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There are few things as freeing as a good, old-fashioned road trip. Load up the car, grab a friend or two and head into the open road. Curated playlists, gas station snacks, random stops for photo opportunities along the road … it’s an experience as American as apple pie. From the iconic cross-country Route 66 to Vermont’s famed Scenic Route 7 to the Pacific coastline along Highway 1 in California, seeing the countryside from the car window provides time for conversation, thought and exploration on your own schedule.
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Everyone has their own unique method of packing the car for a road trip, and a few items you just won’t leave home without. After all, what’s a long ride in the car without quality snacks, a bit of entertainment and a few toys to play with once you reach your destination? Whether you’re just heading a few hours down the highway or making an epic cross-country trip, bringing along the right gear can make or break a road trip.
Here are a few core road trip items to keep you cool, collected and outright chilled on the road this summer:
YES Cacao Brain Power Bar
YES Cacao crafts clean, raw bars with adaptogens, super herbs and botanicals, designed to help your body perform at its peak while also tasting downright scrumptious. The Brain Power Bar is ideal for the thoughtful road-tripper: the taste is golden and buttery with just a bit of warming spice. Turmeric, gingko, lion’s mane and other additions help memory and overall brain health.
Aura Bora Sparkling Water
Soda on the road does no one any favors, but sipping something fresh and fizzy can help the miles soar by. Enter Aura Bora, whose sparkling water includes extracts from herbs, fruits and flowers for a grounded, refreshing taste with no calories, no sugar and no sodium. Sip, chill and feel good throughout.
Caffeine is a road-trip classic. Start with the organic, fair-trade, medium/dark roast Downtown Blend from Bean & Bean, a mother-daughter craft roastery. Make fresh cups on the go using the time-tested, compact AeroPress, whose 3-in-1 brew technology makes a smooth, grit-free cup in a matter of minutes. (And the new clear version of the AeroPress is pretty enough to display once you arrive home.)
Tahini-based Phat Fudge just might be the ultimate road trip food. Paleo, organic and keto-focused, the squeeze packs were created by a performance chef as an alternative to energy gels and bars with synthetic ingredients. The original flavor carries notes of dark chocolate, cinnamon and spice. Bite it right from the pack, or freeze it into a block to nibble. It’s also excellent squeezed into coffee!
My Medic MYFAK
My Medic’s MYFAK (My First Aid Kit) fits a lot into a compact bag. More than 140 first-aid items are in the thoughtfully-designed bag, which features a folding page design for organization and a MOLLE panel on the outside to easily secure any additional supplies you’d like to add. Plenty of strap options give road-trippers various ways to mount the kit in your vehicle — it’s a good idea to keep this one in your car year-round.
Costa del Mar’s sunglasses offer excellent protection from UV rays on the road. The Lido has top and side shields that keep the sun out, and the comfortable nose pads and temple tips avoid pressure points during long driving days. For the ladies, the Waterwoman 2 offers excellent, broad coverage to block sunlight. We like the glass lens options in both frames (as opposed to poly) for the best clarity on the road.
YETI Hopper Flip 18 Soft Cooler
YETI’s Hopper Flip 18 cooler holds 30 cans (without ice) or 28 lbs. of ice (ice only), and has enough space for a six-pack plus snacks, or a day’s worth of lunch for a few people. The footprint is small enough to easily fit in the backseat, and the shoulder strap makes it easy to carry, even when fully loaded.
Rand McNally 2024 Road Atlas – 100th Anniversary Collector’s Edition
Sure, we all have maps on our phones and car displays, but there’s nothing like a good, old-fashioned paper map. Rand McNally’s Road Atlas is perfect for highlighting routes, taking notes, and just generally marking down memories as you travel. This centennial edition offers a look back at 100 years of cars, roads, culture and the U.S. highway system.
Paper Shoot Camera
Paper Shoot Cameras took home Time’s “Best Inventions” Award in 2021. The company’s unique digital cameras are compact, which is ideal for the road. The cameras run on AAA rechargeable batteries and 128GB SD cards. You can take photos using four filters — sepia, black and white, blue and normal. Using the included USB cable, you can easily recharge your camera and reuse your SD card, meaning you can take unlimited photos while on the road.
Garmin inReach Mini 2
If your road takes you into areas without cell service, it’s a good idea to pack along a backup satellite communicator. Garmin’s inReach Mini 2 connects with a monthly subscription which allows users global satellite messaging, emergency SOS messaging to Garmin’s coordination center and up to 14 days of battery life.
Dometic Hard Storge 50L
This 50-liter hard storage from Dometic helps keep car life organized. Aluminum walls are teamed with a high-impact resistant polymer lid and bottom to keep gear free of dust, water and mud while keeping items from being crushed in a cramped car interior. It’s easy to pull out of the car and set up in camp, hotels, or right back home where you started. It’s Grab-and-go storage that is durable enough for outdoor adventure.
Nomadix Original Towel
These high-performance towel packs are small, have a soft feel, and are versatile enough to go from cleaning up spilled drinks in the car to a short hike to roadside hot springs. The towel washes well and dries quickly. You can also expect a variety of fun and festive prints for every personality. And, if you’ve ever stayed in an old hotel with less-than-clean towels, you can appreciate the value of bringing along your own, just in case!
ENO TravelNest Hammock + Straps Combo
This kit packs small, breathes well in hot summer weather and at nine feet long is roomy enough to comfortably sleep in overnight. ENO’s TravelNest sets up quickly using the included straps, and the integrated stuff sack makes it easy to keep things organized once you’re back in the car. Included stainless carabiners connect the hammock to the straps — so the kit truly has everything you need to get swinging.
Tenkara Rod Company Sierra Kit
What’s a summer road trip without stopping to cast a line in a scenic stream or river somewhere? The Sierra kit from the Tenkara rod company offers a reel-less fishing experience for anglers looking for a minimalist experience. The kit includes a 10.5-foot rod, rod tube, Tenkara line, three Tenkara flies, a wood line holder, 5X tippet and a lifetime warranty — pretty much everything you need to get started.
Helinox Speed Stool
When you pull off the road for a lunch break, it’s nice to have a place to sit that’s not inside the car. Helinox’s Speed Stool offers a stable sitting surface with a super-simple setup. It packs down to a tidy 16.5 inches in length and holds up to 220 pounds.
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