What should I pack? This has to be the number one question amongst newbies. First of all, pack as little as possible. Only the necessities. Once you get through training, you can clutter up your own truck as much as you want. But remember, you are a guest in your trainer’s truck. The truck is not yours. Further, there isn't much room in these trucks for one person, let alone two. So whatever you can't fit in a cabinet (assuming your trainer has an open cabinet for you), you'll will be sleeping with everything else on your bunk. It's also much better to pack inaduffel bag or two rather than a suitcase. Duffel bags are much easier to move around. Here is a list of what I recommend you bring. This list is not all inclusive, nor is it going to fit all situations. But it should be a good starting point for you:
- Shirts, jeans, socks, shoes, and underwear (enough to last you 7 to 10 days). Keep in mind, you'll be wearing your jeans 2 or 3 days in a row, sometimes longer. I find myself going nearly a week with the same pair of jeans, and usually two days with a shirt. I'm here to tell you, that's just reality out here, so if you think that's nasty, you might have a problem right off the bat. Nobody said this is a lifestyle you'd be used to!
- Bring a jacket with you no matter what season it is. Up in the mountains it can getpretty cold, even in the summer. The desert can get pretty cold at night too.It also helps to have a jacket with a hood in the rain.
- Sunglasses! A must have. Doesn't matter what kind, but on your first trip driving westbound in Oklahoma at 7 in the evening, you'll be glad you have them.
- Work Gloves. The fuel islands at truck stops are always a mess and your hands end up with black spots all over them. Also, cranking the landing gear on the trailers can be messy. I think I got mine for 5 bucks at Walmart. Well worth the investment. If you're going into flatbedding or tanker trucks, you might want to spend a little extra on yours. They will be used much more often.
- All your toiletries. Toothbrush, toothpaste, shampoo, deodorant, comb, etc. All of the truck stops I've been to provide you with towels and a small bar of soap in the shower rooms. You can bring your own towel if you want, but it's probably a waste of space. I also bought myself a pack of baby wipes. It sounds a little dumb, but honestly, during the times you go a couple days without a shower, it's nice to have those to use on your face, arms, etc. There will be times when you go a couple days without a shower. It sucks, but it's nearly unavoidable at times. So it's good to be prepared.
- Sleeping bag!!! Very important! Don't bring sheets with you. When you're in training, chances are you'll be driving as a team with your trainer. In other words, your trainer drives while you sleep and vice versa. If the truck is moving, you'll want to sleep on the bottom bunk. Instead of changing sheets all the time which would be a total pain, just grab your sleeping bag and you're good to go. Then if you have some downtime and you both sleep at the same time, you can just bring your sleeping bag to the top bunk. I personally went to the store and bought two "indoor" type sleeping bags. These roll up very small to save on space. By having two, I don't have to sleep inside the sleeping bag. I put one down flat on the bed, then use the other to cover myself. You can also zip two together if you prefer.Just make sure if you do this, you grab indoor sleeping bags. The ones you use for camping are too hot, and way too big and bulky.
- Don't forget your pillow!!
- Small bag for showers. Instead of lugging your big duffel bag around when you want to shower, it's much easier to have a real small bag just large enough to put your toiletries and single change of clothes in. The bag I use I think is actually a smaller type cooler bag. But it gets the job done.
- Laundry bag. Just a place to put your dirty clothes and lug them around with when you're doing laundry. If you can find a small bottle of laundry soap, it's probably not a bad idea to bring that along too if you have the room. Most truck stops sell it, but they charge way too much for it.
- Cell phone and charger. The truck I'm on has a limited number of AC outlets, but if you can get a DC charger for your phone it's highly recommended. You might also want to get a headset for it. Shifting, driving, and talking all at the same time isn't a good combo, especially for a student. I won't get into a debate about whether you should talk and drive or not, but when you're driving through New Mexico at midnight and you're the only person on the road, chances are using a headset is going to be ok with your trainer if you need to makeor receive a call.
- Laptop. This is very optional, and several people say you should leave your laptop at home as it's a distraction. But I find email a very good way to communicate "outside the truck." Having your laptop is pretty useless unless you have internet access. While truck stops do offer WiFi for a fee, I'd highly recommend getting an aircard for your laptop (uses cell phone towers). I personally use a company called Millenicom. They have no contracts and have been absolutely fantastic for me. I've been using it for 7 weeks out on the road now. I seem to get service pretty much everywhere, even in the middle of nowhere. The speed of my service does fluctuate a bit, but if I'm near any sort of moderate population, it does a real good job. If you do want to sign up for Millenicom, make sure you do so about a week or so before you leave. That way they can mail youthe wireless card in time for you to leave.But also look into most cell phone providers as they generally offer the service as well.
- Boots? I personally brought steel toe boots with me and haven't used them once. If you're going into flatbed, it's probably more of a necessity. But I'd say get a good pair of sneakers and that's probably all you'll need. They might be nice to have in case you need to pick up a trailer in a muddy lot or something, but if you don't have any boots to bring with you, I wouldn't worry about it.
Other than that, there's really not much else you'll need. Your trainer will have a truckers atlas, tools,locks, a CB, etc. Just save upfor that when you're ready to go solo.Remember, pack light! Just the necessities to get through your training, then you can load up your own truck with the creature comforts and toys from home.
Until next time, drive safely!
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