For six weeks I lived out of a jeep and a tent. It’s as dreamy and wonderful as it sounds—sleeping under the stars, the open road, the smell of camp fire in your hair, and not a single worry in the world. I can keep going. A cross-country road trip is an adventure everyone should experience. Or at least camp for longer than a weekend. And I mean the real kind where you go for days without charging your electronics or bathing. Yes, that kind. The best kind, and I’d do it all over again in a heart beat.
As magical as it sounds, there are some parts to this lifestyle that quickly grow old. I write particularly about the set-up and break down of our campsite. It was a chore that needed to be done almost everyday. Thankfully, these 15 hacks helped keep life on the road as free and inspiring as we all dream it to be.
1. Invest in a small-burner
Having your own burner means you don’t have to wait to get to a campsite with a fire pit. No fire pit means you can cook essentially anywhere.
2. Consider a tent that is easy to assemble
When you must assemble and dismantle the thing almost every day, you’ll appreciate the effortless process that comes with the addition of pole clips and color coding.
3. Always keep rope around
4. And duct tape
About a third of the way through our trip one of your tent poles snapped. Luckily we had duck tape to temporarily fix the problem.
5. Invest in brands with reputable customer and repair services
You may one day find yourself with a busted fuel can or, like us, a broken tent pole miles away from an outdoor supply store. For times like these, it’s a relief to know manufacturers will be there to accommodate your problem. Our tent manufacturer was quick and eager to respond. We received a set of replacement poles at our campsite in just 2 days.
6. Keep toiletries in a cooler
Being transient means everything you own moves too. I imagine transporting toiletries from campsite to restroom might be a little challenging if you’re bringing along a toothbrush, toothpaste, wipes, contact solution. The list would even be longer if you were to take a shower. Collect every toiletry product and keep them in a hand-held cooler. Sometimes I throw in my change of clothes in there too. The cooler will keep everything organized, dry, and convenient.
7. Use a water gallon as a lantern
Sometimes you don’t need the ultra bright light of your headlamp. It’s nice to have a soft glow around the campsite both for ambience and function. For these times we attached our headlamps to a gallon of drinking water. Make sure the light faces inwards. The light filters through the water and emits a soft glow, perfect for lighting our dinner or accompanying us to the bathroom. You can always drink the water when you’ve exhausted all other sources .
8. Keep food in large plastic bins that work double as tables
9. Don’t buy pre-made dehydrated back-packer meals
Unless you intend on going backcountry on foot for several days, try to avoid buying these. Save your money. Instead, hit stores like 99 Ranch and Grocery Outlet where you can stock on essentials that are cheaper and longer-lasting.
10. Take advantage of versatile ingredients
A camper’s pantry is often a limited one. Even so, the lack of variety shouldn’t leave you eating the same thing every day. Consider stocking on dry oats, plain noodles (egg, bean threads, rice or any quick cooking variety) and rice. These items are easily adaptable. We often favor a savory oatmeal loaded with rehydrated mushrooms, dried squid and chives.
11. Carry knife/hatchet
12. Assign a single bag for dirty clothes
This is particularly helpful if you’re traveling with others. Keeping all of your dirty clothes in one bag means it’s all in one place when it comes time to laundromat day.
13. Bring a large bucket
This is probably my favorite purchase on the road-trip: a 5 gallon neon green bucket from a 99 Ranch store. Large buckets like this are useful for when your campsite is a good distance away from a water source. Use it to carry back potable water for cleaning dishes, washing hands and brushing teeth. It saves you the effort of lugging your dirties back to the spigot and hogging the area.
14. Take advantage of free drinking water
If your trip takes you near a deli, a mall, or anywhere with a drink fountain ask if they can fill your bottle up. Chances are they won’t charge. I’ve done this several times, and it’s saved me from having to use up our water stock.
15. Listen to Music
It’s important to reinforce everything you’ll see and do into memories with the help of music. Later when you hear these songs, you’ll associate them with the most beautiful times in your life. I have playlists specifically for and from my travels. They help a great deal with making my experiences concrete.