How to pack for Montana

June 30, 2016


I haven’t laughed so hard in years! Texts and emails have been flying fast and furious this month. The question at hand: How to pack for Montana.

Girlfriend and I are heading there for, well, an adventure. But probably not your definition of adventure. It’s ours, though. Our adventure involves FLY FISHING and we booked that event for entertainment value because, well, here’s the truth: Girlfriend and I are both rather girly…well, maybe that’s not exactly right. Or maybe it is.

Famous and not-even-Almost-Famous

See, girlfriend is kind of famous for breaking gender barriers in her job, doing things that had only been done by males before. I mean, famous. Like in a documentary and a number of media articles. Of course, I’m not at all famous, (maybe infamous) but bashed my head against a glass ceiling in corporate America for decades. So, while we both bent gender in certain ways, I wouldn’t call us outdoorsy. No, I wouldn’t.  We are the kind of women who think a dude ranch is too much outdoorsy effort. I think you get the picture, right?

So, yeah, it’s hard not to laugh at some of the things we’ve been sending hither and yon as we prepare to leave in a few weeks. So let me share some of the conversation and also some of my packing tips.

Like this, for example.  Yes, girlfriend found the photo online, sent it along, asking what I thought of it for our trip. The question is, what do YOU think of it?

packing-for-MontanaThis fishing/sun/rain/camping umbrella is available for less than $8.  I just love it. And I would LOVE for us to wear it fly fishing just to capture our guide, Phil’s, expression when he sees us.  You may remember that Phil owns the fly fishing outfit and was going to assign us one of his guides, until I explained that he should consider this to be the kind of experience Lucy and Ethel would have, at which time he said, immediately, “I’ll take you, myself!” Yeah, Phil knows a good time when he sees one, right?

But here’s the problem I had with that hat: I’m now a redhead. What lipsticks go with red hair and camouflage? I know, right?

pack-for-MontanaYou can see the problem. To top it off, walking Riley during the day seems to have given me more suntan than I’ve had in a long time, so I’m no longer really fair skinned. So I just can’t decide. The only thing I know for sure is that it doesn’t have to be kiss-proof. Although, really, you never know, right?

Also, this is about 1/10 of my collection of current lipstick collection.  I maybe wear lipstick once or twice a week. But you know, we women, we can never resist a new lipstick, even if we wear it once. Having so many brands, hues, shades, colors….decisions, decisions.

Deciding not to get the hat would make lipstick choice much easier. So, no on the umbrella hat.

Two girly-girls flyfishing need to be prepared for the inevitable. Or as my husband said, hesitantly, “I’m little worried about you two hooking each other.”  With that in mind, I’m packing these:


Of course I want to be prepared, I was a Girl Scout. My mother and her best friend were our troop leaders. Neither of them had broken a sweat since their teens and neither were fans of the Great Outdoors. On our troop’s first camping trip, my father had to drive over to light the fire. So you can see there’s a genetic link, at least for me.  Phil probably has a great first aid kit for our drift boat, but you can never have too much Neosporin or too many bandages.

We’re going to do a little hiking in Yellowstone, and maybe elsewhere. And while it’s true that Hot Trainer and I have a year-long program in progress and I am so much more fit than I was a year ago, girlfriend and I are women of a certain age. So, this has to be considered.

pack-for-MontanaAs I say to Hot Trainer at least once a week, “all of my friends have knee problems and I refuse to have one.”  But then again, I could stumble on a boulder or trip over a log. It could happen, right? Old people fall all the time, and I just got my Medicare card. So I’m bringing this.

I found the heat wrap buried in my closet and think it was a conference freebie. How opportune! Because my lower back (ok, my GLUTES) like to ping at inopportune times. It’s been a few months since it’s happened, because HT and I are very careful and I have built muscle now to support that injury. However, while casting a line, I could put my back out, right?  It’s coming with us.

LATE BREAKING NEWS: Girlfriend just sent a message with a photo of her new trekking pants that can be adjusted “for fording streams.” Yes, the knee support is SO coming.

Choice of footwear in Montana is seriously important. Here’s what I put on top of my To Pack pile last week.

Pack-for-MontanaOh, I don’t know. Maybe not.  It’s just that they are so darn cute! And we’re not going to be at Yellowstone the whole time. Or flyfishing.  I’m taking a vote: yes or no?

And then, of course, I am packing these:


The outdoors is hell on a manicure. And you never know when you might want to do a color change. Like, maybe we want to match Phil’s boat colors. So these are coming along. I think I was pretty smart to think of them.

pack-for-MontanaGirlfriend refuses to touch a live fish. So, these fancy rubber gloves are going to be just the ticket. Aren’t they cute? I haven’t bought them, as I can touch a live fish, but am recommending that she buy them.  My problem is not touching the fish, it’s hooking one. I don’t want to hurt the fish. All I can say is that it will all unfold on video with my new Go Pro, and I’ll be sharing it here.

Now, I hadn’t really considered bringing a backpack until girlfriend sent me her latest purchase for our trip.


It’s super lightweight and she said it was a steal at Nordstrom Rack. I think it’s super-stylin’. So I zoomed online to find a new backpack. My old one is denim and the metal parts are kind of jangly. It just didn’t work. Of course, once I got to the website all I could think about is getting one that could get wet and dirty. So mine isn’t as stylish:


It’s waterproof, durable and, well, something has to balance out my golden slippers, right?  Every time I look at it on my To Pack pile I feel more outdoorsy, already.  Even though it’s not as cute as hers, nor is it as lightweight. So I still have a couple weeks to work on my upper body strength with HT.

So, ok, let’s get serious. The temp at Yellowstone the other day was 33 degrees at 5am. And while it got hella-hot during the day, nights can be cold. So I dug my favorite boyfriend PJs out of a drawer and considered ironing them.
pack-for-MontanaNahh. Not. Going. To. Iron. Them.  But aren’t they cute? Pretty in pink. That’s what I call them.

Even though it’s summer, I have it on good authority that it can get hella cold out of nowhere. I am NOT bringing my faux fur coat to Montana in July, so I tossed in my favorite fleece hoodie.

pack-for-MontanaFrom my days teaching adjunct at UT. Oh, I loved that department and that job! And my students.

And then, a super cool bargain for seniors:

packing-for-MontanaDid you know that seniors can get one of these for only $10 and get free admission to any national park? Girlfriend and I both have our own so one of us will remember to bring it. No worries. I’ll remember. It’s on my packing list and sitting in the To Pack pile. Which i will have to  move at least once for our housekeepers so there is no guarantee it’ll stay on that pile.

I have one of my nephews to thank for this:

pack-for-MontanaEvery writer should bring a journal on vacation and I’m bringing this compact book my lawyer-nephew got me last year. So he’ll be with me on the trip, in a sense. Actually, not really. I’ll be on the road to vacation, while he will be billing his brains out as a new associate at his law firm, on the road to success.

And in all seriousness, here’s some of the real stuff:

pack-for-MontanaMy new hiking shoes, which I’ve broken in. Then that horrific fishing hat in a nice neutral beige. The brim goes so low I can hardly see, but it’s just the ticket for sun protection while fly fishing. If  I am not wearing the Go Pro on my head.

I know, way complicated. Maybe I should try this first.

That blue peeking out is a windbreaker. I have it on good authority that wind and showers can whip through the canyon while we’re on the river fly fishing and so I’m putting that windbreaker in my new backpack.

And of course, if you are a FB friend, you have seen my favorite fashion hat, which I will NOT bring on the boat or hiking but WILL wear when we walk around cute little towns.

So. There you have it. How to pack for Montana.

But really, this is the bottom line: my father came back from a hunting/fishing trip to Montana decades ago and said it was the most beautiful place he’d ever been. Now, he hadn’t been to that many places in his life, but I took him at his word. He’ll be with me in my heart and on my mind on this trip to a place he loved.

I’d love to hear your advice on packing, on Yellowstone or anything else. We leave in mid-July.

38 comments on “How to pack for Montana
  1. Oh, to be a fly (wink, wink) on the wall for this trip! Will have to live vicariously through your Go Pro video. I can see your packing dilemma–I always overpack because I like to have choices, dammit. And who knows what sartorial demands might be made on you and your girlfriend in the wilds of Montana…Looking forward to a full report!

  2. Michelle says:

    Sounds like you have this down pat. A friend of mine went to Montana and said it was one of the most beautiful places they’d ever seen.

  3. Karen Austin says:

    Thanks for letting us join you in the anticipation of your trip to Montana. I like the mix of adventure and caution. Sounds about where I try to position myself in life. It’s a constant balance. You will, of course, take pics and share the journey. I’m looking forward to it. Have a marvelous time enjoying the beauties of Montana.

  4. Laura Ehlers says:

    You need a word for ‘glamour-fishing’!! Don’t forget the camera!!

  5. Robin herman says:

    sunblock! Mosquito repellent! Bear spray! Deodorant!

    • Deodorant is so on my standard packing list, girlfriend! yes, buying some of that other stuff soon but let’s wait on the bear spray til we get there. So excited but your pants are intimidating. Just saying.

  6. Love all the photos of your travel accessories! I look forward to some videos. I assume libations are involved? You didn’t mention those!!

  7. Lee gaitan says:

    I don’t understand why you’re going all the way to Montana to fish for flies. Don’t you have flues in California? ???? Seriously, have a great time and just let me tell you that the first time my friend went fly fishing he cast his line and hooked a big one — his son in the head!

  8. Debbie D says:

    I knew someone once who lived in Montana, in a log house in the middle of nowhere. The nearest Starbucks was an hour away, but he said he couldn’t imagine living anywhere else. The photos he shared were magnificent. Mother nature at her finest! Your packing adventure is hilarious. 🙂 As another person of a “certain age”, I always pack knee and ankle supports, bandages, liniment and arthritis pills. Have a wonderful time!

  9. Linda Hobden says:

    I’ve bought sparkly loafer/trainers like yours for walking the sub tropical trails in the mountains of Madeira. Great minds think alike obviously! ???? Have fun in Montana!

  10. Oh my Lord, I hope you are packing Depends because I nearly wet my pants with laughing at this! Also, you may want to pack that Medicare Card…it may come in handy. Have a wonderful time, Carol. This is actually inspirational! We all need to take a crazy adventure. I’m a bit jealous, my fashionista friend!

  11. Gary Mathews says:

    Are you not packing bear treats? Do you not feed the bears? Bears are people to, they have feelings, and like to eat!

  12. Cheri says:

    Hi from Glacier, where lipstick is unnecessary but bear spray is a staple!

  13. Diane says:

    You’re going to be in my old stomping grounds. And I do mean stomping!
    Layers. The hoodie is a great idea. Hoodie and windbreaker together will get you through most anything summertime Montana can throw at you.
    (Id’ also like to add: if Lucy and Ethel are going together, you probably need to pack a surgeon. Or just an inflatable emergency room!)
    P.S. If you get to Glacier Park, Waterton, the ‘Jewel of the Rockies’ is just across the lake.

  14. Sounds like a cool trip.

    The umbrella does work (I’ve used a similar one in North Carolina) both for sun and rain. But the floppy hat is lighter and more effective.

    The hoodie IS a good idea. It can get cold pretty quick after sundown.

    The only thing I would add is a good walking stick or trek poles. They’ll take a lot of pressure off those creaky knees.

    And lipstick will keep you from getting chapped from kissing the fish lips.

  15. Barbara says:

    Well, my idea of camping is a Holiday Inn, so none of this sounds appealing to me, but you will be rockin’ the look! Can’t wait to see the video and pictures!

  16. Uh. . . Fishing rod? More and more women I know are fly fishing. You’ll have a wonderful time. It’s such gorgeous country out there.

  17. T.O. Weller says:

    Carol, this looks like a blast! Can’t wait to hear tales from the river.
    This reminds me of Boston Legal, the one where Denny Crane takes Alan Shore fly fishing. They flew to Canada to do it — your next adventure?! 😉

  18. Roz Warren says:

    “The outdoors is hell on a manicure.” I can’t help but think that this is nature’s way of telling you to stay indoors. Maybe at a top notch spa. They aren’t hell on a manicure at all. But — have fun! (And I hope you get one of those umbrella hats. It’s definitely the kind of thing I’d wear.)

  19. I LOVE the umbrella. Looks like you are all set Carol. Have fun!!!

  20. Cait says:

    It sounds like you are all set to go! I have never been to Montana. Have fun!

    – Cait |

  21. I really want to go to Montana so I hope you have a wonderful time. I’m not much of a rough it kind of person, so it would be a real reach for me to go fly fishing. Looks like you’ve covered all the bases!

  22. michelle says:

    Okay, I love those rubber gloves. how weird is that?

  23. Sounds like it going to be an amazing trip, I hope you have a good time. I love those shoes! They would be at the top of my list too.

  24. sue says:

    Firstly, thank you Carol for lifting my spirits with your writing. I’m like you and more of a Glamper than a Camper. You are your friend sound like so much fun I’m sure the guides are in for a treat when they meet you. Montana looks beautiful. Have a wonderful trip and I can’t wait to read the sequel. Sue from Sizzling Towards Sixty. xx

  25. Liv says:

    I dunno…I think I’d still pack the neosporin and the bandaids. Maybe just me.

  26. Elizabeth O. says:

    Might as well look good while camping with your girlfriend, right? It’s crazy, being a girly girl and trying to pack for a trip in the great outdoors! I’m sure you’ll have a lot of fun though!

  27. I think I’d be packing a pretty pair of long johns, benadryl, and just in case- some immodium. I can’t wait to see pictures…have a great time.

  28. One of my dear friends just got married and moved to Montana, so I’m sure I’ll be there sooner or later! She says it’s beautiful! Hope you have an amazing trip!

  29. hillsmom says:

    Ha! thanks for the first laugh of July. Remember, if you have trouble with casting the (fishing) fly…go dig up a worm. Just don’t tell. 😎 Looking forward to the photos when you get back.

    Oh, you’ll probably be better off not discussing politics with the “natives”…

  30. Rosey says:

    I vote yes on the golden slippers. 🙂 I think it sounds like a wonderful trip, and how sweet/special that you dad loved it and now you’re going there too. 🙂

  31. Those are a bit too elegant for some outside activities and I’m saying it in a good way. Everything here looks so good, from the simple cover picture there with a serene body of water down to those gloves and backpack.

  32. I love the gloves! I am like a serious packer no matter how long or where I’m going. Bandaids are a must!

  33. I’m thrilled to hear that you’re going to Montana! When I was younger, my folks bought a ranch in Whitehall, where I psent most of my summers. Learned to drive a truck there and shoot a rifle.Then the folks owned a condo in Big Sky oro a few years until they built their dream house just outside of Big Sky. I spent dozens of summers and winters there. It is BEAUTIFUL country—and Yellowstone is fabulous. Just watch out for the Grizzlies!

  34. Sandy Mangis says:

    Fly fishing. What fun. Our family goes fishing all the time. Have a great time and if you are like me….you will forget at least one thing. Sounds like you thought of most.

  35. Robin Herman says:

    Friend of mine read this post, wrote: “You’re going to need Sherpas”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Follow Carol


Here you’ll find my blog, some of my essays, published writing, and my solo performances. There’s also a link to my Etsy shop for healing and grief tools offered through A Healing Spirit.


I love comments, so if something resonates with you in any way, don’t hesitate to leave a comment on my blog. Thank you for stopping by–oh, and why not subscribe so you don’t miss a single post?


Subscribe to my Blog

Receive notifications of my new blog posts directly to your email.