Are you lacking adventure, spontaneity or freedom in your life or job? A cross-country road trip might be just what you need.
In this post, you will learn from my mistakes as a road-tripper and how you can avoid them. I will also include my top 30 most essential road trip gear recommendations for short trips and long tours.
I’ve done a decent amount of traveling, road-trips, backpacking, and hiking – east to west and lots of in between. I’ve made all the mistakes you can imagine. But I also had great experiences, met awesome people, grounded myself in many ways, enjoyed the wilderness and expended my horizon.
While on tour, you can enjoy life to the fullest and let your soul stretch. No schedule, no stress, no duties! Endless possibilities—just you, your car and the road.
Without further ado, here are the 30 most essentials road trip items for a longer trip. The links will bring you to the best Amazon deal I could find. My general road trip tips are at the bottom of the post. Thank you very much for reading and all of your support!
This is a really great book on the subject of road trips. It’s full of things to consider when planning ahead for your next trip. It’s full of tips like – how to pack your bag, and mistakes to avoid etc. You’ll also find lots of destination recommendations and how to get there. It’s a good -offline- reference to have on any road trip. Check it out
I picked up this little piece of equipment somewhere on my 5th trip or so. Not a must have, but if you’re thinking about bringing bikes with you, it’s definitely a space saver. It’s easy to install and I had no issues with it yet. I have the exact same model and got it on Amazon. Just follow the link for more detailed specifications: Check it out
In case you don’t have a snow brush already, definitely get one. They are pretty cheap and you won’t regret having one after driving through the mud when your windscreen looks like s**t. You could find them at any gas station really, but they cost 2x the price there. Amazon has the best deal, can highly recommend! Check it out
I would only recommend getting a rooftop bag strap like this if you’re planning to go on a longer adventure. Always try to pack as efficiently as possible so that you won’t need one. But in case you really really have to bring your blow dryer here is the most budget-friendly option. It’s not a hard case, the material is flexible. Check it out
Especially if you travel with a dog like me or kids, you will appreciate having a portable vacuum cleaner around. I use that thing even on shorter trips. If you’ve done a little longer tour already, you know how your car looks like just after a few hours, days, weeks. Food leftovers, shoe dirt, dust, dog hair, (kids stuff). Check it out
This is more something I got from a Mythbusters episode: “The Best way to get out of a sinking car.” That really stuck with me. Every time I was either passing a bridge or near the water I remembered that episode. Call me paranoid but I’ve had a seat belt emergency cutter ever since in my glove box. It cost just a few bucks. Check it out
Another recommendation for the “2+ days trip” category, or in case you are traveling with your dog. The air quality within the cabin of your car or the trailer can get a little bit, well just not as great. What the ionizer does is clean the air by filtering out the smelly particles. The like will get you to the full description. Check it out
Definitely something for the hotter months of the year. If you are planning a trip December – February you might want to skip this one. You can place this car fan pretty much anywhere you want it, whether it’s in the cabin of your car or in the back of your trailer or camping van while cooking. Works in the tent as well. Check it out
The baby in the photo is a bit misleading, I mean I’m sure it works great with babies. But in my case, I use the backseat mirror to have a good view of my dog. It gives you a nice wide angle to see the entire back seat. You would have to place it strategically so that you can see it in your mirror. You can also repurpose anywhere. Check it out
If you have a vacuum cleaner you are pretty much set. This is more the low budget cleaning option. It’s also very useful if you rented a car and would like to bring it back clean after a long trip. You can grab some “Wet Ones” pretty much at any Drugstore. Amazon offers the best price if you are OK getting a pack. Check it out
If you drive an older car model, this wireless FM Radio might be just for you. I use it in my pickup since my other car has Bluetooth build in already. The idea is that the Wireless FM Transmitter allows you to listen to digital radio and make calls. You just stick it into your cigarette lighter, and it’s ready to go. Check it out
Having a first aid kit around just in case you or someone in your entourage needs it is an obvious one. It’s even mandatory to have one in your vehicle in some States. I also use this emergency kit outside the car. Its pretty compact sized and fits easily in your backpack. Check it out
After many years of traveling and road tripping experience, this is more of a personal lesson I had to learn the painful way. After being on the road for days, weeks and months, I got a pretty deep back pain and stiffness. My physiotherapist gave me the recommendation actually. Here you go Check it out
If you like to keep it clean, this one is for you. I used to take a plastic bag, throw it in the back and use it as my garbage container. Well, sometimes that plastic bag tends to explode or end up under a bunch of stuff. After too many mishaps, I caved and got myself this travel garbage container. You’ll be glad you did! Check it out
If you travel with a friend or a couple more people you will need some more USB charging spots. The charging adapter is small and fairly robust, I can’t even remember how many times I’ve dropped it, and it still works! It costs just a few bucks and you can also use it after your trip: Check it out
The backseat travel organizer is another one that I would recommend if you travel with more than just yourself. It keeps stuff organized and you always know where to find things. I don’t have kids, but I can imagine that having an organizer like that would be quite useful. Amazon has the best deal on it! Check it out
Chances are pretty high that you will bring your phone with you on your trip. Chances are probably even higher than you will try to look at it or use it while you drive. Keep your phone in insight, and go handsfree with the mount holder. It’s especially great if you navigate with your mobile. Check it out
Another all season tip. The cooler or warmer box will keep your food or beer or beer or orange juice as cold or warm as you want it to be. You can regulate the temperature manually and set it the way you need. Get it only if you plan a 2+ days road trip, so it’s worth it. Keeps your stuff cool for hours. Check it out
While you are traveling you will take a lot of pictures, but holding your camera or phone steady won’t be that easy most of the time. With this flexible camera tripod, you can hold your camera still filming or taking photos. You can even twist it around railings, branches, chairs etc. Check it out
I mean from here on its pretty much all a must! If you go on a trip, you are likely to have food on at some point. This camping dish kit is perfect for prepping food on the go. Here is a good camping soap. It’s also great to keep your budget low, as you can get basic ingredients and make your own meals. Check it out
Top 10, here we go. You might ask yourself how a dash cam made it here. Well, out of personal experience, if you take lots of road trips you will also come across some crazy and stupid drivers. My dash cam is running as soon as I start my car. If anything were to happen, you have it all on tape. Check it out.
The biggest advantage of a microfiber towel is that it dries very quickly. After you dry yourself with it just put it somewhere where it is exposed to some airflow and ideally some sunlight. You can even take it and wave it in the air a few times to help it dry quicker. Roll it up after and put it away. Check it out
Definitely one of my favorites. No trip or road trip is complete without my portable power bank. This one will give you a little bit more than two full phone charges. It’s very small, as you can see on the image, and very light. It fits in your pocket or your camera bag without any trouble. Check it out
If you have a small car and not a lot of space, this back seat mattress is perfect. You use it as you imagine it, blow it up, put it in place, and done. There is absolutely no other way to sleep comfortably in a compact car! I bought mine about 1 year ago, and prices have gone down quite a bit since then: Check it out
This is another highly recommended all season, must have item. Even if you would rather spend the money on some cool 20,000 Lumen Flashlights xD. This is a pretty much a once-in-a-lifetime purchase (aside from the little first aid kit, replace it every couple of years). Check it out
Having this pillow is awesome, especially when you are not behind the steering wheel. It comes in handy when you take your co-driver re-charge nap. You can, of course, also your most recent airline give away blow up pillow; however, trust me—IT’S NOT THE SAME:). Compact, and fits in a little carry bag: Check it out
I use my UE, not just in the car, but pretty much everywhere. It’s in the living room when I have friends over. It’s in the kitchen when I’m cooking… you get the idea. It’s super versatile, the battery lasts for at least one week at maximum usage, and it’s also water “resistant.” Perfect for a road trip! Check it out
If you are tired of or annoyed by Google Maps or Waze, get the Garmin GPS Navi. I know, nowadays we all have tons of apps to guide us around, but when you are a bit off road, or out of signal or data, you’re done for. My Garmin has never failed me so far, and I can really recommend it! Check it out
Another very practical piece of equipment that I would miss on every road trip is a power inverter. I have this 300W inverter, which allows you to plug in two devices, yes PLUG (it has two proper plugs) and can even run two devices at the same time. It also comes with two USB ports and plugs into a cigarette lighter. Check it out
I wish I would have bought this when I started doing road trips. Even if you are 10 miles over the speed limit you WILL get a ticket, without even noticing it happened. But when you get back home and check the mail, you’ll know. Just one to three missed tickets and this radar warning device has paid for itself. Check it out
I give some more general travel and preparation tips in this post: Road Trip & Travel Tips. In case you are planning to bring your smartphone along you might also want to check out the post on the top 40 road trip apps.
All the items above are great to have but knowing where you are heading and being prepared still remains the most important piece of advice. Check out our Planning & Packing category for more. I hope my list gave you some good pointers for your trip.
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Your outback gear and review team