Happy People Packing

And now for gear for the human part of the equation.  There are a ton of things that you can bring, but this is the stuff that I bring for road trips.  While it is tempting to pack your entire house in your car, you’ll want to focus on the things you’re most likely to use.


The name of the game is layers.  Even if the weather is fairly consistent, there will still be cold days and warm days or you may end up at the top of a mountain or driving into a storm.  Besides the standard underwear and socks, here are some of my “must have items”:

  • Sports bras – so there’s no need to worry about straps or underwires and they can pass as a swimming top if the need arises.
  • Pants – I love convertible cargo pants because they go from pants to shorts with a simple zipper and the side pockets are roomy enough that I can carry all kinds of stuff.  Most of the pockets close with velcro or zippers for added security.  I also bring capris with cargo pockets (sensing a theme here?).  They can be rolled up or left down depending on the temperature or the terrain if we’re hiking.
  • Shirts – a selection of T-shirts and tank tops.  I’m not a big fan of long-sleeved shirts and usually end up with the sleeves pushed up so I don’t bother bringing any.
  • Jackets – I have a waterproof shell with a hood, a long-sleeved merino wool zip-up (soooo warm), and a zip-up hoody.  If it were to get really cold, I can put the merino wool zip-up on, then the hoody, and lastly my shell.  That configuration is almost as warm as a winter coat and gives me tons of options depending on the weather.  I don’t pack these and leave them draped over the front passenger seat so I have easy access and can leave them on top of anything in the front that I want to leave covered.
  • Hat – I rarely leave my house without a cap on.  It’s great for shading my eyes from the sun and helping to keep rain out of my face.
  • Sleeping clothes – If there’s the chance that we’ll be camping, I’ll bring warm clothes to sleep in.  If I get overheated, I can always kick out of the sleeping bag but few things are as uncomfortable as being cold in a tent.
  • Bathing suit – optional unless you plan on swimming in public.  In more secluded areas, just undies are often sufficient for a quick cool down.  Then you can toss them in the trunk to dry if need be.
  • Shoes/sandals: I wear my shoes for the most part but keep sandals handy, especially for wet weather.  And if you’re travelling in the winter, you’ll want at least one pair of boots, possibly a second depending on what you’re doing.


You aren’t going to get far without them.  Obviously a driver’s license is a must and a passport or enhanced driver’s license if you’re crossing the border.  If you have traveler’s insurance make sure you bring any paperwork for that.  And since people like to get paid, credit and debit cards are a must.  It’s good to have cash as well but I like having that plastic in case of emergencies and it reduces the amount of cash I have to carry.

Make sure you’ve got copies of every document you have and the numbers to call if any of them get lost or are stolen.  Yes if you call Visa they will have your account number, but if you want to report your stuff lost to the local police, having the information handy means that it gets input into their system that much faster.  Which means that if someone tries to use your card, whether they stole it or found it, it can act as an additional safeguard to you losing your money and increases the chances of the person being caught.

Another document that you may want to consider drawing up is one that is totally up to you.  If you or members of your travelling party have any kind of medical issues, are on prescriptions, or even have certain fears or phobias, it may be handy to write all those up for each person to carry in their own pocket.  It doesn’t have to be in depth but in a worst case scenario where everyone is incapacitated, it can help to have that information available for first responders and later for the hospital.  And if you have a Medic-Alert bracelet or necklace, I’m assuming you would be wearing it.

Why would I suggest making note of fears or phobias?  Because first responders are typically very good at dealing with people in crisis and if they know that there’s something else going on besides just dealing with the stress of a crash, they will often take steps to help minimize the trauma as long as it doesn’t interfere with life-saving measures.

Or if for whatever reason a person is non-verbal or deaf, the first responders can stop shouting at them and try to find other means of communication.  Think about what you would want people to know if they had to deal with all of your travelling companions or what you would want them to know if you were unable to communicate.

It’s also a good idea to carry next of kin or emergency contact information and list someone that is not travelling with you.  I know it’s not the sort of thing that people want to think about but there are so many crashes every single day and while most of them are minor, there’s always that chance that one won’t be.  I wear a bracelet from a company called Road ID that has my name and my emergency contact infromation.  I bought it for running since I’m often gone for long periods and don’t want to bring my wallet but I also wear it for road trips.  A “just in case” step for me.


If you have prescriptions, make sure you bring them in the original packaging.  That way there is no doubt about what meds you’re bringing with you.  Or if there’s a medical emergency, first responders will know exactly what you are taking and the correct dosage.


Snacks are definitely a necessity.  They can help keep you from gorging on the aisles of stuff at the many gas stations and are a great way to help keep you alert and your mind occupied.  It doesn’t have to be anything complicated: some trail mix or veggies will do the trick.  Or if you’re lucky enough to pass by some farmer’s stands, well does it get any better than that?

I usually end up packing some bins with an assortment of foods that I hardly end up touching because I usually find food to eat on the road.  But when I do find myself far from restaurants, I’m grateful for the food I brought.  Here are some of the things I make sure I have:

  • instant pancake mix
  • instant rice
  • ramen noodles
  • dried fruits and berries
  • nuts
  • dehydrated chicken
  • beef jerky
  • dried mushrooms
  • instant noodle packages
  • potato flakes
  • skim milk powder
  • pouches of instant oatmeal
  • peanut butter
  • coconut oil
  • tea bags and instant coffee
  • salt/pepper/spices (cayenne pepper, cinnamon, chili powder, garlic powder)

It may sound like a lot, but what I do is remove most of it from the packaging and put everything into zip top bags.  Then I write out preparation instructions onto a piece of tape and put that on the side of the bag.  Most of the food can be prepared just by adding water and a little milk powder if I want to enrich the flavour.  These come in handy whether I’m eating out of my car, a tent, or a hotel room (yes I’ll get into that later).

I just received a collapsible coffee filter cone so I’ll be able to make coffee on the road next year.  I’m so excited to try it out.

Travel mug/water bottle:

Obviously it helps to reduce waste but having an insulated travel mug will keep your steaming cup of morning joe or tea hot way down the road and keep you steadily caffeinated.  It acts as my primary drinking vessel although I do sometimes bring a steel mug as well.  I have two stainless steel water bottles that I fill every chance I get.  Partly for me but it also acts as emergency back-up water for the dogs if they’re particularly thirsty.

Road Trip 2015-spring edition 466
The only souvenirs I bought for myself from Shenandoah. Great for road hydration.


I have my main backpack that I use to carry my stuff.  It’s a 30 L pack so there’s tons of space and it even has a side pouch where I carry the Road Trip Bottle.  That does seem to get me a few stares I think.

I also have a smaller pack that I call my “adventure bag” and I break it out whenever the dogs and I go places.  Until recently it was a shoulder bag from Mountain Equipment Co-op which was really handy because it had a clip so I could take it off and put it on with ease.  That bag had to be re-purposed so now I use a small backpack.  It just has to be big enough to carry a water bottle, at least one collapsible bowl, some snacks, and whatever small items I want to carry.   It’s also handy for bringing the dog stuff to a hotel room.  I’m all about as few trips as possible.

My weight stack one night in Spokane, Washington. I made it as heavy I could with full water bottles.

Bug Spray/sunblock:

I pretty much keep that handy all summer long and keep it in a ziptop bag to reduce the chances of a leak or puncture.  If you’re travelling in the winter, make sure you keep your sunblock in the passenger compartment to keep it from freezing.

Spare sunglasses:

Don’t leave home without them.

Other things:

Now I’m assuming your phone is basically permanently attached to you so check your data plan.  Will you need to get an additional plan if you’re heading across the border?  Are your talk minutes nationwide?  Don’t forget to check the roaming feature in your settings.  What I usually do is wait until I have my route started on the map and then switch it to airplane mode.  I still have my route on the map but will be in a nice little cocoon from the rest of the world.

There are three apps that I use a lot: Expedia, Yelp, and Gas Buddy.  The few times that I have had to use Expedia customer service, they have been just ridiculously helpful even if they could’t help me (if that makes any sense).  Yelp is good for finding places to eat.  And for a road traveller, Gas Buddy is fantastic for finding cheap gas.

I’m going to be looking for a mapping app and in particular one that will show me where I’ve been but that doesn’t need to be constantly connected to a network.  If anyone knows something like that, I’d love to check it out.

Do you know if there are any additional fees for using your debit or credit cards if you travel to a different country?  More than just the exchange rate of course.

Are you bringing a camera and extra batteries and memory card?  What about a laptop?  Do you have the cords and cables and chargers for all of your electronics?  Do you have an adaptor to plug things into your car or will you charge elsewhere?

So that’s it for people gear.  I decided to write a separate post for camping stuff, which will be the next post.

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