As many of you know, we have chosen a life on the road . . . forever! This means we need to be prepared to car camp or pop up a tent every day! We decked out the Great Escape, our Ford Escape SUV, by building a bed into it so we can sleep in it. This is primarily for city nights. It also helped us get the most storage space, by using room under this bed frame. Speaking of space and organization, you’ll want to carefully consider the clothes you pack when spending a long time in your car camper. You are probably making a trade-off between clothes and other items, like your stove and cook wear, boots and shoes, backpacks, dog gear if your bringing fido along, and if you’re anything like us you might also need space for books and rocks! So, how do you choose between all of those beloved garments? Here’s a quick guide to help you pack. The key is to think like a backpacker. Backpackers have to choose wisely due to limited space and must be prepared for any weather condition that strikes – that’s precisely the challenge that the long-term car camping life on the road warrior also faces. So, here goes:
Be prepared for rain!
Jacket Shell &/or Puffy
You will need some sort of jacket for those chilly nights. We try to follow the good weather, but it’s inevitable that we will run into cold and snow sometimes on our travels, especially since we love the mountains so much. We’ve listed the option of a jacket and/or puffy, depending on your need. If you know you’ll be in cold its best to have both. The puffy jacket is particularly good for backpacking, which we also do a lot of, and it is light weight and small to stuff into cramped places, making it a must have for us.
Sweater or Fleece
A basic warm sweater is good for the cool days and nights. It also serves well under the previously mentioned jacket or puffy. The jacket then traps the heat of the sweater or fleece and your body heat and those two items alone will keep you pretty toasty.
As an extra light-weight low-space item, the thermal is also a great addition to your attire. The thermal will serve as an extra for cold nights or rainy-day hiking adventures.
Light Long Sleeve
The light long-sleeve has one particular application, which no other garment will solve. Heat and bugs! While hiking in Canada in the summer we realized two things: (1) It gets hotter than most people realize. Add in some humidity and you’ll be pretty warm on your British Columbian hike. (2) The bugs ARE as bad as they say! Now, combine the two and consider the challenge of dressing for such an occasion. You want to be in shorts and a tank top because of the heat, but you want to cover up because of the bugs. There are a few ideas out there. You could get a light-weight runners jacket. We found a pricey Brookings brand pink jacket for Heather at a thrift store for a couple of bucks. She was dying from the bugs but hates to be hot on hikes, so we were lucky to find something! It needs to be fairly loose-fit. If it’s too tight, such as your thermal let’s say, the bugs will still bite through. So, guys, you could use a long-sleeve light button up top. Ramsey got a Cabella’s brand white thin button up shirt at a thrift store for a few bucks & it has worked great! A friend also mentioned a brand that makes bugg-off specific clothing.
We have found that tank tops make more sense than tee-shirts. You can wear these when it’s hot, and have the warmer items mentioned above for the cold. So, cut out the middle man. Actually, just grab a handful of your favorite go-to tanks and tees and remember you can always grab a new one at a thrift store if you desperately need it. Don’t overpack here.
Durable / Warm Pants
If you’re going to be spending a lot of time out in the wilderness, across varied terrain, or in the cold, a warm pair of pants is a must. Why not also get something pretty durable, so they can last a long time! Ramsey found that Dickies pants are relatively inexpensive and have lasted for years.
Comfortable / Hiking Pants
When it’s hot, however, the thick pants probably won’t do. A pair of hiking pants (and perhaps also some leggings or sport yoga pants, ladies) will be necessary. Columbia brand hiking pants are decent, comfortable, and you can find them at outlets, on Amazon, or even at a thrift store!
For those hot days and sleeping.
Warm, comfortable socks.
No explanation necessary!
Gloves will be great for both warmth and hand protection against things like insects or when you’re breaking sticks around the campfire. You might want a thin pair plus a durable work glove, depending on you’re planned activities.
Optional, but helpful for cold or sunshine.
Necessary if you plan to do a lot of hiking and outdoor activities. We assume you will be doing so, if you plan on camping and hiking and living on the road the cheap way!