Road Trip Essentials

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What a year 2020 was! Travel plans were put on hold or cancelled altogether as we waited for the world to re-open. 2021 will hopefully see some kind of return to normality so we can all hit the road for some epic adventures. Fingers crossed!

Before you do, you’ll want to make sure your van is kitted out with everything you’ll need.

On this page we’ve listed some of the road trip essentials we never leave home without. We’ve bought several of these items ourselves and so far they’ve proven to be of good value.

Scroll down and see our comments…

Just to note: All these items are things we’ve used ourselves or have thoroughly researched. And because we like to be honest, each link is affiliated, which means we’ll earn a few pence if you buy via the link – at no extra cost to you. It’s not much, but it helps keep our old van going a wee bit longer! Our full Affiliate Products Disclosure Document can be read here.

VW motorhome on a road trip

Road Trip Essential #1

7-piece travel kit

This is a fantastic 7-piece kit that has great reviews wherever you read. It comes with key European and UK motoring and safety essentials and contains a reflective emergency vest, hazard warning triangle, universal bulb kit, headlight beam converters, a self-adhesive GB sticker, a standard first-aid kit and zipped carry bag.

One vest won’t be enough (driver and each passenger might need one if you’re all stood by the roadside waiting assistance) so you can always order more spares. These ones seem reasonably priced and have good reviews (and are the ones we have). Thankfully, we’ve not had to use them yet…

Road Trip Essential #2

Fire extinguisher and blanket

Most, if not all new motorhomes should come with a fire extinguisher. Older vans may not.

Ours already had an extinguisher in it but we had no idea how old it was so bought this new one with a fire blanket as well. You just never know when you might need such things.

Road Trip Essential #3

Carbon monoxide detector and smoke alarm

The other safety essentials are a carbon monoxide detector and a smoke alarm. You’ll sleep better in your van knowing that if there is a gas leak or smoke coming from somewhere you’ll be awoken immediately by these alarms.

We use this carbon monoxide detector. It’s mid-priced and the little green light flashes every minute to let you know it’s working and keeping you safe.

Smoke detector

And when it comes to smoke detectors, like everything else, there are so many to choose from. Ours is a spare we had in our house which works perfectly fine. This one here has mostly very positive reviews and is reasonably priced…

Okay, that’s the essential safety equipment out of the way. You might see this as a bit boring but it’s life-saving stuff!

Let us move onto more practical things for your road trips…

Road Trip Essential #4

Levelling chocks

Most campsites have hard-standing pitches for motorhomes these days but many do not. You’ll want your van to be as level as possible otherwise you might be rolling out of bed at night or the frying pan might slide off the hob!

We bought these ones (made by Fiamma, a well-known brand) and on a sloping pitch they make such a difference. Of course, when we wild camp we don’t use them in case we need to make a quick getaway!

We’ve also got one of these mini spirit levels if we’re being uber fussy (which is never)…

Though if you are of the uber fussy variety, you’ll probably want one of these…

Road Trip Essential #5

Fresh water bottle

We use two bottles in our van: a strong plastic 6-litre jerry-type can we picked up from an auto-jumble for a couple of quid and another one very similar to this collapsible container. This one has a handy tap on it and we stand it by our sink.

We’d previously bought cheaper versions from QD that leaked all over the place. This one has generally very positive reviews.

Road Trip Essential #6

Never go anywhere without a kettle!

We use a standard stainless steel whistling kettle for the gas hob (if we’re not on electric hook-up) but when we stay at campsites and have the luxury of electric we use something very similar to this one.

We find it’s better than the smaller 0.5 or 0.6 litre travel kettles that give you only enough water for a small cuppa each. Thats ok if you’re a lone traveller, maybe, but if there are two of you, or more, this larger 1 litre kettle means you won’t have to boil a second lot of water.

Road Trip Essential #7

Electric hook-up cable

So, talking of electric hook-ups (usually shorted to EHU) if you’re staying on a campsite you’ll need one of these cables that connects your van up to the electric supply on the site.

The one shown here is 20 metres long. You can get shorter and cheaper ones but you don’t want to park up and then suffer the embarrassment of your cable not being long enough to reach the power point.

We have an extension cable but you’re better off buying a longer one to start with. And don’t forget a converter cable if you want to charge your van’s battery from your house before you hit the road.

Road Trip Essential #8

A parking reserved sign

If you’ve got a nice pitch but want to go out exploring for a day, use one of these signs to ensure no one else has taken your spot when you return.

The thing is, when you arrive at some campsites you’re told to ‘just drive around until you find a space’. It’s so easy for your own pitch to be taken by a new arrival if you haven’t marked it in some way when you’re out.

Road Trip Essential #9

Steering wheel lock

We’re pretty security conscious and would hate it if anything happened to our old van. It’s unlikely that anyone would target a 30 year old vehicle but you just never know, so we always lock the steering with a ‘Stop Lock’ whenever we go off for the day on a long trek, especially if we’re in unfamiliar territory.

We’ve got the original version of this, but the reviews say that this one is even better…

Road Trip Essential #10

A good quality lamp and torch

This is more for safety purposes really or for having to get up in the night. We always sleep with a lantern like the one here beside the bed to save us putting the van lights on during the night if either of us need to get up.

This one has really good reviews and is sensibly priced. And you just never know when you might need it, such as during a power cut on the campsite or if you’re wild camping.

We also do a lot of walking and sometimes arrive back at the van in the dark after trekking several miles. This happened once coming back to the campsite along a pitch black road after our pilgrimage to Canterbury. After this, we thought we’d better take a torch with us.

We like this one partly because of the make (Cree!) but it is excellent, as mentioned by many in the reviews.

Road Trip Essential #11

Power bank/inverter

So, if you’re carrying lamps, torches, and other things that need charging – such as mobile phones and laptops – you’ll proabably want one of these power inverters.

Of course, if you’re on a campsite you can charge up everything there but we find charging whilst on the go is a more ecological option, using the power generated by the van’s engine.

This model turns the 12-Volt cigarette lighter into 2 three-pin plugs and 4 USBs and on some road trips we’ve had all sockets being used at the same time! We also use it as an inverter for our solar panel.

Road Trip Essential #12

Fresh Water Tank Cleaner

Legionnaire’s Disease is a killer! You’ll want to make sure that your fresh water tank is free of bacteria, algae and other nasties that can get into the motorhome’s water system and make you feel really ill – or worse!

We’ve often used ‘Puriclean‘ to clean the fresh water system before we go on a long road trip but this stuff also has great reviews…

Road Trip Essential #13

Spare fuses kit

You just never know when you’re going to need a spare fuse or two and if you’re miles from anywhere it’s best to have plenty of spares with you.

This pack of 140 fuses is German, has top reviews and contains fuses from 2amps up to 35amps, which covers most things you’ll ever need in your motorhome or campervan.

Road Trip Essential #14

Basic tool kit

Ok, let’s be honest here – if there’s any major problem we call Green Flag! But every vehicle should have a basic tool kit for smaller jobs you want to do yourself.

We have a kit very similar to this one with a full set of allen keys, spanners, plyers, screwdriver bits and loads of other handy tools for smaller jobs in and outside of your van.

Road Trip Essential #15

Digital tyre pressure gauge

This might not be an essential if you’re just staying local and within easy reach of a service station, but away from home and miles from the nearest garage, it might be an idea to keep an eye of those tyre pressures.

The right tyre pressure improves fuel economy, driving, and tyre wear – and might just help you avoid a blow out on the motorway!

If you do a lot of wild camping, away from the beaten track, you might also consider a good old-school foot pump, just in case you find you’ve gotten a flat overnight. (We’ve looked a lot at the 12-V battery-operated pumps which work off the cigarette lighter and come with only 3 to 4 metres of cable – no good for big motorhomes whose back wheels are probably out of reach!)

Road Trip Essential #16

A VW campervan large cooler bag

If you drive a VW like we do, you’ll love this cooler bag. We often go on day trips and it makes an ideal alternative to using the fridge, keeping everything cool and fresh, especially if you chuck a couple of ice-blocks in there.

Hobo Trudi’s daughter gave us this for Christmas. We have the blue one, which matches our van, and it’s way big enough for a bumper picnic!

Road Trip Essential #17

A well-stocked first-aid kit

It’s not just the van you need to look after on a road trip! A first aid kit is one of the first things we ever bought and is an essential item, especially if you trek for miles like us.

This one has 100 pieces from plasters and bandages to anti-sceptic wipes, sterile eye washes, an emergency blanket and loads more essential first aid items – just in case!

Road Trip Essential #18

Insect repellent

Ok, so this final essential might not be needed everywhere, but if you’re heading to Bonnie Scotland it’s a vital piece of kit. Midges will ruin the most spectacular of lochside scenery and the best thing we found was Avon’s ‘Skin So Soft’.

Gav had tried Neem Oil – which we’d also heard good things about – but it made his skin smell like a farmer’s field after being fertilised! Stick to the Avon product we say!

During our two weeks’ honeymoon travelling around the Highlands neither of us got bitten once. We bought a three-pack, which was plenty for the two of us over the whole fortnight.

More van life accessories in our main shop

We hope you’ve found our list of road trip essentials helpful. Every van should have this stuff on board permanently before you go anywhere. If you’ve got any questions about any of the products we’ve listed, please get in touch.

If you’d like to see more van life accessories head over to our main shop where you’ll find loads more stuff to make your adventures even better, from satnavs to solar panels and LED lighting to tour guides.

And we’ve listed other items we’ve found useful on the road in our free ebook. You don’t want to go forgetting anything, after all!

Free ebook Getting Started on the Freedom Trail

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