What Should I Pack for a National Park Road Trip?

Last Updated on November 4, 2022 by Snezana Grcak

Trip planning and packing can be annoying if you’re not familiar with the area you’re visiting or if that’s your first road trip ever. Fortunately, the Shuttle Fare team has a universal list of all the essentials one should pack for a national park road trip. We singled out several categories that include everything you may need for the entire course of your journey. You’ll find tips on packing ideal clothing, toiletries, food, electronics, camping items, and much more.

Before we dive in, ensure that your vehicle can handle any type of terrain and has enough storage room. If you’re traveling with a few people, we recommend getting the top box, which provides plenty of extra space for your gear. Now, keep reading to discover all national park road trip essentials.

Documents & National Park Pass

Let’s start with the basics—remember to pack the following. 

  • Driving license 
  • Passport if you’re traveling abroad
  • Car insurance
  • Travel insurance
  • National park pass

If you’re visiting more than one park, buy the $80 Annual Pass to get access to more than 2,000 recreational areas. Call 888-275-8747, option 2, or click here to purchase one.

Navigation System & Tips

GPS is a must for all your trips; it’ll help you get to your destination easily and find interesting stops along the way. If the park you’re visiting has its official app with maps, routes, or any other helpful info, be sure to download it.

In addition, we recommend bringing a map and compass if you plan to explore the area thoroughly. Study the map and plan your routes ahead of time to save time and energy, and have them at hand during hikes.

Clothing Essentials

First, get yourself a good, high-quality backpack and fill it with comfortable, insulated clothes. Choosing the ideal clothing depends on the season, but whenever you go, you’ll need at least a lightweight jacket and extra socks. Pack a few shirts, zip-up sweaters, leggings, and a vest. For winter trips, add gloves, hats, and insulated jackets.

Waterproof shoes, boots, or sandals are a must; make sure they’re comfy and suitable for long walks. Plus, get trekking poles if you plan to go on strenuous hikes. We also suggest purchasing a protective hat, headlamp, and sunglasses.

Check out the forecast for the area, but note that mountain weather is unpredictable, so be prepared for winds, rain, or snow.

National park hiking

Toiletries & Medications

When it comes to indispensable toiletry items, our team always brings the following.

  • Toothpaste, toothbrush, and dental floss
  • Face wash, moisturizer, and lip balm (or vaseline, which is perfect for dry lips and skin)
  • Sunscreen is a must, whatever the weather
  • Makeup products if you use them
  • Biodegradable soap and body wash
  • Shampoo, conditioner, brush, and hair ties
  • Shaving cream and razors
  • Toilet paper, wet wipes, and quick-dry towels
  • Trash bags (look for biodegradable ones)

The first aid kit is definitely one of the national park road trip essentials, but be sure to add a blister balm, hand sanitizer, and band-aids. Additionally, pack your regular medications for headaches, stomach flu or cramps, car sickness, or any other pills you may need.

If you’re traveling during the hot summer months, bring an insect-repellent spray bottle. Depending on the area you plan on visiting, you may also require bear spray.

Food & Drink Essentials

Bringing your own food will save you both time and money. Make-ahead meals are always a healthier choice, but be sure to pack some non-perishable road trip food, too. Here are some of our favorites:

  • Breakfast bars
  • Protein bars
  • Pop-tarts
  • Oatmeal packets
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Basic condiments or spices
  • Snacks like pretzels, crackers, and potato chips

You can also prepare peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, hummus with some veggies, salads in jars, and muffins. 

You should have a good thermos, cooler, and reusable (preferably self-cleaning) water bottle. If you plan on camping, get a camp grill, cooking utensils, plastic containers, pots and pans, and some lighters or matches.

Electronic & Battery-Powered Devices

In addition to your phone, here are some electronics you may need:

  • Camera and other photo equipment, such as memory cards
  • Bluetooth speakers
  • Portable chargers for your phone, camera, or speakers

You can also bring battery-powered lanterns, fans, or lights. These are great for areas without electricity or when your electronic devices run out of power. If you pack any of these, don’t forget to add extra batteries.

Road Trip Photographing

Basic Camping Essentials

Aside from the items mentioned above, the following are necessary for all campers.

  • Camping permit (if needed)
  • Tent
  • Sleeping bag, pad, and pillow 
  • Camping table and chairs

Most developed campgrounds offer some standard equipment, but you must pack all the necessities if you plan on backpacking into the wilderness.


Last but not least, you should bring some fun items or games to play with your friends during a road trip. The Shuttle Fare team suggests the following.

These don’t take up too much space but will undoubtedly make your national park road trip more fun and memorable.

We’ll also help you plan your trips to various parks, such as: