My New Home is a Park
Posted by eric s marshall
I guess that’s not entirely true. I’ve lived in a park over the past month, and on a mountain, and off an old dirt road. It’s probably more accurate to say that my new home is a truck. It’s a 2003 Ford Ranger to be specific. We’ve only owned it for a little more than a month, but we’ve become very close with it. We put a cap on it, and built a platform for our bed. The platform allows us to sleep in the bed while storing most of our gear underneath. It’s sort of a poor man’s RV.
I have a few tips for living out of a truck. The first one is the most important; less is more. Pack as little as you imagine you could possibly need. And then leave half of it. You really don’t need much. We each have a bag of clothes and toiletries, a bag of gear, and a computer (or iPad in my case). We have a sweater box that acts as our food pantry, a stove, and a propane tank. Then we have a handful of other luxuries; a tent, sleeping bags, two camp chairs, some books and games, and a kite. It took us about three weeks to figure out that we had the string hooked up to the wrong part of the kite, which is why we could never fly it. The less you bring, the easier it is to follow the second tip; stay organized.
Everything has its place. And when you’re done using it, be sure to return it to that place. There is nothing worse than having to unpack everything, trying to find the nail clippers or the toilet paper. Using storage bins helps immensely. All of the food is together, cooking and eating utensils stay together, and then miscellaneous items have their own bin. I like to keep my headlamp, bug spray, and itch cream in the door of the truck for easy access. As hard as you try, however, you’ll find yourself reorganizing everything every so often. More in the beginning, and then less as you have good systems in place.
Food can be difficult. Some people will try to keep coolers with ice in them, but inevitably the ice melts and can make the food soggy if you don’t keep an eye on it. And if you’re in the mountains for a handful of days at a time, you won’t be able to find more ice. We’ve only put ice in our cooler once, and it lasted about a day. Instead we try to get mainly nonperishable items, or eat things quickly. Eggs will last a while without refrigeration. Cabbage as well. You can also find little “juice boxes” of soy milk, or even regular milk that don’t need to be refrigerated until they’re opened. But if you open it, and then use it all with some cereal or oatmeal, no refrigeration necessary. For breakfast you can find pancake mixes that don’t even need eggs or milk. Peanut butter and honey sandwiches make great lunches. As do a couple of Clif bars or the like if you’re on the go and being active. Another one of my favorite backpacking lunches is peanut butter, honey, and M&Ms wraps. All of the ingredients don’t take up much room, and it packs lots of protein and sugar to keep you going. Pepperoni and hard cheeses keep for some time as well. For dinners, rice, beans, pasta, and tuna are staples. You can mix them in all different combinations to make new meals. Lipton sides with some added tuna and veggies make a great meal. Rice and bean burritos are delicious. Mac and cheese with tuna added to it provides protein. Peanut butter, soy sauce, and rice noodles make for an exotic Thai delicacy.
One of the other biggest tips I could give you is to talk to EVERYONE. Get advice, find out where you can get a cheap breakfast, free showers, free camping, find a good place to fill up on water. I’ve found that people are always willing to help you out with advice, or share what little they have. And you’ll want to return the favor or at least pay it forward.
Some other tips I would give you are to have a large water storage jug. Nothing can ruin your time more than worrying about running out of water. Or having to waste gas just to drive back into town to fill your water. Another small item is to make yourself curtains. We haven’t done this yet, but it helps provide some privacy and to keep the sun out (or streetlights) when you want to sleep late. We met a couple who used sticky backed Velcro, so they could put them up when they wanted to sleep and then take them down when they were driving.
Lastly, I would say that you should have a compelling reason to live out of your truck, and enjoy the freedom that it gives you. We did it for a couple of reasons. Mainly to travel and rock climb, but also so that we could quit our jobs and live simply. Our plan was to drive out to Lander, Wyoming and from there be pretty flexible. We have been, and it brought us to Ten Sleep. I met a Wyoming climbing legend, and spent a weekend climbing with a professional. He gave me some great advice, and it helped me send my first 5.11a. A couple of weeks later I bested that by onsighting the classic “Great White Buffalo,” my first 11b. We went to Yellowstone and saw Old Faithful. We visited the “World’s Largest Hot Springs” with some new friends. A lot of the friends we’ve made are on the road climbing as well, and it will be nice to see some familiar faces in Kentucky come October, or Mexico in December. We visited Devil’s Tower, Mount Rushmore, and Badlands National Park. Overall the best part is the sense of freedom we have. We’re not tied down to a job we hate, or have the burden of paying for and maintaining a house. That allows us to go anywhere we want, and pursue the things we truly enjoy.