At a wagon train packing demo a couple of months ago a seasoned wagon train adventurer told us she brings 16 pairs of socks for wagon train. 16! Whoa! Since then, I’ve asked around, and all of the seasoned folks are the same, sock-crazy! I still don’t know why I’d need 16 pairs of socks, but I became obsessed with finding “good socks.”IMG_0758 I inventoried my outdoor-adventure socks (the ones without holes) and came up way short…and my disposable socks from Costco were not worthy of an adventure. So I sock-shopped, I gagged at the prices (OMG!), shopped for bargains and then splurged. Now I have 10 pairs amazing adventure socks!  (Yes, I will run them all through the wash once before I pack them – cuz’ new fabrics have loose fibers that cause all kinds of problems, especially when shoved into boots.)


I have to make a deal with myself to wear a seatbelt in a car, but I always wear a helmet when I ride or drive horses. I’m from the east coast, I grew up riding English where helmets are part of the outfit and it’s as automatic as underwear. My helmet has saved my skull more times than I can count.  I don’t wear a helmet because I am fearful, I wear it because I am fearless.  

I think wearing a helmet is cool. I have no idea why anyone would scoff at wearing a helmet, but I don’t judge others and I don’t preach about it. Apparently, not wearing a helmet is a west coast thing and when you turn 18 you are magically invincible and no longer “required” to wear one. But, I don’t preach. Kids under 18 years old on the wagon train are required to wear a helmet to ride in the wagon or ride a horse, and helmets are provided.

I’ve collected a few helmets over the years, and I have a few in different sizes so I can always offer one to a guest who is riding or driving with me. None of my hard hats are fashionable or expensive, I was never trying to make a statement and I was not one of those girls who cared about how my hair looked. Still don’t care. If my hair looks like I was wearing a helmet, well, that’s because I was wearing a helmet and doin’ fun stuff and how cool is that?

I don’t need a new helmet, but I used wagon train as an excuse to buy one. Not an expensive one, but, even less expensive helmets have come such a long way in comfort and features since I was a kid (when plastic was first invented). My new helmet is lightweight, perfectly padded, has a one-handed clasp and easy adjustability – oh Baby! I love my new helmet! I want to sleep in it! It makes me want to do more fun stuff and I feel totally cool wearing it!
So, I confess: I wear a helmet and I love it.


I confess: I like sleep. I’ve worried about not sleeping on wagon train, so that’s another thing I asked a lot of questions about. Sleep is critical to how you will feel all day long. Will you be exhausted and grumpy, or refreshed and ready for adventure? I wanted to be refreshed and ready!

Sleep is also very personal – everyone needs something different. I won’t bore you with my own sleep-picadillos, but I want to set myself up for success so I’m mostly following the advice of one well-seasoned wagon train adventurer, Leslie McLeod.  Leslie describes her bed roll, fashioned after “The Old Time Capriola Bed Tarp,” as follows:

img_3148“Components are sleeping mat, wool blanket, 0 degree or better sleeping bag, pillow, bivy sack, large laundry bag. Put wool blanket in bottom of bivy sack, sleeping bag on top of it, roll and put in laundry bag.

A small tarp, piece of sail cloth or tyvek also works really good in place of bivy sack.”

Leslie is also the author of a few very helpful documents found on

What to Pack:

What to Expect:


Guidelines for Securing Equines:

Packing for the Weather

I’ve asked a few people about what the weather might on this adventure. Here’s how I summarize all of the answers: roll a pair of dice. Whatever two numbers come up on the dice could be the high and low temperatures for the day. For example if you roll a one and a six, the low will be 16 and the high will be 61. OK, well that’s a slight exaggeration, but it would be a mistake not to be prepared for anything. What I’m taking is wool and flannel as an option for sleeping, a warm coat for cool mornings, and T-shirts for hot afternoons, a knit hat and gloves for cold, a brimmed hat for sun/rain protection and a raincoat, obviously, for the inevitable rain shower. I confess I might be over-packing (and over-thinking) but I’m also bringing my longjohns and I’m not rolling the dice on being comfortable.

Stephanie Rosenbalm, a well-seasoned youth wagon train adventurer and Swamper-Who-Is-Really-A-Teamster on a mule drawn wagon, tells me this about her packing plans:

“I pack all my clothes in a back pack and plan on wearing a single pair of jeans for 2 days. Shirts I pack one for almost each day. I pack a couple coats/sweatshirts and socks for everyday plus a few extra. I pack a swim suit for the days we will be swimming and I pack a pair of sneakers, wear my boots, and also a pair of water shoes.”

“Wagon Master Tips for Packing and Being Prepared For Wagon Train”
… the final word on packing, from our Wagon Master, Jeannie Rosenbalm

Sleep, especially the first few nights as you are getting used to new/unfamiliar noises, can be hard to come by. Some people bring sleep aids, like Benedryl or Melatonin, and sleep with ear plugs. (We will have some extra ear plugs if you need some.)

Being warm enough is important to sleep, so you can put an extra flannel sheet inside your sleeping bag to add another layer and bring a knit hat to help keep the heat in.  If you use a cot, make sure to have equal layers underneath as well as on top of you to keep warm.  A foam/inflating pad can also help w/ comfort and warmth.

Bedding and other gear can get dirty with loading and unloading so having a garbage bag or canvas bag helps to keep out the dust and dirt. Who likes a dirty pillow? Not me!

I like Leslie’s plan for rolling up your bedding so you just unroll one piece/unit and you’re done!  I keep my pj’s in the sleeping bag so I don’t have to dig for them in my stuff.

I like tie my bedding items together with baling twine; it’s easier hold and carry, load and unload.  Marking your bags uniquely to help distinguish it from the other black canvas bag that someone else packed and brought.  Think luggage pickup at the airport.

A hat is mandatory for sun protection and you’ll also need sunscreen – a sunburn is not only painful, it could ruin your trip and it will make it hard to sleep!  

Bring swimsuit/towel/water shoes – there will be water around and you need the water shoes/old pair of tennis shoes on for safety!!!

Leave one set of clothes in your car that you will wear home on Friday.  This way you don’t pack it around, it doesn’t collect dust along the way and it makes it easier to make stops in civilization on your way home and you won’t smell and look like you just stepped out of the woods without a real shower for a week.

A day pack, like a back back, is a good way to pack your snacks and other things you want on the trail.  You’ll need a water bottle – you can put it in your day pack or put it on a string/strap to hang it and keep both hands free.

Bring the snacks you like to give you some energy on the trail. Peanuts, trail mix, M&M’s can take care of the chocolate craving and they don’t melt like other things because they have the coating….just don’t squish them. There is no shortage of snacks and food, so if you need something, let us know.

Pack LIGHT! You will only need a few days worth of pants/shirts and then you can do washing/laundry on layover day.

Use your bucket to sit on and pack stuff like your mess kit – so I grab my bucket and I have all I need go to the breakfast or dinner chow line. You can also pack a camp chair, but make sure it’s LIGHT – you pack it in, you pack it out. A note from Leslie here: “pack everything need for morning (mess kit, toothbrush, etc.) in your bucket to put on the truck last so you can pack up everything else before breakfast.”

Staying clean and fresh is a challenge, so bring Babywipes for freshening up.  You can also bring a solar shower.

Bring a flashlight for those late night trips to the biffy, and a few extra batteries.

If you are bringing a knife – which can be helpful – make sure it is SHARP; dull knives are dangerous.

Have a lightweight raincoat just in case.  Pen or pencil for journaling.

Pack your curiosity and a sense of adventure!  Bring Pioneer clothing if you have some OR at least have the spirit to wear some for “family pictures.” Start thinking of skits, hidden talents you have to share with the group as we have a “variety show” one evening.