My 3 Essentials for Car Camping

gear, I went outside

IMG_7733It’s blasted hot in Seattle this week, and when my roommate suggested we get out of town and head to the coast, I was onboard. While putting together a rough packing list, I realized the first three items on the list aren’t actually necessities, but certainly are items that I love to have with me.

Let’s be real: When it comes to car camping, it’s appropriate to take everything, including some kind of kitchen sink. Despite this I try to keep a minimal camp haul, mostly because I don’t like digging around the back of the car for things I know I brought and can’t find. I’m a fan of keeping it simple.

A good camp chair. I’m not fussy when it comes to sitting, but I’d prefer to not have my extremities fall asleep, sit hunched over, or feel like a child because my feet don’t touch the ground. With Ellie in tow, it’s essential to have proper lap space, too. I love my G4Free camp chair I received as a Christmas gift last year. It’s small, light, and simple to assemble once we’re settled at camp. AND, it leaves ample lap space for Ellie.

A long-sleeve shirt. I L-O-V-E my long-sleeved Sombrio MTB shirts.

They’re comfy, have a nice fit, and there’s a perfectly sized, zipper-pocket in the back seam that’s easy to reach with just one hand. Wearing one is reminiscent of stealing your boyfriends plaid, but it’s totally cut for the girls. I had a groovy endo on my mountain bike a few months ago that left me with an incredible sore elbow, a really beautiful bruise for at least two weeks, and a solid contusion that’s still hanging out with me. I was wearing my Sombrio plaid at the time, and there’s not even a scratch in the fabric. Plus, long sleeves keep me cooler in the sunshine and this is the perfect layer to throw on over a swimsuit, sweaty sports bra, or as an extra layer around camp. I’m pretty sure this shirt will fill all three of these roles this weekend, and the only relevant question is whether to bring the blue or the green, because yes, I have both.

A sun hat. For me, this item is less about sun protection and way more about covering up sweaty helmet hair. My favorite hat is a nondescript straw one from Target, so don’t get up in a pinch about which one to grab. Just take one that fits your head, won’t blow away in the breeze, and keeps sun glare off your sunglasses. This brim is wide enough to keep the sun off my neck and ears, but not so wide that it feels like I’m walking around with an umbrella. I love attaching it to my pack on casual, destination bike rides to the brewery, park, or coffee shop to cover my helmet hair. Ellie usually ends up lying on top of it in the car, and it’s held up remarkably well.

I find car camping to be the best place to try out a new piece of gear, new approach, or a new system, since it’s relatively consequence-free. It doesn’t really matter what you do or don’t take, as long as you’re safe, having fun, and taking pictures.

Just kidding. Don’t spend your vacation taking pictures. That’s silly.

I am the Sasquatch

hiking, I went outside

I had a little mini breakdown at the trailhead this weekend. I’m not proud of it. It wasn’t a great moment. But it happened, so I’m owning it.

This is what happened: I forgot my socks. The socks I had so painstakingly packed to ensure my feet wouldn’t get new blisters. The wool socks and thin liner socks that would help keep my feet dry and hotspot-free. They were not where I had put them. And therefore, they were not in the car but in my overnight bag at The Boy’s house.

The thing is, the mountains are where I’m competent. I transition quickly. I know the trail. I know my limits and I push myself beyond them. I am on time. I am prepared.

But not this week.

Chuckawalla Wall

I went outside, Utah

img_5353My freshman year of college at Dixie State College, now Dixie State University, a couple boys dragged me and my roommates to Chuckawalla Wall for the first time. It was my first experience with rock climbing. As I strapped on borrowed shoes, while wearing a borrowed harness, I remember spying the bolts at the top and considering the feat I was about to undertake. So when you say, “kiss the bolts,” what does that mean, exactly? I saw the white chalk marks left by previous climbers, marking the handholds that would allow me to scale the wall. I gave it a shot.

I don’t remember if I reached the top on the first try. I probably didn’t, but I do remember successfully completing the climb a number of times, feeling progressively stronger and confident in my ability to scale the wall. Once the girls and I got the hang of climbing the red Navajo sandstone, we couldn’t get enough, even with borrowed shoes, harnesses, and belay devices, and we begged to be taken out to the wall any chance we could get.

After I moved to Sacramento, the accoutrements were purchased; harness, rope, shoes, belay devices, and off I went to the granite slabs of the Sierras with a new climbing partner. It was hard and frustrating, and we quickly gave up. Storing my shoes and harness felt like giving up a dream. Or coming to terms with something that I wanted, but wasn’t meant to be. Even though I was only 19 years old, I mourned my youth, spontaneity, and sense of adventure. I was married and it was time to turn away from childish things.

Klahhane Ridge

I went outside, washington

My hiking companion and I were very excited to hike Mount Storm King on the Olympic Peninsula overlooking Crescent Lake. Unfortunately, we detoured from our original plan just four miles from the trail head. Instead of slinking home, because who does that, we quickly made a new plan, consulted the ranger, and headed to into Olympic National Park to test out Klahhane Ridge. The day did not disappoint or suck in any way. It was magic.