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?

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Me and My CRV – Eek, there’s a Mouse in my House

mouse5

Run for your life, dang mouse.

You are NOT welcome in my house!


After my recent Ah Sh*t” post, I received some fun comments that I thought my readers might enjoy.

Dave had these humorous thoughts:

Situation: Mouse in car.

Symptoms:

(1) You see mouse looking out at you from behind dashboard. (More likely with older cars having mechanical HVAC controls.)

(2) You see reverse dimples in headliner caused by mousie feets as it runs around over your head.

(3) You hear a faint buzzing sound as mouse blows you a raspberry. Followed by tiny gales of wild laughter.

(4) You hear slight, intermittent scratching noises all night.

(5) Upholstery begins disintegrating in nest-sized patches.

Issues:

Mouse not only rips up upholstery to make nest, but additionally poops randomly into, onto, beside, on top of, and/or under everything. Mouse demonstrates superior agility and intelligence, eats stuff, makes you feel helpless.

Possible Solutions:

(1) Simplest: Take everything valuable out of car. Set car on fire. Buy another car. Guaranteed. (Also fast.)

(2) Slower but cheaper: Take everything valuable out of car. Take everything else out of car. Remove seats. Set traps. Wait.

(3) Most appealing: When you see evidence of mouse running around above you inside headliner, slap at it. Slap at it hard. Smash it. Worry about cleanup later, or sell car within 24 hours and leave town. Do not return.

(4) Prevention: Close vents as soon as car stops moving. This keeps mousies from crawling in through the vents. If leaving car unattended, or planning on parking off-road and going to sleep, then also close windows either completely or so far that you can barely stick the tip of your little finger into the gap. If that. (Mousies are small.) Smartest option. Effective unless mouse has a master key.

Meanwhile a friend started this facebook thread:

Flippin mouse ((mice??)) keeps getting in my car. It springs traps and gets away. I fed it decon poison via the trap, it ate 1/4 of a bait and is still arriving for more car exploration. There are repellent packets all over the car and there is NO food in my car. I have scrubbed the inside with lysol until it is pristine. I do not know what it wants…there are no crumbs even. Do you think they just love being in a clean car??? The Hyundai mechanic showed me where to stuff crevices with those cloying scented dryer towels, he says they hate them. Did that work, noooooo. I just caught the little turd with a glue trap. My son is my hero! Threw that little sucker down the hill! Off he went, stuck, wiggling, and squirming, flying like a frisbee. There better not be more…because I have more glue traps!

Suggested Additional Solutions:

  • Save a Heart Trap. Put food, peanut butter on a piece of bread, in it. Capture the dude and drive him away, about 5 miles and let him go so a snake or bird or coyote can have a meal . .  if they can catch them . . . afterall second chances are fair, right? NO! 
  • Peppermint. They sell bagged peppermint mouse repellent. You can also use essential oil. The rodents don’t like anything minty. Bait air filter and vents (air and defrost).
  • Mothballs. Place them on the ground around car.
  • Get a Kitty. Visualize the cat, smashed up against a window, meowing, “Forget the mouse! Let me out!”

I personally love the kitty idea, not only would my car be mouse free, but I’d also have a travel and adventure buddy.

Hopefully I’ve had my one and only rodent visitor. Do you have other suggestions?

All food will live in plastic bins in the future.

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mouse5

Run bastard run . . . and don’t even think about coming back!

 

 

Me and My CRV – the Ah Sh*t Moments

If you don’t laugh, you might cry . . .

There was a mouse in my house!

Expensive cup of coffee

That was an expensive cup of coffee

I got screwed

After a near miss . . . on a remote beach . . .

Dinner with an unexpected guest

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Me and My CRV – Showers, Laundry and Recharging

There are necessities that need to be addressed occasionally such as cleaning yourself and your clothes, but just as importantly making daily decisions and being constantly on the move is exhausting and you’ll need some downtime. Trust me! Furthermore, if you’re traveling solo, you may find the need for human contact.

Networking

A major benefit of social media, is making connections with people all over the country and world, that is if you’re willing to (1) invest in building these relationships, (2) reach out when you’re in the area, and (3) take the risk of meeting strangers.

This has been by far the best part of my new lifestyle. In 2016, I spent about 50 nights with friends, mostly strangers who hosted me or met me for hikes and who are now forever friends. It doesn’t happen magically. You truly have to cultivate these relationships and go in with an open mind and heart. Every experience is different and I’ve never regretted the chances I’ve taken.

Tip: Use removable tape to mark your map with contacts and their numbers so you’ll remember when in the vicinity. 

If you do stay with friends, family, strangers, be a most-excellent guest. In exchange for a bed, laundry, showers, food, be sure to give back generously. Some of the things I’ve done include helping with chores, errands, providing gift cards, money, cooking meals, backpacking gear, etc. Figuring out the right amount of time to stay can be tricky. Keep the channels of communication open and be sure to ask about expectations, and reaffirm if you’ve stayed more than a few days. Watch for signals, some people feel uncomfortable telling you “it’s time to leave.” Get everything ready for the next guest before you leave.

Tip: Travel with thank you cards and stamps. Send them out timely or leave as you depart. 

Low Cost Laundry and Shower Options

Many campgrounds and RV parks will allow you to use their showers and laundry facilities, some small towns have laundry facilities with shower rooms, and hostels are another good option.

Tip: Travel with laundry detergent (I carry the pods) and quarters. I also use OxyClean for my hiking/backpacking gear especially socks. 

Reset, Recharge, Regroup

There will be times you just need a day or two or three off the road and you don’t have a nearby contact or just need some quiet time. Spending a day in your vehicle when it’s raining or snowing is just not fun, unless you have it planned as a travel day. On these days I might visit a local coffee shop or library, somewhere I can have internet access to catch up on my blogging and correspondence. I’ll also use it to accomplish town chores; I keep an ongoing shopping list just for this reason. Budget for occasional lodging. Many times I found myself needing a second night. I tend to stay at motels offering a laundry room, wifi and hot continental breakfast. Many times its worth the free membership to earn rewards for multiple nights or stays. Also consider using discount apps or sites such as HotWire.

Tip: If you’ve been backpacking, this is a good time to sterilize all your water containers. I carry denture tabs for this purpose. 

Package Delivery

If you need to order something or have something sent  from home, have it shipped to places you’ll be staying (if motel call first), or you can pay a small fee to pick it up from a UPS or retail mailing store. Sending Amazon packages via USPS General Delivery tends to be problematic so I’d avoid that option. I noticed during the Christmas season Amazon was offering alternative delivery locations such as grocery stores. That may prove to be a great option in the future.

Tip: If you need to send something home that requires special packaging, travel with the box (i.e. snowshoes).

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Me and My CRV – Eats on the Road

Just because you’re traveling doesn’t mean you need to bust your seams or your budget.

This is what I’ve learned.

  1.  Say NO to fast food and mini-markets (unless you don’t care about your weight, health, or budget).

Exceptions:

a. Restroom use

b. Refilling water (just ask, I’ve been charged once, never been told no)

c. Ice (free at some McDonald’s)

2. Say YES to grocery stores and pre-planning

A benefit of having a car is you’ll be driving through at least small towns where you can resupply frequently, especially fresh food. I tend to stock my car before I leave home with non-perishables (i.e. bars, cereal, coffee, nuts, jerky, home dehydrated meals, canned meat, etc.), some semi-perishables (i.e. fruit, veges and tortillas), and the ice chest with perishables (i.e. hard boiled eggs, cheese, salad makings, etc).

While traveling, I usually buy the plastic containers of lettuce so I can easily add other fixings to make a salad, have a container to eat out of and store leftovers in my ice chest. 

Many places now have healthy, reasonably priced, prepared food options, and also have a microwave available for heating or cooking purchased food.

Many tiny towns have great deli’s with options beyond fried food. Dollar General is becoming a frequent presence along many of the backroads. You’ll find Walmart and Safeway in mid-sized towns, plus WinCo and CostCo in larger communities.

When it’s time to replace bars, buy them in boxes vs individually to save money. I buy my nuts in large containers at CostCo. If the local stores don’t carry what you like or need, order from Amazon and have them shipped to a place you plan to stay (i.e. friend or motel). They also have options to ship to a lockbox facility such as a grocery store. Retail mailing stores and UPS stores will hold packages for a fee. I don’t recommend sending Amazon to the USPS General Delivery as there always seems to be confusion since they prefer shipping FedEx or UPS.

When you stay with friends, prepare hard boiled eggs and other foods for the ice chest to give you some variety.

Budget funds for eating out. You’ll want a change. I got bored with my car options, plus you may want internet access. McDonalds has free internet but it’s painfully slow if you want to upload photos. Starbucks has faster internet. Many times library speeds are even better.
Tip: if you plan to visit places with problem bears such as Yosemite, Tahoe, Yellowstone, you’ll be told you can’t park your car with food in it. Usually there is a bear box nearby where you can stash a cooler or a small bin. After having a mouse get in my car in Washington, I recommend storing all food in plastic bins.

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Me and My CRV – Where to Overnight?

This becomes a very personal decision, one you’ll learn with experience. When the option exists I’ll take dispersed camping over a public or private, developed or undeveloped campground.

Dispersed Camping

This is an area on public lands where you can camp for free in primitive conditions. Sometimes there may be well-used spots that include a fire ring and a picnic table; more frequently it’s a pull-out along a dirt road. It’s best to ask for a map and recommendations from a local visitors center or ranger station to determine rules for a particular area. Be sure to disclose type of vehicle as that will affect accessible roads especially after recent rains (i.e. high clearance 4×4 vs baby 4×4 or low clearance sedan).  In Death Valley, you can camp “along dirt roads at least one mile away from any paved road or ‘day use only’ dirt road, and only in previously disturbed areas.” A federal recreation pass may be required on many roads. States such as Washington have their own pass for state-owned back roads. Some areas require free permits such as Grand Staircase-Escalante.

Campgrounds

Sometimes you don’t have a choice. In many National Parks, dispersed camping is not allowed and there aren’t any nearby options. Be sure to carry either checks or cash in various denominations to pay at unattended campgrounds, which in my experience has been 99% of the time. Few take credit cards. There are tons of online resources and phone apps you can use to find campgrounds that suit your needs. Since I don’t plan very far in advance I can usually obtain the necessary information from a nearby visitor center or ranger station, or sometimes I’ll just check out places while in the vicinity. This can be more problematic during peak season.

Parking Lots

If you are traveling through more urban areas and want to sleep in your vehicle for free, there are online resources and phone apps which provide options such as truck stops, retail stores, casinos, parks, rest stops, etc. I’ve never used this option.

Friends/Family/Acquaintances

Mark your map with names and numbers so these spots can be considered as potential overnight parking locations. I’ve slept in my vehicle in driveways when it’s a better option than sleeping inside.

Tip: I use removable tape on my maps to mark not only contact info but also potential destinations, etc.

Don’t be a schmuck, show your appreciation for their hospitality!

Tip: Carry thank you cards and budget for generous giving.

Motels/Hotels/Lodges/Hostels

Most likely at some point you’ll want this option. I’ve found most frequently this has been my choice when weather is inclement and I want to stay in an area, or when I’m exhausted and I need to regroup. Budget for it. Find a chain you like and that seems to be available along the route you’ll be traveling, join their membership program (free) and reap a few rewards. Obviously there are tons of ways to obtain discounted rooms. I had pretty good luck with Hotwire last year.

Resources:

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Me and My CRV – Safety, Security, Self Reliance

There are inherent risks with both life on the road and car camping. Much like my life at home or in the wilderness, I believe in being prepared for the what ifs that you hope never happen.

Vehicle Maintenance:

  • Before leaving for a trip, take care of any standard maintenance issues such as oil changes and tire rotations.
  • Verify your spare tire is at the recommended air pressure.
  • Budget for maintenance along the way depending on trip mileage.
  • Budget for repairs. In 2016, I had my first flat tire; in 2015 a tiny fender bender.

Vehicle Insurance:

  • Review your policy to ensure it is sufficient to cover the additional miles, states, countries you may be visiting.
  • Maintain a copy of your policy information (it may already be available online).

Vehicle Contents Insurance:

  • Most likely your car insurance does not include content coverage.
  • Review your home owners or renters insurance. These typically cover vehicle contents. Keep the details readily available.
  • Take time to make a list of your vehicle contents. It simplifies reporting theft and recovery.

Vehicle Emergencies:

  • Consider roadside emergency coverage. If you already have a policy, review to verify details. Before you became a vagabond, you might have had a policy that only tows 5 miles. Consider upgrading to 100 miles. Beware that most policies do not cover assistance on forest service roads, etc.
  • Canned air (might give you enough tire pressure to get back to a main road or tire repair facility)
  • Battery charger and jumper cables. Tip: Tiny portable power banks for jump starting your car are now available (see below photo). 

Travel Conditions:

  • Tire chains
  • Shovel

Personal Security:

  • InReach – I already own this device for backpacking and hiking purposes, but I also use it to check in while on the road. When I leave the highway, I’ll send a waypoint to my map. I’ll do the same each evening and each morning. If I don’t check in, I have written a plan of action for my family. You can also use this device to text for help, when you don’t have cell service (i.e. if you break down or are delayed in meeting someone).
  • I lock my car when I’m sleeping, which activates the alarm. If anyone were to break in, the loud shrieking noise may deter further advancements even if I’m in a remote location with no one else around.
  • Wasp Spray is more effective than pepper spray due to the additional distance you can be away from an assailant, plus much less expensive.
  • If you are outside your car, but nearby, and feel threatened, activate the car alarm with your key fob.
  • Trust your gut. Don’t park somewhere you don’t feel safe. Be prepared to move if the situation changes.

Personal Practicalities:

  • Recharging Electronics
    • I carry an external battery and recharge it regularly. Many times because I’m using my phone for maps, music and reading, it doesn’t get fully recharged while driving so I’ll charge it at night from the external battery.
    • I also carry an inverter to recharge my computer while I’m driving.
  • Photos
    • If you’re taking photos on your phone, set your app to back them up online regularly. Unless you have an unlimited data plan, you’ll want to limit upload to when you’re on WiFi.
    • If you’re taking photos on your camera, you’ll want to back them up. SIM cards are known to fail. Many of the newer cameras have a WiFi option where you can store a copy online. Mine doesn’t so I use my computer to copy from the SIM card to a USB drive. I organize the photos into folders on the USB drive based on location, then create subfolders with the best photos. When I have WiFi access I’ll upload the best photos to Google for further backup.
  • Lost or Stolen Phone
    • Do you know how to ping and lock your phone?
    • Keep the instructions handy, including the number of your carrier.
    • Verify your contacts are backed up, so if you need to replace, it won’t be such a painful process.
  • Passwords
    • Most likely you’ll be managing your bills and accounts online while your traveling. Store an accessible but secure list of your passwords and apps/website links (or make available to a trusted friend or family member).
  • Lost or Stolen Wallet
    • Maintain a list of your credit card numbers and contact numbers on your secure online list (or make available to a trusted friend or family members).
  • ICE (In Case of Emergency)
    • Use the ICE option on your phone to flag emergency contacts. That way even if your phone is locked, others can access your family/friends should an incident occur.

Tip: Travel with a tiny backpack or other carrying device you can grab when you leave your car unattended (i.e. shopping, sightseeing, etc). Keep stuff with you that will be a major hassle to replace (or trip ending) such as passport, phone, wallet, camera.

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