Saturday, March 30, 2019

The Great Prius Adventure: Beatty & the Spicer Ranch

Headed over to Beatty to see if it had changed much since the last time I was there back a couple decades ago. It seemed bigger, but maybe not. Stopped at the small museum to ask a few questions regarding what to do in the area...the museum person said that we should head over and check out the Spicer Ranch where you can bike ride, hike, camp and so forth. We jokingly asked about showers and she said she thought they were set up for that as well.

So off we went in search of the ranch. When we arrived, we were pretty amazed to find a very large tract of land set aside for mountain biking with a little donations box.

There were teenagers from Las Vegas participating in a mountain bike race. We watched for a bit, talked to a lady who turned out to be one of the owners of the place, and ended up taking advantage of the wonderful shower facilities. And yes, we left a donation!

On our way back to Beatty, we decided to look for a few Geocaches, though we passed up the one at the old Angel's Landing (think red light). Ended up finding one right on the highway in front of a place that sells every kind of military ammo can and other boxes that you can imagine. Had quite a conversation with the owner -- nice guy, but a bit on the conspiracy theory side of life.

The Great Prius Adventure: Death Valley to Rhyolite

Rolled out of the back of the Prius this morning and made our way to Zabriskie Point to view the sunrise.
No time to get dressed, so we just took our coffee making resources and hiked up to the point in our pajamas!

We stopped and set up our camp stove to make a relaxing breakfast at Hells Gate (Death Valley National Park) before heading out to Rhyolite and the Goldwell Open Air Museum.

Thursday, March 28, 2019

The Great Prius Adventure: Death Valley

After spending a couple of days with Mom, we headed to Death Valley for some warm weather and desert camping. We were pretty pleased to find a campsite at Texas Springs - the one campground that does not allow generators. So, we bought a pass for three nights and got busy enjoying the sights.

Texas Springs Campground
Shade across from our site!
View up the road.

Shower Time
Prius car doors come in handy!

As most tourists to Death Valley do, we checked out the Furnace Creek Visitor Center, though it was only about 80 degrees, so not much of a furnace! The exhibits were updated since my last visits -- and it was really, really awesome to see two miners highlighted in the displays: one male and one female. So cool. There was also a really great display about the native people of the area, the Timbisha Shoshone.

We also took advantage of the ranger talk at the old Harmony Borax Works site. Again, the talks have been updated to include a variety of perspectives as well as the natural environment.
Furnace Creek Visitor Center
Harmony Borax Works

Our next day, we took the Golden Canyon Trail/Badlands/Gower Gulch Loop hike. Clocking in around 4.6 miles, I wish we would have had our poles at a couple of points.   


Tip: If you go - bring plenty of water and prepare for total sun exposure. If you are at all nervous about heights, you might skip this hike.

Saturday, March 23, 2019

The Great Prius Adventure: Brannan Island State Recreation Area

Today we drove from Eugene, Oregon to Brannan Island State Recreation Area near Antioch, CA.We were pleasantly surprised to find a wonderful and little used campground on the Delta. This was our first overnight in the Prius.

With the Habitent put up and the air mattress readied for sleeping, we settled in for the first night. A couple of take aways:
  1. We were very happy with the roominess of the Prius. Much bigger than our backpacking trip.
  2. Get everything set up, because although it feels roomy, it won't when you are trying to find your headlamp, hat, etc.
  3. The condensation factor...because we were in a coastal area, there was some condensation. And, with foam board window coverings, making sure to keep it to a minimum is important. I figure that I may need to make new coverings at some point.
The park itself was really lovely, and included 3 miles of paved walking paths. This was impressive; I especially enjoyed the signs for hiking and fishing for the alternatively abled.

Tip: There were also flush toilets and 50 cent showers, though the bathrooms were not very clean. During the two nights we were there (in late March),  we pretty much had the place to ourselves.

If you enjoy fishing or canoeing, this is the place for you.

Friday, March 22, 2019

The Great Prius Adventure: Gear for Small Spaces

Thinking about this trip and how to gear up for it was a blending of our strategies from ultralight weight backpacking, bike packing, and camping in our pint sized popup.

Rule 1: Minimize the clothing.

Yes, car camping is different because you are doing things that you might do in everyday life, but also things when you are camping.

For this trip, ranging from days in the 50s-80s and nights in the 40s-60s, we needed a pretty wide variety (t-shirts to long sleeves, shorts to pants). When it is cold, you wear the same things. When it's hot you wear the same things. When it's in-between, you get to wear something clean! 

Generally speaking, I have three days of clean clothes, one pair pjs, one puff coat. After sleeping cold the first night (it was really damp), I added a hoodie for sleeping (I really don't want to sleep in my coat and wear it all day when it is cold -- yes, I will do this when I'm backpacking, but not on this trip!).

Rule 2: Take only what you need.

From past trips, you pretty much know what won't get used...the only thing that I want to take along that won't get used is a first aid kit and warm gloves.

Rule 3: Sleeping must be comfortable.

For this trip, we purchased a Klymit Double V sleeping pad at Costco. It's too heavy for backpacking, but perfect for the Prius because it fills the entire sleeping area. To complement it, we have the X-Lounger miniature air pump (USB charged!) that I bought on Amazon. It's great!

Rule 4: Provisions and food prep must be self contained.


The best addition we made to our camping gear last year, were a set of collapsible water bags. In the "old days" we had a 5-gallon blue water jug, but the fact is, it's a pain to pack and awkward to carry. Swapping it for the water bags was awesome because they can be stored anywhere when empty and are easy to carry when full. In the Prius, we are able to store one in the back tucked into a nook of the sleeping platform, another next two it and two on the floor in the back seat.


We do have a tiny ice chest which is really for the beginning of the trip or times when we can score ice along the way. BUT, we are camping in Death Valley and ice doesn't go far.

For us, self-contained food is a must...T has Celiac disease, which means that most of what we find in small out of the way places are off limits. So, we plan ahead, especially when going to places with limited options and rely on carrots, nuts, apples, bananas, chocolate peanut butter(!), gluten free bread, and a number of backpacking meals. Now, I know what some of you will say -- those are too expensive. BUT, when you think about it, we had dinner last night for about $8 for the two of us, had zero clean up, and it was pretty tasty.

We will be adding a page on how we dealt with backpacking food on our latest trip.


We use our backpacking stove, the Primus Eta Express Stove. It's great and boils water FAST, especially when you are camping below see level!

The Great Prius Adventure: Preparations

The most important part of this trip was getting the Prius ready for sleeping.*

The Platform

In the 2017, there is a pretty good cavity in the cargo area - almost a 3" drop from top of the folded down backseats to the bottom of the cargo area.

To deal with this, I used some scrap plywood and old 2x4s that I cut down on my table saw so that I had the correct elevation. With those screwed together, I stapled down some left over carpet.

Voila! A level sleeping area was achieved!

Back Seat Foot Area

The second thing we did was to figure out what we would put in the rear passenger foot space to extend our sleeping area.

On one side, we used two of those plastic shoebox sized containers (clothing storage) and a small ice chest. On the other, we have a small "milk crate" style box which we turned upside down -- under it are a pair of shoes and the rear headrests, which must be removed for a more level sleeping experience. During the day, a food bag goes into the crate and it is stored on the seat. On top of the crate are two more plastic shoebox sized containers, which hold all of our snacks, topped by one large thin rectangular plastic box that serves as a catchall.

*Credit to the Prius Camping Facebook group for some of the great tips that we have implemented.

2019 The Great Prius Adventure

This spring break, we decided to gear out the Prius for a two week road trip.

Why? Well, we have read up on "van life" and since we don't have a van, we decided, "hey, why not live in the Prius? People do it all the time!"

The following posts outline our two week spring break camping trip, including where we stayed, hikes we took, and other adventures along the way.

Happy trails!

The Great Prius Adventure: Preparations