I hate to travel. Don’t get me wrong; I love going places. I love to hunt and fish in exotic locations. I love to spend time with family and friends in cool new destinations around the country. But these days the getting there can really stink. Air travel has become nothing but a Greyhound bus with wings. No leg room and noisy people. If it’s within 10 hours, I am probably driving. I’m a middle-aged man, and I’ll make a rest stop whenever I want or need to, thank you very much.
But I do love to pack! Getting ready for the trip is half the fun. I love planning for all the different scenarios that I might encounter and then having exactly the right gear and clothing for every possible situation. This is true for family vacations and especially true for adventure trips. Wool socks and slippers; check. Lightweight wicking top with rain shell; check. Ball cap, warm hat, cowboy hat; check. Brown trout on dry fly; check. Tailing redfish; check. Flushing quail; check. You get the idea.
My family thinks it’s hilarious, but I start packing weeks in advance. The guest room becomes Travel Central as I begin laying out clothes, camo, and fishing tackle. Soft-sided duffle bags, rolling suitcases, and plastic tubs all have a place in my arsenal based on travel mode. Then perhaps the biggest decision of all: big Yeti, medium Yeti, or am I relegated to the small zippered Yeti? They say men overcompensate with fast cars; I say it’s the size of their cooler and how many stickers it has on it.
“Prepack” is the new working term for my process. I will pack and unpack each suitcase, duffle, or rod tube at least three times before leaving. Because I am so afraid of forgetting something, I overpack. This prepack process allows me to weed out duplications or bad decisions. Almost anyone can get the socks and underwear right, but getting just the right mix of technical layers for temperatures ranging from 80 down to 29 is the stuff of seasoned vets.
The truck is also prepacked. Luggage, coolers, and people all have assigned areas. Everything is placed in the truck and then ratchet-strapped into place. It’s all done at least twice so that nothing shifts or squeaks.
How did I get this way, you ask? Isn’t there medication? I started very young — our family drove to Canada every summer. Station wagon, roof rack, fishing gear, dog, Styrofoam cooler. Four people, two of them smoking. My brother and I flopping around in the back of that wagon like rag dolls. Seatbelts were just a twinkle in some car designer’s eye back then. It was brutal.
Later in life I coached college soccer, and packing the team van for 24 brain-addled frat boys almost put me in rehab. Twice. They literally could not remember their jockstrap or two matching socks, let alone the game balls. I was a molder of men and den mom all rolled into one.
I then took a turn as a fly fishing guide. Contrary to popular belief, guiding has very little to do with catching fish. That’s the easy part. Keeping a client warm, dry, and well fed out in the middle of nowhere, however, requires a great deal of advance preparation. You have to take it with you. So, I’ve learned to pack at least two of everything, especially the stuff like gloves and warm hats and polarized sunglasses.
“Travel Dad” is the term for the persona I take on the week before departure and throughout the trip if going with family. It’s basically an anxiety-riddled state of hyperawareness that at any given moment someone is forgetting something (and they are). I have been known to start pulling out of the driveway only to throw it in park and ask, “Who is forgetting something?” The family will scream and yell and call me names, and then a car door will open and someone will dash back into the house for the forgotten, but essential, item. They didn’t take the time to prepack, and I will remind them of their shortsightedness for the next 600 miles.
Chuckle if you must, but if we are ever in the Bahamas and you need to borrow a winter fleece jacket that you didn’t think you would need, it’s going to cost you! If you don’t have it, it’s because you didn’t prepack!