Exploring the country by car makes for a versatile adventure: you can get away for a couple days or embark on a multiweek trek, all while exploring a seemingly endless number of new-to-you trails, campsites, coastlines, towns and roadside greasy spoons.
But a road adventure isn’t complete without a few essentials and comfort items. That’s why we created a checklist of the things you’ll need (spare tire, jumper cables, a sleeping pad) and things you might want (a solid coffee setup, options for entertainment, a packable hammock), so your next outing runs as smoothly as a rig pre-300,000 miles. Of course, this is a comprehensive list, and we don't expect you to bring along every item—though we won't judge you if you do!
Peruse the checklist, then crack your windows, rip open the snack bag and crank the tunes. You’re ready to hit the road.
Always adhere to state and local guidelines when traveling during the COVID-19 pandemic. This may mean staying home, or postponing your plans. For the most up-to-date travel guidance, check the CDC FAQ page. For information about outdoor activities wherever you go (close to home is best), read Recreate Responsibly: An Activity-Specific Guide.
Before You Hit the Road:
- Check to see whether you need an oil change. If you plan to log thousands of miles in a single trip, it may be best to change your oil just before you leave.
- Ensure you don’t need vehicle maintenance by double checking your engine lights.
- Top off all fluids, including oil, windshield fluid, brake fluids and coolant.
- Check your tire pressure (including your spare!). Check the tread on your tires.
- Check your brake pads and rotors.
- Make sure your headlights and turn signals work properly.
- Tell someone where you’re going. If possible, provide them your route, dates and destination.
Car trouble is the worst. It's even less fun when you’re hours from a mechanic and don’t have reliable cell service. Here is a comprehensive list of what to bring for vehicle maintenance, fix-ups and emergencies.
These are important items for your campsite, if you choose to sleep outside of your vehicle.
Tools & Repair Items
Many campgrounds have drinkable water. If not, bring your own, or be prepared to treat water if there’s a water source. Also, for even more ideas and food suggestions, see our separate Camp Kitchen Checklist.
Most of the following items are optional, though depending on how remote your campsite is, navigation tools such as a map, compass and/or GPS may be required (for more info, read about the Ten Essentials).
Clothing & Footwear
Additional items for rainy and/or cold weather:
Health & Hygiene
Sun and bug protection:
Just like your vehicle needs a tune up every few thousand miles, so does your body. Bring along a foam roller, massage ball or yoga accessories, so you can give your muscles the TLC they deserve after hours at the wheel. These items are optional, but they may make for a more comfortable road trip.