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Outdoor family travel Episode #4 – Traveling light.

Why leave home if you’re just taking your entire house/condo/apartment with you?


©Jeff Boyle

     What did your packing list look like the last time you headed out to “get away from it all”?  Did you need an 18 foot moving truck, or could the entire lot qualify for carry on status?  I know, it’s hard to imagine leaving the countertop Cuisinart stand mixer behind for even a couple of hours, let alone a week.  We’ve all had that uneasy feeling pulling out of the driveway that something essential was left behind.  Or the iron plugged in.

     Fortunately there are some easy ways to pare down your adventure travel kit.  If you’re flying, consider taking the TSA’s suggestions seriously.  It’s a simple & effective way to avoid the urge to carry on the small axe or can of mace you thought you’d need at camp.  As we’ve found out not once, but three times, even a pocketknife can’t fly in the cabin.  They will mail it back to you for a small fee.  At least security is consistent.

     If getting publicly hassled by government agents isn’t enough, maybe saving a few bucks is a good incentive to lighten your load.  Most of those clever airlines have figured out ways to extract additional revenue from their customers.  For instance, charging extra for the privilege of entrusting our prized possessions to bar codes and baggage handlers.  No offense other guys, but it’s one of the reasons the Boyles fly Southwest when our plans call for schlepping camping gear halfway across the country by air.

     Or maybe you just want to see out the window of your vehicle as you hurtle down the highway.  We’ve done plenty of 18 hour drives in a fully loaded minivan with four kids to remember what that’s like.  There’s a fine line between using those suitcases on the seats to separate the little angels, and cramming them in like precious pottery in packing peanuts.  Believe it or not, a foldable playpen for the cabin/tent/hotel was one of those essentials when the kiddos were little that actually made the cut.  And while you might want to stow a passenger on the roof, even temporarily, that’s against the law.  Don’t do it.

     Lastly, some outdoor stuff is simply lighter and packs down smaller than others.  I know, you just got done reading Episode #3 warning of the dangers of succumbing to the recreational equipment arms race.  But let’s face it, that enormous quilt that you can barely roll up smaller than a Mini Cooper could be replaced by a modern high performance sleeping bag that packs down to the size of a pregnant grapefruit.  Now you can shove multiple things into one big bag and still stay under the baggage limit!


©Amy Boyle Photography

     Next up: The trip itself.  Yes, even the hangry tantrums will become funny stories when they grow up.

About the author

     Jeff has been wandering around the woods since his loving parents first told him kindly to “Go outside and play!” at the tender age of 4.  About the same time, he climbed his first mountain in New Hampshire without being carried the entire way. A few years later, he married Amy, a wonderful and adventurous professional photographer, and the two of them raised four boys together.  He soon understood why his folks had encouraged him to spend so much time outdoors as an energetic youngster…  

     In Amy & Jeff’s two decades of togetherness, they’ve gone from camping mainly ’cause he’s frugal, to realizing they actually enjoy spending time in the “five billion star” resort called the great outdoors.  Both have been active in Scouting, and their own boys have mostly had no choice but to come along.  From lugging the heaviest car-camping gear ever made several miles into the woods of northern Wisconsin, to flying their latest slimmed down but still comfy adventure kit to the west coast, they’ve gotten better at getting around.

     Just about the world’s worst storyteller, Jeff has decided it’s more effective to write and share photos about what he’s learned through many years of family outdoor travel.  Like Mark Twain supposedly said, “Good judgement is the result of experience and experience the result of bad judgement.”  Hopefully his sarcastic New England style doesn’t put everyone off, especially all the nice folks he’s met in the Midwest that he’s been so lucky to have called home for what feels like forever.

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