Revisiting the road trip packing list

Hats, merino, & loafers.  What 6-months in a van does to your wardrobe.

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Paul’s currently on a year-long road trip around the states.  While on the road, he’s keeping an eye on the style of the places he visits, and trying not to dress like a bum.  Follow his other adventures on drivinginertia.com.

About six months ago I asked for packing help.  Some advice was good, and I followed it.  Some I ignored.  John shared this link and successfully determined I am, in fact, white and taking a year off.  Right now, I’m six months into the year I’ve dedicated to travel.  Here’s what I’ve learned living on the road (stylishly, of course).

I can’t do laundry every day

A couple guys suggested a sink-wash underwear rotation (wear one pair, wash the other, rotate, repeat). Couldn’t do it. I’ve got a stack of boxers and I wash them when I run out.  Why?  Sinks … mostly.  Not every campsite has running water, and I’ve stayed at some sketchy ones.  And I just couldn’t do it – I didn’t want another daily unknown on my agenda.  I have enough to worry about trying to find places to eat and sleep while keeping things in budget.  I didn’t want to worry about washing my drawers too.

I dream of Merino

Yes, Merino wool is probably the perfect travel fabric – looks good, doesn’t smell, is versatile – but I couldn’t rationalize spending the coin needed to outfit myself with this wonder fabric.  I’m wearing basically standard garb, no special equipment.

Shoes need to multi-task

Driving loafers put into rock scrambling duty.

Driving loafers put into rock scrambling duty.

Butch_Z suggested I ditch my hiking boots.  Great call.  I didn’t need them and got rid of them after a month.  I’ve hiked through Death Valley and up mountains and jumped across streams fine in sneakers.  That said, my Pumas are probably the worst shoe in the world to wear on gravel paths.  They annoyingly absorb gravel only to deposit it inside our van.

Meanwhile, I’ve come to regard driving loafers as possibly the most versatile shoe in existence.  These are what I wear.  I’ve crawled around on boulders and cliffs in mine, used them as slippers in sketchy hotels, and worn them to weddings.  I don’t think any other shoes could have pulled that off.

My luggage is basic

Mike asked about luggage.  Because my wife and I are mainly car-camping, I’ve been able to keep to a small duffel bag filled with clothing and a flimsy backpack for underwear, socks, and accoutrements.  This works in the van but is absolutely terrible when stopping at a friend’s or a hotel.  If we’re staying indoors, I pack up one of those reusable shopping bags with a change of clothes.

I am a hat guy

Living outside is tough, especially in the desert.  I now own and regularly wear a full-brimmed hat.  The best I can say about it is that it’s not overly un-stylish.

I love regional style

Granted, a lot of people dress homogeneously across America, but there’s still a lot of regional variations in style.  I enjoyed seeing men in Uggs in California (they make perfect sense if you’re a surfer and you just spent the last hour dangling your feet in frigid water).  I liked seeing blaze orange in Wisconsin (hunters, natch).  People in New Mexico look exactly how they should look – Navajo shirts and turquoise and silver accents.  It’s amazing and wonderful that we all manage to not look exactly the same.

Got any tips or questions about life on the road? Post them in the comments.