Packing light for big adventures
As the snow melts, and the mountain air warms, something deep within us awakens, yearning to explore after the long winter. Finally, the season for winding road trips, lung-busting hikes, and exotic vacations is here.
But consider this: just as important as choosing where you go, is deciding what to bring.
When it comes to packing light for a big adventure, Jeremy Cronon, 24, is an expert. He’s entering month nine of a 10-month journey through the U.S., living in a very organized, Honda Element, visiting every national park and public land in the lower 48. His goal: to better understand what our diverse nation chooses to protect and preserve.
Cronon has recently arrived in Utah to explore Zion, Bryce, Arches, Canyonlands and the Wasatch. Prior to his epic road trip, Cronon was an adventure cycling and sea-kayaking guide, with experience packing for an array of adventures.
Before loading a suitcase (or backpack), Cronan says it’s a good idea to decide the style of your adventure. Are you budget backpacking across Europe? Weekend camping in the Wasatch? Taking a lavish road trip through California wine country? Once you’ve chosen your budget and style of accommodations, you can start packing.
"Traveling means giving up some level of comfort," says Cronon. Everyone’s definition of "essential" differs, so realize what items you’ll need to stay comfortable and what you’re willing to compromise. For example, an ultra-light backpacker may be more comfortable during the day while he hikes, but at camp, he sacrifices comfort for minimal bedding and simple food.
One of the best aspects of traveling is sampling homegrown foods from roadside restaurants and farm stands, but that can add up. If you’re on a budget or headed to the backcountry, "the cheapest way to eat, is to eat components of food," says Cronon.
Rather than pre-made camping meals, (which are pricey and aren’t always healthy), try simplifying your travel diet. Rice, beans, and your favorite vegetable can be a filling, cheap dinner after a long day of exploration.
As for snacks, pick non-perishable, calorie-dense foods like nuts, protein bars and beef jerky to munch on while on the move. Bringing a tiny container of your favorite seasoning or sauce is a great hack to make simple foods taste amazing. Cronon’s favorite: "Soul Food Seasoning" he found at a Best Buy.
During the last nine months on the road, Cronon has experienced 100-degree heat in Florida, and 30-degree-below-zero nights in Montana. Since he sleeps in his car, choosing the right clothing has been essential.
"Think layers," says Cronon. Don’t bring something on a long trip if you’ll only wear it once or if you don’t like wearing it in the first place. Remember, no one other than your travel companions will know you’ve worn the same teeshirt for the past week.
Clothing has weight, so realize that certain materials (denim, corduroy, thick sweaters) may not be practical. Lightweight, breathable microfibers that wick moisture and don’t wrinkle are great solutions for adventures in all climates.
Even if you’re trying to escape technology on your trip, having a few gadgets and tools can make life much easier. Items like headlamps and quick-boil stoves are tiny and very useful. "People have this idea that if they go into the backcountry they’ll need a knife but, honestly, scissors are much more helpful in most situations," says Cronon.
If you bring a nice camera, make sure to have a weatherproof case, extra batteries, and don’t forget the memory card.
Regardless of the destination, getting there safely is paramount. Before departing, be sure you’re up to date with vaccinations and consult a travel doctor about possible diseases you may encounter. Park City Vaccines suggests making an appointment one to two months before traveling abroad in case you need a series of shots.
Remember to get extra prescriptions and medications if you’ll be in remote areas or a different country. Carrying a small first aid kit is essential for every adventure, even if you won’t be in the wilderness.
As for important documents, (passport, park permits, maps, visa information etc ) make a few copies and store them in a secure, waterproof bag.
If you still have extra room, a luxury item can personalize your trip and bring a lot of happiness. Whether it’s a guitar, your baby blanket, or a secret stash of chocolate, it’s nice to have something extra special while you’re traveling.
"The reason I weigh everything and pack so light is so I can fit those luxury items," says Cronon. Although impractical, he carried a kite in the car for months, solely to fly it along California’s Lost Coast.
It may be tempting to bring your bike, kayak and skis, but Cronon suggests leaving big toys behind. Unless your trip is centered around that specific activity, make it easy on yourself and just rent larger items on location.
Above all, "Knowledge is the most important thing you can pack, and it doesn’t weigh anything," says Cronon. Learning as much as you can before you go will ultimately make your trip a much richer experience.
For more adventure tips, check out Jeremy Cronon’s website: http://www.chasingcairns.com
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