Fun Things to Keep In Your Car: 12 Items We Keep in Our Car for Local Adventures

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This post is sponsored by REI. All opinions are my own.

We love adventuring far away in the outdoors. But it’s just as important to us to enjoy peaceful rest and rejuvenation in nature close to our home. We love carving space for our family to relax, play and connect, and one of the best ways to do that is by exploring locally. This is especially true with a new baby at home! So we love having some fun things to keep in your car to make local adventures easier.

Nearby adventures are wonderful because they allow us to explore much more frequently and with significantly less time and money. State, regional, and county parks are wonderful, as are local trails and nature centers. Plus, day adventures mean that we don’t need to pack and prepare nearly as much, cutting down on planning stress. It’s a wonderful and restful way to enjoy nature.

REI is one of our favorite places to pick up items for our adventure checklist that are versatile enough to serve us for adventures long and short, near and far. We love that we can trust that the products are well-made and functional. And especially with a large family, we love that that the co-op has items that are more affordable but still really durable and can be passed down through multiple kids. REI co-op items have been a great way to help our kids get involved in planning and preparing for adventures without a huge financial investment.

Here are a few things we either leave in our car or have easily accessible in the garage to throw into the trunk quickly. They’ve made it so much easier to prioritize and say yes to frequent local adventures!

Water & Food

Water is one of the most important things to have on hand for emergencies and fun in the car. We always keep a pack of disposable water bottles in the trunk, and also keep an extra large water bottle (available at REI) filled. It’s great for refilling kiddo water bottles or drinking from directly, and we try to fill it at least every few days. We also like to keep a ziplock bag or basket of shelf-stable snacks in the car just in case – some nut bars work great for this.

First Aid Kit

A first aid kit is another necessity that we always leave in the car. We don’t have a fancy one but it’s definitely useful for scrapes, stings, etc. We like this basic first aid kit and always include some of our favorite bandages that stay on really well. REI has tons of first aid kit options at different sizes and price points.

Here are a few things we always add into our first aid kit or nearby in the glove box:

  • I love throwing some floss in there – it’s come in handy so many times!
  • Some zip top plastic bags are so useful – we’ve used them for everything from holding onto a tick to get tested to containing wet clothes (or vomit…) to protecting a cell phone from water.
  • Hand sanitizer – we like keeping a pump handy for everyone to clean their hands after an adventure
  • Motion sickness medication – we usually keep Bonine or Dramamine and some patches available

Collapsible Bin

We love this Pack Away Bin from REI that collapses down when not in use. It’s perfect to stick in the trunk to easily contain any gear like hiking backpacks and poles so they’re not strewn everywhere. We love these kids’ hiking backpacks from REI that fit perfectly in the bin because they’re great for a quick nearby hike for snacks and water, or for travel and overnights. These kids hiking poles from REI are a fun recent addition that will be great for balance on rockier trails.

Shoes are another thing that always seem to be strewn about the car as my kids sometimes prefer removing them while we drive. It’s been so nice to contain everything in this bin!

Picnic Blanket or Mat

We love keeping a waterproof blanket in the car for spontaneous picnics! This one folds up really small so it’s perfect to slip in the glove box. I love that it’s easy to clean and very portable. We don’t live somewhere that it gets cold but we love keeping this warm blanket found at REI (and also here) in the RV just in case we get stuck somewhere.


There’s nothing like mosquitoes to make me really not want to be outside at all. The Thermacell is awesome because it’s small and portable but creates a 20-ft. area to repel mosquitoes. Perfect for picnics and camping or other times when we’re not constantly moving. REI has both the Thermacell and refills available.

Battery-Powered Car Jump Starter

Of all the emergency supplies we keep in the car, this car battery jump starter is one of the most useful that we’ve been grateful to have a number of times. We’ve even used it right in our garage after returning from a long trip and our car hasn’t been driven for a while so the battery died. It eliminates the need for another car to jump start your car battery, which is so much easier. We always leave this tucked under the front seat of the car.

Headlamp or Flashlight

It’s always good to have a headlamp or flashlight handy in your car for adventures or any emergencies. It’s definitely easier to use in the dark than a cell phone light! We personally prefer a headlamp as it’s more versatile and easier to use, especially if there’s something that needs to be fixed, but we’ve also been glad to have them for things like caves and such.

REI has a huge variety of options for headlamps and flashlights; I love that there are tons of different styles depending on how powerful you need it to be. This headlamp is our personal favorite. It’s amazing and super high quality and we really love it. This headlamp is more basic and great if you want a few to stash in there. And this is a great little inexpensive and basic flashlight to keep handy.

Portable Power Bank

We love this portable charger because it’s super fast and provides multiple charges. We’ve had ours for several years and it still works perfectly! I also love this tiny one that’s great for sticking in a pocket while out and about.

Sunscreen, Insect Repellent, Baby Powder

We always keep a few tubes of sunscreen handy in the car so we’re ready to hop out for adventures. This is our favorite sunblock for kids – it’s a mineral sunblock that blends and protects so well (and is reef safe). It also comes in stick and spray form. I also really love this mineral sunscreen (that also smells amazing).

We also always keep a bottle of insect repellent lotion and baby powder handy – the latter is the best for removing sand before getting in the car.

Phone Mount

A phone GPS makes it super easy to change adventure plans and reroute if we want, and we love having a simple little phone mount to make navigation easy and much safer. We stick these magnetic backs on our phones so we can easily pop them up on the mount. We always have offline Google Maps downloaded for our area (be sure to refresh every month or so) so even if we don’t have cell service, we can get to where we want to go. Be sure to always keep a paper map handy, too!

Duct Tape

One of our family jokes is, “Tape works for everything!” And while that’s not quite true, it certainly feels close to it. Duct tape is a great thing to keep handy for fixes or just functionality.

Baby Wipes

If there’s one item that parenting has introduced me to that I will surely purchase for the rest of my life, it’s baby wipes. So multi-functional. So useful. We always have a big pack in the car for spills, cleaning hands, cleaning surfaces, and, yes, for actual babies. I strangely have opinions on them and really like these for the texture and scent.

We love that REI has helped us get ready for every adventure, even spontaneous ones close to home. I hope this encourages you to have a mindset of adventure and to take advantage of some local gems by having some functional and simple gear to make those adventures as easy as possible.

What are your go-to items to keep in your car for adventures? I’d love to hear your favorites!



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