Best Road Trip Gear: 7’ish Things You Need

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I’m going camping next weekend and have been thinking about the best gear I’ve used over the last few years.

As you can imagine, there are a lot of things that I’ve tried and tested. But, I wanted to make a list I take with me no matter what.

Everything listed below are the things I take with me on overnight camping trips and monthlong road trips.

Before you ask, yes, there are some pieces of gear that I love. These include my Thule crossbars, T2 bike rack, sleeping pad, and Yeti cooler. But the following things make living in your vehicle a little bit easier.

Do you need any of these? Nope

But, once you see what they do, you will notice they are game-changers for life on the road (or taking a weekend away)

Portable Power With JackeryJackery Explorer 1000

If there is one thing you will need on any road or car camping trip, it is power. The best option I have found is with the Jackery Portable Power Stations.

Depending on the size you require, they have something for everyone—everything from a small 160 Explorer to the new 2000 Pro.

Feel free to check out my previous post on Jacker here!

What it comes down to is that you will need power. Whether charging your phone, camera, computer, lights, or tools, a Jackery will do the job.

Speaking of power, let’s cover two more must-haves.

LightsVW van with a sweet camp setup completed with lights

Lighting is one category in that you have many different options.

Here is a quick list of the lights I use and recommend.

  • Luci lamp – I always keep two of these in my Rav4. They are solar and will keep light for hours. Luci makes a few different versions, but the one I have linked is what I’m currently using.
  • Luminoodle – This is a string of LED lights that are super bright. They are perfect for keeping outside, and they have magnets (so you can attach them to your vehicle) and twist ties. Just know you need a USB power bank to run them (or use your Jackery!)
  • Headlamp – There are so many options out there for headlamps. I would suggest a rechargeable one but a few out there will take rechargeable and regular batteries (such as the Petzl Tikka). You then keep it on the back of your headrest (in your car), so you are never without a flashlight.
  • Flashlight – Again, there are tons of options. I would get one that you can keep on your person. This allows you to have a backup if your headlamp goes out, but it will also be on that you can easily carry. For years I’ve used the Fenix PD35 (for hiking, camping, and while working patrol). Or the small ThruNite, which has been awesome for the size!

A tent in the dark with illumination from light

I could go on and on with lights because I worked the night shift for years and realized good quality lights are needed. But I think you get the gist of what you will need.

Side note, something new I just got for camping, as I tend to camp in remote areas and have had unwanted guests near my Rav in the middle of the night.

So, this has been a fantastic upgrade. A set of motion LED lights. I glued magnets on the back to mount them anywhere on my Rav4. Nothing is going to sneak up on me!

9v Vehicle Adaptor

If you ask me, having a 9V adapter for your vehicle is a MUST. The one pictured below, around $19 on Amazon, has made my life easier.

12V plug adapter for your car, a must have and this unit has individual on/off switches
Like most vehicles, my Rav4 only has two 12V (aka cigarette lighters) and one USB. This adaptor allows me to power everything I need while getting to my next camping location.


It’s crucial to stay clean while camping and on the road. I know this is a bold statement, but if you know me, you know this is non-negotiable.

I’ve written about different showering options in the past, but it all changed when I found these (see picture below).

Scrubzz are the best cleaning solution I've found to date
This packet of Scrubzz is $10 and super easy to use.

I went through my first pack during my month-long road trip, so you can say I’ve tested them in many different situations. These are must-haves if you want an inexpensive way to stay clean.

We will wrap this up with three things I didn’t know I needed in my Rav until I got them. Many of you will think I’m crazy for including these, but they have made road trips much more enjoyable.

Bullseye Levels

If you car camp or are interested in trying it, you only need to spend one night to know these will be game changers.

Sleeping with your head lower than your feet, you will wake up with a headache. Something none of us want.

Take the guesswork out of figuring out if you are level or not and get a set of levels.

Bullseye round bubble levels, great for finding a flat area to park for the night
Having more than one is the key here. This way, you can keep one in the front and one in the back, which lets you know if you are level, and then confirm it on my sleeping platform.

Since using these, I haven’t woken up with a headache!

I linked the ones I have above because they have been in my Rav for over a year and are still holding up strong.

Vehicle Trays

Yes, you read that right. I couldn’t be happier with these two trays in my car.

I purchased the first tray just before 2020 (and the whole COVID thing).

It cost $10 and was one of the best things I could have done for that particular road trip. Mainly because everything was closed and the weather wasn’t always the best.

This steering wheel tray allows you to eat, write, and even use a laptop from your driver’s seat!

A steering wheel tray to turn your wheel into a small table

Click Here if you want to know more about how great this steering wheel tray

The second tray we will talk about is called The Stupid Car Tray.

And it is just like it sounds. It’s something that you don’t need but will be shocked at how useful it is once you do.

The STUPID car tray that has more use than you think
This tray is ridiculous, and I hate how much I like it (and wonder why I never thought about it). Check it out for yourself, or read more about it here.

Bonus Ideas

Just because once I started this list, I kept coming up with the things I have that have helped while on the road. This is a topic I find fascinating.

You want to think about storage, especially if you are using a smaller vehicle (like a Rav4)

The name of the game is using your vertical space. Which is valid in all small places. Such as:

  • Between the seatsAn inside look at my Rav4 from hatchback
  • Center console
  • Glovebox
  • Seat organizers (front and rear of the seat itself)
  • Cargo nets (mine hangs from the ceiling)
  • Hang a reusable trashcan
  • Use the headrest (holds headlamp, hook carabiners to the poles, etc.)
  • Magnetic curtains (if your vehicle has metal)
  • Automotive velcro
  • Command strips

There are many more, but feel free to check out my other blogs about gear.

If you want to know more about how I have my 2013 Toyota Rav4 setup, click here!

Final Thoughts

As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, there are many gadgets, tools, and items that I genuinely think have made my Rav life improve.

My goal was to include a few inexpensive things and help out while in a small place.

An important thing to remember is that road trip (and camping) gear constantly changes depending on where you are going, how many people, and what the weather will be like.

You obviously want to have various clothing options, snacks, drinks, and toys, so your family has something fun to do when you’re stuck in traffic or waiting in a long line.

The few things listed above truly impacted my month on the road, and I cannot wait till the next adventure!

a bunch of gear that any hiker needs

Leave a comment if you have other questions about any gear I use.

Is there any gear you use, under $30, that you think would help people living in their vehicles?
Let me know in the comments below!

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10 thoughts on “Best Road Trip Gear: 7’ish Things You Need”

  1. As usual, this was a fun read.
    Lots of great information, and first-hand experience recommendations. You do not disappoint.

    The Jackery:
    I love mine!
    Although I do not use it while camping, it has been an awesome source of energy when I need it.

    Awesome Tip:
    Making use of vehicle vertical space. Before you made the suggestion, I never even thought to put hooks on my headrest.
    It’s amazing!
    So convenient to hang my coat. And, I always know where my purse is.

    I hope tons of people read your blog and make their road experiences better!

    • Thanks! Sometimes I forget some of the things I have in my Rav. But then (sorry for the guys at work), when someone brings it up, I can’t stop thinking about it. I’ve had so much fun converting the Rav and cannot wait for the 2.0 build!

    • Yep, the Rav is going to get an upgrade (just waiting to see if prices will come down anytime). I like my current build, but I want the platform lower and a bit larger.

  2. This was so much fun to read and learn about car camping. When my kids were young, we camped but it was always in a tent. My mom and step dad did some van camping in a Town and Country. They were in their 70s and 80s, but they loved it. I don’t think they used all this equipment you discussed. I think if my wife and I ever did any car camping, we would definitely want to use your suggestions. Thank you for including this in your post. 

    • Thanks, Scott, and van camping in a Town and County would be awesome! Van life is tons of fun, and I just wanted to share a few of the things I’m so happy to have found (I have also been getting many questions about it). If you ever have more questions, let me know.

  3. Hi Eric, sounds like you have lots of fun on your adventures. Having some modern amenities helps make a more pleasant trip. – Especially if you are gone for any length of time. We have gone camping in a tent. Not with many extras, but have had lots of fun anyway. I can see having motion sensor lighting would discourage any 4-legged critters from coming too close. All the best!

    • You got that right!

      There are also tons of stuff that you can take to make your trip more enjoyable. The motion lights have been a game changer since I camp in many remote places.

  4. Going camping is so much fun, but without the right equipment and gear, it can become less enjoyable. My son is currently converting a van to take it off-grid on a camping trip, and has been looking at ideas for gear to include on his trip. So this is very helpful. 

    Although he has fitted solar power on the roof of the van, he has been thinking what if they have several days of bad weather, so a portable power station will be a must. And as you mention, many of the items might not be essential for survival, but will make your camping and touring experience so much better and hassle-free.

    • Thanks for sharing and stopping by. A portable power station (such as the Jackery) has been a life changer. I got an external solar panel that allows me to move it to where the sun is, but externally mounted solar is the next step.

      That is so cool about your son!

      I’ve converted my Rav4 as well and have a ton of ideas about lighting, curtains (I have tried five different types until settling on what works best), and lots of gear to make life more hassle-free. Tell him to drop a comment on a post or send me an email if he has questions.


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