There are many factors that make an adventure experience enjoyable. The places you go, the people you go with, the interactions with the locals, and even the equipment you are using.
For me though, the simplicity of equipment, or perhaps more specific…..the simplicity of access to the things you need. I hate pulling into a potential camping area, getting to a hotel or crash pad, or simply pulling over for a lunch stop, and rearranging the entire back of my rig to get to a tent, clothing, bag, or cooler.
Obviously part of this is an organizational problem. Knowing where to store and pack your items. Having a specific place for an item. Knowing which bag, box, or compartment that something is stored in. Having a spot that the bag or box needs to be placed in each time. We have solved part of this by constructing shelf, box, and drawer systems for our rigs. This takes time, a bit of creativity, a small monetary investment, and basic woodworking skills (and in my case, first aid when a drill bit goes through the finger).
Something that is much more controllable is taking what you need and only what you need. Many of us have a tendency to over pack. While there are idioms out there such as “take half the clothes and twice the cash” are helpful, they really don’t address what is truly needed to be taken, or more important what not to take on a trip.
I use a two-step process that requires a few shakedown trips (hey…more travel opportunities)…
First- I keep a list in my journal for that specific trip of the items I need to pack, the items I had to buy because I didn’t pack but needed, and most important the items I did not use. Things like first-aid kits or other essentials get a free pass if you didn’t use it though. A bird watching book, a novel, a spare jacket, etc that never get pulled from my pack are placed on the list of things I didn’t use. Searching for a store open at midnight that sells deodorant at midnight in London because I packed a new brand that dies after the first hour gets an annotation in the list of things to pack for the next trip.
The other technique is when I get home, I divide my bag into two piles. Stuff I used and stuff I didn’t use. I find that on the next trip, I can reduce the size of my bag. Speaking of bags, I should probably mention that I limit my bag size and then make tough choices to only fill 80% of the bag. This allows for space when you find gifts and souvenirs in the sook or market area.
I should probably mention recovery day packing. My wife is a trooper. She has followed me on multi-day mountain bike trips, put-up with a week in a frozen tundra, explored trails in 100+ temps for days at a time….but at the end of roughing it…she needs a hotel, a restaurant that offers valet parking, and room service. For this we pack a recovery bag. We keep a separate bag that does not get rained on, cross-pollenated with field clothing, and stays in the rig packed well away from everything we use on the trail. Whether its just Melissa and me, or if Abby is along, we place all of our clothes, shampoo, soap, socks, and shoes, even swim suits into the recovery bag. This makes the trip home more enjoyable and relaxing. When Abby and I did a section of the Continental Divide, we forgot her pants for her recovery bag. We wound up having to wash her pants in the shower and dry them with a hair dryer. A big plus for Exofficio clothing!
Sometimes leaving something behind is a tough choice. Reducing your load will help you in staying organized and take stress out of your trip. Nothing can beat experience, and I strongly recommend doing several shakedown trips prior to your major adventure.