The silhouette of a woman and an SUV in front of a rocky shoreline at sunset.

4,500 Miles. Five Showers.

Karissa and Linhberg are professional commercial photographers based (mostly) in Los Angeles, California. You can follow their adventures on Instagram at @gondirtin.

Our month living
out of an SUV

Words and photos by @gondirtin

Four weeks. Seven states. 4,500 miles. Thirty-one days on the road. Twenty-six days of wild camping. Zero bear encounters. Five total showers. But we’re finally back home. Stepping back into our house felt strange. Stepping into our home felt like stepping into an AirBnB. It didn’t feel like it was our place. It took a couple of hours of getting back into the rhythm of home life for that feeling to dissipate. Home for the past few weeks was our 1999 Mitsubishi Montero. It was dirty, creaky, a little smelly, but it was our home. It was what we’d come to know and love.
Two dogs running in front of someone leaning against a silver Mitsubishi Montero SUV with a rooftop tent. Copy on image is a quote Twenty-six days of wild camping. Five total showers. Zero bear encounters.

“Twenty-six days
of wild camping.
Five total showers.
Zero bear encounters.”

We didn’t just jump cold turkey into this life on the road. It began as a slow simmer. We wanted to get away during the weekends. We wanted to distance ourselves from the noise and hustle of the city. We sought after the stillness of the outdoors. It all started with our daily driving small sedan. We packed the two of us, our two small dogs, and all the camping gear we had into it. We paid for campsites at proper campgrounds. You know, the ones with paved access, running water, and flushing toilets. We had neighbors. They all camped differently. Some brought legions of children that made all kinds of kid noises. Some partied the night away like it was 1999. Others had their RVs and ran their generators. In spite of all that. We were hooked. We woke up to the sounds of nature while filtering out the excess noise. Bird chirping, trees rustling, and the sound of streams forever commuting downhill. We were addicted and we needed something more. We craved solitude.
A person standing on a fallen tree bridge in front of a spectacular waterfall.
Three vehicles parked in a grassy field with their overland gear and tents set up. 
An SUV driving down towards us on a dirt road with forest and mountains in the background.
The constant Tetris-ing in-and-out inconvenience of packing our small car made us want something bigger. Something more capable. Something that would be able to take us away from those campgrounds. Enter our 1999 Mitsubishi Montero. We desired the fabled Toyota Land Cruiser but quickly realized it was far too expensive for our “just-fun-car” budget. But, sitting at a cool $5,000, the Mitsubishi had, on paper, roughly the same specifications as its much more expensive brethren.
The weekend following us purchasing the Montero, we took it on its first camping trip. We experienced public land for the first time. We got dressed out in the open without worrying about any potential peepers. We dug holes whenever nature called. We experienced the silence. It was all so glorious. We learned a lot about what we liked, and what we needed to improve upon for future travels.
Two people sitting next to a bonfire and a silver Mitsubishi Montero SUV with a rooftop tent under a starry night sky.
These quick weekend trips soon became extended weekend trips. Three or four days on the road became a week, then two. A rooftop tent was quickly acquired and added. We went through three different variations of organization before settling for a permanent custom built drawer system over the course of a year. We went from having an ice chest to a powered cooler. All this was done in the name of convenience to be able to spend more time on the road. Less frustration with life’s daily chores meant more time to be spent actually enjoying life.
Life aligned just right for us to take the four weeks to live on the road. We had work come up in the Grand Tetons area. Instead of flying like we normally would, we opted to leave a week early and drive.
The silhouette of an SUV equipped with overland gear parked in front of the shoreline at sunset.
Leaving Los Angeles, we passed through Las Vegas, and camped our first night in the desert surrounded by red rocks near the border of Nevada and Arizona. We took our time through Utah while still trucking north. We rolled into Wyoming and worked the few days around the Grand Tetons. It was June and we were greeted by falling snow when we entered the park for the first time. From there, we started making our way through Idaho, Washington, then started to make our way south into Oregon. Four weeks later from when we left, we crossed back into California and were greeted by the coast and a beautiful sunset. It was all so glorious.
The pace of the road gave us that comfort. The mornings of getting up right after the sun hits your eyes through the tent’s windows. The mornings of letting our two dogs out to run around and do their business. The nights of crawling into the tent wanting to continue the book we’re currently into. The mornings of having a quick breakfast of cereal while under the canopy of a great forest. It was four weeks filled with tons of seeing and doing. Hiking, landscape photography sessions, missing an epic sunset due to trying to find a campsite, and, of course, the constant seeking of cell signal to work. This was our life for a month. It was simple and we loved it.
An SUV driving towards us on a winding road. In the background there are massive snowy mountains.