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The List of Must-Have Gear, Gadgets, and Services for Your Next Road Trip

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Planning a road trip? Here’s everything you might need to plot a cross-country journey, a family vacation, or a solo trek.

The summer road trip season is upon us. Maybe you’re already prepared for your next driving journey; maybe not. Either way, here are our favorite must-have gadgets, apps, and services for planning, loving, and surviving your next road trip.

Garmin Dash Cam 55

Filming your road trip a la a GoPro is mandatory these days. If you don’t Instagram it, did it even really happen? But a dash cam is also invaluable in the event of an accident. The Garmin Dash Cam 55 is an all-in-one solution with plenty of useful features. The 3.7-megapixel camera captures 1,440p video and works great in low-light conditions. With the Travelapse feature, travelers can stitch together simple time-lapse videos as well. A slew of clever safety features make it a must-have to both prevent and document accidents. Voice control lets the driver take still pictures and start/stop the video without taking their hands off the wheel. And GPS-enabled incident detection automatically saves recent footage on impact in the event of a collision. Given its versatility, it’s practically a steal at less than $200.

Trailblazer Mosquito Repellent  Camp Lantern

Mosquitoes suck and so does camping in the dark. Whether you’re car-camping or full-on living the vanlife, Thermacell solves both problems with the Trailblazer Mosquito Repeller plus Camp Lantern, a rugged outdoor lantern that also keeps mosquitoes at bay. The 300-lumen lantern features four settings and a 50-hour run time on the highest setting. The repellent relies on a single fuel cartridge to create a 15-by-15-foot “bubble” to protect you from those pesky skeeters. If the technology sounds like infomercial-esque sales speak, consider that it’s the same technology used to protect the U.S. Army from insects abroad. Best of all, it does so without the use of harsh chemicals like DEET.

Cobra Cup-Holder Power Inverter

More and more cars are debuting with usable 110V AC and USB ports. But, if you’re looking to retrofit an older car or add more ports to your ride, this Cobra power inverter fits into a standard cup holder. It swaps the stock 12V DC jack for two practical USB ports and a 110V AC outlet as well. The latter is good enough to power most tablets and compact laptops. Now, you and your road trip companions needn’t fight over who gets to charge their iPhone first.

Therm-a-Rest Compressible Pillow

Of course, true road trip success depends just as much on a well-rested co-pilot as on the driver. The Therm-a-Rest Compressible Pillow is our go-to for snoozing comfortably on long highway stretches. The pillow foam fill is actually upcycled from the company’s camping pad manufacturing process. It packs down ultra-small, but expands when you need it, with the XL size measuring 27 inches by 16.5 inches (almost the size of a standard pillow).

Pelican Cooler

That vintage aluminum cooler your grandpappy took on his fishing trips still looks cool, but it’s a little less than functional. Coolers like those from Pelican and Yeti feature modern technology that promises days — sometimes up to a week — of ice retention. Sure, the best models run north of $200. But, they’re the closest thing to a camping refrigerator if you’re planning any extended time off-road or off-grid. Many boast must-haves like built-in cup holders, bottle openers, pop-out side tables, and oversized wheels. What’s more, the best ones are built to survive a bear attack.

Roadie Mobile App

There’s an app for everything, but Roadie may be the only one that allows you to make money road tripping. Think of it as the Uber of “sending stuff.” The premise is simple: It’s an on-demand, peer-to-peer service for road-tripping travelers to courier someone else’s packages to their final destination and get paid for it. Couriers search the site for available gigs that require delivery along their route. Payment is based on the distance traveled and size of the package. Delivering a desk lamp across town, for example, might net you less than $20, while schlepping a couch cross-country could pay $1,000 or more. Remember you can always make more room in your car by ditching your least favorite friend.


SlimK LED Road Flares

There are two kinds of road tripper in this world: Those who’ve broken down and those who will. Shopping for automotive safety gear is hardly fun, but it pays to be prepared. Old-school road flares add a bit of fireworks-like fun to any roadside breakdown. But this isn’t 1985, so it’s time to upgrade your emergency kit accordingly. These LED “road flares” serve the same function as traditional road flares without harsh chemicals or the risk of a 3,000-degree magnesium burn. Each one is about the size of a hockey puck and lasts up to 36 hours on a single charge. Plus, they’re magnetic so you can affix them directly to your car if you like.

Allstays Camp and RV Mobile App

If you’re planning to crash in hotels and other traditional accommodations, there’s no shortage of apps for that. But, if you’re an adventurous sort interested in off-the-beaten-path lodging, Allstays Camp and RV is invaluable. The app’s sheer volume of sites — more than 30,000 —  is amazing. These include standard campgrounds like KOA and national/state parks, plus obscure, primitive off-road sites and BLM land maps where you can camp for free without another soul in sight. What’s more, it works offline, so you’re covered no matter where in North America you find yourself. Many reviews are accompanied by crowdsourced photos and reviews. Allstays also markets related niche apps like an Overnight Parking Walmart app, and Rest Stops Plus which details every aspect of thousands of rest stops throughout the country.


Hudly Wireless Head-Up Display

Standard in-dash gauges and instrumentation will disappear in our lifetimes. Thankfully, they’ll be replaced by way cooler, fighter-jet-style heads-up displays. Many luxury — and some midrange — automakers already offer such displays in their high-end models. But, for anyone looking to outfit their existing ride with the same tech, there’s Hudly Wireless. The high-tech display wirelessly mirrorcasts your smartphone’s apps (think: Google Maps, Waze, or Pandora) directly into your line of sight, and allows you to interact with them via voice commands. It not only displays essential information like speed and average gas mileage but virtually any pertinent details from your favorite apps. The company also claims the 6.2-inch display is the sharpest, brightest screen on the market so it’s equally visible during the day and at night.

Waze App

Google Maps is a great traffic and mapping app, and it continues to get better. But Waze is still our go-to favorite. The mapping functionality, user-friendliness, and easy-to-read interface are all second to none. Waze’s crowdsourced data ensures you can stay on top of speed traps, traffic, vehicle breakdowns on the shoulder, and even errant hazards like trash or obstacles in the roadway. Best of all: It’s free for iOS and Android.


Leatherman OHT Multi-Tool

Choosing the right multi-tool can be a challenge. But the fact is, if you’re planning an extended road trip, it might be the single most useful thing you pack. Whichever model you choose, it should offer essentials like a bottle opener and a variety of knives. We’ve long been fans of Leatherman for their utility, versatility, and reliability. The Leatherman OHT Multi-Tool is an excellent all-around choice. Not only does it offer 16 tools, including all the essentials you might need for thriving and surviving a long-distance road trip, but every tool is 100% one-hand-operable and locks when fully opened. It also boasts Leatherman’s 25-year warranty so it’ll probably outlast you. It’s a steal at less than $100. For a swanky upgrade, check out the refreshed color options for the company’s much-loved Signal multi-tool.

Blink Roadside Assistance App

Travel long enough, and you will break down. While you should be prepared to change a tire or get yourself back on the road as best you can, we can’t all be professional mechanics. AAA is a great backup plan for any driver. If you’re not keen to pay for an annual membership you may never use, however, Blink Roadside is a solid, pay-as-you-go alternative. It offers roadside assistance services for a flat $49 fee that includes jump starts, vehicle lock-out, spare tire installation, and fuel delivery. Plus, tows of up to five miles are available for just $79. The company claims coverage in more than 99% of U.S. zip codes, and they handle more than 10 million roadside events annually. Blink works best via a free mobile app (available for iOS and Android) or directly through their website.


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