I love taking road trips. I load all my camping and adventure gear, food, clothes, entertainment, and dog, up in my truck or car, and hit the road for a week or more of living out of the vehicle and exploring different parts of the United States. This is a fairly cheap way to travel, and by following my tips, you can pull off a road trip for little more cost than fuel.
- The best camp sites are free and along 4 wheel drive roads. There are many sections of BLM, state forest, and wilderness areas, that are filled with 4 wheel drive roads, or gravel roads, and lined with dispersed camping. These camping spots don’t have toilets, warm water, or electricity, but if you search well you will find fresh water, ample free firewood, plenty of trees, and perfect views. Know the rules of the area before you go, as some places have designated sections for dispersed camping, or don’t allow camp fires. Make sure you have a water filter to filter drinking water, and always douse your fires to make sure they are really out. Be familiar with the wildlife in the area, and don’t leave food out unattended, especially in bear or chipmunk territory.
- Taking care of hygiene.
When on road trips, you still need to catch a shower every few days, and if the weather is cold, a dip in a creek or lake may not sound appealing. I have found several ways to get a shower in. Many state and national park campgrounds have showers, as do most privately owned campgrounds. Bring quarters, as some require quarters to operate the water rationing timer, and bring sandals to shower in, as the conditions aren’t always great. Staying at campgrounds costs money, so the price of the shower is included, and I will often make a stop at what I refer to as a ‘civilized’ campground every other or third day. Sometimes you can utilize park campground showers by paying the entrance fee to the park. Check at the ranger station for options. Another option, if you don’t want to pay to camp, is visiting a rec center in a town along the road. Rec centers are open to the public, with a fee of course, and always have showers. If you are in an area that has hot springs, you can shower and enjoy a soak, for the cost of an entrance fee.
When living on the road, it would be costly to eat out every meal, and bad on the diet to thrive on gas station and fast food options. I bring my own food when living on the road, and thus pay only what I would be paying, if I were at home. There is a local Amish grocery store, with many fun and discounted food options that make great road trip foods and snacks. I bring a box to keep all my food in, a cooler to keep the perishables, and a cook stove, containers for water, and plenty of stove fuel. I have been splurging lately and bringing my french press along for coffee. For breakfast I have coffee, and oatmeal or my typical daily protein shake (powder mixed with almond milk, juice, or water). For lunch I will have hummus, finger foods, and veggies from the cooler, and dinner I will make foods that mostly just require adding boiled water, but sometimes I grill veggies or have a salad. Bagged salad mixes are easy ways to get the veggies in, and adding canned beans, provide protein. You can have fun with it, and make food over a fire, or get fancy with the stove cooking. There are cookbooks available for campfire cooking ideas.
My guilty road trip pleasure, and the primary thing I purchase while on the road, is local beer, cider, or wine. My guidelines are that it must be made in the state I am visiting, and I purchase from gas stations, grocery stores, liquor stores, or directly from the source. I like getting mixed packs, so I can try a variety, and they store fine in the cooler or food box. I only drink while at camp, but a couple beers before bedtime is a nice way to wind down from a day of adventure, and set off a good nights sleep in the woods.
Having the proper gear for safe and comfortable camping, is key to a good nights sleep, and camping experience. It costs money to accrue the right things, but much can be found through discount sources, like REI Garage, or Sierra Trading Post, and many communities have local places to buy used gear. Often times, you can borrow from a friend or family member, to try things out before determining what is best for your needs. Key items for effective road tripping, is a tent and sleep system that will keep you comfortable at night, a cook system for making and eating food, a water filter and water storage (I re-use plastic jugs) system for treating and hauling water, a camp chair for comfort, and systems for safety and survival, in case something goes wrong. My survival and safety gear includes fire starting tools, mace, a knife, a first aid kit, a Spot Beacon for letting people know where I am, and my dog. Also make sure you have a headlamp, flashlight, or camp light for the dark. Toilet paper and shovel for the morning duty, and wet wipes for daily hygiene needs, are also a must. This nice thing about road trip camping, is that you have a vehicle for storage space, so there is no need to feel like you need fancy, ultralight, or modern gear. The at home essentials, will do the trick. I will sometimes even sleep in my car or truck, if I pull in to camp too late to set up the tent, am dealing with nasty weather, or if the area feels unsafe.