Camping Road Trip Essentials: Packing List & Storage Tips


ustin and I took our first big road trip in 2019. We were two college kids on a broke college kid budget. Naturally, we figured out some tips and tricks to enjoying the national parks on a scrappy budget. Annual parks pass, borrowing equipment, showering in Lifetime gyms, etc.

Two years later and not a whole lot has changed about our financials. Austin is slowly accumulating some lovely medical student debt and I am taking some time off before I transition into a new job. So it is safe to say, we will most definitely still be saving money where we can on all foreseeable trips. If you are interested in our money-saving tactics, check out this 2019 post. 

By the time you are reading this, we have taken off and since returned from a trip through Colorado and Utah. We are (not much) older and (a slight amount) wiser now, so not only did we save money where we could, but we were also packed full of convenient gadgets and space-saving packing tips. We had a pretty cute plus one this time around… our ever so loved backseat companion, Remi the Bernese Mountain Dog. So consider this a comprehensive packing guide for maximizing your road-trip with (or without) a furry friend on board. 

If you are looking for some gear to elevate your travel experience or tips for maximizing your packing space, this post is for you! This post will cover some of the essential camping gear we brought with us (old and new). 

Space-Saving Measures

Rooftop tent

Nothing like mounting your tent to the roof of your vehicle to save some precious car space. It seemed like everyone and their mother had a rooftop tent during our 2019 travels, so this year we finally caved and purchased one for ourselves. It was awesome in more ways than one. It saved us space, saved us time during setup and takedown, and encouraged us to drive to some amazing viewpoints to set up camp. Austin did his research and decided the Roofnest Condor was most fitting for our travels. 

Mounted cargo case

Behind the rooftop tent, Austin mounted a box we bought at Fleet Farm. It was intended to be used as a gun case, but works well as a storage box. It is waterproof, lockable, and just needed a few screws drilled into it to stay on the roof. It was the perfect size for odds and ends items we didn't need in the car while we were driving. Plus it was much cheaper than a traditional cargo case (like Yakima or Pelican). 

Ceiling storage net aka "attic"

This little mesh attic was perfect for blanket storage. It kept the car more organized during our travels and also got bulky blankets out of the way. 

An “Austin Made” pull out drawer

Last summer, Austin bought materials from Home Depot to build a pull out drawer system for his 4Runner. We keep all of our cooking supplies in it (pots, pans, utensils, Ziploc baggies, etc). It also doubles as a cooking station/table. If you want to make one for your vehicle, ask Austin about how he did it! The materials were fairly inexpensive and the final product has been so useful in our travels. 

Elevating our Camping Experience

Two-person cold weather sleeping bag

Quality of life= significantly improved from this purchase. We were so cold during our 2019 road trip (in June) so we knew we better gear up for camping in March. We bought our Stoic Groundwork Double Sleeping Bag on great sale and were very happy we had it with us in Utah. 

Sleeping pad (courtesy of the rooftop tent). 

The Roofnest came with a sleeping pad in it, and let me tell you it was MUCH better than our air mattress that slowly deflated each night. This upgrade stretched a long way in the comfort department. If you are camping, I highly recommend investing in a sleeping pad. 

Mr. Heater Buddy 

We borrowed a Mr. Heater Buddy from my Grandpa (linked here) and I am not sure what we would have done without it. At night, the temperatures dipped down near 30-40 °F  in Utah. We ran this heater in the annex of our rooftop tent and it kept us and Remi toasty warm.

Cast iron pan 

Easy to clean and fast to cook with. We used our one cast iron pan for everything we cooked. Using one pan was great for saving precious packing space. 

Last Trip's Staples

You can find more information on these items in my 2019 post. These staples have come with us on every adventure since our first road trip.

  • Coleman Grill
  • Cooler
  • Caffeination station aka our thrifted kettle & Target pour Over
  • Layers (prepare for every possible weather experience)

Remi Pup Gear

Stake & long leash

Great for leashing Remi up and letting her sniff around while we set up camp, prepared food, hung out by the fire, etc. 


A necessity for a big pup still perfecting her leash walking skills.

Collapsible kennel

Remi loves her kennel and still sleeps in it every night. As you can imagine, a kennel fit for an 85 lb dog is quite large. We left her everyday kennel at home and opted for a collapsible kennel for this trip. This saved us a ton of space in the car.

Rooftop tent annex attachment

There are so many logistics surrounding getting a large breed dog into a tent mounted on the roof of a vehicle. We decided it was best if Remi stayed put on the ground. We purchased an annex attachment that was large enough to fit her kennel while we slept. Dog or no dog, the annex was a great addition to the rooftop tent. It gave us some indoor space to hang out in at night as well as a place to keep the heater to heat our sleeping space. 

And that is all she wrote folks! If you have any questions about the gear we used on this trip, do not hesitate to reach out. The more trips you do, the more you learn. I am sure we will be adding to this packing list for future adventures. 

Until then, I think this was a great start to traveling more efficiently and comfortably. If you want to know more about our trip to Utah, head on over to my post about our travels

Talk soon.

xx Mich

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  1. Kelly

    April 4, 2021 at 2:10 am

    Love the roof tent. Glad it worked out so well. I also like the advice about the lead so Remi could roam safely while you did other things. Sometimes people don’t realize that a dog who stays next to you at home may not have the same plan in a new environment. If they take off they are not familiar with the area.

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