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Minimizing and Simplifying- The Art of Packing for a Boat Trip

By: Rick Layzell

Minimizing & Simplifying – How to cut the clutter and make packing the boat a pleasant experience

Our time on the water plays a crucial role in our relationship. It’s when we take time for each other, enjoy moments with friends, and truly unplug from the day to day mayhem. Packing excessive amounts of gear and slogging endless bags of unnecessary luggage– that is simply not ok for us.

In 2020 we got "2 footitis," sold our 23’ runabout and bought a 32’ cruiser (math was never my strong suit). The runabout was easy – a boat bag for towels and extra clothes and a cooler for the daily supplies. Admittedly I got excited thinking about all the goodies I could bring for each trip with the new cruiser. Seriously – our boat Meant 2 Be has 2 fridges and loads of storage space. On our first couple of overnights, I added unnecessary stress with far too many back and forth trips to the truck. Sitting on the bow one Friday evening, after an awesome meal and a stellar bottle of red, we decided it was time to talk about minimizing and simplifying – all of which would yield fewer trips back and forth and get us on the water faster and with way less anxiety.

We started with our clothes – for real, I think I brought enough for a week on our first one night overnighter. I had 2 pairs of swim shorts, 2 pairs of walking shorts (did I mention I wore shorts to the boat) countless t shirts, 2 hoodies, heck I think I even brought a pair of jeans. All that with several pair of underwear and socks was all packed into my roller suitcase which I use for flying.

The minimizing solution was to stash a full set of basics in the mid cabin, bring a max of two pairs of swim shorts, one pair of walking shorts (the pair I wore to the boat), one short and one long sleeved t-shirt and one hoodie. Seriously – it’s one night and BOOM! Just like that the luggage dropped by 50% or more.

Next up towels – you guessed it, we originally took 6 towels for one night – 2 each for swimming and one each for a morning shower. I should mention that Meant 2 Be has high and dry bow rails perfect for drying towels (and loads of those big clothes pins to keep the towels securely on the rails while they dry over a warm summer night). Smart towel management and our towel lugging was also reduced in a big way. The right beach towels helps too.

The idea was floated that we needed ‘boat bags’ and my significant other set to work finding what would be suitable for our needs. We purchased a total of three from a company called ThirtyOne. Two are labeled with our last names (for our personal items & towel) and one is branded as Meant 2 Be for whatever the boat needs (clean bedding, dry snacks etc.). There are lots of great options for boating tote bags. These bags have great shoulder straps and carry easily, they’re made with durable material, are quick and easy to clean, and they fold super flat so they can be readily stored on board.

Up next was food. I’m the cook and I love to cook with loads of flavour, but I sure as heck don’t plan on spending all day in the galley. We have ample room to store basic seasonings like salt, pepper, garlic, Caesar rim spice, BBQ sauce, peanut butter etc. One of the first things I realized was that there was no need for a giant container of BBQ sauce – a simple well sealed container gave me more than enough. At the same time, though, I had brought a huge container of peanut butter. You guessed it, that too went into a small, well sealed container.

The biggest lesson on food is to do some advanced prep and smart shopping. We have found some marinated pork chops locally that we both love – perfect on our little BBQ – at about 1 ½” thick they are about a 1 ½ beer cook to reach perfection. And because they are pre marinated they are simple – no extra rubs or sauces required on board. The same butcher has amazing steaks & chicken and our home made burgers are to die for. We buy bulk where we can and freeze them in packages of two, then only bring what we need for the meals on the next trip.

Over the course of the summer we experimented with several different salad kits to go with our protein. There’s lots of choices out there depending on what you like and the beauty is once you open the bag everything you need is right there to add the perfect side to your meat choice. Pro tip – keep a couple large ziploc bags on board – leftovers and extras can be readily stored for use later and they can be selectively rinsed and reused.

Breakfast – starts with coffee. We are not coffee snobs but we do both enjoy a good steaming mug or three in the morning. Meant 2 Be is a 1997 Regal, so the on board coffee pot has seen some wear and after a few challenging morning experiments we have found the perfect mix to get our morning kick. We both like cream in our coffee -- one of the kids' small water bottles has become the perfect companion for getting our cream into the fridge (ok, once in a while mine pivots to Bailey’s).

Neither one of us are big breakfast eaters so toast and eggs have become the norm. The right amount of eggs are also packed in a suitably sized container and sit beside the suitably sized butter container in the fridge.

Mid day snacks – there are endless choices. We both love charcuterie so I pre-slice meats and cheeses, pack in some grape tomatoes, a few of my favourite olives, a fresh baguette and we are good to go. We even acquired a very cool serving dish for veggies and dip that has it’s own built in ice packs in the base.

The handy wine cooler bag has many uses

Our cooler – this one’s important – has wheels. If your goal is one trip from truck to boat then a cooler on wheels is a must have asset. But wait….what about ice? Bags and bags of store bought ice…not for us. We pack one bag of cubes from the home ice maker and pre freeze a couple wine cooler bags to take with us. They fit perfectly into the cooler and BONUS, when they eventually melt, the water – which came from our filtered home system, makes for perfect drinking water. We bought 3 of these online last year and will continue using them this year.

Drinking water is important on board and we found some 5 litre jugs at a local shop (I think they were $2 each) and simply refill them at home as needed. These do get a bit heavy depending on the length of your trip but the importance of hydrating cannot be understated. Using these also means we don’t have dozens of empty water bottles kicking around. You can also divvy up the water from the large jugs into handy individual water bottles.

We also bought good quality mugs with lids – perfect for our morning coffee and our afternoon cold beverage. There are lots of great choices out there – ours are Bubba brand.

Arriving back at the dock and managing the reverse run also has to be easy. The now empty cooler becomes a carrying device for recycling and trash while the boat bags haul back the dirty clothes and bedding and the lightweight water jugs are a one finger carry. And we go from boat to truck in one trip.

Whatever kind of boating you do, taking a few moments to minimize and simplify can truly help you to focus on making memories, enjoying the water and being together. It sure works for us.

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