It’s been a couple of years since professional snowboarder Kimmy Fasani and her pro skier husband Chris Benchetler first hit the road in their custom van, which they named the Stealthy Marmot. Since they finished building out the van in late 2016, they have crisscrossed the western United States many times over, hunting every powder stash, surf break and obscure climbing route along the way.
They’ve also figured out what gear works and, perhaps more importantly, what doesn’t when sharing a space smaller than the average mudroom with their dog and newest addition, their son, Koa, now nine months old. We asked the action sports power couple for the gear essentials that make their packing list every time they hit the road.
Wet ski and snowboard boots pretty much guarantee a bad day on the hill. That’s why Fasani and Benchetler never travel without their DryGuy Travel Dry DX boot dryer. By combining traditional convection drying with forced air, this portable accessory can get a pair of boots dry in two to three hours when plugged into the van’s power bank. Plus, the Travel Dry DX is virtually silent and doesn’t wake a napping baby or keep the couple from grabbing some shut-eye after a long day of riding.
For road warriors like Fasani and Benchetler, sometimes creating an extra room is as easy as throwing down a blanket. “We like to use our Rumpl Puffy throw blanket outside the van,” Fasani said. “When we need to put Koa down or we just want to sit without too much effort, we just lay it down. It’s an easy layer.” The puffy throw blanket’s ripstop nylon helps prevent tearing or snagging on rocks and roots, and the blanket’s 3D hollow-fiber polyester makes it light and easy to stash on the go.
“We always have a headlamp. You never know when you might need one,” Fasani said. From digging through dark storage bins, to securing the ski rack at dusk, to late night bathroom runs, Fasani estimated that her headlamp is one of the most used tools in the van. Her Petzl Actik Core headlamp features wide and mixed beams to meet any type of van-camping need. It offers three brightness levels: 5, 100 and 350 lumens. At its max, the Actik Core can illuminate up to 310 feet but works pretty well for finding the spare set of keys, as well.
Van life has its major perks, but when it comes to entertaining or just getting some personal space, things can get cramped. To help create space, Fasani and Benchetler travel with four REI Co-op Flexlite chairs. Why four? “It’s a way to sit out with our friends,” Fasani said. Weighing less than 2 pounds, these four-legged camp chairs are perfect for the impromptu gathering and fold down fast for easy storage. The chairs also feature a breathable mesh back that lets them dry out quickly before bringing any funk back into the van.
During their years on the road, Fasani and Benchetler have perfected their leisure setup. One piece that holds it all together is a good portable table—a place to get together, prepare a dish and eat without the worry of a mid-meal collapse or too much elbow bumping. For them, that means the Helinox Table One, a lightweight folding camp table featuring a hard-top surface perfect for everything from chopping vegetables to a rowdy late-night round of card games.
In tight quarters, having a system for drying out clothes is essential. Fasani and Benchetler created a homemade drying rack that utilizes a hanging rope across the van with attached carabiners like the Black Diamond Neutrino wiregate carabiner instead of clothes hooks. Fasani explained that having a clip works well for not only soggy outerwear, but gloves, bathing suits and wetsuits, too. “It’s nice to not tiptoe around, trying to figure out where our wet gear goes,” she said. Fasani added that carabiners can also work well for kitchen storage, like hanging mugs, towels and pots.
Fasani and Benchetler like to start the morning with a fresh cup of black coffee, but they’re rarely anywhere near an actual coffee shop. Enter the GSI Ultralight Java Drip coffee maker, a “lifesaver,” as Fasani called it, for coffee lovers on the go. Simply clip the legs of the Java Drip to your favorite morning mug, add your grounds to the reusable cloth filter and pour in hot water to brew your cup of joe. Better yet, it packs down to nothing, giving it a leg up on fragile coffee press contraptions that can get bent, broken or jostled in tight quarters.
Fasani and Benchetler’s coffee brewing kit also includes a good hand-crank coffee grinder built for travelers. The Snow Peak Field Barista coffee grinder features a high-quality ceramic mill and its stainless steel construction prevents static and pesky coffee ground buildup. The Field Barista’s handle is foldable, making it easy to stow away in between caffeine doses.