It looks like summer 2021 will be another summer of road trips, which I am actually so excited about! I think a lot of us get excited about international travel and forget how amazing things can be in our own backyard. The pandemic has forced us all to slow down and travel a bit closer to home. I see it as a silver lining in all of this craziness because without it, I don’t think I would have made the time to see more of the U.S and now I can’t get enough of it!
Road tripping is probably one of the best ways to see all of the amazing places in the US and it’s fun! In this guide I’ll break down absolutely everything you could ever need for an epic road trip plus all of the essentials for your camper van!
Camper Van Options for your epic road trip
Car camping / van life has become increasingly popular in the last few years and Robert and I got a small taste of it last summer when we rented a van out west. Of course tent camping is always an option, but if you have a large SUV or van, you can easily convert your car into a sleeper for a few nights.
If you are looking for a more “all inclusive” option I suggest renting from one of these awesome companies below. All of them have many different van options from your basic 2 sleeper with a camping stove to 5 sleepers with rooftop popups and “full” kitchens inside.
Native Camper Vans – They operate out of Denver, Salt Lake City and Las Vegas.
Escape Camper Vans – The coolest thing about this company is the design on their vans! They are all super colorful and just fun to look at! They have locations in New York, Orlando, Denver SLC, Seattle, Vancouver, Calgary, Portland, San Francisco, Las Vegas, Los Angeles and Phoenix.
Nature Vans – If you’re starting and ending your trip in Salt Lake City this company is a great option. Family owned, they offer a few small 2 person vans as well as a large sprinter van that can sleep up to 5. Robert and I used them on our trip and it was perfect for the two of us and had all the basics we needed!
Basecamper Vans – Another great option that only operates out of SLC.
Wander Vans – They have locations in Boise, SLC, Portland and Spokane.
Van Essentials for an epic road trip
Regardless of if you are tent camping, car camping or or anything in between here are the essentials you’ll need. If you rent from one of the companies above they may provide certain items, be sure to check beforehand!
Bedding – Many van rental companies will provide bedding, but some don’t. I would suggest bringing extra though as it can get very cold at night in a lot of places. A great option is the mummy sleeping bag to keep you warm in any season!
Twinkly Lights – Chances are once you turn the van off, the lights will go off too. We got some inexpensive LED lights from Walmart and they worked perfectly to light up the van and keep it cozy!
Not sure where to go on your epic road trip? Check out my road trip itinerary from Denver to Utah!
Window Shades – You can easily use cardboard, towels or any fabric to cover your windows if privacy is your only concern, but insulated shades could be very important for colder nights. Vanmadegear.com makes custom window shades for your van, but they are definitely pricey. This will just depend on your budget and needs, but you will want something for night time.
Camper Stove – This was a life saver when we had a very rainy day in Yellowstone and could not for the life of us get a fire started (though we eventually did.) It’s also convenient for the morning when you don’t want to get a whole fire going! And don’t forget, you’ll also need a small propane with this!
Cooking Essentials – There are so many little things that are easy to forget when getting your kitchen gear together! Here is a list of everything you’ll will want to make sure you have.
- Pots and Pans
- Spatula, ladle, tongs
- Roasting sticks
- Wine / bottle opener
- Dish soap and sponge
- Dish towel
- Cutting Board
- Cups (preferably mugs so you can drink hot or cold)
- Water jug
- Forks, spoons, knives
- Aluminum foil
- Oven mit
- Trash Bags
- Water Bottle
If getting each of these things individually seems like a lot of work, consider buying a pack from Amazon or even places like Walmart have really convenient camping packs.
Pots & Pans Pack – These pots and pans are great to use over a fire or on your camper stove.
French Press – For some reason coffee is even more special when you’re camping. Am I right? Sitting in the back of your van looking out over mountain ranges, lakes or oceans makes the morning coffee even more delicious. A French press is perfect for camping!
Cooler – You’ll definitely want a good cooler to last for the length of your trip. Robert and I had a crappy one on our last trip that ended up leaking, so I highly recommend making the investment! Yeti coolers are a great option if you don’t mind spending the money, but if you’re looking for a more budget option try out the Coleman brand.
Headlamp / Flashlight / Lantern – Headlamps are great for sunrise hikes or when cooking in the dark. If you don’t plan to do any of that then a flashlight or lantern will work just fine. Don’t forget batteries though!
Bear Spray – If you’re going to a place like Yellowstone or the Tetons, you’ll want to get bear spray. Unfortunately it’s about $50, but having the peace of mind will definitely be worth it!
Fire Starter/ Lighter – Don’t plan on using a small cigarette lighter to get your fire going, you’ll want a torch style lighter. This especially comes in handy when you’re like me and can’t start a fire to save your life haha.
Beach Towel – This can come in handy for a number of reasons, but especially when your cooler leaks like ours did haha.
First Aid Kit – You never know when you’ll need even just a small bandaid.
Hammock – Is a hammock essential? Maybe not, but it sure is fun to have!
Disinfectant Wipes – For Covid reasons and other.
Camper Chairs – It would be tragic to forget camp chairs! I like this one because it has the little tray on the side which makes it easier for eating/ drinking/ s’more making!
Bluetooth Speaker – This is one of those smaller details people often forget! If you’re in need of a new speaker I love my Bose Mini Soundlink, or the UE Boom. If you have a friend with a UE Boom you can sync them together for twice the sound.
Backpack / Dry Bag – Chances are you’ll be hiking, biking, swimming, kayaking, etc… You’ll want a good bag as well as a dry bag. This comes in handy for water activities or if you get caught in the rain. (I learned that the hard way when I ruined a camera due to rain.) Camelbaks are great if you want a bag with a bladder (I feel these are most convenient.)
Large Portable Charger – Though this thing is kind of expensive, it is so necessary. Especially if you plan to charge cameras or laptops on your trip.
Running / Hiking Shoes – I am not the biggest hiker in the world so I haven’t actually invested in real hiking boots, so I am more of the running shoe type. My favorite are Nikes, but I know many people who love Columbia for their hiking boots!
Leggings / Exercise Clothes – My favorite exercise outfits are from Old Navy. They are cute, compressive and have become my favorite for active wear.
Warms PJ’s – This is a must for nighttime. It’s far better to have too many layers and take them away, than to freeze and add in the middle of the night.
Thick Socks – Another must when it’s cold at night or while sitting by the fire.
Hat – I suggest packing a beanie style hat to sleep in if needed as well as a baseball cap sort of hat to protect your face from the sun and also to cover up your hair after you haven’t washed it in a few days! haha
Sunglasses – An obvious one, but easy to forget!
Sandals – I don’t know about you, but I like to take my shoes off during road trips. Having to lace up shoes just to run into a gas station is a hassle, sandals make it easy to take on and off in a pinch.
Heading to Grand Teton? Check out my ultimate 2 day guide to Grand Teton National Park!
Personal Essentials for an Epic Road Trip
Shampoo / Conditioner Bar – My favorite bars are from Lush Cosmetics. These bars make traveling easy because they are so compact and they’re better for the environment!
Body Wash – Having a bar of soap is easier than a bottle for this too! Again, Lush is my favorite.
Dry Shampoo – Batiste dry shampoo is my absolute favorite brand that I have been using for years! Whatever brand you use, dry shampoo in a must for camping.
Body Wipes – We all know showers aren’t as accessible while on the road, so having some wipes to clean up after a hike or whenever you need them is a must. For the ladies, I like the Summers Eve wipes as well!
Makeup Wipes – Normally I’m against makeup wipes because they aren’t great for the skin, but when camping they are just the easiest option. My favorite are by Neutrogena. If you have a better alternative, let me know!
Tampons / Diva Cup – An obvious essential just to be safe. Diva Cups are better for the environment and are less to pack.
Other PErsonal Essentials not to forget are…
- Toilet Paper
- Bug Spray / Repellent
- Chap Stick
- Advil / Tylenol
On the road Essentials
Offline Music – An epic road trip is nothing without something to listen to! I personally use Spotify and pay for the premium plan. Sign up for my newsletter to receive my favorite Spotify playlists every month! Here are a few of my current favorite playlists.
Offline Podcasts – I personally love true crime, but that can get a little scary when you are camping! haha. Here are my current favorite podcasts!
- My favorite Murder
- Crime Junkie
- The Skinny Confidential
- Almost 30
- Ed Mylett
- Up and Vanished
- The Morning Toast
- I also love to download comedy shows. My favorite is Nate Bargatze!
Snacks – A road trip would be tragic without snacks! Let me know your favorite snacks cause I need new ideas!
- Beef Jerky – I personally hate this, but Robert loves it.
- Trail Mix
- Apples / Bananas
- Protein Bars
- Candy – My faves are peach rings and gummy bears.
- Chips – Dill Pickle, Doritos or Boom Chicka Pop.
Offline Maps – Before you go on your trip you can actually go into google maps, search your destination, tap the address at the bottom and select download offline maps! This will be a life saver if and when you lose service on the road.
Car Charger – Double check your car charger situation and make sure you have a chord as well as an adapter if needed!
Hand Sanitizer – For Covid and other reasons!
Emergency Car Kit – What a nightmare would it be to get stuck somewhere, ruining your road trip. Be prepared with an emergency kit!
Trash Bag – For all your empty snack bags
There you have it! Every possible essential you will need for an epic camper van road trip! There are a ton of things to remember before hitting the road, so I hope this guide helps you out! Is there anything I forgot? Let me know below!
Make sure you don’t forget a thing for your road trip and pin this post for later!