Road trips can be one of the most rewarding and challenging experiences. However, there are many variables to consider when going on a road trip, from where you will stop to eat to how much time you have before reaching your destination.
The more prepared you are for your road trip, the easier it will be. And that's where top gear comes in to make your trip easier. Find out the ultimate gear for the perfect road trip and why it matters when going on a long journey.
Why it is Important to Prepare for a Road Trip
When you are packing for your road trip, it is crucial to take into account the following:
– What will be necessary when traveling?
– How long will this journey last?
– Is there a destination in mind before starting on the journey?
What you pack into your bag is just as important as planning for your trip.
Top Gear for the Perfect Road Trip – Electronics
Goal Zero Yeti Portable Power Station
Goal Zero Yeti is a top car accessory for road trips for those with tablets, laptops, digital cameras, and more who want to avoid draining the battery while parked at their location. Goal Zero's portable power stations are perfect for continuous charging without being plugged in.
Travel cameras are high-quality compact versions of your typical DSLR. They can be convenient for those who don't want to bring everything when they travel, as it means you don't need to lug around a heavy camera bag and lens. A good travel camera is also perfect if you want some nice shots but don't have the time or patience to pull out all the fancy gear.
Road Trip Playlist
Music is essential to any road trip, so take some time to download some playlists before you leave. It's nice to have some familiar favorites on hand for those days when you get tired of the music blasting from your car radio.
Taking the time to download some playlists will also come in handy when you are out of cell service and need to rely on the radio for music. Make this more fun by having each person on your road trip make their playlist.
Podcasts are also a great way to stay entertained on those long drives. There are so many genres of podcasts, and it makes the time in the car pass quicker. You can also download podcasts ahead of time, so you don't need to stream them.
Portable Bluetooth Speaker
If you have taken the time to make some playlists or download some podcasts, a portable Bluetooth speaker is an excellent investment. The speaker is small enough to fit on a table, yet it can quickly blast your favorite songs or podcasts. Turn on the speaker while making dinner on one of your road trip stops or sing along while you are in the shower.
Old School Navigation Maps
Before you begin your road trip, it is a good idea to have a planned, detailed route. However, I still recommend that you bring actual printed maps if there is no cellular service, your phone runs out of battery, you face an unexpected detour, or you get off the beaten track.
Access to smartphones and navigation apps has made buying traditional maps obsolete. While this is useful, we believe investing in a printed map is worth the cost for any extended touring.
The Rand McNally Large Scale Road Atlas is a perfect addition to any road trip if your phone breaks, dies, or doesn't have service and you need directions using the most up-to-date iteration. It includes an enormous array of easy-to-read maps, including that of 350 cities and US National Parks.
Top Gear for the Perfect Road Trip – Kitchen, Food Storage & Snacks
When it comes to road trips, there are many different ways you can store your food. One popular choice for storing perishable goods is the cooler – this is also convenient if you want an opportunity to stop off and have a picnic.
YETI’s Hopper range of coolers has become a favorite due to its durability and selection of soft-sided coolers.
When you're traveling in a car on vacation, packing for the distance is essential. Unfortunately, traditional coolers are heavy and take up space that you could otherwise use to store bags. So, consider using a portable travel cooler.
Soft-sided coolers are easy to pack, and the Yeti Hopper is a staple on the top gear road trip travel list.
Coffee should be at the top of every traveler's must-have list. Whether it is iced or hot, coffee is a refreshing drink that helps soothe those road-weary travelers who are exhausted from their travels and looking for an energy boost to carry on.
For coffee connoisseurs, one of the best ways to enjoy your favorite hot beverage while you are on a road trip is with a portable electric coffee press. The Aeropress Go is a top gear choice as it brews better-tasting coffee, is easier to clean, and can pack down small for easy transportation.
This on-the-go coffee system is lightweight and compact, with a mug that assembles into the main compartment for easy packing. The coffee kit also comes with 20 free 350 paper filters to get you started so that your creativity doesn't end at brewing.
The best gear for a road trip is collapsible Tupperware. Take food containers that pack down flat or buy ones that are BPA-free, lead, and phthalates-free. They come in handy on those long travel days and serve as storage containers for leftovers if you're staying at a hotel with a kitchen.
Bindle 24 oz Water Bottle With Storage Compartment
Water bottles are perhaps the most essential item on any road trip. The Bindle water bottle with storage compartment is a genius idea if you want to make a quick stop and go for a hike without having to lug around a day pack or purse. Instead, you can tuck your car keys or a snack in the storage compartment and carry the water bottle as usual.
Top Gear Essentials
Leatherman Signal Multitool
To keep it simple, the more prepared you are for an unpredictable situation, the better off you are. For those road trips that require some maneuvering around unique challenges, a multitool like this Leatherman Surge is necessary for every traveler.
While it would be obvious to pack tools like tire chains, extra supplies, and water bags in a car's trunk or backseat, you might not consider packing a reliable multitool. Leatherman Signal is an excellent choice when preparing for a long-distance drive with your vehicle.
A good day bag is high on the list of top gear for the perfect road trip. When planning for a trip, the list of essentials is never-ending. Travel day bags can be used in many different ways, such as hiking or shopping, and are among the most critical items to have on any trip. You can slip a few snacks, a water bottle, camera gear, and your other essentials into it.
Rain jackets are small and lightweight, perfect for day trips or unexpected downpours. Use your rain jacket as a way to stay prepared and dry if you're ever caught in the rain!
Pack a rain jacket that is waterproof, windproof, and breathable, made from Goretex. It’s not just useful for traveling in rainy climates but can be used as an outer shell during all types of weather. You can also wear it in the winter over a down coat when it's needed to stay dry.
Road Side Emergency Kit
A Roadside Emergency Kit is a must for any travel. Pack an emergency blanket, jumper cables, and flares when venturing out on the open road. It is always advisable to prepare for emergencies by carrying a variety of supplies. Gear like coolant, zip ties, excess oil, and tools are also significant for roadside assistance when you need it most.
First Aid Kit
The very fabric of a road trip often takes you onto remote and desolate roads, so it’s best to always bring a solid first aid kit.
Traveling with a first aid kit on road trips is comforting, knowing you have a few essentials should you need them, like band-aids, gloves, or disinfectant. The kit should also have a first-aid kit with bandages, antibacterial wipes, antiseptic cream or ointment, and pain relievers like aspirin or ibuprofen.
Racking up the miles on the highway is no problem with a tire gauge. This tool makes it easy to make sure your tires are at an appropriate level, and you're not driving on dangerously low-pressure levels or balding tires.
A lighter is an excellent thing to have on a road trip, especially if you are camping. It is inexpensive and comes in handy for making mores or starting fires. You never know when you will need one, so come prepared for the inevitable.
Make sure you can easily access your toiletries and other personal items on long road trips. In addition, items such as sunglasses, cleansing wipes, and sunscreen are all useful. Finally, make sure to bring enough of your prescription medicines for the length of travel (as recommended by your doctor).
If your car allows for it, keeping medications such as antacids and motion sickness remedies in the vehicle will help when necessary. Be sure to pack wet wipes for use on kids’ faces and hands after meals and to clean up any messes during the trip.
Some of the best gear for a long road trip includes sunscreen. Sunscreen is essential to have on hand when traveling as you may not always be in an area where it’s easy to get shade or protection from harmful rays. In addition, during long trips, there are often hours spent outside or feeling the sun's rays from the driver's seat.
Sleeping in hotels or new places can be challenging. A sleep mask is perfect for any time of day or night when you need some shuteye. Sleep masks also come in handy if you have kids who go to bed before sundown.
When you spend hours and hours in the car, you are bound to have spills. To help clean up those messes, make sure you have a stain remover on hand at all times. It's perfect when it comes to spilled coffee or tomato sauce unexpectedly leaking through the bag – wipe and go!
Road Trip Vehicle Organization
Before your next road trip, consider picking up gear that is specifically designed to help you stay organized while on the go. For example, seat cover organizers are a fantastic option for those looking for a little more order using the back of the front seat.
Small Trash Can
One item that will make a big difference on a road trip is a small trash can. Garbage can accumulate quickly on the road, and this one small detail will prevent your vehicle from becoming a total mess. Another option for tidy travelers on the go is to purchase some pleasant-smelling air fresheners or an appropriate scent pump top spray that you have already smelt at home and know that you will enjoy the smell.
What do you need for a winter road trip?
Preparing for a winter road trip is essential. The two things you need are a winter car kit and snow chains if you will be traveling in the mountains or heading to a ski resort. Snow chains go over your tires to help stop slipping off the road when it snows a lot. A winter car kit includes heat tape and booster cables, tire gauge, windshield wiper fluid, flashlight, gloves. In addition, it’s important to have a scraper/snowbrush, shovel, extra warm clothes, and a down blanket for emergencies.
Don't Forget Travel Insurance
If there is one thing that is essential on this list, remember to purchase travel insurance before you leave. Travel insurance for road trips is inexpensive, so it's great if you don't need to use it, but if you do, it will help protect your assets while you're on the road.
When it comes to road trips, you need to consider a lot of variables before starting. From where and when you will stop for food, the amount of time until you reach your destination, and what gear you'll pack to make your trip easier – top gear for the perfect road trip can be crucial. This list should help take some of the guesswork out of planning for a long journey on wheels.
Casandra is the founder of Karpiak Caravan Adventure Family Travel and a mother to two adventurous young boys. Casandra is a family-focused, adventure travel advocate.
A Toronto native with Danish roots, she became an avid traveler after her first trip to Europe as a college student. Casandra's goal is to provide an educational experience for her family when she travels. When visiting historic sites like D-Day landing beaches in Normandy, or learning about ranch life at a dude ranch on horseback, it’s always a priority to provide an educational experience and to learn about the culture and history of each destination.
You can follow her adventures at karpiakcaravan or get in touch via her social media pages on Facebook and Instagram.