What campervan essentials do I need for my journey?
No campervan essentials list would be complete without the must-have items for your trip.
But before we get to that, I want to share with you my most essential campervan gear 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.
Table of Contents
What should I take on a campervan trip?
You need to decide what’s most important for your comfort, enjoyment, safety and overall experience.
Some things to consider…
- Is the van already well equipped?
- Do I have a checklist of essentials for my trip?
- Am I renting a van, and is that van well equipped?
- Am I trusting someone else to have everything I need?
- Are my safety essentials packed?
This list will answer these questions and make sure you’ve got all the essential gear for a fun, comfortable vanlife journey.
Find your ideal campervan gear 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’s “enough” for camper van essentials?
- Comfort – I don’t skimp on the mattress, sleeping bag or other bedding, pillow, or anything else I need to ensure my quality of sleep.
- 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 for personal fun and 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
- A deck of cards
- Puzzle workbooks
- Coloring books, sketch books, art supplies or other art materials
- Mad Libs are still classic fun for 2 or more travelers
- Whatever brings you joy and excitement in life, find a way to bring it along
Gear to stay active on your campervan journey
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 during the journey is one of the most important factors in having a fun trip: Movement keeps me mentally sharp and alert during long periods of driving the road.
Instead of stopping for extra coffee or, worse, a sugary snack, I pull over to do a few stretches, squats or jumping jacks to get the blood flowing before hitting the next stretch of road.
And after I’m all set up at camp, as much as I’d like to plop into a folding chair for days on end, I make sure to enjoy my favorite athletic activities.
Therefore, it is important to make space to carry your bicycle, yoga mat, climbing gear, hiking shoes, or any other gear you need to stay active!
Eat healthy foods
When I used to go on road trips in the car, I fell into the 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, digestive system and overall health.
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.
Don’t wait until the last minute to pack camper van essentials
The enemy of a relaxing campervan vacation is procrastination.
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!
The quality campervan essentials 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 campervan gear, it’s better to dole out the cash initially for higher quality equipment.
Here’s another list of campervan gadgets you’ll find useful.
Some campervan gear that I splurge on
- Heat: Being continuously cold makes a campervan trip unbearable, so don’t skimp on a safe, cost effective heating method.
- 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, hot water boiler: Whether you enjoy a cup of java or tea, splurging on your comfort beverage is completely necessary.
- Quality bedding: High quality, comfortable, easy to clean sheets, mattress pads and sleeping bags are vital. And few things will improve your rest like a quality pillow.
- Campervan 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 campervan toilet.
- Power: 110 volt, “grid quality” power will expand your world of Vanlife appliances, tools and more. Our article on campervan power inverters will bring you up to speed on the best gear to power up your Vanlife!
Should you bring it or buy it on the road?
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 basic medicinals that are easy to acquire. Different for everyone and worth thinking about for your trip
- Fresh meat and veggies that aren’t road snacks
- Food as storage allows
- Items for unexpected weather (rain gear) or a change of destination (swimwear)
One last word about campervan essentials…
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.
And now, onto the packing list!
The complete campervan essentials list*
*Always growing and being improved. Please comment below to add your suggestions, which we take very seriously.
Thanks for reading!
Did we miss anything? Please comment below and we’ll seriously consider adding it to our list.
What’s on your Campervan essentials list?
What must-have items do you make room for no matter what? Please comment below.