Monday, February 11, 2019

Too prepared?

In the early 1900s, Sir Ernest Shackleton led an expedition to Antarctica. His ship, the Endurance, became trapped in ice and broke apart. As he and his crew set out to reach a place they could be rescued, he directed the men to take only the barest necessities.

In his book about the doomed expedition, Alfred Lancing wrote, “From studying the outcome of past expeditions, [Shackleton] believed that those that burdened themselves with equipment to meet every contingency had fared much worse than those that had sacrificed total preparedness for speed.”

When we’re heading off on the nomadic life it makes sense to be prepared for every contingency. Or at least the most likely contingencies. But, as Shackleton understood, all that preparedness comes with tradeoffs.

Being well equipped can add day-to-day complications. For example, the more you put in your rig, the more it weighs, the more fuel it burns, and the less room there is for yourself.

They say it’s better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it. But backpackers say, “Remember, you have to carry all that shit.” Carrying heavy loads builds muscle but punishes joints and feet.

Each person needs to find their personal balance. What are your priorities? What are your abilities? What are you willing to do without? What best fits the way you go about the whole vehicle living thing? What is required for your safety, your peace of mind? For happiness?


  1. When we were backpacking we always went places where there were pit toilets. So adding a bucket toilet to our backpacking equipment should be enough to furnish a van. Except we are no longer young so can't always do what we did then. Bummer.

  2. Linda, where did you backpack that had pit toilets? I can only remember one backcountry toilet backpacking the Sierra in the 70’s and 80’s.

    Also saw the comment below on a YouTube video about the RTR. I think this sentiment is growing: “For decades, nomadic living/van dwelling developed organically as people of modest means camped and traveled, while consciously rejecting bourgeois “RVing”. Now hordes of people without an intrinsic interest in outdoor travel have jumped on the bandwagon, and the humble nature of this life is quickly being corrupted. Hyper materialistic/complex/convenience oriented “builds”, the rave party/festival atmosphere, and the lack of LNT ethics are symptomatic. I hope another shiny object emerges soon to draw these crowds away from nature.“