Car Camping Road Trip Necessities

On the scale from ultralight backpacking to yurt glamping, I prefer to do my road tripping on the luxurious side. There’s a time and a place for cutting down your toothbrush and sitting on the ground, but, for me, road trips are not it! I’ve done a lot of car camping and road trips, and I have some great suggestions to make your time on the road and in your tent as comfortable as possible. I found options at lower and higher price points, so you can get a pleasant set up, no matter your budget.

Road Trip Must Haves // tahoefabulous.com

Sleeping:
Being comfortable while sleeping makes a huge difference to your quality of life on the road, and I think it’s the most important area to splurge on. I love having a big-ass tent. Greyson and I are both tall people, and, while we can both fit in a two-person tent, it’s a tight squeeze. We have the Big Agnes Tensleep Station ($449.95) and the footprint ($50.00), and it is incredible. The tent is tall enough to get dressed in and there is enough room for both Greyson and me, and our bags. It also has a large vestibule, so you can take off wet and muddy gear, but stay dry. The tent is easy to set up – though it definitely helps to have two people, it can be set up by one. It has plenty of guylines, so you can stake it out and make it stable in high winds, despite its height. It doesn’t pack down very small and is heavy, which is the only real downside. For four-person tents under $200 from reputable brands, you could look at the highly-rated REI Co-op Camp Dome 4 or the Kelty Salida 4. For sleeping, I want something long, wide and cushy, and the insulated Nemo Cosmo in long and wide is perfect ($139.95). It also has an integrated foot pump for easy filling. For comfort under $100, try Kelty Weekender ($59.95), ALPS Mountaineering Comfort Series Airpad ($39.99), or the old reliable close-cell foam Therm-a-Rest RidgeRest.

Car Camping Must Haves // tahoefabulous.com

After more than 5 years, I’m still really happy with my Sierra Designs Zissou ($144.95). With water-resistant down, it has the benefits of down without the drawbacks in wet weather. For warmer weather, Greyson prefers a backpacking quilt-style sleeping arrangement, even for car camping, like the Enlightened Equipment Revelation ($255). With quilt bags, you can cinch up the sides and bottoms when it’s chillier, or use it like a blanket on warmer nights. If you opt for synthetic, affordable and reliable sleeping bags are easy to find. There’s the Mountain Hardwear Bozeman Quilt ($69.27) or the REI Co-op Trail Pod ($89.95) or the Marmot NanoWave ($89.95), which also comes in long. I didn’t use a sleeping bag liner until our honeymoon, and now I can’t imagine camping without one. I have the easily-washable and light Sea to Summit Expander Travel Liner ($34.95) which is on the cheaper end of liners. If you tend to sleep cold, you could get the Sea to Summit – Reactor Extreme Thermolite liner ($59.99) which can add up to 25 degrees of warmth! You could even use it as a standalone ultralight bag in really warm weather. Don’t forget a pillow! You can just bring a pillow from home for the cheapest and easiest option, but I have and like the NEMO Fillo ($39.95). A cheaper travel pillow is the Cocoon Ultralight Pillow ($25.95).

Car Camping Must Haves // tahoefabulous.com

Eating:
I’ve found that having a nice and easy to use kitchen set up makes us much more likely to cook and less likely to cave in to eating out. First up, a really nice cooler is worth the money. We are so impressed with our YETI Tundra cooler ($249.99). Stuff stays cold for so long! At a lower price point, the old school Coleman Steel-Belted cooler has good reviews and holds a ton ($94.99). For cooking, nothing beats the Coleman Classic 2-burner Stove, ($32.99) for both price and performance. If you want something that packs down smaller, there’s the Jetboil Genesis 2 ($239.59). We also have a Jetboil Flash ($99.95) that we use if we’re just heating water for coffee in the morning. On the cheaper side, the MSR PocketRocket ($44.95) is a classic for a reason – it works and, while not quite as easy to use as a Jetboil, it’s quite simple.

Car Camping Must Haves // tahoefabulous.com

I like the ease of an all in one camp cookset, like the GSI Outdoors Pinnacle Camper ($139.95). For a smaller cookset, look at the Snow Peak Personal Cooker ($29.95). You’ve also got to have utensils, and nothing beats a Titanium Spork ($9.95). You can also go super budget with this reusable GSI plastic spork ($1.75)

Car Camping Must Haves // tahoefabulous.com

Miscellaneous:
If you’re not spending more than a day in each of your stops, and you have a lot of time on the road, you can probably get away with charging your phones via a car charger. If you’re spending a few days exploring a destination or you have bigger things (computers, cameras, gps units, etc.) to charge, you’ll want a battery system. No matter what, this isn’t going to be cheap, but it’s better than camping out in Starbucks for hours! We have the Goal Zero Yeti 150 Portable Power Station ($199.95), which can charge up to five devices at once, via USB ports, regular plugs, or car chargers. You can recharge the power station from a wall outlet or via Goal Zero solar panel ($125.49).

Once you’ve settled in to your campsite for the night, you’ll want to be comfortable and entertained. While a lot of developed campsites have picnic tables for seating, dispersed or primitive camping lacks that amenity. Plus, a chair with a back is so much more comfortable! I’m not a fan of the ultra light or small packing camp chairs – if I’m bringing a chair, it needs to be the real thing. The REI Co-op Camp X chair ($39.95) is perfect. It’s roomy, has cup holders, and they seem to last forever. I’m also big on having a hammock whenever possible, and I’ve had no complaints about the ENO DoubleNest Hammock ($52.46). Don’t forget the Hammock Suspension System ($29.95) – you won’t be able to swing without it.

Car Camping Must Haves // tahoefabulous.com

Hopefully, you’ll be stopping for outdoor meals in gorgeous places on your road trip. I’ve found that having a water-resistant picnic blanket for these occasions is a must have. We’ve given the Nemo Victory Blanket ($79.95) as a gift, and the recipients love it. It’s truly waterproof (non just resistant), and you can even stake down the edges if it’s windy out! There are much cheaper options out there, like this one ($9.99) or this one ($21.99), but they aren’t going to be fully waterproof.

Camp games are a great way to entertain yourself and to make friends with your neighbors. I’ve played Spikeball ($55.99), Bocce Ball ($29.95) and Ladder Golf ($37.49) while camping and had a blast. Get waterproof versions of playing cards ($8.99) or games like UNO ($9.95) for durability and to protect from spills or sudden storms.

Finally, we love our solar powered, inflatable, multi-color Luci Lanterns ($19.50). While they might just seem like a silly gimmick, we truly use ours a lot. They don’t take up very much space at all, charge quickly (we put ours on the car dash while we drive), and the white is bright enough to read by. The multi-color function is fun for the wilder nights and for entertaining kids. If you just want white light, you can get the Original Lucy ($17.95) for a little cheaper.

There are some of my suggestions to make your next car camping road trip a little more luxurious! I didn’t hit everything, so what did I miss?

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. If you make a purchase, I receive a small percentage of the sale as compensation – at no additional cost to you. I promise to only recommend products that I use and enjoy!

Gear List for the Ultimate Mountain Bike Road Trip

Mountain Bike Road Trip Packing List // tahoefabulous.com

I’ve done quite a few mountain biking/camping road trips over the past few years, and I really think that I’ve got my gear list dialed in. Overpacking and underpacking are both things you want to avoid on a road trip – especially a long one. You don’t want to run out of clean chamois or have too much stuff to dig through when you’re looking for a specific tool. It took a lot of trial and error, so I’m going to share my gear lists and what I’ve learned.

I’ve broken down my packing list into a few categories: biking, camping, apparel, and miscellaneous for ease. In this post, I’m focusing on bike gear and apparel. I’ll be posting about camping gear and the other odds and ends soon. I’m basing this on our one month, 2,700+ mile road trip. We used pretty much everything we brought, and there wasn’t really anything I felt like I was missing. For a shorter road trip, you might not need as much stuff, but I think that this is a good base. Here’s what to pack for the Ultimate Mountain Bike Road Trip:

Mountain Bike Gear List // tahoefabulous.com

Bike Gear:
BikeYou’re definitely going to need this. I love my 2016 Transition Smuggler (a short travel 29er) so much. It was a perfect bike for nearly everything we rode. Spoiler: I wish I had more travel at Whistler.

Mountain Bike Gear Packing List // tahoefabulous.com
HelmetFor a nearly perfect combination of safety, comfort, and versatility, you really can’t beat Bell Super R Helmet series. The newest version is the Super 3R, but I have the Super 2R, which is just an earlier version that you can still find a really good deal on. These helmets have a removable chin bar. I love this feature, because I can leave it off for easier rides or climbs, and then attach it for more protection on the more technical rides. Overall, the helmet has lots of venting, so it’s cooler than pretty much all full face helmets, even with the face bar attached. If you don’t plan to ever need the chin bar, I really like the Giro Feather helmet. I wrote a long review about it here.
PedalsI ride clipless pedals 95% of the time, but I almost always pack both clipless pedals and flats for road trips. Two sets of pedals and shoes don’t take up that much room and add a lot of versatility. Even for clipless pedals, I like ones with a bit of a platform, like these Shimanos. For flats, I like these basic Answer Rove R2s. They have small hex screws for extra grip that are easily replaced.
ShoesI am recommending my biking shoes with a caveat. Once I’ve got the Five Ten Kestrel on, they are a perfect biking shoe. They’re comfortable, the boa system instead of laces makes sure they’re always secure, easy to walk in, shed mud well, and, if I can’t clip in immediately, their slightly sticky bottom means that my feet still stay on the pedals pretty well. However, they are a little hard to get on and off, and the pull strap that’s on the heel of the right shoe broke immediately on both mine and Greyson’s, which is annoying but doesn’t effect the function at all. I’d still highly recommend them.

Mountain Biking Gear List // tahoefabulous.com
Photo by Corey Vannoy

Hydration packI think that a comfortable and functional hydration pack is one of the pieces of gear that’s most integral to having a fun ride, especially as the distances get longer. I’ve recommended the CamelBak Solstice before. It’s a women’s specific, lumbar pack designed for mountain biking. I still love it, though the light grey color mine is has started to look pretty gross on the back. Greyson has the men’s version, the CamelBak Skyline shown above.
GlovesIt’s really nice to have two pairs of gloves to give each pair a chance to dry out. I don’t pay a lot for gloves. I usually buy what’s on sale and what fits my rather large hands. Right now, I alternate between the Giro Xena and the Giro LA DND.

#Enduro bros.

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EyewearI am hard on and terrible to sunglasses. I admit it. I’ve found that the Suncloud brand is a nice balance. They’re polarized and hold up pretty well, but don’t break the bank so I don’t feel too bad about immediately dropping and scratching them. I also have very light sensitive eyes, so I tend to like my sunglasses pretty dark, even when mountain biking. I’ve finally come around, and I like the Suncloud Cookie with rose lenses for rides in the trees where the light is variable. For rainy/windy/dusty conditions, or just when I want to look like an enduro bro, I wear Smith Squad MTB.
Pads: For a trip like this, we went for light, breathable and smaller pads to save space. The SixSixOne Recon knee are really comfortable – they’re fine if you need to pedal and are about as cool and breathable as you can get.
Anti Chafe Protection: For long, sweaty summer rides, Chamois Butt’r and Body Glide are essentials.
Various Tools: You’re going to want a few things with you on a ride, like a basic multi tool and a mini bike pump for repairs on the trail. However, when you’re on a long bike trip, a more thorough tool kit will save you time and money. If you don’t already have a bike tool kit assembled, this Park Tool SK-2 Home Mechanic Starter Kit is a good place to start. Finally, having a nice floor pump makes keeping your tires at exactly the right psi simple and easy. We have the Bontrager Flash, which has an air chamber and can set tubeless tires, but if you don’t want to pay more than $100 for a tire pump, there are other options at lower price points.

 

I might have a slight turquoise/teal #mountainbike clothes problem. Off to #mammoth!

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Apparel: 

    • Liners: First off, think of how many liners/chamois you think you need. Then pack at least one more, especially on a long trip. While you can wash these by hand, they take a long time to dry, even in the summer sun. We were doing a lot of liner algebra. “Ok, I have two pairs of clean ones, and two wet ones and we want to ride three times in the next four days, and the wet ones should dry in x hours…” etc. Liners are definitely not a one size fits all type of gear – find what fits your body best. I tend to like Fox’s liners, which can be hard to buy separately, but I did find these Fox Switchback shorts.
    • Baggies: I also like the Fox baggies, especially the Fox Ripley shorts and Fox Lynx shorts. Note: the Lynx only have a tiny back zipper pocket, which is dumb.
    • Tops: I am a very sweaty person, and mostly bike in tank tops. If I am going to wear long sleeves, I like lightweight tops like the Pearl iZUMi Launch Jersey, which is so breathable I don’t even notice it. For wind, I have a Patagonia Houdini Jacket, which packs down very, very small.
    • Accessories: Smartwool makes good socks and low impact sports bras. For high impact sports bras, Brooks Rebound Racer (formerly Moving Comfort) is amazing.

I hope you’re reading this because you’re planning an awesome mountain bike road trip. Check back in for my camping recommendations. If you’ve been on a mountain bike or other long road trip, chime in with your suggestions.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. If you make a purchase, I receive a small percentage of the sale as compensation – at no additional cost to you. I promise to only recommend products that I use and enjoy!