Travel news and advice

Road trips: what to take for navigation, breakdowns, safety and keeping your phone fully charged

From assistance in getting where you want to go to gadgets that could prove vital in an emergency, here are some of the best things to have handy for your next road trip

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 09 May, 2018, 6:46am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 09 May, 2018, 6:46am

Want to get away from it all? Take a road trip. Choose a destination with decent roads, dramatic scenery, and plenty of reasons to stop and explore, and you can see a lot in just a few days.

It’s not quite as easy as all that, of course. Taking to the open road demands preparation. And what you take with you will depend on the kind of road trip you are going on, and when.

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A two-week drive around Iceland in winter, for example, requires several more layers of clothing than a summer fly-drive around Florida. If you plan to camp along the way, that will affect what you need to pack.

Either way, it’s likely that you will fly to a destination, rent a vehicle and drive for hours at a time. Here’s what to set off with.

Security and breakdowns

Dash cams – those small cameras that you can mount on your windscreen – are very useful in the event of an accident, and have exploded in popularity in recent years. The Mio MiVue 698 Dual (HK$2,200/US$280) has stood the test of time, while the TaoTronics TT-CD06 (HK$549) is great value and good for those planning to drive at night.

At night, you need to be prepared to get out of the car in the dark if you have a problem. Always carry in the glovebox a head torch like the Petzl Tikkina Headlamp (HK$160), and pack a small hiking umbrella and waterproof coat.

If you want to go really prepared, consider the Arteck Car Jump Starter (HK$332) or Cobra JumPack CPP 8000 (HK$760). Both are portable batteries with a built-in LED flashlight and clips that can jump-start most cars (and they can also charge a smartphone – see below).

Navigation and staying charged up

There are two reasons why phones run down quickly when travelling. The first is that they are constantly searching for nearby mobile phone masts. The second is that most people now navigate everywhere using battery-hungry smartphone apps such as Google Maps, Maps.Me or Here WeGo.

Download maps when on Wi-fi so you can navigate offline. Also, think about staying charged by packing a reasonably long USB cable and a USB charger that fits into a 5V cigarette lighter slot. If you are travelling as a couple, find one with two USB slots, such as the Griffin Survivor Rugged Car Charger (HK$92) or Kenu Dualtrip (HK$135). If you’re in a bigger group, consider a four-way design like the XPower CC4Q car charger (HK$190).

At the wheel

Picture the actual driving. Comfortable shoes are a must, but do not neglect your eyes. You could be on the road in all kinds of weather and light conditions, and at all times of the day.

Whether facing bright midday sun, light reflecting off snow or wet roads, or a low setting sun, good sunglasses are a must in all seasons. Choose a pair with polarised lenses, which will help protect you from the glare.

Brown, grey and copper-tinted lenses are best, as they stop colours looking too distorted. Photochromic lenses – which continuously change tint to adapt to changing visible light – are also available for standard glasses.

You also need a phone mount that does not take up much room in your luggage. Choose a small one like the Olixar OmniHolder (HK$90) or the pocket-sized Belkin Car Vent Mount for iPhone (HK$228), which attaches to any car’s air vent.

Entertainment and staying organised

Will your rental vehicle have Bluetooth, a CD player or even a radio? You could call ahead to check, but sometimes you just end up driving a different model to the one you thought you booked.

So make your own arrangements. A Bluetooth speaker is always handy on any trip, and they don't have to be big. The Nakamichi MyMeiryo Clip and JBL Clip 2 (both HK$399) are palm-sized and work well in any vehicle.

If you’re with children, something like the Stow ’n Go back seat organiser (HK$113) will help keep things in order. Some designs even have built-in tablet holders.

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Above all, self-drive adventures are about self-sufficiency. Make sure you always have a large container of water, and fill up at service stations regularly with diesel or petrol. Oh, and don’t forget to drive on the correct side of the road.