When I first got my Subaru Outback, I was excited to take it out on adventures, but coming from a long period of living out of my backpack, it took a while before I managed to get my new adventure-mobile in working order. Here are the top things I would recommend equipping your car with to make adventuring and/or living out of your car more manageable.
A windshield sunscreen (or sun shield? or sunshade? or windshield cover?) is a must if you're going to have a vehicle to take you to trails, adventures, and backcountry destinations. It's also great for the city. It not only provides privacy (when you're hanging out and/or sleeping in your car), but it keeps your car cooler and limits UV damage to your dashboard. You can get cheap dollar store covers, but if you can I would recommend getting something high-quality like a Covercraft.
It took me a while to figure out what these things were called (they're called “side window visors” or “side window deflectors” or even “in-channel rain guards”), but I still end up calling them “those things that let you have your windows down a bit when it's raining”. There are Subaru-branded and aftermarket versions of these (I got mine from Subaru), and they're not difficult to install (I did it myself despite being very afraid to do so). Another highly recommended adventure-mobile modification.
Note: There is some ambiguity, technically speaking, as to whether these are legal in all states. They seem to occupy a bit of a grey area where “you probably won't be cited for having them, but technically could be”. Install at your own risk (and update me in the comments if you have any definitive information).
These are something I had never seen before, then hoped existed, then went to the internet where I was not disappointed. I am not sure what you would call these – car window screens(?) – but I am glad that I found them. Apparently, they're frequently used by people to keep the sun out of their kids' faces while driving, but they also work great as a way for you to keep airflow in your car at night (whilst sleeping in is) and keep any bugs out (while providing some privacy). These are awesome and they even fit over my side window deflectors. Highly recommended.
If your car didn't come with all-weather mats, I highly recommend investing in a set. They'll keep your car's interior in great shape and you won't have to worry about vacuuming or removing stains from fabric floor mats. The bathtub shape of all-weather mats means that you won't have to worry about mud or snowmelt leaking off the sides into your car's interior either. I have a set of four for each seat and an additional cargo area all-weather mat as well.
It may not be intuitive, but I like to be clean – at least I like my things to be clean (especially when said things are expensive things – like a car). That's why I bought a rear seat cover for my Subaru. It means I don't have to worry about picking up dirty hitchhikers, people with animals, or my filthy friends. My only complaint is that you can't put down just one of the seats with the cover on; I'm considering cutting it to allow for this, but I don't know yet.
This is something I had never seen before but is something that I now love having. It's basically a piece of plastic that sits in your cup holder that gives you a new, wider cupholder capable of holding a 32 or 40 oz Hydro Flask, 32 oz Nalgene, 36 oz Yeti Rambler, 32 or 40 oz Klean Kanteen, and a variety of other bottles. I have the BottlePro, but there are plenty of variations on this idea that all accomplish the same thing.
Yes, your car has a battery and it's useful for charging your things while on the road. However, when you're parked many hours down some dirt road somewhere at a remote trailhead or when you're off in the middle of nowhere camping, you don't want to play games with your car's battery. That's why I have a Jackery Explorer 1000 Portable Power Station in my car to power and charge all my gear while on the road. I also have two SolarSaga 100W Solar Panels to charge the Explorer 1000 when I know I'm going to be away for an extended period of time.
Jumper cables are a great thing to have in your car, but what if you're stuck at some remote trailhead with no hope of anyone else coming by? That's when having a portable jump starter can be a real lifesaver (possibly literally). The NOCO Boost Plus can jump start gas engines up to 6 liters and diesel engines up to 3 liters. It can also be recharged via USB (good thing you have that Portable Power Station).
I don't know that I love these, but they're inexpensive and I make use of them fairly often so I figured they were worth including here. Basically, these clip onto your headrests (and prevent them from going all the way down) and then give you some extra storage space for hanging things. I usually use them for trash bags, cables, or things that need to be dried.
A roof box was literally the first thing I bought for my Outback. Not only does it free up space to let me comfortably sleep in the back, but it gives me a place to throw things that I wouldn't necessarily want inside the car with me (mud-caked shoes, horribly-smelling clothing, trash, etc.) I have the Thule Force XT XL (XT is part of the name, XL is the size) and it fits great on my Outback. The only sad thing is that it takes away my sunroof views.
With my roof occupied by my roof box, I opted for a hitch bicycle rack. If you don't have a hitch, your first step is to get a hitch. Then the Thule T2 Pro XT Hitch Rack is an excellent choice should you be looking for something capable of transporting your bicycles. It can carry two bicycles (but up to four with an attachment) with up to 29 in wheels and 5 in tires and a 120 lb / 55 kg weight capacity. I'm also planning on getting this attachment which allows the bike rack to swing out and allow easier access to the trunk.
This is going to be different with every car, but it may be worth checking to see if something like a cargo net is available for yours. I got this one for my 2019 Subaru Outback and it works okay. The two bottom clips are secure and the top loops can lock into where the two “shopping bag clips?” fold down. These top two clips frequently fold back down and have to be put back up. Other Outbacks (the 2013, for example) have side cargo nets in the back which is nice. I might get these for my 2019, but it involves drilling into the interior (I believe) which I'm not ready to do. Something like this might also be a good solution if you don't need the floor space in the cargo area.
Definitely good for parallel parking in the city, but also good for creeping up close to that tree, a bumper guard is another inexpensive but useful item that could potentially save you a lot of headaches. If you want something more serious (or you're going to be spending more time in a city and/or parked on the street), you might want something like this instead. And if you're worried about the back of your car, possibly one of these as well.
I cannot recommend highly enough that you invest in a dash cam for your car. This won't necessarily help you navigate the backcountry (although some dash cams can record some cool timelapse videos), but it will help you if you ever get into an accident (particularly if said accident is not your fault). They aren't expensive and they can (literally) save you thousands of dollars. I have a Garmin dash cam and use the suction cup mount with it.
An often overlooked piece of the car, the water receptacle could be life-saving. Even if you're not going to be far off the grid, it isn't a bad idea to have some water in your car. GSI makes inexpensive collapsible water cubes in 2.6-gallon / 9.84-liter and 3.9-gallon 14.76-liter versions. It's not a bad idea to pick one of these up and keep it (filled) in the back of your car when embarking on your next adventure.
It may sound silly, but yes, having a roll of super-strong tape (I like Gorilla Tape) in your car can be extremely useful when you find yourself out at remote trailheads (or even stuck on the side of the highway). You can use it to mend clothing, fix gear, affix lights, bandage wounds, hogtie your enemies – the possibilities are Endless (P. Summer).
Lastly, I also suggest that you look into getting your windows tinted. I sleep in my Outback a lot and couldn't imagine not having tinted windows. Sure, the window screens provide some privacy, but it's nothing compared to having tinted windows.
Note: Window tint (particularly on the front two windows) is not legal in every state and different states have different limits on the allowable level of tint. Check local laws before paying to have your windows tinted. Remember, it's not illegal for a shop to tint your windows darker than allowed, but it can be illegal for you to drive with windows tinted too dark.
What do you think? Have anything that you think needs to be added to this list? What are some must-have accessories for your adventure-mobile? Leave a comment below and let me know!