Long Drive Packing Strategies for Stuffed Cars and Vans
Another month, another long drive: this one was a 4 day excursion from Ontario to Alberta, crossing through the Badlands. It wasn’t a leisurely drive, it was a race to get out to Canmore as soon as possible while staying reasonably healthy. We had to leave Saturday late afternoon, and with Peter’s MTB Nationals race the following Saturday, it was essential that we got there as quickly as we could, but not sacrificing nights of sleep or relatively decent eating. That’s a tall order.
Added to that, the For Transit Connect that we’ve kitted out with a bed/table was crammed with our gear—three bikes and a ton of suitcases—so we didn’t have a whole lot of wiggle room when it came to picking out our gear. If it wasn’t easy-access, it wasn’t coming out. So, packing the van meant making sure everything I needed for the trip needed to be easy-access. So, if you’re planning a trip that involves a drive straight-through and don’t have a massive Sprinter or camper van, we’ve got some advice:
Long Drive Packing Strategies:
Lots of water
A couple gallon jugs so you can always refill water bottles is super helpful: Peter goes through a ton of water, and I realized if we didn’t have extra jugs, I would end up super dehydrated because he just crushes our water bottles and I end up forgetting to drink! (Also helpful for frequent face washing. Since we weren’t stopping at hotels, I was relying on truck stops and public washrooms to stay somewhat clean.)
Easy-access toiletries, clean underwear, and changes of clothes
I’ve made the mistake of not setting a small bag with a change of clothes, toiletries and underwear aside and ended up with my massive suitcase (buried under all the bikes, of course) overflowing in a truck stop parking lot as I rummaged around.
In the toiletries bag…
If you don’t want your full kit to go into the restroom with you (fair enough), make a small kit: washcloth, soap, toothbrush (bring a second one so you can toss this one when you get to your destination!), toothpaste, deodorant and whatever else you need to feel human. I can’t believe the difference having a washcloth made, to be honest: being able to really wash my face, not just splash it, made me feel a lot less gross by the end of the trip.
Easy-access workout gear
Even though we were on a tight schedule, we knew we’d want to stop and at least get in a walk or two, if not a short run or ride, and so I made sure we both had a kit that was easy to access. Even just 30 minutes of walking makes a huge difference for your mood and your overall soreness and tightness. We had started doing this last time we drove across the country, so I knew it was going to be a smart move.
Compression socks and sandals
Not worn together, because you’re not a heathen. But separately, these have been lifesavers. I always end up with really puffy feet, but this trip I managed to avoid them by wearing compression socks some of the time, cycling socks with mild compression some of the time, and bare feet with sandals the rest of the time (this also helped keep my feet from sweating a ton while we drove).
A laundry bag
After Day 1, you’ll want to be able to separate gross clothes from clean ones, and if you’re sweating at all and then sleeping in the van, a laundry bag that ‘smell-proofs’ your clothing can make getting to sleep a lot less smelly.
Easy protein and veggie-packed snacks
Even if you’re planning to stop for most meals like we were, snacks that include a lot of protein, and veggies if you can swing it, are ideal. I’m a fan of collagen powder lately because it provides 18grams of protein and can be dissolved in coffee. So that makes a truck stop coffee a more reasonable choice!
Weather varies wildly as you cross a country—we’d start a day at 90 and by nighttime, it was 40—so a sleeping bag doesn’t always work. So we have a sleep bag with a light blanket, a sheet and our two pillows, plus Peter’s sleep mask and earplugs. So much easier when you pull over, versus rummaging around!
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