Dirtbag Fun Facts: Numbers and Tips from My Experiment with the “Dirtbag Dream”

Sitting on the back porch.

For the past two months, my boyfriend, Tommy, and I have been “living the truck-life dirtbag dream”–well trying to at least. In that time we drove from New Hampshire to California and back, sleeping in the back of Tommy’s 2009 Toyota Tacoma, plugging gear, clipping bolts, bouldering and scenic-overlook-bagging. Here are some trip stats and a few tricks for living in the back of a truck.

My favorite bearded bouldering bud and truck-mate drinking my favorite brew: Coffee. Oh, and that’s our home in the “background.”


Weeks on the road: 8
Nights spent in hotels: 4 (2 of which were due to sub-zero temps on the drive home)
Number of showers taken (including those taken in hotel rooms, laundry mats, truck stops and private homes): 6
$$$ Spent…

THE LONG ANSWER: Probably a few more than the average dirtbag: We ate A LOT of food, we wasted A LOT of gas getting lost and not always camping near the crag, and a few other things summed up with: It was our first attempt at full-time dirtbagging.
THE MORE SPECIFIC ANSWER: I spent little over $1,200 including Christmas presents bought in National Park gift shops.
You could definitely spend less if you eat more oatmeal and consistently camp closer to the next day’s climbing than we did.


Bishop’s Happy Boulders do in fact evoke happiness. Heavenly Path (V1 highball) is a must-do, four-star jugfest.

CLIMBING AREAS VISITED: The New River Gorge, Horseshoe Canyon Ranch, Box Canyon, Joe’s Valley, Red Rocks, Bishop (The Buttermilks, Happy and Sad Boulders, and Owens River Gorge)

Overall, Bishop–The Buttermilks are my new favorite boulders (Sorry Joe’s, but the Milks are easier to find and have better landings and views of the mountains), the Happy Boulders do in fact evoke feelings of happiness, and sport climbing bolted cracks (that are too chossy for safe gear placements) in the Owens River Gorge was super fun. In short, I want to move to Bishop.
Honorable mention: Horseshoe Canyon Ranch for dude-ranch, vacation-style sport climbing–so much fun if you’re a die-hard bolt-clipper (and even if you’re not).

MOST BELOVED CAMPSITE: The Bishop Vons parking lot

LEAST BELOVED CAMPSITE: A busy, more-than-well-lit Walmart parking lot just south of Hartford, Connecticut

NATIONAL PARKS VISITED: Arches, Canyonlands, Death Valley, Grand Canyon, Zion

The Grand Canyon and my hiking boots.

FAVORITE NATIONAL PARKS:  Arches and Zion, but that’s just because I got to be closer to the rocks I was looking at. They’re all well worth visiting.

FEELINGS NOW THAT IT’S OVER AND I’M HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS: Going home for Christmas (home cooking, presents, a fireplace) definitely softened the end of the trip blues. However, I’m still struggling to accept (and utilize) the fact that I can shower daily. And sitting inside by the fire with unlimited WiFi access doesn’t evoke the same joy as awkwardly dancing at the base of boulders to stay warm between chilly burns.


Tommy on Atari (V6 R), arguably one of Bishop’s most aesthetic lines.
  • East-Coasters: Use lotion daily in the desert, not just after showering.
  • A wet wipe a day keeps feeling dirty at bay.
  • If you’re sleeping in the back of your truck under a basic topper, you’ll want to drive with the topper windows cracked whenever possible to let the nightly condensation dry. (Cracking the windows overnight essentially does nothing to prevent moisture buildup).
  • When free camping, a weekly truck stop shower (about $5 for unlimited hot water, soap and a towel) is highly recommended. Some laundry mats also have this $5 amenity. Just watch out for higher prices ($10 for a shower?!?!?!) in big cities like Las Vegas.

5 Comments Add yours

  1. Julia Hart says:

    I’m so impressed with how many showers you took in those two months! What an awesome story!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Essays on the Rocks says:

    Was the $1,200 just your share, or the total cost between both you and Tommy?
    If it was just your share, what do you think the cost would have been if you traveled solo?


    1. Liz Haas says:

      The $1,200 was my share, and we tried to split costs as evenly as possible. However, if I had traveled solo (paying for all the gas to drive coast to coast and back but significantly less in food, since Tommy eats more and more expensive foods than I do) I probably would have spent about $1,800. Shopping grocery store sales for all your food and keeping extra driving to a minimum would the easiest ways to spend less that I did. (Tommy eats an avocado a day, which adds up.)


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