic depression (probably). Husqvarna axes represent a sacred union between hardened steel and chiseled hickory. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I think I might have a future in competitive axe throwing.
SOG Escape Flip Knife
In the rare event of coming face to snout with a hungry black bear, we take a bit of comfort in knowing we’ll have some way of defending ourselves. However, we take no comfort in the fact that in such an event, neither of us imagine having the guile, composure, or Navy SEAL bear killing training required to actually defend ourselves. Let’s hope the only thing we’ll be needing this knife for is carving s’mores sticks and digging poop holes.
RTIC 45 Cooler
How much beef jerky and deli meat can one fit into an over-insulated 35 quart road trip cooler? This is one of the many questions we plan on answering while on the road. We decided to pony up for a cooler that won’t turn into a sloppy, soggy mess after an afternoon in the back of Jane Honda. The freshness of our farmers market produce depends on it.
Ultralight Folding Camp Chairs (2)
Before you say, “you know you can get perfectly fine collapsible camp chairs at Home Depot,” allow me to retort: the day I rest my camping comfort in the hands of any kind of ‘depot’ is the day I relinquish my ability to camp comfortably. I’ve gone with the Depot’s camp chairs, which was roughly two hours before one of them snapped in half under the weight of a 150 pound bald man (me) and almost impaled him (me) with the business end of a jagged plastic rod.
North Face Fulcrum 35 Day Pack ($120)
If there’s one good thing that came from the year of professional hell I endured fresh out of architecture school, it’s the REI gift card I got as a Christmas bonus and promptly turned into the best damn day pack I’ve ever had. This North Face has been through many hikes, many flights, and many lonely nights as my only friend (and pillow) trying to sleep on a dingy hotel room floor in Las Vegas.
Goal Zero Yeti 150 Portable Battery
via Goal Zero
Being the nomadic digital warriors that we’ve chosen to become, having ample reserve battery power ranked high among the list of necessities. Also, having one of these bad boys lessens the chance of me trying to charge my computer with our car battery and leaving us stranded in the middle of Moab trying to thumb down a passerby to jump-start Jane Honda. This is a real concern of ours. Right up there with bears and running out of things to talk about.
TCT Microfiber Camp Towels
These aren’t your average, run of the mill, stank-ass cotton towels. These fast-drying micro-fiber kings of moisture wicking are poised to be perfect for drying cast-iron skillets and chilly, naked mountain bodies. I used to use one of these to wipe mud and shame off my 9-iron, now we are using one to stave off hypothermia. Here’s to hoping they are better at keeping us warm than helping my golf game.
See also: 90’s action-dramas Iza will never watch with Peter and Peter may or may not resent her for it.
Big Blue Tarp
We are of the mind that tarps can solve pretty much any camp-related issue that aren’t quite fit for our more expensive pieces of gear. In fact, we are taking two, because you never know when you might be in a position to spontaneously fashion a giant water slide on a perfect morsel of grassy hillside. That’s also why I’m pushing for the Costco tub of industrial lube. I don’t think Iza’s going for it.
Para Cord (rope)
We’ve managed to learn a single potentially helpful camping knot (thanks a lot parents for not forcing us into Boys and Girl Scouts of America). The taught line hitch is poised to be perfect for hanging laundry, securing guy lines, and lassoing pet squirrels to be trained as mini car companions. And if you’ve ever seen Boondock Saints, you’ll know how important rope can be to a successful operation. If you haven’t seen Boondock Saints, only watch if you think you can get the image of Willem Dafoe in a dress and wig out of your mind (spoiler alert: you can’t).
Jungle Juice Bug Spray/Sunscreen
When your travel partner constantly has the sweet smell of butterfly nectar on their skin (I’ll let you figure out which one of us that is) you’re going to be susceptible to the occasional mosquito feast. And when you don’t have the luxury of a lush head of wavy hair to protect your pasty-white dome, you’re going to want to be packing some serious SPF firepower. Seriously, there are few things on this list we’ve talked about more than bug spray and sunscreen. Maybe the fanny pack (see below).
Assortment of Bungie Cords
When we’re flying down some half-cleared country-ass dirt road at 50 miles per hour, chances are things are poised to shift in, around, and potentially out of our car. Enter the bungee chord: every road travelers best friend and capable of keeping things as snug and secure as a Speedo. Actual Speedo to be purchased at a later date.
Yakima Skybox 12 Cargo Box
You may have been wondering how in the world this luxurious deluge of car camping loot could possibly fit within the modest interior volume of our beloved Jane Honda. Well…now you know.
Macbook Pro and Macbook Air
The inconspicuous Apple logo I can’t seem to scrape off Jane Honda’s bumper makes us easy targets for non-conformists to scream “die yuppie scum” at us as we drive by. I’ve come to terms with this. We also love Apple products and will continue to buy them until Tim Cook inevitably tanks the company with next year’s over-designed, under-utilized consumer fad of the week. But not today. Not today.
Olympus E-M10 Mark II Mirrorless Camera
We traded in our faithful Nikon DSLR in favor of something a little bit more low-profile. I didn’t know much about mirrorless digital cameras until recently, and immediately fell in love with how compact and sleek they were without sacrificing image quality. Someday we will be viewing our journey through the eyes of this little silver picture box, so it was important to buy the right piece of hardware. We choose wisely.
Wood Storage Crates (x3)
via Home Depot
Along our many adventures we plan to do much schlepping of gear, food, ice, and roadside chotchkies. If we can’t be civilized and organized in the way we store things in our limited space, we’re bound to leave something important behind – or worse – slip into a crazed state of rage because I can’t find the can opener with a fresh can of baked beans staring me down. These crates are sturdy, easy to carry, and didn’t break the bank. Plus we got free smells at Home Depot for 30 minutes while we looked for them.
Bushnell 10×25 Binoculars
For scoping campsites, observing herds of wandering buffalo, and snooping on unsuspecting skinny dippers. We actually only plan to use these garage sale binoculars for two of those things. I’ll let you be the judge.
Aennon Head Lamps
There’s nothing more terrifying than waking up in a pitch black forest at 3 AM with a bladder overflowing with boxed wine and filtered stream water. Head lamps to the rescue! We’ve already agreed to make late night bathroom breaks together to best protect ourselves from nocturnal tent raiders and drunk RVers – made all the more easy with a pair of variable brightness head torches.
Gerber Suspension Multi-Plier
I promised Iza I’d only mention MacGyver once per blog post, but since this one is like a million words long I think that quota jumps to at least twice. MacGyver made the multi-tool (and the mullet) cool. There are few gear or equipment issues that can’t be fixed with the right tools and a little bit of street smarts. Well…at least now we’ve got the right tools.
Stanley Vacuum Thermos
For keeping hot things hot and keeping cold things cold (and your hands hand temperature). Not much more to say about that.
First Aid Kit(s)
It turns out you CAN have too many first aid kits. Since announcing our trip plans to close friends and family we’ve been gifted three separate first aid kids as if we are some bumbling, accident prone camping noobs who are just as likely to lop off a thumb chopping wood than…not doing that. Oh wait…that’s exactly who we are. Thanks for knowing us better than we know ourselves, close friends and family.
Against everything I thought I stood for as a lazy, unkempt American male I’ve slowly evolved into the neurotic dish washing sociopath my mother always taught me to be. This little green bottle of versatile cleaning liquid should do well to appease this compulsion when the nearest dishwasher is a few civilized towns away.
FOX Outfitters Hammock
via Fox Outfitters
I’ll be honest. I have no idea how the many straps, clips, ratchets and swaths of multi-colored ripcord manifests itself into the pinnacle of outdoor leisure. I pulled it out once but rather than figure it out in the field I opted instead for a cold beer and a warm seat by the fire. It is one of my many missions to conquer this enigma of camp gear assembly.
Complete Wastes of Space and Money We Are Taking Along Anyway
Collapsible Camp Sink
See: Camp Suds. I’m actually looking forward to washing our crusty cast iron pan in a few bubbly inches of nature’s finest campsite water reserves.
If anyone’s ever actually managed to properly maneuver the world’s most complicated tiny fire hydrant in the midst of a bear attack, then we are the next Louis and Clark. Iza’s incredibly thoughtful sister gifted us this accident waiting to happen, and though I can’t imagine a situation where we successfully ward off Yogi with the stuff, it does afford us a small comfort that we aren’t completely helpless against the ghost in the darkness.
The Wander Küche
via The Wander Küche
This is what happens when a casual YouTube deep dive turns into an expensive experiment in car camping luxury (not to mention patience). We are still on the fence as to the practicality of our portable camp kitchen (it’s heavy, bulky, and might disintegrate at the sight of a light drizzle), but are nonetheless proud we were able to design and construct something with endless camp cooking joy potential. More on the conception of the Wander Küche here.
Mini Car Dust Buster
We probably sweep and vacuum the floors of our apartment 7-10 times a week, so why should living in our car be any different? Keeping Jane Honda spic and span is high on our list of “things that give Iza agita,” so I imagine this little guy will get plenty of (over)use.
Settlers of Catan
I’m not a nerd you’re a nerd! Ahem. Sorry. No matter how many raised eyebrows we are greeted with when we force this game upon any and every couple who might be open to humoring us, we will continue on until we’ve converted you all. If you’re planning on putting us up for a night or two, be prepared to collect resources, build settlements, and rage-quit when I pilfer your wheat stockpile.
. . . . .
Wow. Who would have thought downsizing would be so expensive? It does look like a lot of stuff, but considering this is pretty much everything we have to our names these days, I’d say we’re still well below the national mean for material possessions. The only other things we need are a couple of wide smiles and the wind at our backs.
Thanks for staying with us to the end, and sorry for that two and a half hours you’ll never get back. I promise we’ll make it up to you someday.