Gear Kits

Must-Have Gear for Your Road Trip through the Southwest

Essentials for the open road

Curated by Scott Kranz

Earlier this spring, a few friends and I tackled a classic American West road trip. A long journey from Seattle to the Southwest desert, and back. In just 12 days, we covered 7 states and over 3500 miles on the road. Although we spent much of our time in the desert, we encountered not only the arid desert scene, but also rainy forests, windy coastlines, and snowy mountain tops. I made sure I was prepared for it all by packing up everything needed to make an enjoyable, memorable road trip. Below are the items that made up my gear kit for this trip!

To store and protect all my camera gear, I have the Peak Design Everyday Backpack. It’s available in two sizes, and I used the 30L for this trip. The pack has customizable compartments and folds, and I’ve arranged it to carry all my gear, along with my laptop.

I live in the Pacific Northwest, so I bring a rain jacket everywhere I go, even if I’m on a road trip to the desert. On this trip, I brought an Eddie Bauer Sandstone Shield Hooded Jacket, a soft shell that is both waterproof and breathable.

For warmth, I had the Microtherm StormDown Jacket, a great puffy for around the campfire or when exploring the desert at the start or end of the day.

Because a road trip can involve a large variety of weather, temperature, and settings, I pack layers, layers, and more layers. In addition to base layers and mid-layers, I brought along a few other Eddie Bauer items, including the Contour Long-Sleeve Henley.

I also made sure to bring a pair of Guide Pro Pants, a cold-weather hat and some gloves, and of course my lucky bandana.

While driving down the long, open road or moseying around camp, I’m often keeping it simple with casual footwear or flip-flops. But when we hit the trail or did any sort of exploring, I often wore Eddie Bauer Field Ops Boots, which are waterproof but breathable, and have plenty of ankle support. They survived all the elements with flying colors.

For an awesome car camp or base camp lantern that doubles as an off-grid power source, I used BioLite’s BaseLantern XL. It’s powerful enough to illuminate a large group setting and charge multiple pieces of gear before needing to be recharged itself. And you can even operate it remotely via Bluetooth technology.

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I generally don’t play music outdoors, often for the reason of not impacting other groups’ outdoor experience. But on a road trip, there are plenty of times where there’s no one else for miles. To play some tunes, I use the Ultimate Ears UE Ears Boom 2, a wireless portable speaker that is drop-proof, waterproof, among other “proofs.”

These new Nut Butter Filled Clif Bars are a solid snack for those in-between moments—you know, like when you look down at your watch and realize it’s already 11 a.m. and you haven’t yet eaten anything. Or when 4 p.m. rolls around and that couscous for lunch didn’t quite fill you up, and you need something to hold yourself over until dinner.

If you thought you were passed reading about “butter”-based road trip foods, you are mistaken. I don’t know how I got so lucky to have the invention of Cookie Butter take place during my lifetime. Throw it on a bagel, drop some in your coffee, eat it right from the jar—there’s really no wrong way to go about it.

It’s rare when I go on a trip, even a road trip, and don’t have a headlamp. It’s essential, in my opinion. I use a Black Diamond Spot Headlamp with a maximum light output of 200 lumens. There are several modes, including flood and spot, as well as a red night vision.

Sun protection is one of the 10 essentials. In addition to some aviator shades, I generally need to apply sunscreen, because I can otherwise get badly burnt in the intense desert sun. I often use Sawyer Brand Stay-Put sunscreen.

Another essential, because anything can happen on the road or trail.

I own several cameras from several brands. For this road trip, I grabbed my Sony a7R II, a full-frame mirrorless camera with a 42-megapixel rating. I also brought along my wide-angle lens (a 16-35mm) and a telephoto lens (a 70-300mm), along with several polarizers and neutral density filters.

Whenever I need to shoot in very low light, or capture a star shot, or otherwise do a long exposure, I grab a tripod. For this trip, I packed and used the MeFOTO Air Globetrotter Tripod, which is super light (only 3.2 pounds) and is very quick to setup (given the HyperLock leg technology). And it folds down to a compact case, which is easy to store in a small bag, a duffel, or in the car.

I never know when I’ll need to recharge my phone when I’m out and about, and so I always throw an off-grid power source into my bag or pocket, just to have ready. On this trip, I brought along the BioLite PowerLight Mini. And it doubles as a quick light when I’m searching through the cluttered car during a late night or early morning on the road.

I have a Peak Design CapurePro carrying clip on the straps of virtually all my packs. When I need both hands, but I don’t want to pack my camera away, I can clip my camera onto my backpack strap with the quick-release locking action, and get it back with the push of a button when I need to shoot.

How you carry and hold your camera is largely personal preference. For me, I use the Peak Design Clutch. This camera wrist strap never leaves my camera. It simply wraps around my right hand, and is quick to cinch. Without being bulky or in the way, it makes sure I don’t accidentally drop my camera from my hand.

For this road trip I used the Eddie Bauer Stargazer 2-Person Tent. It’s a guide-built, double-wall tent with double door entry. It’s fully waterproof, and lightweight as well. There were many nights with virtually no chance of rain, and so I would often set up the tent without the rainfly, allowing extra air circulation through the tent’s mesh walls. And one other small detail I love: the glow-in-the-dark zipper pulls are super easy to find when getting in and out of the tent in the pitch black of the desert.

I have a variety of sleeping bags of varying materials and temperature ratings. Because temperatures can drop significantly at night in the desert, I don’t skimp at the thought of the warmth in the day. On this trip, I brought my Eddie Bauer Kara Koram 20-Degree Sleeping Bag, which is plenty warm for springtime in the desert. As a plus, it packs down into a small pouch to save space in my pack or in the loaded-up vehicle.

For road trips or car camps, I often use my Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Camper SV as a sleeping pad. With its SpeedValve design, it is super quick to inflate so I can move on with setting up the rest of the camp.