The Essentials Of Road Trip Style — A Guide To Packing For Adventure

I go on a lot of road trips. I go alone. I go with my girlfriends. I go most often with my boyfriend in his van alongside a dirt bike, three surfboards, and seven cameras. But whomever I go with and wherever I go, one universal truth remains: space for me and my things is always limited.

This means that I’ve learned to pack both effectively and economically. To be stylishly and practically prepared. Because a good road trip will throw a lot of different scenarios at you. This means the same travel bag has to outfit you for fifty degree temp changes, impromptu dinner invites in new cities, scaling mountains, jumping off waterfalls, riding dirt bikes through the desert, and reading books by a campfire. I could go on and on forever, because this is how it feels to really road trip. The fun is in the wonder of not knowing where you might go, who you might meet, and what you might climb.

For the past year, I’ve lived out of my car, packing my bags and jumping in someone else’s: desert bound, mountain bound, lakeside-national park-who-knows-where bound. And what I’ve learned is that nothing can kill the buzz more than being unprepared. I’ve learned to scale back what I bring while being smarter in my packing. And while this list might appear to be lady-centric, it’s not, we all adventure the same. Just replace words like “bikini” for “board shorts.” What follows below is a quick list of my most coveted packing items and the stories of how they made it to the top of my list.

Converse sneakers

I imagine years from now this is how he will see me, always riding shotgun with the window down and my dirty sneakers on the dash. The healthy thing about a good pair of sneakers is you can just about live your whole life in them. I wear my Converse with literally everything. I usually pack a sandal in addition, or my Redwing boots depending on where I’m headed. But, if I could only pack one shoe, my Converse would be it. Forever and always.

A jacket with a perfect pair of jeans

I’m laughing in this picture because I’m drinking red wine from a coffee mug and trying to climb down from a boulder. At this moment, the sun was setting in Alabama Hills, and it was lit up like nothing I’d ever seen. But, this also meant a horror movie amount of mosquitos were materializing, swarms of them. Everyone else was freaking out but I was layered in all this denim so they couldn’t get to me. Denim always denim.

An impractical dress (or suit or whatever…)

This has to be one of the more magical moments of my life. This is sunset at the Boneville Salt Flats in Utah. Dylan Gordon and I were road tripping to California. I was moving from Idaho, having just finished grad school. Everything I owned was shoved in my car. The salt flats feel like another planet. The sun was setting quickly. I dug into the back of my car and pulled out this gauzy, white sundress I’d packed on a whim. Sometimes it might seem strange to travel with the less practical items, but just one or two make it so much more fun. I tend to opt for a flowing dress that makes the images more magical. You do you.

One nice outfit that makes you feel civilized

Dylan and I were road tripping through Australia and this was a seaside pool in Newcastle. I’d bought this vintage dress on an island near Lombok, at a spot called Casa Vintage, and it was the only nice thing I had with me. I wore it to every dinner, and when happening upon this pool, I knew exactly the picture I wanted to take.

Active Gear to scale new heights

I always pack some active gear — sports bra, yoga shorts, tank top. Because I can get pretty sporty when I want to. And every good adventure has you climbing something at some point. On this particular afternoon, we were staying in Yosemite Valley for a few days. It was July and hot as hell. The guys thought it would be best to not tell me what we were about to climb, just that we were going up and eventually we’d go swimming. Fast forward to me almost dying in a 45 minute scramble up the front face of Yosemite Falls. But, like most things of this nature, it was well worth it.

I’ll die thinking about those views. And they held up their promise, we did go swimming at the top.

A swimsuit you can adventure in

Choose your swimsuits wisely as not all are created equal. Pack one that doesn’t come untied when you jump into a waterfall, or get tossed in a wave. You want something that can withstand days in the sun, something that you can hang dry out the window, kick it in, and go for a walk. If you’re doing it right, this will be your most worn article of clothing on a summer road trip. My go-to suit is an 80’s animal print one piece that a friend (BlackMoonSky Vintage) gifted me. Strange as it is, it always feels good, and has never let me down. I climb waterfalls in this, descend into hot springs, and have even tried to surf.

In the picture above, we’d been living out of van on the coast of Australia for a few weeks. Outside of the small town of Bellingen is a place called The Promise Land. We parked and packed a bag, wandered down the river and eventually found this rope swing on a private pool. We spent the whole day swimming and napping here. This was quite possibly one of the most magical days of my life.

Something warm for cold days and nights

We’d been heading up the Eastern side of the Sierra’s from the Mojave to Mammoth and went from sweating in the desert to freezing in snow in a matter of hours. Thankfully, I’d come straight from a stint in Idaho where I’d picked up the best coat ever for 5 bucks in a vintage clothing trailer outside a music festival, and my new fave beanie. I was beyond stoked to climb inside of it. It saved me. Though I was still so damn cold in this picture. I’ve never loved a coat so much.

Easy Tees and Tanks

I live in Richer Poorer basics, particularly their perfectly broken in pocket tee’s and muscle tanks. It takes the guess work out of making an outfit on the road or at home. And when they get dirty, I turn them inside out and wear them some more. I was feeling super classic this afternoon. We were on a dirt road in the poppy bloom in Antelope, California. It was in the middle of a long trip, and we needed a break. We took the Triumph off the back of the van and went for a ride and it felt like time travel. We drank beers and watched the sun go down over the poppys. As I’m writing this, it doesn’t sound real. But it was.

Clothes you love but that you can adventure in. Clothes to live in.

Whatever you pack and wherever you go, just remember they have to be clothes you can live in: clothes you love but are also ready to get dirty and climb boulders in during the sunset. Pack clothes you want to be photographed in so when your kids see these pictures years later it feels like ripe representation of who you were in those years. Pack like you’re going somewhere.

My Packing List:

  • Sneakers or hiking boots — try to assess the terrain beforehand and figure out what you’re comfortable in.
  • Proper Sandals — as in comfortable enough to cruise in but cute enough to wear out.
  • Yoga shorts and yoga pants (one of each) — because, baby, you are active.
  • A jacket — I always pack my jean jacket but if I’m doing a lot of camping I also bring the green puff.
  • Those perfect tees — I stock up on Richer Poorer pocket tees and muscle tanks. I literally live in them.
  • Socks — again Richer Poorer for life. Bring 3-5 pairs because nothing is worse than nasty socks.
  • Two swimsuits — a one piece for being active and a two piece for tanning. And then you’ll always have a dry one.
  • One pair of jeans — that’s right just one. The perfect comfortable one. Not the cute, “these are tight, but I look good” ones. Pack the ones you can live in.
  • Depending on your climate, I throw in a pair of slacks — but that’s because I’m classy like that.
  • Two dresses — One cute vintage one that looks amazing in photo ops and serves as a saving grace if you catch a concert or nice dinner. The other one you can run around in when it’s hot and sweaty.
  • A beanie — because nights are cold and your hair will get so so dirty.
  • One sweatshirt — preferably gray and preferably a little bit oversized so you can get cozy in it or rock it with your jeans.
  • One bonus item — something you wear all the time and cannot live without. Mine is floral wrap skirt that I wear all the time and has been known to double as a towel and sometimes a picnic blanket.