I’m compiling some of the lessons and interesting tidbits I’ve learned with the hopes of passing along useful information to fellow wanderers. Especially families of travelers similar to ours.
The truth is, we were afraid there were things we couldn’t do without. We were wrong about most of it.
This is a lesson everyone must learn for themselves. No one can tell you what you need or don’t need but they can give you suggestions to help you make that decision for yourself. Ultimately, you will find out what works best for you when you get out there. Everyone is going to over pack at some point in their travels. If you’re traveling the way we are, you’ll appreciate not having your vehicle packed with items you will never really use.
There are four main categories we packed for: food, utility, clothing and misc/ personal items. I’ll admit that we over packed in all of these areas because we weren’t sure what we’d need during our trip. So we sacrificed comfort to find out what we would need. Experience being the best teacher, we overloaded the Tahoe and set off for adventure. It wasn’t very far into the trip when certain items became invaluable and others lost their appeal altogether.
Food – Probably the most important but where we really went off the deep end. About 1/3 of our entire load out is dedicated to food and meal preparation. Feeding a family of 5, twice a day, is not an easy thing to do and is going to have its own lesson entry. It’s also something we haven’t really figured out yet.
Utility – Useful items like first aid kits, ropes, insect repellent, flashlights and lamps as well as other items for making base camp livable. Your utility items will be different, depending on your style of camping and your disposition. Since we’ve decided to transition from tent camping to using ‘Hoe-Nu as our main camping component (car-camping), our utility needs have changed. In the future, we may do a video on how we set up and pack the adventure-mobile.
I still have a whole section of the utility cache dedicated to campfire prep so I have a saw, fire-starting materials and a capable knife. We also have systems set up for storing and disposing of human waste material as well as for necessary hygiene.
Clothing – Because we set out during the later part of the year, we knew we’d be facing cold weather so we packed more than we needed to combat the low temperatures with layers. We have decided, after losing a battle with 10 degree weather in Gila National Forest, that better quality, purpose-built clothing would be more effective and allow us mobility though they may not be as economical as we’d like. It would be better than wearing every item of clothing we own.
Miscellaneous/ Personal Items – Activity material for the children (not including their school stuff), books, laptops, etc. Like your utility items, these will be totally dependent on who and how many people you have with you. Personal and entertainment items will fall under this category as well as.
Of all the items we brought, there are a few that stand out as being awesome and some that we thought be be more useful. Here are a few of them and why we would/ wouldn’t suggest them.
The MightyMo backpacking stove by Jetboil is part of a kit that has saved lives on a daily basis. We have used it to cook single pot meals but more importantly, we use it to heat water for coffee! When used in conjunction with a french press and an airpot, this set up can deliver much needed caffeine to your system in about 10 minutes (5 if you heated the water the previous night). After Mom and Dad are placated, we use the remainder of the hot water for hot chocolate and sometimes oatmeal or ramen!
This gem need not be your only stove, we have a Coleman combination stove and grill that has seen quite a bit of use. It’s great for boiling water and grilling because it only has 2 settings for the flame: fully on and completely off – we bought it specifically for those reasons and because the grill can be used as a burner or 2.
Honestly though, the Coleman gets buried under stuff and, because it’s bulky and takes up a ton of space – especially when the propane tank is attached, we go for the MightyMO because it easily fits up front with us. The stove and fuel canister are small enough to carry on your person, if you have an empty cargo pocket and doesn’t require a lot of space to set up. We actually made a big bowl of ramen in the car one night because it was mucho frio outside.
My favorite part about the MightyMo is that you can adjust the size/ heat of the flame to suit your cooking needs and you don’t have to worry about matches to light it because is has an electric starter, like a regular gas stove. If we could only bring one stove, it would be the MightyMo.
[Update: 07-17-18 – HH] We have been without the Coleman for number of months now, though very effective at doing its job, it takes up more room than we could spare. We finally decided to donate the stove when we encountered a great deal of difficulty trying to dispose of the propane canisters. As of this update, we have only been using the MightyMo and campfires to cook.
ESEE 6 by ESEE Knives
I have been using an ESEE 6 for processing firewood since our first night in Carlsbad, NM and I have yet to be disappointed. Though I did choose to research and learn what I could about gathering wood and making fires without matches or lighters, I am by no means a bush-craft specialist. I picked this knife up because it comes highly recommended and I can see why. Even a novice, like myself, can break down wood for a lovely bit of fire.
If you are on the fence about what knife to carry for such purposes, I would recommend this knife as well. It is a little on the big side, about a foot overall and I believe the length of the blade, including the choil, is 6 1/2 inches long.
A choil is the unsharpened part of the knife blade that is located where the blade becomes part of the handle. At times, an indention is shaped to accept the index finger (in order to choke up for finer tasks).
I wanted something decently long, the general consensus being around 6 inches, for splitting logs and branches. It would be easier to carry something smaller like an ESEE 4 or ESEE 5 if you just wanted a general purpose knife with a fixed blade.
If you don’t intend to get into bush-craft at all, I wouldn’t recommend a big fixed blade knife. A simple folding knife will take up much less space and be a tool you can carry with you all the time. I carry a Byrd Cara Cara by Spyderco.
It’s beautifully light weight and easy to open, though you may have to get used to the release being on the spine if you’re more familiar with a liner lock. I clip it into the my pocket and I’m off to do whatever.
Go with whatever style you’re comfortable using. It doesn’t matter what kind of knife you carry, if you like the utilitarian aspect of a pocket knife, carry one or don’t. Not carrying a knife of some kind doesn’t make you a bad traveler or camper, a knife is just a tool that individuals find useful from time to time. My lifestyle finds the use of a pocket knife multiple times a week but yours may not. If you never have reason to use one, I wouldn’t worry about carrying one.
Update (01-21-18): If you’d like to invest in a quality folding knife that is comfortable enough to carry everyday and need a good place to start, check out this review from the folks at Reviews.com.
The best pocket knife needs to check a lot of boxes — portable, safe, comfortable to use — but most importantly, it has to be really good at cutting. We pored over 136 knives, spoke with three expert knife reviewers, and left a trail of shredded rope and cardboard in our wake to find the best pocket knives around.-Reviews.com
Going back to the idea of the fixed blade: the biggest problem I have with the ESEE 6 is carrying it around camp. Because of the size and fixed blade, I have decided to carry it at my lower back, in a scout position.
I have done some research on carrying a big piece of metal this way and many do not recommend it because is can be in the way of reaching items in your pockets and if you’re wearing a pack of some kind. Because I believe in personal preference, I wear my knife in this manner so I don’t have to re-position it when I sit down or while going about my daily camp chores. Yes, it sticks out a bit from my right side and yes, it is tricky to re-sheath but this is not part of my EDC (every day carry) and I rarely put myself in a position where falling on my back is a possibility. I have yet to wear it with a backpack but my original intention was to wear it commando style on the left shoulder pad anyway.
Conclusion: I could go on and on about different gear and alternatives but I hope I’m getting my point across. If you don’t need it, don’t bring it. Personal experience will tell you what you can and cannot live without so don’t let others dictate your load out. What works for some people doesn’t always work for others. Traveling is not always comfortable and easy but it doesn’t have to be miserable. Bring what you feel you need, adding and subtracting as you go along.
We would be happy to hear from you, if you have any questions, please reach out to us.
Until next time,
Go live your adventure!