Packing for a big road trip takes a lot of time and is always a little stressful. It’s the worst feeling to drive 30 minutes from home to realize that you forgot something important, like a tent. Do you go back or do you push on and make due? This checklist will hopefully keep that from ever happening again. Maybe you don’t want to bring everything on this list every single time, but our hope is that with this list, you won’t forget anything; not just that, but we hope you will have everything you could want for the best trip ever.

The Ultimate Road Trip Checklist

To help organize your thoughts about what to pack, let’s try to split everything up into separate categories. I like to do this so that I don’t have to pack all at once. Often times I will try to start packing early and in small sections; first, I will likely pack the camping gear, kitchen items, non-perishable foods, tent, sleeping bags, serpentine belt etc. These are things that I don’t need at home every day so I can lay them out on the floor and leave them there for a day or two. After that I will work through my clothes and my recreational stuff (like climbing gear, boating supplies, hiking equipment, etc), concluding with the electronics, chargers, cameras, and the like.

The Camping Stuff

camping stuff preparation

  • The Kitchen – In this kit, we outline all the essentials of a fully assembled kitchen bin that is ready to get swooped up on the way out the door; it will likely include everything you could ever want. Once you have put the whole kit together, it can stay together and be ready when you need it. This list includes all of the kitchen necessities as well as important luxury items for around camp like lanterns, coolers, a water jug, multi-tools or marshmallow skewers!
  • Food – When you are preparing for your trip, we recommend buying your food the day before you leave. This is a good tactic, because then your perishables are as fresh as possible! For some great ideas on backpacking food and regular camping food, check out the thorough reviews of The Best Backpacking Food and The Best Camping Food. Both will give you tons of great ideas and recipes that will not disappoint!
  • Camp Chairs – Nothing beats having a good, comfortable place to take a load off. Make sure to have a good camp chair for each person. Check out The Best Camping Chair Review for our top rated chairs.
  • Tent – If you are road tripping and camping from the car, weight and bulk is less of an issue and supreme comfort should be your number one priority. Having a deluxe tent is mandatory! In our Best Camping Tent Review, we have the low down on which full sized camping tents are out there, as well as the best. The Best Buy Coleman Instant Tent 6 is a great deal, but not ideal for poor weather; if the elements are an issue, we recommend the editors choice REI Kingdom 8, a massive and well made tent, perfect for road trips.
  • Sleeping Gear – Chances are you already have a nice backpacking sleeping bag, but we really recommend saving that bag for when you are actually backpacking. Instead, look into a warm (and far cheaper) camping sleeping bag. These are more comfortable and less expensive, plus you won’t be putting all the wear and tear on your high end, ultralight backpacking bag. Check out The Best Camping Sleeping Bag Review for a few good options. The same goes for that lighter-than-air sleeping pad you have; save that thing for when it counts and look into something like the Therm-a-rest NeoAir Dream, one of the most amazing sleeping pads ever made for car camping. You may also want to look over the entire review of The Best Car Camping Mattress.
  • Pillow – You are car camping and road tripping after all, right? So why not bring a comfy, full sized pillow for sleeping! This is an easy item to overlook and forget, as it doesn’t normally pop into the brain when thinking about “camping gear”; this fluffy item will definitely improve your night!
  • Headlamps and Lanterns – Having a good nighttime light source is really important for general comfort on any length road trip. Have a look over The Hunt for the Best Headlamp as well as The Best Lantern Review for several of the best options like the Black Diamond Icon and the Black Diamond Apollo Lantern. When camping out of the car, a regular propane lantern can be really nice for a superb light source in camp.
  • Recovery Strap: Don’t forget to take a best recovery strep which will help you on towing if needed.

Car and Traveling Items

car and other accessories

You’ll want to make sure that you are fully packed and prepared for a road trip; to do this, you’ll need to have all of the necessary car and travel items. This is all that stuff that you may not need all the time, but when you do, it’s make or break; a few examples are your phone charging cord, camera, batteries, and more. Many of the items that you want to be sure to have on a road trip are the same as those things you might want when traveling via airplane so have a look through The Travel Checklist for all the details.

  • Camera – There are so many options out there; we recommend a few, like the Sony RX100 which will take amazing photos and video for about $800. Check out the entire Best Point-and-Shoot Digital Camera review for great info from the pros.
  • External Battery and Power Inverter – Having an external battery to charge smaller electronics like phones and iPods is a great idea, because you don’t always want to run the car in order to charge up your devices. The Best External USB Battery Review gives a great rundown of both Solar Panels and External Batteries out there. Also having a Power Inverter in the car is an excellent idea; look for the highest wattage you can find (400-450 watts). This device will let you charge up any electronic device while the car is running, and in some vehicles when it is not (be sure not to kill your car battery).
  • Chargers and Cords – We recommend getting small mesh ditty sacks and keeping all your electronics cables in one, organized place. This includes phone and camera chargers, camera cords, iPod chargers, headlamp cords and more. Anything that has a cable or cord should go in this bag.
  • Audiobooks, Podcasts and Music – Don’t forget to update your music selection before hitting the road! Audiobooks and Podcasts are also a great way to pass the time while putting down hours of driving! A great option is to check with the local library; many libraries have downloadable audiobooks that you can get online, which is a great (and free) alternative.