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Peak Bus Comfort: Fourteen On Board Tips

By Laura Kimberly

You hear lots about the bus trip hikes and destinations, but what about the bus part?

Since 2007, the Dallas Group has chartered bus transportation with all forward facing seats, which are contoured for your back and bottom for the waking hours. These seats, with all their contours and undulations, convert into bunks for the sleeping hours. For sitting and sleeping, here are a few tips on comfort from trip pros.

Stay hydrated.
On the trip out, bottled water is provided. The ice chest is open to all if you want to bring different kind of beverage. Write your name on your container (no glass) so that others do not assume it’s a freebie. Drink up. Don’t hit the trail behind on hydration. On the return to Dallas, soft drinks and beer are provided in addition to the water.

But not too hydrated.
What is consumed must be eliminated. Muse a little about how much liquid you are taking in and how long it will take your body to process it. With the right timing you may never need to step foot into the single onboard chemical toilet. Though it is all you’ve got while the bus is moving, use the facilities in the restaurants and gas stations when the bus is stopped. Be respectful of those who are bunking near the loo.

Be prepared for the temperature—on board and at the trailhead.
The AC is needed to keep the air from becoming stagnant on board; it will be cold. Carry on a jacket. At departure, the Dallas temperature may top 90, degrees, but the temperature at the trailhead or an interim rest stop can be 40 or 50 degrees cooler. The jacket will be handy for the journey and destination. Bring a blanket for cover as you sleep. While some people use their sleeping bag, to avoid accidently leaving it on the bus, and so that you can efficiently hit the trail, bring a separate blanket for the bus.

Cover your ears and eyes.
Block the sounds of snoring with ear plugs. Block the beams of passing traffic and street lights with an eye mask. According to bus trip veterans, these are the most important carry-on items for better sleep.

Bring appropriate sleeping accoutrements.
The trendy item on the new buses is a foam pad or TheramaRest to smooth out those seat contours. In addition to the blanket and pad, bring a pillow; veterans suggest full size. Most people sleep in their clothes—loose fitting is more comfortable. Shoes that easily slip on and off make for fast exits and a better place in the line for food or the restroom. Optionally, bring a sheet to cover the bunk so that you rest assured that your face naps on an unsoiled surface.

Pay attention to the conversion drill.
Unlike on the pre-2007 era buses, before the leaders can convert the bus from sitting to sleeping quarters or vice versa, the driver must stop the bus and all passengers must disembark and remove all gear from on and under the seats. The reboarding process starts with passengers assigned to rear bunks. Heed the call for your section of the bus, board swiftly, and quickly “make the bed” at your section of the continuous bunk. If you board too late or too early you slow down the process.

Discern the dividing line.
Lacking partitions, the small TV monitors at intervals above the seats indicate the general dividing line between yours and your neighbor’s bunk. Be respectful of others’ space and face: work out the balance between short and tall and negotiate the head to toe, toe to toe, or head to head options.

Eat well; bring money—or food.
Look in the trip write up for information on food stops. Those stops are no longer common on the way out, though the bus does stop at a convenience store or fast food joint at about 10:00 p.m. so the seats can be reset as bunks. Bring your own snacks or dinner onto the bus. Some, but not all, trips also stop for breakfast early on the first morning. On the return trip, dinner may be at a buffet or restaurant. Bring enough money to cover your meals.

But not too much.
You can leave belongings on the bus, but leaving valuables or money is not advised. Take change out of your pockets before bunking. Coins tend to fall out as you toss and turn.

Attend to hygiene
Bring dental care items for a quick brush and floss after dinner. Other items to consider: a washcloth and small towel, soap, deodorant, and clean clothes. Maybe you wear your hiking clothes on the way out, but your neighbor—and you—will appreciate fresh attire for the return. Or wear the same set of comfortable bus riding clothes out and back; they should stay fresh enough.

Keep stuff handy.
Don’t pack any of the items you will want or need for the drive in your backpack, which will travel under the bus. Keep the carry on to a reasonable amount as stowage is limited to overhead bin space. Stow sleeping accoutrements in the cargo section designated for them by the bus leader; you will be able to retrieve them during the bunk conversion stop.

Take your medications.
The most frequently packed over the counter medications include aspirin or ibuprofen, antacids, motion sickness medicine, allergy relief, and lip balm. If you take prescription medications, bring them on the bus.

Be a true Sierran.
When blue bags are provided, please recycle your cans and plastic bottles. Don’t put trash in the recycle bag.

Enjoy the ride.
Movies are sometimes shown. Whether or not they are available, bring your own pass times. Books, games, and conversation are the favorites. Meet your neighbor—get acquainted with a whole bus load of potential hiking companions.

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