EntropyNoun. A gradual decline into disorder. A degree of disorder or randomness in a system. The tendency to move toward a state of inert uniformity.

A Maine car in the Tetons
A Maine car in the Tetons

Packing for a road trip or car camping trip initially imbues me with feelings of competent organization. I create a list of my minimum needs for the duration of the trip, identify some backups, lay everything out on a flat surface, and begin the puzzle of packing it all into my Honda Civic: food, water, stove, clothing, tent, bedding, fishing gear, hiking gear, tent/rainy day activities, etc. Everything has its perfect place—food and water next to the stove; tent and bedding easiest to access; cooler in the only spot it will fit; maps, wallet, and sunglasses next to the driver’s seat. Everything sits in a perfect tote bag, box, or cooler, stacks neatly, and there is room to spare. A double check of the list, the staging area, the refrigerator, and the bathroom leaves me ready to go.

I arrive at my first destination, my stuff still in its proper place, thinking about how much simpler it would be to own so few things. I reach for my easy to access tent, set it up, and throw in my bedroll, sleeping bag, clothes bag, and –if I’m feeling fancy—a pillow. Within a few minutes I have a fully stocked bedroom ready. I might explore my current home away from home, check out the bathroom (or facili-tree options), and make a fire and dinner. After washing up, I realize I do not have anything to dry my dishes so I lay them out behind the back seats to dry. I have created a few items of trash, so I stuff them into an empty Ziploc bag and place that in a corner of the trunk. The food inevitably does not fit the same way in the cooler anymore, but I make it work. I am going to use the stove in the morning, so I don’t disassemble it—I put it on the dash.

Dinner things stashed, I might select to take a shower using the classy campground amenities. But where are all my shower things? Towel must be with clothes in the tent; soap is with…dishsoap? No, hiding in my backdoor’s pocket. Quarters are in the middle console. Shower shoes are separated in the depth of the trunk. Ready for showering.

Upon my return, I separate my wet things from dry things and dirty from clean. Towel drapes over the passenger’s seat to dry. Quarters and toiletries go to a door pocket, dirty clothes get stuffed into a void in the trunk (never to be seen again on this trip), and I am ready for bed early as the sun sets.

In the morning, my return to the car feels like a return to a lived-in storage unit rather than a transportation method. In less than a day, my car turned into a hamper, dumpster, pantry, clothesline, and bathroom sink all in one. And this tendency to shift to disorder only increases as the trip goes on. Priorities about “the proper place” change by the hour based on what I will do in the next hour (see a moose and require my camera?), the next day (find a great swimming hole and desire my swimsuit?), or the next week (need to do some research at a library and want to access my laptop?). No matter how long the road trip lasts, entropy prevails in short order.