The Packing List: Active Girls’ Weekend

Several years ago, I struggled to pack a bag for a trip to central Oregon with a group of girlfriends. An oversized case held nearly every article of clothing I owned and nothing to wear. Fast forward a few years, throw in my own personal fashion bootcamp, and last month I was able to joyfully and decisively throw just the right articles in a bag and head out the door  join friends for a weekend of outdoor exploring.

Currently, many Mud and Grace readers are in the middle of a 40-Day No-Buy. I figure, since we’re spending less time shopping, we all have more time for fun. So go plan a girl’s weekend and pack ’em up!

Here’s the formula for a 3-day, outdoor-focused trip: Mix-and-match activewear, one-and-a-half “town” outfits, one awesome pair of lounging pajamas, a cute coat

We arrived at Smith Rock at 6:45 on Friday evening. It was still light as we headed up Misery Ridge, but that light was fading fast as we headed down the back side. And you know what’s really creepy in the dark? Monkey Face. Forget climbing it, I just wanted to get away from that hunk of rock as quick as possible.

Mix and Match Activewear

My activewear is mostly black, white and grey. If I ever feel like throwing in a splash of color it’s easy enough to do, but for the most part I feel good in black, white and grey.

For this trip I brought tops and bottoms in varying weights and lengths, then layered as needed. Since we were doing everything from late evening hikes to mid-day runs*, having a variety of activewear that I could pull on and off as the weather changed was key.

Evening hike (Vest: Eddie Bauer, T-shirt: Old Navy, Leggings: Lululemon)
Mid-day run (Jacket: Lululemon, Tank: Old Navy, Best Running Shoes Ever: Nike Pegasus Zoom, Shorts: Under Armour)
Afternoon hike (Jacket: Lululemon, Tank: Alternative, Leggings: Girlfriend Collective)
I really should have re-thought the full length leggings for this particular hike.

One-and-a-half town outfits

When I get together with Ann and Lynette, there’s always at least one trip to shops and possibly a tapas bar. I like to have something in my suitcase that’s fashion-forward, but still me. That generally consists of Frye boots, jeans and a cute top or sweater. While we only had one trip into Bend planned, I still brought a second top incase I wasn’t feeling the first.

I love the detail on this shirt, smocked top, bell sleeves. But the gunmetal grey color keeps it low-key. It’s perfect for a half-tuck into jeans.
I’ve had this silk-blend sweater for years. It always works.
An easy hack to look put together while traveling: match your bag to your boots. (Then set them on a vintage trunk in gentle lamplight and photograph)

Lynette and Ann had similar town ensembles, only each clearly in her own style. Lynette wore a gorgeous white sweater with a deep V in the back, black boots and dark jeans. Ann also had jeans and boots, and a beautiful taupe sweater with a coordinated blouse. The proprietress of a coffee shop liked Ann’s top so much she gave Ann free coffee. Now that’s a sweater!

I can’t remember the name of this place in Bend, but it sure was fun…

One awesome pair of lounging pajamas

I love these so much. And honestly what’s a women’s weekend for if not a little lounging. Or a lot of lounging.

It’s like a pants suit for lazy people.

A cute coat

Just check the weather, and pack your favorite.

You can’t go wrong with a cute coat. You could pack the worst combination of clothing ever, then throw on a cute coat and no one will ever know.

Looking back five years ago, I realized a big part of the problem with my packing was feeling like the weekend was so special, the clothes I already owned wouldn’t do it justice. I also wanted to “keep up” with my stylish friends. A few years of wisdom under my belt,** along with a concerted effort to honor the fact that I really do love clothes, I realized that when you have what you need for your everyday life, you have what you need to travel. Pulling out my favorite pieces to spend time with some of my favorite people was a snap. I’m hoping to take a girls trip to Seattle this winter, and can count on my wardrobe to be there for me when I start packing.

Until next time!

*We had every intention of going on that run in the morning.

** Has anyone else noticed how much smarter we get between the ages of 40 and 50? Honestly, it’s so awesome.

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!




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!