Download a PDF of the Ultimate Road Trip Packing list here.
Get a Google Sheets copy of the Ultimate Road Trip Packing List here.
Automotive tool set
Don’t get caught without basic tools or jumper cables.
Roadside assistance coverage
Sometimes tools aren’t enough. The annual fee for our AAA coverage was much less than we would have otherwise spent on towing. And we also saved on admission fees. TIP: Free maps are available for members at AAA locations.
We travel light. We purchased the Gregory Savant 48L and the Gregory Sage 45L in 2014; primarily because of the front-loading design. We’ve been happy with them but a backpack style can be a personal preference. Our models are now obsolete but this Gregory is similar albeit larger.
City slicker? Hard-core hiker? Consider your travel style to select the right day pack. We use this Marmot Kompressor pack – it’s small, compressible and super lightweight.
A dry bag is a necessity for beach bums or water sports enthusiasts.
Keep your belongings secure with Pacsafe portable safes (we have two different sizes). Pacsafe makes a variety of packs and bags too.
Headlamps and flashlight
Michael spent way too much time on lighting forums for these Zebralights not to be the best available. They have served us well for 4+ years and counting.
A camping lantern is useful for lighting a large area. The Luminoodle strip lights are versatile; they pack into a pouch for use as a camping lantern but can also be hung and strung as you wish. Added bonus: they’re magnetic!
Water bottle with microfilter
Use a microfilter for safe drinking water. Although our Vapur microfilter bottles don’t get uniformly good reviews, we’re a fan of the lightweight design and removable filtration.
Bear bells are not proven to be effective. The best choice for a bear deterrent is bear spray.
Our Western Mountaineering Summerlite Mummy and Megalite Mummy sleeping bags were purchased in 2014 for backpacking. We selected them, despite the high price tag, due to the extremely lightweight construction and fantastic reviews. After many years of use, we still highly recommend them. NOTE: Our models are not four-season.
A compression sack is a lifesaver in reducing the size of your sleeping bag or other wardrobe items.
Iceless thermoelectric cooler
This iceless thermoelectric cooler was an amazing addition on our 2016 road trip. Camper Dan has a small inbuilt Dometic fridge/freezer but it takes a while to cool and has some other issues. Whilst driving we run this iceless cooler on our vehicle 12V receptacle. If we have an electric hook-up we use the DC converter and run the cooler on our 120V AC outlet in the back of Camper Dan. Having additional capacity for groceries and fresh food was fantastic and saved us lots of money.
In backcountry situations you’ll need an alternative to a thermoelectric cooler. RTIC coolers claim to keep ice for 5-10 days (depending upon the model). In our experience ice hasn’t lasted quite that long in warm temperatures but still works much better than a standard cooler. RTIC Coolers are expensive but cheaper than the more renowned YETI brand.
Miscellaneous camping gear
- An axe for chopping firewood
- Collapsible camping chairs for relaxing around the campfire
- Any backpacking tent recommendations? We didn’t have a tent in Camper Dan and regret it – we missed out on some great backcountry camping opportunities.
- A yoga mat can double as a sleeping mat
- Michael used this Nemo Fillo™ inflatable pillow for months
- A camping shovel for digging that make-shift toilet
- Assortment of bungee tie downs and ratchet tie downs
The Perfect CampfireGrill has been really handy; we like the ability to adjust the height and swivel it over the fire. However, the workmanship of the stake could be better.
We received these ‘As Seen On TV’ grill gloves as a gift and love the concept. The reviews suggest there may be better implementations in other brands but we’re happy with these. Expect to have to launder them!
Additional grill supplies
We use the Hario Skerton coffee mill to grind our coffee beans on the road and at home.
We use the Stansport aluminum percolator to boil water for coffee but we make our coffee in our french press. We don’t love this product design (the top falls apart and off) but appreciate the multi-purpose capabilities just-in-case.
French press coffee maker
We highly recommend the Bodum french press. We use it to make coffee every day – on the road and at home.
We have an older version of the Stanley thermos and it’s perfect! It’s great for both hot and cold items but we primarily use it to keep our coffee warm for hours.
This ten piece compact aluminum set by Coghlan is perfect for our small space. However, to cook atop a campfire, you’ll need to use cast iron.
I’m a huge fan of this simple, colorful, lightweight IKEA set.
Miscellaneous kitchen supplies
- A Ziploc food saver set is great for leftover food or organizing small items
- Cooking utensils
- A cutting board does double duty as a hot plate
- Can opener
- Michael is a beer geek and refuses to imbibe from our colorful plastic IKEA cups. We use dollar store beer/wine glasses but might try Jokel silicone glasses.
- Wine/beverage stoppers
- Food! We always have some staples on hand including nuts, fruit, granola, olive oil, coffee beans, spices, and more.
Household and Multi-Purpose Products
Nothing particularly exciting on this list, but you’ll likely need most of these items:
- Garbage can + garbage bags
- Dish washing bowl + sponge/dish rag + dish soap + dish drying towel
- Cleaning supplies + paper towels
- Ziploc bags + aluminum foil
- Binder clips + rubber bands + duct tape
- Swiss army knife or multi-tool
- Pen + paper + stamps + envelopes
- Entertainment, such as a deck of cards
- Quarters TIP: You’ll go through quarters faster than you expect – showers, laundry, tolls, parking…
A standard towel is bulky and takes forever to dry. Packtowls are the BEST and can withstand daily use. TIP: Do not buy the original Packtowl – they are not soft and are much bulkier.
If you have to wear sunscreen all day every day it’s worth purchasing products that don’t feel gross. We use an oil-free product on our face and a waterproof product on our bodies.
First aid kit
Please be prepared with a first aid kit. Put together your own or purchase an entire kit.
Miscellaneous personal care items
Clothing and Footwear
Clothing and footwear are very personal purchases and your needs will vary based on your travel style and destination. However, we recommend these brands/products without hesitation:
Computer / tablet / phone
For better or worse, technology tends to dominate our lives. If you’re an Apple user, we recommend the following iPad / iPhone apps:
- FileBrowser is useful in combination with the RAVPower Filehub for copying files to and from external hard drives, SD cards, and other wireless devices.
- Snapseed is fantastic for simple but powerful on-the-go photo editing.
- SkyGuide is a must have for any night sky watcher, perfect for those dark nights camping under the milky way.
- Spotify is our streaming music service of choice.
- Roadtrippers helps plan your road trip route and associated activities.
- Use Hipcamp to discover campsites (or list your own land!). Use this link to sign-up and receive $20 in Hipcamp credit towards your first direct booking (not available for federal or state land)!
- Foursquare is great for finding good places to eat, drink, and be entertained when in a new location.
Power strips, chargers, and adapters
- With no electric hookups at many campsites and few accessible outlets in other accommodations, you’ll find yourself scrambling to use power outlets at every opportunity. A travel power strip is compact and will allow you to change multiple devices at once.
- Pick up a cell phone car charger to ensure you can charge your devices whilst driving.
- If you’re not sure where your travels will take you, make sure you have an international travel adapter that will cover many popular countries.
External hard drive
An external hard drive is a must have for backing up photos and other important data. It can also be used to store movies and music to provide endless entertainment options, especially on those long travel days.
External battery and / or Multifunction device
While we definitely recommend a good capacity external battery for charging your phones and other devices on the go, we also found a small selection of multifunction devices that covered a number of needs at once. With a battery pack, a USB port, a WIFI bridge, and an SD card reader built-in, the RAVPower Filehub can be used it to transfer files between iPads and an external hard drive, recharge iPhones in a pinch, and backup SD cards, all without the need to lug around a full computer.
Headphones and splitter
We both have in-ear wired Bose headphones but Michael has the noise canceling model and I have a model with an inline microphone and remote. Admittedly, these are expensive headphones. You can spend a lot less on headphones but, if you use them a lot like we do, it may be worth investing in a quality pair.
Browse all Bose headphones | Bose in-ear noise canceling headphones | Bose in-ear headphones with inline microphone and remote | Add a headphone splitter to allow two people to listen to the same thing
Camera and accessories
We wanted to be able to take good photographs but have a somewhat “pocketable” camera. The Sony RX100 series (we’ve had the M2 and M3) fits the bill. With full manual controls, a fast lens, a pop-up viewfinder, a built-in neutral density filter, and many other advanced features, it allows for creative photography in a compact format. The major downside is the lack of much zoom which makes photographing objects in the distance difficult.
Miscellaneous technology extras
- A rechargeable battery set can be extremely useful if you have a lot of battery-operated devices. Our only battery operated devices were our headlamps yet we were still happy to have the compact Panasonic eneloop power pack.
- A wireless bluetooth speaker, such as the UE mini boom, enables you to rock out regardless of your location.
- Adding binoculars to our 2016 road trip enabled us to watch wildlife we otherwise wouldn’t have been able to enjoy.
RV cords and hoses
Your needs will be slightly different based on your RV/van hookups but odds are you’re going to need a water hose, sewer hose, and power cord.
Holding tank deodorizers
Not exactly a glamorous purchase but, after much experimentation, the Walex brand became our preferred holding tank deodorizer.