So you’re heading on an Australian road trip hey?
First things first, AWESOME!
This is possibly the best adventure you’ll ever go on, so prepare to have the time of your life!
Seconds things second, are you prepared?
You may be traveling uber-cheap, but trust me there are some super handy gadgets you’ll definitely want, or even need.
Having now been on the Australian road for 6 months, we’ve definitely got down what we consider to be essential and what, well, we’ve demoted to the rubbish bin!
Then there are also the things we didn’t think we’d need, but ended up buying in absolute desperation once we set off.
So here, to make your planning easier, is our definitive list of the 15 essential gadgets we couldn’t (and you shouldn’t) road trip Australia without.
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The good old smartphone, where would we all be without them hey!
This is probably one electrical gadget I couldn’t road trip without that you’ve already got – hoorah!
Smartphones are so useful for a ton of things.
From booking accommodation to researching destinations, from taking photos to following maps, they are almost as useful as the other 14 gadgets on this list put together!
If you’re coming from overseas to road trip Australia, then I highly recommend bringing your smartphone with you.
This is because once you get here it’s super easy to get a local SIM card and roam for cheap (see #2).
My Recommendation: You can’t beat the iPhone!
#2 Telstra SIM
It might cost you a little more up front, but making sure your phone provider is Telstra when you road trip Australia, will be worth its weight in gold!
I know the temptations of signing up to a cheap provider all too well – but trust me, once you leave any major town or city, your money will be rendered useless, because you will not be able to use your phone.
This means you might as well have taken the money you’re paying Vodafone (or whoever isn’t Telstra) and throw it down the drain!
Continually not having signal is also very frustrating, so seriously, just do yourself, your blood pressure and your bank account and pay for a Telstra SIM from the off!
And if you don’t want to sign up to a Telstra contract – which I wouldn’t recommend anyway on the basis most have a minimum term of 48 months – then you don’t have to.
Stick to a pre-paid deal like me and get all the benefits without the commitment (minus a phone of course!)
My Recommendation: Telstra Pre-Paid Freedom Plan. $50 per month gives you 8gb of data, unlimited national calls and texts and $500 of free international calls to selected countries – winner!
Next on the list of the 15 essential gadgetsI couldn’t road trip Australia without is the not so humble inverter.
If you’re traveling in a campervan or 4wd, then this is a particularly crucial one, as it will allow you to charge and run 240v devices like laptops, phones, blenders and power tools off a 12v battery like that of your vehicle.
Especially great for bloggers, or those working while travelling, having a device with battery life can be essential and that’s why an inverter is so crucial for me
I can use it to charge my laptop, camera and phone while I am driving (via the dual battery system) and when I’m stationary, the inverter runs off the solar panel.
Without an inverter, I’d be permanently reliant on cafes, powered campsites or libraries etc to charge my devices.
Not only would this be expensive, but also near in possible in much of the remote Australian terrain I’m covering.
I also use the inverter to power items like electrical razors for hair cutting and hand blenders for smoothie making!
Inverters can be large, bulky and expensive, but they are well worth it when it comes to wanting to stay connected – electronically, as well socially and professionally – on your journey.
My Recommendation: RedArc 700W Pure Sinewave Inverter
#4 LED Lights
A large part of my road trip in Australia involves staring up at the country’s incredible night skies and marvelling at all the stars.
However, at times, you will also want to see a bit more!
That’s where LED lights come in!
These great inventions are easy to use, easy to store and definitely the way to go when it comes to cooking or setting up camp after dark.
And, best of all, they use almost no power, meaning they won’t drain your battery – hoorah!
This was something I originally crossed off my list of essentials, meaning I set off to road trip Australia without them.
When you have to go to your tent every night at 6pm because you’ve run out of light, or you have to make sure you’ve cooked and packed away by 5:30pm, it really starts to impinge on your day!
As such, it wasn’t long before I had worked out I desperately needed a set of these bad boys and haven’t looked back since!
Now I enjoy light in the evening for as long as we want and we can also feed the LED strip up through a special flap into my rooftop tent too!
This is a real godsend in Western Australia especially, where daylight savings doesn’t exist and it’s currently getting dark around 5pm!
My Recommendation: OZ Trail Camping LED Bars
5 ESSENTIAL PACKING ITEMS FOR AUSTRALIA
#1 Good Camera – You will be pretty much snapping non-stop in Australia and will need a good camera to do this gorgeous country justice. I highly recommend the Sony A6000, which I use for all my travels and love, not least because it’s light, compact and robust!
#2 Good Walking Shoes – There will be a lot of walking in Australia – from cities to national park! Make sure your feet are comfortable therefore with a pair of New Balance Trainers. Perfect for stylish strollling, I love mine
#3 Good Guidebook – I’m still a massive fan of the Lonely Planet Guidebooks and do think their Australia edition is well put together
#4 Good Water Bottle – Travelling in hot old Australia can be thirsty work, so make sure you have a metal water bottle that you can refill as you go, because tap water is drinkable… and free!
#5 Good Sun Hat – And there’s no denying you’ll need a good sun hat for protection in Australia too. In my opinion you can’t go past this Hello Sunshine one, which is both gorgeous and ideal for keeping the rays off your face.
Keeping food cold and good to eat for longer periods of time is obviously crucial for anyone when they road trip Australia, but especially for us given how much I eat and how much of my diet is comprised of healthy, wholefoods that need to be kept cold.
You could risk your road trip with just an esky, but if you’re carrying some decent meat for your barbie or some lovely rocket for your salad, then they are not always the most reliable!
Messing around with ice, constantly draining it and then having to buy more bags of frozen water all the time is highly annoying.
Not to mention potentially impossible if you’re road tripping remote Australia for long periods of time.
As such, I recommend you take my advice and try a get a 240/12v fridge for camping.
This will save you sooo much time and hassle.
No matter where you go, your food will stay crisp, fresh and not half-frozen like it will in an esky!
My other tip is: Go Big!
I have a 70l fridge, which although it takes up half the space in the back of the Landrover, is always stuffed to the brim after my weekly shop. Did someone say greedy pigs?!
My Recommendation: Waeco CFX-65 (65l)
If you’re starting to road trip Australia, then you really should know about the dangers of getting lost in the bush!
Seriously, people do die in this vast country’s wilderness and if you’re not familiar with the flat red landscape of much of its interior, it can quickly and easily become very disorientating.
Even if you are just sticking to the coast or the cities, then let’s be honest, getting lost can be damn right annoying.
As such, I definitely recommend investing in some GPS technology and letting these modern devices do the hard work, so you can just concentrate on the views.
<p”>Smartphones with google maps are ok when you have phone signal, but leave any major point of civilisation and your google maps will likely be rendered useless.
We have a Garmin Nüvi and swear by it for its awesome directions, knowledge and usefulness.
Only once has it not been able to locate a road for us and that was in remote Arnhem Land, so fair enough!
We also love our Garmin for the way it keeps track of the miles we’re doing, works out our fuel efficiency and lets us know when there’s red light and speed cameras up ahead!
Paper maps are super handy (and can easily be picked up for free at most tourism offices around Australia), but there’s nothing like a GPS to make life easy and provide you with a ton of extra stats!
My Recommendation: Garmin Nüvi 2589
#7 Head Torch
Do not, I repeat do not, even consider going on a road trip in Australia without getting a head torch before you leave home.
And why do I say this? ….. Because I did … Rookie error my friends!
One of the first things I bought after only a few days on the road, therefore was a good headlamp.
Do you know how dark it can get out there and do you know how many potential creepy crawlies you may encounter on your way to the toilet in the night? Enough said.
Plus, it’s really helpful when trying to cook and/or eat and/or set up a tent in the dark.
Check my post about the best headlamps if you’re looking for inspiration.
Otherwise, just make sure you get something with a red night vision setting, so you don’t walk around attracting every bug in the place to your forehead!
My Recommendation: Vtin Aurora Headlamp
#8 Battery Charger
A key piece of kit for those rare times when I treat myself to a powered campsite, a battery charger is a great piece of gear if you plan to road trip Australia.
With one of these guys, all you have to do, is rock-up to a powered site, plug the charger into a 240v socket and attach the other end to your battery via the alligator clips.
The just sit back, safe in the knowledge your dual battery system is being topped up.
My Recommendation: Projecta Pro-Charge Battery Charger
#9 Satellite Phone or Sat Sleeve
Again another item I set off to road trip Australia without … and then regretted!
I knew satellite phones were pretty essential for where we were going, but I also knew they were pretty expensive.
Therefore I just accidentally, kind of on purpose, forgot about them!
Blowing a hole in the radiator in a remote 4wd track in Arnhem Land where there was no phone signal, soon bought the notion of a sat phone rushing back to the forefront of my mind however!
You can read all our about the blown radiator (mis)adventure in week 11 of the budget 4wd adventure around Australia, but in short, the story is that luckily I had enough water and food and only had to wait 6 hours before being found by someone!
It could have been a lot worse however and the first thing I did when I got back to civilisation, aka Darwin, was research sat phone models.
It turns out that the best buy is probably a Sat Sleeve.
This is a phone case with an inbuilt satellite receiver that slips over your smartphone, magically turning it into a sat phone.
All you need do after this is buy a plan (most of the major phone providers offer them) and away you go.
Luckily I didn’t have to end up buying one of these as a friend kindly lent me his satellite phone (thanks Neil!), but had I not been so fortunate, a Sat Sleeve is something I no longer would have quibbled over forking out for.
My Recommendation: Thuraya Sat Sleeve
#10 Spotify Premium
This is one of the best and cheapest ways to listen to a ton of awesome music when you road trip Australia.
Unless you’ve got a mega iTunes library, Spotify is always going to give you more access to more music than you can imagine.
It’s also going to be cheaper that buying a shed-load of albums – and a lot more morally sound than downloading them illegally!
Plus, when you’re on the road in Australia, wifi access becomes a real drama, so the ability to download stuff almost always goes out the window anyway!
As such, the answer to my prayers has been Spotify Premium.
This is definitely one of the 15 essential things I couldn’t road trip Australia without because it allows me to download massive playlists and enjoy them offline.
Australia is huge.
That means hours of driving time and hours of music listening time.
Get with the programme people and get with Spotify Premium.
My Recommendation: Umm ….. Spotify Premium!
#11 Dual USB Charger
These genius inventions are a crucial part of life as I road trip Australia because they ensure all our much-needed devices such as iPhones and iPads stay topped up.
This makes life happier and blogging easier because I’m never left high and dry without any music to listen to or anything to capture that great sunset with.
The benefits of a dual USB charger are, of course, that you can charge 2 devices at the same time.
What you want to avoid however is getting a dual USB gadget that charges 2 devices but at half the speed i.e. the output is the same, just split between 2 things.
Enter the ZUS!
Thus little handy little specimen is permanently plugged into the cigarette lighter and is brilliant because it charges 2 devices at double the speed!
Don’t ask me how it does it, it just does and it does it brilliantly.
Plus it doesn’t even have a hefty price tag!
My Recommendation: ZUS Dual USB Charger
#12 Solar Panel
Now, what about harnessing loads of free energy while you road trip Australia?
I mean you will be travelling through one of the hottest countries on the planet, so why not make it work for you?
Sound like a good idea?
Well yes, it is a good idea and buying a solar panel before I left home was one gadget I knew I was going to have to splash out on.
Especially, because I would need at least a 120W solar panel.
Luckily, I hung out and eventually managed to nab one half price in an Anaconda sale, but it still cost us over $300.
However, while a solar panel was a big expense up front, I’ve more than reaped the rewards of it, getting day after day of free power.
Easy to setup, use and disable, these handy inventions are one of the best things to take, especially if you’re looking to be a bit self-sustainability during your adventure.
Basically, solar panels will allow you to go off-grid and, if it’s sunny enough – still keep your fridge running, your LED lights glowing and possibly even your laptop charging! Hoorah, hoorah!
My Recommendation: Projecta 120W Portable Solar Panel
If you’ve read any of the weekly updates about my budget road trip Australia (FYI: they are published on the blog every weekend), then you’ll know how frequently I make use of Wikicamps.
Wikicamps is basically a genius little app, that costs only $7, but gives you access to the info and locations of just about every campsite in the country.
Along with directions, Wikicamps also boasts reviews written by other campers and a list of facilities, which gives you more of an idea about what you can expect from a place.
Very handy, you can also set filters on Wikicamps, which allow you to select and view only free camps in your area for example or those with RV dump points.
Whatever you want to know about camping in Australia, Wikicamps is bound to have the info and it’s saved me hundreds and hundreds of dollars in accommodation fees.
My Recommendation: The one and only Wikicamps App
#14 Portable Power Bank
My latest purchase, a portable, dual USB, power bank, has already proved incredibly handy when I need to charge my phone but aren’t going to be driving or near mains power for a few days.
The one problem with using the inverter a lot is that it does chew up dear Landie’s battery, so by investing in a portable power bank, I can keep my phone charged (for cameras, social media, family contact etc) without worrying about the car.
You can also buy portable power banks that will charge laptops, but being bigger and bulkier, I just opted for one that can be used with tablets and phones.
My model is 15000mAH, which more than suits my needs, charging our iPhone 6 up around 5 times.
My Recommendation: Comsol 15000mAH Power Bank Dual USB Charger
#15 Digital Multimeter
An absolute winner, especially if you road trip Australia for a long time, a multimeter is definitely something you shouldn’t pass over … like I did at first!
Essentially this little gadget allows you to test the voltage of your dual battery system, helping you to determine how effectively your solar panel is working, how much voltage your fridge is drawing and, most importantly, whether you’ll be able to start your car in the morning!
My digital multimeter is just a simple 2-pronged tool that you have to put against the terminals to get a reading, but it works just fine.
Better yet, would be to get a hard wired volt or amp meter from your battery to a viewable display gauge that easily allows you to take a reading just at a glance.
This will save you tons of time trying to second guess how many volts your battery is sitting at and whether you need to run the car, up the solar panel or switch off the fridge!
My Recommendation: Crenova MS8233D Digital Mulitmeter
PIN IT FOR LATER!
So there you have it, the 15 essential gadgets I couldn’t (and you shouldn’t) road trip Australia without.
I was desperately looking for this sort of straightforward information before I started my trip, but couldn’t find anything, so helpfully this will be of use to some of you.
Of course, do let me know if I missed anything and don’t forget to tell me your number 1 essential road trip gadget in the comments below…