So as you know, we JUST got back from our cross country road trip with Ringo and Roxie to the Southwest. Over the course of two and a half weeks, we drove, hiked, and camped through 13 states. I planned and researched and made packing lists, but there are some things that I nearly forgot and things that we had to stop for on the way. So, I’ve made a list of the things that came in most handy for us on our trip that someone planning a similar one may not think of. Hope it helps someone in the planning phase.
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Think Outside The Car
One of the biggest hurdles you are faced with on a road trip is storage. No matter how large your car, there somehow never seems to be enough space in it, especially once you add camping gear to the mix. So, the next logical step is to try to move some of your gear OUTSIDE of your car.
After reading some glowing reviews, I decided to order a Vault Cargo Hitch Carrier. I CANNOT recommend this rack enough. For most of our trip, we had it loaded up with a large trunk, 5 gallons of water, 2 tents, 2 chairs, and a table. It gave us SO much extra room in the truck and everything was easily accessible. This rack is TOUGH. We off-roaded a lot on this trip, like a whole lot. This meant a lot of bumps and vibrations and we even bottomed out once, smacking the rack on the ground after a deep rut. It was loud and I was sure something broke, but we got out and checked and the rack was just fine. All we lost was a plastic clip from our cargo net. Seriously SO impressed with this rack.
Once we had our hitch rack, I started looking for a durable storage box to haul all of our gear. I found this Plano Heavy Duty Storage Trunk at Academy and it fit the bill perfectly. The plus side of having a large box was that we could throw all of our smaller camping gear in it and find it all easily when we got to camp. Our trunk was full of lanterns, headlamps, dog sleeping bags, cooking gear, harnesses. If it was small and hiking or camping related, it went in this trunk.
If you don’t have a hitch receiver, you can also try a roof storage box or the less expensive option of a rooftop storage bag. We actually have a rooftop bag as well that we have used for more direct trips, but because this was going to be a longer one with a lot of stops, we wanted to be able to get in and out of our storage option more easily. I didn’t want to have to climbing up to the roof everyday for 2.5 weeks.
Once we were on the road, we continued to move more gear to our cargo rack. Some of these things were a little odd-shaped and harder to strap with tie-downs and bungees, so we stopped at a Wal-Mart somewhere in Texas and grabbed a cargo net. Best decision ever. Because of this, we were able to haul firewood into camp and trash out without having to put it INSIDE the car.
Cooking & Eating (and Drinking)
For lodging on our trip, we alternated between camping, hotels, and some cute little rentals. Wherever we were staying, we needed to bring the dogs’ food and bowls. When we were camping though, we also needed an ample supply of water for the dogs and ourselves, as well as gear for cooking and eating.
Water Jugs (Big and Small)
When you’re on the road for a long time and planning to be “off the grid” for a good portion of your trip, you need to be prepared. The last thing you want is to get stranded somewhere without enough water, especially in the desert. This is even more important when traveling with dogs. To make sure we were covered, we brought 2 large water jugs. We had a 6 gallon rigid water container that we strapped to our cargo rack and a smaller 1 gallon coleman jug that we kept in the car for easy access.
If you’re traveling with your dog for an extended period of time, you don’t want to run out of food in the middle of nowhere and hope you can find their brand. This means carrying enough food for your trip with you. You obviously don’t want to carry an opened bag of dog food, so an airtight pet food container is a good idea.
Collapsible Dog Bowls
We always carry small collapsible food and water bowls for the dogs when we hike, but for camping we bring out the big guns. A Dexas Double Elevated Pet Feeder for food and a nice big water bowl for the campsite.
An extended camping trip means a lot of meals. While we usually opt for a small single burner stove, we wanted to be able to cook bigger meals on this trip. We picked up a Coleman Propane Stove for delicious camp dinners. It’s affordable and durable and did really well for us on this trip.
Camp Cooking & Eating
If you’re going to cook at camp, you need good cookware. And if you’re carrying a lot of gear, you want it to take up as little space as possible. For this, we use the GSI Outdoors Pinnacle Dualist Camping Cookware Set. It comes with a pot with a strainer lid, 2 insulated bowls, 2 sipthrough lids, 2 sporks and a storage bag that doubles as a wash sink. Aka, everything you need to cook and eat with.
Heavy Duty Cooler
We have a few sub-$30 Coleman and Igloo coolers kicking around our garage. They’ve always been plenty good enough for weekend camping trips and shorter road trips, but this trip was a bit different. The cooler we’d take on this trip would be our sole source of refrigeration for more of our 17 day trip and we’d be spending a lot of time in the middle of nowhere in the desert. Aka it was time to upgrade. Like most people, I started looking at YETI and RTIC and other similarly expensive as (poop) coolers thinking this way my only option. But then I read some really promising reviews on the Coleman Xtreme Series coolers.
For $64, I got a cooler that more than suited our needs, and without the $200+ pricetag of the rotomolded brands. We didn’t do anything the ‘right” way, aka we put in warm bottles of water, we never filled it all the way with ice. Hell we were lucky if we put more than a 10 lb bag of ice in there every few days. But even with our lazy prep and half asked ice filling, our stuff stayed cold the whole trip. I say that’s a win. I had considered buying a YETI before, but I honestly see no need for one now.
Shelter and Comfort
If you’re staying in hotels or with friends and family on your road trip, skip this section. BUT if you’re planning on spending some extra time in the great outdoors and camping, here’s what you need.
Tent – If you’re camping for a long time, you may want to consider a larger, roomier tent. We did and it was so nice to not be cramped!
Camp Chairs – Because you want to sit around the campfire in comfort
Camp Table – If you’re staying in developed campsites, they will probably have a table. If you’re going off the grid though and setting up on BLM land, you’re gonna need a flat surface for cooking and eating.
Air Mattress – We don’t usually do the whole mattress thing, but when you’re camping for an extended time, you want to ensure a good night’s rest. So glad we did!)
Sleeping Bags – Make sure they are temperature rated for the climate of the area you’re visiting
Portable Propane Heater
We were on our way to our first camping destination in New Mexico when we checked the weather. They were calling lows in the teens that night, so we decided to find a place along our route to grab a tent heater. It went down to 9 DEGREES! Such a good call. If you’re doing a cross country trip in the winter, get one of these Mr. Buddy Portable Propane Heaters. You will thank me.
I have been planning on getting some lights for the dogs’ collars for forever now, but just hadn’t pulled the trigger until this trip. I knew we’d be doing a lot of camping and we had a night hike planned, so I wanted to make sure our dogs were visible at all times, even after the sun went down. There are a lot of more expensive options out there, like the Ruffwear Beacon, which retails at $25 EACH, but with all of the stuff we needed to buy, I knew there had to be a cheaper option. Then I stumbled upon these cheap multi-colored dog lights on Amazon.
They come in a 6 pack, in 6 different colors, and they’re $8.99. I figure if they didn’t last that long, I had an extra 4, worst case scenario. BUT I actually loved them and even ended up giving one of the extras to a new dog friend we made camping. The dogs wore them the whole trip and they worked great!
Don’t forget the “small stuff”
Complete List: For a complete list of gear that you’ll need to camp with your dog, check out our post Ultimate Dog Camping Gear List PLUS Printable Checklist
Capture Your Memories
Road trips are like no other way to see the world. You earn every mile, you really get a feel of the place you’re visiting, and you get to cover a lot of ground. Road trips are the stuff memories are made of. Capture the experience, the sights, and the tender moments with a quality camera. I love my Sony a6500 Mirrorless camera. It’s easy to use for any level photographer, compact and lightweight.
And the MOST Important Thing to Remember…
YOUR SENSE OF ADVENTURE!! 🙂
I hope you find this list helpful if you choose to play your own cross country road trip. And please, PLEASE decide to take one. You will not regret it for a minute. I know I’m already planning our next trip!
Stay tuned for pictures, trail write-ups, and more from our recent trip. Now to go unpack and clean all of this gear.
Thanks for reading,
Debbie & The Mutts