As you may know by now, we collect requests from our readers and do our best to address them. Our last round revolved around education on the road. Well, recently a question that we have been asked is “How do you pack?” Many people either pack too much (most common) or pack too little. We pack up a family of five every 6 weeks to 3 months. In doing so, we have learned a thing or two about packing. So, this post is dedicated to the topic of How We Pack.
First of all let me state that the way we originally packed and the way we continue to pack is different from how most pack. The vast majority of people pack for a vacation or short business trip. We actually have to pack while trying to cover most contingencies that most encounter in everyday life while maintaining lower weight and size constraints. Keep this in mind as you read on.
First of all, when we embarked on our journey, we established that each Nomad would have 4 containers each. The containers were 12 gallon plastic containers. Two were to be used for personal effects and two for additional clothing. This was in addition to each Nomad being allotted one suit case.
The rest of the containers were allotted to kitchen, bathroom, outdoors, electronics, education, board games and more. In total, we carry 42 containers with us in our 5 foot by 8 foot cargo trailer. We also bring some sports gear, folding chairs and other miscellaneous items as well. When all is said and done, Ebony (our SUV) and our cargo trailer are packed full. However, they contain everything we need in order to maintain our lifestyle.
The question of “How We Pack” still looms unanswered. It was difficult, the first time, to say the least. We had a 4700 square foot (436.6 square meter) house that we had to condense down to 40 square foot (3.7 square meter) cargo trailer. Deciding what to keep, what to sell and what to donate was the most difficult part. So, we started by cramming our suitcases and containers full of everything we thought we “needed.” Our containers were filled to the brim and our zippers on our suitcases were crying from the amount of pressure placed on them. But we did it, 42 plastic containers and a suitcase each.
With each stop, we realized that there were items that we did not use or items that we figured out that we did not absolutely need. For example, we started out with 3 air mattresses. While in North Carolina, two of them sprang a leak. Actually, all three of them did. But, we knew we needed at least one. So we had to get rid of the first two and were able to patch the third one. That freed up more space in our containers.
We also realized that we did not need all of the clothes we brought on the road. We now look for multi-purpose clothing that can be used across a range of things. For example, I have a jacket that I hike with and a leather one I take Mama Nomad out to eat with; a functional one and a nicer one. The whole family has adopted this perception and understanding.
Another space saver is food. When we left we packed half of our pantry, freezer and fridge. When we left our first homebase (Orlando Area) we ate out the last few days. This was not efficient on our budget. By the time we were ready to leave North Carolina, our second main homebase, we were able to design our menu around what we had and made it last until the day we left. We did not have to spend a lot on eating out and we did not have to carry a lot of food with us. It was a great balance.
Each person or family is different. Our readers ultimately seem to be seeking a guide to packing. So, my parting words of advice are as follows:
- You do not need to pack for every single occasion. Bring some fancy shoes, athletic shoes and hiking shoes (if applicable). Leave the rest at home. And pair your clothes so that you can mix and match them for different occasions. If you are someone who likes to layer, remember, a long sleeve t-shirt that is black or white will go with almost everything. You do not need a rainbow of colors. You also do not need sock and underwear for everyday of the month. Only pack a week’s worth.
- Also, when you pack, it is very unlikely that the world is going to end while you are traveling. So, there is no need to pack medicine for flu, cold, poison ivy, Ebola and small pox. If you are someone who uses some kind of pain reliever (ibuprofen, acetaminophen, aspirin, etc), then you may want to bring that. Unless you have some kind of special condition like asthma, you can leave all of the rest of your substantial medicine cabinet at home.
- The next thing to cover is toiletries. They are bulky and heavy. Deodorant, toothpaste, dental floss and a toothbrush will cover your daily needs. Depending upon duration, ladies may need a few more items. But, for the most part, you do not need to cram a bunch of toiletries in your bag while you travel. With a little research, you can actually reduce all of the moisturizer, face cleaning treatments and more down to a small bottle of oil mixture and call it good.
- For you electronics fanatics, and I am speaking from experience, you do not need to carry every gadget you have with you on the road. Take it from someone who had three 21 inch monitors, a souped-up desktop and all manner of gadgets and gizmos. I reduced my electronic footprint down to a laptop, smartphone and tablet; all of which I can carry in one bag. Electronics are supposed to make our lives more efficient. Let them do so and use your tech wisely.
- This one follows on the heals of the last one. For all of you who LOVE to read. While you are traveling, switch to e-books. And believe me, I have heard the arguments of liking the feel, smell, heft, etc of an actual book. I get it from Mama Nomad and our eldest Nomad, who is an author. But, while you are traveling, space and efficiency win. So, get a Kindle or Nook and convert to e-book. If you really want to slim down, use your tablet in conjunction with a Kindle or Nook app. Then you have evoked efficiency in #4 and #5.
If you have specific scenarios for your own adventure and need advice on how to pack, leave us a comment or send us an email from our Contact page and we will see what we can do to help you pack like a Nomad. Safe Travels.