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13 products first responders wish every family took on a road trip, starting at $15

From multi-tools to night vision glasses, we’ve got your road trip essentials covered

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By Dryw Keltz

When you are on the job and out in the field, the safety of others depends on you arriving safely at your destination. Why not treat the friends and loved ones that accompany you on road trips with the same level of care?

Grab the items below for a less stressful, more enjoyable, even safer road trip. Some will help you manage those common issues that can stop your car in its tracks, while others will help make the time inside your four-wheeled HQ a more pleasant experience for everyone along for the ride.

1. Waterproof first-aid kit: A first-aid kit may seem like an ominous item to start with, but you will be thankful to have one if you experience anything as simple as a minor abrasion to a more troublesome situation like a flood or tornado. Target a kit that goes beyond the usual assortment of bandages and gauze to include items such as instant ice packs, tweezers, scissors and tourniquets. Kits that include emergency blankets, multi-tools and whistles could be hugely helpful if your car breaks down in a remote location. Find a waterproof kit for an added bonus.

Meets international medical standards

Lightweight and water-resistant

2. Compact multi-tool: A decent multi-tool takes care of all your screwing, cutting and prying needs in a compact package. These tools can do everything from tightening the seat clamp on a mountain bike and cutting rope to helping secure items on the roof of a car and popping the cap off a bottle of your favorite beverage. Seventeen tools with a butterfly opening should work just fine for road-trippers. Spring-loaded pliers are always a plus as well.

  • Features 17 tools
  • Made of stainless steel

3. Emergency tire inflator: If you experience a true tire blowout, your only hope is likely a spare, a donut or AAA. But if you get the dreaded (but all too common) nail in a tire, you can likely manage a slow leak without relying on air from gas stations. Enter the portable air pump. Besides their ability to keep your car’s tires inflated, these portable pumps can also be used to keep the soccer balls, rafts and air mattresses you brought on the trip filled with air as well. Target a rechargeable compressor that will shut off automatically when it reaches your desired pressure. An easy-to-read LED digital display is a plus, and a major bonus is finding a unit that can double as a charging station for your electronic devices.

  • Rechargeable battery
  • Includes settings for a car, motorbike, bicycle, ball

4. Multi-port charger: It’s 2024 – it’s highly likely that you and everyone else in the car will have multiple electronic devices that need to stay charged. You can opt for individual charging blocks in this scenario, but they will all need to eventually be recharged as well. Your best bet is a multi-port charger that you can power via your car’s cigarette lighter port. Look for one that has an output of over 20 watts and that features multiple types of USB inputs to ensure that all the various cords in the car will be content. If you have a portable GPS unit or any other type of electronic items that are powered by the lighter port 12V socket, it’s best to look for chargers that feature that same 12V socket so you can continuing running those devices as well.

  • Fast charge
  • Multiple ports

5. Portable refrigerator: You probably wouldn’t call pulling a lukewarm soda from the cooler as being the worst moment of your road trip, but it’s not going to land on the highlight reel either. Ditch the ice stops and invest in a portable refrigerator. Purchasing one with enough space for 12 cans or bottles is a good start, and finding one with a freezer compartment will keep the ice-cream lovers content on the long rides. Most will charge via your car’s lighter jack, but you could also charge them via a portable battery.

  • Spacious
  • Custom temperature settings

6. Dashboard/windshield phone mount: If you’re going to use a cell phone map app to guide you to your destination, then you’re going to need a reliable mount to keep that screen clearly in your line of sight – and don’t even consider driving with it in your hand for hours on end! Most mounts that utilize suction cups to hold them in place will work on either windshields or dashboards. Beyond that feature, it comes down to how the mount holds the phone in place, whether it has a telescopic arm, and to what extent it can rotate left and right. Target one that has solid reviews, particularly related to how the suction mount performs and which products release your phone with a quick, one-handed motion.

  • Fits any size smartphone
  • Extends up to 8 inches

7. Headlamps: Flashlights are so 1986. Circa 2024, your hands can be put to such better use than simply holding a light so you can see where you are going. Enter the modern LED headlamps – your head-strapped light source illuminating everywhere you look. Imagine attempting to switch out a flat tire in the dark with a flashlight as opposed to a headlamp. That’s basically changing a tire with one hand. Also, if your road trip final destination involves camping, you’ll be thanking your lucky stars that you have a headlamp after sunset. Target brighter headlamps (1,000+ lumens) that run on rechargeable lithium-ion batteries, and look for options that use typical cords (USB/USB-C) so charging doesn’t become a hassle. Multiple light modes and features such as a motion sensor (so you can turn the headlamp on and off by waving your hand in front of the light) are a plus.

8. Night vision glasses: If you feel like driving at night isn’t as easy as it used to be, you’re not alone. Besides the usual culprits such as rain and fog, the actual light emitted by headlights on newer vehicles often seems harsher and more intense than the yellowish halogen beams of decades prior. Many newer vehicles feature headlights that use LED lighting that emits a cooler blue ray that is more jarring to human eyes. To calm these beams, consider investing in a pair of yellow-lens night vision driving glasses. These glasses are designed to reduce glare and increase the contrast of objects in front of you. If you already wear prescription glasses, you can also find wrap-around versions to place over your regular glasses.

  • Anti-reflective coating polarized lenses
  • Can be worn over prescription glasses

9. Windshield sunshade: If you are trying to keep your parked car cool on a roasting summer day, consider investing in a windshield sunshade to help deflect some of those vicious sun rays. A quality sunshade can reduce a car’s cabin temperature from approximately 8% to 25%. Besides making the car much more pleasant to re-enter, the sunshade can also preserve road trip snacks that could easily melt in even moderate temps. The accordion/folding-style shades are popular because they are compact and simple to set up. Just make sure to get one that fits your car so you don’t have to go through the hassle of returns while the sun continues to steamroll your interior.

10. Car trash can: Most people probably don’t think about how much garbage they are leaving all around the interior cabin of their car until they return home from their trip and are dumbfounded by the sheer volume of wrappers, empty bottles and cans, and fast-food containers. Enter the dedicated car trash can. Space in cars is tight, though, so the main factor to consider here is size. Some car trash cans are designed to hang from the back of a car seat, or simply reside on the floor in the middle of the rear seats. Look for one with pockets to give you some extra organizational storage space for your big trips. Even better – finding one that is waterproof and can double as a cooler for drinks.

  • Includes lid
  • Leak-proof

11. Car-specific battery charger: Say your road trip has taken you to a remote location. You spent the day hiking and return to find that you left one of your doors slightly ajar, meaning the cabin light has been on all day. You try to start up the car, but the engine won’t turn over because the battery has been drained. You are officially screwed … unless you brought along a portable car battery charger. You may only need it one time, but there’s no denying that even if for just that one occasion, the charger could be a total lifesaver. Look for one that’s compact enough so that it doesn’t take up too much of your precious storage space. Additional features such as automatic smart charge, voltage and alternator checks, and battery clamps are a bonus.

15 amps
Delivers 3 stage charging

12. Solar-powered generator: Here’s one for both the safety-minded and those who often find themselves going a bit “off the grid” on their road trips. Portable, solar-powered generators are the ultimate power source for any situation in which a traditional wall socket can’t be found for miles. In non-emergency situations, you can use it as a charging block for all your devices while on the road, and even use it to power something such as the aforementioned car refrigerator. Whereas a 2,000-watt generator could power most appliances in a house during a power outage, a smaller 200-300-watt generator should work just fine as an auxiliary power source during road trips. Look for units that have various USB ports along with traditional wall AC ports and at least one 12V cigarette lighter port. The units will generally charge faster via traditional wall AC outlets and car ports. Also note that the solar panels are a separate purchase with many of these units.

  • 2 hours for up to 80% charge
  • Weighs 7.1 lbs.

13. Ratchet straps: Is a road trip even a road trip minus a car so overflowing with passengers and belongings that objects such as luggage, snowboards, kayaks and bikes literally have to be strapped onto the exterior of the automobile? If you’re travelling with items on your car’s exterior, you want to make sure they stay secure. Even if you already have roof racks, ratchet straps add another level of security to keep your items firmly in place. A one-inch tie-down strap with a webbing break strength of 2,200 lbs. is strong enough to safely secure a motorcycle in a truck bed. Look for straps with safety-oriented “S-hooks” that feature spring loaded clips for extra security.

  • User-friendly
  • Weather-resistant
  • Includes storage bag

About the author
Dryw Keltz is a freelance writer living in San Diego County. He has written hundreds of news features, human interest profiles, and film and music reviews over the course of his 20-plus-year career. Keltz has a bachelor’s degree in English writing with an emphasis on creative non-fiction from the University of Pittsburgh.