Gear Guide: Ultimate roadtrip packing list

If you like to drive and see new places, roadtrips are probably one of your favorite activities. Roadtrips are fun in the summer, but can be hot, so we think that early fall (just about now) is the perfect season to pack up the car and embark on a grand (or not so grand) adventure. What you see on your roadtrip depends on where you start and where you end up, but spending hours in the car every day for a few days has its set of problems. Whether your roadtrip is long, short, or somewhere in the middle, we’ve rounded up some gear that will help you get through it with a smile, even if you haven’t had a shower in a four days. 

Solar charger

If you’re going on a multi-day roadtrip, chances are that your smartphone and various other electronics will run out of juice. Unless you have hotel stops planned every night, you might want an alternate way to charge back up. What better way than to make use of all those hours in the car? This XTG Premium Solar Charger ($30) has suction cups to stick to your windshield and will give an extra boost to any of your electronics via USB. Of course, a car charger always works, too.


You never know what kind of shenanigans you might get into on a roadtrip and the various associated activities, so we recommend always keeping a good multi-tool on hand. We like the Swiss Army Knife Victorinox Explorer ($50) for a smaller tool that still has almost everything you could need. 

A good tee

It would be silly to recommend too many clothing items, as we know that roadtrips can occur in any season or climate, but a good tee shirt is a pretty good bet if you’re heading out on a roadtrip adventure. You can graphically represent your hometown with these awesome shirts from Wear You Live ($35), which display your city’s ‘figureground’ map. 

Roof rack

Depending on the extent of your planned adventures, you may want a roof rack of some kind to transport outdoor gear like kayaks, a raft, surfboards, or other random extra baggage. To save on space and hassle, check out the Malone Handirack ($100), which is inflatable, has a universal fit, and installs in minutes. 


This is an obvious one, but some coolers are better than others. This Coleman Ultimate Extreme Cooler ($80) may look like something your parents have in their garage, but the extra-thick walls of this baby will keep ice cold for up to six days in 90-degree heat. That will keep your drinks and snacks nice and cold for a lengthy roadtrip. 


It’s fun to plan out a roadtrip, but sometimes being spontaneous is a better way to go. If you plan, you might still get lost, and if you don’t plan, you’ll need on-the-go directions to your destination. Either way, a helpful GPS unit will come in handy for keeping on track or finding food and rest stops. The Garmin Nuvi 1450LMT GPS ($150) has pre-loaded maps of North America, turn-by-turn voice prompts, lane-change assistance, a speed limit indicator, route planning, and more. 

Polarized shades

You’ve probably already realized that you’ll need to bring sunglasses on a roadtrip of any kind, but above all we’d recommend that you invest in a pair with polarized lenses. The high-quality lenses improve color and contrast, both things that help you see much better as you drive. These Ray-Ban Polarized Wayfarers ($205) even fold up to take up less space and keep them out of harm’s way. 

Lightweight towel

Whether you take a dip in rivers or the ocean along your roadtrip, or are simply making do with campground showers, it never hurts to have a lightweight travel towel on hand. It will no doubt be of use, and it’s easy to pack in a backpack. We like the REI MultiTowel ($26.50) because it’s extremely lightweight and is made of antimicrobial material that dries quickly and stays odor-free. 

iPod/iPhone dock

We’ve put this little guy on a Gear Guide before, but it’s just one of those things that you’ll want to bring on every trip or adventurous outing. You’ll want to have some tunes blasting in your hotel room, at your camp site, or other places you might stop to enjoy the fresh air. The JBL On Stage Micro III portable dock ($74) is small enough to throw in even a small bag, but pumps out enough sound to fill a large room. 

Emergency kit

Now, we couldn’t compile a great roadtrip packing list without taking safety into consideration. Buy one of these and you can keep it in the back of your car all the time, just in case something bad happens. The REI Emergency Kit ($165) has everything you could possibly need for an injury, illness, or emergency situation, including food and water packets, rescue blankets, and plenty of first-aid essentials. 

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