Pre-Road Trip Planning and a Select Look at Stupid Things I Insisted on Packing

The title really says it all, but this will make for most excellent reflection when I post a wrap up of the trip.

What follows is a random selection of notes around my thinking of packing and prepping to leave for a road trip with my family. I’ll follow this post up after the trip to see how accurate my guesses were about stuff. Do note that most of this I know is unnecessary, but it became a rather interesting thought exercise for me, and so I chased it down. I also have intentions of doing many longer road trips, so planning this out for this first smaller one seemed like it would help in the long run, and eliminate ‘what if’s’ as well as helping better inform future endeavors.

Planning Apps

I’ve talked a bit about the route planning software I used, Road Trip Planner before, but it allowed me to create all the hotspots and determine drive times between them. From there I determined the max amount of hours I want to drive in between any one point or in a day. This allowed me to figure out overnight spots. This was the best way I could see doing this, and Road Trip Planner is solid enough as to not frustrate me for this. But it’s far from perfect.

Once I had that roughed out, I planned things in Agenda and OmniOutliner, but should have just used OmniOutliner for everything. Agenda itself housed three lists on one note:

  1. The Plan: places to see, and the order we are seeing them.
  2. Driving Guide: mileage between each leg, departure time from that leg, and estimated driving time. This would allow for better planning for fueling, as well as for keeping everyone informed.
  3. Activity list: it is very rare for me to look in advance at what to do places, but following in a good friends footsteps I did just that. I also found some really neat sounding stuff. This is just a list of things to do in the various locations we are spending longer amounts of time in.

Like I said, Agenda was not a good app for this planning, and OmniOutliner would have worked far better. Such is life, I didn’t feel like porting it over later.

I did remedy that mistake when I started planning my packing list, and did that in OmniOutliner. Since there is the potential for a lot of gear, I tried to break it all down in categories: Emergency, Camping, Personal, Kids, etc.

My initial thoughts: Road Trip Planner and OmniOutliner are sufficient for all road trip planning needs, but it’s annoying a better option does not exist.

Cargo Storage Strategy

Have you seen all those overland vehicles with the roof racks and cargo boxes on top and the drawers in the back cargo area? I really don’t care for that because it’s heavy, and it kills fuel economy and stability. Instead I want to fit everything in the cargo area, organized, and hopefully not entirely blocking my visibility out the back of the car.

My initial plan for this is: RTIC 45 for most all food. This is less about keeping stuff cold, and more about keeping it from getting really hot in the projected 90 plus degree heat. I hate it when my candy melts. It’s also a rugged and good storage container, and a useful seat if needed. I bought two small plastic totes from Lowe’s, which will stack and fit alongside the cooler. This should be enough to house emergency gear and camping stuff. Allowing everything else to be in personal bags for each person, while a few odds and ends are slipped in where they fit.

My main goal was to not need outside the vehicle storage, and to keep at least a bit of a sightline out the back of the car. We shall see how I fare with that.

Additional Notes on the Cooler

Sometime back I recommended the RTIC, but hadn’t bought one because they were sold out. They came back in stock right after I mentioned them and I grabbed the 45 in time to take camping for 5 days. It was a cold trip, but it had plenty of ice remaining when I got back home. I have no doubt this cooler works really well.

Still my goal is less about keeping stuff cold and more about keeping it from getting too hot. My assumption being the most volatile thing I will store in it is milk.

Emergency Kit

I know I probably don’t need this, but it’s really smart to have one right? Add to that the fact that I surprisingly didn’t have to buy anything and I am pretty happy with this. Wait, I take that back, I bought a new roll of duct tape because all of mine were used and I wanted the nice plastic wrap around it to keep other things clean. And I should clarify that I mean a repair kit here, not a survival kit.

Camping Selection

We are not planning on camping, so you could call this a picnic and hiking selection. I know there are planned hikes and planned spots for picnics, so I busted into my camping gear to grab what will make those better. Chairs, blankets, and things like that. I also tossed in a larger air mattress that packs down to the size of a Nalgene and all three down blankets I own, figuring those might come in handy as we are staying at hotels I am a bit unsure of. I left the tent at home, I don’t think I can convince this crew of a spur of the moment night at a camp site.

Bag Selection

The best part of a trip is planning this out. Here’s the bag selection I know of so far:

  • Piorama A10 Bag: I am testing this as a review sample, but I also think this bag is pretty sweet. Wait, shit I should save that for the review. Anyways, this will be my clothing and gear.
  • GORUCK Bullet Ruck 10L: don’t leave home without it. This will be my wife’s daypack and excursion bag.
  • GORUCK GR1 21L: This will be my daypack and excursion bag. I wish they had come out with the new 15L before I leave.
  • GORUCK Echo: my youngest will keep her activity stuff in this.
  • The North Face Mini Berkeley: my oldest will keep her activity stuff in this.
  • Flowfold Minimalist Duffle: kids clothing.
  • TravelPro Rolling Carryon: my wife’s bag.

I think road trips and car camping are ideal places to use a duffle bag. They are great to live out of, easy to pack, have tons of space, and take up minimal space.

Entertaining the Kids

My wife grabbed a ton of different things for the kids from Amazon. I’ll report back on those after the trip, I am taking a different tact with this. I am going to equip them with small binoculars, and old point and shoot cameras. Every night I’ll download the photos on to their iPads. Here’s hoping one of the two of us get this right.

My Gear

I am packing a shockingly low amount of gear. But to do a quick run through of just the interesting bits…


My daytime kit is mostly going to be water, and first aid, with hand wipes and such. But also adding in binoculars and my Fujifilm X100T. I am going to try and not use my iPhone for pictures in an attempt to disconnect a bit more. I haven’t used the X100T in a while so I have been getting myself reacquainted with it.

The Rest

Aside from clothing and toiletries, my main bag will also have some of the items I don’t travel without. Paracord, knife, lighters, flashlights and such. But I am also planning on taking a notebook and some pens. I am torn between trying to keep a journal on my iPad with a keyboard, iPad with a Pencil, or actual paper. I see advantages in them all, so I might try them each. We shall see.

Oh, and I am packing my Shemag, that I think will be handy this trip.

Am I missing anything? If so, it’s too late because I am already on the road. The main reason for this post was to get some of my assumption out of there instead of coming back and talking about only the smart things I packed.

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