It is time to get out on the road and go have some fun. If you are new to road tripping, the big question, beyond where are you going, is what all to bring with you. With that in mind, I’ve put together this weekend road trip essentials checklist.
I’ve refined this list on my trips out and about the PNW in Leif the Adventure van and have learned some of the things that you really need to have with you. On top of this list you will want to pack your clothes for the trip and if you are camping, you will need to gear up for car camping as well which means sleeping bags, tents, cooking gear and so on.
This list though will cover the things you will want to bring on a weekend road trip doing some sightseeing.
The ‘Well Duh’ Road Trip Essentials
These are items that I’d suggest everyone have on hand that should be obvious, but you should make sure you have in your car before heading out on the road.
- First aid kit and extras
- Paper maps (phone die)
- Extra car key on the exterior of your car
- Emergency beacon
Obviously a well stocked first aid kit is a no-brainer, but I suggest adding a bottle of pain killers to it as well as some antacids.
Paper maps are not utterly essential, but if your phone dies, having some idea of how to get where you are going is really handy. Plus on more remote roads you may not have signal and Google Maps may not have accurate information.
Emergency keys are important. If you have ever locked your keys in your car, you will know what I mean. Cars with key-fobs are less prone to this, but keys can get lost, so some way to get into your car does come in handy.
Last but not least, I highly suggest that you always have what I call an “oh-shit button”. These are any of the emergency locator beacon that you can use to call for help in the case of extreme emergencies. Your car can go off the road where there is no signal or you can get stuck somewhere and have an emergency, not to mention all the reasons to have one when you are out hiking.
Food and Snacks
It doesn’t matter if you are eating at restaurants or cooking your own meals someone will get hungry while you are driving and you will need someplace the cold stuff. If you forget to shop ahead you will be buying chips, beef jerky, and cold drinks at a convenience store and pay way too much. So hit the grocery store early in the week and grab all your between meal snacks.
- Chips and snack crackers
- Beef jerky
- Trail mix (hit the bulk food aisle)
- Cold drinks
- Sliced cheese
- Extra water
Regardless of if you are cooking your own meals or just keeping your soft drinks (or beer) cold, you will need a cooler and a way to the contents cold. One common mistake is bringing too big of a cooler. One that is just the right size for the weekend will stay cold longer and you won’t waste space in your car. My preference is something along the lines of 24 can semi-soft cooler. They don’t take up a ton of space and the right ones will stay cold all weekend.
Personally, I rock an old Mountainsmith The Cooloir 24 Soft Cooler but it is discontinued. I’ve loaded it up with cold drinks on a Friday, left it in Leif the Adventure Van all weekend while I was up a mountain, and had cold beers waiting for me on Sunday afternoon when I got back to him. It also will hold the bacon, eggs, and juice for the weekend as well.
Look for ones that have thick insulation and solid construction. Here are a few on Amazon that look promising but I haven’t tried them out yet.
- 24 Can Igloo Reactor
- 30 Can Igloo Reactor Portable
- Yodo 30 Cans Leak Proof Bag
- Earth Pak 20-Can Soft Cooler Bag
One other thing I do is skip the ice which doesn’t last that long and go with the cooler gel packs instead. I have saved mine from different deliveries, but you can get some of the Nordic Ice ones I use on Amazon. Using these means less mess and colder food over the long haul. Granted they don’t work so well if you are shooting for that ‘cooler full of ice-cold beer’ for a party thing, but that is a whole different mission.
Electronics and Media
Everyone has their smartphone for navigating, but that only does so much and isn’t any use if they don’t work. I always have a seperate set of cords and a charger in case the ones I have crap out. Trust me, they will die at the most inopportune time.
- Hands-free cell phone holder
- Extra charger and cords
- Waterproof bag
Be prepared for no cell-signal
Living in urban areas, we are overly used to their being signal EVERYWHERE. That isn’t true when you are on the road. Even on highways, sometimes there are dead zones in canyons and mountainous regions. The trick here is to plan ahead. Nothing sucks as wanting to play your favorite road trip tune, only to find out you don’t have a signal to stream it with.
Here are some ideas of things to download ahead of time before you hit the road:
- Offline Google maps
- Netflix or other movies
Comfort on the Road
Hours on the road aren’t always comfortable, a few basic things can make things a lot more fun. Sure the driver doesn’t get to relax much but whoever is riding or shotgun or in the back can get comfy. Here are some things to consider bringing along.
Toilet paper… I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been glad to have extra toilet paper in the van. Not all rest stops or Forest Service vaults have T-P in them or it is reaaaaly bad toilet paper. Bringing your own is always a smart idea.
The there are ‘female urination device‘. Some people love these, some don’t but if you are a girl and want to pee standing up, these might be something you want to check out. They can make a quick trip behind the bushes a bit more convenient.