The Car-Camping Guide: Road Trip Essentials

You’ve probably figured out by now that I spend a lot of time on the road. There are a great many facets to making a road trip come together and, as you can imagine, there’s a method to my madness in how I prepare for a trip.

The adventure-mobile takes a lot of abuse. With the help of my trusty mechanic, we keep her running smoothly.

Part of that method is breaking the process down into manageable chunks. One of those chunks is a collection of basic pre-emptive measures that don’t take a lot of effort but can make a big difference in how a trip goes when the going gets tough.

Much of this may seem like no-brainer material but when you’re in the chaos of packing, they’re easy to overlook or even dismiss as overkill. And while I actually keep some of these measures in place all of the time, I always do a double-check before a trip to make sure nothing has gone amiss.

The adventure-mobile…

  • Pre-trip service: Routine maintenance for your adventure-mobile is crucial to maintaining performance and catching little things that can become big problems later. As much as a break-down near home is a headache, when you’re on a road trip, it can become a trip-killer and very expensive as you find yourself over a barrel, far from home, and stressed about getting back on the road.
  • Spare: Always check your spare and jack tools to make sure all pieces are there and that the spare hasn’t gone flat. Just as important is actually knowing how to change the tire. Having the means to change the tire is useless if you don’t know how.
  • Tools and duct tape stashed under the passenger seat for quick access. Normally the tape lives in the spare tire well which becomes hard to access when we're fully packed.
    Tools and duct tape stashed under the passenger seat for quick access. Normally the tape lives in the spare tire well which becomes hard to access when we’re fully packed.
  • Jumper cables: You’d be surprised how often I use these. Having them on hand has saved me countless hours of waiting for help as well as allowed me to get other folks back up and running quickly. Again… knowing how to use them is important.
  • Roadside Assistance: Having that monthly or annual fee for roadside assistance seems pointless and aggravating when you’re not using it but having that resource when you’re in trouble is priceless. When you factor in the cost of a single tow service against a minimal fee, it quickly becomes worth it. I travel with much greater peace of mind of knowing that safety net is in place and that with one phone call I can get the help I need.
  • Owner’s Manual: Make sure you’ve keep your manual on hand and you won’t be left guessing and scrambling for simple things. It’s the ultimate, easy reference on how to change a lightbulb or fuse or even do some quick trouble-shooting so you can assess the seriousness of an issue.
My Goal Zero flashlight lives in that car at all times and can be recharged via a USB cable I can plug into my power inverter... which also always stays in the car.
My Goal Zero flashlight lives in that car at all times and can be recharged via a USB cable I can plug into my power inverter… which also always stays in the car.
My large first aid kit gets stashed under the drivers seat when we're fully loaded so we have unimpeded access in case of emergency.
My large first aid kit gets stashed under the drivers seat when we’re fully loaded so we have unimpeded access in case of emergency.

Emergencies…

Extra cash and passports are easy to throw into the glove box.
Extra cash and passports are easy to throw into the glove box.
  • First aid: I keep an extensive first aid kit in the car at all times but I always give it a once-over before a big trip to replenish often-used supplies like adhesive bandages as well as check expiration dates. The biggest point I can make here is that having a first aid kit is useless, and possibly harmful, if you don’t how to properly use what’s in it. Build your kit based on your current knowledge and seek out more training to build your skills.
  • Glove box stash: I always keep an old wallet in the glove compartment that holds the extra stuff I don’t need to carry on a daily basis. It’s my of stash essential items like my auto registration, insurance card, and my roadside assistance info. I also carry an old driver’s license and spare credit cards. In the case of a lost wallet, having these on hand goes a long way. Without them you can find yourself quite stranded and helpless. In addition my extra little wallet, on long road trips I also carry our passports and some emergency cash in a heavy-duty waterproof pouch which stays locked in the glove compartment.
  • My newest addition, the Spot Locator will give me emergency communication options, even without a cell phone signal.
    My newest addition, the Spot Locator will give me emergency communication options, even without a cell phone signal.
  • Flashlight:Having a flashlight in the car at all times is one of the most useful things I know. I’m partial to my Goal Zero since I can keep recharging via a USB cable and not have to worry about batteries.
  • Tools and tape: I keep a roll of duct tape in the spare tire well as a general practice. You just never know when you’ll need to MacGyver something, whether it’s outdoor gear, a broken window… you name it, duct tape can save the day. I also carry a small multi tool everywhere I go for the same reasons but for these longer trips I also add a small, basic tool bag to the mix.
  • Spot: My newest addition is a Spot Locator device. Going into areas where I can’t count on cell signal, it’s my emergency lifeline should I find myself in a difficult situation.

Big picture…

Let’s face it, no matter how much planning you do, things go wrong. These measures are really painless to put in place but go a long way when you’re in a bind on the road.

I’m sure I’ve missed some other great road trip essentials so tell me what I’ve missed. What are your go-to tactics for pre-emptive damage control?

And now for your moment of green…

With my road trips essentials in place, I’m ready to go free-range in the adventure-mobile.

FYI, I’m a Goal Zero affiliate. Purchases made through Val in Real Life support my efforts here on the blog. And yes, I really do use their products… extensively as a matter of fact. 🙂

Comments

  1. A very helpful checklist! Thank you:)

  2. Safety is really important!! I always have an emergency kit their in my car. You have outlined some important things that everyone need to care of to survive on road trips. Great list indeed. Thanks!
    Very very helpfull.

    1. Glad it was helpful. Having some things on hand can make the difference between a minor inconvenience and a ruined trip.

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