We logged over 3,000 miles this summer in Oregon, Washington and a trip to Napa, California in the Fall. Every time we travel, we feel just a little more prepared. We are always re-evaluating things that can be left behind and those that we can’t live without. It’s Michael, Euro, myself and all our gear in our medium sized SUV, we get creative with our space and look for versatility in the items that we pack. I’ll get straight to the list, skipping over some of the more obvious items like car, keys, insurance, etc.
Below is our list of 16 Road Trip Essentials (in no particular order):
Anytime we get in the car, it seems like we are hungry within the first hour. I loathe stopping at gas stations for random junk at ridiculous prices. I also don’t love to waste time stopping when we should be enjoying the ride, I’d rather save the time for photos, random sites, and an extra walk with Euro. The snacks we keep with us are generally bars, jerky, fruit and nuts. We also keep small packets of trail mix in the center console.
2. Thyme River Skin Tonic
We have the original 16 oz. container in the cupholder, Euro’s leash has a travel bottle that we refill often, we each have a travel size in our hiking backpacks and one in the glove compartment. Years ago, we always packed hand sanitizer but we’ve switched to an all-natural alternative that works better without the chemicals and the large amounts of skin-drying alcohol. We also use Thyme River Skin Tonic on bug bites, bee stings, sore muscles and sunburns.
We added the growler during our travels across Canada in 2017. We don’t have much room for beer bottles, cans, etc. plus it can be a hassle to find a place to recycle them, especially at many campsites and areas where you pack out what you pack in. The growler was an awesome way for us to try local beers and cut down on space and waste. We got to try Rebellion’s Lentil Cream Ale in Regina, Saskatchewan, picked up Jasper the Bear Ale from Jasper Brewing Company (Alberta) and other beers along the way. We’ve also filled the growler with Kombucha and Cider.
4. Notebook and pens
We are the king and queen of lists. I always have a list running - places to see, hiking trails, campgrounds, supplies needed, and general notes for blog posts and things I need to get done when we’re back at home. We also write journal entries about cool things we saw, things we missed, or how beautiful and amazing something was - like Wolf Rock in Oregon.
The Pacific Northwest has beautiful beaches and swimming holes, is famous for rain and Euro is obsessed with water. Add that to the sand, dirt, pine needles, you name it and towels come in handy. When it’s warm weather, we try to find places for Euro to get into the water on a hot day. Towels are also handy for little messes - like that time I accidentally dumped Euro’s dog water on him and his bed, oops.
6. Overnight bag (toiletries, clothes, shoes)
We have gotten quite good at this over the past year. We pack as light as we can because of space and it just makes sense. Being in the Northwest, we pack in layers and we pack in three’s (three T-shirts, three tank tops, three long-sleeves, three pairs of shorts, etc.) as that has proven to be the easiest for us to remember and pack quickly. Many times we arrive home after a long weekend on a Monday and turn around to go out for another trip right after work on Friday. That leaves some time for house chores, daily life, day jobs, blog posts, photo shoots, food packing and laundry - not a lot of time for figuring out what to pack.
Have I mentioned the Pacific Northwest is rainy? Even when you don’t expect it, especially at the beach, it will rain. I’m thoroughly convinced that it’ll rain every time I don’t have my raincoat and only 50% of the time when I have it with me. I like my odds, so they are folded and packed neatly under our SUV seats, just incase we need them.
I always have a book with me and I was forced to convert to a Kindle during our 30-day road trip across Canada because we literally didn’t have spare space for three or four extra books that I wanted to read during our trip. I love the look and feel of an actual book, so I still purchase them from Powell's Books that I read at home, but pack the kindle if I'm short on space.
Michael has a great wall plug with four USB cable ports. We have cords for each of the phones and one that works for our headlamps and walkie-talkies. Michael also has the tablet and camera charging cords. (I’m so happy he’s in charge of all of this, I would never remember everything). We bring the laptops on occasion, depending on the trip, but almost always have the tablet. Michael carries an HDMI cable for Airbnbs and hotels, so we can catch a bit of TV or a movie.
Michael shoots most of our photos with an interchangable lens camera and I shoot some with my iPhone. Keep your camera safe at all times - with you is the best.
11. Refillable Water Bottle(s) and Water
We have a large water container that rides behind the passenger seat. It’s the same one we use on camping trips. We’ll fill it half full or so, depending on the length of the road trip. We use it to refill our bottles, Euro’s water, and wash our hands along the way. This is so much more convenient than storing single-use water bottles (both full and empty).
12. Tissues, TP, Cloth Napkins
I’m plagued with allergies, so I am never far from a box of tissue. Things have improved over the past few years since I switched from Zyrtec to Nettle Leaf, but I still keep tissues close. They are handy for relocating bugs, cleaning up goopy bits off Euro, and cleaning up sunglasses. Toilet Paper hardly needs an explanation, but it is a necessity. We also pack cloth napkins in the center console and a second set in our camping gear. We eat meals in our SUV at least once per trip. It’s almost always planned, either lunch or dinner that we’ve packed in advance. It’s likely meat, cheese, crackers, veggies and/or fruit but we’ve also made PB&J to have on the road, or sometimes we stop and picnic.
It’s much easier to drive and navigate into the sun if you have a pair of glasses to help and protect your eyes. I like to keep a spare as well.
14. Hoodies and/or Blanket
You never know when you’ll find yourself needing a little extra warmth. Could be that your car mate likes more air conditioning, you end up deep in the forest and lose 10-15 degrees in the outdoor temperature, early mornings/later nights can bring cool breezes, or you can decide to stay up late at the top of a canyon getting photos of the meteor shower.
15. Multi tool
So many uses, don’t get stuck without one.
I’m old school, so I haven’t yet converted to an off-line app on my phone or the tablet for maps. I also never remember to download the map for off-line use before we leave, so I go with the old stand-by, paper maps. I have an atlas of Oregon that I keep in the passenger seat with me. We also have an atlas of Canada and Washington. When we road tripped from Minnesota to Colorado (what? you haven’t read that yet?), we used our US map atlas.
We would love to hear from you! What else is on your must-pack list for road trips?