Trains, Planes, & Automobiles: The Best Vehicles for Climbing Trips

As climbers, we don’t need much, but one thing we definitely desire is a means of getting to the rocks we incessantly dream about. When it finally comes time to plan a climbing trip, figuring out the best transportation for getting to those destinations usually crops up as step one.

Do you borrow your mom’s minivan? Fly there? Or do you spend your entire savings account on a built-out Sprinter Van? It can be a hard choice, but hopefully this will aid in your climbing trip decisions.

Let’s go backwards, because why not …

 

Automobiles

The basis of most climbing trips. 90% of the time this is what will get you to the crag and back. Road trips let you see all the geography and also provide a unique mixture of incredible frustration and memorable moments. I once drove 5 people, a dog, and 1000lbs of gear 19 hours through Mexico in a 2-door Toyota Tacoma. That was memorable, but I would not jump at the chance to repeat it.

truck in Mexico
Truckin’ along to Mexico. Photo: Kevin Boyko

Lets take a look at your (or your friends) vehicle and why it’s rad:

Camper van

The epitome of luxury, and the top scorer. If you drive a van, you are pretty much climbing royalty and everyone wants to be your friend. You’re living the vansion life.

Top picks:

Sprinter Van, Volkswagen Vanagon, Ford Econoline, Westfalia Eurovan, Sportsmobile Van

Volkswagen Vanagon
Photo: Marius Strom
Sportsmobile
Sportsmobile. Photo: Steve Mestdagh

Check out Alex Honnold’s van set up:

Truck

Definitely a step down in comfort from the sought after van, but will go pretty much anywhere. Having a truck says you’re a little rough around the edges and you don’t take no for an answer.

Top Pick:

Toyota Tacoma (aka, the gold standard in climber trucks)

climber truck

Toyota Tacoma
Toyota Tacoma. Photo: CJ Crosby

Minivan

Great for commuting to the crag or to the Grateful Dead concert. I’ve also seen vans get to some gnarly places. Just make sure you clean it before returning it to your mom …

Web

Top Picks:

Toyota Previa, Honda Odyssey, Toyota Sienna, Chrysler Town & Country, Dodge Grand Caravan

minivan life
Photo: Steve Schroeder
Camper van
Photo: Laurel F

SUV

Similar to the crag truck, but for people with more friends.

Top Picks:

Honda Element (aka, the Hotelement), Honda CR-V, Toyota 4-Runner, Jeep Grand Cherokee

Honda Element
Photo: Maria Ly
Jeep Grand Cherokee. Photo: TJ Flex.

Sedan/compact car

Great for commuters and efficient. Nothing wrong with a normal car.

Web

Top Picks:

Subaru Outback, Toyota Matrix, Honda Fit, Toyota Prius

Subaru Outback
Subaru Outback.

Motorcycle

Some next level stuff! Let me just say, if you travel around on a motorcycle, you’re a badass. Kerouac would be proud! Web

motorcycle
Photo: Nicolas Mirguet

Web

Trains & Buses

Great if you’re in Europe, not so great if you’re not … I like the idea of train travel but it tends to be slow, inconvenient, and more expensive than you would think. Buses are similar: I have a friend that took various Greyhound buses from Boston to Smith Rock for about $40. Which sounds great right? Cheap ride and see the country! But it took over a week of nonstop buses, a lot of backtracking and going out of the way, waiting in sketchy stations with sketchy people for transfers, and sitting next to a few meth-heads that couldn’t control their bowels. I’ll just leave it at that …

 

Planes

Obviously, when flying to a climbing destination one needs to take the minimalist approach. The bottom of the bag holds the essentials: rope, gear, sleeping bag, bivy sack, a little pot. You can get by without utensils, but you are going to need a little pot, something which can be used to cook over an open fire. As for the “utensils issue,” a nut tool is a climbers best friend. Nut tools—apart from the obvious—double as a fork, knife, can opener, shank, spatula, emergency tent stake, shank, and bottle opener  … among other things. Rarely is your carry-on checked for weight; so if you carry your bag as if it’s not heavy, you can get away with having a lot of stuff. If you think you will have to explain what an object is to the TSA, stash it under the plane. But remember to keep it under 50lbs.

 

Conclusion

Climbing trips are hard to plan and harder to execute. Sometimes you may find yourself using a combination of these options. Being flexible is key, and whenever a difficult or inconvenient situation arises, it’s usually what is going to make for a good story. You’ll be well on your way to having an adventure.

A photo posted by Kevin Boyko (@thundercling) on

 

Now to you

Are you the proud owner of a badass rig? Share your setup and preferred way to travel in the comments below!


Additional contributions have been made to this article by: Natalie Siddique

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  • Dan_Neufeld

    I will add my vote for the minivan. The cargo space is amazing, and better than a truck. From the back of the front seats, it’s 8ft. to the back hatch. That’s more room than a standard 1/2 ton pickup, and there’s more room to crouch than a pickup with a shell also. As for efficiency, it should be 8, as my Dodge Grand Caravan gets 30+mpg on the highway. All while having 285hp for more than enough passing and hill climbing power.

    There’s also a built in DVD player for movie nights at the campsite. I bet your Vanagon doesn’t have that ;).