Each year, around 2 million people head to Mount Rainier in Washington. Rocky Mountain State Park in Colorado sees approximately 4.4 million visitors a year, and Tennessee’s Great Smoky Mountains National Park has an astonishing 11.3 million people come through. And that doesn’t cover every trip to the mountains across the country.
During warmer summer months and in early fall, when the leaves begin to change, families from all over the US head to the mountains. They go not only for the cooler temperatures, but also the amazing scenery. In some cases, the ability to see snow outside of winter makes these destinations attractive.
If you’re heading out to the mountains, it’s important that your vehicle is properly stocked. Before you head out, here’s a road trip checklist that can help you make sure you cover your bases.
Clothing and Shoes
The temperature difference between lowland areas and the mountains can be dramatic. In some cases, you’ll experience variances of 40 or more degrees, particularly if you stay until nightfall or choose to camp in the mountains.
When you pack for your road trip, make sure you have clothing for a range of climate conditions. Bring items that can be easily layered and don’t forget raincoats or heavier coats, depending on your chosen destination.
It’s also wise to bring extra socks, especially if you will be encountering snow or wet conditions. Wet feet can quickly make you miserable, particularly if it is also cold, and could increase your risk of hypothermia or frostbite.
Additionally, hiking boots are usually ideal. Not only can they handle challenging terrain more effectively, but they may also be waterproof. Just make sure you break them in before your trip. Otherwise, you may be plagued by blisters. And consider bringing a backup pair in case your first one gets wet.
Sunscreen, Hats, and Sunglasses
Even if the temperature is cooler in the mountains, that doesn’t mean you won’t be dealing with the sun. Sunglasses can protect your eyes, making it easier to see under bright conditions.
Hats can both provide shade for your eyes while also keeping the sun rays off of your face and head. Since UV rays happen regardless of the temperature, sunscreen is also a must. While it may seem odd that you can get a sunburn on a 50-degree day, it is possible. Plus, if sunlight reflects off of snow, you may get a burn in some unexpected places.
Food and Beverages
When you head out on a road trip, it’s wise to have food and beverages available. Not only can this help save you money during your journey, allowing you to avoid costly gas station snack or restaurant prices, but it can make your time in the mountains more enjoyable.
In most cases, you aren’t going to find many (if any) shops once you head into the mountains. Make sure you have enough food and drink, especially water, on-hand to handle your needs. It may even be wise to bring more than you anticipate needing. After all, significant snowfall could hinder your ability to drive off the mountain, incidentally extending your stay until conditions improve.
While you might not have a cell signal on the mountain, it is wise to have one in your car. That way, if you need assistance and happen to be able to place a call, you have that option. Bring along a backup battery-based charger as well, preferably a solar one, letting you power up your device if the need arises.
Additionally, bringing a hiking GPS is a smart decision. These function in deep woods and on high peaks, letting you get your bearings if you get turned around.
If you are heading off the beaten path, you might also want an emergency beacon. These can broadcast your location, making it easier for emergency crews to find you if you need assistance. It also functions as a distress signal, letting someone know that you are in trouble.
Even if your car is in good repair, having certain items with you is a must. First, check your spare tire to make sure it is properly inflated and in good shape. If not, replace it before you leave.
Also, make sure you have the ability to change a tire. Take a look and confirm that your jack and tire iron are in the right place. That way, should you get a flat, you can handle it.
You can also get puncture repair kits. Some include a variety of tools and plugs while others rely on sealants to repair holes. No matter which you prefer, make sure you can reinflate the tire once you fix the hole. Otherwise, you might not be able to drive out.
Additionally, invest in an emergency battery charger. These go beyond jumper cables, allowing you to charge a dead battery on your own. However, you do need to charge it in advance, so make sure to plug it in for a while before you head out on the road.
What you need as far as gear varies depending on your goal. If you want to hike, then you’ll need a pack to carry food, drinks, and similar items. Campers will also need tents and sleeping bags, and possibly things like fire starter, grills, or other helpful tools.
If you want to document your trip, then you may need a camera. If the idea of kicking back and reading is attractive, then books and a book light might be necessities. In the winter, skis, snowshoes, or ice skates might be fun additions.
When it comes to packing for this category, plan out what you want to do while you are in the mountains. Then, consider what you need to have to make that happen, and add those items to your mountain road trip checklist.
By covering the areas above, you can increase your odds of having everything you need to enjoy your time in the mountains. However, even the best-laid plans can be derailed by weather, so, before you hit the road, make sure the conditions support a visit. Otherwise, it is always better to be safe than sorry, so you may need to reschedule.
Do you know of any helpful items that should be on every road trip checklist? Tell us about them in the comments below.
Looking for more great travel tips? Check out these articles:
- 10 Simple Ways to Save Money on a Road Trip
- Use These Apps to Save Money on Gas
- 10 Travel Apps That Save Money
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