After three annual trips stuffing my mates and myself into a van for a week we like to think we know what we’re doing, sort of. Remembering back to our first year in a cliche white van, sans “free candy” on the side, with the roof cut off and replaced with a high liner, a mini sink that was barely able to wash two pots at once, and a table we had to convert nightly into a bed, what good times they were. Nowadays we’re looking at Class B or C rigs whenever we head out on an adventure, what luxury. The rigs were rarely the essentials we needed on the road to create one unforgettable trip. So, what do you REALLY need to make a campervan trip with friends a great one? Don’t worry I got you covered.
Get Yourself Some Mates
As an advocate for solo traveling these last few years your adventure hits different when you get to share amazing moments with your friends. Getting the right group together that meshes well, feed off the energy given and replenishes it, brings something to the table, is a hard ask, but not entirely impossible. True, you don’t know your friends until you travel with them and what better way to find out then stuffed behind four metal walls with wheels attached? I’m fortunate enough to have such a group I can always count on to be down for any adventure and go with the changing scenarios with a ‘fuck it’ mentality.
Have a Plan … But Don’t Stick to It
Are you mental, Jason? Yes and no. Who doesn’t love a good plan? All my Type-A personalities stand up! A good plan can be worth its weight in gold when you’re on the road. Knowing when and where to be and what to expect prevents surprises. BUT YOU’RE ON A ROADTRIP! Surprises, good and bad, unexpected detours, and SNAFUs (Situation Normal All Fucked Up for the youngins) come up. Sometimes quite a lot. My best advice is to keep it as that, a plan, or rather a backup plan.
Have a general idea of where you’re wanting to go, things you want to see in case permits are needed ahead of time (planning helps a lot here), places to stay and have a back up for those. Rarely has anything gone to plan when I’ve embarked on these trips, this could be a testament to my planning or winging it attitude. A general outline is fantastic, having back-ups even better, but flying by the seat of your pants is sometimes THE BEST. I’ve stumbled onto so many amazing experiences by just going with the universe on the road.
Your Attitude Matters Out Here – a Lot
Channel that can-do attitude because you’re going to need it on the road! When things are going right everyone is happy, cheerful and having a good time. But when things go wrong (i.e. getting kicked out of your sleeping location if you’re stealth camping, taking the wrong exit and ending up in the middle of no where America, having a flat, blown motor, electrical gremlin) it will really test your resolve. Not everyone handles surprises well and if you haven’t ever experienced that it’ll be eye opener once you find yourself in said situation. You heard of that can-do attitude? Pack some and put it in your back pocket.
No one likes a Debbie downer and having one in the rig is going to drag everyone else down. When things are grim, and sometimes they can be, try to see things with the glass all the way full type of mentality can really change the energy. I’ll admit sometimes I haven’t been in the best mindset on long road trips, but thankfully I’ve some great mates (essential number one!) to help pull me back into the right headspace.
Have a Banging Playlist
You’re going to be driving and spending time in the car quite a lot. Create a great playlist with everyone’s taste in mind and download that bitch. Chances are you aren’t going to have any service when you camp so hoping Spotify or Pandora (does any one use this anymore?!) connects will be a fool’s dream. The playlist will make the drives seem shorter and when a banger comes on everyone will start jamming, trust me on this. Also, for those after dinner card games, shooting the shit or eating some snacks, having some tunes in the background turns a good evening into a great one.
Bring a small portable speaker with you, but whatever you do DO NOT PLAY IT ON THE TRAILS!
Drink Local. Eat Local. See Local.
Simple, but often overlooked. We drop these pins on maps of places we want to hike and see and almost always the best places are known by locals. Head into the mom and pop coffee shop in the morning, pick up an espresso and ask them where the best trails are. They will drop some golden knowledge that searching ‘best hikes in xyz’ will always overlook. Saying we lucked out with this is putting it simply, we lucked out MANY times on finding local trails unbeknownst to tourists passing through.
We love a good brew so whenever possible we’re checking out the craft scene for an IPA or a hazy. This gives a good chance to rub elbows with people from the neighborhood. Be kind, throw a smile, then ask where the best foods that only they would eat at would be.
See the local digs, man. Tourist attractions (especially for the outdoors) are popular for a plethora of reasons. Some want that shot of the mountain, others want that shot of themselves, whatever the case skip off that beaten trail for a bit. Do yourself and the location you’re seeing justice and venture a bit further out and see what adventures you find. What I am saying is, yes do your research, but also, take a left when it says right. You might just see something more epic. Like being on top of a waterfall entirely by chance than at its plunge pool.
This wasn’t a tried and true list of things you would need on a campervanning trip, but we felt these things were important to warrant a list all their own. Often times we focus so much on the tangibles that we forget the most crucial part of any trip is who you’re with. The final destination can be any pinpoint on a map, that seldom matters, what matters is how you feel with who you’re with when getting to it. Sure remember your hiking sticks, a trail map, and some wool socks, but pack a good attitude and don’t forget to bring your spirit of adventure!!