Guest Post: How to Turn Your RAV4 into a Camper

A few years ago, I converted my SUV to a camper by building a platform bed in my 2009 Honda CR-V. It’s still a super popular post on this blog– link to the post here. Every so often, folks reach out to me by email or Instagram DM with their own stories and how-to’s on how they converted their car or SUV, so I decided to start featuring them.

Here’s Aric Sparmann on converting his 2008 Toyota RAV4 into a camper. All photos courtesy of Aric.


Four years of sitting behind a desk for sixty hours a week starts to make you wonder what you’re missing after awhile. The idea of waking up someday as an old man with nothing to show but a lifetime of paperwork is sort of terrifying to me.

I spent most of my time staring out the window, so I decided that’s where I was headed.

I work as a kayak guide on the weekends now. A slow transition away from the dealership I still work at on the weekdays. When I have more free time I prefer to bicycle tour. But the location of the kayak shop is almost two hours away! There’s no sense in driving back and forth everyday, and it’s tiresome to do anyways. Hotels are expensive after awhile. What else could I do?

I’ve literally been driving the answer around every day. I became inspired by Instagram posts of people traveling full time in conversion vans or busses that they’ve made into homes. I didn’t see any reason I couldn’t manage something similar with my 2008 Toyota RAV4.


I removed one of the backseats and laid the larger of the two down flat. Old comfortable couch cushions wrapped in sheets make up the bed. A sleeping bag and pillows on top. Sitting where the other seat was, is a wooden shelf. There is plenty of storage for towels, books, and clothes underneath. A fan, some silverware, obligatory bottle opener, a candle, and an iPod speaker are on top of it. The warm glow of Christmas lights strung around the headliner make it even more cozy. My surf board fits along the side and reaches back between the shelf and the door. My kayak rides on top of the vehicle, with the seat and paddles stored in the lower storage area in the trunk next to back up survival gear, first aid, water jugs, jumper cables, and dehydrated food (ya know, just in case). There’s even a Playstation Two under the seat that plugs into my cars radio unit for rainy days.

Most campsites don’t cost more than $20-30 a night and offer power and water. An extension cord and a power strip light up the interior and charge my devices. The car battery gets disconnected once I park as the rear gate being open keeps the BCM awake and drawing power. But campsites aren’t always available and sometimes I get to rough it with no luxuries. Sometimes that just makes the weekend more exciting!

It’s a tight space, but a cozy one that I call home on the weekends. It makes the weekday drag more tolerable, and has only provoked a strong desire for more.




Check out Aric’s adventures on Instagram at @asparmann. Questions for Aric? Email him at Have a car or SUV to camper conversion you’d like to submit for me to feature? Shoot me an email at


You Will Have Haters

And they’ll be loud sometimes. For real. They’ll get inside your head and make you think you should just be quiet.

I write personal development for adventurous people. I also write about things I believe in, including social & racial justice. This grinds a lot of gears for some folks. It’s political. Well, whoop dee doo– I’m over posting neutral content. I’m over seeing it. I’m over the idea that we should try to appeal to a wide audience. Over. It.

Having an opinion based on your values is way more important than trying to get people to like you.

There was a time when I took everything personally. I can’t anymore.

When you exist on the internet, the one negative comment you get (out of however many) will be the one that sticks, I promise. It’ll be the one you zero in on– the one you let define you. But you can’t let it stick. It’s not personal.

Haters come with the territory when you say anything at all that takes a side. Giving enough of a fuck to take a stand is worth it. It’s not really about you, it’s about a bigger picture, so release yourself from having to take everything as a personal attack. Choosing to stand up for anything says far more about the strength of your character than a few (or even a few hundred) negative comments.

I wear my values boldly because I believe that’s how you get shit done. Anyone can tell me that my values or beliefs are wrong, but that doesn’t mean they are right in their accusations.

You do not exist to make other people feel comfortable. Your actions speak to your priorities. What do you care about, and are you speaking up about it? Standing up? Showing up? When you decide to do so, I’m on your team.

I have been called many names on the internet– some that I am not even comfortable repeating. But it’s the internet. Is anyone surprised?

Getting hated on means I had something provocative to say in the first place. Many agree, some will not. It is hard to have a peaceful conversation with someone who is determined to bring you down. So if that isn’t going to happen, let it go.

When you live in your truth, people will disagree with you loudly and rudely, online and in person. You cannot let this dampen your spirit or dim your light. More people need your ideas, your vision, and your love more than you will ever know.

We have to give a fuck about things that matter, and we’re always going to get hate for it from someone, somewhere.

And I guarantee that amidst any negativity, there will be a day when you will get an email or comment that simply says, “Thank you for speaking up.”

It will be the only reminder you need that now is not the time to be silent.



Photo snapped by Adaeze Azubuike.


2016 Gift Guide


I wanted to put together a list of stuff I use and love, not because it’s sponsored by anyone, but because I thought you’d like it. I describe my style as refined grit– and so, this list is for the sophisticated explorer in your life. Someone who gets after it outdoors but enjoys little luxuries too.

This list includes stuff from companies that I work with and companies I have nothing to do with. Whatever you choose to buy this holiday season, remember that you are voting with your dollars.



Burt’s Bees Lip Balm / $9.01 for two at Amazon
Burt’s Bees has been my go-to chapstick for a while now. Lately I’ve been digging the tinted lip balms, but the original is still great too. A solid choice for a stocking stuffer.

Bananagrams / $12 at REI
Bananagrams is like Scrabble but better and you can play it anywhere. A great game to have and bring on trips!

Topo Designs Accessory Bags / $13-17 at Topo Designs
Full disclosure: I modeled for Topo a year ago and got a bunch of swag. My favorite things from them? These bags. I have one for makeup, one for stationary supplies, and one for memory cards & tech. They are also super durable and Colorado made.

Moleskine XLarge Soft Cover Cahier Journals / $14.69-$19.95 for three on Amazon
The only journals I use. I have been writing and sketching in these for ten years– they are durable and slim so they can go anywhere.

SugarSky Bandana / $22 at SugarSky
A few months ago, SugarSky sent me a couple of headbands, and I haven’t come across any bandanas that I like more! Their patterns are awesome– you are sure to find something for every style.



Tarteguard 30 Sunscreen Lotion / $32 at Sephora
Give the gift of SPF! I have been wearing this for months as my daily moisturizer and really dig it– I was surprised to see that it only has 4 stars on Sephora! The packaging is annoying for travel since it’s in a pump bottle, but I have been really happy with the formula. I only buy cruelty-free cosmetics and this product is vegan.

Goal Zero Switch 10 Portable Recharger / $39.95 at REI
I don’t actually own this, but I really want one. I’m always running out of juice. There are plenty of portable rechargers out there, but Goal Zero makes durable stuff so I trust that this is no exception.

BioLite Powerlight Mini Light / $44.95 at REI or Amazon
BioLite gave me one of these to try over the summer, and it’s pretty darn handy. It keeps me visible on the trail and it’s a great light to have for reading or hanging out inside a tent. It has multiple modes and is super slim so you can pack it anywhere.

Ethnotek Chiburi Travel Organizer / $50 at Ethnotek
My friend Tiffiny works for Ethnotek and gave me this to try. I have never been one for travel organizers– they just always seemed uncool and over-the-top. I was shocked that I not only continued to use this, but I liked it a lot! This is like a bigass wallet that fits your phone, passport, cards and money. Plus it has a zip pouch for coins.



America The Beautiful National Parks Pass / $80 at REI
Access to every National Park in the USA for a year. Pretty sweet.

Ubuntu Made Canvas Shopper / $149.99 at Ubuntu Made
I first found out about Ubuntu Made at a Kammok event this fall. I love their product line– canvas and leather is a combination I will always rock, and this bag is classic. Ubuntu Made celebrates the artisan work of makers in the Maai Mahiu community in Kenya. They have recently partnered with (RED), the global fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria.

Blundstone Boots / $169.95 on Amazon
I got these boots as part of a collaboration with Zappos and fell in love. These are comfortable, durable, and stylish and I wear them every day. Adventure ready for sure.

Cotopaxi Kusa Bomber Jacket / $189.95 at Cotopaxi
So that “refined grit” style I was talking about above? This is that. It’s made from sustainably sourced llama fiber insulation and I could not make that up if I tried. I love that this jacket looks seriously good but also works. Fashion meeting function: yes please. For 15% off, use discount code “ERINOUTDOORS15”.


Donate to an organization that can use the funds for something you believe in. Here’s where I am giving:

I hope this post gave you some ideas! What is on your list?



This post contains affiliate links. If you buy something using the a link above, I may receive a commission at no cost to you. That’s not the point of the post. Just wanted to let you know.


The Deal with Those Folding Kayaks

I present to you, A Skeptic’s Review of Those Foldable Kayaks You May Have Seen on Instagram.

I mean, these things were everywhere. I couldn’t walk two feet in social-media-land without seeing one gracefully gliding across some super blue lake in Canada.*

I went on a trip to Mexico in April, organized by photographer Ali V. and filmmaker Aly Nicklas. There was an Oru Kayak involved.

On our second night of the trip, we found ourselves camping on the beach of a calm bay. I sipped a beer and looked over at the Oru Kayak and thought, I’m gonna set that sucker up.

Turns out we forgot that little thing called the instruction manual. But I figured it out sans instructions and went for a paddle. And it was freaking awesome.

So then, when Oru approached me to see if I wanted to be an ambassador, I said yes. I figured that if they could convert a skeptic like me, it was really a good product.

The first time I took my kayak paddling on my own, I hiked it 2 miles uphill to a lake in Colorado. Everyone I passed wondered what I was doing carrying a box up the trail.

I have to say, it’s pretty cool to get a kayak to a lake that you otherwise wouldn’t paddle on.

oru-dream-10Some talking points:


This is my favorite feature. Being able to hike a boat somewhere beautiful by myself is so cool. My boat weighs 28 pounds and goes into its own backpack. It fits on top of my platform bed in my CR-V so I don’t have to think about putting it on a roof rack or doing a really amateur job trying to tie it somewhere. And it’s easy to find a space for it in my garage because well, it’s basically just a box.


When I first got my kayak, I could set up the Bay+ by myself in 30 minutes. Now it’s more like 20. It’s easier with another person. Taking it down takes me 10 minutes or less. There are, of course, some parts of the boat that are easier to set up than others, but once you understand the process, it’s pretty easy and intuitive.


There is no question that these are not cheap, so I think it all depends on your budget and your usage. For me, the biggest reason to buy an Oru is to hike it to remote places, plus it fits in my car. Another thing to consider is how often you’ll be using it. I think it all depends on what makes it worth it for you, but having my kayak in my car makes it way easier to go on spontaneous water-related adventures.

snapped by Nate Luebbe

If you are planning on joining the Oru Kayak family, Oru is providing a 15% off discount code for readers of this blog. Use code “ErinOutdoors” at checkout on

If you have any questions, please leave them in the comments below!



I am an ambassador for Oru Kayak, which means my kayak was free. My opinions, as always, are my own.

*Just an assumption that it was Canada. Probably. Anyway.


The Biggest Backpacking Trip I’ve Ever Led

I don’t mean big like length of time. I don’t mean it was the hardest trip I’ve led. It wasn’t the trip where my pack was heaviest.

But it was the most impactful.

I was an adventure trip leader for teenagers all over the world, on-and-off for about seven years. I guided on a freelance basis. The job took me to big cities and to remote mountain passes. On this particular trip, it took me to Australia.

When approached me and asked me what my most meaningful backpacking experience was, I had memories of this specific trip in my head and heart immediately.

Here is the link to the story, now live on I hope you’ll check it out! is a new site that just launched, aiming to house the right pack for every journey– be it city, mountain, or somewhere in between. My new pack has been hiking, kayaking, and has spent a lot of time inside a less-exciting convention center, at meetings and coffee shops.


This post was sponsored by My voice is always my own.


I Tried Period Underwear

This is a post about period underwear, so first of all, if periods gross you out, you’re gonna need to get over that. The majority of uterus-owners that you know have experienced menstruation for much of their lifetime, so I encourage you to read this review even if you don’t think it applies to you. | Photos by Ali V.

So, let’s talk.

Over the past few months, I’ve been seeing ads on my Facebook about period underwear called Thinx (read: very effective target marketing). Period underwear is exactly what it sounds like– it’s underwear you wear on your period. It’s designed so that you don’t have to wear a pad, tampon or cup, though you can absolutely just wear them as backup.

I’d seen a couple of reviews on Buzzfeed and another website that starts with B. I wanted to review Thinx to see if they’d hold up to my adventurous lifestyle (and yours). I wanted to know if they felt gross. I wanted to know if this would forever change my period routine. I emailed Thinx and they agreed to be best friends forever (or to send me a couple of pairs of underwear).

Two pairs of Thinx came in the mail and I was never so excited to get my period. They suggest on their packaging that maybe I have actually been more excited to get my period. And on second thought, they’re right.

Anyway, I got a hiphugger and a thong style, thinking that I’d have a pair to try on both heavier and lighter days.

Once they arrived, I obviously rushed to try them on. This underwear is soft, kinda silky, sexy and feels awesome. You can tell there’s a little something in terms of padding, but no, it doesn’t feel like a diaper.


The first day of my period was pretty light, and I didn’t change into Thinx until I got home. I decided to wear the hiphugger overnight.

Usually I wear my Lunette cup around the clock on my period, so it was nice to not have to worry about leaks. It seemed counter-intuitive to just…wing it… but sure enough I woke up and the Thinx did its job.

let’s pretend I look like this when I wake up.


The second day of my period is typically heavy, and since the hiphugger was now in the wash, I wore the thong as backup for my cup. The padding on this is so light that I forgot I was wearing it. Backup you don’t even know about is a WIN!

At this point, I think to myself that I could wear Thinx when I’m not on my period… just ‘cuz they’re comfy.

DAYS 3 & 4

Once I had the general idea of how Thinx were going to work for me, I rotated wearing the hiphugger and the thong-as-backup.

When I wore just the hiphugger, I didn’t feel like I was sitting in soggy underwear, but I didn’t feel totally dry– and this isn’t a negative thing, just something I want to mention. This should not deter you from trying these!

I wore the thong to yoga and hiking without backup. It went great. It’s a strange feeling knowing that I’m on my period and knowing that I’m not wearing a pad/tampon/cup. It reminds me of skinny dipping or wearing a maxi dress. Anyway, the thong was definitely enough coverage for a few hours of activity. This depends on your flow.


Typically my periods only last 5 days, so today was a lighter day. Once the thong was dry from washing it, that’s all I wore. I went to work, walked around, sat down, stood up, did things. Thinx has my trust.


well played, Thinx, well played. (via


Nope. Not gross. They explain it well.





It’s pretty simple really. I will probably pick up a few more pairs so I don’t have to think about dry time, but they do dry overnight if you need ’em for the next day!


Believe the hype!

I will continue to use my Lunette during the day, but will switch to the Thinx hiphugger at night, plus the thong for activities like yoga and hiking on lighter days. It’s really, really nice to have a pair of underwear that does the job of a pad. It’s really nice to not have to worry about it. And it’s really nice that those underwear happen to be comfortable and beautiful looking as well.

Thank you, Thinx, not only for creating this innovative product, but for opening up a conversation about periods that needed to happen, and that needs to happen every single day. We have been taught that periods are a shameful thing, something we shouldn’t talk about. What Thinx (and the people behind it– lookin’ at you, Miki Agrawal) is doing is incredibly important. Let’s have the damn conversation already.

here I am conversing with a lamp, but would love to converse with another person about periods.

Other things I recommend for your period:


Generally, if something is not in my calendar, it does not exist. This would include my periods, however my body doesn’t sync up to my Gmail, so Kindara is a great app to help me pay attention. I use Kindara to track my periods. It’ll also show you your most fertile days, plus you’ll never have to say “two weeks ago” to the gyno again. Unless your last period was actually two weeks ago.


A menstrual cup is a re-usable silicone cup to use as an alternative to tampons. I have been using a DivaCup or Lunette for five years due to rumors and eventually scary facts about tampons. Give it a couple of cycles to get used to it and be patient. This is also what I use when I’m camping– beats packing out a bunch of tampons. Plus, you save money and there is no waste. Party time! There are two sizes, so make sure you get the right one for you. Amazon has ’em at a good price here, or pick one up at REI here.



As always, I love to hear from you, so feel free to let me know what you think about this review!

Photos by Ali V. Find her on Instagram at @alisonvagnini.


The Summer That Ruined My Life

The summer I was 19, I went on a thirty day wilderness trip.

It wasn’t like I was outdoorsy. I never went to summer camp as a kid. I was in Girl Scouts, but I only lasted until we had to sleep in tents. Then I was out. I was not the kid playing in the dirt.

Me at age 13: memorizing the words to Britney Spears songs, begging my mother to take me to Abercrombie & Fitch, and spending most of my free time on the computer if I could get away with it.

Over the course of my teenage experience, I went from wannabe popular girl to the artsy loner chick with blue hair. I loved photography and raiding my grandmother’s closet. Wearing sunglasses in class was my preferred method of showing that I did not give a fuck.

As I embraced my weirdness and my subsequent daydreaming, I developed this huge and constant sense of wanderlust that seemed to follow me everywhere. I often brought school trip opportunities to my parents, who responded with “We’ll talk about it,”– which directly translated to “nope.”

College. I came home after my freshman year of art school not having planned for summer. I didn’t really think about it, because my life had been pretty cushy and I was used to having things sorted out for me. After the dust of final exams and projects settled, I thought to myself, what should I do for the next few months? And yes, I can own how much I sound like a privileged brat.

I worked at a summer camp. I thought it would be fun. But I went back to college with a new perspective: one where I now valued mentorship, where I gave myself more credit as a leader and more weight to my own decisions. I did more experimenting. Wanderlust still floated over my head like a fine mist, so I looked up to it and said, “okay, what can we do about this?”

I heard about a program called NOLS. NOLS stands for National Outdoor Leadership School, and synonymous with wilderness education, outdoor skills and leadership. Basically, you go into the woods for a few weeks and come out a total badass. That’s actually not how it works at all, but it’s what I thought when I was 18.

I made NOLS a must-do. I applied early. I was set to hike into the Wind River Range for thirty days starting mid-June of 2009.

My sophomore year of college ended, and after months of anticipation, I was on a plane to Wyoming carrying a duffel bag of gear I didn’t know how to use. I was 19, and it was the first time I had ever flown alone. I remember pretending really hard: to know how to transfer planes, to know where to pick up my baggage, to know where to get the bus.

My head stopped spinning– sort of– when I arrived at the NOLS base in Lander, Wyoming, and found myself in a circle with twelve 16 and 17-year-olds and three twenty-something dudes in trucker hats grinning from ear to ear. These were the people I was going to spend the next thirty days with.

I was a solid two years older than everyone else, but I would learn, and later accept, that some of these 16-year-olds were more mature than I was. Some of them were amazing leaders, problem solvers and communicators, and their skills in these categories far surpassed mine. When I was crippled by fear and frustration, they collected their emotions and got shit done.

After a day of packing, we hiked into the Winds. By the time we got walking, it was afternoon. My instructors were energetic, organized, and bright-eyed– the Day-One feeling I now know well as an outdoor educator.

I was so exhausted that night that I slept fairly well, a backcountry rarity for me even now. We learned how to break down camp and use our stoves and got on our way. Then we got on our way the next day, and for 28 days after that.

There was a time when I remembered every single day of my NOLS course. I don’t anymore.

But I do remember hiking an extra three miles in the snow because we had misread the map. I remember our instructor allowing us to fail, because that’s how we learn. I remember bruises on my hips from carrying my 60-pound backpack, something I hadn’t thought t0 train for.

I remember eight days in a row of sleet and rain, and putting on my frozen boots every day, hoping for sun. I remember hiking in head-to-toe rain gear, gloves, and pants tucked into socks because the mosquitos were so thick. I remember dealing with knee pain from hiking miles I had never hiked before. I remember breaking down on the continental divide because it hurt so badly, and there was no way to get out of it, no escape route, no option to undo it.

I remember the smile of one of my peers, at age 16 in his vintage Oakleys, being the natural leader he was, as I crumbled under my fear of walking across a boulder field.

That summer ruined me. Being in the wilderness, something so vast and unapologetic, something I had never experienced before, humbled me and said to me, “You’re not in control of this.” I couldn’t be passive. I had to cook, clean, lead, follow, communicate. And I didn’t.

I complained. I cried. I say “ruined my life,” because at 19, that’s how I reacted to anything in my life that was marginally difficult. There were times I shut down and gave up. I constantly dreamt about home, about a hot shower, about not sleeping on a goddamn piece of 1/4″ thick foam anymore.

One night I got up in the middle of the night. I dragged myself out of my sleeping bag, and the stars were so bright I could see my shadow. There was no moon. Just me and the stars. The sky was purple, beautiful, vast. It was cold. It felt like the first time I had ever looked up in my life. And there were moments like that. There were moments of pure exposed beauty, of laughing, singing, and storytelling that were not fleeting, but instead meaningful and formative. But in those moments too, that summer was ruining me.

It ruined me because it pushed me in ways I couldn’t even understand yet. I couldn’t accept that I wasn’t a good leader. I was used to being good at things, and I wasn’t good at this because the wilderness doesn’t just let you be good at it without work.

That summer ruined who I used to be. It showed me a path of ambition and compassion, and asked if I was going to get on it. It told me I couldn’t do things halfway anymore. And I haven’t always loved it on that path, but it’s so damn magnetic that I can’t step off it. My feet simply won’t go in any other direction.

Thirty days in the wilderness ruined my life. My old life– the one where I was comfortable, where I didn’t ask questions, where I let things be handed to me and didn’t try too hard– and opened me up to challenge, hard questions, and what it truly means to try.

When anyone asked me how my NOLS trip was, I responded with “crazy,” or “wild,” but never “good.” That summer taught me that I have so much to learn, and that I always will. Nearly seven years later, I’ve led adventure trips on four continents and worked with teenagers from all over the world. I’ve made a ton of mistakes and I’ve done my best to learn from them.

That summer cracked me open, so light could get in. The things that ruin us, the things that crumble our perceptions of ourselves, the things that have us looking up at a star-filled sky asking, “Why am I doing this?”– those are the things that spark who we were meant to be.