Systems are important. I’m not talking about the kinds of systems that try to control everything like the government or public schools. Those kinds of systems fail us on a daily basis. No, I’m talking about organizational systems. Systems that will make life easier if you can learn to stick with them. I call my system, “Everything has its place.”
When you are living out of a car, you don’t have too much space to work with. The bed takes up the biggest amount of space, then your clothes, then food. If your lucky you can have a few other things neatly stowed away for quick accessibility, but for the most part, you don’t have room for “non essentials” or clutter. Because clutter just waists space. Here are a few quick pointers I use that help me be as efficient as possible in my car. These few great rules of thumb apply to anyone trying the same thing or going on an extended road trip.
They say the hardest part of any journey is the first step. Well in this case your first step is preparation- setting yourself up to succeed. In my experience climbing various mountains, we climbers have a term we refer to as “Base Camp.” Base camp is where all climbers gather to discuss strategy, plan of attack, and to prep and check gear. It’s absolutely essential that this preparation be taken before every single climb. The same is true for any big trip. Why? Because the last thing a climber wants (or needs) is to carry up weight that they will never use. Or worse, forget something of importance because they just didn’t prepare well enough. Proper preparation is sitting down and making a list, keeping in mind the purpose of your trip and how long you will be there. The best part about a list is it provides you the ability to double check yourself. If instead of sitting down and making a list, I were to walk around my house asking myself “do I need this? Do I need this? or this…?” more often than not, I’m going to find a way to justify bringing a ton of extra stuff that I just don’t need.
Tip: If you can’t find more than 3 immediate uses for it, then don’t bring it.
This is huge! Spending a little extra time to maximize your space is so essential to living in small spaces. What I mean by this is, find ways to put things inside of other things without compromising ease of access. For example, my toiletry bag. I have two, and one is a Nalgene bottle. The other is a normal toiletry bag I store underneath my seat when I need to refill. I keep my Nalgene close and most often in my backpack stored in the front seat for accessibility whenever I need it, but everything else I need to clean up fits nicely into my water bottle. There are so many ways to consolidate, so be mindful and always on the look out to conserve your space.
Tip: The habit of some is to over consolidate. Yes, there is such a thing. It happens most often when trying to fit too much into a space and the result is having difficult access to what you need. The idea is to pack, not stuff. An example of over consolidating might be stuffing shirts in your shoes. While this would maximize your space , you would be compromising convenience (and potentially smelly shirts). My suggestion would be to roll up your belts and place it in your shoes instead. Still saving space, but compromising less.
Bring only what you need. “Oh yeah Chris, because it’s that simple.” No, trust me, I wish it was. If you have ever packed for any kind of trip before, even for a weekend trip, you know you are faced with countless decisions on what to and what not-to bring. What you need to bring will vary depending on the length of your trip. Just keep in mind, you do not need as much as you think you do. Contrary to popular belief, no one is looking at you saying, “Wait, didn’t he/she wear that yesterday?” Listen. You don’t need your whole wardrobe. Remember, the trick is layers. A base layer for warmth, a good pair of jeans, a shirt for style, a sweater for that little extra, and a jacket. Throw a couple of other shirts in there for sweat factor and don’t forget your socks. Socks are your friends. (Why do you think they have sock puppets?) Having a few good pair of socks to wear during the day and a nice warm pair of socks to sleep in at night is the way to go. After a long cold day, the last thing you want is to slip into your sleeping bag with stinky socks. If its cold, you are most likely going to have your sleeping bag over your head, and having to smell those god-awful things all night is the worst, trust me. It only takes once to learn. Socks, underwear and base layers are what get smelly. So pack extras of those. Everything else, keep to a minimal. Last thing, Don’t make the rookie “7 mistake.” The “7 mistake” is thinking you need 7 of everything to make it through the week. No, no, no.
Tip: Throw a clean pair of wool socks and a pair of long underwear at the bottom of your sleeping bag (and keep them there) so they stay clean and extra warm when you slip them on at night.When you change throw them back and remember to wash them every once in a while.
Where you store things is also really important when on a road trip or living out of your car. When my girlfriend and I took our two-and-a-half week stint across the Northeast, one of the things we did that was so critical to our time management at pitstops was having our clothing accessible from our back doors. Her clothes by her back door and my clothes by mine. This allowed for quick and easy access to change into warmer layers or to change at pitstops quickly without having to move a ton of things around. A good rule of thumb here is, ideally you want to move things around as less often as possible, so keep what you need close and things you use most often, closer.
Tip: If living out of your car (or trying #hotelprius) I recommend going to home depot and buying a 2in dowel rod as a clothing rack for $4, measuring what you need (for the Prius its 40in), and cut it using their in-store hack saw. It’s cheap and is a perfect solution for keeping clothes consolidated, tidy and fresh.
The more food you can bring and store with you, the less money you will need to spend on the road. If you value cost efficiency and want to keep costs down, make room for your food. What you have room for may vary but in my experience food is the thing you will be reaching for most while driving, so you want to keep it close. For me, I have a snack bin that sits comfortably in my passenger seat for munching while driving and I also have a food storage bin thats sits behind my passenger seat, right underneath my head when I sleep. This is located right next to my passenger back door for easy access when I need to pull over and prepare something more substantial. This serves two purposes, 1. it gives me an extra foot of sleeping room and 2. keeps it tidy and convenient for when I need to prepare something.
Tip: The top of the Steralite lid provides an excellent table while preparing your food. Moving it to your trunk, and setting up a chair makes the perfect impromptu kitchen table.
6. The Little things
Little things are fine. But keep them little. If you insist on sleeping with a teddy bear, don’t bring you’re stuffed moose. Think small. This is often where I get caught up myself. “But what if I get stranded and need this giant roll of duct tape?” While I’ll agree duct tape is a very useful and multifunctional item, finding a compromise is often your best bet. Perhaps wrapping a few feet around a old medicine bottle stuffed with other items like safety pins, spare matches, a few cotton balls for tender, etc. will serve you best. This will also relieve any stress you have about being stranded “out in the wild.”
Tip: Creating an emergency kit and keeping a small bag of tools in your trunk somewhere isn’t a bad idea. I use an old Altoids can for the emergency kit and a fanny pack to store my tools. I’ll create a post soon with the perfect emergency kit for any situation. Just stay tuned.
If you keep these things in mind, added to your own personal style, you should be all set.
Adventure on friends.