ASN’s Packlist series breaks down the exact gear we took on an excursion and how it performed. Field-tested and ASN approved.
My best friend lives in his truck, which means when I come out to visit him in California, we're forcibly on a perpetual road trip. Not that I mind — car camping is far easier than backpacking, yet still adventurous enough that you can experience the soul of a wild place.
A few weeks ago, we drove from San Francisco to Los Angeles to explore some of our favorite public lands: these are the national parks, monuments, seashores and recreation areas owned equally by all Americans under federal protection.
From Death Valley — home of the lowest point in North America — to the Alabama Hills (the highest point in the lower 48 and the set of countless films and TV shows), our trip was proof that public lands are worth fighting to keep in public hands.
As we learned more about the need to protect and preserve these areas, we also spent some time testing out some of our favorite gear in the extreme desert temperature swings. Here's what made the cut for car camping in California's public lands.
Otterbox Elevation 10 Tumbler ($25)
In an effort to cut down on single-use plastic consumption, I picked up one of these stainless steel, insulated 10-ounce tumblers and it has totally changed the way I drink.
Whether I fill it up myself or ask a barista to save a plastic cup, this half-size container almost works too well. It kept my coffee hot for over five hours and my cold drinks chilled for even longer. The only downside I can find to this effective insulation is that the heat can't leak out to warm cold hands.
These buttery soft, incredibly warm leather gloves are triple baked to ensure the waterproof wax coating is fully absorbed. On a road trip, they come in handy for everything from changing a tire to cold mornings at camp. Take care of them well and they'll be timeless tools you'll have for life.
The varying climates of the public lands we visited on our road trip called for sandals that could handle mud, sweat, sand and rock scrambles.
Teva's sturdy Hurricane XLT sandals — available for men and women — may surprise you with what they can handle. These sandals offer the classic Teva silhouette, rugged nylon webbing, and grippy soles. Pair with wool socks when the sun sets and you've got a pretty versatile footwear option.
Another unexpected choice for an outdoor adventure is the Tech Sweat legging from Outdoor Voices. Touted as the ideal pair of leggings for when the “going gets hot,” the lightweight and stretchy fabric of these pants is sweat-wicking, unbelievably soft, and deceivingly durable.
These are the ultimate road-trip leggings: comfy enough to sleep in and thick enough to wear in lieu of pants while hiking.
A hammock can feel like excess when you're packing for a road trip, but you'll undoubtedly wish you had one at some point. The Kammok Wallaby packs down small, so we were able to slip it into our bags and have it on hand when we wanted to enjoy a sunset or a shady grove. Make sure to pack the tree-friendly Python straps, which are sold separately.
This is a patent-pending zipperless sleeping bag with a self-sealing foot sleeve, which means it’s super easy to get in and out of quickly. That also means no zipper snags or ripped nylon, and on particularly cold mornings, you can stick your feet out of the bottom and walk around in it while you cook breakfast.
Lightweight, warm, and with a little bit of wiggle room — it ticks every box and packs in a few surprises, which meant it was a no-brainer for our trip.
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