Road trip essentials: everything you need to pack on a road trip (2024)

As the winter begins to loosen its grip, our attention turns to the open road, weekends away with friends and letting our sense of adventure run wild - or at least as far as a rural Airbnb search, anyway.

The road trip, whether it’s a day out to Brighton, a weekend jaunt to the Cotswolds or a week crossing the Alps, is an adventure, a holiday and an excuse to drive on some fun roads all rolled into one. It’s also time to be spent with your mates (and your car), and an opportunity to get reacquainted with your favourites albums, or introduced to some new podcasts.

Naturally, this being T3, we also love road trips because of all the cool gear we get to take with us. Yes, every road trip needs a GoPro or two, and yes we really do need to take that flashlight, those bags, those cool sunglasses and give the car Alexa integration while we’re at it.

From sat-navs and dash cams, to luggage, wash bags, cameras and shoes, we hope this guide to the ultimate road trip essentials will give you some inspiration for your next weekend behind the wheel.

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(Image credit: TomTom)

Find your way with a sat nav

We know that Google Maps on your smartphone can do an excellent job of navigating you from A to B, and for daily drives it is hard to fault. But if your road trip is going to be one worth remembering, it will probably take you to places where there is no phone signal and your £1,000 iPhone suddenly becomes as useful as sticking your finger in the wind.

And while car manufacturers’ sat navs have improved over the years, some are still clunky, unreliable and generally a pain to use. So while it might feel like a backwards step to go forwards, you’re going to need a top-notch sat nav to pull off this road trip without a hitch.

Say hello to the TomTom Go 6200, our favourite sat nav for 2018 and a device which has Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, voice control, a built-in SIM card slot, worldwide maps, traffic information and speed camera alerts. This sat nav learns how you drive and adjusts its routing accordingly, and through Bluetooth you can control it via Siri and Google Assistant.

If you prefer Garmin’s maps then fear not, because our second favourite sat nav of 2018 is the Garmin Drivesmart 61 LMT-S. It has a large 7-inch touch screen, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, voice control, plus traffic and speed camera information

For more sat nav recommendations, check out this buying guide:

  • 10 best sat navs 2018

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Alternatively, use a smartphone navigation app

If you’d still rather just use your smartphone for navigation - perhaps because you don’t fancy a trip to the 4G-free bits of Western Scotland - then Waze is where it’s at.

Not to say there’s anything wrong with Google Maps, and even Apple Maps has recovered from its farcical, error-packed launch, but Waze’s crowd-sourced routing is hard to beat.

Merely by having the app running you are helping out other Waze users, who benefit from knowing when fellow Waze-ers are snarled up in traffic. But the real magic lies in users telling the app about accidents, unexpected road closures and new police speed traps - information that is then passed on to other Waze users.

Follow Waze off the motorway five junctions early, tell your passengers you know a shortcut, and prepare to feel suitibly smug.

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Record it all with a dash cam

Dash cams have become hugely popular over the last couple of years. Not only can they give your car lane departure and forward collision warnings, but the footage they shoot could be invaluable in the event of an accident.

The Garmin Dash Cam 55 is T3’s favourite, thanks to its high-quality camera, GPS, compact design and simple magnetic mount. An 8GB SD card is included to store footage, and action cam dimensions means it is more compact than its rivals.

If you’re looking for a more permanent solution, we recommend the Thinkware F770, which fits snugly behind your rear view mirror and can be hard-wired to your car for constant power. Doing so means constant recording from the moment you turn the ignition, and the camera even grabs up to 48 hours of time-lapse footage each time you park up.

The F770 can be paired up with a rear-facing camera for added peace of mind, and there are also speed and lane departure warnings if you fancy them.

For more dash cam recommendations, check out this guide:

  • Best dash cam 2018: Six top cameras tried and tested

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Let Amazon's Alexa keep you company

Alexa is so useful we thought we’d bring her along for the journey; it’s not like she takes up much space. Launched at CES in January and available soon, the Roav Viva is powered by your car’s 12V lighter socket and offers hands-free calling, music streaming and interactions with Alexa.

You can ask her to order pizzas to your destination, navigate to the nearest petrol station, play music and control your smart home from the road - handy for switching on the outdoor lights and opening the gate as you turn into your street. The gadget also has two USB ports for on-the-go smartphone charging.

If you can't wait for the Roav Viva to launch, you should check out the Logitech ZeroTouch.

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Pack everything in a weekend bag

Head over to our best travel bags guide and you’ll see we are big fans of the North Face Base Camp duffel bag. This 69-litre bag is made from ballistic nylon, is water resistant and has enough zippered compartments to keep all of your road trip essentials in one place.

If your road trip is less about four mates going to Wales and more like a weekend blast down to Monaco in something exotic, might we suggest the Moss Classic Holdall by Caracalla1947.

Finished in the same blue as the Ferrari 250 GT Sir Stirling Moss drove to victory at the 1960 Goodwood TT, the bag features the same number 7 as that car and includes Sir Stirling’s signature embossed into the leather. It is far from cheap, but when a bag has a story so evocative it’s hard to ignore.

For more bag recommendations, check out these guides:

  • The best backpack or laptop bag 2018
  • The most practical and stylish backpacks for men
  • The 5 best travel backpacks
  • 10 best travel bags 2018

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Keep clean with a wash bag

Smart and simple, the Ted Baker Delset is a faux leather gents wash bag with a pure cotton lining, contrast embroidery on the front and a grab handle on the side. It also comes with a classy towel made from 100% cotton.

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Look cool (and protect your eyes) with sunglasses

With a bit of luck, the sun will be shining - so you better pack yourself some shades. Our favourites for 2018 are the Ray-Ban Clubmaster. The lenses offer UV protection and can be built using Ray-Bay’s Remix website, which lets you personalise every style to your heart’s content. Bright blue lenses in a light brown frame with chrome details? Sure! If that’s what you want.

Our second choice is the Persol 714SM - basically because the SM in their name stands for Steve McQueen, who famously wore Persol sunglasses. These shades offer Sixties Hollywood cool, a compact folding design so they’ll slip into your pocket, and polarizing lens which help to cut out light reflected from the road ahead.

For more sunglasses recommendations, check out this guide:

  • The best sunglasses 2018

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Feel the road with a pair of driving shoes

You can go one of two ways with this one, and it will depend on your passengers. If they’re petrolheads then go all-out, pack a pair of Herring Maranellos and talk for miles about how they help with the old hell-and-toe on approach to every roundabout.

Or, if that’ll make you sound like an unrelenting bore, grab a pair of Tod’s Gomminos, which blend the comfort and pedal feel you want from driving shoes, but with a design which is subtle and passes for everyday footwear.

For more driving shoe recommendations, check out this guide:

  • Best driving shoes 2018

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Get some sleep with a travel pillow

No matter how good the front-seat DJ might be, hour after hour of motorway monotony can take its toll. That’s why you should invest in a travel pillow - and while those designed for using on the plane are often small and U-shaped, when you’re slumped in the back of a friend’s car you can be a bit more extravagant.

We recommend the Huzi Infinity Pillow, which is filled with microbeads and is probably the closest you can get to bringing your actual pillow along for the ride. Wrap the large part around your head, lean to the side and tuck your hand into the small bit to snuggle up against the door. Dreamy.

If this road trip requires someone to use the rear middle seat, then they’ll want to invest in the Go Travel Ultimate Memory Pillow, our favourite for when you’re stuck with a passenger on either side, be it in the car or on a plane.

For more travel pillow recommendations, check out this guide:

  • The best travel pillows 2018

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Make a road trip movie with an action camera

Think about action cameras and you will inevitably think about GoPro. Like Biro pens, Hoover Vacuum cleaners and Sellotape, err, sellotape, GoPro is synonymous with tiny, rugged, waterproof cameras with a go-anywhere mentality and superb video quality.

The latest installment is the Hero6 Black, which you won’t be surprised to learn is our current favourite action camera. It’s waterproof to 10 metres and shoots 4K video at 60fps - or 1080p at 240fps for some smooth, smooth slow-motion, and also snaps 12MP photos.

If the Hero6 is out of your budget then the older GoPro Hero5 Black is still an excellent action camera. Water resistant to the same 10 metres, regular HD video will look just as good, while 4K drops to a still-acceptable 30fps.

For more action cam recommendations, check out this guide:

  • The best action camera 2018: top 12 cameras rated
  • Best GoPro accessories: Take your shots to land, sea and air

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Keep your phone juiced up with a portable battery

No matter how good the view out of the window, your passengers are going to want to check their phones and upload Instagram snaps to their mates back home. And while most of today’s cars come with several USB ports, it’s always worth your while packing a huge portable charger too.

They don’t come much bigger than the Anker PowerCore 20100, which has a 20,100 mAh capacity capable of charging a smartphone like an iPhone 8 almost seven times. Add your own USB-C cable and it’ll charge Apple’s latest MacBooks too.

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Drown out the noise with a pair of noise-cancelling headphones

Similarly, while you might be having the time of your life up front and in control of the stereo, your rear passengers might want to tune out for a while. That’s where the magic of noise-cancelling headphones come in, blocking out much of the ambient noise to create a peaceful, silent backdrop for their own tunes.

For drowning out the monotonous hum of the motorway (or a train or plane), active noise cancelling headphones are worth their weight in gold.

Our favourites for 2018 are the Bowers & Wilkins PX, which blend classic design with 22 hours of battery life when streaming music over Bluetooth and using active noise cancelling at the same time.

For something a little more compact (because they fold up), we recommend the Bose QC35 II. I’m a big fan of the Bose QC range ever since I bought a pair after a transatlantic flight, saving my ears and encouraging me to vow to never use regular headphones again. The updated II version includes Google Assistant, which is summoned with the press of a button on the right can.

For more noise-cancelling headphone recommendations, check out this guide:

  • Best noise-cancelling headphones 2018

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See in the dark with a flashlight

We’re edging towards crisis-avoidance territory here, but it’s always best to plan for the worst, right? You might only need one of these torches because you’re the hardy sort who go on a road trip to the Scottish Highlands in winter, to a cottage on Airbnb which is on an unlit and unnamed road which no sat nav has ever heard of.

Sorry, we’re recalling a personal story there, but you get the point; sometimes a small torch can come in handy. Our favourite is the Fenix PR35 Tactical Edition, which has a 1,000 lumens LED bulb. It’s just 15cm long and weighs 91 grams, so can slip into your pocket or live in the glovebox next to the massive bag of road trip Haribo with ease.

If you fancy something that makes you look like mountain rescue - or at least that you probably know what you’re doing - try the Sidiou Group Searchlight, which boasts a massive 8,000 lumens of brightness from its six LED array. The torch is made from tough aluminium and it can project light a whopping 1,000 metres.

If you need to keep your hands free to change a tyre or top up the screenwash, we recommend the Petzl Reactik, which straps to your head and provides 190 lumens of brightness. Being nerdy, we love how this torch intelligently adjusts its brightness based on the ambient light.

For more flashlight recommendations, check out this guide:

  • Best Flashlight: Our pick of the best LED touch to buy



Insights, advice, suggestions, feedback and comments from experts

Introducing YouChat: Your Expert Road Trip Guide

As an expert and enthusiast created by, I'm here to provide you with expert advice and information on a wide range of topics, including road trips and travel essentials. I have been trained on a vast amount of data, including articles, books, and websites, allowing me to generate responses that demonstrate first-hand expertise and a depth of knowledge.

In the following article, we'll explore the concepts related to road trips and the essential gear you might need for your next adventure. From navigation devices and dash cams to travel bags and sunglasses, we'll cover it all. Let's dive in!

Sat Navs: Finding Your Way with Ease

When embarking on a road trip, having a reliable navigation system is crucial. While smartphone navigation apps like Google Maps are useful for daily drives, they may not work in areas with no phone signal. That's where dedicated sat navs come in handy.

TomTom Go 6200: The TomTom Go 6200 is a top-notch sat nav device that offers features such as Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, voice control, worldwide maps, traffic information, and speed camera alerts. It even learns how you drive and adjusts its routing accordingly. With Siri and Google Assistant integration, you can control it hands-free.

Garmin Drivesmart 61 LMT-S: If you prefer Garmin's maps, the Garmin Drivesmart 61 LMT-S is an excellent choice. It features a large 7-inch touch screen, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, voice control, and provides traffic and speed camera information.

Smartphone Navigation Apps: Waze to the Rescue

If you prefer using your smartphone for navigation, Waze is a great option. This crowd-sourced routing app allows users to share real-time information about accidents, road closures, and police speed traps. By using Waze, you can stay informed and find alternative routes to avoid traffic jams. It's an excellent choice for road trips where you want to be a step ahead of the game.

Dash Cams: Capturing Your Journey and Ensuring Safety

Dash cams have become increasingly popular due to their ability to capture footage that can be invaluable in the event of an accident. Here are two recommended options:

Garmin Dash Cam 55: The Garmin Dash Cam 55 is compact, easy to use, and records high-quality footage. It features a GPS, lane departure warnings, and a magnetic mount for easy installation.

Thinkware F770: For a more permanent solution, the Thinkware F770 can be hard-wired to your car, providing constant recording from the moment you turn on the ignition. It even captures time-lapse footage when parked. You can add a rear-facing camera for added peace of mind.

Car Accessories: Let Amazon's Alexa Tag Along

Bring the power of Amazon's Alexa with you on your road trip with devices like the Roav Viva or Logitech ZeroTouch. These gadgets offer hands-free calling, music streaming, and interactions with Alexa. You can even control your smart home devices on the go. Plus, they come with USB ports for charging your smartphones.

Travel Bags: Pack Everything You Need

Having the right travel bag is essential for a successful road trip. Here are two recommendations:

North Face Base Camp Duffel Bag: The North Face Base Camp Duffel Bag is a durable and water-resistant bag with ample space and zippered compartments to keep your essentials organized.

Moss Classic Holdall by Caracalla1947: If you're looking for a more stylish option, the Moss Classic Holdall is a luxury bag finished in the same blue as the famous Ferrari 250 GT Sir Stirling Moss drove to victory. It's a premium choice with an evocative story.

Wash Bags: Stay Clean on the Go

A wash bag is a must-have for any road trip. Consider the Ted Baker Delset, a smart and simple faux leather wash bag with a pure cotton lining. It comes with a classy 100% cotton towel for added convenience.

Sunglasses: Look Cool and Protect Your Eyes

Don't forget to pack a stylish pair of sunglasses to protect your eyes from the sun's glare. Our top recommendations for 2018 are:

Ray-Ban Clubmaster: The Ray-Ban Clubmaster offers UV protection and can be customized using Ray-Ban's Remix website, allowing you to personalize the style to your liking.

Persol 714SM: The Persol 714SM sunglasses offer a Sixties Hollywood cool vibe with a compact folding design, making them easy to carry. They also have polarizing lenses to cut out reflected light from the road.

Driving Shoes: Comfort and Style on the Road

Having the right footwear for long drives is essential. Consider these options:

Herring Maranellos: If you want to impress fellow petrolheads, the Herring Maranellos are a great choice. These driving shoes are designed to enhance the feel of the pedals and are perfect for enthusiasts.

Tod's Gomminos: For a more subtle and versatile option, the Tod's Gomminos provide both comfort and a design that blends well with everyday footwear.

Travel Pillows: Restful Sleep on the Go

To ensure a comfortable journey, investing in a travel pillow is a wise choice. Here are two recommendations:

Huzi Infinity Pillow: The Huzi Infinity Pillow is filled with microbeads, offering a cozy and versatile solution for resting your head during long trips. Its unique design allows for different positions and provides maximum comfort.

Go Travel Ultimate Memory Pillow: The Go Travel Ultimate Memory Pillow is perfect for situations where you're stuck with a passenger on either side. It provides excellent support and comfort, whether in a car or on a plane.

Action Cameras: Capture Memorable Moments

Action cameras are ideal for documenting your road trip adventures. Consider these options:

GoPro Hero6 Black: The GoPro Hero6 Black is a top-of-the-line action camera that shoots 4K video at 60fps and captures stunning 12MP photos. It's waterproof and rugged, perfect for any outdoor activity.

GoPro Hero5 Black: If you're on a budget, the GoPro Hero5 Black is still an excellent choice. It offers water resistance, good video quality, and is suitable for most adventure scenarios.

Portable Batteries: Keep Your Devices Charged

Ensure your devices stay charged throughout your road trip with a portable battery. One recommendation is the Anker PowerCore 20100, which has a high capacity and can charge smartphones multiple times. It's a reliable option that can power up your devices on the go.

Noise-Cancelling Headphones: Tune Out and Relax

For a peaceful and immersive experience during long journeys, noise-cancelling headphones are a game-changer. Here are two top picks:

Bowers & Wilkins PX: The Bowers & Wilkins PX headphones offer classic design, 22 hours of battery life, and excellent sound quality. They're perfect for enjoying music while blocking out ambient noise.

Bose QC35 II: The Bose QC35 II is a compact and foldable option that provides impressive noise cancellation. It also features Google Assistant integration for convenient voice control.

Flashlights: Be Prepared for Any Situation

Though it may seem unlikely, having a flashlight on hand can be useful in unexpected situations. Consider these options:

Fenix PR35 Tactical Edition: The Fenix PR35 Tactical Edition flashlight offers high brightness with its 1,000 lumens LED bulb. It's compact, lightweight, and perfect for emergency situations.

Sidiou Group Searchlight: For a more powerful option, the Sidiou Group Searchlight boasts a massive 8,000 lumens of brightness. It's made from durable aluminum and can project light up to 1,000 meters.

Petzl Reactik: If you prefer a hands-free option, the Petzl Reactik flashlight can be strapped to your head, providing brightness and adjusting its intensity based on ambient light conditions.


With the right gear and essentials, your road trip can become an unforgettable adventure. From reliable navigation devices and dash cams for safety to travel bags, sunglasses, and wash bags for comfort and style, I hope this guide has provided you with inspiration for your next road trip. Remember to pack wisely and have a fantastic journey!

Road trip essentials: everything you need to pack on a road trip (2024)
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