In three days my almost-six-year-old son and I will set off on a month-long camper van adventure. We’ll celebrate his sixth birthday on the road. Sometimes I stare at him, unable to account for whole years, wondering when exactly he grew from a baby and passed through the toddler years into this knowing and capable boy. Like so many other parents, I blame my task-driven nature, the pesky habit of saying I need to grow my business and fully move into my house and finish my book before we go off on an adventure.

This year has been full of reminders – from watching a family member approach death to reading about accounts of friends’ live aboard sailboats sink after Hurricane Irma and hearing about a close friend’s house burnt to ashes in the recent North Bay fires – that neither our homes nor our tomorrows are guaranteed. Blowing in the wind I hear time and again, forget about making the construct of your life too precious, go out and live with intention.

That’s why we are doing this trip now, not next summer when it coincides with his summer break or after my to-do list is all crossed off, in the process transforming every available surface as a staging area for essential gear. Beyond the snacks, essential oils, bug spray and sunscreen, I wanted to share five essentials we’re packing for a minimalistic and back-to-the basics month.

The Wonder Bag – I’ve been in a whole food groove and started looking for ways to keep it going while car camping. this portable slow cooker doesn’t need to be plugged in, fuel or batteries. Bring a meal to a boil, cook for five to fifteen minutes depending on the type of food, and then bag it up anywhere to cook for up to twelve hours, freeing up cooking time for longer hikes and rides.

Plus, for every Wonder Bag purchased in the U.S., one is donated to a family in need in Africa where it’s estimated that one Wonder Bag per year saves 1.7 trees, 1000 liters of water, 1,248 hours not spent collecting firewood.

Solar Lanterns – Stick these lights in sunlight, solar battery facing up, and give them a good charge to benefit from up to seven hours of bright light. Solar lanterns inflate so they also compress into a flat surface, making them easy to pack. They are completely powered by the sun so don’t require additional batteries.

Books – As a mom I feel guilty every time my son places himself in front of a screen and refuses to budge no matter how beautiful the day.  For a  month, we’re going screen-free and we’re packing actual books to rediscovr the lost art of reading print.

Journals – Nothing like pen to paper to process thoughts. I ordered special journals from Etsy to inspire us to record our journey and reflect at the each day’s end.

Water Bottle/ Foam Roller – My foam roller is the one piece of gear that keeps my IT band happy, especially after a long drive or hike. Since we’re going as minimal as possible, I was reluctant to bring along the extra bulk, so we happy to see this water bottle that doubles as a foam roller. The foam insulates too, keeping water cold. It’s a win/win – self-massage while staying hydrated.