There are many great road trips to take through Australia, but exploring Outback Australia is one of the best ways to experience the spectacular landscapes, unique wildlife and ancient aboriginal culture of Australia.
When exploring Outback Australia it is important to plan your travel and ensure you get your packing list right. Once you set off into Outback Australia, stores are few and far between if you have forgotten something!
Our Outback Australia packing list covers the essentials you need for a road trip through the Top End. Whether you rent a 4wd camper, join a guided tour or take your own car, ensure you include these essential items on your packing list.
- 1 Outback Australia Packing List Essentials
- 2 Bags
- 3 Clothing packing list
- 4 Shoes
- 5 Toiletries and Medication
- 6 Lighting
- 7 Cooking and Kitchenware
- 8 Technology
- 9 Miscellaneous
Outback Australia Packing List Essentials
In addition to your luggage, which should ideally be a backpack or soft duffel bag that can be flattened and stored, we recommend you add a small day pack to your packing list.
Not only is a day pack essential for hiking and getting out and about, they are useful to store your camera and other valuables in your car or van. If you have older kids we suggest you also pack a day pack for them as it helps share the load when hiking.
For the kids this 1.5l Camelbak Mini Mule day pack is perfect for hiking. It carries 1.5 litres of water and has a small section for snacks. It is important not to get dehydrated and carrying enough water when hiking is one of our key tips for a Northern Territory Road Trip.
Reusable shopping bags
Many supermarkets in Australia have banned plastic bags, so we suggest you carry a few reusable shopping bags. Essential at the supermarket, they also come in handy for storing shoes, swimwear and towels and even clothes in the van.
We love these shopping bags as they are collapsible and have a firm base which makes them useful for storing and easily retrieving items in the van or car.
If you are planning to kayak or swim whilst on your Outback Australia road trip, add a small dry bag to your road trip packing list.
These are great for keeping your camera, phone and wallet dry when you are out on the water.
They are also useful for storing wet swimwear in the car between campsites and for keeping your camera safe from leaking water bottles or reservoirs in your day pack.
We recommend the Osprey Ultralight 3l Dry Sack as it is compact and light, but is big enough to fit your camera, mobile phones and wallets inside.
We have traveled around the world and packing cubes are hands down the BEST way to store clothing when traveling. Especially when you have kids!
Not only do packing cubes make storing and finding clothes easy when moving each day, they also help compress clothes so they take up less space.
On our Outback Australia road trip we combined the packing cubes into one soft duffel bag which we could move into the tent easily each night.
We recommend you choose a different colour packing cube for each person and take one or two per person.
We love our Kathmandu packing cubes as they have a mesh front to easily see inside and they come in different colours. There are a number of excellent brands available in the US including these ones from Bagail and these ones from ebags.
Clothing packing list
In terms of what clothes to pack for a road trip, the Top End enjoys warm weather all year round. In fact as we were traveling in the dry season we didn’t even pack a rain or winter jacket.
If you are traveling further south to Central Australia to visit Alice Springs and Uluru you will definitely need to pack a jacket and some warmer clothing as night time temperatures are significantly lower than up north in the top end.
We like to travel light and to be honest, on a road trip there often isn’t a lot of space, so we suggest you try and keep your clothes packing list short! If you plan to hand wash every few days you really don’t need to pack a lot of clothing.
Whether we travel for 2 weeks or 2 months, this is all the clothing we each pack when traveling to warmer climates:
- 3 x t-shirts or tank tops
- 3 x shorts
- 1 x dress for the ladies/girls
- 1 x lightweight long sleeved top
- 1 x lightweight pair of pants
- 3 x socks
- 4 x underwear
- 1 x summer pyjamas
- 1 x lightweight fleece/pullover
- 1 x swimsuit
- 1 x hat
- 1 x rash guard for swimming
When deciding what to pack for Outback Australia, our best tips are:
- Pack patterned or dark, lightweight clothing. It gets hot during the day and you won’t want to wear thick, heavy clothing.
- Avoid light coloured clothing – the red dirt of Outback Australia is unforgiving on light coloured clothing.
- A long sleeved lightweight shirt and lightweight pants are essential. They are great for evenings and mornings when it is a little cooler, for preventing sunburn and protecting against mosquito bites.
- Pack dark coloured socks. White socks will never be the same again after visiting Outback Australia!
At a minimum you will need a pair of closed toe shoes and a pair of flip flops on your Outback Australia packing list. A third pair, waterproof sandals, are a great option too.
Hiking shoes: We prefer trail runners over traditional hiking boots as they are lightweight, can double as a pair of running shoes and provide good stability for day hikes. We all have Salomon trail runners and pack them whenever we travel.
Flip flops: These are essential (not surprising advice from an Australian!). When I am not hiking, these are my go to shoes. Great for wearing around town, at the campsite and in the shower at campgrounds.
After trying many brands all around the world, we love and recommend Havaianas. Granted, they cost a little more than other brands, but in our experience they also last longer and are more comfortable than most other brands too.
Waterproof sandals: If you are struggling for space these are optional, but we used sandals a lot on our 2 week Northern Territory Road Trip. They were great for short walks to swimming holes, kayaking, they made scrambling over rocks easy and they can also be worn in the water.
Both our kids have Keens and we think they are one of the best waterproof sandals we have ever purchased. Comfortable, robust and quick drying, we love our Keens and highly recommend them!
Toiletries and Medication
In addition to your regular toiletries and medication we recommend you include these items on your Outback Australia packing list:
A first aid kit: You can make up your own or purchase this one. When you are hours away from the nearest town, a basic first aid kit is essential when traveling through Outback Australia.
50+ SPF sunscreen: Sunscreen is essential in Australia as the sun is much stronger than in USA and Europe. We suggest you bring a 50+ SPF marine friendly sunscreen – not only will your skin thank you, so will the fish.
Menstrual cup: This one is for the female travellers to the Outback. Menstrual cups take up very little room in your luggage, are a great zero waste option, are environmentally friendly and means you don’t need to be worried when the nearest store is hours away.
Easy to use and clean, they are a female travellers best friend! For your tween or teenage daughter, these pants from ModiBodi are the best alternative to a menstrual cup for travel.
Hand sanitiser and baby wipes are essential as running water is not available at all campsites in the Top End.
While Outback Australia is thankfully free of nasty diseases like malaria and dengue fever, getting bitten by mosquitoes, sand flies, flying ants and who knows what else is still likely on a trip to Outback Australia!
We recommend you carry a good quality mosquito repellent and wear light weight long sleeved shirt and pants in the evening.
We also strongly recommend you take the Thermacell Mosquito Repeller with you.
If you have read about our night staying in Ubirr in Kakadu National Park you will know WHY we recommend this product!
Tried and tested, this is the only product we have found on the market that actually works to keep mosquitoes away.
Note that you cannot fly with the butane gas canisters that come in the kit, but refills can be purchased in Australia.
Pretty much all National Park campgrounds in the Northern Territory are unpowered, so you will need your own camp lighting.
Most campervans come with basic outdoor lighting, but to be honest they are usually not sufficient for cooking or playing card games outside.
LED Camping Lights
A powerful LED light makes all the difference when cooking outside in the evenings when camping. There are a couple of different options available.
In Australia we are spoilt for choice, and our favourite is the Hard Korr camping light kit. Do what we did and buy the kit together with some friends and split the components up between you! We use two light bars with a dimmer when we are camping or on a road trip. You can buy your Hard Korr camping light kit here.
In the USA another good option is the Luminoodle. It has a million different uses and operates in the same way with a 12v USB connection.
While carrying LED lights is ideal, the absolutely essential light to include on your Outback Australia packing list is a head torch. We travel with two head torches for 4 people. They are particularly useful for trips to the bathroom in the dark and for reading inside the tent in the evening.
We would go so far as to say you can’t really camp / road trip without a head torch as there are many times you won’t have power. We even use them when heading out before sunrise or around sunset for walks to light the way.
Cooking and Kitchenware
On our road trip through the Northern Territory we rented a 4wd camper. This vehicle came fully equipped with cooking equipment and kitchenware. If you are considering renting a camper or even if you are taking your own vehicle, you will need to ensure you have these cooking essentials on your packing list:
- Cooking pots, kettle, fry pan, salad bowl, chopping board
- Large and small plates, bowls, cups and mugs
- Containers for storing food
- Knives, forks, spoons, vegetable peeler, sharp knife, egg flip, large cooking spoon, bottle opener
- Wash cloth, dish detergent, universal plug, tea towels
- Laundry detergent, universal plug and rope/pegs for a clothesline
In addition to these essentials, there are a couple of extra items we always pack and recommend you add to your Outback Australia packing list:
StoveTop coffee maker: If you are like me and can’t get by without a daily coffee fix, don’t leave home without the Bialetti Stovetop Espresso Maker. Easy to use on any portable gas stove, they are virtually indestructible and make an excellent coffee. We love our little Bialetti and pack him every time we head off on a road trip.
If you are a coffee lover we also suggest you pack a portable coffee grinder for the freshest cup of espresso. You can find the best manual coffee grinder options here.
Collapsible wash tubs save a load of space, which is a good thing in a 4WD camper. They are great for washing dishes and clothes. You can even get collapsible colanders and buckets too!
Refillable water bottles for each person. Environmentally friendly and essential when traveling to Outback Australia, a refillable water bottle is the easiest way for everyone to stay hydrated whilst driving and when in camp.
Toast maker: If you are like me and love toast for breakfast, then don’t travel without this nifty little device.
Whenever we road trip, this dude is in our luggage. It is especially handy when you have kids and you are cooking for 4 or more. Buy your time saving toast maker here.
Swiss army knife: One of the most essential items to include on your Outback Australia packing list. We have traveled with an army knife for over 20 years. We love this one as it has all the essentials you need when traveling.
Nowadays the electronics packing list is almost as long as the list for everything else! We detail our travel electronics here and here. But in summary the essentials to add to your Outback Australia packing list are:
- A lightweight mirrorless camera like our Olympus OM-D E-M10
- A kindle
- A portable power bank like this one to charge your devices
- Good quality headphones like these for listening to audio books and music.
And finally, all the other stuff! Here are some of our best suggestions for random items to include on your Outback Australia packing list:
Pacsafe Portable Safe Bag: For peace of mind, we recommend traveling with the Pacsafe Portable Safe. This is very handy as many travel insurance policies do not cover gear stolen from a vehicle, even when it is locked.
Whether you are parked in a car park, campground or in the wilderness, your most important items will be securely stored in the vehicle.
Inflatable surf mat – this may seem random, but an inflatable surf mat is one of the best things to include on your Outback Australia packing list.
Why? Well if you are not a strong swimmer, or you have kids who are still learning to swim, the surf mats make it much easier to swim across the waterholes, reach the waterfalls and cruise around looking for fun places to jump in from!
Fabric mats are much more robust than plastic ones and we highly recommend them. You can check the latest prices here.
Don’t forget a lighter or matches for starting campfires which you can have in most national park campgrounds if there is not a fireban.
Light weight quick dry towel – who wants to carry a bulky, heavy, wet towel around? For years we have used microfiber travel towels like these ones. Not only are they quick drying, they are absorbent, soft and lightweight.
The new designs are way better than the old ones which were more like a chamois than a towel. Microfiber towels are perfect for a road trip or backpacking and you should ensure you include one on your Outback Australia packing list.
Northern Territory Guide Book – mobile reception is very patchy in the Northern Territory, in fact we went almost a week without any reception at all! So we suggest you carry a hard copy guide book with you to plan your trip along the way.
We have been using Lonely Planet for over 20 years and recommend them to every traveler.
What have we missed on our Outback Australia Packing List? Share your best road trip packing list tips in the comments below!
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