OK, this might be a little presumptuous of me, we hardly know each other but… we should totally go on a road trip this summer. Right?! Just picture it! Two best friends and the open road! We can bring some bikes and a Jeep to hit up Moab, maybe swing by Mt. Rushmore if we’re feeling patriotic, we can get some BBQ in Kansas, and then I heard about a rooster in Tennessee that can supposedly play the fiddle, so that’s obviously on the list.
Oh what’s that? Oh, you’re just going to do your own thing? Ah, right, you’ve got a whole family thing going on, that’s cool. Maybe next time? Ah, social distancing, huh? This is awkward.
So anyway, we may not be road trip buds but I can at least help you hit the road prepared and with a few things to make your trip a smooth, safe, and comfortable one. Oh, and maybe some cool gadgets, because who doesn’t like gadgets? Shout out to all my Amish readers I guess?
Hotel room? Nah, Roof top tent!
A lot of people’s response to a roof top tent the first time is first “ooh, that’s cool,” followed by “ooh, that’s expensive” in rapid succession. That was my reaction, anyway. While yes, RTTs are quite a bit more expensive than a traditional tent, they have a lot of unique advantages.
There is something to be said for having a place to sleep ready to go within just a few minutes everywhere you go without the need to necessarily find a campground or out of the way, flat and clear spot to set up a tent. You can set up the tent at a rest stop, out on the trail (where camping is allowed), and of course at a campground. Especially for those with back issues, a consistent, flat, comfy place to sleep is a godsend.
What I recommend:
Raptor Series OffGrid Voyager: Rolling solo or with just your partner? This is the pick for you. It’s smaller than most other RTTs, but with that means it’s lighter and offers smaller profile for drag in the wind on top of your rig.
ARB Series III Simpson: This one is a bit more expensive, but the build quality is some of the best in the industry. This is a good choice if you have a kid or two with you as well. These are the industry standard for good reason.
What are you bringing with you? Need a hitch?
Obviously you’ll need one if you’re towing a trailer, but that’s not all a receiver hitch is good for. They open up great opportunities to free up precious space inside the vehicle, pull things off the roof to help a little with gas mileage, or just to make room up top for something more important, like one of those RTTs above.
You can throw those bikes on a rack behind the vehicle so you can actually make it through a drive-thru again (don’t you dare deprive me of my $.99 road trip tacos). A good hitch-mounted cargo carrier can also free up a lot of room inside for other essential items such as a fridge/cooler or semi-essential items like small children (we all have our priorities).
What I recommend:
Curt Trailer Hitch: Curt is the gold standard for hitches. They’re still made in Eau Claire Wisconsin while still being competitively priced with options made overseas. If there was a bald eagle of cargo hauling equipment, Curt would be it.
Lung Hitch Cargo Carrier: Offering nearly 8.5 ft² of cargo space and a massive 500lbs weight capacity that will fit any 2″ reciever, there isn’t much you can’t carry on here. Plus, at under $100 at the time of writing this, this thing is a serious deal.
Yakima FourTimer: If you’re going with your family or a group, the FourTimer is tough to beat. It can carry four bikes, or be converted into a 2-bike carrier if needed. Also, when you’re not carrying bikes, it can be folded up out of the way for trips into town.
Get yourself a good cooler or a fridge!
Of course a cooler is a road trip/camping essential, but have you given much thought to upgrading from that old cheap cooler that can barely hold ice for more than a day or two? On the cooler front, not all are created equal, and big strides have been made in cooler quality over the last 5 years or so. With better sealing, more advanced insulation materials, and smarter lid designs, a good cooler can hold ice for 5 days in desert heat easily — especially when kept inside the vehicle.
But if you really want to do it right, the only way to go is with a 12v fridge, I was convinced that there was no way these would be worth the money (because they’re not cheap), but after taking a few trips out to the desert with my buddy and his Dometic fridge/freezer, I am a convert. Sitting at the top of a mountain trail in the middle of the Anza Borrego sun eating an ice cream cone is an experience I never really expected to have.
Besides keeping your food cool basically indefinitely, the real place where these fridges have an advantage over coolers is that you don’t have to leave room for ice or ice packs. That allows the fridges to be much more compact, even including the compressor and the electronics needed to make it run. Of course these do bring in extra logistics for powering them, but it’s well worth it.
What I recommend:
Dometic Fridge/Freezer: Since launching their portable fridge/freezers, these Swedes pretty quickly took over the market with some of the highest quality options on the market. They’re not cheap, but they are seriously well built, and even when not running they can hold ice as well as some of the best coolers on the market.
ProMaxx Coolers: While these might seem a little expensive if you’re coming from a $20 Coleman cooler, believe it or not, but these are a steal when compared to similar coolers on the market. Coolers like those from Yeti can easily be twice this cost, but are they twice as good? I honeslty doubt it. With a high quality seal, strong latching, and a built-in bottle opener, you can’t really go wrong here.
CYA with a Dash Cam:
You never know what can happen out on the road — especially out on a road trip seeing the country. A good dash cam can help prove your case in case of an accident, or capture something YouTube-worthy out in the middle of nowhere some something crazy in the middle of the city.
Plus, modern models have cool features like motion and movement sensors to automatically come on and record in case someone is trying to mess with your car while it’s parked. These are also handy for capturing someone’s licence plate if they bump into your car in a parking lot while you’re not there, or even a hit and run when you weren’t able to get it yourself.
What I recommend:
NextBase Dash Cam: There are about a million different dash cams on the market, but NextBase features some really unique and cool options, such as that smart parking functionality I mentioned above, and even Alexa integration and emergency response capability. The base model is only $82, and then the feature packed model still comes in at well under $200, making these a deal for what you get.
What are some of your road trip essentials? Anything I missed? Drop them in a comment below! Also accepting road-trip-besty applications below (please, I’m so lonely)!