Project Adventure: Stack ‘em, Pack ‘em, and Rack ‘em.

When I first contemplated packing up the car for this trip, I admit that it gave me a bit of a panic attack. The thought of figuring out what to bring and how to best organize for two months on the road was very overwhelming.

I began to make lists (really long lists) of what to bring. As I started making these lists, I ended up asking myself lots of questions. What should I bring? How will we fit it all? What can we leave behind and then simply grab on the road if necessary? What must absolutely go with us?

It became easier when I began to think of the car in terms of zones. The primary zones are our Thule Atlantis roof box and the trunk. That is where the majority of the items for our adventure will be stored. But if I’ve learned anything from living in an 830 square foot apartment in the city, it’s that there are always creative ways to utilize space. So, I began to think about secondary zones – the glove compartment, the middle console, and the back seat.

We want to keep the majority of the backseat clutter-free because we will meet up with friends and family along the road and therefore may have additional passengers at times. But, there was still space to utilize. I purchased two over-the-seat organizers to give us additional storage without compromising the seating.

So, with 2 primary zones, and 3 secondary zones, we began the task of designing our traveling home.

Primary Zone 1:
There was much debate over how much we would manage to get into the roof box. I was determined to get all of the camp supplies into the box so that on nights we aren’t camping, we won’t need to access it. From the outside, it seems relatively small, but the Thule Atlantis didn’t disappoint. Up on the roof we have secured our tent, 2 sleeping bags, 2 pillows, an air mattress, 2 camp chairs, a camp stove, a folding table, a tarp, our camp kitchen (a picnic backpack that I modified a bit for our purposes), our lantern, a bear canister, and a handful of camp tools. We also tucked a bag with those really light weight, down jackets for each of us up there just in case we need ‘em at some of the higher altitudes. Every piece of camp equipment was tucked nicely inside with one exception.

The only thing that didn’t fit were the poles to our tent. They are too long for the box. We toyed with different ideas to make them fit (there was talk of sawing parts off), but in the end we simply adjusted the placement of the box from the center of the car to the right and added to the rack two Thule clamps typically used for carrying oars or a mast. The clamps will hold the poles nicely, problem solved.

Primary Zone 2:

The trunk will be doing triple duty on the trip. With the camp supplies out of the way on the roof, that leaves 1) personal items, 2) food and 3) car supplies. The car supplies were the easiest. We put together a small tote of potentially necessary supplies: jumper cables, fix-a-flat, oil and transmission fluid, etc. We’re AAA members, and I just had the car serviced and checked out in every way we could think of, but we figure it’s also good to be prepared should we need anything in a remote area. But the box started to become a little overwhelming (those darned jumper cables are unruly). It finally occurred to me that a few of those items could be stored down in the wheel well with the spare. That solved that problem and kept the items contained to one small tote.

My friend Bridget was nice enough to loan us a cooler, so we’ll keep that stocked with ice and short term perishables (we’re hoping to hit up lots of farmer’s markets along the way for fresh foods), and then the dry goods in the canister up top, but that’ll be up in the roof box for travel. We’ll also have a small collapsible cooler bag in the back seat for immediate need items along the road (drinks, some string cheese, and some fruit).

That leaves about 2/3 of the trunk available for personal items. Realistically speaking, I’ll likely take up the majority of the space. I think I have 7 or 8 pairs of shoes making the trip (though in fairness, 2 are flip flops, one are water shoes, and then another are a pair of hiking boots, so not many “real” shoes). We each have one suitcase with clothes and such. My husband has a day pack for hiking. I have a beach bag, a day pack and a toiletries case. There are a couple other small totes, and somehow I think we’ll still have a bit of wiggle room for souvenirs along the road.

So that’s the big stuff. The smaller zones are for more immediate items to keep us moving.

Secondary Zone 1:
The glove compartment is easily the most accessible area in the car while traveling. It’s a decent size, though not too big. I typically carry all of my car papers in there in a sleeve (car manual, inspection info, I even keep repair receipts so everything is in one place). By shifting the folder into the car door pocket, I was able to free up the glove compartment as a mini pantry to keep a variety of road snacks on hand. Definitely planning to keep it stocked up with fun and healthy snacks that won’t melt in the heat of the car.

Secondary Zone 2:
Inside the middle console we’re storing a basic first aid kit (you’d be surprised how often I end up hurting myself inside the relative safety of the car – or by opening my purse, or tripping over traffic cones – I’m a bit of a menace to myself). The more extensive first aid kit will be in the camp supplies or day pack, but Band-Aids, some basic meds and supplies (Tylenol, allergy meds, tweezers, etc.) will all be on hand. We’ll also keep a variety of chargers in there for our phones / gadgets.

Secondary Zone 3:
The over-the-seat organizers have easy to reach items that we’d either want while on the go, or before exiting the car. I’ve stocked them up with tissues, extra sunglasses, a sun hat, sun screen. Additionally I’ve stocked two umbrellas and a few rain ponchos. If we roll into camp (or anywhere else) and it’s pouring we’re not going to want to have to get out of the car to find rain gear. Having things that we can easily reach will be extremely helpful. I also have a few tote bags to bring along when shopping, and a few items that simply had no other home (a deck of cards, my travel scrabble).

In the end I’m sure we’ll re-organize things a bit as we go. But I think we have a really good starter system in place. Now I just have to figure out how many sun hats is too many sun hats.

Stay tuned … next post will be from the road!


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