Friday, October 30, 2015

U is for Umbrella

There’s no doubt about it – I’m an umbrella fan. For the most part, I don’t like hoods or hats and prefer to hold an umbrella instead. And I even bought Joel an umbrella hat to protect his camera when he's out taking pictures in the rain.

An umbrella can come in real handy when car camping, too. Not only will it protect you from rain, you can also use it as a personal sunshade (think old-fashioned parasol). And when not in use, you can just keep it tucked away in your car. Umbrellas are:
  • Affordable
  • Versatile
  • Readily available in many styles, colors and sizes

If you don’t already have an umbrella living in your car, be sure to pick one up before your next car-camping adventure.

Isn't this camo umbrella hat cute? Now if I could only get Joel to wear it...

NOTE: Amazon link is affiliate.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

H is for Hygiene

Proper hygiene is important to good health but how do you stay clean while car camping?

Well, I have a few suggestions:
  • Swimming – if regular swimming is included in your plans, you’ll be clean by default!
  • Baby wipes – or moist towelettes or whatever you call them, prepackaged wipes are a car camper’s best friend
  • Hand sanitizer – especially good after porta potty or pit toilet use (we used Purell)
  • Portable camp shower – the Cadillac of car camping cleanliness but not doable for everyone or every trip
You can also clean up in a public restroom or pay for a shower at many campgrounds and truck stops – I just didn’t include those options as suggestions because it’s not what we do. I prefer baby wipes for routine cleanliness and try to plan a motel/hotel stay every 3-4 days. Joel’s trying to stretch out the time between paid lodging so is thinking of ways to heat water while we’re driving that we can use for showering when we stop each night. I can’t wait to see what he comes up with!

NOTE: Above links are affiliate.

Friday, October 23, 2015

L is for Laundry

Coin-operated washers and dryers are available in most towns and RV parks, so you can probably wash as often as you need to – if you want to spend the time to do so, which I don’t. My preference is to periodically include a hotel with coin-operated guest laundry in my plans (see Q is for Quality Inn).

A real bed…
A real bathroom…
Catching up the laundry…
Doesn’t that sound nice?

Between laundromat visits:
  • Keep your dirty clothes in a separate (closed) plastic bag
  • Stow your laundry wherever it’s least in the way
  • Be sure your dirty clothing is fully dry before bagging
  • Save your quarters for the washer and dryer

You can bring soap/dryer sheets from home to save money. And if you’re on a super-tight budget, you can keep your clothes reasonably clean on the cheap. Years ago when camping remotely for weeks at a time with two small children, I washed our clothes by hand and then draped them over bushes around camp to dry. It takes a little time but is effective and free. Weather permitting, you can also swim in your clothes and then dry off – just be sure not to get them dirty again while still wet!

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

O is for Outdoor Furniture

Especially when car camping, you’ll want some lightweight folding furniture to make your out-of-the-car camp time more comfortable and convenient. At a minimum, I suggest:
  • A compact folding camp chair for each person
  • A nifty fold-up aluminum table
  • A sturdy folding step stool if you’re carrying anything on top of your car
You can leave these items outside the car at night and then slide them (folded) under your deflated mattress while traveling. How easy is that?

NOTE: Amazon affiliate links are to items similar to those we took on our trip.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Q is for Quality Inn

So what does Quality Inn have to do with car camping? Maybe nothing but if you find yourself in need of a room, my experience is you won’t go wrong with Quality Inn. During the 2-week Missouri leg of our 12,360-mile road trip, we paid for lodging five nights, four of which were at Quality/Comfort Inns. Not only was each one clean and comfortable, they all had guest laundry available and included a nice breakfast, as well!

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Y is for Yield

Nothing will ruin your adventure faster than wrecking your car, so no matter whose turn it is, yield. Be patient and pay attention to other drivers.

And whether driving or on foot, also yield to wildlife, especially bears, moose and bison, all of which can do a lot of damage – to you and/or your stuff. We saw several signs in Alaska with the number of moose killed on a given stretch of highway and I’m pretty sure the dead moose tally also reflects the number of totaled vehicles.

Friday, October 9, 2015

S is for Storage

When car camping, space is at a premium. After all, you’re sleeping each night in the same small area that houses your stuff by day. Even if you have storage of some sort attached to the top of your vehicle, there will be a lot of stuff with you in your car.

Handy storage items we used on our 12,360-mile road trip include:
  • Visor organizer – great place for things such as passport cards, vehicle registration, proof of insurance, and National Park annual pass
  • Seat back organizer – perfect for things I wanted within easy reach from bed, such as my Cruz Reader, reading glasses, earplugs, and travel clock
  • Plastic tote boxes – kept food, kitchen stuff, clothing, etc. organized
  • Small ice chest – kept up front for snacks
  • Command™ hooks to keep trash bag at hand but out of the way
Ample storage makes car camping much more enjoyable so plan your storage well!

NOTE: I added Amazon affiliate links to show storage options similar to the ones I chose but be sure to read customer reviews and shop around for the best price.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

D is for Driving

I did most of the driving on our 12,360-mile road trip, which freed Joel up to take pictures. For the most part, this worked out well since I’m not much of a photographer but don’t mind driving except in cities or heavy traffic, neither of which was much of a problem in Alaska and Canada. The problem I did have in the far north, however, was driving too far and for too long.

For those who haven’t experienced it firsthand, the long daylight hours in the far north during late May and early June can cause you to totally lose track of time, which in turn can lead to extremely long days behind the wheel. Many mornings we started out around 4-5 am and didn’t call it quits until 10-11 pm. After a few days like that, the lack of sleep starts taking a toll!

But the beauty of car camping is that you have everything you need with you at all times so you can stop anywhere safe that doesn’t prohibit overnight parking and/or camping. We just didn’t manage to stop at a reasonable time more than once or twice during the whole seven weeks…

Anyway, here are my Top 5 car-camping driving tips:
  • Dress comfortably for distance driving (stretchy clothes, slip-on shoes)
  • Limit your daily distance/drive time and pull off the road to nap if you become sleepy while driving
  • Look for a camp spot early, and when traveling in bear country, stop and cook dinner at a location other than where you’ll sleep
  • Keep unshelled sunflower seeds handy for a little pick-me-up while driving and chewing gum on hand to keep your ears clear during elevation changes
  • If you don’t need prescription glasses to drive, you might want to wear Sunreaders (magnified sunglasses) instead of regular sunglasses anyway - I find that the magnification compensates for the reduced vision due to darkened lenses

Friday, October 2, 2015

P is for pStyle

My life is changed! If you’re a guy, just skip this. But if you’re a gal (and especially if you’ve reached your middle years), read on.

The pStyle is a nifty device that lets us ladies pee standing up and fully clothed, which makes car camping out in the boonies much more comfortable and convenient. The pStyle also comes in handy in places you might rather not sit, such as pit toilets and port-a-potties.

The pStyle is:
  • Simple
  • Sturdy
  • Easy to use
  • Nearly foolproof
  • Easy to clean
  • Very affordable

Although there are many types of female urinary devices available, I chose the pStyle for its utter simplicity. Basically, it’s just a contoured plastic trough that fits against your body and directs the flow. It’s easy to use while clothed and can even eliminate the need for toilet paper (truly – it’s not perfect but pretty darn close!). And the one-piece smooth plastic design makes cleaning your pStyle easy. What's not to love?

Word of caution: Do not store your pStyle where it can be crushed. Although the plastic is sturdy, if you drop your heavily loaded backpack on the ground with the pStyle at the bottom, it can split. I found this out the hard way when I pulled mine out to use it the first time at a rather nasty roadside pit toilet halfway between Whitehorse and the Yukon/Alaska border. Fortunately it wasn’t split the full length and I was able to repair it with electrician’s tape, after which it worked fine the next six weeks of our trip. As soon as I got home, however, I ordered two more so that I’m prepared should I ever have another pStyle mishap.

NOTE: Amazon links are affiliate.