The Complete Camping Road Trip Wardrobe, Summer 2016


Every summer my family and I hit the road for a few weeks, seeking adventure and a better understanding of the world we live in.

We do our best to use dispersed camping in national forest lands, rather than stay in crowded campgrounds. We make most of our meals on a two burner stove out of the back of the car. We plan on getting dirty.

Arches are so cool.

This year our family took off for Southern Utah and Colorado. I’d give my packing job a B+; perfectly acceptable, but with room for improvement. Here’s what I learned…

Pack your uniform

The Mud and Grace Summer Essentials are largely road trip ready, so I packed up the rougher elements like the hiking shorts and trail running shoes, and left the linen and jersey to have a stay-cation in the closet. Having a bag full of familiars, rather than untested outfits was golden. The questions of the day were largely “Tank or t-shirt? Red or blue?” This eliminated that vacation horror of looking through the pictures your husband has taken and coming across a snap of yourself in something really awkward.

Stemming at Bryce Canyon
Stemming at Bryce Canyon

If you don’t wear it at home, you’re not going to wear it on vacation

I bought the long PrAna shorts four years ago because I thought they would be practical. Over the years they have slid down when worn with a backpack, rubbed terribly at the hem, clashed deeply with my climbing harness, and consistently bunched out at the pockets.

So naturally I packed them and brought them on the trip.

After taking these shorts on a 3,100 mile drive with my family, I threw them in a bag and sold them at Buffalo Exchange. If I never wanted to wear these shorts in Oregon, why on earth would I want to wear them in Utah?

The offending pants, being itchy at Red Rocks, 2014

Respect the Dust

Sand, dirt, silt, red dust, brown dust, it was everywhere. Every item of clothing, every shoe, every bag was covered (and at times filled) with dust.

And I had actually packed white clothing?

Packing with respect for the dirt you intend to play in makes any camping trip easier. When throwing your clothes in a bag, imagine them a little wrinkled and dirty. How’s that going to work? My summer wardrobe has a lot of black and white, which are not the most dust-friendly hues. I’m beginning to understand why khaki is the original outdoor sportsman color.

Not exactly shredding the gnar in Moab

Be ready for anything

I didn’t know we’d go scrambling up a canyon when I put this dress on. The Patagonia sport weight dress made the packing list because we planned to visit the ruins of the Ancestral Pueblo at Mesa Verde. Cliff dwelling is so spectacular, it calls for a nice ensemble.

Just out for a walk, right?

But when the day also included a scramble, a long drive, and dinner out, the dress hung in there. It also came in handy when my husband hurt his knee and we had to stay in a casino/hotel in West Wendover (now that’s an experience…)

Really more of a scramble than a free solo

In the ideal camping road trip wardrobe, none of your clothes should be at all limiting. You just don’t have the packing or mental space for it. By all means bring a dress, just make sure it’s ready to move.

Mesa Verde never fails to take my breath away.

Your britches may get too big for you

I am a compulsive sizer-upper when it comes to shorts. I want to move! But apparently there is a limit to how large you want your pants.

When I tried on the shorts in the store, they were roomy. After a day of hiking, they got baggy. After five days of running amok in the Southwest, getting washed in a river and laid out to dry on a scrub bush, they were huge. The same went for a few of my tops, but that didn’t present the same issue of total clownishness. Pack pants that fit.

Starting to look sloppy in Little Cottonwood Canyon

Re-purpose and share useful pieces

My kids and I ran across the gnat encrusted expanse for about a half mile until we hit the Great Salt Lake. Upon reaching the water (still gnat-full) we had to wade out another quarter mile before it was deep enough to try floating. Having come so far, we submerged ourselves in the salt water. While we did, as expected, bob like corks in the salt water, we also felt searing pain in every scratch and bite we’d endured over the last week and a half. The three of us came screaming out of the water and ran all the way back to the car.

The locals, I am told, don’t go to Salt Lake.

I learned another lesson that day as well. After a quick outdoor shower, I was so anxious to leave I pulled a tank over my swim top and left the paddle board shorts on for the drive. It was a cute ensemble. The next day I put the shorts on again and wore them with a different top. New shorts!

Similarly, when my daughter stole my hat on the third day of the trip, I asked her what I was supposed to do for sun protection. She offered up one of the hats she’d brought. From then on the two of us traded ball caps each morning, expanding our hat options. I can’t wait until we can share shoes.

Thanks for the hat, kiddo!

Insurance policies

I only wore the flannel shirt and joggers once, and I never took the rain jacket out of the bag. But if you don’t pack a warmth layer, you will need it. I could have packed smaller, throwing in silk or wool underwear instead, but I like having a warmth layer I can easily pull on, rather than strip down to get warm. No, although largely unworn, I wouldn’t want to travel without these three essentials.

A chipmunk working the crowds in Bryce.

The ultimate wardrobe

Overall, I have never felt so well prepared for a camping road trip. Getting dressed was easy and for the most part I felt presentable everywhere we went. My plan for next year’s two-week road trip? The following:

Three pairs of hiking shorts that fit

One pair of running shorts

4 tank tops, 3 t-shirts

3 sports bras

A 2-piece swim suit of top and swim shorts

1 or 2 hats, coordinated with daughter

1 pair of sandals

1 pair of trail running shoes

6 pairs of socks

1 sport weight, solid color dress

An insurance policy of 1 pair of joggers, 1 flannel shirt and 1 rain jacket

All of these items need to look good with dust, and be willing to play.

Until next time!




Grandma’s lessons for effortless style

Grandma, rocking the finger waves at her college graduation

Grandma was remarkable; a farm wife who raised four children, grew an enormous garden, led a 4-H club, was an active member of her faith community, helped Grandpa run the farm, and regularly got dinner for her family along with any number of hungry farm hands. Oh, and did I mention that in her spare moments she worked full time?

Grandma didn’t plan on teaching high school. In her small farming community it was hard to recruit teachers. When the home economics teacher had a nervous breakdown in 1956, Grandma was one of only a handful of people in the area with a college degree. While she might have preferred to stay home and get her chores done, she recognized that there was a need that she was uniquely qualified to meet. So Grandma taught Home Ec for the rest of the year. The next year they needed a PE teacher, and then an English teacher. All in all, Grandma taught for nearly 20 years without ever intending to.

Grandma’s farm-to-work style is something I’ve thought a lot about, because Grandma just did not fuss about clothes. She could get dressed in an instant and always looked appropriate for the situation.

Here is the best advice gleaned from Grandma’s closet.


Buy what you need, when you need it

I wish you all could have met my grandma, so you would understand how ludicrous it was that she was asked to teach PE. It’s not that grandma wasn’t plenty active, she was. It’s just that when you think of the typical hardened athlete that chooses to inspire by teaching PE, you don’t think of my grandma.

But Grandma could step up. When she did so, she bought a uniform of pin cord seersucker A-line skirts, and matching sleeveless blouses; adorable, practical.

She didn’t try to make her current wardrobe work for something it didn’t have the capability to cover. She didn’t postpone her shopping trip because of someone’s soccer game, or (more likely in our family) someone’s state fair 4-H project. No, Grandma went out, bought a reasonable amount of clothing for the new task at hand, and did her best.

Was Grandma ever comfortable teaching PE? Probably not. Did those adorable ensembles make the whole thing easier and more fun? Absolutely.

If you need mud boots, get mud boots.

Modern translation: Buy what you need for the task at hand. Suddenly roped into coaching softball? Go buy a few pairs of nice joggers, fitted t-shirts, and a mid-weight jacket, immediately. Have to wade through a muddy field to get to your chickens? Get mud boots, now. Find yourself cooking for the extended family every holiday? Buy an elegant hostess outfit, comfortable flats and a coordinating apron, do not wait for post-holiday sales.


Wear a work dress

In the summer, my grandma would wear one of a number of light colored shift dresses she made for herself. These dresses were knee length, made of cotton, with a yoke neckline and, of course, pockets. The dresses were easy to move in, washable and looked nice enough if anyone happened to stop by the house. I’m not sure I ever saw my grandma wear anything but a dress in the summer, certainly no pants or shorts. Illinois summers are hot and muggy, and Grandma preferred the windows open to the chill of air conditioning. These dresses were perfect for work, play and relaxation.

Patagonia makes a cute shift. Grandma wouldn’t judge you for buying new, rather than making your own.

Modern translation: Find a light summer dress that looks good on you. Buy a few different versions and don’t make yourself wear anything else. Turn off the A/C, open the windows, and let life be easy in the summer.


Take something off your beauty list

In 1956, Grandma decided to treat herself to a regular set and curl. Once a week, she would stop by the beauty salon and her friend Jean would do her hair. Jean continued to style Grandma’s hair for the next fifty years. Fifty. In all that time Grandma looked good, and she spent zero days fretting about her hair.

Imagine, not fretting about your hair, ever. What could you do in the world if you spent no time or energy thinking about your hair?

It’s not that Grandma had a ton of money for this indulgence. She and Grandpa kept a family farm afloat through the 70s and 80s, which is no small feat of frugality. But this small luxury allowed Grandma the time and energy to conquer so many other, more important tasks.

My sister and me – not worrying about our hair, either.

Modern Translation: Whether it’s a blowout, a monthly pedicure, wax or laser treatments, pick a beauty issue and hand it over to a professional. You are supporting your local economy and making an investment in your own time and sanity.


Spend money on a perfect dress; wear it to 12 graduations, 8 weddings and every other occasion until it is out of style.

When my oldest cousin graduated from high school my grandma bought a lovely dress to wear. It was a 1980s classic, with lightly padded shoulders, a belted waist and pleated skirt. It wasn’t cheap. Grandma then wore this dress to the high school graduations of her other 11 grandchildren, assorted college graduations and weddings. By the time my younger cousins were getting married in the 21st century, Grandma invested in a couple of new, more current dresses that still suited her style.

Should I buy this dress and wear it forever? Yep.

Modern translation: Don’t let the fashion industry tell you to buy a new dress for every occasion. Go into a high-end store, find a dress or two you love, and let them be the go-to for the special occasions in your life. Keep an eye on current trends, and invest in a new dress when styles change.

Choose calm focus over anxious busy

Make no mistake about it, my grandma had a lot to do; kids, work, chores, farm, church, grandkids, friends. She saw more sorrow and hardship in her life than most of us will ever have to face. But I never, ever saw my grandma lose her cool. She was grateful for her life. Despite the fact that she had to drive ½ an hour into town for sports, band, 4H, the Miss Pleasant Hill competition and/or a gallon of milk, Grandma got it all done. And then she’d sit back and do the crossword puzzle, in pen. I think it was Grandma’s calm assurance that she was doing the right thing, and that she was lucky to live such a full and rich life, that kept her from the anxiety that plagues so many of us today.

Grandma, looking good at a wedding in 2001

Modern Translation: Be grateful. We are busy in this frenetic world, but women have been busy for generations. When you feel frustration building, think about how lucky we are to have our full and rich lives. Take time to care for yourself and your appearance, but don’t let it be the focus of your life. When you need to, draw in a deep breath and channel the spirit of a smart Midwestern lady with a beautiful smile and great hair.

The Lazy Girl’s Summer Beauty Strategies

Truth be told, I’ve never been one of those women who loves make up and beauty products. I didn’t experiment with make up as a child, I never took the time to learn about skin care in my teens.

If fact, my lowest grade in college was Theater Make Up (Yes, that was required for my major.) I would have failed had the poor professor not taken pity on me and gave me some credit for effort.

On my Mud and Grace style journey I’ve learned that a little really can go a long way. I’ve adopted a minimal beauty routine I can maintain for most of the year. But in the summer? Seriously? I just can’t be bothered with creams and powders and straightening agents. And even when I do make the effort, I find myself with lovely straight hair and fabulous make-up, confronted by a river I really want to jump into but can’t because I don’t want to ruin all that work.

Me, being super lazy about my beauty routine. Lip gloss, no hair product, no make up; ready to jump in any river that comes flowing my way.

I’m motivated to find any treatments that allow me to spring out of bed looking good enough for all normal purposes. These cost a little upfront, but ultimately save money as I wear no make up, and never feel like I have to run out and buy something to look right at the last minute. Here is a collection of my findings for minimal effort summer beauty routines won’t slow you down or hold you back.

Number One: Get you eyelashes tinted

My friend Jessica illustrates the easy beauty of tinted eyelashes.
My friend Jessica illustrates the easy beauty of tinted eyelashes.

Yes, that can happen. Rather than mess around with mascara that runs and clumps no matter how water-proof it claims to be, tinted eyelashes allow you to pop out of a sleeping bag looking fantastic with absolutely no effort at all. For years I would look at summertime pictures of myself and think, “Why do my eyes look so small?” It was an eyelash thing. Tinted lashes frame my eyes but look natural. And while you are at the salon…

Number Two: Go for professionally shaped brows

Me, not worrying about my eyebrows at Yosemite.

Finding a good wax treatment is golden. Stop in once a month for 15 minutes, then don’t waste one moment thinking about your brows in between treatments. If you’ve tried professional waxing before and didn’t like the results, find an esthetician with good reviews, and bring in several pictures of the brow shape you are looking for. A well-groomed brow polishes your look instantly and effortlessly.

Number Three: Eat your sunscreen

“Um… ew,” you’re thinking. But hang with me.

We live in an age of extreme sunscreen application, and for the very fair skinned among us this will save lives. But humans have existed on this earth for centuries with no sunscreen at all. Louis XIV lived to be 76, had no major sun damage, and he was The Sun King.

As is turns out, nature had a way of protecting us all along. Vegetables.

Such a delicious way to protect against sun damage.
Such a delicious way to protect against sun damage.

We all know that eating lots of fruits and veggies is great for out skin,  but did you know the carotenoids and antioxidants found in veggies improve our sun tolerance, helping to both prevent and repair sun damage?

Here’s what the Wellness Mamma has to say on the topic

All that said, if you live in a sun-intense climate and are fair skinned, keep on applying protection, just add veggies into your sun screen arsenal. Your skin will thank you!

Number Four: Pick between the two hairstyles of summer

Hair Style A: Short enough that you have no responsibility to do anything to it.

Hair style B: Long enough to pull up in a pony tail, or wear in braids.

It’s hot, muggy and my hair is being funky. Braids!

Stay away from the bob and complicated layered cuts, unless your hair falls perfectly on its own. Mix up your look with a bandana, Buff or ball cap.

Can I think of a lazier hairstyle than a ponytail?
Yes. Yes, I can.
A Buff says, “You don’t know how many days I’ve slept in my van with no access to a shower.”

Number Five: Keratin treatments

Being of the frizzy hair persuasion, keratin makes everything easier. I used to hesitated to swim, or even sweat, for fear of not wanting to go back and take another 45 minutes to wash, dry and straighten my hair. Keratin is, essentially, hair (or rather the chemicals that make up hair) that the stylist applies. It strengthens, thickens and smooths, moving you from fizzy lumps to smooth waves, depending on your natural hair texture. Check with a stylist about how keratin would affect your hair. After 40 years of fighting with my hair, we are now at peace. Thank you Keratin!

Number Six: Remove all non-summer clothes from your closet

Wouldn’t it be great if every piece of clothing in your closet was something you can, and want to wear right now?

Whose turn is it today?

Clearing your drawers of winter’s sweaters and wool pants will allow your summer wardrobe to breath and expand. Hanging in your closet, and filling your drawers, should only be clothes you will wear over the next two months. Box up your ball gowns, off season clothes and ski parkas, and allow yourself a sparse and simple wardrobe for summer. (Here’s mine; Mud and Grace Summer Essentials)

Hang everything so you can see it. (Yes, I know Marie Kondo suggests folding, but there’s something so wonderful about being able to see everything!) Dressing is a snap when you don’t have to wade through three sizes of out-dated, out-of-season clothing.

Goodbye friend! I’ll see you in late September.

So there you have it, six lazy girl summer beauty strategies. Do you have a summer beauty strategy you’d like to share with Mud and Grace readers? Send it in, along with a picture, for our Inspiration section.

Travel lesson I learned from my stylish friends in Sedona


Three friends, five days, 115 degrees; the girls’ trip to Sedona was awesome! With a plan to hike in early mornings and evenings, then run around the hip town of Sedona in the heat of the day, I stashed a selection from Mud and Grace Summer Essentials in my pack. But I was curious to see the clothing my friends would bring. More experienced outdoors women than I am, Ann and Lynette also are beautiful, with the sort of easy grace of women who have known what to wear and what to pack for years.

Ann, Lynette and me on a 6 a.m. hike.
Lynette, looking elegant in 100 degree heat heading up Cathedral Rock.
Lynette, looking elegant in 100 degree heat heading up Cathedral Rock.

Lesson 1: Beat the sun with technology

You’ll notice the chic little scarves both of my friends are wearing? It’s not to elevate their hiking boots with a Parisian detail. They are cooling bandanas. You soak the little scarf in cold water, and retains the cold for hours. Plus you look adorable.


Next, check out Ann’s robin’s egg blue shirt. We’re pretty sure that Ann is Scottish royalty. She’s good with horses, hates to cook, her skin burns with the hint of sun, and breaks out in hives against any jewelry that’s not 100% precious metal. Her long-sleeved shirt was cool sun protection for every hike we took. REI and Columbia have nice options. She also brought light, colorful scarves to keep the sun off her decolletage.

Ann and I in our solid color, sport weight dresses. Ann is rocking some stylish, product free sunblock.
Ann, rocking some stylish, product-free sunblock.

Lesson 2: Free and easy makes for stylish downtime

A casual evening on the town.
A casual day in Jerome, or evening on the town.

“I want to steal that dress right off you!” a woman told Ann as we were wandering through a lovely little shop. You can’t blame her. The simple silhouette and color blocking with the embroidered neckline are just gorgeous. Lynette’s patterned shorts and swinging silk top are fun but still elegant. Like Lynette, the ensemble is up for anything.

Even the graffiti in Jerome is stylish.
Even the graffiti in Jerome is stylish.

Lesson 3: Pick a color

You’ll notice that in almost every picture, Lynette is wearing white, Ann is wearing blue and I am wearing red. Too bad we weren’t there over the 4th of July. Both my friends complimented her primary color with black and tan, but most of what they packed was in one color that looked great. There certainly is a time and place for trying new colors and stepping outside your comfort zone, but we had plenty on our plates without fussing about new color combinations. Simplicity is stylish.

Lynette, competent horsewoman. Ann, accomplished horsewoman. Me, desperately trying to keep my horse from running away and/or eating grass.
Lynette, competent horsewoman. Ann, accomplished horsewoman. Me, desperately trying to keep my horse from running away and/or eating grass.
Feelin' the vortex
Feelin’ the vortex, inadvertently coordinating with the rock.

Lesson 4: Pack light, buy a remembrance.

Ann and Lynette both wore one necklace, a wedding ring and one cocktail ring. Then we went shopping. Learning about jewelry is part of my Mud and Grace journey, and Lynette and Ann were great people to learn from. Lynette found a gorgeous ring. Ann took a long time in choosing this perfect bracelet.

Ann’s turquoise bracelet

I found this fun bracelet. Next step? Learn to wear it with confidence.



Lesson 5: Bring the best, leave the rest

Much of the success of this trip was in what we didn’t bring, but it wasn’t just excess shoes or a second maxi dress left in the closet. Here’s a list of what to shed before you even hit the TSA line.

Leave behind your insecurities, and with that your jealousy won’t want to make the trip. My friends are smart and beautiful, and sometimes I feel like a spare-parts corgi trying to keep up with a couple of greyhounds.  But these girls love me despite, and even because of, my goofiness.

Don’t pack in your diet, and ditch your body image issues. A few days away from home with great food, and I don’t have to cook or clean up? Yes please! And I’ll have bread with that, thank you.

Leave your guilt at home. Do you want your kids to grow up to develop strong friendships? Your children will benefit by watching you deepen relationships with friends, and take time for yourself. You’re not leaving your family, you’re setting a good example!

Ultimately, the most important pieces we brought weren’t in our wardrobes. On this girls’ trip I learned to never forget the following: a few childhood stories, trail-map reading skills, and one or two really good pieces of gossip. A ready laugh and a relaxed attitude take up no space in a carry-on, and always come in handy. Finally, throw in a little curiosity, empathy, generosity and wonder, and you’re set for a magical vacation.

Sedona girls' trip!
We’ll be back!