The wind in your hair, the sun in your face and the sand between your toes.
There’s absolutely nothing like a great road trip.
Aside from the standard Springsteen album and beer cooler, there’s a few things that can really make the difference between a great road trip and an epic one.
Here’s my low-down on the essential road trip gear that you should never turn the key without.
1 – Something To Cook With
In my book, the only possible rival for a great view, is a great feed.
Do I want to go look at that beautiful waterfall? Or go to the food shack down the road from the beautiful waterfall and stuff my face with ridiculously amazing tacos?
A genuinely tough call.
If you’re as food focused as I am then, well, firstly I apologise. I know I’ve probably given you with a major taco hankering by mentioning the T word there, and if you want to break away from this article and go get your Mexican fix I’d totally understand.
But if you’re hanging around then I’ve got a solution to the ‘view or feed’ conundrum that might just about make things up to you.
This cheap piece of kit eliminates the need to make that gut wrenching decision by giving you the option to just do both.
Have your cake and eat it too.
Sorry. I got distracted there.
Seriously though, this one’s a no brainer.
As much as I’d love to be able to thrive on fast food alone, I’ve seen supersize me. “Apparently” a big mac diet isn’t sustainable.
Neither is eating out 3 times a day. Not if you want to keep to your road trip budget that is.
With a good campstove you can fire up a quick and easy wilderness meal no matter where you are.
This metal burner ring screws into those small portable gas bottles you can buy at pretty much any outdoor place. When you’re done cooking, it folds up to virtually nothing. Whether we’re car camping, tent camping, hiking, or just going on a long drive we never leave home without this guy.
2 – A Good Day Pack
It’s not all sitting cosey in the car with the A/C blasting.
At some point, you’re going to want to get out and stretch those legs.
Half of the beauty of a road trip is the flexibility to see things on your own terms and schedule.
Whether that’s exploring a new city or getting stuck into the wilderness on an awesome day hike, you’ll no doubt want to take a few essentials with you. And having the right day pack to carry them all in is crucial.
A good pack with plenty of pockets to keep things organised and a water pouch or two on the outside for easy access, is a worthwhile investment in any adventurers book.
Something like the REI Co-op Flash 22 or the Gregory Miwok 18 would be ideal.
3 -Duct Tape
Duct tape basically fixes everything.
We’ve used it to tape makeshift curtains (towels) to the car windows in busy Walmart car parks.
We’ve used it to hold our broken polystyrene cool boxes together.
While we haven’t taken duct tape use to quite the same level as this guy it’s fair to say that this sticky miracle has saved our bacon more than once!
Thankfully it also comes in a bunch of different colours, so if you need your emergency engineering to look good too, you’re bang in luck.
4 – Letherman
Letherman, multitool, pocketknife or swiss army knife.
While we’re talking makeshift fixes and emergency engineering solutions, we should probably talk about these guys.
Because for everything duct tape can’t fix, there’s a letherman.
A good one of these can chop up your dinner, screw your ‘strategically dismantled’ camping table back together and finally open that emergency can of spam you’ve been dying to get into.
This is a true camping and roadtrip staple.
Even if you’re not planning to rough it with car or tent camping on your road trip, I can pretty much guarantee you’re going to want to cut, open, screw, saw, file or measure something at some point. I mean, even on a normal day I probably want to use at least one of those functions. Even if it’s just the corkscrew!
5 – Campchairs
One of the great things about a road trip is that you’ve usually got the space to bring those bigger bits of gear that you otherwise couldn’t.
Things like a good camp chair are large enough not to make the cut if you’re bussing or hiking it, but cheap enough to make a massive comfort add to your journey.
Some simple fold up camp chairs go for as low as 10 bucks and pay massive dividends when you’re parked up to watch that epic sunset or chilling around the campfire.
Even if you’re on a hotel/motel kinda roadie, it’s nice to be able to pull in somewhere and relax without sitting in the mud or on a sandy desert floor.
Call me a glamper, but camp chairs are one luxury item I wouldn’t want to road trip without.
6 – A Good Power Inverter
I haven’t had a mobile phone for a few years now (…sorry mum!).
I love being off the grid when I’m travelling.
But whether we like it or not, we’re pretty much dependant on electricity.
Most of us can drag ourselves away from the plug sockets for a few days. But there are some things that are just easier if we have electricity. Especially if you’re on a longer road trip.
Whether it’s for the sat nav, your phone or even blowing up the air bed (I’m definitely becoming a more and more demanding camper as I get older), sooner or later you’re gunna find yourself craving the lure of those A/C waves.
So when you need to juice up those devices on your road trip, a basic inverter is going to be your new best friend.
These guys plug into your car’s cigarette lighter and give you an option to charge via USB or regular plug socket.
If you’re looking for a good starting point, try this one over on Amazon. But make sure to do your research, as there are all sorts of different inverters all kicking out different voltage. Find out what you need to power your devices and get the job done.
While we’re talking electricity, portable power packs like these are also amazing for a quick on the go re-juice if your phone come sat nav starts to die unexpectedly. They’re basically a pocket sized rechargeable battery with a USB socket.
7 – Something To Keep The Bugs Away
If you’re on a long road trip, chances are you’ll be doing at least some camping or hiking or something involving getting out of the car.
Most times, Mother Nature is pretty beautiful. Sometimes though, she can be pretty brutal.
The Maori people of New Zealand have a legend which says that “the god Tu-te-raki-whanoa had just finished creating the landscape of Fiordland, it was absolutely stunning… so stunning that it stopped people from working. They just stood around gazing at the beauty instead. The goddess Hine-nui-te-pō became angry at these unproductive people, so she created the sandfly to bite them and get them moving”.
Whether it’s sandflies, mosquitoes, horse flies or gnats…pretty much everywhere in the world has their own version. Either way, the result’s the same. Itchy bites. And lots of them.
If you’re road trip is taking you through blood sucker territory, it pays to go prepared.
The Thermacell Mosquito Repeller Trailblazer Camp Lantern, aside from being one of the longest product names in history, is very well rated for keeping those pests at bay. I’ve yet to try it out myself though, so don’t take my word for it.
Other than that, if you’re like me and don’t fancy covering yourself head to toe in gallons of poisonous DEET, there are a few other things you could try out.
I’ve used similar all natural incense style sticks like these before to pretty good effect, and then of course there’s the increasingly popular mosquito repellent bands to try out too.
8 – Something To Help You See
This one’s more aimed at those of you that are car or tent camping along the way, but even if you’re not planning to camp out you should probably have some kind of light handy.
A hands free headlamp like this one is always handy, as is this awesome solar powered rechargeable inflatable lantern. Just throw it on the dashboard through the day to recharge, then blow it up at night and you’re good to go. We actually got given one of these as a gift a couple of years ago and it’s become one of our favourite and most used hiking and camping toys.
9 – Some Good Rope
An absolute lifesaver for securing your loads, keeping your camp safe from bears or as somewhere to hang your wet clothes.
There’s no shortage of uses for a decent bit of rope when you’re on the road or camping.
Or you can combine it with your duct tape to make a hammock just like this guy:
10 – Something To Quench Your Thirst
Every good road trip gets you out into the countryside and away from the hustle and bustle.
That’s where the real road trip magic happens.
While that’s awesome, it also means we have to put a bit of thought and preparation into it too.
Running out of water is never good. But if you’re driving through somewhere hot or getting out of the car to stretch the legs on a hike, running out of water could be far worse than an inconvenience.
A decent sized water jug will keep you in good supply, and if you’re planning on getting out and about then this lightweight water purifier for backpackers and trail runners will see you right.
11 – Some Other Small Things For Big Wins
Here’s a few other small bits and pieces that you might not think about when you think ‘road trip’ but I guarantee you’ll be stoked you packed:
- Ziplock bags.
- Basic spices and seasonings (a few pinches of chilli flakes are a quick way to add great flavour to any basic camp meal).
- Plastic plates, cups, knives, forks and spoons.
- Travel coffee cups so you can get your caffeine fix while on the move. A great way to get a jump start on the day and grind out some easy miles on your morning buzz.
- French press or Aeropress. Save yourself a fortune on takeout coffees and get better tasting coffee at the same time. No brainer.
What Other Essential Road Trip Gear Did I Miss?
Think of anything I’ve missed off? What are your top packing tips for an adventurous road trip?