Sunday, October 1, 2006

packing for the road



In a small camper, like a boat, one has the pleasure of arranging everything one needs to enjoy life. Some thought needs to be given on how you are going to carry/organize all this stuff. Remember, this site is geared to the full-timer who needs to bring along way more than the vacationer or one who will only be out for a season.
If you have a tow vehicle and a small trailer like the Casita, consider having a custom rack fabricated for the top of your tow vehicle for bulky, light stuff.
Out of season clothing is stored in the tow vehicle. Seasonal clothing is in the trailer.
Measured what space there is in the back of the SUV with the seat folded down, go to Wal-Mart, purchase a few tubs, and stack them in the back of the tow vehicle.
Pack light, get rid of your nice glass jars, measuring cup, etc. and go plastic. I know, no panache, but lightweight.


Try to choose items that can be used for multiple purposes.
There are some good hiding places in your vehicle and trailer for important papers, your backup hard drive, extra handgun, and whatever. Choose a couple places that require a tool to access them.


I know, I know, it looks pretty disorganized—but what do you want from a vagabond. The first photo shows the custom rack with my bike, portable holding tank, 2 of my 6 Reliance jugs, a 1-gal gas jug, and a jug of cat litter. The second photo shows my ladder, dipping bars, folding table, 5-gal laundry bucket with a hose, and a sun shower heating up as I drive. The last photo shows you the reason I had extra heavy springs installed on the Cherokee.

Then there is moving day; the day you pack up and drive to the next place you are going to set up.

Inside – Be sure windows and roof vents are closed. Clear off table and counters. Take down anything that you have hanging on the wall that would be swinging back and forth, scoring the wall. A large Landsend or LL Bean canvas tote bag can be handy. Put all the miscellaneous items into it and place it on the floor. Try to keep stuff you are moving for travel, one the floor and over the axle. If you have too much weight on your hitch, move some of the weight aft of the axle. Not too much, however, too much weight aft of the axle can make the trailer more prone to swaying. Remember what to do if your trailer ever starts to sway from the wrong distribution of weight, taking a curve too fast, doing an evasive maneuver, or whatever. Reach down and move the electric brake controller slide. Applying the trailer brakes without touching those of the tow vehicle will straighten it out. The problem with doing this, however, is remembering to do it while your brain is screaming, HOLY SH*T!
Make sure the items in the fridge are ready for travel. Move items around so there is not much room for shifting. You don’t want to realize you did not wedge in the pitcher of orange juice as you are driving across a section of washboard. Wish I could say this never happened to me. Switch the fridge to DC if you have the option. I am most assuredly NOT a fan of keeping the propane turned on while on the road. If you are in an accident and a line or connection breaks, Can you say, ‘screwed?’ Besides, it’s not as if the inside of the fridge is going to warm up all that much during the drive. If you think it might (never happened to me), fill an empty ½ milk jug ¾ full of water, freeze it, and put it down in the fridge on moving day (or keep another one in the freezer).
Make sure all drawers are securely closed. Look into overhead cabinets to be sure to remove any heavy items that might shift and push open the door. Same goes for the medicine cabinet. I had one with a weak latch, so the first moving day did not go as well as it could have.
Wash fruit you will be eating during the move and fill one or two water bottles. Gather any devices you want to charge during the drive. My iPod nano filled with podcasts is priceless for the drive. I don’t like driving.

Outside – I don’t like moving days so I pack up outside stuff the evening before a move and roll in the awning.
A day or two before a moving day: check oil, coolant, windshield wash, trans, brake, and battery levels. Clean windshield. Check lug nuts and bolts on hitch for tightness. Check tire pressures, including the two spares.
I also back up the Cherokee to within a couple of inches of the A-frame and attach the chains and brake release cable. Anything to make moving days start off smoothly.
Latch the stove hood vent.
Be sure you have at least a few gallons of water with you in case of emergencies or something comes up preventing you from acquiring water at the end of the day.
Turn off propane tank valves.

Even when you get down to the absolute minimum, you will find out over the first few months that you have packed WAY too much. During my first year I found myself stopping at thrift shops along the way and dropping things off or giving stuff to other campers and once to a homeless person. After you have everything packed be sure to go through all your cabinets and tubs both in the trailer and in your tow vehicle a few times in the first couple of weeks. You will be getting rid of SO much stuff when downsizing that you will forget exactly what you have kept and packed, as well as, wondering where the heck you put a particular item. That can be a whole lot of fun. Keep in mind that what you do not have saves weight, space, cost, and will never need service.

If you are going to spend most of your time with hookups and have a lot of people around, full-timing is really no big deal—somewhat like living in a tiny studio apartment. Downsizing definitely takes some planning but it’s nowhere near as overwhelming as some seem to think. Most of us can think of times in our life that were much more stressful and chaotic than downsizing from a house to a small trailer. After you start full-timing in a small RV, you might find that it was all easier than you had anticipated. Not surprising since one is simplifying one’s life in a big way. Remember to stay amused. Without a sense of humor, forget it. And doing it in a tiny RV will definitely add more spice and adventure into your life. Hit the secondary roads and follow the roads less traveled. It can be a hoot.

There is no better opportunity to receive more
than to be thankful for what you already have.
James E Rohn


FOR INDEX OF POSTINGS GO TO JULY 2006

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