Guest Blog: USA Road Trip Essentials
How-To's & Resources, National Parks, Renter Guest Posts, Women on the Road
Our friends John and Jasmine (also known as The Cabin Camper) recently took a break from their own campervan home in Australia and explored the American Southwest in an Escape Campervan.
We recently went on a two-week road trip across the American southwest and realized there are a few items that we used religiously and probably couldn’t live without.
Thanks to Escape Campervans, we had the basics – the vehicle manual, a road atlas, and insurance – covered. But, there are a few other things that will help make your road trip a whole lot more enjoyable, so we thought we’d share them here!
1. Annual National Parks Pass
At just $80 USD, this pass is your vehicles golden ticket to every single National Park in the United States for a year. With average single-entry park fees being $20-30USD, you’ll have gotten your money’s worth after seeing just three or four National Parks. Available at the Escape depots, online, and at most National Park entrance stations, make this your first big purchase of your road trip and save a lot of money.
Nothing tops off an epic day of adventures than a campfire – whether it’s for thawing out cold extremities, cooking food, roasting marshmallows or just to stare at, they’re a multi-purpose soul soothing past time loved by young and old, regardless of the season.
3. A Decent Backpack
Whether you carry a lot of camera gear with you or not, you need a versatile, comfortable pack if you’re going to be exploring in the outdoors often. Something small enough to sit on the seat next to you, ready to grab and go, but big enough to fit all of the important things. We use this large Canon DLSR backpack when traveling. It has cushioned sections for different bodies and lenses, a laptop sleeve, rain cover, and smaller compartments for SD cards and other accessories. And after all that, there’s still always extra space for some snacks, water, and a jacket. It’s fully adjustable and well suited to longer hikes, despite looking pretty indoorsy. We took this bad boy with us across the whole south-west with no complaints.
4. A Reusable Water Bottle
Preferably insulated and BPA free. Plastic water bottles are toxic, wasteful, destructive and unfortunately – prolific. Not to mention just downright unnecessary! Unless you’re in a crisis and at risk of dehydrating, there should be no need to purchase a plastic bottle of water. There are so many reusable bottles on the market these days that are insulated, aesthetically pleasing, and virtually indestructible. Seriously, if you don’t already have one – what are you doing? We have a black 32oz. Hydroflask, a wood style insulated bottle from The Source Bulk Foods, as well as a Nalgene that we purchased at Zion National Park.
Does anyone else get hungry in the first half an hour of a long drive, regardless of when your last meal was? No? There’s just something about being on the road that makes us hungry. So we always have snacks handy. Our favorites are fresh fruit like grapes and bananas because they don’t require much preparation. But there’s also a couple of non-fresh snacks that we treat ourselves to on road trips like Clif Bars and Cobs slightly salty/slightly sweet Popcorn. Remember, keep all of your soft plastic waste and drop it off at the local REDcycle bin or equivalent!
6. Good Music
Define good, you ask? In my experience, this just translates to variety. If you’re anything like us, you like a wide spectrum of styles and genres, and your preferences vary greatly depending on your mood, the weather, the scenery, how much sleep you’ve had, when your last meal was, THE LIST GOES ON. So just be prepared. The easy answer here is obviously Spotify. Make your own playlists, follow their pre-made playlists, follow your friend’s playlists, learn a language, listen to poetry or choose their pandora style radio option. I have a playlist for every mood, you can follow me here.
Instant reaction: Yuck. Even the word is gross. I’m not a ‘wipes’ person…. I prefer to submerge myself in some kind of water to bathe whether it be the ocean, a creek, river etc. or just a good old shower. But unfortunately, these resources are not always available when on a road trip! In fact, from our experience, more than half the time we had absolutely NO IDEA when our next opportunity to bathe would be. Honestly, I think that we only properly showered perhaps four times in the two weeks we were on the road. Glamorous? No. Real? Yes.
Now wipes are definitely not the most eco-friendly product. They are disposable and come in plastic. So don’t make a habit of buying these in your everyday life, don’t waste them, and definitely shop around for the best possible option. We bought the ‘seventh generation‘ brand from Whole Foods because they’re made from wood fiber they don’t contain any harmful chemicals, and the packaging is made from 25% recycled plastic.
8. Dry Shampoo
This kind of goes along with the whole wipes/rare bathing situation. This stuff will make your hair look freshly washed in less than a minute. I only discovered the joys of dry shampoo about a year ago, and it’s now one of my favorite things in the world. Even more so since we’ve been living in a van full time. My hair tends to get oily within 24hours of washing it, even if it’s not ‘dirty.’ I’ve never been one of those girls who can get away with washing their hair once every three or four days. Instead, I spent twenty or so years of my life washing my hair every. single. day…. yay!
Anyway, Batiste is my favorite brand, it’s cruelty-free and priced pretty well, and I always have a can on hand. When you’re on a road trip and unsure when you can wash your hair next, this will save you.
9. Suitable Clothing for All Climates
This probably seems obvious, but make sure you check the weather for all of the regions that you’re visiting and pack accordingly. We didn’t realize how drastically the weather can change in a short distance, and also didn’t take altitude into consideration, so we found ourselves in the mountains of Colorado with barely enough warm clothes, particularly John. Luckily enough we found a TJ Maxx and he purchased a North Face jacket that saved his life, even if I stole it half the time. Lesson learned.
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A note about firewood–buy locally. Buying/collecting firewood from one place to burn in another place can spread tree diseases and/or invasive species that may be on the firewood from where you picked it up. Dead or dying trees can be hazardous just by themselves, as they are prone to fall over, and they are more susceptible to fire. You don’t want to be the person responsible for infecting a whole stand of trees and increasing fire risk!