7 throwback, must-have items to take on your next road trip

We all remember road tripping as kids: piled in the back of a van/car/station wagon that had no A.C. – a ’70s patina covering our memories with a nostalgic sheen, those hazy memories serving as a basis for our trips as adults.

Hit the road. Photo: Abigail Keenan/Unsplash

But these days, it seems that the “hop in the car and drive into the distance” ethos has been, well, a bit diluted if we’re being honest.

Technology’s pervasive influence on our lives means that instead of getting lost on back roads, Google Maps will take us back to the highway, no tears shed and no happy accidental finds to be made.

Our social media [addiction] documents every moment in a way that’s somewhat posed; candids are planned with more effort and attention to detail than editorial shoots of the past, and the nonchalance that we exude across our mobile screens seems to be an empty one.

That’s why we decided to round up the forgotten, analog, throwback items that make a road trip magical. The items that you’ll certainly want to stash in the glove compartment next time your wheels hit the pavement.

A field guide

A post shared by Wildsam Field Guides (@wildsam) on

Sometimes, exploring a region is best done with a little guidance. No, we’re not talking about “Yelping” everything in sight.

We’re talking about a field guide. Expert advice on what to see, where to eat and where to rest your head after a long day on the road … from someone who’s seen and done it all.

A paper map

Let the map lead the way. Photo: Julentto Photography/Unsplash

If there’s one thing you can take away from this, it’s to put the phone down. (Especially on the road, people!)

We’re not saying ditch the cellular device completely. After all, going through tech withdrawals in the wilderness might be dangerous for many. What we’re saying is take away the reliance. Use the thing for making phone calls, and grab yourself a map for navigation.

Reading a paper map takes patience, something we can all benefit from having more of. (Not to mention the skill that it takes to fold one up … that will certainly test your fortitude.)

Your favorite sweater

Nothing like bringing you favorite sweater on the road. Photo: Katie Rodriguez

It’s worn-in perfectly, it’s been to hell-and-back with you, and sure, it might have a few stains, but we’re fondly referring to those as “memories.”

Your favorite sweater is a prized possession, and should not be treated lightly, nor forgotten.

An instant camera

Memories in an instant. Photo: Jordan Bauer/Unsplash

The charm of an instant camera cannot be overstated. There’s nothing we can think of that’s quite like taking a photo and having it develop right in front of your eyes.

And if you want to take it even one step further, you can always grab a disposable 35mm film camera from your local drugstore. These are even more fun – you won’t see the developed film for weeks, and the final result will usually have you rolling around laughter with your friends.

Binoculars

Take it all in. Photo: Evan Kirby/Unsplash

Dependable, totally useful, and they kind of sort of make you feel like a pirate (or at least, some sort of old-timey explorer). If you’re a bird or wildlife enthusiast, these will be your best friend. And you might even find yourself peering out the window from the passenger seat, taking you back to time or place you’d forgotten about.

A journal

Find a blank page, and fill it. Photo: Mike Tinnion/Unsplash

It’s a lot more special than typing a caption or note in your iPhone. It can be used to press flowers for loved ones, or to record fond remembrances.

It can be utilized as an eye cover when you’re napping in the shade of a tree, and it can be transformed into a fly swatter if need be …

Honorable Mention: Dashboard souvenirs

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The knick-knacks from the gas station in the middle of nowhere (e.g. the dancing hula lady). That perfectly round, perfectly white rock that you just couldn’t leave behind.

Don’t underestimate their importance. These souvenirs are how you’ll carry your trip with you long after you’ve returned home.

Better get out there.

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