gear and clothing, gear and clothing, Reviews, Travel Tips

Road Trip Essentials for Outdoor Families

Disclaimer: A few of the products mentioned below were given to me to sample and review. All opinions are my own, and I will never recommend a product that I don't use and love. This post also contains affiliate links, which means if you click on them and make a purchase, I will receive a small commission. As always, thank you so much for supporting Back Road Ramblers!

Hey roadtrippers! Time for another season of open windows, impromptu picnics, roadside attractions, and curated Spotify playlists. As you can imagine, road trip season is an institution around here, and we’ve got a whole lot of adventures planned for our tiny car this year. Before we start gallivanting around the New England, I wanted to share some of our favorite road trip essentials with you — products that have made our lives easier and more fun on the road less traveled. Here they are, in no particular order.

Eating and Drinking on the Road

One of the best ways to save money while traveling is to prepare your own food on the road. While this might seem daunting at first, it actually provides a lot of flexibility. If you have kids, you’re probably well aware of what happens when the little monsters aren’t fed on time. Keeping food and drink on hand allows you to hit the back roads, hike that secret trail, and keep everyone happy. Here’s what we’re loving right now.

The Hydro Flask 64 oz. Insulated Growler

Hydroflask growler on a picnic

Impromptu picnics are the best!

We’ve been using Hydro Flask water bottles for years. I love that you can leave home with an icy cold drink that lasts all day, and there’s no slick condensation collecting on the sides of the bottle (which totally attracts dog hair in our car). The Hydro Flask 64 oz. insulated growler is like a water bottle on steroids, perfect for big adventures (or small beer runs). I love to bring along a growler of iced hibiscus tea for post hike refreshment. I carry my regular water bottle on the hike, and return to the car to indulge in ice-cold bliss.

Dripo Cold Brew Coffee Maker

Dripo cold-brew coffee is ready in less than 2 hours

Have you been bitten by the cold brew coffee bug? I admit that it took me a while to catch on, but as the weather warms up in New England, I’ve been making my own and loving it. The Dripo system is unique because the cold brew is ready in under two hours instead of the usual 24. It’s perfect for traveling coffee snobs who want to avoid Midwestern gas station coffee at all costs. All you need to make perfect cold brew coffee in the Dripo is ice, paper filters, water, and ground coffee. Put your coffee in the middle chamber, your ice water in top, and let gravity do the rest. The Dripo saved me on a recent road trip to Ohio, and will be making it’s way into our camping gear next week.

Alite Designs Cooler Pack

The Alite Cooler Pack has a removable insert for cold beverages

Alite Designs is one of my favorite funky outdoor gear companies. We’ve got a slew of backpacks and a couple of chairs, but I really love this cooler! Wear it as a backpack or carry it like a tote bag, the Alite Cooler Pack in Pioneer Plaid  features a removable insert for cold beverages, and separate compartments for wet and dry goods. It packs down easily when not in use, so you can keep it in your car for road trips. I noticed that this cooler is no longer available on the Alite Designs website, but you can still get it on Amazon.

Time for another season of open windows, impromptu picnics, and roadside attractions. Click To Tweet

Technology on the Road

When it comes to technology and travel, I feel like I’m always behind. But because I spend more and more time traveling lately, I’ve had to get with the times. In addition to my usual bag of tricks — cameras, laptops, tablets, and chargers, here are two new additions to our trunk-based office:

Nite Ize Steelie Freemount Dash Kit

We’ve tried a lot of dash mounts for securing our phones in the car, but ultimately they end up crammed int the cup holder or on the floor. The Nite Ize Original Steelie Freemount Dash Kit is super durable and comes with an adjustable freemount arm attachment for use with phones of any size. The powerful ball magnet allows for a variety of viewing angles — perfect for listening to music or online navigation.

My Charge RazorUltra 1200 mAh Portable Charger

Charge your devices anytime, anywhere

Last year when I was searching for a portable charger to use on road trips, I entered a giveaway and won this handy charger (thanks, Alex!). I didn’t know anything at all about myCharge , but this charger has saved me multiple times over the past few months. It holds a charge for months at a time, so I just keep it in the glove compartment to use whenever my phone or tablet is running low on juice. You can charge two devices at a time for 90 hours of extra power.

Road Trip Essentials for Fun and Relaxation

I’ve become a bit of an expert at mixing work and pleasure on road trips. These fun additions make impromptu picnics, games, and shenanigans easy like Sunday morning…

Crazy Creek Chairs

Crazy Creek Chair

Crazy Creek chairs are great for canoe trips too

Our love for Crazy Creek chairs isn’t exactly new, but they are such an essential part of our road trips that I had to include them here. These babies fold flat for easy storage, and they live in our car all summer long. We had itty-bitty ones for our toddlers, and now we’ve got one for each of us so we can relax in the most beautiful spots across the country. Also, these are our go-to gifts for outdoor-loving friends and family. If there’s one thing that I will never forget on a road trip, it’s these chairs!

Camco Picnic blanket

Essential road trip prodcuts.

The Camco mat packs up really small

This is another staple that lives in the car and gets used at least once a week. The Camco Handy Mat is 60″ x 78″,  big enough for the whole family. It cleans up easily and is mildew resistant. Spread it out at the beach, the park, or the ballgame, and you’ll be all set. Because it’s so lightweight (2 pounds), I recommend weighing it down with your picnic cooler on windy days.

Nite Ize Flashflight Disc

Nite Ize Flashflight Disc

Try it once and you’ll be hooked!

Unless you’re Flash, who much prefers to chase balls

Impromptu disc games ease our road-weary bodies on long road trips, and they’re perfect for rest stops and wide open spaces. TheNite Ize Flash Flight Disc-O  is special though, because it lights up the night sky and allows you to play any time. It’s super bright, and we’ve yet to replace our lithium ion batteries after six months of pretty heavy use. We’ve also tried the Flashflight LED Dog Discuit with our pup, but he’s still obsessed with his ball. We’ll keep working on it.

MPOWERD Luci Solar Lantern

LUCI solar-powered inflatable lantern

Bad picture, really cool lanterns!

Have you guys seen these Luci Outdoor – Inflatable Solar Lights? We have found them for sale all over the place, and just love their versatility! They pack up really small, charge in the sun, and can be blown up for all kinds of situations where you need an extra light. We use them mostly for camping, but we also keep one in the glove compartment for emergencies. These guys float too, so make a great addition to the canoe or kayak.

Health and Beauty

For looking and feeling good on the road and in the woods, these are our favorite health and beauty finds for travel.

Herbal Armor Bug Spray

Herbal Armor

Keeps the bugs away without harsh chemicals

I’ve tried a lot of different bug sprays over the years, and All Terrain Herbal Armor  is my favorite so far. It smells pretty good, keeps away all but the most persistent flying pests, and doesn’t contain DEET.  Active ingredients include soybean oil, citronella oil, peppermint oil, cedar oil, lemongrass oil, and geranium oil. I’ve read that cedar oil is really great for repelling bugs, so last year I added an extra 20 drops or so to our spray. The only downside to this spray is that it does stain some clothing. For really buggy evenings, we use a DEET-based spray on our clothes, and Herbal Armor on our bare skin.

REI Multi Towel

The REI multi towel. Road trip essentials

Just waiting to earn its keep

An REI multi towel next to a baseball cap

The REI multi towel packs up small (cap for size comparison)

You just never know when that perfect swimming hole, lake, or river is going to magically appear in front of you, so it’s important to be prepared with swimsuits and towels. We keep a few REI pack towels in the trunk for these special occasions. The XL size will wrap all the way around your body, and it dries really quickly and is ready to go again in a few hours. These are also our go-to towels for all of our camping, backpacking, and canoe trips.

Yes To Cucumber Hypoallergenic Facial Wipes

The Yes To hypoallergenic wipes come on every road trip. Road trip essentials...

The Yes To hypoallergenic wipes come on every road trip

Because we are often traveling between campgrounds, showering is not always possible. On days when I can’t wipe off the grime of the day, I rely on these Yes To facial wipes. I have really sensitive skin, and this is one of the few products that my skin doesn’t react to. The wipes are enriched with aloe vera and green tea. They are soft and compostable, and they smell lovely. I use them on my face and all my other dirty parts before bed. I also keep them in the car for a quick freshen up when I’m traveling. Life saver!

Want to read more about rocking the family road trip? Check out these posts:

Survive the Family Road Trip in 10 Easy Steps
How to Pack a Small Car for a Big Trip

Are you on Pinterest? Me too! I’d love it if you would share this post.

Road trips are a fabulous way to see the country and explore more. These innovative products make life on the road easier and a lot more fun .


  1. Amazing tips on this page. Already bookmarked this page for future reference.
    Really glad I found it 🙂
    All the best and hopefully I will see more articles like this one.

  2. Hi Tara,

    These are really amazing and must know tips when planning a trip whit families. It is important to these little but essentials things with us.

  3. Wow really great tips here. So many useful products and some of them I have never heard of. I would live the cold coffee Brewer and the hydro flask. All if this items must make road trips so much easier , especially for families. 😀

  4. WOW! You guys are fully equipped. I am so impressed! I actually have that same REI towel and I love it. There are so many cool things to buy now for camping, and you have an awesome list here. I am going to look into that growler actually. Thanks!
    Laura Nalin recently posted…24 Hours in Pittsburgh, PennsylvaniaMy Profile

  5. Jo

    The cold brew coffee maker and that colorful picnic blanket top my list. I need to buy them like right NOW. Such a cool list for outdoor enthusiasts such as myself.

  6. These are truly helpful whenever a family has a road trip. I like all the items that you have on this blog post as they all necessary for road trips. I like how you have written this and a great tips for everyone. The facial wipes is always something in my bag wherever I go and whenever i travel. It seems like I can’t live without wet wipes. Thank you so much for sharing this with us.

  7. Many of these are absolute necessities for road trips. Especially things like flashlight are something one tends to ignore or forget but these are not to be ignored. The products listed by you are all important accessories one should have and in proper condition before embarking on a road trip.

  8. What a great selection of products to make road tripping a little easier and more enjoyable. I like the sound of the insulated water flask that doesn’t get condensation, and also a dashboard phone holder that actually works and keeps the phone in position – ours always fall off, they can’t take the weight of a regular sized phone! Lots of great brands here to look into further.
    Kavey Favelle recently posted…Travel Quote Tuesday | Samantha ShannonMy Profile

  9. These are some really great tips. I personally love packing little snack baggies and bringing drinks with me to help save money. I think fun trail mixes and fruit are my favorite!
    Natasha recently posted…The Boozy Brunch Party Bus in Denver: A Fun Afternoon AdventureMy Profile

  10. Candy

    These are all great road trip essentials! I have never seen the Dripo Cold Brew Coffee Maker and now I need to get one because my hubby is a huge coffee drinker.
    Candy recently posted…The Best 48 Hours in Havana, CubaMy Profile

  11. this a good list since me and my family love our outdoor road trips.

Leave a Reply

CommentLuv badge

Theme by Anders Norén