Jerk Packing

Dec 28

Just a few days left before we go and we’re doing the last bit of packing. Making decisions about what goes on the trip and what stays back at the house is tough enough when it we’re just going for a regular vacation but when we’re going to be out for months with a limited space we need to be more picky about what we bring along. As we get to the end, though, it gets a little too easy to keep adding a “few more things” that we might need. I’m calling that Jerk packing, after the scene in the 1979 movie “The Jerk” with Steve Martin where he is leaving his big house saying he doesn’t need anything, but then keeps picking up random things on the way out the door.

And that's the only thing I need is *this*. I don't need this or this. Just this ashtray... And this paddle game. - The ashtray and the paddle game and that's all I need... And this remote control.

And that’s the only thing I need is *this*. I don’t need this or this. Just this ashtray… And this paddle game. – The ashtray and the paddle game and that’s all I need… And this remote control.

One of the biggest thing that I keep adding is cables. It seems like you can never have enough USB charging cables for phones, tablets, etc though the real challenge is clothing.  How do you pack for up to a year of travel across the country where you could end up in any climate? And without a washer and dryer in the trailer! My natural inclination is to to be safe and bring too many things and I know that some of the clothes and gadgets we’re bringing aren’t necessary but it is difficult to say WHICH things are unnecessary. For example, we have  couple of folding bikes that we’re very excited about and I think they could come in very handy but they take a fair amount of space in the back of the truck.  Will we ride or won’t we? We really want to do that so we are bringing them. The same goes for our golf clubs.  Leslie hasn’t played much and I’ve played pretty infrequently over the past few years though we both think that this would be a great way for us to both get better and start to play together so those are coming too.

And don’t even get me started on electronic gadgets. As a software developer for applications that work with Windows Phones, as well as a developer of iOS apps I need to have at least enough devices to make sure that my apps work (and, of course, their associated USB cables) but there are so many neat phones and what if that phone that I was going to leave at home is the only one that exhibits some behavior? That’s the kind of thinking that leads to Jerk Packing — “but I might NEED this?”

So the next couple of days we’ve got some serious thinking to do as we make our final preparations for launch. We’re headed back to the trailer tomorrow to spend the next few days in Bellevue before we go and figuring out exactly which things we don’t need. So far, I know we don’t need the extra golf clubs or balls and we don’t need two winter coats.  But we do need our dog.




  1. Hey Chris! I’m so excited for you and Leslie; it sounds like it will be an amazing adventure. A couple of packing tips from me from my experience of backpacking throughout Indonesia, Asia and the Pacific Islands: you will need way less clothing than you think you will. Dressing in layers will address changes in climate and you will wear the same comfortable things again and again. Worst case, you can always buy a sweater or t-shirt locally. Also, a suggestion for the larger items that you’re not sure that you’ll use: give a friend a key to your home or storage and if you find that you really need something (e.g. golf clubs), s/he can mail them to you general delivery to whatever town you are currently visiting. You can also rent bikes, clubs, ski equipment, etc wherever you plan on taking part in these activities. Hope this helps. Best, Simone

  2. Kelly Hogan /

    I learned in my 22ft CCD Airstream (with 335,000 miles when retired….) that there are two very cool concepts that I really appreciated. Renting, and Thrift Stores. Sounds crazy, but I picked up a pair of bikes for $20 at one “longer stops” and then donated them back when I left. I frankly don’t care what the bike looks like, and honestly they were in “style” as they were retro. And with my duffing around the greens, a rental set works better than those that I still can’t control.

    As for cables, there are some great combo USB cables (not those tip things, because the tips disappear…) that combine every known USB connection into one cable. Once acquired, it becomes the charging “hub” that everything from the MiFi to the LED lamp get charged on. I have two of them. One in the coach, one in the truck.

    Exciting times! Go easy and expect “opportunities to learn something” as my wife trained me.

  3. Glad to hear you are taking the bikes. After a long day of driving, having them handy-by will increase the odds of a little exercise.

  4. Chris, I second everything Simone and Kelly said. A good way to look at it is that you can’t possibly prepare for every scenario, so why even try? Just cover the basics and know that whatever you need in a given area is what the people who live there need also, so you can readily find it in stores, rental places, second-hand shops, or even Craigslist. Plus some of your best experiences will be asking around at the local coffee shop where you can get a certain item or experience. Trust me on that.

    PS: You will be shocked at how little your wardrobe gets used beyond a couple of good tshirts, pants and a fleece. Trust me on that. Any sense of style you might have had before will fade into nothing…. 🙂

    • Yes, definitely, Betsy! After only two weeks of schlepping my heavy, bulky backpack, I began to jettison unnecessary items. First to go: hairdryer, shoes, extra sweaters and jackets (I ended up wearing the same 2 sweaters and 1 jacket for the entire trip and only needed to buy two addl clothing items: lightweight Thai wrap trousers and a cotton skirt), all books except two, which I replaced as a I went(this was before e-books were prevalent). Lose everything that you will only use once or twice in a year and rent the equipment when you want it. It’s not worth the loss of space, believe me. I wholeheartedly agree with Betsy that, if you are fully prepared and equipped, you will miss out on the fun of interacting with locals and working out solutions, to my mind, two of the best parts of travel and the richest source of blog fodder. 🙂

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *