How Un-hardcore We Are

Now that we’re deep into the Friends and Family Tour ‘24, we find ourselves answering questions about life on the road and feeling pretty proud of ourselves.  All the planning Tracy does, all the physical work we both do to set up camp and tear it down, how wild it is that we live with so few possessions, yada yada. Friends think we’re so cool. 

In fact, we’re actually pampered.  I talk about us living outside, but that’s by choice: all we really do is we sit outside, and that’s when we want to.  Nomad friends we’ve met on the road do everything outside because that’s the way they’ve designed their lives. They are hardcore campers. 

Doug and Melanie

These guys recently sold their “box” (their condo they used as a home base in Cleveland) and went fulltime in their Kimberly Kamper, their KK.  

Now, when this sucker is fully deployed with the Bedouin tent sides attached or the full rain walls, their living space is bigger than inside our Airstream. 

It’s still outside, though. They’re always sitting in camp chairs, always dealing with the weather. 

Their kitchen is outside, which means they run water from a plastic bin through a tube to their kitchen sink, they use propane for all heating, and they store food organized in animal-safe bins and use a very fancy cooler as their fridge, powered by batteries. It’s all very organized and well designed, but it means no matter the cold wind and rain, if you want your morning tea you have to stand out there and do a bit of work to make it.  

They have hammocks instead of a sofa, tablets instead of a TV, and a few portable solar panels to power their Starlink and other electronics. And, they have to set up the whole kit and kaboodle at each stop.  

Their stops?  Not that any of us particularly likes campgrounds, but they’re not allowed in the fancy ones like where we stayed in Brownsville because they count as a tent. On the other hand, they don’t choose overnight places like truck stops because they have to open up the KK to sleep in it, and if anything gets weird they can’t just pull away quickly.  I think of it as being limited, but they think of it as directing them to the kinds of places they want to go anyway.  

Doug has a super informative travel blog called Personal Freedom that I recommend.


Now, Carl has a pretty cool setup as well, in that he’s got a tiny little trailer he can sleep in (no need to unhitch to do so), with an outdoor kitchen like Doug and Melanie’s, and tent-like extensions on the sides and back that increase his living space in bad weather.  

He even has a rooftop camper so more people can sleep in comfort. 

Both rigs are good in off-road conditions. In fact, they travelled together in Alaska where we couldn’t go.  Which is the real benefit of being hardcore.

Shana and Marcus

These guys also own a box, theirs in Las Vegas, but they haven’t been there in three years. Instead, they’re like nomadic Goldilocks, with three camping choices.  

Gonna spend the winter in one warm place?  They use their big ol’ fifth-wheel trailer with a residential-sized fridge and tons of storage and living space. Luxury.

Gonna move around a lot to see interesting places and want something more maneuverable? Or, how about stealth camping on the beaches of Southern California? They use their camper van, Black Betty (Oh Black Betty, Ram Ba Lam!) sometimes augmented by their tent.

What if they’re parked somewhere they like but it’s overrun with people driving their ATVs around them for the weekend? They can leave whatever they’re in (in place to keep their spot) and go somewhere quieter with the van or the tent until the crazies pull out.  

For all scenarios, they have their carefully managed systems of storage and water use and electricity and bedding to make the most of all environments. They’ve got porridge for all visitors.  

Shana and Marcus have written the best posts here in this blog.

The One Factor

What do all these friends have in common that makes them uber-hardcore?  The one thing I will never compromise on?  They do not have indoor plumbing for a toilet.

Now, the two couples travel with an emergency bucket-like toilet for middle-of-the-night use, and I’ve seen Doug walking a gallon jug of pee to the portapotties in our campground, so I know they use them. But that’s for emergencies. Otherwise, they use the john wherever they can find it.  

Melanie’s favorite saying while we were traveling around Yukon and Alaska was, “It’s a great campground—they have pit toilets!” That’s her high standard, pit toilets.  Let me tell you, those things are cold, they often don’t have toilet paper, and just forget about soap and a sink. As with all these guys, they simply prepare, always packing TP and hand sanitizer. 

The smaller your rig, the more organized you have to be to get your basic daily stuff done.  So there’s a balance: how badly you want to live outside against how much you’re willing to accommodate that with changes to your habits. 

If I had a do-over, I’d vote for a smaller rig, for sure.  The amount of stress we face choosing campsites to accommodate our rig, then getting into them, is not worth the lovely couch I sit on in inside—only on rainy days! So, next time you’re tempted to think of us as hardcore, think about these guys choosing to live without indoor plumbing. That’s hardcore.  

9 thoughts to “How Un-hardcore We Are”

  1. Wow. Just… wow.
    Your blog has opened up a whole new world to me… and while we both know I could never lead this life, it is fascinating to watch others doing so.
    But pit toilets? How does one enjoy those…

    1. My comments keep getting eaten by bad Internet; I’m sorry if this is a repeat! I think pit toilets are totally worth it for those who love getting out in nature away from people. The more you sacrifice, the more you get to experience otherwise, right? 🏔️🌅

  2. Man, you guys are such bad asses. I really enjoy seeing a different way of living. Thank you for opening our eyes to it.

    By the way, when I tried to visit Doug’s blog, it said Page Can’t Be Found.