June 19, 2020
I was in junior high when I climbed Mount Whitney. It took us two miserable days to reach the 14,505 foot peak. I was with my friend’s insane family. Seriously, they were completely nuts. I don’t know what my parents were thinking allowing me to go off high into the Sierra with that bunch, whose only two adults carried endless six packs of Old Milwaukee up the mountain and 5 packs of hotdogs for us kids, but, it was the early-80s. I didn’t have the right equipment, no backpack and hand carried my bulky sleeping bag over my shoulder, was freezing all the time, my feet were killing me in my Chucks, and I swore, even way back then, that I would never go on any other adventures unless I had the right equipment.
In college, I upgraded my camping companions to ones who carried Fat Tire on the trail. I also had excellent equipment. I would never be unprepared again. I took wilderness survival classes at Cal State Northridge and became certified as a Red Cross Disaster Team Member. Basically, I can build a fire, beat yucca plants and braid them to make rope and lash together a shelter with nothing but found materials. I would have been great on Survivor back in my twenties. I can also make a wicked awesome list of shit one needs for a trip.
I made the above list for this trip while watching Hannibal on Netflix, so I was a little distracted, to say the least. Regardless, I think it is pretty complete.
I know I’ll be heading out for at least a month, if not two, and on an extremely tight budget. Overpacking a little is fine by me in this case, since I’ll not only be sleeping in my car, but perhaps an occasional beach campsite, and cooking most of my meals on a Coleman. Bring what you need so you don’t have to purchase it on the road.
Now, let me show you how I MacGyvered my Toyota Rav-4.
Below is everything I have in my overhead Thule Cargo Box.
It is really easy to get in and out of this. This is accessible from both sides. Just unlock, pop the feather-weight lid off of the interior latches and push up. Step up on the inside rear seat, or ledge if seat is folded down in my case, and hang onto the crossbars. Inside, I have my beach chair, beach umbrella, umbrella sand twister-thingy, camping chair in carrying case, small cooking table, tent with rain fly, three various sized tarps, heavy-duty extension cord, hammock and straps, ratchet straps, camping table cloth, mallet, shovel, hatchet, and other items found in Hannibal Lecter’s pantry, campsite cooking gear (grill, hot dog extension forks), fire starter gel, heavy tripod for the Nikon, small car vacuum, extra wet wipes, cleaning towels, a pretty serious tool box, and my heavy duty Navy SEAL-approved hoodie, just in case.
Passenger side rear door:
I decided to bring my huge chefs cutting board so I could have something to sit the Coleman stove on if I get stuck in the rain and I have to cook under the Raw-4’s hatchback again. My butane stove is in the black box to the left of the cooler, and more fuel is wedged in the door well. Always make sure you buy a cooler that has a drain plug! (This one is located in the very back). This one has wheels and a handle. I love it.
There is plenty of room for me to stretch out completely if I slide the driver seat up just a few inches. Because the back seats do not fold down completely flat, there is a bit of a hump, so I took a moving blanket and placed it just up to the bump to make the sleeping area completely flat. Then I cut out the yellow memory foam, have a great REI inflatable sleeping pad and a 2-person sleeping bag for extra squish. All of my pillows I’ll throw in at the last minute when I’m ready to leave Monday morning.
Now, all the gear that I will use on a regular basis:
I zip tied this sturdy metal set of drawers on top to the rear seatbelt bolt and below to a cargo ring so it will not fall over. I put a bungy cord on the bottom corner to fasten diagonally so nothing slides out and hits my back window while driving. Lower drawer is for the heavy cans, then cooking equipment including my coveted camping French press, above that is my personal stuff (GoPro and other camera equipment), and the top drawer has everything that I will use often like trash bags, cleaning supplies and other stuff I may need at night so I don’t have to struggle to get something out of the drawers.
I then have three smaller rubbermaid containers with latch tops. The heaviest, on the bottom, holds more cooking utensils (knives, cutlery, can opener, spices, sponges, matches, etc…). Above that I have one containing paper plates, Ziplock bags, aluminum foil, miles of cord, batteries, bungie cords… Then I have a box of snacks. I don’t take a road trip without ritz cheese cracker packs and brown sugar pop tarts! I may be living in my car, but I am not an animal!
My cast iron pan, just in case I need it on a campfire, and more tools are sitting with my spare tire under an easy accessible lid under the rear floor.
Overhead cargo net: I thought I could use this at night if something were in my way. I could throw it up here and not deal with it until morning.
Front passenger seat:
I absolutely love these seat pocket doo dads. There is one behind each seat, and this one up in front. Tucked behind is my massive Nat Geo Adventure Atlas, and of course enough goodie pockets to stash things while I’m driving. A serious “Must Have” is a power converter. Plug it into your 12v cigarette lighter (do kids today even know what that is?) and it coverts to 110w so I can charge my computer and Nikon / GoPro batteries. This model also has a few USB plugs. If I were REALLY living in a car / van I would buy solar panels with a power station so you can use power when the car isn’t running, but I don’t need that. Not unless the tour industry dies, I loose my job, and I’m really living in a car. But, I’ll worry about than when I get back from this road trip.
All of my clothes and toiletries are stored in packing cubes that I sit on the rear floor mats. They are really easy to get to.
I stored my few travel books in the passenger door:
Other extras I have hidden in the car: A massive first aid kit, solar shower, collapsable rubber tub for dishes or laundry, clothing line with clips, several massive beach towels, a collapsable 20L water jug with spigot, my trusted BOGS boots that I successfully went mud-whomping in the UK (just in case the weather really gets nasty), window suction cups to hang small bags from, large and small umbrellas, paper towels, toilet paper, window shades that are also bug-proof if I need the windows down while I sleep, plenty of massive maglights, head lamps, and small battery lanterns, and of course my metal college softball bat just in case anyone tries to mess with me.
I’m heading out on Monday and will stay with my east coast BFF in Richmond for a few days before heading down to Key West, Florida, to begin the real journey.
More to come…
Wow, Liz! You are amazing! I’m impressed, excited for you and a little bit jealous. I hope you have a wonderful and safe adventure. If you come to Northern California, you are welcome!