Road-Trip Necessities

Thinking of going on a road trip well below are a list of products you just need to have for road trips. Our road-trip essentials will keep your gadgets charged and your wheels moving, but don’t forget that the real magic happens when you take a moment to connect with the world around you.

Weego 22s Jump Starter 1700 Peak 300

A dead battery is a road trip rite of passage—it’s only too bad that where and when you might be blessed with one is completely unpredictable. A portable jump starter is a worthy investment, but a traditional set of cables can do the job too.

AO Coolers Canvas Series 24-Pack Soft Cooler

Even if you’re not the type to load up on groceries, a cooler can be a lifesaver on a road trip. Got a flat tire? Took a wrong turn? An ice-cold lemonade or well-timed snack works wonders to alleviate stressful driving situations.

Therm-a-Rest Compressible Travel Pillow

A good travel pillow is difficult to find. You want something that won’t take up much space, can expand when it needs to, and, ideally, allows you to wedge it into shape for use as a shoulder/neck pillow when necessary, such as on a plane or in the passenger seat of a car.

Birds, buildings, natural vistas, and everything in between—whether you’re in the passenger seat, on a hike, or at a picnic table, there’s always something to do if you have a pair of binoculars.

A1 Windshield Sun Shade

If you’re traveling through a sunny area, a sunshade for your windshield is a worthwhile investment. We like the A1 Shades Windshield Sun Shade, which we found to have the best combination of low cost, decent coverage, and ease of setup. This pop-up design was much easier to install and stow than the “z-fold”-style shades we tested.

Recommending one sunshade for every car is difficult because vehicles vary so much in size. But the A1 offers several sizing options, ranging from 59 by 19 inches to 69 by 36 inches when fully expanded. Each of these sizes can be compressed down to fit into a circular carrying case, which you can easily store on the door or underneath the seat. When you take it out, the compressed plastic arcs that are inside the shade spring open to create a rectangular sun shade that you can adjust to fit your car’s windshield.

Bestek 300W MRI3011J2 Power Inverter or Go Power GP-SW150-12

If you plan to bring electronics on the road, you need a way to plug them into your car’s 12V electric system. After sending our three favorites culled from a list of 18 top-rated inverters to physicist Dr. Jim Shapiro for testing, we recommend the Bestek 300W MRI3011J2 Power Inverter for simple devices such as water boilers, or the Go Power GP-SW150-12 Pure Sine Wave Inverter for more sensitive electronics like tablets or laptop computers. A power inverter transforms your car’s round-plug, 12-volt direct current (12V DC) outlet into a three-prong outlet with the same 120-volt alternating current (120V AC) that you have in your home. Not all inverters are equal, however, and you need to know what you’ll want to plug in before deciding which one to buy.

Chat Pack: Fun Questions to Spark Conversations

You can find countless travel games for all ages, from magnetic chess boards to adult Mad Libs, and we’re not about to review them all here. (You know what kinds of games you like to play.) So instead we’ll tell you about the game we chose, Chat Pack: Fun Questions to Spark Conversations.

I am, as a rule, generally wary of anything designed to prompt conversation. But by day three of our trip, with 1,100 miles behind us and 400 miles ahead, my then-girlfriend (now wife) reached for Chat Pack and told me it was time.

It’s hit or miss with Chat Pack. Some of the questions are oddly inspiring, if clunkily written: “What is one item you own that has virtually no monetary value but has such sentimental value that you would not sell it for $1,000?” So, what item do I have that has no value but remains precious? My grandmother’s wire glove stretchers. And that became an hour-long conversation.

Petzl Actik Core

A bright light with the highest beam quality that stays charged for days—whether you charge it with a USB or AAA batteries—makes this perfect for backpacking trips.

Right out of the box, the Petzl Actik Core was easy to use. It has just one button and three brightness options: low (6 lumens), medium (100 lumens), and high (450 lumens). If you hold down the button for several seconds, the color turns to red; double-clicking lets you access the Strobe setting. Compared with some other rechargeable headlamps, which require complicated clicking configurations to get to the desired setting

Accutire MS-4021B

A digital display is more precise than analog, but the pros we interviewed all use analog gauges.

Leatherman Skeletool CX

A light, slim multi-tool that’s easy to carry and built to last. In our opinion, no emergency kit is complete without a multi-tool. They’re small enough to carry in a jeans pocket or to attach to a belt, so you can take a set of useful tools almost anywhere. Our choice is the Leatherman Skeletool CX, which comes with pliers, a bit driver, a pocket clip, and a carabiner/bottle opener, in addition to a high-quality 2.6-inch 154CM carbon-fiber stainless steel blade. The Skeletool stood out from the other 18 multi-tools we tested by focusing on the functionality, ergonomics, and solid construction of a few essential tools, instead of cramming dozens of different tools into a single bulky body that makes it difficult to use. That means it’s easy to carry, but still comes with just about everything you could possibly need to make an emergency repair in the field, on the road, or even around the house, short of a hammer and a socket set.

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