Post-Trip Gear List

What to pack for *after* the trip.

Most of us have our gear checklist prior to an outdoor trip.

Be it with a mental checklist, old fashion pen and paper or an Excel spreadsheet, we all like to make sure we have the proper gear, clothing and food packed for an upcoming trip.

But oddly enough, something I’ve noticed is that people tend to forget to pack for after the trip.

Some clothing and gear for after the trip is not important?

Consider this scenario:

A group of backpackers arrive at the trail head after five days in the woods. They are in their dirty shorts or pants, wearing technical shirts that reeks of stale sweat and have shoes that are muddy and damp.  The drive back home may be long.

One person in the group, however, reaches into the trunk of the car and pulls out a duffle bag.  He discreetly goes to the trees near a creek and looks like he is sponging off. A towel is stowed in the duffle that our prepared hiker uses to dry off.

The muddy shoes are exchanged for sandals. The nylon pants are exchanged for cargo shorts. And the technical shirt is taken off and replaced with a favorite cotton t-shirt.  After five days of wide-brimmed hat head, the prepared hiker also throws on a ball cap.

Our hiker makes his way back to the group who look on with envy.

The same prepared hiker pulls a small cooler out of the trunk. The beer and soft drinks inside are still cold.  He shares them with his grateful friends and they enjoy a relaxing time kicking back a bit before the drive home.

I’ve noticed people who are less experienced don’t necessarily think of packing some extra clothing and gear for after the trip. I’ve found that over the years, a few creatures comforts after a day, a weekend or many days in the backcountry make for a relaxing transition back to the “real world”.  Rather than rushing back in dirty and smelly clothes, having some comfy cotton and a cooler of cold drinks post-trip extends the good vibes a little bit.  The time post-trip  is relaxing and makes the drive back home with its bills, work schedule and other every day problems a lot more tolerable.

A t-shirt my friends made for me. 🙂

Here are some items I’ve found that work well for the post-trip.

  •  A towel: Listen to Doug Adams and bring a towel. Many trail heads are conveniently located next to a creek. Discreetly sponge off with a bandanna or even a packed wash cloth. Removing the salts and sweat always feels great and goes a long way to making you cleaner before you can take a proper shower.
  • Change of clothes: A simple thing that is often overlooked. Take off those muddy trail runners, pants and sweat soaked and salt encrusted shirt for sandals, shorts and a cotton t-shirt.  I also like to pack a ball cap that is never worn hiking.  Not only are you a bit more presentable for the post-trip nosh, but you feel a lot better, too.
  • Warm hat and gloves: For winter trips, a hat and gloves worm only for post-trip is great. A wet hat, even if it dries quickly, does not work very well when sitting still for the ride back. A nice warm and dry hat always feels good after a day of winter fun.
  • Cooler: some post-hike cold drinks are always nice. Even after a few days, I find a good cooler will keep the drinks cold.  If driving, may want to really savor that one beer or have soft drinks only.  🙂
  • Camp chairs: Portable enough to throw in the trunk and make the post-trip relaxing even more enjoyable
  • Post- trip feast at the trailhead: I love a good burger and beer after a trip. But many times the trailhead itself is a great place to kick back. The trailhead areas often have picnic tables, sometimes a good view and later in the afternoon they are usually quiet. On a few occasions, a small grill was packed and we cooked up some burgers at the trailhead. Throw in some side dishes such as potato salad and a great way to wind down the weekend is enjoyed. Sometimes family and other friends would even join us.


So pack for the trip. But don’t forget to pack for the post trip, too!


8 Replies to “Post-Trip Gear List”

  1. I live in the flatlands, so it takes a pretty decent drive to get to anything resembling mountains. I try to spend as much time as possible on the trail (using the least vacation days), so on my last hiking day I tend to do a half day of hiking. A quick clean up, a good meal, and a 7 hour car trip home.

    Truck stops are your friend. 15 bucks for a shower, and they provide the towel and washcloth. If that is not available, look for a secluded public bathroom with running water. It just takes a few minutes to freshen up after a long hike, but it makes the car ride home better, and you don’t quite feel like hiker trash when you stop for lunch.

    I always take a trash bag for in the car. I sit on that until I get to the clean up location. Then I stuff my putrid hiking clothes and boots in it to block the stench from overwhelming the car.

  2. I like heat of my car. radio. orange crush. other than that I just want to see my wife and daughter . I have two great loves, my family and the trail.

  3. A couple of days ago I got from a few hours hiking in the Big Cypress Swamp on the Florida Trail. It was great to have cold drinks, clean clothes, and a towel. I also brought along a gallon jug of water to wash off some of the swamp mud. There is very little clean surface water down here to use for cleaning! In addition I had a pail to store the mucky clothes and shoes for the ride home. One cannot avoid all the sand in the car. Sand is easy to clean out, but swamp mud, silt, grit, etc. can really do a number on your vehicle. Great article!

    BTW, I really enjoy the monthly trail show.

  4. Great tips. I also like to add a full nalgene (either into the cooler – or if that’s not in the trunk – just in the duffel bag). It’s great to have a clean, full bottle of water so no additional filtering is needed. Also, my home water tends to tasted better as it’s what I’m used to.

  5. If a stream is around the trailhead I like to buy a couple of cold beverages and put them in a mesh bag and hid them in the stream so when I am done it is right there and no cooler. You can use a plastic bag you just have to make sure to cover it with rocks.

  6. My wife ran shuttle for me on my last trip. I spent 8 hours hiking in the pouring rain and 40* temps to make it to our meeting place on time. She brought me dry clothes and a thermos of hot chocolate. Man, that was sweet!

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