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Campervan Essentials List: The ultimate campervan outfitting & packing guide

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.

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

  • Books
  • 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!

Vansage Campervan Essentials List

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.

Safety, Security & Medical

Carbon Monoxide Sensors & Alarms

  • Spare batteries

Fire Safety

  • Extinguishers, Fire blanket, Smoke alarm

First Aid

  • First aid book, First aid kit
  • Band aids, Wraps,

Pharma & Medical

  • Prescriptions, Epi pens, Asthma inhalers, Heart medicine, Diabetes essentials, Blood pressure monitor, Heart rate monitor, NSAIDS/pain killers, C-Pap,

Personal Safety

  • Emergency whistle, Pepper spray, Tazer, Snake bite kit, Epi pen, Mosquito repellent, Sunscreen

Sleep

Bedding

  • Sleeping bags, Pillows, Sheets & Pillow cases, Duvet & cover

Mattress

  • Toppers, Mattress covers
  • Air pump
  • Mosquito netting

Toiletries & Personal

Portable toilet

  • Bags, Cleaning supplies, Composting accessories

Toilet paper

  • Tissues, Sanitary wipes…

Towels

  • Washcloths, Hand towels, Bath & Beach towels

Soap

  • Hand soap, Shampoo, Hand sanitizer, Laundry soap, Dish soap

Dental

  • Toothbrush, Paste, Floss, Powder, Brush Charger & spare tips,

Hair

  • Comb, Hairbrush, Rubber bands, Shampoo, Conditioner, Styling products, Scissors, Clippers, Barretts, Clips, Bobby pins,
  • Shaving: Razors, Blades, Cream/Gel/Soap Brush, Bowl, Aftershave

Vision

  • Glasses, Case, Contact lenses, Solution, Sunglasses, Sports eye protection, Drops

Feminine

  • Pads, Tampons, Liners, Pain management, Medication, Contraceptive

 

Food & Drinks

Protein

  • Cheese, Beef, Chicken, Sausage, Eggs, Fish, Beans, Peanut butter, Nuts, Tofu…

Fruits and Vegetables

  • Greens, potatoes, onions, garlic, shallots…
  • Apples, Oranges, Berries…

Grains

  • Bread, Cereal, Pasta, Granola, Rice, Flour…

Dairy

  • Milk, Cheese, Butter, Cream, Yogurt…

Cooking Oil

  • Olive oil, Butter, Safflower, Sesame…

Canned goods

  • Soup, Stew, Chili, Vegis, Jam/Jelly, Beans, Tuna

Condiments

  • Salt, Pepper, Herbs, Spices, Mayo, Mustard, Ketchup, Vinegar, Hot sauce, Soy sauce, Salsa

Coffee & Tea

  • Beans, Grind, Instant, Pods
  • Tea Bags, Loose, Sweetener

Water

  • Bottled, Gallons/2 Liter, Fill tank, Purification chemicals, Filters
  • Soda, Juice, Flavored water
  • Wine, Beer, Liquor
 

Cooking & Kitchen Gear

Stoves & Cookers

  • Gas stove, Induction, Hiking, Grill, BBQ, Firebox, Camp oven, Windbreak, Table

Pots & Pans

  • Sauce lg & sm, Soup, Frying, Lids, Dutch oven

Knives

  • Chefs, Pairing, Bread, Boning, Filet, Cleaver, Steak, Sharpener, Cutting Boards,

Plates, bowls, utensils, cups, glasses

  • Plates: Dinner, Snack, Bread, Desert, Serving
  • Bowls: Eating, Mixing, Serving
  • Utensils: Forks, Spoons, Knives, Serving, Cooking
  • Drinking: Glasses, Cups, Mugs, Wine, Beer, Tea, Coffee, Thermos, Shaker

Food Storage

  • Tupperware, Zip lock bags
  • Aluminum foil, Plastic wrap, Wax paper

Coffee Making

  • Pot, Filters, French press, Aero Press, Espresso maker, Grinder, Instapot

Tea Making

  • Pot, Strainer, Bags, Instapot

Cooking gadgets

  • Measuring cups & Spoons
  • Cork screw, Bottle opener, Can opener
  • Mixer, Juicer, Chopper, Peeler
  • Whisk, Spatula, Rubber scraper, Tongs
  • Colander, Thermometer, Scale

Fire & Cooking Fuel

  • Liquid or canned fuel, Firewood, Matches, Lighters, Fire starter
  • Firewood, Kindling, Charcoal & Lighter fluid

Refrigeration

  • 12/24 Volt Refrigerator/Freezer
  • Power cords/adapters, Extension cords, Insulating cover, Manual
  • Ice chest, Beverage cooler
  • Ice: Block, Cube
 

Heating, Power & Electrical

Heating

Electric Heat

  • Portable Heater
  • Extension cords, adapters
  • Electric blanket

Gas Heat

  • Carbon Monoxide/CO Monitor & Alarm
  • Filters, Wicks, Parts
  • Propane refill, Canisters, Kerosene
  • Diesel heater: Manual, Filters, Parts

Lighting

LED Lights

  • Spare bulbs
  • LED Strips

Camping lanterns

  • Fuel, Mantles
  • Batteries, Spare bulbs

Flashlights

  • LED head lamp, Extra batteries, Key chain light
  • Candles, Holders, Matches

Power

Batteries

  • House batteries, Chargers, Fuses

Solar

  • Panels, Charge controller, Monitor

Inverter

  • Spare inline fuses, Extension cords, Adapters

Shore Power

  • Extension cords, Adapters

Portable Generator

  • Fuel
  • Extension cords, Adapters
  • Spare parts, Fuses, Instruction manual
  • Cable Lock

Solar Generator or Power Station

  • Charging cables, Adapters
  • Manual

Cell phone and Wifi

 

Cleaning

Soap & Detergent

  • Hand and surface sanitizer
  • Dish, Laundry, Hand, Floor
  • Ammonia, Cleanser
  • Bleach

Cleaning Tools & Materials

  • Sponge, Scrubbers, Kitchen towel, Paper towels
  • Mop, Broom, Whisk broom, Vacuum
  • Coins for laundromat & Campground showers

Trash bins & bags

  • Reusable, Folding, Seat back
  • Plastic bags Large, Small

Recycling, Composting

  • Recycling bins
  • Composting bin
 

Clothing & Footwear

Underwear

  • Bras, Athletic tops
  • Briefs
  • Long underwear, Pajamas

Pants

  • Jeans, Techwear/hiking pants
  • Leggings, Sweat pants
  • Shorts: Hiking, Cycling, Swimming

Shirts

  • T-shirts, Sweatshirts, Sweaters, Button up

Shoes & Boots

  • Sneakers, Sandals, Shower flip flops, Slippers

  • Hiking boots & Shoes, Snow, Ski, Bike

Socks

  • Casual, Wool, Workout, Hiking, Biking, Dress

Jackets

  • Rain gear

  • Wind, Snow, Workout

  • Dress, Casual, Hoodie

Hats

  • Baseball cap, Wool beanie, Rain hat
 

Site Prep & Camping Gear

Furniture

  • Camp chairs, Tables

Pocket knife

  • Leatherman
  • Multi tool

Firewood cutting

  • Saw
  • Hatchet

Awnings & Tents

Find your campsite

  • Road Atlas
  • Compass
  • Apps for finding sites
  • Hiking trail maps/books

Insect protection

  • Repellent, Citronella candles
  • Netting, Screen
  • Ant bait

Van parking

 

Recreation & Entertainment

Beach

  • Towels, Sunscreen, Sun shade, Wind block, Fins, Snorkel, Inflatables, Swim trunks, Bikini

Sports

  • Baseball, Football, Soccer, Frisbee
  • Golf
  • Hiking, Climbing. Running
  • Surfing
  • Fishing

Games & Activities

  • Cards, Board games, Puzzles
  • Radio: Solar, Wind up, Battery
  • Reading: Kindle, Tablet, Novels, Guide books
  • DVDs, Player
  • Coloring books, art supplies

Camera

  • Lenses, Tripod
  • Batteries, Cables, Data Cards, Charger
 

Personal Transportation

Bicycles

  • Helmet, Tubes, Tools, Locks, Parts

Motorcycle or Scooter

  • Helmet, Gloves, Fuel

Skateboard

  • Pads, Helmet

Roller blades

  • Pads, Helmet
 

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.

3 Responses

  1. […] take a minute to read our article on how to make sure you only take the things you absolutely need for your trip while still having […]

  2. Harry
    | Reply

    Add: Head torch -the tool after dark. Good LED ones are cheap now:
    also a Wind up torch, rubbish, but will always work!
    More toilet paper. Extra spare toilet paper, with you in your rucsac.
    An old wood saw: weighs little and invaluable if you get the chance to forage wood for that magical wild-camp camp-fire. Use cooking oil and paper as fire lighters.

    Luxury nibbles and drinks to make a good evening into a special one.
    Nice glasses (and proper pot mugs). You’re not back-backing!
    and to remember having fun is more important than keeping a schedule.

    • James Petersen
      | Reply

      Hey Harry
      Thanks so much for the great camper van essentials ideas!

      Excellent ideas that clearly come from real world experience.

      James

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