Category Archives: Travel

Eliminating Material Possessions/Letting Go Part 4: How to Give Away What You No Longer Need

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Today’s post is the last in a series on how to eliminate material possessions and let go of things you no longer need. Today I’ll tell you what to do with all the stuff you don’t want anymore but weren’t able to sell. Sometimes it’s easier for me to give things away when I know they will continue to be useful, that they will go to someone who will cherish them and continue to put them to good work. Instead of feeling sad about getting rid of things, I try to be happy that they can now enhance the life of another person.

Of course, you can pack all your donations into cardboard boxes and make one big drop off at thrift store. Some thrift stores will even come to your place and pick up the things you’re giving to them. Call your local Goodwill, Salvation Army Family Store, Disabled American Veterans Thrift Store, or Savers to find out if you can schedule a pick up.

Not sure which thrift store you should support? Check out the article “This Is Where Your Thrift Store Dollars Are Really Going” by Sharon Meira to help you decide which of the players in the thrift shop game should get your stuff. The article will help you answer the following questions:

What is the cause that your favorite bargain basement cares about most? Is the company religious? Is the business, in fact, profiting from your purchase, or are those dollars going back into a mission? Where do unsold clothes end up? 

Please remember that thrift shops can’t accept everything you might want to get rid of. You can find some guidelines of what not to donate to thrift stores in the article “25 Things Your Local Thrift Store Doesn’t Want You to Donate” by Andréana Lefton.

If your town has a Habitat for Humanity ReStore, you can donate items there that a regular thrift store may not accept. According to the Habitat for Humanity ReStore website,

Habitat ReStores are independently owned reuse stores operated by local Habitat for Humanity organizations that accept donations and sell home improvement items to the public at a fraction of the retail price.

The ReStore FAQ says the stores

tend to accept household items or building materials [including]…furniture, appliances, TVs, lighting, doors, windows, plumbing supplies, flooring, [and] hand and power tools.

Other items I’ve seen at ReStores include lumber, paint, fasteners, bricks, pavers, roofing supplies. My local ReStore also accepts artwork, plates, mugs, silverware, and kitchen gadgets.

Some churches and community organizations hold yearly or twice yearly rummage sales. If the organizers of such events have storage space, they may be able to accept your donation weeks or months before the event.

Shelters for people and animals are often in need of items you no longer want. If you’d like your extras to help homeless folks, see if anything you are donating is on this list of “10 Product Donations Homeless Shelters Need” from the Invisible People website. Women’s shelters are always in need too, so you may find something you want to give away on the list of “12 Simple Things You Can Give To A Women’s Shelter That Will Drastically Change Lives” by Grace Eire. If you would like to help animals, see if anything you don’t need anymore is on this list of “10 Items to Donate to Animal Shelters” by Wendy Angel. You can also call a shelter in your community and ask if they can use items you want to give away. Remember, like thrift stores, shelters don’t want trash. Find another way to get rid of items that aren’t in very good condition.

What should you do with the things that aren’t good enough to donate? You could send all that stuff to the dump, but we know that is a poor choice for the planet. Instead of trashing items in rough shape (or if you’d rather skip donating to thrift stores and community organizations for whatever reason) offer these things to individuals. Sometimes things might be so worn that they’re not worth paying for, but a purpose can be found for them when the price is “free.” There are several ways to offer your discarded belongings for free.

If you are a member of your local Freecycle group, you already know about giving to other members. If you don’t know about Freecycle, the Freecylce Network website explains it’s

a grassroots and entirely nonprofit movement of people who are giving (and getting) stuff for free in their own towns and neighborhoods. It’s all about reuse and keeping good stuff out of landfills. Each local group is moderated by local volunteers…Membership is free.

You can also post ads to give away free items on Craigslist or local Facebook buy/sell/trade groups. Some neighborhood apps like Nextdoor also allow members to post freebies.

You can also invite friends, neighbors, and family members to come over to your place and take whatever of your leftovers they want. If all else fails, drag all your unwanted items to the curb and prop a big sign that reads “FREE” in front of the whole bunch. You might be surprised how quickly things disappear, even things you thought no one would ever want.

If you have books that haven’t sold, you can list them on BookMooch if you have time to carry them to the post office and money to pay the shipping cost. If you need to jettison books quickly, donate them to your local Friends of the Library group for an upcoming book sale or drop the reading material off at a nearby Little Free Library.

Letting go of your possessions may be difficult at first. You may feel as if you are tossing out a lifetime of memories. Feelings are ok and valid–give yourself permission to feel your emotions, but don’t get bogged down. Keep your eyes on the prize of freedom–freedom to travel, freedom from clutter, freedom to live simply and inexpensively.

Moonrises, Monuments & Motorhomes — Journeys to the American Southwest (Guest Post)

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Joshua Trees in the Desert

Eliza Cochrane, the author of today’s post, contacted me in November of last year to ask if I would be interested in sharing her travel story which took place in April 2019. Eliza told me that she wanted to “write about the cultural differences between the USA and my homeland, England, and some of the things that really piqued my interest out in the great wide open.” Without further ado, I give you this story of one woman’s three-week journey from California to Utah.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been infatuated with the American West. I don’t know how or when it came about, but I remember being enthralled by the front cover the Led Zeppelin’s self-titled DVD (which came out way back in 2003) just because it had one of the Monument Valley mittens on the cover.

I got a sudden urge to buy the album, despite the fact Led Zeppelin are an English band, and I’d never even listened to their music.

Thrills that we don’t have

Europeans have always been enthralled by the USA’s red rock monuments. Probably because nothing like them exists in Europe. Likewise, with the long stretches of roads that seem to go on forever, and which stand mostly empty — you just do not see roads like that in Britain.

I’ve always thought nowhere exists in England where the land is flat for 360 degrees. There’s always something, like a little mound of earth or a telephone cable to interrupt the great wide open. But this type of vast emptiness exists everywhere in the States.

I suppose the feeling goes both ways. I’ve heard that Americans fall in love with castles and Europe’s antiquity. A friend of mine once said, pretty poetically, that “Americans are scared of how old Europe is, and Europeans are scared of how big America is.”

A special relationship?

It’s often said that there is a “special relationship” between Britain and the United States. Raegan and Thatcher talked about it, and even Donald Trump has referred to it. I believe this stems from the fact that both countries have a shared history, but most importantly, I think it’s the language that keeps us together. 

I’ve always thought: it doesn’t matter where you are. If the language is the same, you’ll be alright. To me, language was the rope that reigned in cultures if they ever threatened to drift so far. But when I arrived in San Francisco, I found myself in an alien country, with the language a little more than a hallucination over the sights and sounds. 

Everything — from the layout of the cities to the thoughts of the people — was different. It occurred to me that San Francisco, with its Mediterranean skies, was as far away from the Mediterranean as possible — on the very edge of the New World. Even payment was different. In Europe, whenever you pay with a credit card, the waiter will hand the payment terminal over to you, and look away so the four-digit PIN can be entered. In America, I was asked to scribble down the final bill, to which the waiter took my card, disappeared into the kitchen, and then returned with the receipt. To this day I still cannot fathom why the United States isn’t rampant with credit card fraud. 

Morals, motorhomes, and mirages

Painted Ladies, San Francisco

Two days was all I had to explore San Francisco. Mark Twain once said that the worst winter he had ever spent was a summer in San Fran, but during my time there, the weather was lovely. 

A gorgeous, visually stunning city — somewhat blighted by homelessness. My hotel was in Union Square; a stone’s throw from Tenderloin. There I walked down a vista slightly terrified, as lines of men openly injected themselves with syringes. Others looked slumped and yet frozen, suspended in some drug-induced trance. People seemed to walk blithely past — including a young mother with two toddlers easily within touching distance of the men. I saw homeless men fighting invisible forces; some with eyeballs missing, and others rolling about in the street. None of the city’s residents batted an eye, and I began to feel I was going mad — like the problem didn’t really existed at all, and I must be going insane. The scale of the problem seemed, to me, a uniquely American phenomenon. Sure, we have homelessness in the UK, but I do not think the British people would stomach such a calamity. 

It was cloudy on the day I picked up my motorhome, but as I drove south to Yosemite, the weather soon cleared. California also quickly turned into a rural state, with endless farmer’s fields. I was surprised by just how much of it could have been anywhere in middle America. On the road, I feared a water pipe had burst. I could see the pale-straight road shining blue, with ripples of running water, and even the reflections of the cars driving though it in front. But the water never materialised and kept receding away from me as I put my foot down and gave chase.

Lonely America?

Even though I had my boyfriend with me, the journeys felt lonely sometimes. The biggest run was from Las Vegas to Monument Valley — the apex of the entire trip, and what I had waited for ever since I glanced at an irrelevant Led Zeppelin cover all those years ago. The total journey, one way, was seven hours’ worth of driving. After hours of driving, it begins to feel that the continent stretches on forever. And after seeing no one about and only a few cars, you begin to wonder if the country is populated at all.

At certain points, we passed through lonely little towns with no signs of people. Houses, restaurants, and farm equipment in the open. Signs of life, but no signs of people. I ask my boyfriend: “Where do these people go? What do they do on weekends? What entertainment is there?” A beautiful country, but so big… Maybe that was just the European in me, expressing itself. 

In the great wide open, you can see weather systems as they are born and as they die. That doesn’t hold for England, where the sky is much too small. At one point, under azure skies, we drove headlong into a foreboding black cloud. To our right, more blue skies over a gigantic expanse of grass. In the middle was a grey swirling cloud, slightly low. My heart sank, fearing a tornado and a great vulnerability — there being nowhere else to run. Even though I knew this wasn’t the right time of year, nor was it Tornado Alley. 

Poetic America 

I will never forget my pilgrimage to Monument Valley. On my way, I’d made several noteworthy and essential stops for any traveler in the Southwest: Yosemite National Park, Los Angeles, Joshua Tree National Park (and the ghost towns nearby), Furnace Creek in Death Valley (where we briefly broke down), the Grand Canyon… but none of them held more excitement for me than the Monuments.

I even splashed out for the occasion, too. Forking out $380 for one night at The View hotel. It was worth it, though. You could see the formations not just from the balcony, but from the bed. It was a wonderful thing to behold.

Sunrise over Monument Valley

When I saw them, I was struck by how they looked exactly the same as I had imagined. The sun set on the other side of the building, and I was curious to see if the desert would resemble the ocean at night. The stars came out innumerable and bright, and a meteor burned right across the open sky. Little headlights of cars poked their way through the abyss, and the desert rock crunched under the wheels, generating an echoing boom like distant thunder. The formations disappeared, but then curiously, began to take shape again. Then something I had never seen before happened. A result, no doubt, of America’s big skies… There was a moonrise. The Moon crept up, like the Sun, over one of the massifs. In the space of 12 hours, I saw a sunset, moonrise, and sunrise. 

Some thoughts and conclusions

Grand Canyon Sunset

After the epic trip from Monument Valley, America didn’t seem quite so lonely anymore. We were familiar with the return journey. The country finally seemed not so infinite. 

But what struck me was just how familiar everything seemed — outside of the big cities, at least.  At every desert tourist trap, at every truck stop, there was almost a nostalgic feeling of having stayed there before. Of course, I had been there before. In countless imaginings on TV, cinema, the Great American Novel, and in music. Critics might call it ‘Cultural Imperialism’, but there is no doubt that America is the most successful nation in the world. 

In fact, America’s media has influenced England so much, to the point where I almost feel like America has given itself away in part, to the rest of the world. So that whenever I sweat at Furnace Creek, or lose breath on a hike to a waterfall at Yosemite, or watch the moonrise at Monument Valley, I almost feel that — at those exact moments — that America belongs to me, and me only. It’s a fleeting sensation, but a powerful one all the same. 

Eliza Cochrane is a copywriter for We Buy Any Motorcaravan, and lives for new adventures out on the road. Since 2016, she has toured the United States, Canada, the Philippines and much of Southeast Asia, and doesn’t plan on slowing down anytime soon.

Photos provided by author.

Eliminating Material Possessions/Letting Go Part 3: How to Sell Things You No Longer Need

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My last two Wednesday posts have dealt with making decisions about what you will no longer need when you begin your new life on the road. Let’s say you’re at a place in your downsizing process where you have a big pile of things you no longer want or need. How do you get all the stuff out of your life? Today I’ll give you a long list of where to sell all the material possessions that didn’t make the cut.

Where to Sell Things

We’ll assume you want to sell as much of your stuff as possible for the highest prices possible. Let’s face it, money is helpful, and the money you get from selling your belongings will hep fund your upcoming adventures. You’ll probably end up having a garage sale or yard sale, but you might get more from your high-end items if you sell them through other venues.

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Or course, if you have very high-end items (jewelry, art, antiques, or anything worth more than $1,000 according to Consumer Reports), you may want to have such items appraised. You may decide to sell those items through an auction house or online auction site.

If you have items that are worth less than $1,000 but are still a bit fancy for a garage sale, list them on Facebook Marketplace, a local Facebook buy/sell/trade group, or Craigslist. I’m thinking of items like appliances; designer clothes, shoes, or handbags; furniture; tools; and collectibles. I suggest when selling to individuals accept only cash and don’t hold anything for anyone. Cash talks…and you want this stuff gone ASAP.

If you’ve never placed an ad on Facebook, see the article “5 Tips for Selling on Marketplace, Facebook’s Version of Craigslist” by Sarah Jacobsson Purewal. Before you start meeting up with strangers, you may want to review ADT’s “7 Tips for Staying Safe on Craigslist;” these tips apply to any situation in which you are selling items to people you don’t know.

Photo by Julius Drost on Unsplash

If you’re not tech savvy, you can also place ads for larger items the tried and true paper way. You can run ads in your local newspaper or free newspapers like the Thrifty Nickel. You can also make flyers detailing the items you have for sale and post them around town.

Even if you don’t meet up with any scammers while selling on Craigslist, Facebook, or through paper ads, be prepared to deal with flakes, weirdos, and pushy people. For a brief time when I was selling unwanted belongings through Facebook, people asked me to hold items for an indefinite period of time, to deliver items, and/or to take less money for items I’d already slapped rock-bottom prices on. No, no, and no were the answers I gave. I still ended up selling almost everything I wanted to get rid of. I recommend you remain polite but firm.

If I were sorting through my possessions, I would list items on Facebook or Craigslist or place classified ads as soon as I decided to sell them. You can include anything you don’t sell this way in your garage sale. Putting money in your pocket while you are still purging will feel good, as will seeing empty spaces in your home.

Another idea for selling better quality items is to bring them to a local consignment shop. Keep in mind, most consignment shops don’t pay immediately for your belongings. The shop displays your items for you. If your item(s) sells, you get a percentage of the money collected. The shop gets a percentage of the money too. Your items may sit in a consignment shop for a long time before they sell. Be sure you understand a shop’s terms before you leave items there. (How long will they keep your items? What percentage of the sale will go to you? Will they mail you a payment check if you’re not in town when an items sells? How often does the shop pay?) A consignment shop may work for you if you don’t need money in a hurry and don’t have the time or patience to sell through Facebook, Craigslist, or newspaper ads. If you’ve never sold at a consignment shop before, check out the Money Crashers article “How to Make Money Selling on Consignment – Tips, Pros & Cons” by Jacqueline Curtis.

Did you know some pawnshops buy items outright? I didn’t know this until I was in my 30s, but it’s true. A pawnshop might be a good place to sell tools, electronics, musical instruments, high end jewelry, CDs, and DVDS if you don’t want to go through the hassle of selling to individuals.

If you don’t mind packing up and mailing items, there are several website where you can sell your things. Of course, you have to go through the listing process and shoot decent photos, but you might get more money by selling online than you could get locally. If you want to see what online selling opportunities you have in addition to eBay, read the John Haselden article “Top 11 Other Sites Like eBay: eBay Selling Alternatives 2019.” Keep in mind selling online is like selling at a consignment shop in that your items may sit for a while, and you won’t get money until items sell.

Trying to sell clothes? I trust Teen Vogue to be real when it comes to telling me the best places to sell clothing online. Hint: Poshmark is the first online clothing resale site listed in the Teen Vogue article “13 Best Apps and Websites to Sell Clothes Online” by Krystin Arneson, Sierra Tishgart, and Kristi Kellogg.

If you want to sell handmade goods, craft supplies, or vintage items, you can do that on Etsy. If you need some help getting started on Etsy, see the Money Crashers article “How to Sell on Etsy and Set Up a Shop – Tips on What to Sell” by Mark Theoharis.

Photo by JOSHUA COLEMAN on Unsplash

If you want to sell off your DVD, Blu-Ray, and/or CD collection, check out the Well Kept Wallet article “12 Best Places to Sell Used DVDs (As Well as Blu-Rays and CDs)” by Josh Patoka. If you’re looking to sell books online, get some tips from Chloe Della Costa‘s article “5 of the Best Places to Make Money Selling Used Books Online.”

If you don’t want to go the online route for selling books, try to sell them at a local used bookstore. (Some bookstores will also buy CDs, DVDs, and Blu-Ray discs.) Some bookstores only give store credit or give you a higher dollar amount if you choose store credit over cash. If you end up with store credit, sell the credit for cash. If your book collection is large enough, some used bookstores will send an employee out to your home to choose the books they think they can resell. Once the employee makes their choices, they will pack up the books and take them away.

As your departure date nears, consider having a garage sale. If you won’t start living nomadically until the fall or winter, consider having two sales, one at the beginning of the yard sale season and another at the end of the season. That way you have two opportunities to sell, and you don’t have to feel pressured to have all your sorting and purging done by an early date.

If you’re not sure how to set up for a yard sale, see the article “Ten Tips To Have a Successful Garage Sale” on the Penny Pinchin’ Mom blog. One thing not mentioned in that post is having a great location. If your location isn’t conducive to getting a lot of yard sale traffic, ask a friend or family member with a better location if you can have your sale at their place. Yes, you will have to lug your stuff across town, but you’ll sell more in an area with more traffic or better parking options.

What to do if you can’t find yourself a good location for your sale? Pack everything up and head to a local flea market or swap meet. For a fee, you can have your sale in a place where there are sure to be shoppers. Never sold at a flea market or swap meet before? Read the Via Trading article “101 Hints & Tips for Flea Market Success.”

After you’ve done your best to sell off your belongings, you’ll probably still have items left. Now comes the time to give away the rest. Next week I’ll give you ideas about how and where to give away everything you didn’t sell.

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Eliminating Material Possessions/Letting Go Part 2: What to Keep & What to Toss

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Photo by Tobias Tullius on Unsplash

A few months ago when I asked for suggestions for blog posts of particular interest to nomads, rubber tramps, full-time RVers, vandwellers, vagabonds, and travelers of all kinds, a couple of people asked me to write about paring down belongings in order to get ready for life on the road, or, more broadly, how to let go. Last week I gave ideas about how to organize your purge and how to decide if an item was no longer necessary for your life on the road. Today I’ll cover specific categories of items and give you my ideas about what you might and might not need.

Clothing

I can commiserate with folks whose closets and drawers are full of clothes. For someone who’s not a fashion plate, I do tend to have a lot of clothing. Although most of what I wear comes from thrift stores and free boxes, even when I lived in a van I usually had more than I needed.

Some time back, I read an informative post on the Interstellar Orchard blog about how the author (a full-time nomad) coordinates her clothing to make the most of her wardrobe. You may want to read the post “RVing Wardrobe” to learn how she puts her clothing together so a few pieces make several outfits.

A friend of mine who travels extensively for half of each year replaced his wardrobe with quick drying clothes that fold small for easy storing. If you don’t have extra money for a complete new wardrobe, by all means, use what you have. However, if you have funds set aside for this life transition, an easy-to-store wardrobe might be a good investment.

Whether you can afford new clothes or not, you are probably going to have to get eliminate some of your current wardrobe.

As you purge clothing, consider the one-year rule I mentioned in part 1 of this series. Anything you haven’t worn in a year probably should go.

Photo by Sarah Brown on Unsplash

Be ready to try on items as you sort. Toss anything that doesn’t fit your body into your “sell” or “donate” container. Sure, you might lose weight on the road, but you might not. Do you really have room in your rig for a second “maybe” wardrobe? In my experience (even as a plus size woman who wears XXL), it’s fairly easy to pick up clothing in thrift stores when your old ones don’t fit.

Keeping your wardrobe to a minimum may mean you have to do laundry more often, but using less space for clothing may be be worth spending two hours in a laundromat every week or so. I like to keep a two-week supply of socks and underwear. These small items are easier to store than outerwear. I can wear the same skirt and shirt for a week, but I do like to change my socks and underwear every day. I could get by with three shirts, three skirts or pairs of pants, and 14 pairs of socks and 14 pairs of underpants. At the end of two weeks, I’d put on my last clean clothes and wash everything else. This bare minimum may not work of you and that’s ok! You just need to decide what your minimum is.

Before you settle on your on-the-road wardrobe, ask yourself some questions. Can I wear the same outer garments for more than one day? How many days can I wear clothes without washing them? Would I feel better about rotating the clothes I’m going to wear again rather than wearing them several days in a row? Would I feel better about wearing garments multiple times if I could air them out between wearing or squirt them with Febreze? Do I really need to wear a nightgown or pajamas to bed, or could I sleep naked or in underpants and the t-shirt I’ll wear tomorrow? Everyone will answer these questions differently. That ok! We each must decide what works best for our individual situation.

If you will spend winter somewhere cold, you’re going to need more clothing. I like the thin but warm long underwear by Cuddl Duds. If you are carrying a puffy coat for winter wear, you may be able to store it in a compression sack when not in use. You could also store bulky winter clothes in those plastic bags that you roll to push the air out of. I’ve used several different brands of such bags and they always seem to rip or come apart at the seams, but they’re really great while they last.

Shoes

Photo by Jakob Owens on Unsplash

I own way too many pairs of shoes, although in my defense, all but my red cowgirl boots were free or cost under $5. You will probably need more than one pair of shoes in your life, but again, think about how little you can get away with.

You need at least one pair of sturdy shoes for daily walking around. You’ll save space if your everyday shoes can also be worn when you go on a hike or brisk walk. For example, I’ve worn Keen sandals as my everyday shoes; they were also great on casual hikes and walks through the park. Currently I have a pair of L.L. Bean hiking shoes (courtesy of the magic of a free table) that I wear when I’m running errands but which also carried me through a natural landmark, three national parks, and a national monument.

You’ll also need a pair of shower shoes. I recommend you don’t skip shower shoes. The space you save by doing without a pair of shoes you can wear in the shower of campgrounds, gyms, or community swimming pools will not be worth it if you pick up some foot nasties. If you’re really tight for space, your shower shoes can double as slip-on shoes to put on quickly if you have to go outside your rig in a hurry. I have a pair of Crocs I can wear in the shower and wear outside my rig when I don’t feel like putting on and tying my regular shoes.

Photo by Kristin Brown on Unsplash

It’s nice to have a pair of rain boots or other waterproof shoes to wear when the ground is wet. Again, it’s great if one pair of shoes can do double duty. I had a pair of Keen boots that were waterproof. I wore them as my daily shoes and my hiking shoes, and I didn’t need something different in the rain or snow.

You may need a pair of dressy shoes if you dress up and go out or if you plan to interview for a job or work in a place that requires footware other than hiking boots and flip flops. Every pair of shoes you own should be comfortable. There’s no sense hauling around shoes that hurt your feet. If any of your shoes are uncomfortable, set a goal to replace them as your budget allows.

Jewelry

If you’re one of those people who likes to have different jewelry to go with each outfit, eliminate jewelry as you eliminate clothing. If you do keep jewelry, find a way to store it that takes minimal space. Instead of using a jewelry box, use a jewelry roll or a jewelry burrito made by a traveling gal.

Bedding

I recommend you have two sets of sheets, each set comprised of a flat and a fitted or two flat sheets. Matching is optional. You should also have two pillow cases for each pillow. With two sets of sheets and pillowcases, you can strip the bed on laundry day and immediately put on fresh sheets. After the dirty sheets are washed, you only have to store one set.

You’ll also need enough blankets to stay warm in the climate you’re sleeping in. A rectangular sleeping bag can be unzipped and used as a comforter; on a really cold night, you can zip the bag and sleep inside for added warmth. (If you need more tips on staying warm, see my post “15 Tips for Staying Comfortable in the Cold.”)

Bathroom

Can you get by with one towel? Microfiber towels are great! They fold up smaller than a regular bath towel and dry quickly. I have a “hot yoga” towel my sibling bought for me at a thrift store. I like it because I can wrap it around my whole self but fold it smaller than a conventional bath towel. It dries faster than a conventional towel too. (For help picking a microfiber towel, see the Traveling Lifestyle article “7 Best Microfiber Towels for Backpackers & Light Travelers” by Viktor Vincej.)

Kitchen

If you need new kitchen equipment, look for collapsible items like dishpans, measuring cups, funnels, and strainers. Get an adjustable measuring spoon instead of a set with different sizes. Instead of a kettle, heat water in a metal cup or in a saucepan which can also be used in regular meal prep. A bowl does double duty holding wet and dry food. Have only one cup, bowl, and set of utensils for each person who lives in your rig.

Tools

Be honest with yourself about what tools you will actually use while you are on the road. Once your rig is built out the way you want it, you probably won’t need power tools unless you plan to use them to make money. If you do need a building tool at some point, check into renting before you buy.

If you’re going to do repairs and basic maintenance or your rig, pack the right tools to complete the job. Some auto parts stores will loan you tools when you buy parts from them. Autozone, Advance Auto Parts, Pep Boys, and O’Reilly Auto Parts all have loaner tool programs. Deposits are required, but you get your money back when you return the tools.

Books

I collect books from free piles, BookMooch, and Little Free Libraries, always with the intention of reading them and passing them on someday. I also have several books that I want to keep forever. All this to say, I may not be the best person to tell you how to live without books! However, even I know some ways to minimize the physical bulk of your reading material.

Photo by Frank Holleman on Unsplash

If you have an e-book reader, you can read lots of books and periodicals without using up a lot of your precious space. You can also read on your phone or tablet. Free-Ebooks.net, Project Gutenberg, BookBub, and many other websites offer free e-books.

If you own a stack of reference books, maybe you can get rid of them and find the same information online.

Some people (me!) would rather read a book made from paper instead of relying on electronics. A real book doesn’t run out of battery power, isn’t likely to be substantially damaged if dropped, and can be found free or cheap at library book sales, garage sales, Little Free Libraries, thrift shops, or from BookMooch. If you do want to read physical books, keep only a few on hand, donate each one after you’ve read it, and only pick up one book to read when you rotate out the one you’ve finished.

Music

Do you still have a CD collection? While easier to store than LPs or cassette tapes, CDs can still take up quite a bit of room. I advise you to transfer your CD collection to a computer, then put those files on your phone or MP3 player. Once your music is stored, you can ditch the CDs. Another option is to keep the CDs and store them on a spindle or in a binder and ditch only the cases.

There are also many sites that let you stream music for free. The How-To Geek website offers a list of “The Best Sites for Streaming Free Music.”

Movies

If you have a DVD collection, most everything I said about CDs applies to you too. Jettison the DVDs or at least the cases.

Photo by John Salvino on Unsplash

There are so many ways to watch movies for free online! Check out the following articles to help you get free entertainment: “The 9 Best Free Movie Apps to Watch Movies Online,” “How to Watch Movies Online for Free–Legally,”and “19 Best Free Movie Websites.”

You can also pay for streaming services like Hulu, Netflix, or HBO Go. Maybe a friend or family member will share their password with you if they already pay for one of these services

If all else fails, rent a movie from Red Box. Did you know you can return a Red Box movie to a Red Box in a town other than where you rented it?

Photographs and Letters

Scan or take digital photos of all the photographs and letters you want to save. Save the digital copies on a thumb drive, tablet, or external hard drive. Send your printed copies of the photos to the people in them or to people who love the people in them. If no one in your family wants to be the steward of ancestral letters, maybe you can donate the originals to an archive or museum.

Financial Documents

We’ve probably all wondered how long we should keep bank statements, check stubs, and copies of our tax returns. Do you really need to pack all of that stuff with you when you leave your sticks-n-bricks? The Finra article “Save or Shred: How Long You Should Keep Financial Documents” will help you decide what is safe to ditch before you hit the road.

Collections

It’s going to be difficult to have a collection while living in a small rig. If you must collect, try small things like pressed pennies, national park tokens, matchbooks, or postcards. If you live in a larger rig, perhaps you can choose the best specimens from your collection and find creative ways to display them.

Craft Items

If I knew how to downsize craft items, I would do it myself. Limit yourself to one tub of craft items? Only do tiny crafts? Really, you’re on your own here.

I hope my suggestions help you make decisions about what possessions are worth incorporating into your life as a nomad and which should find a new role with someone else.

If you found this post helpful, I’d love your support! Hit the donate button in the right toolbar or go to Patreon to become my patron.

Eliminating Material Possessions/Letting Go Part 1: First Steps

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Chevy van parked on street under streetlamp
Photo by Julian Schultz on Unsplash

You’re going to do it! You’re going to move out of your sticks-n-bricks home, hit the road, and live nomadically. The problem is, you have so much stuff. How are you going to fit everything you own into your rig? I hate to be the one to break it to you, but you’re probably not going to be able to take everything you own with you on the road. If you’re living like the average American, you probably have more possessions than you can shove into a van, car, truck camper, pull-behind trailer, or even a large motorhome or 5th wheel. Today and for the next three Wednesdays, I’ll share my ideas for purging your material possessions as well as what you should keep for life on the road.

You’re lucky if you can purge before you leave your conventional home. Whether you’re hitting the road in a week, a month, or a year, your first step will be to cull your possessions mercilessly. You will need to look at every single item you own and decide whether it has a place in your nomadic life. Overwhelming? Yes. Necessary? Also yes.

Small camper parked immediately to the side of a dirt road
Photo by Leo Foureaux on Unsplash

Be prepared to go through the culling process several times. You may think you’ve done a great job by selling and donating 50% of your material possessions only to find you still have 75% more things than will fit in your rig. You may stuff your rig with belongings and after a week or a month (or a year!) decide you can no longer live with all the material possessions you’ve crammed into your space. That’s ok! Downsizing may be an ongoing process for a long time.

Many people have written books or developed systems designed to help other people declutter and organize. Some of these people have good ideas, but remember they are trying to help you live better in a conventional sticks-n-bricks home or an apartment. Such methods are not intended for people planning to move into a van or RV, much less a car or an SUV, and won’t be presented with folks like us in mind. By all means, look into the methods available, but be prepared to pick and choose the tips that will work for you.

Some systems for organizing will be based on you buying things. You may be advised to buy baskets, storage cubes, drawer organizers, dish racks, or any number of other things. There’s no shame in not wanting to or being able to rush out and buy more stuff. Think about what you already have that might work before you buy anything. Maybe you own storage containers that would work for what you want to do. If not, maybe you can build what you need. Have a look at a Habitat for Humanity ReStore or other thrift shop for items you can use before you buy new things.

Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash

Recently there has been a lot of talk (and many jokes) about a method for purging that encourages people to discard all items that don’t “spark joy.” Joy is great. I’m all for joy. When it comes to clothing, jewelry, shoes, and decorations or knickknacks, sure, jettison anything that doesn’t spark joy. However, some items are utilitarian, and you may only experience joy when the object allows you to get things done. You may not feel joy from your tire jack or can opener until you change a flat or open a can of beans, but you still need to carry those items with you every day.

Another school of thought is that you should only keep items that serve multiple purposes. When I lived in my van, almost nothing I owned served more than one purpose. A potholder is only a potholder, a spoon is only a spoon, and a can of Fix-of-Flat is only a can of Fix-a-Flat. Yes, an item that serves more than one purpose is great, but I suggest you take this “multi-purpose” advice with a grain of salt.

When you’re ready to start your culling process (and it’s never too soon to begin), I suggest you take it one room at a time. Get some containers to hold the items you’re going to get rid of. I suggest you use 18 gallon plastic tubs, but cardboard boxes or large garbage bags work too. Don’t fill overfill your containers; you want to be able to move them when necessary.  

Label one container “trash.” Into this tub you will put items no one wants, such as used razor blades, sticky rubber bands that have lost their elasticity, dry ink pens, and outdated medication. (Please dispose of old medication properly.)

Label the second container “sell.” Into this container you will put everything you think you might be able to sell. You probably want your wallet to be as fat as possible when you hit the road, so try to sell as much as you can. You may be surprised by what bargain hunters at yard sales will buy! Whatever you don’t sell, you can donate later. (In the third post in this series, I’ll give you a list of places where you can try to sell your belongings.)

Label the third container “donate.” Into this container you will put the things you want to give away. If you already know you want to give the quilt your grandmother made in 1926 to your great-niece, go ahead and put it into this container. During your first go round, you will probably have more items in the “sell” container than in the “donate” container, but as things don’t sell, move them over to “donate.” (In the fourth post in this series, I will give you lots of suggestions about where to donate things.)

As you fill containers, put all of the items you want to sell together in one area. Put the containers holding items to give away in another area. Don’t get the items mixed up. Having the containers labeled will (hopefully) keep you from getting confused. Keep these containers away from items you’re not tossing.

Interior hallway of a storage unit facility
Photo by JOSHUA COLEMAN on Unsplash

Label another container “storage.” Into this container you’ll put items you don’t want to get rid of but you don’t want to carry around in your rig. I suggest you put as little as possible into this container!!! I am mostly opposed to storing belongings. If you’re paying for a storage unit, you’re basically letting your money float off into the wind. Before paying for storage, ask yourself how difficult it would be to replace the items you’re thinking about storing. Also, how much would it cost to replace the items? Could you replace the items with less expensive or used items? If the items are easy to replace and would cost less than the equivalent of a couple month’s storage fees, consider ditching the items and replacing them later if you need to.

Think about how far from the stored items you’ll be if you need them. If you stay in the same town as your storage unit, it might make more sense to store some belongings. If your spare forks are in New Jersey and you’re in Oregon when you need a replacement, paying the monthly fee to house the spares has been pretty much pointless.

If you’re planning to pay to store family heirlooms, you may want to ask yourself why. Are you saving the items for a family member who can’t take them now? If that’s the case, let the family member pay to store them! Are you sure the family member really wants the items? Perhaps the family member can’t take the items because they don’t want them. Now would be a good time to have a frank discussion about the expectations surrounding the responsibility for family possessions, who wants to inherit what, and who could care less. Maybe everyone in the family would be happy to sell the heirlooms and split the money. Maybe everyone would be fine with giving the heirlooms to a third cousin once removed who’d really, really like to have them.

Even if you don’t have to pay for storage because you’re keeping some things at a friend’s or family member’s place, consider what a headache this might turn out to be. What if the person storing your belongings moves? Will that person resent having to move your things too? What if there is a fire or flood and your items are destroyed? Are you belongings covered under your friend or family member’s insurance? What if you and the person storing your things have a fight? Will you ever see your belongings again? I have stored my possessions with individuals, but I suggest you avoid doing so if you can.

If you want, label one more container “to deal with later.” Into this container you’ll put items like CDs you want to copy to your laptop or external hard drive, letters and photos you want to scan, and financial documents you need time to look through. Again, I suggest you don’t put too much into this container.

Next week I’ll give you specific information about what I think is worth keeping and what I think is better left behind. I’ll cover categories like clothing, shoes, bedding, books, crafts, and tools. In the meantime, I’ll give you some general suggestions for how to decide what should stay and what should go.

sweaters and shirts on shelves in a closet
Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

As you go through each room where you’re currently living, look at one item at a time. For practical items (clothes, umbrellas, kitchen gadgets), first use the one-year rule. If you haven’t worn or used the item in at least a year, toss it directly into the “sell” or “donate” container. If you haven’t worn or used an item in a year, you probably won’t suddenly need it while you’re living in your van or RV.

If an item passes the one-year test, consider if it is practical for your new lifestyle. Can you even run a stand mixer, bread machine, or microwave oven off the power system in your rig? Do you need a pair of strappy high heels while you’re exploring national parks? If you’re not going to use an item, don’t carry it out to your rig.

As you consider items, ask yourself if you could make a life change that would make the item in question obsolete. Could you get a haircut that leaves your hair easy to style, thus doing away with your need for a curling iron, hairspray, and barrettes? What if you stop coloring your hair and left behind boxes of hair dye kits? Might now be the time to limit the amount of makeup you wear so you need to lug around fewer cosmetics? Could you do most of your cooking in one cast iron skillet instead of dragging around an assortment of pots and pans?

Think about items of which you have multiples. Do you need all of them? Must you have 5 (or 8 or 11) plain black t-shirts? Do you need several pairs of flip flops? How many hair scrunchies can one person use? Can you made do with one pair of winter gloves? Do you need multiple pairs of reading glasses or sunglasses? Pick your favorite of what you have many of and jettison the rest. Having a couple of spares of small things like glasses is fine, but don’t go overboard.

Photo by Alex on Unsplash

For some items, it is a good idea to consider the joy they bring. If you’re going to have one bowl, sure, use the one that makes you happy. If your wardrobe is going to include only three t-shirts, choose the ones that fit best, look good, and feel most comfortable. If you’re going to allow yourself one book, make sure it’s one you really want to read.

If it helps you get rid of things you can’t possibly take with you anyway, think about the joy another person will get when they use an item you give away. Another hiker will appreciate the backpack you can no longer use. Your sibling may love to have the fancy cloth your mom put on the table every Christmas. Your spare blankets will bring warmth to homeless folks during the winter. Just because an item is no longer a part of your life doesn’t mean its usefulness is over.

Some items will be easy to toss into your “sell” or “donate” containers. Others will be a struggle to part with; it’s ok to sit with those decisions for a while. Just remember, living nomadically will bring benefits that a Def Leppard t-shirt or a food processor never will. Watching a beautiful sunset or seeing a full moon rise over the ocean will make your nomad’s heart soar. Traveling with the weather so you miss the worst of the heat and the cold is freeing in a way all the shoes in the world can never be.

If you’re a nomad, how did you downsize before you hit the road?

If you found this post helpful, I’d love your support! Hit the donate button in the right toolbar or go to Patreon to become my patron.

15 Tips for Staying Comfortable in the Cold

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Heart shaped cactus pad with snow along the top edge
Winter love from the desert

Winter is here and folks need to stay warm whether they’re living in a tent, a van or other vehicle, a motorhome, a travel trailer, or a poorly insulated conventional home. Last week I told you how a hot water bottle tucked under the covers can help keep you warm on a cold winter night. Today I’ll give you fifteen more tips for staying warm and comfy when the temperature drops.

Thanks to Laura-Marie of dangerous compassions blog for asking me to write about staying at a comfortable temperature.

#1 Wear enough clothes.When we were kids, if my sibling or I complained about being cold, our dad would immediately look us over to see how we were dressed. If we were wearing short pants or a short-sleeved t-shirt, he’d send us to put on appropriate clothes before he’d consider turning up the heat. (Dad was also fond of saying, What you gonna do when winter gets here? meaning it wasn’t even cold yet, so we shouldn’t be complaining. As a smartass teenager, I took to answering this question with one word: Freeze.)

Some mornings when The Man gets out of bed before I do, I hear him in the living room complaining about how cold he is. Often when I peer out of the bedroom, I see he’s wearing a sweatshirt (good job!) and shorts. Put some pants on, I mumble from my warm nest under the covers.

In any case, if you’re cold, follow my father’s directive and try putting on adequate clothing. Wearing a sweater or a jacket can really help keep you comfortable when it’s cold. And for goodness sake, if you’re chilly, be sure you’re wearing pants!

#2 Wear warm socks.When I moved to the Midwest from the Deep South, a friend who’d lived in Minneapolis for decades advised me to invest in warm socks. Good advice! Keeping your toes warm will definitely help keep you comfortable during a chilly day or night.

Styrofoam head mannequin wears a bright, handmade hat
My old friend Esmerelda knows wearing a hat will help keep your whole self warm.

#3 Wear a hat too.  You may have heard people say you lose 50% of your body heat through your head and wearing a hat keeps that heat in. The Live Science website reports

At most, according to a 2008 report in BMJ, a person loses 7 percent to 10 percent of their body heat through their head…

but I feel a lot warmer when I’m wearing a hat. Hat hair be damned! I wear a snug hat on cold days and on cold nights as well so I can conserve as much of my body heat as possible.

#4 Keep your ears warm. Cold ears are unhappy ears, as far as I’m concerned. Ears exposed to frigid winter air are also susceptible to frostbite, so I keep my ears covered. I like to keep my ears warm even when I’m sleeping. If my ears get cold while I’m asleep, I tend to bring my shoulders way up, as if I could bring them up high enough to shield my ears from the chilly air. Having my shoulders in this unnatural position at night can lead to a daytime ache between my shoulder blades. I like to wear a hat I can pull down over my ears, but you can achieve the same results by wearing earmuffs, ear pops, or a scarf wrapped around your head.

#5 Dress in layers. I hate hate hate dressing warmly enough for the outside weather only to go inside (a store, the library, the laundromat) and find the heater is turned up too high for my comfort. Dressing in layers is the best way to deal with the difference between the outside and inside temps. Simply putting a t-shirt or tank top under your sweater means you can peel off a layer without exposing a socially unacceptable amount of skin.

#6 Throw a blanket over your lap when you’re sitting around during the day. A lap blanket can help hold in your body heat and keep you cozy whether you’re reading, talking on your phone, or doing crossword puzzles. If you have access to electricity, consider using an electric blanket to keep you toasty warm while sitting still. According to the How Stuff Works article “How Much Does It Cost to Run an Electric Blanket?

An electric blanket might consume 200 watts (depending on the setting). So if you leave it on for 10 hours, it consumes 2 kilowatt-hours. That would cost between 15 and 30 cents, depending on your location.

Dog lying on its back is in the center of photo. On the right side a blanket is wrapped around a person's lower torso. A laptop is on the right side of the photo. The screen says "working on blog posts."
I was working on blog posts one cold day, and the whole family crawled into bed with me so we could share body heat.

#7 Share body heat. Whether it’s day or night, if you have an pet or human companion, consider cuddling to maximize body heat. Invite your cat or dog to sit on your lap or your best friend or sweetheart to sit close and share a blanket with you. Personally, if I’m under a down comforter with The Man and the dog, I usually get too hot and have to throw the covers off so I can cool down.

#8 If you feel cold, eat or drink something hot to warm you up from the inside out. Drinking hot cocoa, coffee, or hot tea should warm you right up. If you are avoiding calories, sugar, or caffeine but still crave flavor, drink herbal tea or add a slice or lemon or lime to hot water. If you make a big batch of your hot beverage of choice, you can store it in an insulated bottle for sipping throughout the day or night.

Do I even have to mention the warming benefits of hot soup? You already know the benefits of hot soup, right? Actually, any hot food should help you feel warmer, but there is something special about hot soup on a cold day.

#9 Get active. If the weather outside is frightful, you might be tempted to sit around indoors all day. If you’re cold even inside, try moving around a bit if possible. Do some stretches. Jog in place or do jumping jacks if you have room. Maybe you can even bundle up and brave the elements for some outdoor activities. When I lived in the Midwest, I sometimes went out walking in 16 degree weather so I could experience a change of scenery and get some exercise. After a brisk walk, my blood was pumping and I was warm, and as an added bonus, the indoors felt toastier when I came in from the cold.

#10 Hang out somewhere warm. If it’s too cold where you live, spend a few hours at a library, coffee shop, movie theater, or even the mall. For a few bucks (or maybe no cost at all), you can take advantage of the warmth already being cranked out by someone else’s heater.

Saguaro cactus with many arms stands in front of jagged mountains
The warmth of the desert beckons you.

If you’re living nomadically and you can swing it, go to a warmer climate. Both the Sonoran and Chijuajuan deserts tend to stay warm in the winter. If you want to be even warmer, stay in Mexico until spring. (For tips on living in the desert, read my post “10 Tips for Surviving and Thriving in the Desert.”)

#12 When you go to bed at night, cover yourself with good blankets. Down blankets are super warm. I haven’t been cold at night since I scored a down comforter at a Goodwill Clearance Center. If you don’t have a down comforter (or don’t believe it’s right to use animal products), consider sleeping inside a sleeping bag. I spent quite possibly the coldest night of my vanlife on public land outside of Mt. Shasta, CA. I’d spread my sleeping bad out like a blanket, and thought I was going to freeze to death. (I didn’t really think I was in danger of death, but dang. I was uncomfortable that night.) The next evening I zipped the bag on all three sides, crawled inside, and spent a warm and comfortable night in the same spot. Sleeping in the cocoon of the sleeping bag keeps you inside a bubble of your own nice, warm body heat. 

Person seen in bed from the waist down wearing leggings and socks.
That’s me wearing leggings and a thermal shirt to bed because nighttime temperatures on the mountain were dropping.

#13 Sleep with clothes on. It’s a persistent myth among some overnight outdoor enthusiasts that sleeping nude within a sleeping bag will keep a person warmer than sleeping in the bag while wearing clothes. However, this myth was busted by several hiking and backpacking websites. The Columbia blog , Section Hiker, Backpacker and Outside all say wearing clothes to bed is a good idea. As the Columbia article “Is Sleeping Naked Really Warmer?” explains,

[t]he more layers of air you can create around your body, the warmer you’ll be. So wearing clothes inside of your sleeping bag will help you stay warm.

#11 Change your clothes before bed. When you’re all snuggly warm in the garments you’ve worn all day, changing clothes may not seem appealing, especially if your living space is cold. However, even if it’s imperceivable to you, the clothes you’ve been wearing are a little damp from your sweat. The dampness of your clothes is going to make you cold while you’re sleeping, so put on clothes that are warm and dry. At the very least, change your socks.

The Section Hiker article “Is It Warmer to Sleep Naked in a Sleeping Bag?” lists some times when wearing clothes in a sleeping bag will not keep a person warmer. One such time is when

[y]ou wear wet clothing which compromises the insulation in your sleeping bag as the heat of your body dries it. The moisture in your clothes doesn’t just disappear: it gets trapped by the sleeping bag’s insulation which degrades its effectiveness…

The best practice is to wear a dry base layer (top, bottom, socks, and hat) in your sleeping bag at night…to keep you warmer in cooler weather. These should be loose-fitting to prevent your hands or feet from getting cold due to loss of circulation and to help trap warmer air near the surface of your skin.

Bear box and evergreen trees are dusted with snow. Ground is covered with snow.

#14 Pee if you have to pee. We all know it’s a pain to leave a warm spot (in bed or on the couch) to go to the restroom, especially if the restroom is cold and we have to remove a significant portion of our clothing to do what has to be done. It’s even worse if we have to move in the dark and/or go outside to get to where we need to go to relieve ourselves.

I once read in a guide to winter camping (something like the Backpacker website’s article “15 Cold-Weather Camping Tips to Keep You Warm While You Sleep“) that people tend to feel colder if they try to hold their urine instead of leaving the tent (or bed) in order to pee. It would be a bad deal if the urine in your bladder froze because your body was working to keep the rest of you warm. To avoid such a situation, your body works hard (and burns calories) to keep the urine inside of you warm. Get rid of the urine, and your body can use its resources to keep the rest of your comfortable.

#15 Keep your kidneys warm. A friend once told me about keeping my kidneys warm to keep the rest of me warm when we were camping out. She maintained that if one’s kidneys get cold, all the blood passing through the kidneys gets cold too. When the cold blood flows through the body, it makes the entire body cold. Her solution was to wrap something warm (a blanket or a scarf, perhaps) around the area of her kidneys. (While researching this post, I found out a product–the Haramaki–exists especially for this purpose). My friend also recommended using a sleeping pad under a sleeping bag for added warmth. I think this tip would be especially important for people sleeping on the cold ground or the cold floor of a van.

Roof of green yurt and path to door covered in snow

So there you go—15 tips for staying comfortable when the weather is cold. What do you do to stay warm in the winter? Please leave your tips in the comments section below.

If you’re interested in winter camping, read Danny Smith’s guest post “A Guide to Winter Camping: Stay Warm, Have Fun” first published on February 2019. You can also read my post “Staying Warm” which was written during my first days as a camp host in the mountains.

Please remember that Blaize Sun is not responsible for your safety and well-being. Only you are responsible for your safety and well-being. If you are in a dangerously cold situation, move to a warmer location. Ask for help if you need to. Frostbite and hypothermia are no jokes, friends.

I took the photos in this post.

Gifts for the Nomad

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Blue Round Christmas Ornament on Snow

The winter holidays are sneaking up on us, and it’s time to get our shopping done. Perhaps you find yourself in the situation of wanting to buy a present for a friend or family member who lives in a van, car, camper, fifth wheel, or motorhome. Perhaps you are the nomad and your friends and family are asking you what sort of gifts you would like to receive. Today I will give you some ideas of items most nomads would love to have on their journey. These are useful items that don’t take up much space and can really add to the comfort and enjoyment of life on the road. As always, pick the proper gift according to the recipient’s taste.

For the journey—air gauge to check tires, 12 volt fan, headlamp and

Pink and Blue Notebooks Beside Red Click Pen

batteries, Luci light, Eco Vessel water bottle,  sun hat, invertor, phone charger and charging cord, atlas, travel journal, fuel injector cleaner, sunshade for windshield, comfortable pillow, memory foam mattress topper

Emergency supplies for the rig—jumper cables, emergency flares, portable air compressor, gas can, can of Fix-a-Flat, electrical tape, duct tape, Gorilla tape, wrench set, socket set, screwdriver, funnels, AAA membership, jack, tire iron

Cleaning supplies—whisk broom and small dust pan, dish soap, collapsible dish pan, dish towels, Febreze fabric refresher, Mrs. Meyers all-purpose cleaner, baking soda, vinegar in a squirt bottle, Ozium air freshener, paper towels or rags, 12 volt vacuum

Grayscale Photo of Washing Machine

Laundry supplies—laundry detergent (pods are less prone to leaks), dryer sheets, sturdy laundry bag, collapsible laundry basket, stain remover, several rolls of quarters

Kitchen supplies—collapsible funnel, garlic press, cast iron skillet, small pressure cooker, set of cooking utensils, butane or propane canisters for stove, potholders, all-purpose knife, can opener, stainless steel cup, water jug with spigot, collapsible water container, reusable storage bags

For the coffee drinker—French press, a pound (or more) of fancy coffee, a

Coffee Bean on Human Hands and Sack

pound of sugar, shelf stable creamer, insulated travel coffee mug, gift card to Starbucks or Panera Bread or a local coffee shop

For the wine lover—corkscrew, wine, non-breakable wine glasses, 12 volt wine chiller

The gift of food—shelf stable milk, nut butter, Nutella, crackers, dry cereal, instant oatmeal, complete pancake mix, canned fish, canned beans, tahini, salsa, instant refried beans, backpacking meals or MREs, powdered eggs, dried fruit, nuts, precooked rice or quinoa, complete instant mashed potatoes, queso dip, rice cakes, hot sauce, spices, sundried tomatoes, dehydrated vegetables

Toothpaste Being Put on Yellow Toothbrush

Personal care items—Dr. Bronner’s liquid soap, toilet paper, wet wipes, dry shampoo, lip balm, sunscreen, toothpaste, toothbrushes, floss, lotion, body wash/shower gel, microfiber towel, shower shoes, small refillable plastic bottles

For cold climate vagabond—Smart Wool or other warm socks, warm hat, ear muffs or other ear cover, scarf, mittens, gloves, long underwear, 12 volt electric blanket, hot water bottle, hand warmers, ice scraper, antifreeze, Mr.

Tree Branch Covered in Ice

Heater Little Buddy, propane canisters for heater, warm rug, thermos or insulated mug, flannel sheets, down blanket

Gift cards—gas station, movie theater, restaurant, coffee shop, grocery

store, department store, Itunes, Google Play, hardware store, auto parts store, Amazon

Memberships—Planet Fitness or other gym, Netflix, Hulu, HBO GO, AAA, Good Sam’s Club, Audible  

To stay in touch—phone, phone card, a variety of postcards, greeting cards, envelopes, cute stationary, stickers, address labels, postcard stamps, first class stamps

Images courtesy of https://www.pexels.com/photo/blue-round-christmas-ornament-on-snow-188970/, https://www.pexels.com/photo/blue-bright-business-document-390574/, https://www.pexels.com/photo/grayscale-photo-of-washing-machine-2254065/, https://www.pexels.com/photo/coffee-bean-on-human-hands-and-sack-47316/, https://www.pexels.com/photo/clean-mouth-teeth-dentist-40798/, and https://www.pexels.com/photo/blur-bokeh-close-up-cold-219845/.










Chester Minima Carry-on Suitcase Review

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I hadn’t had a suitcase in decades.

I got my first (and only until now) suitcase when I was a sophomore in high school. I’d written an essay and won a trip, and now I needed to pack my bags so I could board an airplane for the first time in my life.

I do not come from a nuclear family of travelers. We did not take a yearly vacation. We occasionally spent weekends at the beach or stayed overnight at the home of one of my grandmothers. I usually packed my little girl necessities in a tote bag.

My father had a small suitcase he used on the rare occasion of a business trip. It must have been deemed too small for my week-away-from-home needs because one day I came home from school to find a massive piece of luggage waiting for me. It was brown and made of some synthetic material. It certainly had room for a week’s worth of clothes and shoes and contact lens solution.

I went on two more major trips during my high school years, and my big suitcase came with me. It was cumbersome and heavy and lacked wheels. I left the suitcase behind when I went to college, but collected it from my parents when I went away to summer school in Europe. I stuffed the suitcase with enough clothes, toiletries, and textbooks to last six weeks.

After the trip to Europe, the suitcase fades from my memory.

In the ensuing years, when I went on a trip, I packed my things in duffel bags and backpacks. Suitcases seemed unnecessarily heavy, bulky. Of course, sometimes I found my backpack was wet or dirty when I pulled it out of the baggage compartment under a Greyhound. I wondered if the tiny lock holding the zipper pulls together was really protecting my gear from thieves. Did I need a suitcase to protect my belongings from liquid and dirt and unscrupulous baggage handlers?

A couple months ago I was approached by a representative of CHESTER

a NYC-based lifestyle brand dedicated to making travel more seamless…with carry-on luggage.

Black carry-on bag with wheels stands on pebbly ground
The Chester Minima carry-on bag has a polycarbonate shell and weighs just 7 pounds empty.

The representative asked me if I was interested in a partnership with CHESTER. He said he’d send me one of the company’s suitcases if I agreed to review it. Heck yes! Of course I let him know any review I shared would include my honest opinion.

According to the CHESTER website, all of their suitcases feature a

polycarbonate shell designed to be lightweight, ultra-durable and waterproof, yet flexible enough to expand and absorb external pressure, eliminating dents and dings.

My suitcase is the Minima. At only 7 pounds (before I stuff it with my travel gear), it is very lightweight. Seven pounds is lighter than a gallon of water!

The Minima measures 21.5″ x 13.5″ x 8.5″ including wheels. According to the Travel + Leisure article “Airline Carry-on Luggage Size Restrictions: What You Need to Know” by Lindsay Tigar,

[t]hough you might find an inch or two of a difference with various airlines, the standard domestic carry-on luggage size is 22” x 14” x 9”, which includes the handle and the wheels.

I’m pretty excited that my CHESTER bag fits within the standard domestic carry-on luggage restrictions. I haven’t flown for a long time (not since my dad died in 2016 and I had to make a quick trip down South), but I like knowing that if I have to get on an airplane, my bag can travel in the cabin with me.

Of course, if you need a bigger bag, CHESTER also offers the Regula suitcase. Meant to be checked, the Regula weighs a bit more at 9.5 pounds and measures 26″ x 18″ x 11″ to give you additional room for your gear. (Wondering what your other checked luggage options might be? Check out these reviews of the Best Checked Luggage 2019.)

When I pulled my Minima from the box it was shipped in, the first thing I was excited about was its wheels. After dragging along a suitcase with no wheels, followed by years of lugging a variety of backpacks on my shoulders, I was glad to finally be able to pull a suitcase smoothly by my side. The Chester website says that both the Minima and the Regula have “quiet, 360° multi-directional double spinner wheels.” These wheels are supposed to glide effortlessly over a variety of terrains.

Closeup of suitcase's built-in combination lock and luggage tag
Both the Chester Minima and Regula come with a built-in, TSA approved combination lock. The owner of the suitcase sets the combination.

The second thing I liked about the Minima was the built-in TSA approved lock. The CHESTER FAQ page says,

CHESTER’s integrated TSA lock uses zipper pulls to secure your luggage from unwanted access. Authorized TSA personnel will always be able to open your case for inspection, if necessary.

Of course, TSA approved locks aren’t necessary for travel. According to the article “Common Questions About TSA Approved Luggage Locks,”

…you are not required to have a TSA approved luggage lock on your bag to fly.


You can use any luggage lock you want but if your lock is not TSA approved, then if the TSA does search your luggage, they have the right to cut off your non-approved TSA lock because they do not have a key to open it.


By using a TSA luggage lock, you can avoid having your baggage lock cut off because the TSA has a key to open your suitcase.

I like that the Minima’s lock is built in. When I’m ready to travel, I don’t have to try to remember where I’ve stored the tiny little lock and the tiny little keys that go with it. I’m glad that if TSA decides to search my bag, an agent can use a key to open my lock and won’t have to damage my property. I appreciate that I can also set the combination to my own three digit code. WARNING: Write your combination down, or be sure you remember it. When I went to unlock my Minima three months after setting the code, I couldn’t remember what three digits I’d used, much less what order they were in. Ooops! I had to try over two dozen number combinations before I hit upon the right code!

The Minima is currently available in seven colors (black, charcoal grey, aluminum grey, ocean blue, sky blue, pink, and sand); the Regula in two (charcoal grey and ocean blue).

Chester luggage is covered by a 10 year warranty. WOW! That’s confidence. The company explains,

[t]he CHESTER is covered by a 10-year limited warranty, which covers any damage to the shell, wheels, handles, zippers, or anything else that functionally impairs the luggage…If anything breaks, we will fix or replace it.

Another great feature of the company is their return policy. CHESTER offers a 100-day trial. Again, the company explains,

We are confident in our product and want to give everyone the opportunity to make sure they really love their luggage before they decide to keep it, so we offer a 100-day trial (if purchased through our website). If at any point in the first 100 days you decide it’s just not for you, return it for a full refund—no questions or gimmicks.

Suitcase is unzipped and lies open with one compartment fully visible.
The Minima unzips and offers two compartments for packing.

All of these features are great, but you’re probably wondering, as I was, how much will the CHESTER Minima hold? Unfortunately, I wasn’t taking a real trip anytime soon, but I was going to spend the night at a friend’s place. Even though I wasn’t going to be away from home for long, I did get to pack my Minima and try it out.

I unzipped the Minima right down the middle and folded the bag open. I had plenty of room for my slippers, fuzzy leggings, sweatshirt, socks, undergarments, long sleeved shirt, hat, toiletries, sleep mask, and a couple of notebooks.

The nice thing about this little trip was having the opportunity to test the Minima in the snow. When my friend picked me up, the bed of her truck was full of snow! Well, this thing is supposed to be waterproof, I thought as I tossed the suitcase in the back of her truck. When I unzipped the bag nearly an hour later, nothing inside was damp, much less wet.

Once we got to my friend’s place in the mountains, I also got to pull my suitcase through the snow and test those “360° multi-directional double spinner wheels.” They worked great! The Minima glided through the snow with no problem.

One side of suitcase is packed full of clothes.
In this side of the Minima I packed a sweatshirt, three long sleeved shirts, a short sleeve shirt, a tank top, a pair of pants, a sleep mask, and 5 pairs of socks.

Packing for my short trip really didn’t allow the Minima to show me all it could hold, so I decided to pretend I was going for a longer trip and pack as if I was leaving tomorrow. I was able to pack all of the following items in my Chester suitcase:

  • flannel pajama set
  • pair of Crocs
  • long skirt
  • pair of pants
  • sweatshirt
  • 3 long sleeve shirts
  • short sleeve shirt
  • tank top
  • pair of tights
  • 3 bras
  • 6 pairs of socks
  • 5 pairs of underpants
  • 2 bandanas
  • toiletry kit
  • sleep mask
  • brush
  • comb
  • can of dry shampoo

Note: I’m a big gal, and I were big clothes. Smaller people with smaller clothes are going to be able to fit even more items into a bag from CHESTER.

I was disappointed when I couldn’t fit my hiking shoes in the Minima. Although they are not boots, they were simply too tall to fit in the Minima without getting crushed. I decided I’d pack the Crocs instead. Those shoes had just enough give to allow the barrier to be zipped over them.

Photos shows how cloth barrier goes over packed clothes and has a zipper compartment of its own.
Clothes pack into the main compartment, then the barrier zips closed over it. The barrier also has a zipper compartment where I packed my underpants and bandanas.

Each cloth barrier has one or more zipper compartments built in. Those compartments give a bit of additional space for packing, but really hold only a minimal amount. I found packing bras and underpants in those compartments made the most sense.

Once items were packed into the slightly bulging middle zipper compartments, I was afraid the suitcase wasn’t going to close. However, once I pushed down from the top, the sides of the zipper came together, and I was able to slide the zippers with ease. The zipper pulls locked in place, my suitcase was secure, and there were no bulges or bumps.

Suitcase is covered,, but top does not lie flat.
After packing, I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to close the Minima.

Even fully packed, I was able to lift my Minima over my head to mimic sliding it into an imaginary overhead bin.

Overall, the Minima is a great suitcase. I can easily fit a weekend’s worth of clothing in it. Depending on where I was going and what activities I would be participating in, I could probably get enough for a week or two into it if I was committed to rewearing clothes. It rolls easily and smoothly, and it keeps my clothes dry in the snow.

I can’t wait until I can take it on a real trip.

If you want to check out the Minima or the Regula suitcase, please use my referral link. (https://chestertravels.com/ref/RubberTrampArtist/) If you click on that link and buy a suitcase within 45 days, I’ll receive a commission. Thanks!

The fully zipped Minima suitcase lies on its side on a bed.
Fully packed, I was able to zip the Minima with only the slightest pressure to the top.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a free, gently used Minima suitcase from CHESTER in exchange for this review. I only review/recommend products or services I use personally. This review reflects how I honestly feel about the product. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

This post also contains a sponsored link.

I took the photos in this post.

Guide to the America the Beautiful Federal Recreation Site Passes (Part 2)

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Autie Em and I got into the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument with no admission fee because she flashed her America the Beautiful Senior Pass.

Last week I told you about all of the the America the Beautiful Annual Passes: the basic Pass available for $80, the FREE America the Beautiful Pass for active members of the military and their dependents, and the America the Beautiful Annual and Lifetime Senior Passes. According to the National Park Service, any of these passes

is your ticket to more than 2,000 federal recreation sites. Each pass covers entrance fees at national parks and national wildlife refuges as well as standard amenity fees (day use fees) at national forests and grasslands, and at lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Reclamation and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. A pass covers entrance, standard amenity fees and day use fees for a driver and all passengers in a personal vehicle at per vehicle fee areas (or up to four adults at sites that charge per person). Children age 15 or under are admitted free.

Today I’ll tell you about other groups who can receive FREE America the Beautiful passes. Passes are available FREE to folks with disabilities, 4th graders, and federal volunteers.

Sign with National Park Service logo on it and the words Island in the Sky Visitor Center Canyonlands National Park National Park Service U.S. Department of the Interior
Folks with disabilities who have the FREE America the Beautiful Access Pass can visit Canyonlands National Park without paying an admission fee.

A special America the Beautiful pass is available FREE to people with disabilities. According to the USGS Store, the Access Pass (formerly known as the Golden Access Passport) is

[a] free, lifetime pass – available to U.S. citizens or permanent residents of the United States that have been medically determined to have a permanent disability (does not have to be a 100% disability)…

permanent disability is a permanent physical, mental, or sensory impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, such as caring for oneself, performing manual tasks, walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, breathing, learning, and working.

The disability requirements for the Access Pass are not based on percentage of disability. To qualify for the Pass the disability must be permanent and limit one or more major life activities.

Orange Cliffs Overlook in the Island in the Sky District of Canyonlands National Park

You must submit appropriate documents to prove that you have a disability before you will be issued an access pass.

Some examples of acceptable documentation include:
Statement by a licensed physician  (Statement must include: that the individual has a PERMANENT disability, that it limits one or more aspects of their daily life, and the nature of those limitations.) ; Document issued by Federal agency such as the Veteran’s Administration, Social Security Disability Income, or Supplemental Security Income; Document issued by a State agency such as a vocational rehabilitation agency.

The pass program for folks with disabilities is operated by five Federal agencies that operate under different regulations and have different fees. This means the discount program for this pass is handled differently on different federal recreation lands. You can research the discount guidelines here.

According to the National Park Service,

Peeling brown wooden sign reads Sequoia National Forest Campground Redwood.
Folks with the America the Beautiful Access Pass can often get a 50% discount on camping fees.

The Access Pass may provide a 50 percent discount on some amenity fees charged for facilities and services such as camping, swimming, boat launching, and specialized interpretive services.

The Access Pass generally does NOT cover or reduce special recreation permit fees or fees charged by concessioners.

It is important to remember that if there is a 50% discount on camping fees,

The discount only applies to the fee for the campsite physically occupied by the pass owner, not to any additional campsite(s) occupied by members of the pass owner’s party.

As I mentioned above, the America the Beautiful Access Pass was formerly known as the Golden Access Passport. Like the Golden Age Passport, Golden Access Passports are no longer sold. However, Golden Access Passports are lifetime passes and are still honored under the terms of the America the Beautiful Access Pass. If a Golden Access Passport wears out or is lost, the pass owner must resubmit acceptable documentation to prove disability.

There is no age requirement for the Access Pass. Even a child with a permanent disability can receive an America the Beautiful Access Pass.

The National Park Service says there are two ways a person can obtain an Access Pass. One can get the Pass

In person at a federal recreation site (see PDF list of federal recreation sites that issue passes) [or] [t]hrough the mail using this application form (PDF).

Note: The cost of obtaining an Access Pass through the mail is $10 for processing the application. (The pass is free.)

Fourth graders and their grownups can see the wonders of nature (like these giant sequoias) at national parks (like Sequoia National Park) without having to pay an entrance fee if they have their Annual 4th Grade Pass.

The Annual 4th Grade Pass is available for FREE to every

U.S. 4th grade student (including home-schooled and free-choice learners 10 years of age) with a printed voucher from the Every Kid Outdoors website. Students may not receive a pass without a valid voucher.

The get the voucher, 4th graders must complete a

web based activity on the Every Kid Outdoors website. [After a 4th grader completes the activity] they will be awarded their voucher package for printing. Once your 4th grader arrives at the participating Federal recreation site they may exchange their Every Kid Outdoors voucher for the Annual 4th grade Pass. A list of sites that issue passes is available. Please contact the Federal land you will be visiting in advance to ensure that they have the pass available.

According to the USGS Store,

The pass is valid for the duration of the 4th grade school year through the following summer (September – August).

Like the America the Beautiful Pass for active members of the military and their dependents, the Annual 4th Grade Pass

does not cover or provide a discount on expanded amenity fees such as camping, boat launch or interpretive fees.

Holders of most America the Beautiful Passes will receive free admission to White Sands National Monument. (The White Sands Fees & Passes page makes no mention of the Annual Military Pass or the Annual 4th Grade Pass.)

As I mentioned, a fourth grader must jump through a few hoops to get the FREE Annual 4th grade pass. Go to the Every Kid Outdoors website to learn about the hoops and do the jumping. Each 4th grader

[m]ust have a paper voucher printed from the Every Kid Outdoors website to obtain the Annual 4th Grade Pass. Digital versions of the voucher (such as [on] smart phones or tablets) will not be accepted.

The final free pass that allows access to federal recreations sites with no admission fee is the America the Beautiful Volunteer Pass.

A “Volunteer Pass” is an Annual Pass awarded to those individuals who volunteer 250 hours at one or more recreation sites managed by five Federal agencies as a way to say “thank you!”

According to an America the Beautiful document , the Volunteer Pass is

valid for one year from the month of issuance.

There are some other things to know about the Volunteer Pass.

There is no specific time frame in which volunteer hours must be accrued. Hours can be accrued over one, or several, calendar years.

You can accrue 250 hours by volunteering on Federal recreation lands managed by one or all of five agencies – NPS, BLM, USDA FS, FWS, and Reclamation. For example, you can volunteer 100 hours for each of the five agencies and earn a pass.

Once the 250 hour requirement is reached, a pass is issued, and the volunteer’s “pass hours”; are reset to zero and the count begins again.

Campground hosts are eligible to receive a Volunteer Pass once they have completed 250 hours of service.
Campsite with a picnic table under a shade structure and a fire ring
Camp hosts can receive the America the Beautiful Volunteer pass after completing 250 service hours.

To find out about volunteer opportunities at federal recreation sites, visit volunteer.gov.

To earn the America the Beautiful Volunteer Pass, volunteers must get all volunteer activities pre-approved by a volunteer coordinator. Activities that are not pre-approved may not count toward the 250 hours needed to earn a Volunteer Pass. Volunteers must get their record of volunteer hours signed by applicable Volunteer Coordinator(s). The Federal Volunteer Coordinator/Manager who authorizes that a volunteer has accrued 250 hours will issue the Volunteer Pass.

According to the USGS Store, with any pass

[p]hoto identification may be required to verify ownership [of pass]. Passes are NON-REFUNDABLE, NON-TRANSFERABLE, and cannot be replaced if lost or stolen.

Hopefully the information I’ve provided today and last week will help you decide if you want to get an America the Beautiful federal recreation pass. If you already have one, would you suggest that others get one? Please leave your thoughts in the comments section below.

If you found this post helpful, I’d love your support! Hit the donate button in the right toolbar or go to Patreon to become my patron.

Please note all information was correct to the best of my knowledge when this post was written. Blaize Sun is not responsible for changing prices or any other changes that may take place after this post was written. Use the information given here as the starting point of your own research. Blaize Sun is not responsible for you. Only you are responsible for you.

I took the photos in this post.

Guide to the America the Beautiful Federal Recreation Site Passes (Part 1)

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Your federal recreation site pass will get you and your carload of passengers into Arches National Park at no additional charge.

If you’re a senior, a person with a disability, a member of the U.S. military (or the dependent of a military member), a fourth grader, a volunteer, or even if you don’t fit in any of those categories, there is an America the Beautiful Pass available to help you save money when exploring federal recreation sites in the U.S.A. Some of these passes are free, like the ones for fourth graders, members of the U.S. military and their dependents, volunteers, and folks with disabilities. The basic America the Beautiful Pass and the Senior Pass cost money, but if you plan to visit many public lands in the U.S. in a 12-month period, your America the Beautiful Pass will pay for itself quickly.

There is a lot of information I want to share about the six passes available, so I’ve written two posts on the subject. Today’s post will cover the basic America the Beautiful Pass, the free pass for members of the military and their dependents, and the Senior Pass. Next week I’ll tell you everything you need to know about the Access Pass for people with disabilities, the 4th Grade Pass, and the Volunteer Pass.

The National Park Service explains what benefits the holder of any one of the available passes receives.

A pass is your ticket to more than 2,000 federal recreation sites. Each pass covers entrance fees at national parks and national wildlife refuges as well as standard amenity fees (day use fees) at national forests and grasslands, and at lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Reclamation and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. A pass covers entrance, standard amenity fees and day use fees for a driver and all passengers in a personal vehicle at per vehicle fee areas (or up to four adults at sites that charge per person). Children age 15 or under are admitted free.

Carlsbad Caverns National Park charges a per-person fee, but no worries. Your federal recreation site pass gets you and three additional adults in with no admission fee.

The first pass, available to anyone with the money to pay for it, is The America the Beautiful-The National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Annual Pass. This annual pass costs $80. According to USGS Store,

the Annual Pass is valid for 12 months from the month of purchaseexpiring the last day of that month.

There are several costs the America the Beautiful pass does not cover. The USGS Store says,

The Annual Pass does not provide discounts at Cooperating Association bookstores or on-site gift shops.

The Annual Pass does not cover discounts on any Expanded Amenity or Concessionaire (Concessioner) Fees such as: camping, RV hook-ups, boat launching, backcountry permits, parking at Mount Rushmore, guided cave tours at Wind Cave National Park, or parking at some historic monuments or homes.

Your America the Beautiful pass will not get you a discount at a campground.

The fact that the standard America the Beautiful Pass did not cover camping fees or even provide a discount on the fees often tripped up my campers back in my camp host days. Many campers thought their America the Beautiful pass got them a 50% discount on camping fees, but that was not the case. It didn’t help that the reservation website allowed folks making reservations to enter their America the Beautiful pass number, then reflected a 50% discount on the reservations. When such campers showed up in my campground, guess who was expected to shake the rest of the money out of their pockets? The camp host (me!) of course. It was one of my least favorite parts of being a camp host. The lesson for you? If you make camping reservations with the America The Beautiful Pass and you seem to be getting a 50% discount, you may be in for a big surprise when you get to the campground.

The America the Beautiful Pass is not valid at State Parks or local city/county recreation areas.

It is only valid at participating Federal recreation sites. Visit http://www.recreation.gov for more information about Federal recreation sites.

If you want to purchase an America the Beautiful Annual Pass, there are three ways to do so, according to the National Park Service. You can buy your pass

In person at a federal recreation site (see PDF list of federal recreation sites that issue passes),

By phone at: 888-ASK USGS (1-888-275-8747), extension 3 (Hours of operation are: 8 am to 4 pm Mountain Time) [$5 handling fee may be added] [or,]

Online from the USGS store! ($5 handling fee added to cost of pass)

U.S. military personnel and their dependents can see Canyonlands National Park (and over 2,000 other federal recreation sites) for free with their own special America the Beautiful Pass.

A FREE America the Beautiful Pass is available to active members of the U.S. military and their dependents. According to the USGS Store, the following people qualify for the Pass:

Current U.S. Military personnel and their dependents who present, in person, a U.S. Department of Defense CAC identification or DD Form 1173 dependent identification and are in the following military personnel classification:
• Current members of the U.S. Army, Air Force, Navy, Marines, Coast Guard, and National Guard
• Dependents of current U.S. military members with DD Form 1173
• U.S. Military Cadets
• U.S. Active Reservists (Do not need to be deployed)

Unfortunately,

[t]he following individuals/groups DO NOT Qualify for the interagency Military Annual Pass:
• Foreign military members (Including those stationed in the U S and have a CAC card)
• National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) employees
• Public Health Service (PHS) members
• Inactive U S Reservists
• Civilian military contractors
• Civilian military employees
• U S military veterans
• U S military retirees

Members of the military do not get a discount on the camping fee at Superbowl Campground near Canyonlands National Park.

As with the basic America the Beautiful Pass, the interagency Military Annual Pass

does not cover or provide a discount on expanded amenity fees such as camping, boat launch or interpretive fees.

There is only one way to acquire the FREE America the Beautiful Annual Pass for the U.S. Military (and dependents) according to the National Forest Service. A member of the military or the dependent of a military member can obtain the pass

In person at a federal recreation site (see PDF list of federal recreation sites that issue passes) by showing a Common Access Card (CAC) or Military ID (Form 1173).

Dependents of National Guard and Reserve members can also acquire a FREE Annual Military Pass.

Dependents of deployed military members with DoD Form 1173 may obtain a pass.

The America the Beautiful Senior Pass, formerly known as the Golden Age Passport, is available to

U.S. citizens or permanent residents who are 62 years or older. (You must have turned 62 before you can buy the pass).

Owning property or paying taxes in the U.S. does not automatically qualify you for a Senior Pass. You must be a permanent U.S. resident, or a U.S. citizen with identification such as U.S. Driver’s License, Green Card or U.S. Passport.

There are two options with the Senior Pass. You can get an Annual Senior Pass for $20 per year or a Lifetime Senior Pass for $80. If you want a Lifetime Senior pass but can’t afford to lay down $80 all at once, you are allowed to exchange your Annual Senior Pass(es) for a Lifetime Senior Pass.

Annual Senior Passes may be exchanged at any time for a Lifetime Senior Pass at the following exchange rates:
1 Annual Senior Pass: $60 for Senior Lifetime Pass
2 Annual Senior Pass: $40 for Senior Lifetime Pass
3 Annual Senior Pass: $20 for Senior Lifetime Pass
4 Annual Senior Pass: $0 for Senior Lifetime Pass

So basically you can buy your Lifetime Senior Pass in $20 installments. Furthermore, you get the enjoy the benefits of the Annual Pass whilce accumulating enough of them to get your Lifetime Pass.

At Las Petacas Campground in the Carson National Forest, camping only costs $3 per night for holders of the Senior Pass (formerly known as the Golden Age Passport).

Golden Age Passports are no longer sold, but they are lifetime passes and are still honored according to the terms of the Senior Pass.

At many sites the Senior Pass provides the pass owner a discount on Expanded Amenity Fees (such as camping, swimming, boat launching, and guided tours).

The pass program is managed by six Federal agencies that operate under different regulations and have different fees. Therefore, the discount program for the Senior Pass is not handled in the same way on all Federal recreation lands.

According to the National Park Service,

The Senior Pass may provide a 50 percent discount on some amenity fees charged for facilities and services such as camping, swimming, boat launch, and specialized interpretive services.


The Senior Pass generally does NOT cover or reduce special recreation permit fees or fees charged by concessioners.

It is important to remember that if there is a 50% discount on camping fees,

The discount only applies to the fee for the campsite physically occupied by the pass owner, not to any additional campsite(s) occupied by members of the pass owner’s party.

The Annual or Lifetime Senior Pass will get you into White Sands National Monument with no admission fee.

There are three ways to purchase either the Annual or Lifetime America the Beautiful Senior Pass. According to the National Park Service, a senior can get the pass

In person at a federal recreation site (see PDF list of federal recreation sites that issue passes).

Online–buy the lifetime pass or the annual pass online through the USGS store!

Through the mail using this application form (PDF).

NOTE: There is an additional cost of $10 for passes purchased online or by mail.

According to the USGS Store, with any pass

[p]hoto identification may be required to verify ownership [of pass]. Passes are NON-REFUNDABLE, NON-TRANSFERABLE, and cannot be replaced if lost or stolen.

So that’s what you need to know about the basic America the Beautiful Pass as well as the FREE America the Beautiful Pass for active members of the U.S. military and the America the Beautiful Senior Pass. You can also read my post with information about the America the Beautiful Access Pass for people with disabilities, the America the Beautiful 4th Grade Pass, and the America the Beautiful Volunteer Pass.

If you found this post helpful, I’d love your support! Hit the donate button in the right toolbar or go to Patreon to become my patron.

Please note all information was correct to the best of my knowledge when this post was written. Blaize Sun is not responsible for changing prices or any other changes that may take place after this post was written. Use the information given here as the starting point of your own research. Blaize Sun is not responsible for you. Only you are responsible for you.

I took the photos in this post.