Road Trip Essentials

When the snow melts and little pops of green start appearing on bare tree branches, I start itching with the need to take a trip to the coast. I have very little desire to do more than throw a couple of changes of clothes in a backpack and escape for the weekend. Part of the fun of road trips is how spontaneous they are. That said, there are certain items worth keeping in your car for your own comfort and peace of mind.

Sleeping bags and travel pillows

I keep a sleeping bag and travel pillow stuffed in a bag under my backseat. This has to be the single most invaluable thing(s) I keep in my car. Late October of last year a friend and I took an impromptu trip to Leavenworth. By the time we pulled into a turnout off of Icicle Creek Road around midnight it was 40 degrees outside and pouring rain. Neither of us had any desire to find a place to set up a tent. Instead we slept in the car. I’d be lying if I said that was the first time I’ve slept in my car. I’ve been sleeping on the backseat of my car since my early college days when I was too cheap to pay the $7 to leave the parking garage, and instead I opted to sleep in my car until the attendants went home for the night and left the gate wide open. Speaking from experience, you’ll want something comfy to curl up in, like this Montbell Down Hugger 800 sleeping bag.


Lots and lots of water. Water for drinking, water for pets, water in case the car overheats. When traveling I always bring at least one refillable water bottle with me. In fact, I usually have two, one filled with water, the other with tea or coffee. Make sure you choose a water bottle that won’t spill, like the Avex Freeflow auto-sealing water bottle. If camping, especially if you’re boondocking, it’s a good idea to bring a portable water filter with you too.


A road trip isn’t a road trip without snacks. While I admit I usually fill the front seat with m&m’s and boxes of sugary cereal, after about three hours you start to crave something a little more substantial, and your mind starts to wander. To boost your energy in between coffee stops, try munching on these organic and gluten free Honey Stinger cinnamon flavored waffles.

Portable phone charger

The only thing worse than not having reception when you need it is staring blankly at the black screen of your phone and remembering that you forgot to charge it the night before. Enough said on that one, right? Bring a charger and keep the music going because a road trip without music is really just one long car ride.


Okay, this one’s absolutely free, and you’ll likely have it with you anyway. Most phones nowadays come with some kind of GPS mapping system, but if you get lost did you know you can also display your GPS coordinates? The Compass App will automatically display your current GPS coordinates. If you’re boondocking, do yourself a favor and bring a satallite phone. You never know when you’ll get a flat tire or your car will break down, and you don’t want it to be in the middle of the Oregon desert, without reception or any evidence of a road. The inReach by Delorme is a great option.


I like to think of Snoqualmie Pass as a physical representation of the differences between the west and the east sides of the state. Nine times out of ten when you start out driving from the west side of the state it’ll be raining. But all of the sudden, when you reach the summit of Snoqualmie, the sun comes out. It never fails, and at that moment I remember why I keep a spare pair of sunglasses within easy reach. Driving long distances can mean driving through multiple weather patterns, especially if you’re driving north to south or vise versa, and your sunglasses can feel like a lifesaver. These polarized floating sunglasses by Reflekt are a great option, especially if your road trip includes a detour to any of the hot springs or lakes found in the Pacific Northwest.

Obviously different people will have different needs and opinions, so this list isn’t designed to be all inclusive. People with kids may want to consider keeping certain games in the car. Things like a spare tire, basic tools, and a first aid kit are a good idea to keep in your car at all times whether you’re road tripping or not. This list gives you an idea of what to keep in your car to make your trip more comfortable. The less planning a road trip requires, the more fun it becomes, so do yourself a favor and prepare for potential emergencies and long hours on the road ahead of time. //

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