Eight Essentials for the Great American Family Road Trip

  |  Gorp.com
Gear for Family road Trip
The right medical kid, tent, headlamp, road-friendly snack, and storage sky box (from left).
What Did We Miss?

This is where we start packing for the next road trip—but we want to know what you bring along. Tell us in our comments section.


In our mind, Ken Kesey is the father of the family road trip. Back in the mid-60s, he loaded his family and friends into a bus and set out on cross-country adventure. Since that inaugural tour, that magic bus has transformed into the family minivan (one that’s not driven by Neal Cassidy). But the open road remains one of the cornerstones of the American experience, where you swap the hassles of TSA security lines and non-refundable airline tickets with a familial closeness that, at its best, fosters as many memories as the places you visit. Of course, at its worst, the antics of your own merry pranksters may drive you mental. To save your sanity we present the perfect products for the family road trip.

Yakima LowPro Sky Rack
Just packing for a road trip can be enough to make you cancel the whole thing. With a roof box, you’ll suddenly find room for all those extras that make the trip fun. Inflatable raft? There’s room. Rain jackets? Check. Butterfly net? No problem.

Sierra Designs Lightning HT 4 Tent
Pack a few camping essentials, and you can mix up a smooth night at a primo lodge with a quick trip into the backcountry or an unscheduled detour to a free BLM campsite. We love Lightning tent for its easy set up time (less than five minutes for a nine-year-old), its family-friendly capacity (it is billed as a four-person tent, but there’s plenty of space for two adults and three kids), and campsite-friendly footprint.

Feathered  Friends Spoonbill Sleeping Bag
Whether you’re snuggling with a couple of home-sick toddlers or grappling for a few intimate moments with your spouse while the tots are asleep, this two-fer-one is a must for families on the road. The 850-fill down bag is warm and cushy, and turns even the most spur-of-the-moment roadside camp (or crowded back seat) into a five-star sleeping experience.

Princeton Tech Spectrum Headlamps
Road trip nirvana is the sound of children getting along. What drives most parents to the brink on a long drive is squabbling kids, but these individualized headlamps let kiddos read after dark, with no turf wars.

Adventure Medical Kits Family First Aid Kit
We realize that most parent’s medicine kit for a long car drives includes a glass of good wine when you finally get off the road. This takes care of everything else.

Kaenon Hard Kore Sunglasses
It’s essential that the parent (driver) have a good pair of shades. Extra-dark lenses are critical for covertly sleeping while the gang is rampaging at the 42nd museum on your packed itinerary, and not letting them see you cry when they’re behaving so well you feel like you’re in a Disney movie.

Halo S’Mores Bars
On America’s highways fast food options come at you with as much disheartening regularity as the insistent demand of “Are we there yet?”  To sate both backseat curiosity and hunger, opt for these bars—which infuse the sinful indulgence of marshmallows with the nutritional benefits of a good energy bar.

Published: 1 Apr 2012
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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