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The road trip is a unique and arguably superior way to travel (though we might be biased). Setting off with a full tank of fuel, updated playlist, snacks, and a map to discover a new stretch of coastline, winding into the mountains, or heading off along the backroads into the countryside, there’s a reason the road trip has been so romanticized.
Driving is one of the best ways to really get to know the area we are traveling. It gives us an appreciation of the geography and distances of a region. It allows us to travel at our own pace. And it gives us the freedom to see and explore the things that interest us along the way. The flexibility and independence of a road trip are rarely matched by other traveling styles.
But, traveling by road also come with its own challenges and dangers. There are certain risks inherent to the road that we should be aware of before we set out. There are also a number of ways we can mitigate these risks. Be prepared for your next driving holiday with this comprehensive list of road trip safety essentials.
Road Trip Safety Essentials: The Basics
First, let’s begin with the road trip safety essentials. The items you really shouldn’t leave home without before any extended road trip. The DIY car emergency kit can make all the difference in a life-threatening situation.
#1 Fire Extinguisher
We’ve carried a fire extinguisher in three separate vehicles over three separate continents and thankfully have only had to use it once, and more thankfully, on somebody else’s car. Their onboard kerosene cooker had caught alight inside their van. They were confused about how this could have happened as it hadn’t given them any bother in the last thirty years of service! Moreover, they seemed astounded that we had a fire extinguisher with us muttering that they’d have never have thought of that.
Ancient obsolete cookers aside, all vehicles have an inherent fire danger. Add to this the fact that your road trip may take you far from emergency fire services, or indeed other people, self-reliance is non-negotiable here and having the means to extinguish gas and electrical fires is a no-brainer.
A personal locator beacon is a distress beacon that broadcasts an SOS signal via satellite system to the emergency rescue coordination center which will coordinate a search and rescue.
If you plan on traveling through remote areas you should carry a PLB as part of your car breakdown kit.
With a one-off cost of between $300 and $500, it is a small price to pay for the peace of mind that in the event you get stranded or badly hurt far from home somebody will find you.
#3 First Aid Kit
A complete first aid kit is always good to have in your vehicle even if it is just being used for your daily commute. If you are heading off on an extended road trip it should be mandatory.
A simple first aid kit can save your life or just help you feel better if you stub your toe, either way you will be glad you bought it along.
#4 Emergency Water
Carrying enough water is a fundamental survival principle. You should carry around five to seven liters of water per person per day including water to drink and cook with on extended road trips. Always carry several spare days’ worth of water to ensure you have enough should something go wrong and you become stranded.
#5 Emergency Fuel
Depending on just how far out of the way you plan on traveling, sometimes it can be a long way between drinks. In remote regions, fuel stations can be many hundreds of kilometers apart.
If you get caught out because a fuel station hasn’t had its fuel delivery, road closures, or for doubling back for repairs you could be waiting a while for help. Carrying an emergency jerry can (or two) of fuel is a must if you your road trip will take you into remote regions.
#6 Jumper cables
Leave your lights on? It has happened to all of us. Having a set of jumper cables is always a great idea in case you manage to run down your starter battery. You might even get to save someone else’s day.
Alternatively, you can purchase a jump starter box to jump yourself off without needing to rely on another car (or having your own auxiliary battery).
#7 Safety Vest
No roadside emergency kit is complete without a safety vest. The last thing anyone wants is a routine breakdown or flat tire to turn into a serious emergency. Stay visible when you breakdown and use a reflective safety vest.
#8 Road Safety Triangles
Many countries around the world require you to set out road safety triangles 30 meters from where you are parked on the road to signal to oncoming traffic where you are. Even when it’s not mandatory, there are situations when you break down on a blind corner or narrow road when these safety items can come in handy.
While hopefully, you will never need to use these, having them is a must to make sure you and others on the road are safe in case of an emergency.
#9 Road Trip Snacks
What is worse than being stuck on the side of the road in the middle of nowhere… being stuck there without any food. Make sure to always pack a few extra snacks especially when you are headed somewhere less populated where assistance could be hours away if you needed it.
Great snacks to pack include nuts, fruit, muesli bars, peanut butter, and wraps.
Road Trip Safety Essentials: Spare Parts
Before heading out on an extended road trip, you should always head to the mechanic to make sure your vehicle is in working order. It is one of the most important road trip tips to follow.
Outside of making sure your vehicle is fighting fit, you can also prepare for any roadside emergency with a car breakdown kit. A couple of spare parts especially if you will be traveling to remote destinations, emergency tools for car repairs that can be easily sorted to get you back on the road, and of course the necessary parts to be able to change your own tire!
#9 Spare Parts
Grabbing a few extra spare parts is never a bad idea, especially if you will be traveling over long distances away from major towns and cities (and mechanics). We always carry with us the spare parts that are most likely to give us grief based on our mechanics advice. Some basic items include:
- Drive belts
- Radiator Hoses
- Air filter
- Fuel filters
- Engine oil
It is best to get your mechanics advice on what spare parts you should carry with you for your specific vehicle.
#10 Tool Kit
What are the best emergency tools for car trips? You never know! Your best bet is to grab a simple tool kit with a little bit of everything. It doesn’t need to be fancy, heavy, or expensive, you don’t need every tool under the sun but a small box of key items that can help get you down the road in an emergency.
Key items for your car tool kit include screwdrivers, an adjustable wrench (spanner), pliers and socket wrench set.
#11 Tire Repair Kit
Hopefully, you won’t need to use it, but a tire repair kit is a must on any road trip essential list.
A tire repair kit is especially useful if you are traveling to remote locations where finding a tire repair center may be a challenge.
Most vehicles come with a jack, but it is always good to make sure it is there and in working order before you set off on a road trip.
If you are planning on getting off-road, you may want to consider purchasing a heavy-duty hi-lift jack as a factory standard jack may not cut it if you get stuck in a compromising position.
#13 Spare Spare Tire
A spare spare tire can be a great idea if traveling some of the countries remote unsealed tracks where sharp stones can shred a couple of tires back to back.
Traveling the Gibb River Road in Australia, we stopped to help a couple who had shredded two tires within 40 kilometers. Driving back to the closest roadhouse we also shredded a tire, a great example of when a spare spare for your spare can come in handy.
Road Trip Safety Essentials: Miscellaneous Items
No road trip safety essentials list is complete without a few miscellaneous items. These are the items that we found have gotten us out of a few pinches. Things we didn’t know we needed until we actually needed them.
#14 Duct Tape
When it moves and it shouldn’t duct tape might be the solution. duct tape has been a lifesaver in many harrowing situations. If you can’t get to a mechanic to get something fixed or if something is rattling and it shouldn’t, duct tape is your best bet.
#15 Bungee Cords
Another item we would not leave home without. A bungee cord is a super versatile piece of gear that can be used to secure different things in a range of situations.
#16 UHF Radio
A cheap addition to your road trip kit, UHF Radio lets you communicate with nearby vehicles also equipped with a radio. Especially great for traveling places where visibility on the road could be impaired such as winding mountain roads or on long dusty tracks.
Road Trip Safety Essentials: Recovery Kit
This road trip safety gear section is focused on those looking to get off the beaten path. Many of the most interesting (and certainly less frequented) spots are found down unsealed roads or four-wheel drive tracks. If you have any thoughts of leaving the bitumen on your road trip your safety gear checklist should include a recovery kit.
A recovery kit is gear that can help extract your vehicle if it has become bogged or stuck. A recovery kit goes beyond a car jack and tire iron which it goes without saying should come along on your road trip.
A shovel is helpful to dig your stuck wheels free of sand or mud before attempting recovery or to clear space when changing a tire.
#18 Tire Deflator
When driving on loose surfaces like sand, mud, or snow, you can increase the traction of your vehicle by lowering the tire pressure with a tire deflator to increase the surface area in contact with the ground.
A word of warning, some people will tell you to reduce tire pressure on corrugated dirt roads. Beware, if you have road tires you will put the weaker tire wall in contact with the ground greatly increasing the chance of puncturing or shredding your tire on a sharp rock or stick.
#19 Air Compressor
If your road trip involves getting off-road or hitting the beach, you may need to let your tires down at some point. If that’s the case you also need a solution to reinflate them. An air compressor is the best way to make sure you can reinflate your tires without putting your back out when the time comes.
#20 Recovery Tracks
Recovery tracks or recovery boards are a safe and simple way to recover a vehicle that has lost traction in sand, mud, or snow. Placed under the wheels they can be useful for getting a vehicle out of trouble without the need for a second recovery vehicle or winch.
#21 Snatch Strap
A snatch strap can be used to recover your vehicle from precarious situations. Using a D-Ring Shackle, use the snap strap to attach your vehicle to a recovery vehicle allowing them to snatch you out of a bog.
#22 D-Ring Shackle
A snatch snap is really no good and unsafe without a D-ring shackle. A D-ring shackle gives you a point to connect the snatch strap to your vehicle in order to safely be pulled out of a hairy situation.
A winch can come in hand if you get stuck and there is no one around to help you.
Another item that you hopefully won’t get much use out of but one that will allow you to sleep better at night on a road trip through remote, 4WD destinations.
Road Trip Safety Essentials: Optional Items
These items are the “nice to haves” but not “must-haves”. These items on your road trip safety checklist are things that may come in handy if you had them around but are not imperative to keep you safe on the road.
#24 Satellite Phone
A satellite phone isn’t really essential, but definitely nice to have for peace of mind if you are looking to get off the beaten path.
#25 Signal Repeater
A signal repeater is great for people who need to stay connected, even when traveling away from major cities and towns. If you are in a location with just a touch of a signal, the signal repeater will boost the signal allowing you to get in touch with loved ones or emergency services.
Not a road trip safety essential but another one that can be helpful when traveling to remote destinations.
Hopefully, you found some helpful tips and suggestions for your own safety essentials checklist. Do you think our road trip safety essentials list is complete? Do you have something in your roadside emergency kit that you think we should add? Let us know in the comments below!
Ready to start planning your next road trip?
Now that you know exactly what you need to make sure you are safe on your road trip with this handy road trip safety kit, it is time to start planning your next destination! For a little bit of inspiration and our favorite road trips, check out one of our other road trip blog posts below!
- 7 Simple Road Trip Tips You Need to Know
- Four Amazing Road Trips in Mexico
- The Best Road Trips From Brisbane: The Ultimate List
- The Beginner’s Guide For Driving To Cape York: Everything You Need To Know To Before You Go
- The Complete Guide to Driving The Gibb River Road in Western Australia