Items I can’t live without (Jon’s Take)

In a previous post Pamela talked about items that are important to her (so far) on this trip. I agreed with some of the things on that list. The following are items that I feel are things that I enjoy, appreciate and/or couldn’t go without during #VanLife and regular non-travel life. The following list is in no particular order, expect for how it just rolled off the fingers and onto the keyboard.

TP Therapy massage balls and foam roller:

I’ve been a fan of Trigger Point since day one, 14 years ago. They’ve always made great products and the ever evolving product line continues to find a place within my daily life. I use the foam roller on a daily basis to help with loosening up my back and my IT bands. After hours of sitting in the driver or passenger seat of the van, a little roll does the body good. In addition to the foam roller ,my other go-to products are the massage ball and the massage stick. The ball I use while driving to help hit that hard to reach tight spot around my shoulder blade. Furthermore, I will place my glut (alternating sides) on it, while driving, for some muscle release.  For me, the massage stick is great for moderate pressure on the quads, calfs and neck. Between driving from point A to B and riding my bike for hours on end, Trigger Point items are keeping me mobile and comfortable, which is a great start to this trip.


Penny and Pamela relaxing post TP Foam Rolling Session

AllStays App:

I came across this app while doing some research on the RecGovCamp app, which Pamela told me about. In looking at this app I came across AllStays. The beauty of AllStays is that it allows us to filter desired camping options anywhere in North America. It list Walmarts (haven’t used their parking lots nor do we want to), BLM Land, National and State campsites, Overnight boonedocking sites and more. The app does cost $9.95 and it’s the most expensive app I’ve ever purchased. One of the great features is that the app works while you have no service. It uses the GPS function of your phone to locate you and can still show you it’s list of available offerings.  We’d be lost, literally, and likely exhausted without it.

Wifi Pro App:

I was educated about this app from Dakota (Aka Traipsing About). He had suggested this app in one of this recent post. So I did a little digging into it. After talking with Dakota in Portland during our visit, he said it was pretty good in offering up available hot spot locals. The price for this app is $3.95 (paid version 1000x better then the free version). The paid version provides the user with surrounding hot spots and also for un-locked/public hot spots. A great tool for those times when you just don’t want to drain the data plan on your cell phone service, a balance we are working on finding.


Where was this little nugget before we left Boulder?!?!?. I’m not sure how I missed it but I did. Our friend Cyndi just bought one and Pamela had seen her post about it and, again, I missed it. The WeBoost is a device that helps strengthen your cellphone providers cell service. Why doesn’t our cell phone provider just have a stronger tower or offer this device to people? I’ve asked myself this same questions for the past month since we bought ours. I was skeptical about the device working. Good thing I didn’t bet on it not working. I’m stunned at how well it does work. For example, it will take 1 bar of Verizon LTE and enhance it to be 4 bars of LTE. It’s also boosted 1 bar of 1X to be 3 bags of 3G. The purpose of the purchase isn’t to be tethered to our phones every waking minute, but it offers a little peace of mind knowing that should shit hit the fan with the van and we need to call for help (if there’s any service) we have the ability to do so. Note: The WeBoost can only enhance an existing signal, it can’t create service out of a No Service reading on your phone.

Scrubba Washbag:

This was a little gift from my mother in-law. She was always asking how we planned to do laundry on the road. Besides the obvious of visiting a laundromat or using our friends facilities, we would just recycling gear (joking). It’s something we had thought about knowing that once we hit Alaska we’d be without certain things from time to time and doing laundry was one of them. That’s the beauty of the Wash bag; it’s a combo dry bag with little bristles. Think of the 1800’s and picture someone washing clothing on a rock, and now imagine a kayaker with gear in a dry bag. Not that fancy but very effective. It’s ideal for washing our cycling and running clothes. I’ve washed regular tee’s, but athletic gear drys much quicker and needs a bit more TLC to ensure that it doesn’t get funky.


Penny and Pamela relaxing post TP Foam Rolling Session


Penny and Pamela relaxing post TP Foam Rolling Session

Mountain Standard Performance Hoodie and Packable Wind jacket:

During the big pre-departure purge, I had donated a few jackets that I didn’t need or want. There were also a few jackets that were just past their prime and I wanted to upgrade. One of the things that I drastically reduced inventory of was my hoodies. I had too many to count really. Now I have just one and it’s my new “lovey”. This hoodie is my do anything and everything in piece. From the time I wake to when I go to bed, it’s pretty much within arms reach if I’m not already wearing it. The fabric is great and has a great wind blocker and the hood is large enough to fit over a baseball hat or beanie, without feeling too snug. The thumbholes in the cuffs are great for when Penny and I stroll along a beach, keeping that little extra part of my hands warm. If I could change one thing it would be the zipper ties. The zippers are nice, but the little string pieces always come untied and I’ve actually lost a few. It’s not something that can’t be fix own your own, but it’s just a little annoying to have to make a new tie, when you’re living in a van 🙂


Enjoying a cup of coffee and Penny enjoying a moment with Dad in my favorite hoodie…ever

The other MS piece I have which I love is their packable wind jacket. One of the first things I liked about it were the colors. The blue and black is a great combo. The other thing was how compact it can become. This piece is packed and always at the ready for me. I’ve used it on a few trail runs in Olympic National Park and I’ve even taken it on a ride along the northern California coast as it packs up smaller then any other cycling jacket I own. It’s extremely wind proof. It breaths well but not great. I overheated on one trail run and felt like I was Rocky training in a trash bag :-). Joking aside, this jacket is great, the hood fits over a cycling helmet if needed and it’s a great item have when packing light.


Penny and Pamela relaxing post TP Foam Rolling Session

Good To-Go meals:

One of the goals of our #VanVentures is to cook fresh meals. It’s safe to say that we’ve done a great job of this. We’ve rarely eaten out. Yes we’re foodies and love eating out, but we’ve actually eaten out less on this trip than if we were actually still back in Boulder. Funny how that works. Just before we took off my mom sent me a care package which contained a few Good-To-Go dehydrated camping meals. The beauty of the dehydration is that it allows the food to keep more of it’s flavor and color when re-hydrated, vs your standard freeze dried variety. The note she included was adorable. She called out that it was a Maine company started by a chef who fell in love with hiking and wanted a better alternative to what was available for backpackers to eat and things they could pronounce. My mom, knowing that Pamela and I greatly appreciate this fact, were intrigued by the meals. At first we were unsure if we’d really use them though, given our desire to cook, but me..I’m always game to try something new…and it was a Maine company with similar ideas as Skratch Labs.  About a month into the trip in Big Sur, we were not really motivated to cook, so I suggested we have one of the GTG meals. So we boiled some water and waited 20 minutes for the magic to happen. Waiting for the timer on my phone to reach zero seemed to take forever. I think it was a mixture of being overly hungry after riding and also wanting to taste how the Vegetable Indian Korma was. Well, the first bite I had was amazing. There was a real broccoli flower and other veggies and the taste of yogurt in the sauce. I wouldn’t say it would win in a blind taste test against Biju Thomas and his Little Curry Shop dishes, but I’d say it would get a solid second, which really is first place in VanLife since I can’t hang with Biju right now. So safe to say we’re big fans of GTG Meals since Big Sur. We now have a nice little stockpile in an assortment of flavors at the ready mainly for when we’re in Alaska, but really anytime. They are so good it’s hard to save them.


Pre Good To-Go meal


Hot pot + GTG = Magic


GTG on top of Kale..Yeah!

Rinse Kit and water key:

I’ve had my Rinse Kit for about a year now. I wasn’t sure how much I’d really use it once we took possession of it. I thought it was a so-so item when they had first tagged my IG account and left a comment on a van photo. After some back and forth DM’s and emails, they sent one for me to test out and use with the van. I’m grateful they did and I’m thankful they did. The Rinse Kit is a great asset to have in the van. It makes giving the bikes a quick bath a breeze (for those times we get pretty muddy and the chains need extra TLC). It’s also great for giving Penny a quick bath for those times she gets a little sandy and muddy during our trail runs and moments of unleashed running on open beaches. Over the last year I’ve started to seeing the kits available at REI and local hardware stores. I strongly suggest that you go and acquire one for your Vanventures. A few additions I’ve added to my Rinse Kit, a universal water key and a collapsible hose. You know the one you’ve seen during those late night TV Infomercials. 🙂 The hose helps to have for a just in case and the water key is great for when you really need water for the rinse kit or for the van, and the spigot doesn’t have a nob. The key allows you to access the spigot without a problem!

The one accessory I’m really exited for from the fine folks at Rinse Kit is a bike pump adaptor. This will allow for the re-pressurizing of the water inside the kit, should it have been unused for an extended period of time. The other item I’m waiting on is a hot water adaptor. There’s been rumors of this piece for a while now. The idea is that it works off your car’s 12v system and a dipstick would be inserted into the water res, allowing you to have hot water in a few minutes. Brilliant… It would make washing dishes that much more enjoyable for Pamela (Cold hands aren’t fun). I hope that in the coming months these accessories become available and I’ll just have to find an adequate drop ship location during our travels.


RinseKit with my water key and collapsible hose


These items are not “need” to have items but really “Want” to have items. But if you ask me I NEED them. I’m a closet music buff and audiophile. This started back in college when I was at Saint Joseph’s University in Philly. I was working at the Bryn Mawr Running Company and the owner, Bob Schwelm was a huge music nut and audiophile. His passion for new sounds and quality were infectious and it’s stuck with me to this day, 20 years later. Thanks to my good friend Stereo (His nickname), and his passion for music and being an audiophile like no other I’m now educated on what MP3 should really sound like thanks to him educating me on AudioQuest’s DragonFly. The Dragonfly is a device that converts mp3 from so-so sounding to near vinyl quality. Every guitar strum, tapping of shoes on the floor and symbol vibration can be heard as clear as can be. Even Pamela (who’s partially deaf in her left ear) LOVES the Dragonfly and she buys into it after listening to the difference. While in Santa Rosa, CA, we had the pleasure or meeting and riding with Patrick Brady, a well know cyclist and writer and audiophile. We got to talking about the Dragonfly and let him sample some sounds. Once the music started to course though the Nighthawk headphones and Dragonfly, Patrick literally had goosebumps sprouting up and down his arms and legs. I think it’s safe to say he enjoyed the sounds quality.


The magical Dragon Fly!

The other piece to the great music puzzle are the headphones. I’ve had my share of noise canceling headphones. So many so that Pamela rolls her eyes every time I want to buy a new pair, either because I want to see if they live up to the hype or because I left a pair on a plane (luckily there are no planes in the near or far future for me). The one thing I’ve noticed about headphones is that they can’t really “do it all”. They can’t let you listen to great sounding music while also giving you the ability to make a call. Their ability to cancel out ambient noise is nice on planes when you’re surrounding by crying babies, but they also don’t allow the music to shine. I feel that many noise canceling devices create white noise which can be irritating over time. Just my two cents. The Nighthawk headphones are acoustically outstanding. The sound quality is unmatched and the comfort is excellent. They are over the ear headphones so trying to be discreet about anything is out of the question. If you really want to hear the best that your music should sound, the looks won’t matter, you honestly forget you’re wearing them after a bit due to how comfortable they are also. My vote for your future and only pair of headphones dedicated to listening to music are the NightHawk’s from AudioQuest…#WorthEveryPenny.

Penny Love:

Speaking of Penny. One of the things I can’t imagine taking or doing without on this trip of a lifetime is Penny, AKA Penny Love. I couldn’t do this without Pamela, but that seems to go without saying :-).

Penny though, she’s a special one. She truly is a Therapy Dog for Pamela and I in our own way. She’s been amazing when interacting with folks we’ve met, both dog and non-dog owners. If you were thinking that we get lots of folks asking about the Ellie (The Van), you’d be wrong, we get more folks wanting to say hi, pet and just she hello to Penny than we do who are interested in checking out the van. We’re not complaining about this one bit. If people are interested in our dog and not our life’s belongs inside a metal box on wheels…GREAT.

Over the last month, we’ve finally gotten into a groove of camping, hiking, trail running, biking and chilling. Penny has taken to all of this like a dog takes to…well, being a dog! At only 3.5yrs old she’s a bit of a puppy still with her curiosity and desire to not listen to commands. She’s also been getting used to the routine. She’s up with us and down with us, at times before us. Many nights Penny will put herself to bed around 8pm. Then just after the sun rises, she’ll rustle until I get up and plunk her on the bed for a morning cuddle with Pamela as I make our Pablo coffee.

Cuddle time with Penny is a special time. It’s a small moment, but a moment that both Pamela and I cherish it as keeps her happy and us happy!

Being happy on this trip is something that we both feel and know we’ll continue to feel in the months to come.


Campfire cuddles


Penny acting as naviguesser


Enjoying a little beach freedom…on a very windy day…Those ears 🙂

2 thoughts on “Items I can’t live without (Jon’s Take)

  1. Love reading about your adventures and experiences. And admit to being envious!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s