First, Essential PrinciplesNo campervan essentials article would be complete without an actual list of must-have items for your trip. But before we get to that, I want to share with you my most effective campervan packing hacks. Following these guidelines has helped me develop a more mindful approach to packing, and hopefully they will help you get the most out of your campervan adventure as well!
Don’t Wait Until the Last Minute
The enemy of a relaxing campervan vacation is procrastination. Although it feels good at the time, procrastination is not a great strategy heading into a trip. In order to maximize fun and minimize last minute panic, I always plan my trip and pack my van ahead of time. It might be painful to give up some me time, but smooth sailing down the road makes the sacrifice totally worth it!
Find Your Ideal Balance
Don’t be the campervan owner that crams all of his or her worldly possessions inside for a 1-week road trip. I have found it’s important to find an ideal balance between minimalism and enough. So, how do I decide what to take with me?
- Comfort – I don’t skimp on the bed, or anything else I need to ensure my quality of sleep and ability to relax.
- Safety – Although tempting, I don’t leave behind safety essentials such as a first aid kit, warm clothing, or heating.
- Space – Crowding my already limited space with clutter will not end well for anyone, so I try to bring miniature versions of products.
- Essentials – I make sure to bring enough of the important stuff to avoid spending valuable time shopping, compromising, or improvising.
Pack Your Pleasure
What makes your bad days a little better? One way I stay sane on my campervan journey is by bringing one or two indulgences to get me through the rainy or, God forbid, broken down days.
I suggest something you don’t need to be connected for, because there isn’t always cell service or wifi on the road. Some of my favorites are books, a deck of cards, puzzle workbooks, coloring pages, and art. Mad Libs are still classic fun for 2 or more travelers!
I confess I don’t like to exercise. I still get out and get active, but more days than not it’s a mental battle. So, it comes as no surprise I try to use my campervan trips as an excuse to take a vacation from exercise.
However, I know staying active on the journey is one of the most important factors in having a fun trip: exercise keeps you alert on the road, mentally happy, and helps to regulate sleep.
Instead of stopping for extra coffee or, worse, a sugary snack, I pull over to do a few stretches, squats or a few jumping jacks to get the blood flowing before hitting the next stretch of road.
Therefore, it is important to save space to carry your bicycle, yoga mat, climbing gear, hiking shoes, or any other gear you need to stay active!
When I used to go on road trips in the car, I fell into the nasty habit of buying something every time I stopped for gas or the bathroom. On one extended weekend trip, I bought every single meal on the road. Not only was I kicking myself for wasting money, I had also done a great disservice to my energy levels and digestive system.
Now that I know eating healthy is a key aspect of having a good time on the journey, I make sure to plan my meals ahead of time.
The Quality Equipment Advantage
Deciding whether to buy disposable versus long-lasting equipment for your campervan adventures can be difficult. I have found the best answer lies in how often I will use the items: When it comes to critical gear, it’s better to dole out the cash initially for higher quality equipment.
What are some items I splurge on?
- Compressor fridge – It is tempting to buy an ice cooler or thermoelectric cooler, but a good compressor fridge will last long enough to pay for itself.
- Coffee maker or hot water pot – Whether you enjoy a cup of java or tea, splurging on your comfort beverage is completely necessary.
- Quality bedding – Although initially cost prohibitive, a high-end, comfortable, easy to clean sleeping bag and/or bedding are worth it. And few things will improve your rest like a quality pillow.
- Portable toilet – There are times you can’t get to a public restroom, so it’s important to bite the bullet and get yourself a well-designed portable toilet.
- Heat – Being continuously cold makes a campervan trip unbearable, so don’t skimp on a safe, cost effective heating method.
To Bring or To Buy
Since space in a campervan is limited, choosing which items to bring versus which items to buy can be tricky. Some items I buy on the road or at my destination include:
- Non-essentials such as alcohol or unexpected medicines
- Fresh meat and veggies that aren’t road snacks
- Food as storage allows
- Items for unexpected weather (umbrella) or a change of destination (swimwear)
One Last Word…
Some forethought, planning, and investment can be the difference between a smooth, epic adventure and a stressful, harried experience. I hope my hard-won knowledge can help you develop a mindset that’s the most cost effective and leads to the most fun for your campervan journeys. Now, onto the packing list!
The basic campervan essentials list for van travel
Camping stove or BBQ grill and fuel
Plates and Utensils: Plates, bowls, cups, mugs, knives, forks and spoons
Cooking Tools: Can opener/bottle opener, spatula, tongs etc.
Cookware: Pot, pan, dutch oven
Fire: Matches/lighter, firewood or charcoal and lighter fluid
Condiments: Salt, pepper, sauces, etc.
Clean up: Dish soap (preferably biodegradable), sponge, scrubber, dish towel
Storage: Tupperware, aluminum foil, plastic wrap
Paper towels and paper or cloth napkins
Fridge/Freezer, Cooler, Ice, thermos
Sturdy walking shoes or boots
Pants, jeans and shorts
Shirts, sweatshirts, sweaters and jacket
Hat, baseball cap…
Socks and underwear
Bathing suit – if water sports or a pool are available at your destination
Pajamas, sweats or other sleepwear
Shower shoes/flip flops
Rain gear: raincoat, waterproof pants, umbrella, etc.
Towels and washcloth
Toothbrush, paste, floss
Contact lenses and solution/glasses
First aid kit (Coming soon: Camping first aid kit essentials article).
Insect repellent, citronella candles
Flashlight, camping lantern, extra batteries, bulb, fuel, mantle
Camera, batteries, film, memory card
Folding camp chairs
Canteen, water bottles…
Quarters for hot showers and laundry
Cell phone and charger
Maps / Road Atlas
Activity equipment: Frisbee, fishing gear, biking gear etc.
Radio – a solar powered or wind up one can be particularly useful
DVDs – if you have a portable DVD player
iPod with FM transmitter – music to listen to through your car stereo whilst you are driving
Thanks for reading!
What are your essentials? What’s must have indulgence do you make room for no matter what? Please comment below.