It’s just you, a set of wheels, a full tank of gas and the wide open highway; it's easy to see why a road trip is the essence of travel for many people.
In our latest gear reviews, we look at a range of kit ideal for long journeys by car and motorbike, from a clever cooking stove that’ll even run on fuel from your vehicle to a bag that’s as tough as a four-wheel-drive truck.
Primus is a byword for quality outdoor stoves and the Omnifuel is ideal for road trips © David Else / Lonely Planet
Primus Omnifuel stove
If your road trip takes you away from civilization, or just to a campsite, you may be cooking. The Omnifuel stove from longstanding Swedish brand Primus, is ideal for travels with a vehicle: if you run out of butane/propane or white gas, simply syphon some petrol out of your car or motorbike tank. True to its name, the Omnifuel will also burn diesel, kerosene and even aviation fuel.
On the practical side, this stove is expertly manufactured, with surprisingly few parts so there’s less to go wrong. Features include stable legs and a heat adjustment dial so food can be simmered or boiled. Liquid fuel has to be pre-pumped and primed, but our testers found this process straightforward after a few practice runs; then they heated 500ml of water in three minutes and enjoyed a freshly brewed coffee.
- Plus points: perfect blend of simplicity and functionality; quick to heat, compact pack size; supplied with a wind-guard which notably improves performance
- Worth noting: butane/propane or white gas are recommended; when burning other fuels, nozzles can be clogged by deposits and require cleaning
- Cost: £185, €219.95 (with fuel bottle)
- Rating: quality 9/10; practicality 9/10; value 9/10
- More info: primus.eu
The Helix Backcountry rechargeable lantern is a modern twist on a classic piece of outdoor kit © David Else / Lonely Planet
Princeton Tec Helix Backcountry rechargeable lantern
After a long day’s drive, you want to set up camp and relax as dusk draws in. Torches have their place, but a lantern is great for general illumination and the Helix Backcountry rechargeable lantern is a great modern twist on a classic piece of outdoor kit. Designed by lighting specialist Princeton Tec, it’s compact, lightweight and easy to recharge via mini USB.
There's a choice of white or red beams, which are dimmable to save battery life, although our testers found the on/off ‘swipe’ function less convenient than a switch or dial. Other features include adjustable legs so you can point the beam in any direction, and a loop so the lantern can be suspended from a tree branch or inside a tent.
- Plus points: lightweight, bright, multiple hanging positions; diffuser can be removed making beam more torch-like
- Worth noting: if recharging isn’t possible, standard Helix Backcountry lantern runs off AAA batteries
- Cost: £64.95, $49.99, €47
- Rating: quality 9/10; practicality 7/10; value 8/10
- More info: princetontec.com
Travel by vehicle allows a larger tent; the Vango Nemesis 300 offers the ideal space-to-weight ratio © David Else / Lonely Planet
Vango Nemesis 300 tent
On self-drive road trips you can carry more kit than when backpacking, although keeping weight down is still recommended to avoid an overloaded vehicle. So a tent such as the Vango Nemesis 300 is ideal. Designed for three people, it’s roomy for two, compact enough for a discrete pitch in the wilds and neat when packed into a car or strapped onto a motorbike.
Thanks to cross-over alloy poles and numerous guys the Nemesis is very stable, shrugging off bad weather despite its doom-laden name. Features include mesh vents, a small window, internal pockets, plus two porches (for cooking or gear storage) each with two zipped openings so you can always face away from the wind. And when the rain stops and the sun shines, you can roll away the porch to fully enjoy the view.
- Plus points: ideal space-to-weight ratio, excellent value for money; inner and fly can be pitched together or separately
- Worth noting: semi-geodesic design means main tent is free-standing, fly needs pegs to create porches; groundsheet light but potentially fragile, optional footprint available
- Cost: £270, €350
- Rating: quality 8/10; practicality 9/10; value 9/10
- More info: vango.co.uk
From campgrounds to breakdowns, the Leatherman Signal multi-tool easily handles road-trip eventualities © David Else / Lonely Planet
Leatherman Signal multi-tool
On a classic road trip you could be camping or staying in motels, enjoying picnics or maybe a spot of fishing, and inevitably fixing your car at some point. The multi-functional Leatherman Signal seeks to cover every eventuality.
Individual tools include pliers, wire-cutters, saw, can and bottle opener, screwdrivers – plus of course a knife. There’s even a hammer for obstinate tent pegs and a device to make sparks in case you forget the matches for the camp fire.
- Plus points: strong, functional, beautifully engineered; for all you wire-cutting fans, the wire-cutter blades are replaceable
- Worth noting: the Signal weighs just over 210g (7.5oz) so not ultra-light but perfect for road trips
- Cost: £149.95, US$99.95
- Rating: quality 9/10; practicality 9/10; value 8/10
- More info: leatherman.com
The 85L Ortlieb Duffle RG is big and tough, and an ideal bag for long road trips © David Else / Lonely Planet
Ortlieb Duffle RG
Sturdy, rugged and easy to transport, the Duffle RG is an ideal bag for long road trips. Some aspects (large wheels, high clearance) even seem vehicle-inspired, while the aluminium base looks like a 4x4 sump guard. More importantly, Ortlieb’s signature waterproofing will keep stuff dry and dust-free, wherever your travels take you.
With a focus on protection, other features are kept to a minimum: a single heavy-duty zip runs the length of the bag so packing is easy, and the gargantuan 85L capacity will swallow all you need, but there are no internal compartments. The bag can be towed with the telescopic handle, and you can use the backpack straps when the ground gets rough.
- Plus points: combines expedition features with airport-friendly portability; for shorter trips the Duffle RG also comes in 60L and 34L sizes
- Worth noting: for some trips the towing handle might make the RG too bulky; the RS is very similar without the handle
- Cost: £275, $375, €299.95
- Rating: quality 9/10; practicality 8/10; value 8/10
- More info: ortlieb.com
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How we review products
Our opinions are by definition subjective. Our testers (male, female, young, old) trial products in the real world, then give their honest opinion and scores for quality, practicality and value: 5/10 = mediocre; 6/10 = fair; 7/10 = good; 8/10 = very good; 9/10 = excellent; 10/10 = perfect. We don’t include anything that scores less than 5/10.
We aim for gender balance, and over a year cover an equal number of male- and female-specific items. We state where kit is available in male and female versions, or for everyone, unless it’s obvious.
Prices are quoted in at least one major currency. Where possible we include other currencies. We take prices from manufacturers’ websites; information was correct at the time of publication, but you may find different prices online or in specialist stores, particularly after a period of time when products are discounted.
Manufacturers supply Lonely Planet with test products for review. We do not accept freebies in exchange for positive coverage.