Words by Sherpa Ambassador Leah Marshall, @leeemarsh
Photos by Sherpa Ambassador Allen Meyer, @allen_meyer

In classic Ohio fashion, it’s a sticky 90 degrees. I’m wandering the aisles of Home Depot, scanning 20 foot shelves for a tiny black ring no bigger than a quarter. Refusing help from an employee on pure principle of pretending to know what I’m doing, I continue searching. It’s the final piece we need to complete our rooftop shower.

Allen and I have spent that past few weekends building, shopping, planning, and working to set the stage for a two and a half month expedition across the country, living out of our truck.

It has been more exhausting than I ever imagined to be preparing for this trip, wrapping up a few projects due before we leave, making sure we’re spending time with friends and family, and not to mention, I’m finishing a bachelor’s degree. But the light at the end of the tunnel is a bright one. The mountains will be my reward for surviving a particularly dismal winter in the Midwest.

So to begin this monumental journey we wanted to share how we prepared and packed for the summer.

1) First let’s talk organization. We have made sure we are utilizing our space. If there’s a gap, it’s a spot for something. We are storing all essentials (toiletries, passports, identification, Darwin’s papers) securely up front for quick access. We (Allen) built some shelving out of old wooden crates in the truck bed. This reduces the size of our bed but it’s a necessary trade-off for storage. Groceries, utensils, books, and other items we don’t consider “gear” will live on these shelves. All our gear (tents, camp stove, climbing equipment) lives underneath our bed.

2) Creating aesthetically pleasing spaces is kind of our thing. We have made a real effort to build the truck bed into a place we’ll be happy to rest our tired bodies at the end of the day. Our curtains are light blue, speckled with pearly blooms. Our ceiling is draped with battery operated twinkle lights that are both functional and nice to look at. We’re even bringing a few of our succulent friends to adorn our shelves and enjoy the sunshine with us.

3) Okay, the truck is set up and loaded. Our shelves are nailed in. The home-made shower is working. The gear is packed. Now for the hard part: clothes. All I have to do is pack for an entire summer, be prepared for weather below 30º, above 100º, sunny, rainy, potentially snowy, beach, forest, mountains, desert, I just have to be able to climb and run and swim and paddleboard, oh and I should also try to be somewhat stylish seeing as the entire trip will be captured on camera. Then I just need to fit that onto two metal shelves in the backseat of a truck. Easy.

I’m going to spare you the entire list partially because it’s long and boring and partially to maintain the illusion that I’m going to somehow have an endless supply of functionally stylish outfits, but I only packed a pair of shorts and some t-shirts. I packed the obvious, socks, underwear, shorts, pants, jackets, and sweatshirts. Here’s some helpful tips for packing if you’re considering cramming a full wardrobe into the back of a truck or if you’re working on creating this functional and fashionable wardrobe I spoke of on a tight, tight, tight budget.

Shirts.
For shirts, we roll tanks and tees into small bundles to pack tightly and store in a shoebox to save space. I have quality tank tops from Sherpa packed, but I have also supplemented with a few simple thrift store tanks. This also works for shorts. You don’t need as many shorts as you might think, if you’re committing to the “live out of a car” lifestyle, you will be rewearing and rewearing and then probably rewearing again. The benefit of good quality gear over thrift store finds, is that you can rewear quality, breathable fabric like Sherpa more than any cheap material.

Outfits.
In an effort to create stylish outfits, I packed mostly neutrals so that I can mix and match easily. It was also convenient to have brands like Sherpa that make clothes that are both functional for living outdoors and looking trendy. I’m also bringing 3 sundresses that pack small. You may think it sounds silly to pack dresses for months of outdoor adventure, but I know there will be a few times when I’m a little sunburnt and a little dirty and we decide to venture into town. Dresses give the option of being comfortable, breezy, and looking semi pulled together. Plus they make for great photos frolicking in fields and standing in open desert landscapes.

Shoes. 
Shoes were really tricky because they’re hard to pack and you require different shoes for different scenarios. I packed hiking boots and Chacos, of course. Then I packed a pair of vans for mountain biking and casual sneaker use, a pair of brown strappy sandals in case I’m in one of those “looking pulled together” moods, and then Birkenstocks. Slip on shoes are a MUST HAVE for camping. Slipping on clean socks and a pair of Birks after a long day is one of those rewarding experiences that makes you remember why you sacrificed a cute little house to live in a truck for 3 months.

 

Oh, and here are some questions we’ve often gotten that I can rapid fire answer for you:

How do you shower?

Allen, being the amazing man that he is, built us a shower that lives on the roof. To cut to the chase, it’s a black pipe full of 5 gallons of water. Water bakes in sun all day, pressure is added with a bike pump, attach a hose and viola! A warm shower wherever your truck is.

Where do you go to the bathroom?

C’mon. I think we all know.

What will you eat?

We plan to buy groceries every few days. It’s going to be a lot of ground turkey, chicken, rice, and veggies that are easily cooked up in a skillet. We also plan to munch on a lot of granola, cereal, cliff bars, and jelly beans (AWESOME instant fuel right before a hard climb).