A road trip is the best way to explore a new place. We love the freedom of the open road and having endless options on where to spend the night. This packing list with our road trip essentials has served us well on our 2-year driving tour of Australia and countless road trips to other locations like the Faroe Islands, Indonesia, the Netherlands, Canada, Spain, France, and Portugal.
To help you prepare for your own road trip adventure, we’re sharing our essential road trip packing list. This road trip packing list is guaranteed to keep you safe, comfortable and ready for adventure!
Clothing Road Trip Essentials
Choosing clothing essentials for your road trip packing list depends on where you’re going and what sort of trip you have planned.
Whenever possible, we camp instead of staying in hotel rooms. Camping is cheap, fun and gives you the freedom to roam wherever you choose without worrying too much about going too far off the beaten track. This road trip packing list assumes you’re camping in weather that’s not too hot or too cold, but will also work fine for a trip staying overnight in hotels.
Top Tip: When packing clothing essentials for a road trip, always choose items that are durable, comfortable, easy to wash and preferably quick-drying.
1. 3x Lightweight shorts and trousers
Whatever your preference, shorts or trousers, pack three pairs and make sure they’re lightweight but strong. Cargo style pants made from a tough material are our go-to as they can survive a bit of punishment and have tons of handy pockets. It’s also a good idea to pack a belt as you may lose a few pounds out on the road! We recommend the outdoor shorts and trousers from Revolutionrace.
2. 5x Lightweight shirts/tees
Five shirts may not sound like many but we promise it’s enough to see you through a trip of any length. The key to packing light is being prepared to wash clothes. Washing on the go also means fewer dirty clothes in your backpack which is always a good thing!
3. Lightweight waterproof jacket
You never regret packing a light jacket that’s waterproof, windproof and will keep you toasty on a cool night. We’ve tried a number of jackets over the years and our Fjallraven Keb Eco Shell jackets are by far our favourite. No amount of rain is getting through this jacket and the material is very well ventilated so you don’t sweat too much either! So this is absolutely a road trip essential to add to your packing list.
4. Luminous/ high visibility jacket
A luminous jacket will help keep you safe when hiking, camping, or if you have car trouble. We like this 360 degree reflective jacket from Mountain Warehouse. Suitable for cycling and running, this jacket glows silver when light hits in, ensuring oncoming vehicles will always see you in their headlights.
5. 7 x Underwear
Seven pairs to last seven days. We love sporty brands like Icebreaker that use comfortable core spin fabrics like merino wool. Just remember to do a wash or find a laundry before you reach day 7!
A good-quality daypack is essential for a road trip. How else are you going to carry your water bottle, camera and snacks out on the trail! We love our Osprey Daylite daypack. If you’re thinking about getting one yourself,
Check out our Osprey Daylite review.
7. Neck gaiter
A neck gaiter is a roll of fabric you wear around your neck. So simple but so effective! You can wear a neck gaiter to keep your neck and ears warm in cold weather, to protect your neck from the sun or cover your face during sandstorms. You can even twist them up and wear them as a hat or use them to tie up your hair. We never take a trip without a few Buff Merino Wool neck gaiters in our backpack.
Footwear to add to your road trip packing list
Always consider footwear when you travel, as your comfort is the most important thing. You’re going to spend a lot of time in your car on a road trip but you’re also going to be hiking, exploring local attractions and finding your way around big cities. No one wants to stop exploring because they have blisters on their feet.
8. Hiking boots
One of the most important purchases every traveller must make is a premium pair of hiking boots. Whether you prefer sturdy high ankle waterproof boots like mine from Columbia or a lighter hiking shoe like The North Face which is Nanet’s favorite, choose boots that are durable, water-resistant and supportive. Buy your boots in-store, if possible, so you can have them professionally fitted and always test your boots out before a trip. Don’t forget to choose socks that match your footwear. Wearing thick socks (merino wool is best) with hiking boots makes a huge difference to comfort and odor. We like Darn Tough socks because the designs are super cool and they last forever!
We find sneakers the most comfortable shoes to drive in and they always work in warmer climates. Unless we’re going somewhere really hot (like Bali!) we wouldn’t bother with flip flops or sandals and wear our sneakers most of the time. We both love North Face women’s mountain sneakers for heavy walking and Vivo Barefoot sneakers when we want something lighter.
Road Trip Essentials for camping
Now for the fun stuff! Here’s our tried-and-tested list of road trip camping essentials, guaranteed to see you through a trip of any length to almost any location. These products are all ones we actually use, we wouldn’t recommend them otherwise!
Choose a tent that’s suitable for the weather during your trip. Don’t risk taking a light summer tent somewhere the weather may turn cold or rainy. We have a few tents in our collection but the Helsport Reinsfjell Superlight is our absolute favorite. It weighs less than 2 kg and is perfect for trekking. We survived some heavy storms in Iceland in this tent and would recommend it to anyone whose budget allows.
For a low-cost option, check out a Husky Tent. Although we don’t have experience with these tents ourselves, they are one of the few brands that survived Icelandanic storms alongside our Hellsport tent. Believe me, we have seen some tents tear apart! We always use a 2 person tent but if you need a bit more space and don’t mind the weight too much, you can opt for a 3 or even a 4-person tent.
11. Sleeping Bag
We have North Face The One Bags and we love them! These sleeping bags are not cheap but they feature a 3-in-1 system that makes them suitable for camping pretty much anywhere in the world. By zipping the bag layers on or off, you can regulate temperatures from +4°C to -15°C. In combination with a Sea to Summit Reactor Extreme you can even survive in colder climates. Sleeping bags are essential for camping but are also useful if you’re enjoying your stint as a passenger and feel like getting cosy for a nap!
12. Camping stove
Camping stoves are cheap and easy to find. Our is a BRS Ultralight Camping Stove and weighs only 25 grams.Taking a camping stove is a great idea whether you’re staying in a tent overnight or taking long hikes so you can make tea, coffee or instant noodles on the go. We often cook full meals using our camping stove but it can be much easier to use two!
13. Cookware, Cups, plates and cutlery
Another cheap item that’s easy to find. We recommend buying a set made from metal, enamel or durable plastic as it’s long lasting and won’t break. A set like this Jutland Cookware Camping kit includes pans for if you’re travelling as a group and intend to put your camping stove to good use. For our purposes, something like this Uco 6-piece mess kit works great.
If your budget allows, check out the sea to summit cooking set and their cutlery and plates. This set fits perfectly together and doesn’t take up much space. Also, the plates stay cool underneath so you can rest them on your lap to eat without getting burned!
14. Water bottle
Most people carry a reusable plastic, glass or metal water bottle these days. We would only buy water in plastic bottles in a pinch as we always carry our Camelbak Podium Chill water bottles and fill them up whenever there’s safe drinking water. These bottles are really amazing as they keep your water cool in hot weather and stop it freezing when the temperature goes below zero.
15. Water Purifier
A water purifier could save your life! We never go on a challenging hike without our Lifestraw so we know we always have a safe water source. A Lifestraw is also useful if you go to a new city and are concerned about the safety of the tap water.
You don’t know you need a multi-tool until you really need a multi-tool! Leatherman make classic, virtually indestructable multi-tools that come in a range of sizes. Something like this Leatherman Sidekick Blister multi-tool will probably do the trick but if you’re planning some real outback adventures, you might want to invest in something more comprehensive.
17. Playing cards or similar
Playing cards, Uno, Travel Scrabble; we always take a game or two with us when we travel. Games are a great way to pass the time without draining your phone battery and a nice way to make friends in hostels or on campsites. These Acelion plastic playing cards should last for years!
18. Portable Charger
Speaking of draining your phone battery, you should always carry a portable charger and power bank. Make sure you have the right cable/connector to charge your phone and power bank in your rental car. We carry this simple portable power bank that has a capacity of 25800mAh and can charge a phone up to 8 times on one charge!
Essential Road Trip Safety gear
Every road trip’s success depends on good navigation and emergency planning. You need to know where you’re going and how to get there, but you also need to be prepared to act in an emergency. There are tons of great products out there to help keep you safe when you travel. Here are the ones we include in our essential road trip packing list.
Being caught in an emergency can be scary enough, without being lost in the dark! Always carry a bright LED torch with a brand new set of batteries when you take a road trip.
20. GPS tracker
Whenever we hike we take our Spot Trace GPS tracker with us. This little plastic square gives us peace of mind that we can always be found in an emergency. This is especially useful if you’re driving way off the beaten track on your road trip.
21. First Aid Kit
Even the most simple first aid kit could save your life if you get injured on a trip. Basics like bandages, antiseptic wipes and painkillers could make all the difference if you’re a long way from healthcare.
22. Roadside emergency kit
A roadside emergency kit is a road trip packing list item we hope you never need to use! Having one of these kits in the car when we’re traveling gives us total peace of mind that if something goes wrong we can handle it. Kits like this 76 in 1 roadside assistance kit include things like a warning triangle, jump starter cables, emergency blanket and more.
23. Tools for vehicle
Sometimes a multi-tool doesn’t quite do the job. If your roadside assistance kit doesn’t include basic tools (hammer, wrench, screwdriver etc) buy a small tool kit too. Something like this small 5-piece handtool kit is perfect and can come in handy when you’re setting up camp.
24. Vehicle spare parts
The final item on our list of driving safety gear is a universal bulb and fuse spare part kit. Even someone who knows nothing about cars can fix simple faults like a broken headlight or a blown fuse. If you’re not comfortable making these small repairs yourself, it’s still worth having spare parts, as there’s always a chance a friendly stranger will give you a hand. Of course, if you have roadside assistance, you should use it. But when we’re traveling in remote areas where help is far away, it’s worth having spare parts on hand.
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And that’s it. The 24 things we always bring on our road trips. We hope this list helps you to plan your own perfect road trip and, as always, if you have anything to add, leave us a comment. For more travel tips an inspiration, check out more of our travel tips.