There are many great road trips to take through Australia, but an Australian Outback road trip is one of the best ways to experience the spectacular landscapes, unique wildlife and ancient aboriginal culture of Australia.
When you plan your outback trip it is important to get your Outback Australia packing list right. Once you set off to travel Outback Australia, stores are few and far between if you have forgotten something!
So if you are not sure what to pack for a road trip to the Top End, or just want to be sure you don’t forget anything, this is the guide for you!
Our Outback camping checklist covers the outback 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 outback camping essentials on your packing list.
- 1 Outback Australia Packing List Table
- 2 Outback Road Trip Essentials Australia
- 3 Travel Bags For Outback Trips
- 4 Outback Road Trip Health and Safety
- 5 Outback Camping Lighting Essentials
- 6 Outback Trip Cooking and Kitchenware Essentials
- 7 Technology For Outback Road Trips
- 8 Outback Clothing packing list
- 9 Essential Shoes For Outback Camping
- 10 Essential Toiletries and Medication
- 11 Other Packing list Items To Consider
- 12 Outback Holidays FAQs
- 13 Before You Go
- 14 More Travel Gear Guides
Outback Australia Packing List Table
If you are short on time and don’t want to read the full article, below is a handy table where you can see the top Australian outback clothing and outback camping gear that we recommend below.
Read on to find out why these items (and plenty more items too) are Australian outback travel essentials.
|Hema Northern Territory Handy Map||- Detailed map with camp areas, fuel stops, tracks||CHECK|
|Thermacell Armoured Mosquito Repellent||- 21 sq metre protection|
- Portable and lightweight
|Scrubba wash bag||- compact wash bag |
- perfect for camping and road trips
|HardKorr LED Camping Light Kit||- 2 bars|
- 12m cabling
|First Aid Kit||- 280 piece kit|
- Compact size
|Black Diamond Headlamp||- 350 lumens||CHECK|
|Grayl Geopress water purifier filter bottle||- 700ml capacity|
- Filters 99.99% of pathogens
|Pacsafe Portable Safe||- Fits 15" laptop|
- Water resistant
- TSA lock included
|Victorinox Swiss Army Knife||- 15 functions|
- Lifetime warranty
|CamelBak Hydrobak Backback||- Ventilated mesh back|
- 1.5 L capacity
|Insulated Grocery Bag Set||-insulated shopping bag|
- heavy duty material
|Sea To Summit Drysack||- 4L capacity|
- Fully waterproof
|Packing Cubes Set||- Mesh panel for easy identification|
- Dual Zippers
|Bialetti Moka Express Coffee Maker||- 4 cups|
- Quality coffee
|Folding Camp Stove Toast Maker||- 4 slice gas toaster||CHECK|
|Anker Power Bank Charger||- Dual input port|
- 3 USB ports
Outback Road Trip Essentials Australia
Below we go into more detail about the outback camping gear you should consider for an outback road trip.
Travel Bags For Outback Trips
In addition to your luggage, which should ideally be a backpack or soft duffel bag that can be flattened and stored, there are a couple of other kinds of bags we recommend you add to your Australia road trip packing list.
On any road trip one of the biggest challenges is where to store the important stuff when you are not with the vehicle – like passports, cameras, ipads, laptops etc.
It is super annoying to have to take everything with you every time you head out, which is why we recommend traveling with the Pacsafe Portable Safe.
Made of anti-theft mesh fabric and with a stainless steel locking cable, you simply put your valuables inside and attach the locked bag to any immovable object – in the car, in your hotel room or outside.
This is one of the best purchases we have made for our travels and is handy for outback road trips as many travel insurance policies do not cover tech gear stolen from inside a vehicle, even when it is locked.
The Pacsafe portable safe comes in a range of sizes from a small 5 L to a large 25L.
We have the 12L pack and it comfortably fits a laptop, ipad, SLR camera, headphones and all our passports and cards.
If you don’t have a laptop you could go for the 5L option which still fits an tablet.
Whether you are parked in a car park, campground or in the wilderness, your most important items will be securely stored in the vehicle.
Unless you are staying in a hotel or caravan park, there are few laundromats or even washing facilities to wash your clothes at most basic campgrounds.
Until recently we would just hand wash our clothes in a bucket, but now we travel with the aptly named Scrubba laundry bag.
This cleverly designed bag makes it easy to wash, scrub and rinse your clothes in an enclosed wash bag.
We own and love our Scrubba laundry bag.
There are raised bumps on the inside of the bag to help agitate the dirt out of your clothes and get them clean.
Better still the water is contained, so no sloshing about creating mud or mess around you when washing.
The Scrubba is not only great for road trips, we take it on international trips too and save on expensive laundry services.
It is perfect for regular washing of socks and underwear and can fit several t-shirts or shorts in each cycle too.
A good day pack essential for hiking and getting out and about, plus they are useful to store your camera and other valuables in your car or van.
You will need a daypack large enough to pack your camera, hats and snacks.
But it is also a good idea to have a smaller lightweight pack just for water, especially if you are planning to hike in the outback.
It is important not to get dehydrated when travelling in the outback and carrying enough water when hiking is one of our key tips for a Northern Territory Road Trip.
We own and love the CamelBak HydroBak.
This pack is lightweight, has a small pocket for keys, sunglasses and a snack and includes a 1.5 litre reservoir.
It comes with a lifetime warranty too!
The HydroBak is a suitable size for older kids to use or for smaller kids this Mini Mule day pack is great too.
We recommend that you pack a small day pack for the kids as it really helps share the water load when walking to billabongs and hiking.
One of the highlights of a Top End road trip and Australian outback camping is swimming at the gorgeous billabongs.
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 or near 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 Sea to Summit Dry Sack.
Compact and light, they come in a range of colours and sizes. The 4L sack is big enough to fit your camera, mobile phones and wallets inside.
With a fully waterproof roll-top closure and coated fabric, they are an essential item for water activities.
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 that we could easily transfer into the tent each night.
We love these packing cubes thanks to the mesh top panel, dual zippers, colour range and range of sizes.
The mesh panel makes it easy to identify what is inside.
We recommend you choose a different colour packing cube for each person to help quickly locate your things and take one or two per person.
Reusable shopping bags
Most supermarkets in Australia have banned plastic bags, so we suggest you carry a few reusable shopping bags for buying groceries.
We love these shopping bags as they are insulated, collapsible and stand upright.
Essential at the supermarket, they also come in handy for storing shoes, swimwear, wet towels and even clothes in your car or van.
Outback Road Trip Health and Safety
When you are a long way from town, it is essential you pack road trip equipment to protect your health and safety.
If you are hiring a 4WD check your vehicle comes with a shovel, emergency beacon (EPIRB), jerry can, snatch strap and D shackles.
If not ask for them to be included. When taking your own vehicle ensure these are added to your packing list.
Internet and GPS access can be unreliable at times in outback areas and you don’t always want to use your phone charge all day as a map.
So a physical map is one of our outback camping essentials. We always carry a paper map of the area we are traveling to and strongly recommend you do too.
Hema Maps are a trusted source of 4WD and touring maps for Australia.
They offer simple paper maps as well as detailed touring guides and camp site guides.
The handy State Map series are great, with track details, camp sites and fuel stops clearly marked.
We highly recommend you purchase the Hema Northern Territory Map to plan and use during your trip.
First Aid Kit
When you are hours away from the nearest town, a basic first aid kit is essential when traveling through Outback Australia.
You can make up your own kit or purchase one.
With all the basic first aid equipment you need for treating minor injuries in a compact carry bag, you can store it under the seat out of the way.
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.
There are some areas of the outback with a serious mosquito problem and for that you need something more than mosquito repellent and we strongly recommend you pack the Thermacell Mosquito Repeller.
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.
Thermacell now have a range of different styles but I still like this handheld model as it is so portable and lightweight.
Important note: you cannot fly with the butane gas canisters that come in the kit, but refills can be purchased in many supermarkets and outdoor stores when you arrive.
Water Filter Bottle
We found large containers of fresh water were always readily available in towns and recommend you stock up each time you pass through as many campgrounds do not have drinking water.
But if you are planning on hiking long distances or being away from town for long periods, it is worth considering a water filter bottle.
It is very easy to use and can filter 700ml of water in less than a minute. It filters out 99.9% of waterborne pathogens, heavy metals, pesticides and sediment.
It is one of our best road trip investments yet and we love it.
Outback Camping Lighting Essentials
Pretty much all National Park campgrounds in the Northern Territory are unpowered, so you will need to take your own camp lighting.
Most 4wd campervan rentals come with basic outdoor lighting, but to be honest they are usually not sufficient for cooking or playing card games outside.
So below we have listed some great outdoor lighting to consider packing.
LED Camping Lights
A powerful LED light makes all the difference when cooking outside in the evenings when camping in the outback Australia.
The Hardkorr LED camping kit is a great option to consider adding to your outback camping equipment checklist. They connect to your battery but don’t use a lot of power,
You can choose between cool, warm or orange light. They have a magnetised back for easy attachment to tents and vans and are waterproof too.
We use and love the Hardkorr camping light kit and can’t rate it highly enough.
We use two light bars with a dimmer when we are camping or on a road trip. One bar for the cooking area and one for the tent.
It isn’t cheap but you could do what we did and buy the 4 bar kit together with some friends and split the components up between you!
While carrying LED lights is ideal, the most essential light to include on your Outback road trip packing list is a head torch.
To conserve space 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.
These head lamps by Black Diamond have 350 lumens and two power settings with easy to use touch sensitive housing to switch between the settings.
They also have red night-vision and a compact design.
They are a great choice if you are looking for a good quality head torch for camping.
Outback Trip Cooking and Kitchenware Essentials
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:
- Gas stove and gas, 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, tongs
- Wash cloth, dish detergent, universal plug, tea towels, rubbish bags
- Laundry detergent and rope/pegs for a clothesline
In addition to these road trip camping 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 for your Outback road trip without a portable coffee maker.
There are many different brewers available and this article reviews the top travel coffee maker options. Our top pick is the Bialetti Moka Pot.
If you love fresh coffee 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.
Easy to use on any portable gas stove, the Bialetti Moka pot is virtually indestructible and make an excellent coffee.
They come in a range of sizes – the 4 cup is suitable for 2 people.
We love our little Bialetti and pack him every time we head off on a road trip.
Swiss Army Knife
One of the most essential items to include on your Outback Australia packing list is a Swiss Army knife.
We have traveled with an army knife for over 20 years. They have so many uses from slicing to opening cans to cutting things and whittling things.
We love the Mountaineer as it has all the essentials you need when traveling.
If you love toast for breakfast, this is one of the best camping accessories you can buy!
Whenever we road trip, this dude is in our luggage.
It sits atop your gas stove so you don’t need to hold it while it cooks.
It is especially handy when you have kids and you are cooking for 4 or more.
Other kitchen items
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. Click here to see our top pick.
Refillable water bottles – one 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.
Technology For Outback Road Trips
Nowadays the electronics packing list is almost as long as the list for everything else!
Multi-Port USB Charger
Essential to keep all those devices you pack running, a multi port USB charger is essential to carry if you travel with a lot of tech.
If you have laptops and ipads you will need to pair this USB charger with a car power inverter to charge them effectively.
We share our favourite inverter in this article.
A multi port USB charger makes charging everyone’s phone and tech devices really simple.
A power bank is useful to carry when you are away from the car. Charge it when you are driving to each destination so it is ready to use when you arrive.
We own this power bank by Anker and it is great.
With a compact size and tough exterior (it has been dropped many times by the kids), we highly recommend this power bank.
Outback 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.
Note: if you are traveling further south to Central Australia to visit Alice Springs and Uluru in Winter you will definitely need to pack a jacket, thermals, beanie and trackpants 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.
What to Wear In the Outback?
When traveling to warmer climates, the best road trip clothes are lightweight, loose fitting, quick drying and offer good sun protection.
To give you an idea of what to pack, whether we travel for 2 weeks or 2 months, this is all the clothing we take for each person:
- 3 x t-shirts
- 3 x shorts
- 1 x dress for the ladies/girls
- 1 x lightweight long sleeved shirt or top
- 1 x lightweight pair of pants with pockets
- 3 x socks (including 1 pair of hiking socks)
- 4 x underwear / 2 x bras
- 1 x summer pyjamas
- 1 x lightweight fleece/pullover
- 1 x swimsuit
- 1 x hat
- 1 x rash guard for swimming
- 1 x rain jacket
- 1 x winter gear (beanie, gloves, scarf, down jacket) – Season dependent
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 outback clothes.
- 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!
- Don’t pack your best clothes. It is likely they will come home with a slight orange tinge that you can’t remove.
Essential Shoes For Outback Camping
At a minimum you will need a pair of closed toe shoes and a pair of sandals or flip flops on your Outback Australia packing list.
A third pair, river or water sandals, are a great option too.
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.
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!
We think 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.
It is nice to get out of your hiking shoes when in camp, and we always pack flip flops when traveling in Australia.
Essential Toiletries and Medication
In addition to your regular toiletries and medication we recommend you include these items on your Outback Australia packing list.
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.
This one is for the female travellers to the Outback.
Easy to use and clean, they are a female travellers best friend! Click here to check the price.
For your tween or teenage daughter, these pants from ModiBodi are the best alternative to a menstrual cup for travel.
Sanitiser and Wipes
Hand sanitiser and baby wipes are essential for your outback trip as running water is not available at all campsites in the Top End.
So when you are trying to conserve your water supplies, wipes and sanitiser good alternatives for cleaning.
In addition to the Thermacell, a good bug spray is a must.
Mosquitos and bugs are common on NT and the Red centre, so you will need to apply when out and about, hiking, in camp etc.
Other Packing list Items To Consider
And here is all the other stuff! Some of our best suggestions for random items to include on your Outback Australia packing list below.
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!
We like these Redback surfmats. They come in junior and adult sizes and are almost indestructable.
Light Weight Quick Dry Towel
Who wants to carry a bulky, heavy, wet towel around? For years we have used microfiber travel towels.
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.
If you don’t have an integrated fridge in your camper or caravan, a good quality insulated travel cooler is essential.
Food will not keep for long in the heat in your car without a cooler (commonly called an esky in Australia).
If you have the space a hard sided cooler is best and this one by Coleman is a great option..
Northern Territory Guide Book
Mobile reception is very patchy in the Northern Territory and a lot of outback Australia.
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. Click here to see the NT guide.
Finally 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.
If you would like to download this packing list for easy reference later, click here to grab your free road trip packing list printable.
Outback Holidays FAQs
How Cold Is The Outback At Night?
The temperature in the Outback at night varies greatly depending on when and where you go.
During the popular winter months from June to August, night time temperatures north of Katherine all the way up to Darwin generally don’t drop much below 15 degrees.
However in Central Australia (Alice Springs and Uluru), overnight temperatures during winter can drop below 0 Celsius.
Are There Mosquitos In The outback?
Yes, there are mosquitos in the Outback and they can carry diseases such as Ross River and rarely, Dengue.
To reduce the risk of being bitten you should wear long sleeved clothing at dawn and dusk, apply insect repellent and consider using a mosquito deterrent such as the Thermacell.
Before You Go
So that rounds out our outback essentials packing list for road trips.
If you are stopping in Darwin, check out the top things to do in Darwin here.
What have we missed on our Outback packing list for a road trip? Share your best road trip packing list Australia tips in the comments below!
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