My friend Suzanne gave us an ominous warning which we clearly did not heed. One of her specific suggestions, based on her six-month long RV trip, was not to pack too much stuff. Oh boy, I wish we had listened to this suggestion more…now we have to live with the consequences. Perhaps it would not matter if you were returning to the spot where you began, so you could unpack at your home, but we always planned on selling the RV in California so the stuff we still wanted would have to be shipped back somehow (more on that later).
Imagine going on a year-long trip. How many bags would you pack per person, one or two?
We had two adults, two children, and one dog and we had to pack for hot weather, cold weather, snow, and rain, so we were going to have quite a lot of clothes based on weather conditions/seasons alone. But, we packed too many clothes – I would have rather purchased clothes as needed. A good tip is to dress in bathing suits and or easy to clean travel clothes so they will dry quickly if they are on a clothes-line. Back east, the humidity is so high that it does not allow typical, everyday clothes made of cotton to dry.
We also packed an entire kitchen so we could cook on a stove, in an oven, in a microwave, on a camp stove and on a campfire. If I had to do it again, I would have left the dutch oven, crock-pot, and reduced some of the other cookware and utensils that we packed. The Dollar Store (they are everywhere) carries supplies cheaply (for a dollar to be exact) if you find that you left something that you absolutely need.
Or, a better idea for reading would have been an electronic book: Nook, iPad, or Kindle. Plus, it is surprising how much games and sporting equipment are available in campgrounds and festivals around the country. Weekend travelers pack these things and you can play with them too. The boys mostly used their beach buckets and shovels, Razor scooters, and one or two board games; this would have been sufficient (a deck of cards is always good since you can play a variety of games and they do not take up too much space).
We also placed our bicycles on our rack. I wish we had not packed them because, as you may have read, the bikes were mostly all damaged when they dragged on the ground for several miles. It would have been cheaper to rent bikes from time-to-time (some national parks have them for cheap and/or free). Also, we purchased and packed two kayaks bought on-line through Craigslist; they both turned out to be totally unusable, so again it would have been cheaper to rent from time to time (my boys got on a few canoe trips for free in the Everglades; canoes could also be rented for $3-5 an hour at some state parks).
We packed too many linens – one set of sheets per bed was plenty since we did laundry and put it away the same day. I would also just take one beach towel per person and one regular towel per person (preferably items you might want to donate before returning home).
Another plan was to camp on our way back home which is not turning out as planned, since we are heading back at the end of June instead of the end of August. We packed four sleeping bags and sleeping pads, two large Rubbermaid cartons loaded with camping gear, an outdoor hammock, and other miscellaneous camping items. We will be camping for 2-3 nights, so the expense will still work out okay but I think I would have left it at home if I thought it through a little better.
Okay, so how are we getting our stuff (some might call it shit, see George Carlin) back home. At first, we tried UPS but they said that they do not ship private shipments any longer. We looked at the regular mail but it would require us to ship them all separately. We looked at sending them on a truck trailer if they were moving larger homes to Central Oregon but none of them wanted to carry out stuff. The moving companies recommend a company, Ship Smart that specialized in small moves; they were a bit too price-prohibitive for us to consider. Most of the solutions were going to cost $500-$800 to move our items (300-400 pounds or 8 medium size boxes worth of items). So, we made the choice to purchase a hitch (installed $300 and reusable for us) and to rent an enclosed trailer ($200 for five days usage). The trailer will pull double duty since we will use it to move our furniture out of storage. We looked at buying a utility trailer but it is not as useful in the long run nor can we use it for moving out our storage items.
My best advice is not to pack too much stuff and purchase items as needed on the road. Remember that there are places where you can rent items fairly inexpensively too. Also, only bring items that you use all the time at home. Also think about how your trip will unfold – are you staying in the same place for weeks or months at a time or are driving to a new campground with a day or two because that may also influence what you should pack. Another important reminder is that you will end up with new items as your trip progresses: souvenirs, gifts from friends/family/fellow campers, and clothes/items purchased along the way.
One thing that this trip forced us to realize is that we do have too much shit whether we are at home or on the road. Downsizing and living more simply continues to be one of our goals!