Me and My CRV – Picking and Packing

After my introductory article on CRV Living, several readers asked for more details about packing.

Step 1 – Customize

  1. What are the necessities of your travel lifestyle?
    • How long will you be gone?
    • What types of activities are planned?
    • What are expected weather conditions?
  2. How will you make your car a home?
    • Do you need to level your sleeping area?
    • Will you want window coverings?
    • What size containers will fit your vehicle?
    • Are you open to rearranging your vehicle each night?

For this trip, I expected the full range of weather, temperatures and activities. I prepared to backpack, hike, snowshoe, play tourist and traveler while moving between cold and snowy to uncomfortably warm environments.

These are the choices I made.

Front row of photo: 

  • Large bin on left is used to level my sleeping area. I store things in it I don’t need frequently.
  • The cardboard box lives on my cargo area shelf and is used for daily items I want easy access to such as plates and my lantern.
  • The bear canister is just as much of a pain storing in the car as it is in my backpack. It’s filled with immediate use snacks. As soon as I have room in one of the larger bins, it’ll move into one of those.
  • The dishpan holds 3 gallons of water and my pee jar. It lives on the backseat floor.
  • The open bin contains all my in-the-car, immediate-use meal prep items such as my stove, fuel, mugs, tea, coffee, utensils, etc. It lives on the floor behind the driver seat giving me convenient access from my sleeping platform.
  • The 3 same-size containers fit perfectly in my cargo compartment. One contains food, another backpacking gear, and the final is stocked with additional supplies such as laundry soap, repair and maintenance items, resupply items like vitamins, ziplocks, etc.

Left rear of photo:

  • Bedding and comfort items which mostly go on what I call the sleeping platform.

Middle rear of photo:

  • Backpack which gets stored either behind driver seat or under pillows if I want it hidden.
  • Orange travel bag contains maps, etc and gets stored on floor of passenger seat.
  • Ice chest is stored on rear passenger seat

Right rear of photo:

  • Shoes, I’ll bring 2 pairs and wear one. Storage location varies.
  • Two duffel bags, one for hiking clothes, the other for traveling clothes. They are stored under the cargo area shelf/table while traveling and moved to the back passenger seat with the ice chest when sleeping.
  • Snowshoes, initially they’ll live on floor of front passenger seat. A bit like the bear canister, challenging to store.
  • Umbrella, hiking poles and chair are stored on edge of sleeping pad.

Step 3 – Pack

This is how I pack.

The area under the cargo floor:

In addition to the tire, jack and tools which come standard, I added chains, a shovel, fix a flat canister and jumper cables. If I need any of these items, I’ll have to unpack my car and that won’t be fun.

Making the bed:

I remove the large backseat to allow for a sleeping platform as my seats don’t fold flat. 

I add a plastic bin on the floor behind the passenger seat to provide a flat platform.

I made my sleeping platform and mattress out of stuff I already owned. After placing the plastic tub on the floor, I add chair cushions to help level, then a yoga mat, an air mattress and a quilt. I top it off with my 10-degree backpacking sleeping bag and a few pillows. 

Filling the holes: 

You can see how the 3 bins fit perfectly in the back next to my sleep area. The black & orange item in middle back is my new Moon Lence chair and to the right is that dang bear canister. I have my boots stuffed into the niche to the left of the bins. My extra pair of shoes fits between my mattress and the lip of the cargo area. The box I use to mail my snowshoes home is folded flat and is between the cargo carpet and the lid to the spare tire compartment.

The security table/shelf makes my CRV car camping infinitely more comfortable. You can see how the bins fit perfectly under the table, which folds up making for easy access of the items underneath. I can sleep under the table and use it for my cooking surface. I added a little velcro to the bottom of the box to keep it from sliding around. 

The backseat area includes my ice chest, my backpack and a bin with items I want to reach from bed such as coffee. You can’t see, but also on the floor is the dishpan with 3 gallons of water and my pee jar. I also include three beach towels. One for the passenger front seat, one for the back seat and the other for anything else such as when using the pee jar. 

I store my travel bag on the floor of the front seat, and on this trip also my snowshoes. 

Step 4 – Create Privacy

I added small 3M Command Mini hooks to attach insulated curtains, which I just cut slits in the hem for hanging. I used a tension rod to hang the curtain in back of the front seats.

When not in use, the tension rod curtain is hung off the table/shelf which also helps to hide storage items. 

When traveling, the sleeping bag gets pushed to the back of the cargo area so the duffel bags can be stored in front. These bags get moved to the passenger back seat when I’m using the sleeping platform. In fact those are the only items I need to move to sleep, although I typically move my backpack to the front passenger seat so I can more easily access my kitchen items.

The other two curtains are stored on the table/shelf while traveling. 

Step 5 – Trial and Error

This is my third year living out of my car while traveling between hiking destinations. It’s taken time to find what works for me and within the constraints of my vehicle. Don’t worry if you’re uncertain initially. You’ll learn from experience and make changes along the way. Shipping to/from home is always an option so don’t get hung up on perfection. And, since you have your vehicle you can also buy things along the way or order online.

What else would you like to know about my vagabonding lifestyle?

More posts about Me and My CRV

Me and My CRV – It’s a 17 Sq Ft Mini Tiny House

There are much better living-mobiles, but since I already owned this low-mileage 2008 Honda CRV, I decided to see if I could make it work. 2014 was my first year to test it out on a few short trips. By 2016 I’d perfected the system and I found it a cozy cost-efficient way to travel while having a home away from home. The primary reasons I enjoy sleeping in my car are (1) budgetary constraints, (2) stunning sunrises/sunsets, (3) quick access to trails, (4) flexibility, (5) safer than tent camping, and (5) cleaner than cheap lodging.

My car came with a hard plastic 1″ security platform. It has worked perfectly as my table. Since my backseats don’t fold flat, I removed the larger of my backseat sections. At 5’4″ I can comfortably sleep lengthwise. A neighbor gave me the insulated curtains which I hang via 3M Command Mini hooks (when privacy or extra warmth is needed). I travel prepared for backpacking trips, thus I have my Jetboil stove with me for cooking the car.

The trick is traveling with as few items as possible, so (1) you can make your bed without spending time rearranging or storing things outside, and (2) most everything can be stored out of sight minimizing the chance of vandalism when your vehicle is unattended. This is what I’ve found works for me. I’ll add photos next time I load my car.

  • Storage Bin 1 (resides on the backseat floor as part of my sleeping platform) – I usually keep things in this bin I don’t need frequently, such as maps for a future leg of the trip, boots or traction devices, seasonal clothes.
  • Storage Bins 2-4 (stored under the table behind the small backseat) – One bin usually has all my backpacking gear, another has food, the third has extra supplies such as clothes detergent, repair & maintenance items, first aid, toiletries, vitamins, ziplock bags, etc.
  • Storage Bin 5 (stored on floor in front of small backseat). I keep things I need to reach while in bed. Usually my eating/drinking containers and utensils, cookstove, fuel, cereal, coffee, lantern light, toiletries, etc.
  • Storage Bin 6 (stored on backseat floor between Bins 1 & 5). I keep 3 gallons of water in this one and my trusty pee jar.
  • Pillows, Air Mattress, and Towels (stored on sleeping platform).
  • Sleeping bag (stored under table)
  • Folding chair (stored at the very pack of my car).
  • Ice Chest (stored on small backseat). I usually cover with towels and sometimes pillows to keep cool.
  • Duffle Bags (stored under table, and moved to small seat when making bed). I use two small bags for my clothes. One for travel clothes and another for hiking clothes. I’ve learned to keep clothing as simple as possible, basically three uniforms. One for traveling, one for sleeping and one for hiking.
    • Travel Uniform – Leggings (x2), Shorts (x2), Skirt (x1), short-sleeve shirt (x2), long-sleeve shirt (x2), layering shirt (x1), undies (x?), bra (x4), socks (x?), sleep clothes (x2). Everything mixes and matches.
    • Shoes – usually sandals and 1-2 pairs of hiking shoes/boots depending on season

Favorite Items:

  • Daily “sponge” bath.

Future Posts:

  • Preparation, Maintenance & Aftermath
  • Planning and Organization
  • Where to Overnight
  • Eats on the Road
  • Showers, Laundry and Recharging
  • Safety, Security and Self-Reliance
  • Living on a Shoestring Budget

More posts about Me and My CRV