Road Trips take a lot of planning and it is important to make sure you have all of the right gear. We did a post about planning for a road trip, and in this post we are going to cover the essential road trip gear that you need to bring with you when you set out on the open road. Note: This post contains affiliate links.
Road Trip Gear
Safety first right? There are a few items everyone should have on a road trip to ensure their safety in the event of a breakdown.
It is important to be seen if you break down on the side of the road. If your battery is dead or you have some other electrical problem, your lights will not work. Proper use of a reflective warning triangle keeps you visible and helps ensure your road side safety. This is the first piece of road trip gear I put in any vehicle.
A good wool blanket is another key item I keep in the car for safety. They are incredibly warm, and can be used for padding, shade, or insulation when it is cold. I prefer wool to synthetics and cotton for its flame resistance, and heat retention.
Staying dry may seem like a comfort measure, but if you break down and have to walk in a cold rain, you will be glad you invested in quality rain gear. I recommend that you get something that is not only water proof, but also high visibility. You don’t want to blend in to your surroundings if you have to be on the side of the road.
Fully Charged Phone
Being able to contact emergency services, a tow truck, or a family member may be critical when you are traveling. It is important that you have some means of communication with you and a way to keep it charged. I’m a fan of using a good car charger in combination with a high capacity power bank.
Another great item to have in your trunk is a good sturdy pair of shoes (and socks!). If you break down and have to walk, it is nice to have something besides your vacation flip flops with the beer opener on them.
It is incredibly dark on remote roads. Carrying a good flashlight is essential (a few extra batteries is never a bad idea either). I am a fan of the Maglite Mini LED. Its multiple modes can help save battery power, or make certain that you are seen by passing drivers.
First Aid Kit and Training
Along with these items, I think it is essential to add a First Aid Kit to your road trip gear and the skill set to use it. You never know what you may encounter on the road. Check your local Red Cross for information about First Aid Training.
Maintaining your vehicle is incredibly important, but sometimes you will have a breakdown. If you have the mechanical skills to repair these things yourself, it is important to have the items needed to make the repairs.
A good quality tool set is important. Cheap tools will fail you when you need them the most. It is worth investing in a set of high quality hand tools. Be sure to go for something with a good warranty.
Having a few spare parts for your vehicle can mean the difference between getting back on the road and paying for a huge tow bill. I like to keep a spare tire, serpentine belt, radiator hose, and a quart of oil in the trunk. These things don’t take up much space, but can be a lifesaver.
Battery Booster / Jumper Cables
Dead Batteries happen, sometimes you leave your lights on, sometimes the battery fails, sometimes its something else. No matter the cause you should be prepared to deal with a dead battery with jumper cables, or even better a battery booster. Bonus: some of the boosters have air compressors to help deal with low tires, and 12v and usb charging ports.
A small gas can is an incredibly useful piece of road trip gear too. Running out of gas is probably one of the most common reasons for a breakdown. If you have to walk to a gas station, it is a good idea to already have a gas can. They can be a little over priced at gas stations, and sometimes carrying the can serves as a signal to other drivers that you are in need of a ride. I’m a fan of the 1 gallon can because it is lighter weight when filled.
Flat Tire Kit
Right up at the top of the list next to running out of gas for reasons for a breakdown, is a flat tire. There are great kits on the market for repairing flat tires that will get you back on the road (provided the tire is not too damaged) long enough to get somewhere to have it repaired or replaced. One of my favorites is: Slime 70005 Safety Spair 7-Minute Flat Tire Repair System.
The most important car care item you can take on the road with you is knowledge. All the tools in the world won’t help you if you don’t know what you are doing. Study, and practice ahead of time. Change your tire a few times until you feel comfortable doing it. We live in an amazing age where information is easily available and mostly free, take advantage of it. Watch videos, visit forums related to your vehicle (these are great resources), and learn how to do some minor maintenance on your ride.
Not all road trip gear is safety or mechanically related. It is important to be comfortable especially on long road trips. If you are going to be spending hours (or days) on the road, you have to have some items that make it a little easier.
Loose fitting clothes, that you are comfortable in are essential for road trips. I’m a fan of athletic shorts and T-shirts for driving in. I’ve found that jeans dig into my stomach after just a short time on the road. Dressing like I’m going to the gym is the most comfortable for me.
Just like movies, you have to have a great soundtrack to your adventure! Make sure you have everything you need to stream music from your phone to your car stereo. A high quality Auxiliary Audio Cable will make a big difference in the sound of your music. Try Amazon Music Unlimited 30-Day Free Trial
Seat Cushion / Cover
Take a cue from Truck Drivers here, being on the road for long hours is rough on your body. It is nice to have something comfortable to sit on. Seat cushions provide much needed relief for your rear, your thighs, and your back, but it is still important that you stop at regular intervals to stretch your legs though.
The extreme brightness you encounter on the road can be incredibly dangerous. The brightness can cause temporary blindness that can lead to serious or fatal accidents. Not only is it dangerous, the bright sunlight can cause permanent damage to your eyes. Everyone should wear good Sunglasses when they are exposed to bright sunlight, especially the driver!
One thing I often overlook is how to manage the waste we generate on a road trip. Having one place to store your trash out of the way, makes for a much more pleasant ride. Instead of having to kick around empty water bottles and chip bags every time you get in and out of the car, you can just dispose of all your trash when you get out and not have to deal with it again. I use plastic grocery bags for mine.
We’ve covered road trip gear for safety and comfort, now it’s time to talk about travel gear. There is a lot of stuff that can go into this category, but we are going to cover the essentials.
I know you can use your phone for this, but I am a fan of stand alone GPS units. You don’t have to worry about data usage, lack of a signal, or running the battery down on your primary means of communication. Many of the newer GPS units come with lifetime map updates, live traffic, and great route planning tools. This is one piece of road trip gear I always keep in the car.
You have to take pictures on a trip, right? Smart phones have incredible cameras (a lot of the images on our site were taken with a Huawei Nexus 6P) on them that will meet most of your needs, however if you want to step up your photography, I am a huge fan of DSLRs. Nikon and Canon both have incredible options that are incredibly affordable for their capabilities.
Sometimes you will see wildlife off the road, or some other roadside attraction. Being able to look at these items from a distance is often the best option (especially with wildlife). A good set of Binoculars will make it possible to see things a great deal further than normal, and usually fit nicely in a glove box or console.
Things can get expensive here if you aren’t careful. Stopping at every convenience store you pass for soda and chips is not only costly, but pretty unhealthy too (Keep an eye out for our post on healthy eating on the road). Check out these items that make eating while you travel a breeze.
Keeping drinks (and some snacks) cold is important. No one wants hot water or soda. Coolers prevent your drinks and snacks from getting hot in the sun. You can spend as much or as little as you want on a cooler, and they have every option out there from coolers with speakers, to super utility coolers. I personally use a RTIC Cooler (RTIC 20 Tan)
Low sodium dried snacks are great for munching on as the road rolls by. Dehydrated or freeze dried fruit and low sodium nuts are some of my favorite choices. Go ahead and buy enough for your entire trip, they don’t take up much room.
Pack plenty of bottled water. I am a soda lover, but i like to be comfortable in the car. Carbonated beverages make me feel bloated, and that is the last thing you want when you have hours on the road with a seat belt strapped around your belly. Staying hydrated is crucial as well, and nothing does that better than water. Yes, it will make you have to stop and use the restroom, but you need to get out and stretch anyway, so that’s no excuse.
Cups and Such
Stainless Steel double walled cups are incredible at insulating. For you coffee drinkers out there, they will keep your drink warm far longer than it should take you to drink it. If you like your beverages cold, they can handle that too! A 20 oz Stainless Steel Tumbler will hold plenty of liquid and keep it cold for hours.
Now Hit the Road
You have a solid list of road trip gear now. Keep in mind these are only the essentials, and you may want to add or remove things to tailor this list to your route and destination. Most of this stuff won’t take up too much space (with the exception of the cooler) so you will still have plenty of room for your luggage.