Traveling High and Low - 10 Tips for Dirt Bagging
Rule 0. Love Your Dirt
Understand where you are. A lot of dirtbagging happens around National Parks, state parks, protected areas, etc. Leave no trace, if you pack it in, pack it out. Don’t sit there and despoil something that is providing your shelter.
If you have car problems, fix them. Don't leak into the streams, try to be as environmentally helpful as you can. Sort your recyclables at the center if you see the bin. When you see a beautiful piece of nature, don't camp or start a fire on it. Keep it small, we're just passing through. Other things actually live there, respect them.
Especially when your responsibility is so little in the grand scheme. Part of the exchange of this lifestyle. Pick up some trash, pay attention to what you’re doing, dispose of your waste. And help out the beautiful world that you’re privileged to enjoy in this world.
1. Check the Rules
Look at your local listings to see what sort of fees and rules apply. Every park has their own measure of what their rules are and every rest stop may have a different time limit. Some are as long as 24 hours. Some 8.
Can you Camp, can you overnight? Is there a fee? What are you allowed to dump, or not dump? Is there a bathroom? Is there a faucet to refill water with drinkable water? Understanding not just where you’re at, but what you’re allowed to do keeps you from drawing unwanted attention. It’s also common sense.
2. Lock Your Door/Security
At night, make sure to lock your doors. The last thing you want is an unexpected guest. Especially solo.
At night a window cover is also a good idea for a bit of privacy. This is easier in a van where things are a little more stable, and there’s a little more room to equip things, but a quick velcro black cloth for your car's windows works super well too! Add velcro to the top strip above the wind and anchor above the door handle on both sides. If you do it correctly, you should also be able to roll it down into a tube and tie a simple knot during the day.
Secure your food as well! Bears, critters, and insects are all looking to get in as well so keeping your kitchen in a sealed container is absolutely a necessity. If possible while camping, a bear bag or bear canister is even better, ensuring your car door is not between a bear and it’s noms.
3. A Quick Getaway
Have your keys, your license, and your shoes within easy reach. You want to be able to take off at a moment’s notice if you need to if a cop, security guard, or random weirdo decides it’s time for you to go. Having the ability to sit up and go is irreplaceable. By going on the road, you also sign up for whatever may come. This can be a variety of events from weather, to people, to animals, to the insane, but always keep your ability to head out in your back pocket. Part of the benefit of this is that you aren’t bound to a spot.
4. Don’t Skimp on Personal Hygiene, or That of your car.
Use lotion, foot powder, brush your teeth, floss, wash your socks. These things will allow you to keep going. Without them you will start to fall apart physically and that is a fast slide and hard to bounce back from. Deodorant, Floss/Toothbrush, and washing your socks/underwear are probably the most important parts. Now keeping your car clean is just as important too.
At the end of the day take the 15-30 minutes to reorganize your little world, and allow yourself the chance to make that extra space to work. You’ll be glad for it at about 2 or 3 in the morning when your ability to change the situation is much more quickly impeded. Or when you come back soaking wet and have to figure out how to dry your gear inside of a honda civic.
5. Living loose is not living lazy.
Don’t sit around. You have time. Use it. Go out and hike, write, find something to do. Dirtbagging with no objective is an easy way to become sedentary. Life is so easy day to day, why not chill out? If you want to make it sustainable though you need to be active. I won’t say working, but you definitely shouldn’t be a pudge. Keeping active also keeps you out, and away from your vehicle, which if you’re spending a lot of time in it means a lot! Don’t be a dirtbag, be a dirt bagger. Verbs are good in dirtbagging.
6. And on the flip side, Enjoy it!
You did it! You’re over the cliff thelma, enjoy the ride! Well, hopefully not with the same results. Dirtbagging is a great thing, and it lets you hone in what you’re looking for. As a way of living, if you want to focus on something, it’s perfect.
In my case, the highest quality cannabis, and hiking while I’m in between in some of the most beautiful trails in the world. There’s a reason rock climbers and mountaineers pursue this way to the exclusion of all else.
And while you may be a little out there, it’s a little fun to thumb your nose at others because of what you’re doing. A lot of the things that we enjoy, a consistent place to stay, certainty in our schedule, and other trappings are a lot easier to drop than you may think. And the ability to replace that space with your focus is an incredible gift as well that many others will envy. Your “job”, life, day to day, now simply is the extension of your passion and ability to keep yourself running.
Passion is a fickle beast, but Dirtbagging can help keep it alive, letting the simplicity of your life, make room for the abundance of experience you consume.
7. Trust your gut at a location. ‘
There are plenty of places you will pull into, and pull back out of. If you see a spot and get a weird feeling, leave. Your gut and eyes are your best instincts, and if your gut says one thing and your eyes confirm it’s time to leave. Better to get interrupted one night and have to move than to pull into the wrong place and put yourself in a bad situation.
8. Mind your manners.
Don’t be obnoxious to other dirt baggers. If you’re pulling into a rest stop or campsite late at night, please minimize your noise. Slamming car doors, pumping base, and being an obnoxious frat house hiker will not endear you to your spot neighbors, staff at the rest stop, or the cops. Even just a thank you or a hello can transform someone’s understanding of you. Now you’re a face and a voice, not just a person sleeping in a car.
Discretion is key when dirt-bagging and the vibe you give off is often the vibe you’ll get back. Play it cool, and often others will too.
9. Don’t overstay.
Staying overnight is one thing. Staying a few days is another. Hit the road during the day and occupy yourself. Only come back really between 8 and 9 pm and try to be out by 6 or 7. Many rest stop staff and highway patrol will see your vehicle. They just will, and they know. So stay on good terms. Obey the rules, try to stay out of the way, don’t abuse your priviliges or the facilities.
If you need to come back to the same spot, make sure that you do so respectfully and without assumption. Also try to hit up a different place each night. Hit the northbound rest stop one day, hit the southbound rest stop coming the other way.
10. Water and Food.
Don’t just hit fast food places or pick up bottled water. Not only will this drain your funds, but they’re not a great way to consistently supply. Keep a couple of large containers you can easily fill and pull from.
You need to have access to water, snacks/meals, and a steady stream of healthy calories. This is one of the areas that Is, in an odd way, one of the more important, and one that many people forget. You have to hydrate or die-drate and that’s a fact. If you are going to dirtbag, do it as well as you can. Make sure that you are eating healthy, resting between activities like hiking, biking, climbing, and drinking water. All the water. Constantly.
Keeping water around means that you can stay hydrated and allows you to keep going. Not having a snack is one thing. Not having water is another.
Free is the activity? Not without being able to show up. You need to be hydrated and have fuel. Look for cheap, calorie heavy, and self contained packages. This keeps food from sending out waves of smell once opened, and also keeps you from spoiling extra food. As much as you need is the name of the game.
Better to pick up the amount of food you’ll need for a few days, plus a few easy meals just in case of emergency. Big bags of meat, veggies, or dairy are big no nos for the most part however, unless they’re dried or agedsomehow.
I hope this simple guid to dirtbaggin has been helpful and can’t wait to see you on the trail!