Image of Car with hatchback open and camping supplies in trunk. People sitting in distance along a lake

The Ultimate Camping Road Trip Packing List

By: Craig

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Are you planning a camping road trip and don’t know what to pack?

You’re in luck!

We have been road tripping and camping along the way for the past few years and have perfected our camping road trip packing list.

We’ve put together a list of the essential items you need to bring on your next camping road trip. This way, you won’t forget anything important (like we did so many times) and can enjoy your time away from home worry-free.

With everything you need packed and ready to go, all that’s left is for you to have fun on your road trip. So get excited and start packing – your perfect adventure awaits!

Camping Road Trip Packing List

Vehicle Road Trip Camping Essentials

Let’s start with what to pack in your car to ensure you have everything you need for a safe road trip.

  • Car Insurance Information – Know who to contact in case of an accident
  • License and Registration – Keep these in an easily accessible space like the glove box
  • Road Side Assistance Information – Make sure you have any information you may need to contact roadside assistance. This could be your AAA membership info or roadside assistance through your car insurance or credit cards.
  • Emergency Roadside kit – Find a compact kit that includes the emergency essentials like jumper cables, first aid kit, reflectors, zip ties, duck tape, etc.
  • Air Compressor – You never know when you’ll need an air compressor to pump up your tires in the middle of nowhere
  • Spare Tire Kit – Make sure your car has a spare tire kit and that the spare tire is inflated correctly.
  • Road Atlas – While you’ll likely use your phone or GPS for most of your driving directions. You never know when you may find yourself without a GPS signal and need a good old-fashioned paper map.
  • Water and Food – Have enough food and water in the car for a few days. Check out this list for ideas for packable road trip snacks and meals.
  • Electronic Charging Cords – An easily forgotten road trip accessory but necessary.
  • Phone Mount – If your car doesn’t have a built-in GPS, you’ll want a phone mount to use as your GPS.
  • Tire Chains – If you plan to drive through areas that may require tire chains, make sure to have those in your car.

Related Post: 23 Road Trip Accessories You Need for an Epic Road Trip

Vehicle Organization for a Camping Road Trip

Nothing is worse than a disorganized car during your road trip. Pack these things to help you stay organized throughout your journey.

  • Trash Can – You can get a small trash can or stash a few plastic bags in your car to keep trash while traveling.
  • Backseat Organizer – If you are traveling with kids, backseat organizers are great for road trip games and activities. But they are also great for organized storage for any road tripper.
  • Packing Cubes – Packing our clothes in packing cubes instead of a backpack or suitcase was a game-changer. Packing cubes take up less space and help keep you organized. Try these packing cubes with a compartment for dirty and clean clothes.
  • Day Pack – One of the best things about a road trip is the stops along the way. Having a day pack in the car for those leg-stretching hikes or tourist stops along the way is a must. We like this compact one from REI.

Related Post: Benefits of Renting a Campervan for Your Next Road Trip

Essential Road Trip and Camping Entertainment

Road trips are a blast, but sometimes those long stretches of highway can get a little boring. That’s why it’s essential to have some ways to stay entertained on your road trip or at the campsite.

  • Podcasts – Podcasts are a great way to pass the time while on the road. Before you leave, download a few of your favorites or try some of our favorite podcasts for a road trip.
  • Make an epic road trip playlist – Road trips are a great time to listen to music you love or try out some records you’ve been meaning to listen to. So grab your music app, start downloading albums, and create that epic road trip playlist.
  • Audiobooks – Driving down a lonesome highway is the perfect time to get wrapped up in a great story. Check out our favorite audiobooks for road trips.
  • Compact Games – We love playing games at our campsite or on a break from driving. Compact games like The Game or Bananagrams are perfect for camping road trips.

Campsite Essentials for Your Road Trip

Now that your car is equipped, let’s look at what you will need to bring to make a cozy and comfortable campsite during your adventure.

  • Tent – If you don’t plan to sleep in your car or van, you’ll need a tent. Look for a tent that is compact yet spacious enough to sleep in. REI tents have always been our favorite before we purchased our van.
  • Sleeping Bags and Pillows – Make sure your sleeping bag is rated for the night temperature you expect during your trip. You don’t want to be too hot or cold. For pillows, look for compressible ones with a stuff sack for easy storage.
  • TarpTarps are great for either protecting your tent from rain or for creating a covered space to keep you out of the rain during the day.
  • Headlamps – Gone are the days for flashlights, and in are the days of headlamps. Headlamps allow your hands to be free for tasks like cooking, setting up the tent, and other gear.
  • Sunscreen – Get sunscreen with high SPF for protection from those harmful UV rays. Don’t forget to reapply throughout the day!
  • Bug Spray and Repellant – Mosquitoes and pesky bugs can ruin a fun time in nature. We love this travel-size bug spray to keep in the car and our day packs. Before you go on your trip, you may also want to consider applying permethrin to your clothes. This stuff is a lifesaver in high tick areas.
  • Camp Chairs and Table – A good camp chair and table are necessary. We have this roll-up camp table for our van and use it all the time. It’s a great way to have a place to eat, play cards or games, and more.
  • Camp Lantern – A lantern can be great for setting up your tent in the dark, cooking at night, or just hanging out with friends. We like using a collapsible lantern to save on space.
  • Trowel – A trowel will be your best friend when it comes to digging that cathole if you aren’t camping near a toilet. You’ll want to dig down 8-12 inches deep and away from water sources, trails, and campsites.
  • Portable Shower – Not all campsites have showers, so you’ll be happy to have a way to get clean after a few days on the road. We use this one and set it out at the campsite to warm up while we are out and about for the day.
  • Fire Starters – This one we learned the hard way. More often than not, you will be using wet wood or kindling when starting your fire. Having fire starters in your camping arsenal will help ensure you can get your fire lit every time.
  • Lighter or matches – Make sure your lighter is in working condition before leaving.
  • Clothesline – Check out this compact clothesline for your campsite.

Camp Kitchen Essentials for Your Road Trip

Cooking at our campsite is one of our favorite things about camping.

We like to pick a mixture of make-ahead meals and meals we put together at the campsite.

Here is everything you will need to have a great camp kitchen.

  • Cooler – We are lucky to have a refrigerator in our van. But before the van, we kept a cooler in our car for all of our perishables. We like this collapsible cooler from Kelty.
  • Pots/Pans – A great set of pots and pans is a must. We like this cast iron pan and compact pot.
  • Cooking Utensils – A good spatula, slotted spoon, whisk, tongs, and can opener are all essentials to have in your camp kitchen. Don’t forget to have a sharp knife for food prep. We like this kitchen set from GSI to keep everything organized.
  • Portable Stove – This Coleman two-burner propane stove is a camping classic. But if looking for something a bit smaller, we use this single burner butane stove.
  • Camping Coffee Maker – We are avid coffee drinkers and love having our morning cup out camping. Our favorite way to brew camp coffee is with an Aeropress. But if you simply want a good cup of coffee without the hassle, try our favorite instant coffee.
  • Tea Kettle – If you are a coffee or tea drinker, having a compact tea kettle will make it easy to get your caffeine fix in the morning. We like stainless steel kettles so you have the option of putting them on the fire as well as on your camp stove.
  • Camping Bowls and Plates – We love using classic enamelware for our plates and bowls.
  • Eating Utensils – We like these compact silverware with a case for easy storage.
  • Coffee Mug/Thermos – If you are a coffee or tea drinker, don’t forget a coffee mug. Our preference is a Hydroflask thermos for our outdoor adventures.
  • Reusable Water Bottle – We love collapsible water bottles like these for our road trips. (Yes, we get lots of funny looks with these, but they are great and perfect for road trips, airplane travel, and days on the water)
  • Paper towel and Foil – Keep things clean at your campsite with paper towels and foil.
  • Dishwashing Tub – If you plan to cook at your campsite, you’ll need a place to wash dishes. A collapsible dish tub will help save space.
  • Dish Rag/Scour Pad – You’ll want a dish rag or scour pad for cleaning your dishes.
  • Fire glove – When cooking over the fire, you’ll want to have a fire glove. These also come in handy for moving firewood around in the fire.

Road Trip Camping Personal Care Essentials

No one wants a smelly road trip companion. Don’t forget these personal care essentials to keep your road trip fresh.

  • Toiletry Bag – Having all of your toiletries in one place is vital for staying organized on your camping road trip. These from LL Bean are the best out there. We like ones that fold up and easily hang in whatever bathroom you are using. Things to include in toiletry bag: toothbrush, toothpaste, comb, lotion, contacts, etc.
  • Biodegradable Soap – At times, you may find yourself showing in the open air. When that happens, biodegradable soap is a must to protect the environment around you. We love Dr. Broner’s Soap Unscented and use it for body wash and dishwashing.
  • Quick Dry Towel – When you are on the road and camping, quick-dry towels are essential. You don’t want soggy towels getting all stinky in your car while you are out adventuring.
  • Medicine kit – Pain relievers, allergy pills, antibiotic cream, hydrocortisone, etc
  • Bug Spray – Don’t forget to have at least a travel size bug spray in your vehicle. You never know when those mosquitos or flies will come after you. If heading into an area known for ticks, consider spraying clothes and tent with permethrin before you leave. This stuff works wonders and we spray our camping clothes a few times each camping season.
  • Sunscreen – Nothing is worse than sleeping in a tent or your car with a sunburn. Make sure to bring (and apply) sunscreen before your outdoor adventures.
  • Eye Drops – When driving for long periods, your eyes can become dry. Eye drops are a quick way to help you stay safe on the road.

What to Wear for a Camping Road Trip

Whether you are in the car, exploring along the way, or hanging out in your campsite; it’s essential to have both proper and comfortable clothes.

When road tripping and camping, the best clothes to bring is a bunch of layers. This was you can easily adjust to varying climates.

And bring only the clothes you need.

In our experience, you’ll need a lot less clothes that you expect. We wear the same tops and bottoms multiple times before we put on a clean pair.

In this section, we’ll give you a basic list of clothing items to bring and recommend some of our favorite brands and clothing items.

  • Socks and Underwear Darn Tough and Smartwool socks are our favorite. They minimize sweating and stinky feet. You can usually find deals on these socks at the REI Outlet.
  • Pants – We like comfy breathable pants like hiking pants or leggings for both road-tripping and camping. Our favorite pants have been from Kuhl. For women’s travel pants, we love the Freeflex roll-up. And for men’s travel pants, the Revolver Rogue. These high-quality pants have been perfect for warm and cold months.
  • Shorts – Same as pants. Find comfortable and breathable short options
  • Short-sleeved and Long-sleeved shirts – For shirts, look for non-cotton shirts like merino wool.
  • Sweatshirt and/or Fleece
  • Rain Jacket – You never know when it will rain on your parade. Make sure to have a rain jacket that is both wind and water-resistant. Our favorites have been Arc’teryx. They are pricey but worth it. Check out REI sales for discounts on older jackets.
  • Warm jacket – Bring if necessary.
  • Sleepwear
  • Sturdy shoes
  • Comfy Campsite Shoes – We love these Teva’s for in the car and at the campsite.
  • Flip flops – You will want flip-flops or water shoes for campground showers.

Tips for Preparing for Your Camping Road Trip

Prepare Your Car for Road Trip Camping

Before taking your car on a road trip, it’s important to have it checked out by a mechanic. You can do a few things yourself to prepare your car for the journey, but there are some things only a mechanic can check for. Make sure to have the following items looked at:

  • Tire pressure and tread
  • Oil level and quality
  • Coolant level
  • Windshield wiper fluid
  • Brakes
  • Car battery and alternator
  • Check engine light
  • Tune-up and air filter

For more tips on preparing your car for a road trip, check out this article on how to prepare your vehicle for a road trip.

Download Road Trip and Camping Apps

We live in a fantastic time where we have exorbitant amounts of information available at our fingertips. Here are the apps to download and get familiar with when planning a camping road trip before leaving.

  • Roadtrippers – A great app and website not only for planning your road trip but for finding those fun stops along the way.
  • Road Trip Weather App – These apps help you see what the weather will be like along your route at the time you’ll arrive. Check out this post for our favorite road trip weather apps.
  • GPS app* – The days of paper maps are over. Download a GPS service like Google maps, Apple maps, or Waze. *Make sure to download an offline map of the area you will be traveling through before leaving. That way, if you find yourself without cellular service, the maps will still work.
  • All Trails – If you plan on hiking during your trip, having the All Trails app will help you scope out the best hikes. In our opinion, the Pro version is worth it for the ability to download the hike to your phone for use when you don’t have cell service.
  • Campsite Finding App – Whether you are looking for a free campsite or a campsite along your route, a campsite app will help. Our favorites are The Dyrt, iOverlander, and Campendium.

Plan Your Route

It’s entirely up to you if you want to drive and see where you end up or plan your route out in advance.

If you want to plan your route, we recommend using Google My Maps to plan your road trip. It’s our favorite trip planning tool, and we have a complete step-by-step tutorial to make your road trip plan.

You Got This

We hope this list gives you everything you need to have a fun camping trip in your car or van in the wilderness!

Do you have any additional items that are must-haves for taking a road trip adventure in your car or van? Let us know in the comments below.