Ask Away Wednesdays: Packing and Planning


@juniorrangers_ethanandryan: What’s the one piece of equipment you can’t live without on the road?

@rangerchrista: Top 3 road trip “must haves”?

Let’s combine these and go a little further.

Top 10 Essentials:

  1. Tent: We carried two with us this summer, a super spacious one and a two-person.
  2. Jet Boil: This was super helpful for morning coffee and quick meals.
  3. Sleeping bags
  4. Sleeping pads
  5. Chacos/trail runners
  6. Water bottles: Nalgenes are our preferred lighter option that also serve as cold brew bottles, and we love Yeti Ramblers for their ability to keep water icy cold for longer periods of time.
  7. Cooking supplies
  8. Cooler/food: We are those people that love our Yeti Tundra and Flip.
  9. First aid kits
  10. Headlamps: Both of us have Black Diamond ones and love them!

Top 10 “Luxuries”

  1. Books (Mandy)/Podcast (Katie)
  2. Camera
  3. Camp couch by Kelty
  4. Blankets by Rumple
  5. Aeropress: This helps you whip up delicious coffee without taking up a lot of space!
  6. Charging blocks for USB electronics
  7. Cots: We bought the REI Kingdom Cot-3 during a Labor Day sale and love them!
  8. Coleman camp stove: This two-burner is great for cooking bigger meals.
  9. Coffee: Jittery Joe’s is our favorite! We also pick up cold brew growlers at coffee shops that we find along the way.
  10. Luci lanterns: These lanterns are solar-powered and inflatable, so you can deflate it after use and stick it on the dashboard to recharge during the day.


@campbraintraintn: How do you plan for an extensive trip, in terms of deciding how long you want to stay in one place?

Our main goal right now is to become Junior Rangers at every NPS site that offers the program, so, right now, we are focused on hitting as many sites as we can adequately experience in the month or so that we have during our summer breaks. The majority of the historic sites, historical parks, monuments, memorials, and battlefields that we have been to have required less than three hours to finish the books and fully explore the site. We spent more time at Natural Bridges National Monument after deciding that we wanted to hike to all three bridges, but their campground was inexpensive and wonderful for that extended adventure.

Parks are a little more tricky. As previously stated, our main goal is to complete the Junior Ranger program. That said, we aim to spend at least two days in most parks at this time. Two days is usually enough time to meet all of the requirements for the Junior Ranger program (usually includes attending a ranger-led program), go on at least one substantial hike, and see the main attractions. We go in knowing that we will have to go back to most of the national parks for longer periods of time if we really want to get the most out of them. One could spend several weeks at a park like Yellowstone and still want more. The first trip is our taste test. For example, we knew after last summer that we wanted to spend more time hiking the hoodoos at Bryce Canyon NP. The Junior Ranger badge was earned last year, so we were able to do longer hikes this time without worrying about making it back to the visitor center to turn in books. There are other ways to earn the badges and enjoy the parks, though.

Camping in the parks is a great way to get more out of your visit. You are already inside the park, so you don’t have to sit in line at the entrance gate the next day. The evening programs are great, too. Most parks have evening programs at the main campgrounds during the summer, which takes care of the the ranger-led program for the JR requirements and gives you something to do after dinner without having to pile everyone in the car. Some parks have camp sites that can be reserved while others operate on the first-come, first-served system. Do your research ahead of time to avoid missing out on this option. Some campgrounds fill up before noon in the bigger parks.

We highly recommend printing Junior Ranger books ahead of time or asking for them to be mailed to you. The ability to complete a few tasks before entering the park gives you more time to experience the site while you’re there. Crossword puzzles are great for learning key vocabulary words and better understanding traits of different animals, but you can do that anywhere. Knock out those puzzles and word searches while at home to give yourself an extra twenty minutes or more of enjoying the park.

Our system might not be the best for everyone, but it works for our goals. Take the time to evaluate what you want out of a park visit before planning a trip. Pack your patience and expect the unexpected when you head out.


We will be back with more answers to your questions next week. Check out our Instagram stories for a new topic each Wednesday!







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