How to choose campervan gadgets that are worthy of precious space in your van
My goal for this post is to give you a guide to essential campervan gear that can truly make a difference in your vanlife experiences.
Most “campervan gadgets” blog posts include a lot of cool but unnecessary stuff that will either turn into clutter in your van, or get pushed out by more necessary equipment.
Criteria for getting on my list of useful campervan gadgets
I didn’t want to just create another list of “cool gear”, so I put some effort and thought into the campervan gadgets that can really improve your travel experiences.
I suggest that, before you add anything new to your van that will consume precious storage space, you consider this brief list of requirements.
- Time tested, not fad based
- High quality
- A smart use of money and space
- Useful on a daily basis, or…
- Providing daily value, as in safety gear
In short, items on this list must provide a high level of value for the long haul.
I hope you find this list of Campervan gadgets useful to your Vanlife journeys.
Campervan gadgets for comfort, relaxation and fun
Some of us find all our travel fun outside of the van, in the forest, on the ski slope or on the beach.
Others want nothing more than to snuggle up in the van and read a great book, enjoy time with kids or partners, listen to some great music…
As with the rest of this post, I wanted to be diligent with my suggestions. Please let me know in the comments about your favorite relaxation and fun campervan gadgets.
Folding chairs and tables
If you do any entertaining, you’ll need more table and seating space than most vans afford.
Even if your van has a dining space, you’ll often want to sit outside to eat, play games, sit under the awning, or just enjoy the moonlight.
|We love the Coleman Outdoor Compact Table for it’s portability and because the smart design allows you to tuck your legs under while seated.|
|The highly rated CORE Equipment folding chairs fold down to a packable size and offer comfort and durability so they’re perfect for Vanlife.|
You’ll also want to consider a reclining camp chair or two, if space allows.
Portable Camp Showers
Whether or not you have a shower built in to your van, a portable camp shower can be a vanlife game changer.
I use mine to rinse off bikes, shoes and other gear after a muddy or dusty MTB ride. If you’ve got dogs on board, a portable shower is a must, and they can be just as useful for grubby kids after a day at the beach.
A portable solar shower can be a life saver when you’ve run out of fuel or don’t have a shore hook up for your campervan hot water heater.
|The ADVANCED ELEMENTS 5 Gallon portable solar camp shower is a great solution for keeping clean on the road. |
Hang the bag in the sun to heat the water, or add heated water as needed.
|Nemo Helio Portable Camp Shower: While many portable camp showers are gravity fed, the Nemo Helio offers a foot pump system do deliver all the pressure you need to hose down people and gear as needed.|
What is the best blanket for camping? That depends on many factors, of course, so we wrote an extensive post about Campervan Bedding to answer this and many related questions.
I think that the right blanket designed for the unique needs of Vanlife is a great addition to any van.
Out to watch a solar eclipse, meteor shower, sit by the campfire on the beach? You’ll want a cozy, durable blanket.
A good blanket or two can get you through the night if you run out of power or fuel for heater or just reduce need for heat in general.
|In this van dwellers humble opinion, nothing beats Merino wool and the Woolly Mammoth Woolen Co Merino Wool Camp Blanket is a brilliant application of this amazing material. |
Merino is soft (not scratchy), antimicrobial, washable, breathable… Magical.
|Since the Horizon Hound Down Camping Blanket is waterproof, it’s perfect for an evening on a misty beach, or a dewy mountain boondocking site.|
The durable, washable, lightweight design make this blanket a brilliant addition to any campervan bedding collection.
It’s often overlooked, but Vanlife isn’t all hikes and beaches.
It often includes rainy days, sick days, downtime waiting for a repair…
Not that you need those excuses to crack open a great read.
Disappear into a great book, load a PDF repair manual for your van, or park yourself in a reclining chair to watch a favorite show.
Great for casual or serious readers.
|I carry a Samsung Galaxy Tab A 10.1-Inch Tablet for watching movies, reading books on the Kindle app, listening to music and podcasts and even to work on Vansage in a coffee shop now and then.|
For a lot more speed, storage and a host of other great features, consider a Samsung Tab S5e.
|The Kindle Paperwhite technology is easy on the eyes featuring adjustable warm light to shift screen shade from white to amber|
They’re waterproof, feature Bluetooth connectivity and Audible integration.
PS- The new Kindle Oasis is beyond enticing. So many great features.
This old Van Traveler has to admit; teenagers have something figured out: When life gets a bit overwhelming and confusing, put on a set of headphones, curl up in a corner and refuse to make eye contact with anyone.
Okay maybe don’t take it that far, but a good set of headphones can provide a kind of privacy and independence when the world is a bit too much.
A word about speakers: You’ll notice I didn’t include speakers, Bluetooth or otherwise, on this list of campervan gadgets. That’s because I don’t want to hear my neighbors music when parked in a peaceful campsite.
So, in the spirit of “do unto others…”, I don’t broadcast any sound of any kind from my van.
This is where my favorite headphones come in.
And yes, when I’m feeling like I need a break from my travel partner, I slip on my ‘phones (I have the Mpow’s) and zone out for awhile.
For the ultimate in portability and minimalism, the Vislla 5.0 Bluetooth Sport Headphones are perfect for active Campervan folks.
Sweat proof, wireless, 8 hours of play time. Includes charging case.
|Mpow 059 Bluetooth Headphones|
Mpow makes a great product (take a second to check out the review numbers on these. Crazy!).
I have sensitive ears so I prefer over ear headphones. These feature foldability, soft ear covers and wired mode.
I like to keep a deck of cards, a chess/checkers combo set and one or two popular board games on board.
Physical games help to reduce stress by getting us out of our heads and giving us something to focus on other than the everyday problems of life.
Games provide an opportunity to teach strategy, patience and concepts of competition and sportsmanship to children.
They’re also a great excuse to invite campsite neighbors to socialize.
Peradix Magnetic Chess Checkers travel Set This is a full size set with handy storage bags.
Magnetic pieces means a game can be played while on the road, or set aside for later play after driving to a new destination
|Scrabble Deluxe Travel Edition I’m not a great speller, but I love words, so I have a love/hate relationship with scrabble. |
Scrabble is my favorite board game and this set is a brilliant design for Vanlife.
Campervan gadgets for the kitchen
In terms of space taken up, Campervan and campsite cooking equipment can quickly get out of hand.
I’m guilty of sometimes carrying unnecessary kitchen stuff and I have to frequently purge, or suffer a lack of space to get anything done in my kitchen.
While I do keep a set of metal camping cutlery on board, I rely heavily on Sporks for daily eating utensils.
I can get through most meals with one utensil, never use and throw away plastic utensils at restaurants and clean up uses very little water and soap.
Durable, easy to clean dishes
While I love enamel ware outdoor gear, it’s relatively heavy and can chip over time.
My preference is very well designed plastic dishes and bowls for the van.
Takes a beating, available in a variety of designs and colors and light weight.
For families, a set of 8 Tapirus Sporks is the way to go.
But you might want to treat yourself and your partner to these FnessCity Titanium Sporks.
|Camping Mess Kit for 4 with Mesh Bag|
We don’t often recommend unbranded products, but this one’s highly rated, priced right and fits our need for durability and quality.
Depending on your van, kitchen set up and cooking style, this can be considered a totally unnecessary luxury item, or the most important piece of gear you own.
I keep a simple grill on board because I love to grill fish or a steak and vegis a few times a week.
And then there’s the practicality: As long as I have some wood or briquettes, I can cook.
The simplicity and durability of the Texsport Heavy Duty Over Fire Camp Grill make it a highly valuable addition to your campervan kitchen.
|A grill with a built in fire pit, without using up the storage space of a traditional BBQ.. Very cool.|
Cast iron pots and pans
Many Vanlifers are anti cast iron due to their weight. In my opinion, this is missing the forest for the trees.
Quality cast iron is forever, it provides perfectly even heat distribution, cleans up easily once you learn how, and you get to feel superior over all the high tech pan people.
For me, the 12″ is a bit big, but if you’ve got a crew to feed, you might consider it, or a set of cast iron in various sizes.
|Dutch ovens are among the most versatile cooking tools and the The Lodge 5 Quart Cast Iron Dutch Oven is no exception.|
Stews, soups, baking (hence “oven”), whatever you need to do over a heat source.
Instant water boilers, while not completely necessary, are more than a frivolous luxury.
Because the mechanism that heats the water is in a contained space, they boil water more efficiently than a stove top cooker, which allow a lot of heat to escape into the room.
Water boiler power use
One con of these gadgets seems to be that they use a lot of electricity (1000 to 1500 watts), but this is one of the reasons they’re more efficient than other water boiling methods: getting the water to boiling quickly reduces heat lost during the process.
Another bummer is that 12 volt DC water boiler pots tend to not work very well because the wattage just isn’t there to boil the water quickly.
If you’re running an inverter and have plenty of battery power storage and/or solar power, or spend a lot of time on shore power, you’ll benefit greatly from one of these wonderful campervan gadgets.
You might want to skip this one if you depend more on an LP gas system, camp stoves, and other non electrical energy.
Fortunately there are some great campsite tea kettle’s that do a great job of bringing your water to a brisk boil over a flame.
The Secura Stainless Steel Double Wall Electric Water Kettle offers rapid boiling, auto shut off, boil dry protection, cordless serving, stainless steel..
|GSI Halulite Tea Kettle|
Halulite conducts heat better than titanium for more efficient fuel use.
Portable coffee maker
Even if you drink tea, a visitor will need some coffee at some point. That’s just how the world works.
If I don’t have my favorite espresso machine handy, my second choice is a french press.
Being a klutz, I’m personally responsible for the breaking of around 146,227 glass french press carafes in my lifetime.
So for Vanlife, I switched to a stainless press and have never looked back.
And if espresso is your thing, there are some really great portable espresso gadgets available, too.
If you’re a solo coffee drinker, the wonderful Mira 12 oz stainless press will do.
We love the STARESSO Portable Espresso Machine.
The money you’ll save by avoiding those Starbucks pit stops will quickly pay for this brilliant gadget.
Lighting gadgets for Campervans
A dark van is a sad van and with so many great, reasonably priced lighting products, there’s no reason to suffer in darkness. So, let there be lighting!
With so many advancements in LED, portable solar and rechargeable batteries, the camping lantern world has exploded with really great products. So much so that the topic of lanterns could easily fill an entire blog post (so we wrote one).
Some of these wonderful gadgets have stood the test of time. Like the good old Coleman Premium Dual Fuel Lantern. A mainstay from childhood for many of us.
But we’re blown away by the range of rechargeable and solar choices available today.
The Tough Light LED Rechargeable Lantern offers 200+ hours of light on a single charge!
400 lumens of output, a cell phone charger and a 2 year warranty.
|Goal Zero never ceases to impress and their Lighthouse 400 Lantern and USB Power Hub is no exception.|
Rechargeable LED Headlamps and Flashlights
Need to set up camp or install snow chains after dark… Strap a headlamp on a partner or a kid, say, “just watch me” and they’ll be lighting your work.
I keep two headlamps and about a half dozen small LED flashlights tucked into multiple nooks and crannies around the van.
I got sick of throwing batteries away, so I’m now dedicated to as many rechargeable campervan gadgets as possible.
White Cree 500 Lumen Rechargeable LED Head lamp 2 pack. Motion sensor, waterproof, 5 lighting modes.
Definitely best to have two headlamps on board
|WUBEN 1200 Lumen USB Rechargeable flashlight|
Rechargeable battery included, water resistant, 5 light modes.
LED Campervan lighting strips
The tech has come a long way on natural white LED lighting and many builders are installing LED strip lights under cabinets and for general, all ’round lighting.
Low energy use, easy to install and lots of great product options.
These don’t tend to be waterproof, so keep that in mind when choosing where to install them in your van.
Onforu LED Strip Lights Kit Dimable, 33 feet, 600 bulbs, 5000k Daylight White light
Campervan gadgets for health and safety
Personally, I get as excited about vanlife safety and security gear as I do electronics, kitchen gadgets or just about any other campervan gadgets.
This is partly because there are few things as important to me as a good night’s sleep, and a high level of preparation helps a lot with that.
I love high quality, well designed equipment that solves a problem with efficiency and elegance.
Add to that some potential life saving advantages, and I’m fully stoked.
Please take the health and safety of yourself and your travel partners seriously.
Fire extinguisher and fire blanket
I’m often astonished at how cavalier some Vanlifers are about extinguishers, alarms and general knowledge of fire safety.
You’ll find all you need to know about fire safety and related equipment in our campervan fire safety guide.
Hopefully you’ll find something of value here for your van.
We recommend having at least two extinguishers on board. More for bigger vans and RV’s. This one’s a great start…
|FYJ Emergency Survival Fiberglass Fire Blanket|
Whether you have open flame gear (stove, heater, candles…) or not, it’s best to keep a fire blanket on board as they can be used to smother any type of fire.
Carbon monoxide detectors and alarms
A surprising number of RV trailer and Camper van users are lost each year to CO poisoning.
Doesn’t require LP gas or open flame, as every van has a motor and those produce Carbon Monoxide and exhaust systems get old and leak.
Please make this campervan safety gear a priority in your van.
Literally every van needs at least one.
If you’ve got the power source and a little know-how, you can double up with a hard wired smoke and CO detector.
First Aid Kits
I used to find myself holding an old, beaten up firs aid kit and asking “what is all this stuff for?
So I decided to get some basic training and started doing regular first aid kit inspections to make sure all the gear is up to date and functional.
Doesn’t take much effort to get some basic training that could save a life or at the very least, substantially reduce the trauma of an unfortunate ouchie.
Exceeds OSHA and ANSI Guidelines. Hard plastic case for durability. Wall mounts or folds for storage. 13″ X 12″ X 4
|Medicine for the Outdoors: The Essential Guide to First Aid and Medical Emergencies |
The secret to getting the most out of a book like this one is to READ IT. Also, keep it on board.
Camping knife and multi-tool
I carry a folding knife with a clip every day. I often find it useful.
I had to try 3 or 4 different knives before I landed on the one I like best.
One thing I realized is that I don’t need a sword in my pocket, just something sharp and reliable and low key.
The knife I use the most has a blade just under 3″ long.
When on the road, staying in the woods, I use my knife multiple times per day. It’s one of my most useful possessions.
Easy open, smart grip and blade design, sharp, handy.
A highly rated knife at a good price.
|SOG Multi Tool with Pocket Knife with EDC Sheath|
If you’re not into carrying a knife around all day, consider a multi-tool. Keep it in a door side pocket, toss it in a backpack for a day hike.
Covers most basic tool needs without digging through a tool box…
Campervan leveling gear
I put this under health and safety because if your van is parked off level, some of your equipment might not function properly, you won’t sleep well and it’s just harder to function over all.
We wrote at length about leveling your van in this post about Campervan Jacks.
Interlock for stacking, T-Handle carrying system, Pack of 10, high visibility yellow
Level your van in minutes.
|Smittybilt Tri-Fold Shovel|
A good shovel can mean the difference between happily rolling on to your next destination, or sitting for days on end waiting for help.
Jumper battery pack and jumper cables
Whenever possible, I like to be the guy who gets to say “yes” to the inevitable question “does anyone have a set of cables? I need a jump”?
I also prefer to not need that help from others.
Carrying a fully charged jumper pack and a set of cables that reach all the way to my house batteries covers all those bases.
Long enough that you can park your van BEHIND another vehicle to jump.
800A clamps, nylon carry case, truck rated
|We Cartman 4 Gauge 20 ft Booster Cables in Carry Bag|
If you’ve got a solid house power system, you may not need a jumper power pack.
If that’s the case, some quality cables will do the trick.
Get them long enough so they’ll reach from your house batteries to your motor battery.
Handheld battery powered vacuum cleaner. Whisk broom & pan
A messy van is a stressful van. Hence my decision to put these gadgets in the health and safety section.
In a house or apartment, if you topple a plate of potato chips, you can put it off for a bit while you finish the movie or whatever.
In a van, a small mess can overtake your entire living space very quickly.
I keep a 12 volt mini vacuum and a whisk broom and small dust pan on board and I tend to use both of them daily.
|HOTOR DC 12V Corded Car Vacuum Cleaner |
Filtered 12 volt vacuum with carry case, cleaning tools, ample cord and all the power you need to keep that van spic ‘n span.
|Camco 43945 Dust Pan with Whisk|
Often you’ll find it easiest to grab this smart little dustpan/whisk combo, scoop up that shoe dirt or crumbs and tuck it away again. Perfect size for the van and snaps together for flat, minimal storage.
Thanks for reading! Please comment…
Let me know what your favorite campervan gadgets are.