Road Trip Gear Essentials

Our Streamlined Life

So you want to go on a roadtrip – awesome! Roadtrips are a fantastic way to see new places, meet new people, and have brand new adventures. But what kind of gear do you need? Does it need to be expensive? Well, you’ve come to the right place. Here’s our definitive list of Road Trip Gear Essentials — all the goods that fed us, clothed us, kept us comfortable, and helped us work during six weeks on the road! We hope it helps you have a great adventure of your own!



Must-Have Gear for Eating

  • Coleman Single-Burner Propane Stove – While we were living at the campground this summer, I did all my cooking over a campfire. But when we were on the road trip the weather was much cooler and we often returned to our campsite after dark following a long day of sightseeing.  Enter this awesome little stove. We used it for everything from making coffee to boiling water for oatmeal to cooking burgers and warming soup. It’s inexpensive and small and one of the most valuable purchases we made before our trip.
  • OuterEQ 8pcs Pot Pan Set – This little pot and pan set fits perfectly on the propane stove above and had everything we needed to cook meals. It packs up into a little mesh bag and is easy to clean.
  • Chinook Timberline 6 Cup Stainless Steel Coffee Percolator – The first few weeks of the trip we tried to get by on instant coffee. After too many ensuing coffee shop stops for real coffee, we purchased this little percolator at an outdoor outfitter in Buffalo, Wyoming. It’s the perfect size for two cups of coffee. In fact, when we got back to the camper we tossed our big coffee maker and are now solely using this to make our coffee.
  • Reliance Fold-A-Carrier II 5 Gallon Water Container – This water container was a must-have at campsites where we didn’t have water hookups. We’d just fill this up in a bathroom or at a communal spigot and voila — we’d have our own “faucet.” It was perfect for washing dishes and saved us many trips in the dark for filling up our percolator for the morning coffee.
  • Picnic Time Portable Reclining Camp Chair – We’ve had our Picnic Time camp chairs for two or three years now. If you love to camp and don’t already have one … just buy one. Now. You won’t regret it. They’re are basically campfire armchairs. Ryan frequently falls asleep by the fire in his, and we got more than one compliment on them when we brought them to the buffalo roundup. You won’t believe how comfortable they are.
  • Wild & Wolf Folklore Enamel Mug – This item is a “wish-I-had.” Ryan has a mug from his Boy Scout days, but I don’t have one of my own. I’ve put this adorable one on my Christmas list, and plan to use it for everything from morning coffee to campfire hot chocolate.




Must-Have Gear for Sleeping

  • Thermarest LuxuryMap Mattress – We purchased these just a few days before leaving for the trip and didn’t have the chance to try them out before hitting the road. Fortunately, our gamble paid off: we couldn’t have been more comfortable. They come in three sizes, are easy to inflate to your desired firmness, and were perfect for both car camping and tent camping. We were very budget-conscious on most of our gear-purchasing, but these are totally worth the splurge. Don’t underestimate the value of a good night’s sleep!
  • Eureka Amari Pass 2 Tent – We abandoned tent camping halfway through our trip, but it had nothing to do with our awesome tent. We chose this one because it’s small enough for backpacking (in our plans for 2016!) but roomy enough for two people. It’s easy to set up and has a little “vestibule” that’s the perfect place to leave your shoes for the night.
  • Slumberjack Latitude 20 Degree Synthetic Sleeping Bag – I didn’t have a sleeping bag of my own, so we purchased this one before the trip. It’s a newer version of the one Ryan’s had since high school, so we knew it would last us a long time. The material and mummy shape kept me warm even on our coldest night (24 degrees in Yellowstone!).



Must-Have Gear for Working

  • BESTEK 200W Power Inverter 3 AC Outlets with 4 USB Charging Ports – When Ryan purchased this I didn’t think we’d get much use out of it. Boy, was I wrong. This power inverter (which plugs into the car’s cigarette lighter) kept our phones and laptops running no matter how remote our campsite. It was an inexpensive purchase that made my life much easier.
  • Netgear Unite Hotspot (AT&T Go Phone) No Annual Contract – This is what we use to stay connected on the road. I’ll probably write more about this in a later post, but for now I’ll just say we were very impressed by what great coverage we had across most of the country. The hotspot made sure I could check my email and easily get my work done from coast-to-coast.
  • LifeProof Samsung Galaxy S4 Case – Nuud Series – These LifeProof cases are fantastic (and much cheaper online than in cell phone stores).  They kept our phones safe from mountains to beaches and are a must-have for anyone who lives an active life (or is just super clumsy, like me).
  • All-New Kindle Paperwhite 6in High-Resolution Display (300 ppi) with Built-in Light, Wi-Fi – My Kindle was  a birthday gift from my sweet husband, and I was SO happy to have it on the road trip. The backlight kept me reading by the campfire and the built-in wifi made sure I could (almost) always download a new read wherever we were.
  • Fintie Kindle Paperwhite SmartShell Case – See previously mentioned clumsiness. This case protected my baby from damage on the road (and comes in way too many fantastic colors).



Must-Have Gear for Staying Clean

  • Microfiber Travel Towel XL 30×60 with FREE Hand Towel – These towels were also a birthday gift (this one from my thoughtful mother-in-law). They were perfect for the road — they dried quickly and packed up small, and saved us from any weird, damp, smelly towel nonsense on the road.
  • Burt’s Bees Sensitive Facial Cleansing Towelettes with Cotton Extract – These are for those nights when you want to shower, but the showers are so far away … and it’s so dark out … and there might be coyotes. Or bears. They take off makeup and help you sleep a little fresher. (They’re also great after a long, icky day in the car.)
  • Havaianas Women’s Slim Flip Flop – Because no matter how nice the campground’s showers are, you still better not put your feet in them. (Havaianas are my favorite flip flops because of how durable and long-lasting they are — also, fancy colors — but cheapo Old Navy ones do the trick, too.)
  • LYCEEM Hanging Toiletry Bag – This is another wish-I-had item that’s also on my Christmas list. I spent too much time schlepping my toiletries to campground bathrooms in a plastic Target bag — time to be a grownup and get a real toiletry bag!



Must-Have Gear for Adventuring in Style

  • Salomon SpeedCross 3 GTX Trail Running Shoes – Ryan’s usual hiking boots, Merrell Moabs, were wearing pretty thin by the time we hit the road. When we stopped at a Cabela’s in South Dakota he replaced them with these Salomons, and pretty much hasn’t stopped wearing them since. They’re comfortable, grippy, and make him look like he can run up walls. According to him, they’re also even more comfortable than his fleece-lined slippers.
  • adidas Performance Women’s Vigor 5 TR W Trail Running Shoe – These aren’t actually the shoes I wore for hiking on our trip. I purchased them when I got home, and wished I’d had them for hiking and walking instead of the heavier boots I did wear (which I’m pretty sure are responsible for my black toenail). They’re lightweight, perfect for trail running, and look pretty cool too.
  • The North Face Momentum Jacket – If you look closely at the pictures from the road trip, you’ll see that in pretty much every picture I’m wearing either this jacket or the vest below. It’s the perfect mid-weight for layering and staying warm and comfortable on the road. I pretty much wore it to death and am looking to replace it with a new one (probably in black this time).
  • The North Face Reversible Caroluna Vest – This vest kept me warm on all those in-between cool and cold fall days, and was slim-fitting enough to layer nicely. It was durable enough for hiking but also civilized enough for city wear.

6.2 Rand McNally 2016 Large Scale Spiral Bound Road Atlas - Our Streamlined Life


Must-Have Gear for Car Sanity

  • Ziploc Double Zipper Gallon Storage Bags – For a while we used grocery bags for the trash that collected daily during long days on the road. Then I had the epiphany that large ziplocs would get the job done while also keeping weird smells (hello, banana peels and McDonald’s wrappers!) from permeating the car.
  • Rand McNally 2016 Large Scale Spiral Bound Road Atlas – Because sometimes your GPS stops working. Or you get tired of her yelling at you. Or you want to take the scenic route. Or you just want to actually understand where you are, instead of blindly following your GPS’s bossy, bossy voice.

What are your road trip and camping gear essentials?


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I’m the oldest of 12 crazy kids and two pretty awesome parents. My love of travel developed during my early years traveling the globe as an Air Force brat. I’m a runner, a writer, and a reader, and I love cooking up good food and cozying up our camper.

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