20 Day-Trip Essentials That Make The Comforts Of Home Portable

With a holiday weekend coming up, we’re all looking to get out of the concrete jungle for some nature and fresh air. But, upon surveying the lodging scene, you may have noticed that there’s, um, nowhere to go. Every well-kept and cleaned Airbnb under the sun is booked, and crashing with friends is no longer the more-the-merrier affair it was pre-pandemic. If you're not already sharing an established “social bubble,” even staying with family can be tricky. And then there’s the matter of travel — with long-haul train and bus rides a less-than-safe transit option, suddenly car travel seems like the way to go.

If you’re determined to mark the long weekend with a multi-mile hike, a full day at the beach, or grilling in the grassy countryside, you can still enjoy a jaunt out of the city — you’ve just got to be prepared. With this in mind, we rounded up the best gear for a comfortable, home-like experience even if you’re spending the day eating, drinking, and even napping out of the trunk of your car. Whether it’s a comfortable, stylish camping chair that collapses into a two-pound bundle; a tailgating table that attaches to your tires; or a portable cast-iron grill about the size of your laptop, there’s plenty of swag to make your vehicular excursion very comfortable and very fun. We tapped into what tailgaters, car-campers, and van-lifers have known for millennia: you don’t need four walls to feel at home; just four wheels.


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Pop-Up Sun Shelter

Whether you’re driving two hours to the beach or simply lounging at the public park a few blocks from your apartment, an extended stay in the sun requires copious amounts of shade. We browsed a lot of tents before settling on this one, based on its pleasing design and ease of setup and breakdown — it comes in a neat circular bag and pops open in one movement.
Picnic Time Manta Sun Shelter, $46.99 Buy

Portable Campfire

Keep the smores and campfire songs on tap this summer no matter where you venture with this compact portable pit that's crafted from recycled materials.
Radiate Portable Campfire, $28.00 Buy

Souped-Up Picnic Blanket

If you want to spread out on a blanket for some picnic-ing or sunbathing, you might want to think about upgrading to Kelty’s thoughtfully designed “BFF” blanket. It’s equipped with loops for staking into the ground and a water-resistant nylon side that protects from dewy or dirty surfaces. It even folds up into a pillow-shaped carrying case.
Kelty Bestie BFF Blanket, $49.95 Buy

Waterproof Sleeping Mat

If you’re looking to catch forty winks wherever you’ve set up shop, you’ll need a little more than a flimsy beach towel for a comfortable snooze. These waterproof sleeping mats were designed for rafting, but their superior comfort and easy-to-clean fabrication make them perfect for any outdoor nap. (The mats also make for great back or neck support when rolled up.)
NRS Full Paco Sleeping Pad, $215.00 $161.25 Buy

Waterproof, USB-Charging String Lights

If your excursion lasts into the wee hours, never fear — there are plenty of rope lights out there designed to look Pinteresting dangling from your car or tent, creating a back-porch vibe no matter where you are. These top-rated USB-chargeable fairy lights are both waterproof and beautifully illuminating.
Power Practical Luminoodle Light Rope (Five Feet), $17.49 Buy

Collapsible Solar-Powered Lantern

And, on a more practical note, be sure to pack a portable handheld light for when nature calls in the middle of the night. This collapsible lantern is waterproof and comes crafted with solar-powered capabilities that can keep it illuminated for up to 24 hours at a time.
LuminAID Solar Inflatable Lantern, $24.95 Buy

Lightweight Camp Chair

With a quick-drying fabrication that’s available in a host of design-friendly colors and a strong-but-lightweight aluminum frame, this Helinox chair can be packed into a bundle weighing no more than two pounds, making it very easy to tote on to the beach, to a campsite, or into your friend’s backyard for a socially-distant barbecue. They’re on the pricier side, but seem to be worth every penny.
Helinox Chair One Camp Chair, $99.95 $74.95 Buy

Folding Picnic Table Set

Or, if you're camping with a crew, try picking up a portable seating set (like this on-sale picnic table option) that makes group dining on-the-go a much easier feat.
Outsunny Folding Picnic Table Set, $161.98 $89.99 Buy

Attachable Tire Table

There are a lot of portable tables out there, but the Tire Table wowed us with its sturdy, simple, and sensible design. “This little table is neat,” said an Amazon reviewer. “I love the easy setup and the option to use on any tire. My main use is serving as a stand for my grill when camping but I can see myself using it as a table when traveling along the side of the road or rest stop for lunch. Put my awing out on my RV and I have my own oasis. Well made. I love the push connections and flat storage. This is a good little table at a fair price.”
Tire Table Steel Table, $142.90 Buy

High-Functioning Cooler

We came for the pretty powder blue of this stylish, high-capacity cooler, and stayed for the 4.7-out-of-5-star rating and 338 excellent reviews — many of which compared this under-$100 Monoprice model to the three-times-as-expensive Yeti. Sold!
Monoprice Emperor 25 Cooler, $102.99 $92.69 Buy

High-Functioning Soft Cooler

If a hard-sided, 25-liter behemoth is a little too much cooler for you, may we suggest a soft, packable alternative? Icemule’s backpack-style cooler is a top-rated option, and the 10-liter size will hold four bottles of wine. (In that case, actually, we might go a size up.) Bonus: it flattens and rolls up for easy storage when its contents have been exhausted.
Icemule Cooler Bag, $83.99 $69.95 Buy

Solar-Powered Portable Charger

While it's nice to unplug in the great outdoors, unexpectedly running out of battery with no outlets for miles is not so nice. Avoid such dire situations with this nifty solar-powered portable charger that comes with carabiners for attaching to your pack during daytime hikes or beach sunning sessions.
BigBlue Foldable Portable Solar Charger, $72.96 Buy

Outdoor Wine Glasses

You’re obviously going to be packing the aforementioned cooler with plenty of rosé, so you better have some wine glasses that were made for outdoor use. These sleek, BPA-free ones have a weighted bottom to prevent spillage.
GSI Outdoors Stemless Wine Glass, $6.95 Buy

Stainless Steel Wine Bottle Set

If you're really big into wine (or beer), then you may want to up the portability game by investing in a set that allows you to transport entire bottles of your favorite vintage while keeping it optimally chilled for up to 24 hours.
BrüMate Winesulator + 2 Uncork'd XL Wine Tumblers/Lids | Walnut V2.0, $81.00 $69.99 Buy

Portable Grille

The cast-iron experts at Lodge have created a super-simple and seemingly indestructible charcoal grill. It’s totally compact, and its iron construction ensures that it conducts heat really, really well.
Lodge Sportsman’s Grill, $135.44 Buy
Cuisinart GrateLifter Portable Charcoal Grill, $135.61 Buy

On-The-Go Knife & Cutting Board Set

Not only is this travel-friendly set extremely handy-dandy — with a case that doubles as a cutting board and a magnet closure that keeps the knife safely in place when it’s not in use — it’s also very, very high quality.
Snow Peak Chopping Board Knife Set, $39.95 Buy

Reusable Cutlery

If you’d like an upgrade from your glove compartment stash of takeout-excess plastic cutlery, try Light My Fire’s BPA-free all-purpose sporks, complete with a spoon, fork, and even a tiny serrated edge for (light) cutting.
Light My Fire Tritan® Spork (Two-Pack), $5.99 $2.99 Buy

Sporty Bluetooth Speaker

Let’s not overlook the importance of music to add a home-like ambiance to your day trip. There are countless Bluetooth speakers on the market, but we like the compact and colorful design of Ultimate Ears’ Wonderboom. (Good luck deciding among red, blue, gray, or this irresistible millennial pink.) It has a “boost” feature for amplifying sound clarity outdoors, 13-hour battery life, and a nifty little hook so you can hang it any old place. Oh, and did we mention it’s waterproof — and it floats?
Ultimate Ears Wonderboom 2, $99.99 Buy

Solar-Powered Fan

If you need to generate a breeze but are lacking in traditional power outlets, try a solar-powered fan.
Hereta DHD Multi-Function Solar Fan, $74.99 Buy

Female Urination Device

Ladies, let’s not forget the inevitable. When nature calls and you don’t have access to a toilet, simply reach for a female urination device (“FUD” for short) to make a go of it standing up. (If you’d like to read more on the topic of an improvised outdoor pee, check out our “Where to pee?” guide.)
Sunany Portable Stand Up Urinal Cone for Women, $15.99 $13.99 Buy
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