Sierra Nevada Airstreams - Recreation with vehicles in the Sierra Nevada and American Great Basin areas -> owner's guide -> touring

Keeping a record

"Captain's Log: Stardate ..." The Star Trek TV series used these words to introduce individual shows and make a link to the traditional ship captain's logs. Ship's logs were used to assure continuity from watch to watch while en route and to assist in determination of liability and fault if something went wrong or there was damage to cargo. They also helped to solidify lessons learned about things that went right so others could benefit. Even today research is being done on data recorded in logs from ocean going vessels that sailed the seas hundreds of years ago to learn about oceans, climate conditions, and lost treasures. Today's ships logs include a project for owners of large luxury yachts to automatically capture oceanographic data to assist in ocean health and climate studies.

If you've taken a science laboratory class in high school or college such as chemistry or physics, you will have your own experience in keeping a journal in the form of a lab notebook. These logs and journals were a record of experiments that could be used as a source for reports about the insight the experimentation provided in science and technology. Another example is the common exercise in English classes was a free form journal which helped communications skills through practice.

When you investigate the history of the explorers and immigrants who traveled across the American continent in the 18th and 19th centuries, you will find that much of it is based on records kept by the pioneers. These records are one of the big differences between the indigenous populations and the immigrants. Some, such as Lt. Freemont or Lewis and Clarke, kept detailed journals to describe the lands being explored. Others, such as the diaries of the immigrants in wagon trains, told stories of their experiences on the months long trek across the Rockies.

Unless you pilot an aircraft or captain a commercial boat, you, as a traveler, don't have any significant legal requirement to keep a record of your travels. But keeping a record can help you remember your experiences and you may even be able to use a hobby of record keeping to help you learn more about places you visit and the environment of your travels.


The terms log, diary, and journal are often considered to mean the same thing, they can have distinct differences. Here are definitions that can be used to help distinguish between them. Note that each term has multiple and overlapping definitions in general use and may also have specific meaning in particular trades, professions or technologies.

Log - a record of measures of some particular kind of activity such automotive fuel use, money spent on a particular type of activity, or weather observations. Logs can often be kept in a tabular format.

Diary - a personal record of impressions and thoughts and perceptions with no particular goal or objective in mind. Diaries are a series of short essays.

Journal - a set of one or more logs with additional information about related events or perceptions. Journals are sets of annotated tables and charts.

Place, date, and time notations are of differing importance in these records. Logs tend to emphasize a need for all three. Journals may only need place and date. The information in diaries make sense mostly with just place and perhaps a season.


Knowing where you want to go is always a first step to getting there and the same idea applies to keeping records about your travels. Some find that the simple act of writing down their thoughts on paper can be a satisfying exercise. Others want to be able to learn about the performance of their rig and keep track of maintenance schedules. Another reason for keeping records is to prepare presentations to show to others about your travels. Some people just like to collect stuff and the stuff collected is its own reward.

If you want to be happiest with your travelogue or the record keeping about your travels, take some time on occasion to consider why you are doing this work. Think about whether what you are doing, how you are doing it, and the tools you are using are making the job easier or more difficult. Make changes as you go along. Experiment with new tools. Don't try to fit all of your reasons into one process. Have fun and enjoy your efforts and their results.


Pen and paper are the traditional tools of the journalist. Tatoos, maps, water colors and oil paints, petroglyphs, grafffiti, and other means may also be used to record measurements, observations, and thoughts. Cameras of various types have also been useful. Anything that will create a somewhat permanent record of information has probably served as a tool for creating a log, diary, or journal.

Since the effort is one of recording and storing information, it should be no surprise that computer technologies have become an important part of the effort. You can plug a portable computer into your engine computer, a global positioning system, weather instruments, and a mapping information system to create an automatic log of vehicle performance to as fine a detail as you might care to imagine. Or you can use various products to help you maintain diaries and journals as a substitute for the paper and pen.

Traditional tools include the logbook. If you visit a marine supply store, a pilot's supply store, or even an office supply store, you can find a variety of logbooks for different needs that contain pre-printed forms and tables to help the log keeper make sure all necessary data is recorded. You can even find a logbook at your bank called a check register! Even the artist's sketchbook is a form of a prepared logbook designed for people who capture the essence of a scene for later paintings. College bookstores may have lab notebooks and 'blue books' for students in science or language classes. If your preference is pen and paper records, check through these many options to see if any of them can be easily adapted to your needs.

Writing instruments are also an important part of the traditional tool set. The very act of writing is an art form and can be an enjoyable activity in and of itself. The writing instrument can add to or subtract from this experience. There is always a balance between an instrument that is enjoyable to use, that renders the information properly, and that can provide reliable use. Ink tends to dry out, especially if stored, so pens are not a good choice for storing in an RV. Pencils don't dry out but need maintenance. Brushes need ink pots or paint. Quill pens, fountain pens, mechanical pencils of differing lead size ... so many choices!

Electronic tools are primarily computers of various sorts. These include the general purpose computers such as PDA's (personal digital assistants), laptops, and desktops with either generic software such as word processors and spreadsheets or custom designed computers specially designed for a specific purpose. The digital camera is an example of a custom designed computer designed for the purpose of capturing images. Cell phones are also custom designed computers. These electronic tools can be convenient because they can store a lot of information in a small space, make it easy to search through stored information, and make it easy to backup, edit, and re-use information. They can also automate the recording of date and time and, with Global Positioning Systems, place.

Records archiving

Once you collect your information, you have to figure out how to store it for later use in a manner that makes it easy to find something when you can't remember exactly what it is you are trying to find. Electronic records are particularly useful for archiving because they don't take up much space, can be easily copied, and can be searched in a variety of automated ways.

One consideration in choosing your tools is the longevity of your record. Ink can fade. Paper can disintegrate. Film can fade and pictures disappear. If you think your records are particularly important, you need to consider making copies and archival backups.


Here some examples of the kinds of journals and logs you might keep with suggestions for the kind of information you need to have in each entry.

Finance - Financial records are often an integral part of other logs and journals and are kept to help determine the actual costs of activities. The amount spent may be important as a factor in planning what is next. Keep track of date, account, transaction identifier (check number), payee, amount, and purpose.

Fuel Logs - keep track of distance and fuel consumption in order to evaluate vehicle performance. Keep track of date, odometer reading, gallons, and price. Calculate miles from previous and divide this by gallons for fuel use rate (mpg).

Maintenance Logs - help compare work done on your rig to a maintenance schedule in order to help anticipate upcoming maintenance requirements. Keep track of date, what was done, how much it cost, and any findings related to possible future work needed.

Event Logs - A list of states visited, rallies attended, or other special events or activities can provide for bragging rights, be an index to other records you may have, or just be a fun way to recollect past experiences. Keep track of date, place, what kind of event, and notes about your experience.

Photographs - Some say a picture is worth many words. A series of pictures can tell a story. They will have more value when you keep track of where, why, and when they were taken and what the picture means to you.

Personal logs for fitness, diet, and health - Some folks, especially those with illnesses such as diabetes, may find it helpful to keep track of weight, blood pressure, glucose levels, diet, and exercise to help them maintain healthy habits.


A journal of travel is an ideal activity for children on the road. Maps can be used to mark stops and the route traveled. Sketch books can be used to draw images of sights with crayons or pencils. Notes can be made about history along the route or things seen.


Sierra Nevada Airstreams Memories - a collection of travelogues and other online journals and logs

Owner's Guide on Electronic Data Processing - using computers to help you capture, store, and manage information about your travels.

Owner's Guide on presentations - hints and tips to help you share your experiences with others.

Free web log service -

Links for online journals -

Journal Writing Resources - - nice dictionary of terms and a good essay on reasons why

gambling logs - for those who gamble seriously -

American Maritime Documents -

Logbook of the HMS Victory -

A note about logs and project management from a naval officer on submarines -

Background of British navy logs -

If you find any of these have ceased to become useful or if you have other sites to recommend, please let us know - email

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Last updated 08/19/2003