Going on a Cross-Country Road Trip? Try These Packing Tips

A cross-country trip is truly one of the best journeys you can experience. Wide open spaces, stunning views, sweeping landscapes and unforgettable experiences are in store no matter what, and it’s up to you to make the most of your time spent on the open road. From desert vistas to rolling plains to majestic mountain ranges, there’s no doubt taking a cross-country road trip should be on your bucket list. It also means packing is a skill you need to master. With limited space and an element of the unknown lying ahead, packing the right stuff, and properly, is key. Here’s our list of bags, essentials, and proper placing of necessities when it comes to packing for a cross-country road trip.

Duffel Bag


Couple hiking in the woods | Source: iStock

Duffel bags are ideal for packing a lot into one space, but aren’t necessarily the best for organization, so store your non-essentials here. Think items you won’t need until you’ve reached your final destination  (i.e. extra clothes, shoes you know you won’t be wearing regularly, bath towel, etc.). Toss your duffel bag in the trunk, since accessibility is imperative.

Overnight Pack

Keeping an overnight pack handy during a long road trip is essential because you’ll want to take full advantage of all the outdoor opportunities you’ll find along the way. And for ease of convenience and quick accessibility, the best way to be prepared for off-road overnights is by keeping an overnight pack loaded and ready to go whenever you are. For some expert insight on how to successfully pack this type of luggage, we spoke with the folks at Pro Editors, the newest heavy-hitter in the outdoor and action-sports industries. Their problem-solving platform, which turns raw GoPro footage into professionally edited video, is pretty cool. Here’s what they suggested you bring for your next adventure.

Sleeping Bag: Pack this on the very bottom of your pack. You clearly won’t need this until you’re ready to call it a day, so keeping this at the bottom will ensure it’s out of the way as you need to access other items.

Sleeping Pad: Keep this rolled up and strapped to the bottom exterior of your pack.

Tent: Position this vertically so it’s standing upright, on top of your sleeping bag, allowing space for everything else.

Wearing warm clothes while camping | Source: iStock

Wearing warm clothes while camping | Source: iStock

Fresh clothes and a warm layer: Next to the tent and on top of the sleeping bag, stash an extra set of clothes you’ll want for bed, or the next day, along with a Nano Puff (which takes up far less space than a sweatshirt or fleece jacket). You can also use this layer as a pillow if you don’t need to actually sleep in it.

Creature comforts while at camp: Once you’ve found yourself a spot to lay your head for the night, you’ll be thankful you’ve thought to pack a couple creature comforts to help keep cozy. Consider tossing into your pack a hammock (great for reading or sleeping if you don’t feel like setting up a tent and the weather’s right), a lantern (ideal for lighting up your site when you’re unable to make a fire), and a water filter if you’re in the backcountry and don’t want to lug around a bunch of water bottles.

Rain gear and easily accessible food necessities: As you near the top of your pack, be sure you’ve got adequate rain gear at the top, so it’s easily accessible should the skies open up on you. Just under that, throw in a small Tupperware container in which you can stash a sandwich; there’s nothing worse than a smashed PB&J.

Small (but key) items: Depending on the pack, there will probably be an exterior and/or interior brain pocket. On the exterior, stash your favorite backcountry snacks (trail mix, granola, etc.), along with a multi-tool. In the interior brain pocket, keep your headlamp, mess kit, deck of cards, lighter, matches, and a tiny Tupperware with laundry lent for starting fires.

Man packing

Man packing a suitcase | Source: iStock


If you do find yourself tossing a suitcase into the mix for nicer clothes, then this packing method is a must. As described in this Bustle article, the process came from a packing video that went viral, which demonstrates the procedure in detail, allowing you to create a sort of pillow-type packing effect. To start, lay your clothes out flat, one on top of the other, facing opposite directions (i.e. place shirt flat, then place next shirt on top, facing the other way, so that the sleeves line up on top of one another). Then, begin the folding process only after you’ve laid out all clothing items, tucking one item in at a time from the top layer to the bottom. Quick, efficient, and a traveler’s staple for life, this process will ensure you’re maximizing space and preventing wrinkles.

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