Since January when we bought our popup truck camper, Vandring Snigel (Swedish for Wandering Snail), we’ve started to get a packing rhythm down when we head out on weekend adventures. The purpose of the Snigel (pronounced: sni-GEL) was so that we could quickly and somewhat easily take her out for a few days without focusing too much on the preparations or the take-down at the end. Maximize the adventures, minimize the work. Naturally we’ll keep slimming our processes, but here’s what we’ve got so far!

Stuff we keep stocked in the camper:

  • silverware and large serving spoons
  • plates and bowls (we’ve been doing recycled paper, but eventually we’ll find reusable dishware)
  • a medium 6″ cast iron pan with a pot holder and a lid
  • tea kettle for heating up water
  • a 4 qt. pot and a lid
  • cutting board and knives
  • metal camp cups
  • corkscrew and can opener
  • twisty ties and chip clips
  • scissors
  • 1-2 extra small glass containers with lids (for leftover bacon grease and other small food bits)
  • paper toweling
  • aeropress
  • lighter (for the gas stove, especially)
  • cleaning solution in a spray bottle
  • kitchen soap and scrub brushes
  • a bathroom “medicine cabinet”: tooth powder, toothbrush, floss, contact solution and container, tampons, peppermint oil, deodorant, bandaids, melatonin, cough drops, tweezers, nail clippers, dry shampoo, bar soap, biodegradable wipes, and so on
  • a roll of toilet paper
  • a catch all bin with: matches, scissors, pencil, notepaper, candles, lotion, and other paraphernalia
  • a tiny broom and dustpan
  • a game closet with our favorite board games and card games
  • sheets on the bed (we wash and return after most trips)
  • duvet, duvet cover, and 2 pillows
  • sleeping bag and extra blanket
  • 4 throw pillows (too many, but they were just sitting in storage anyway…)
  • 1 fuzzy throw blanket
  • face towels
  • bath towels
  • kitchen towels
  • essential oil diffuser (this is important, it keeps the air from drying out too much at night and, as much as I love the smell of fresh bacon, the diffuser makes the camper smell like something other than left over breakfast smells)
  • tripod

Most of these items we found at thrift stores or they were a duplicate that we had laying around the house.

Clothing we keep in the camper:

  • swimsuit
  • slippers
  • water shoes
  • a wool fire cape
  • puffy jackets (ok, this is on our list. It’s not out there yet.)

Food we keep stocked in the camper:

  • coffee
  • tea bags
  • fermented cacao (for hot chocolate)
  • sugar-free marshmallows (for hot chocolate)
  • single-use honey sticks
  • avocado oil
  • butter
  • salt, pepper, herbs
  • nut butter packs
  • EPIC bars
  • and anything else we leave when we finish for the weekend

Stuff we pack for a 2 night weekend:

  • a cooler full of food: a quart of stew, 6 eggs, bacon, any left over vegetables from our home fridge gets chopped up and put in a plastic bag to be used for breakfast, salad or sandwhich/wrap fixings for lunch, seasonal fruit, 2 half full frozen water bottles as icepacks. Once we get in the camper, we usually leave the food in the cooler and park the cooler outside; it’s been cold enough to do this. The next thing we want to try is to put all the food in the camper refrigerator with 3-4 ice water bottles and treat the whole refrigerator as though it’s a cooler, which it is essentially just a cooler since we haven’t figured out how to turn it on yet.
  • UBoom speaker
  • camera (or just our phones…)
  • projector and iPad (if we want to watch a movie)
  • insulated camp cups (hot drinks for the road!)
  • bottles of water
  • clothing and hiking shoes for the weekend all get packed into a laundry bin for transport, and the laundry bin is then used as a dirty clothes hamper

Because we keep the camper stocked, it really doesn’t take too much packing the day we leave in order to travel and do our adventures in style. I hope you enjoyed this list of mine as much as I enjoyed writing it. 🙂

Location: Cyrus Horse Camp in Jefferson County, Oregon (use Google Maps, not Apple’s map)
Amenities: pit toilet. Horse stalls.
Size: Large enough for all vehicles, the campground is one big turnaround.
Number of campsites: multiple campsites nearby.
Seasons: 4-season

We got to the campsite after dark in March and quickly parked our truck on the flattest spot we could find. It wasn’t a very flat spot but we didn’t want to disturb our friend, who was already tucked in for the night in her vehicle. We spent 2 nights at this campground and saw just a few trucks come and go. One of these passerbys was kind enough to leave a roll of toilet paper in the toilet. During the day, we hiked at the nearby Smith Rock and spent the afternoon in Bend, Oregon. At night, we raided the free cut firewood pile, chopped it up smaller and built a fire. We drank hot chocolate and enjoyed the vast sky and all the twinkling stars and some space trash.

We returned the Amazon Life PO4 battery because once we drained the battery, we had no way to recharge it. So we bought an American-Made Battle Born lithium battery and it lasted was much better.

Location: Less than 1 mile southeast of the Iron Creek Campground on NF-76 on the bank of the Iron Creek river.
Amenities: none. Steep entrance. 
Size: Truck campers, vans, cars only. No turnaround for trailers at the end during the winter. Small parking lot for a few cars/trucks.
Number of campsites: multiple campsites nearby.
Seasons: 4-season

It was actively snowing as we snaked our truck and the Vandring Snigel (our pop up truck camper) along the roads at the foothill of Mount St. Helens. As we drove into the National Forest, we passed two trucks coming out. One was a police officer who gave us more specific instructions on how to find the dispersed campsite. We passed the Iron Creek Campground and took a left at the crossroads. A few hundred feet down the road we saw another truck setting up camp in a dispersed campsite near the river. We crossed the bridge and then make a hard left into the next dispersed campsite. 

We just added a Life PO4 battery to the Snigel, and we’re happy to report back that it was really great to have heat and electricity for 1 night! Even though the snow kept falling, we were comfy and cozy all night long. (We’ll be adding a few more batteries so that we can stay off the grid longer.)

Date: Jan 16-17, 2021
Activity: boondocking, hot springs
Location: Snively Hot Springs in Oregon

We finally got to our first free outdoor hot springs! We first drove into the main drive and noticed a sign that definitely was trying to say “day use only.” So we drove back up the road a hot minute and backed into a prime piece of real estate on BLM land. It was a 5 minute walk down to the hot springs from there. We met people who had parked their campers further down the canyon road, so there seems to be plenty of options for camping nearby. Another family we met at the hot springs were staying at a nearby Airbnb. There is a pit toilet that is very dirty and may or may not have toilet paper or hand sanitizing options. At this time of year (January 2021) the water was low and there were three different pools of warm/hot water. The bottom is rocky. The temperature is controlled by a stream that flows into the largest pool and can be altered by pilling up or taking down rocks. At one point, we got brave enough to hop over the short rock wall and into the freezing mountain stream. The rocks on the cold side of the wall were mossy and slippery and the water is shallow and extremely cold.

boondocking in the hot springs

TIPS And tricks

  1. We quickly learned our own rules for the best hot spring experience: wear a swimsuit, bathrobe and sandals down to the water and pack a bag with a towel and a cool drink.
  2. If we had spent more time at the hot springs, we would have hiked up the canyon walls. As it was, we saw people climbing the steep hills as we sat steaming up in the hot springs.

Date: Jan 15, 2021
Activity: boondocking
Location: Quesna County Park in Morrow County, Oregon

Our first boondocking experience! We drove into the large gravel parking lot on the Columbia River close to midnight and so we did our best to be quiet and polite toward the two other campers as we drove into the corner farthest away from them. We popped up our camper and crawled into our new bed. A few hours later – and routinely every hour after that – we kept hearing trucks pulling into the parking lot near us. When we woke up and stepped outside in the morning, we were surprised to see a bunch of trucks with empty boat trailers parked in a line next to us. Apparently we parked right next to a boat launch! And apparently people in Oregon still take boats out in the winter. It’s duck hunting season!

On the second day of our epic Timberline Trail backpacking trip of 2020, Beck started unexpectedly menstruating. It was a fast lesson in how to continue being a functioning female while leading a pack in the wilderness.

At home and in modern life, you can easily use tampons and pads and discard them after every use. In the backcountry, it is not that simple. I use a flexible, reusable cup called a Diva Cup and reusable cloth pads. There are many other kinds of reusable cups.

How to use a menstrual cup

The menstrual cups work by collecting the flow. You insert the cup and then remove it hours later to empty the contents out. Some people can leave it in up to 12 hours at a time.

Just like other human waste products, dig a hole at least 6 inches deep. Clean your hands and then empty the cup into the hole. Wipe the inside of the cup using toilet paper, and then reinsert. Use a biodegradable wet wipe to clean the outside of your body. Then wash your hands again once you are done.

Cloth pads

There are many kinds of cloth pads as well such as Glad Rags. When you use a cloth pad, make sure you change out the pad at least one time per day and wash with a biodegradable wet wipe a few times per day. You should only need 2-3 pads no matter how many days you will be backpacking. Clean the used pads in a washbasin, bowl, or pot with biodegradable soap and hot water and then hang on your backpack so that it dries in the sun. (Obviously this doesn’t work if you are stuck in the rain!)

Date: August 2020
Activity: wilderness backpacking
Location: Timberline Trail, Mount Hood in Oregon
Best time of year: June to September
Level of difficulty: moderately difficult
Mileage: 44 miles
Elevation gain: 9,000 ft
Days: 2.5

We circumnavigated the 44 mile Timberline Trail during the last weekend of August 2020 with one of Beck’s besties, Kirsten, and her yellow lab, Porter. There are many different options on where to start and two directions to chose from: clockwise or counterclockwise. We started out on the Timberline Trail and hiked clockwise. The Timberline Trail joins up with the PCT for a short period of time. We also chose to add on the Paradise Loop, which added a mile to our first day. Greg created a route for our Garmin watches so that we had GPS navigation. We also used this guide to instruct us on safe water and campsite options.

The first day we hiked 19 miles. We would have stopped hiking around 15 miles if we had had more options for pitching our tents. After we passed Ramona Falls, there were so many people on the trail and not many camping spots available. So plan to spend the night near Ramona Falls or keep hiking another 8-10 miles past Ramona Falls to find a good spot to set up camp. Also, plan to set up camp in plenty of time before sunset. We ended up setting up camp at sunset on a little piece of property with a definite downwards slant. It was not the finest camp nor the best sleep but we had no other option because people were crawling all over the mountain and there just weren’t enough camp spots.

Our second day we hiked about 12 miles and ended up setting up camp just past the highest point on the Timberline Trail. We found a grove of stout trees to pitch our tents inside of, thinking they would offer protection from the wind. They did, until the wind changed in the middle of the night and, despite the trees surrounding us, our tents took a beating. The closest water was a mile hike up the canyon to a mountain stream. Compared to the night before, there were plenty of camping spots and not many people vying for real estate.

Our third day we hiked the remaining 13 miles back to Timberline Lodge. As we hiked the last 3 miles, we all realized the same thing: it SUCKS to circumnavigate Timberline Trail in a clockwise direction! The last 3 miles are sandy and a constant uphill grade. Every step feels like 1 step forward, and half-a-step backward. The only redeeming factor is the beautiful view of Timberline Lodge across a large valley that gives a person hope that possibly someday soon they will be eating a juicy burger.

TipS and tricks

  1. Start at Timberline Lodge and hike in a counter-clockwise direction. You may not know to thank us, but you will regret it if you don’t.
  2. Don’t hike this trail for the first time if there will be snowfall. And if you do get stuck in the snow, hike down the mountain (not up the mountain).