The majority of mine and Supergirl’s adventures involve car-camping: driving to a camping spot near a trailhead and hiking or running from there. And so, when we camp I have all my gear, food, and clothes accessible and often within 10-20 feet of my tent. Quite convenient, especially when I wake up freezing in the morning then jump in the car and blast the heat until I warm up.
However, as “luxurious” (aka “glamping”) as this may sound, this can easily turn into a disaster if things aren’t organized. Furthermore, if I don’t have good directions or a working GPS (yes, I have an old-school GPS that plugs into the car) this can make finding a trailhead extremely frustrating. Then there’s food, cleaning up, finding the best route, etc. While I’m still learning (and driving in circles) here are a few of mine and Supergirl’s tips on how to get the most of your adventure and keep the “wild and free” spirit.
Organizing Your Car:
At the start of summer, one of my biggest questions was about how to organize my car and keep Supergirl safe. While my organization of food, clothes, gear, and dog by far is not the most structured, I found something that works relatively well for the two of us: in the rear, I bunjeed down my camping/gear bin. This is also where Pacer stays and still has over half of the space in the back. In the middle seats, I put my basket of clothes behind me, dry food and utensils in a basket in the middle, and the cooler on the other side of that. In the foot space behind the driver’s space, I keep the water jugs and my shoes, while Pacer’s food is kept on the passenger side by the cooler (that way I can easily get mine and Pacer’s dinner going at the same time). Next to me in the passenger seat, I usually keep my backpack. I can also might hang a towel, jacket, or hydration pack from some of the seats.
I would love to be a girl who could go a week without showering and shaving, and I have, but most of the time, I feel a lot better if I can clean up a bit after 2-3 days.
In most towns, I can find a visitor center and they will easily point me in the direction of a rec center, laundromat, campground, or even a motel that offers showers. Usually, they cost a few bucks. At other places, like the showers in Buena Vista at the park, showers are 4 quarters for 4 minutes…this means you’ve got to be ready with soap in one hand and a razor in the other, but totally doable!
Then there’s the creek option, usually freezing from snowmelt coming off the mountains. This of course is a great, free option…unless you are already freezing your butt off or there are fisherman lining the creek. Then, some improvisation is needed.
On my last trip to Montana (really Bozeman, get with it! The only place that offered public showers only offered them until noon-when I was still hiking or running)
Or, you can do the super-efficient but maybe not so effective shower: Find an empty container in your car (honestly, I’ve used an old salad bowl), and poor a minimal amount of water over your head. You don’t need much of your precious water supply (more on that below)! Just dip any long strands of hair into the bowl to get them wet. Then, apply soap/conditioner and poor a bit more water over your head. You might not get all the soap out, but at least your hair now has more shampoo in it than dirt. THEN, use the soapy (and slightly dirty) water in the bowl to shave and/or wash off “some” of the dirt on the rest of your body.
I highly suggest that before your trip, you get a map of the trails in the area. If you can’t find one locally, I would plan on driving directly to the visitor center, ranger station, or the local outdoor retailer that is near the trails you wish to explore. Of course you can find routes and driving directions online, but these aren’t always correct. Plus, I am a total nerd about my growing map collection!
Water is, obviously, essential. Every few days I find myself in a store or a gas station to buy a few more gallons. If you have a filtration system, you could save yourself quite a few bucks by just getting water from the creek. However, I have a filtration straw that I just attaches to my hydration bladder, so it is not very feasible in other situations. Another trick to save a few bucks is that every time you stop in a gas station, visitor center, or coffee shop, bring in a water bottle to fill up. I’ve also filled up my hydration bladder too by keeping it in my backpack when I head in to a coffee shop.
*After talking to some friends, they reminded me that I could use a water-bottle, like a re-used Smart Water bottle, with my filtration straw!
As many of you already know, I am plant-based and vegan. I’m not about to sacrifice my morals or nutrients when I’m on the trail! Breakfast is usually oatmeal, a banana, and tea. Before I leave my place, I usually pre-mix it with cacao and flax/chia seed. Lunch is almost non-negotiable (save for when I am backpacking). I always have my super-ginormous salad. I usually make a few ahead of time before I head out, and then hit up a grocery store in town to restock. For dinner, I have 3 go-to JetBoil meals:
1. Pasta- Usually, I prefer organic black bean noodles with organic sauce from Trader Joes, with a bunch of extra veggies thrown in.
2. Soup- Again, Trader Joe’s has a few vegan and organic options that come in a box, but most places sell Amy’s organic soups. I’ll add in some more veggies and/or noodles too.
3. Stir fry: I start the rice first, then add in veggies and black beans. Then I just throw on some seasoning and tamari sauce.
O, and I sprink almost everything with nutritional yeast! It add some extra flavor and a good does of B12.
*Please share any of your favorite vegan camping meals!
Anytime you are driving to a new place, I would simply keep it in your mind that not everything will go as planned. This isn’t to say things will go wrong…just that they probaly all won’t go right. It might be difficulty finding a trailhead, not finding a camping spot, or be pouring rain. Really, it’s all part of the adventure.
*Shortly after writing this post, I started to have car trouble. After a bout of anxiety and finding a car repair shop, I was amazed at how well thing turned out. From the shop, Pacer and I headed up on a 4 hour hike to old mining sites (and got a really good deal on the service!). However, just to let this lesson sink in a bit more, we then got stuck for an hour on the highway waiting for an accident to clear up.
Again, this is just a short list of tips Supergil and I learned this year. You can find some great articles on the subject on iRunfar.com, like this one:
Also, for information on personal safety as well as taking your best 4-legged friend along, check out my past posts:
“Of all the paths you take in life, make sure a few of them are dirt.” -John Muir
“Not I, not anyone else, can travel that road for you. You must travel it for yourself.”-Walt Whitman