Master campervan organization with storage and travel bags
When it comes to campervan storage ideas, I believe that Bags are the most valuable organizing tools
Picture a car trunk, truck bed or, for our purposes, a Campervan garage area, with loose tire chains, jumper cables, some tools, a jumper power pack, a six pack of soda, two baseball mitts and a ball…
It’s the picture of confusion, lost gear, rusty metal… broken equipment for which you paid good money…
In short; chaos.
Now put all those things in three or four well designed, tough canvas bags with rugged zippers, snaps and buckles, meant to contain their relevant gear, and you have a very different image.
Ready for anything, any time
As we discussed in our post on the top ten vanlife mistakes, “spontaneity requires careful planning”.
In other words, if you want to take advantage of the fun and exciting opportunities that pop up while traveling in your campervan, you need to be well prepared, and that means staying organized.
When you need a battery jump (or to get jumped), you grab the medium sized blue waterproof duffel bag that holds cables, a wrench that fits your terminals, a terminal cleaning brush, the jumper power pack and it’s charging cable…
With minimal effort and no rude surprises (cracked cable housing and broken copper wire, for example) you or someone you’ve helped are back on the road.
When it’s time to play with the kids, the small backpack that you’ve dedicated to balls, mitts, a Frisbee, a basketball and pump… is right there, ready to go.
No chaos, just fun.
Should I get all these bags for my van?
That would defeat the precious minimalism and simplicity that allowed us to hit the road in the first place.
Most people have a lot of bags in their homes. We tend to collect them accidentally. They accumulate over time and often end up stuffed in the back of a closet.
It’s time to dig them out and consider them for Campervan storage bag ideas
If you’re currently a full time van dweller, you likely discarded several bags during the elimination process before leaving your sticks-and-bricks home behind.
If you’re still in the planning stage for spending a high volume of days on the road, this post will help you decide which of the bags in your collection to re purpose for Campervan storage bag ideas.
Bags vs Boxes
A large plastic box with a tight fitting lid definitely has its place for organizing a van.
But because they’re rigid, it’s nearly impossible to fill every nook and cranny of a box.
This is why I generally only use boxes to store other square items.
When a piece of campervan gear comes in a dedicated storage box, I’ll often move it to a bag so it uses space more efficiently.
While boxes don’t adjust to their allotted space, a bag can be stuffed full and then other bags can be jammed around it to fill virtually all of the available space in a storage area,
Even when I do use a box, I tend to fill it with bags, not more boxes. A box is a great place to stuff some of the bags I’ve listed below.
When to use a bag to organize camper van gear
Any groups of like items can be kept in a bag. Shoes, for example, tend to pile up and become a dirty, space wasting, stumble hazard. This can often be solved with one or two duffel bags.
But grouping by like can sometimes be inefficient. Consider these counter intuitive thoughts on organizing a camper van…
- How often do you use the item? Should your biking shoes go with other shoes, or with other cycling stuff like your helmet?
- Should your grill spatula be stored with regular kitchen gear, or with your grill and related supplies?
- I keep my multi-meter and ultra-small screwdrivers in a bag of rarely used tools.
- My pliers go in another bag with Allen wrenches, zip ties and other often used handi-vanner stuff.
When you find yourself fumbling and stumbling with a pile of similar items, I hope it prompts you to think “I could put all this in ONE BAG!”
Please enjoy my top 23 Campervan storage bag ideas in no particular order.
Hanging clothes organizer bags
This is one of the truly great organization and storage Campervan gadgets.
This video shows the item in the context of a suitcase, but you can imagine this stashed in an under-bench storage area or in the bottom of a closet.
There are many great products that will work for this hack. Even some that are meant for suitcase travel will work nicely in smaller vans.
|StorageWorks Hanging Closet Organizer|
Dry bags aka roll top dry compression bags
Use roll top dry bags to store your gear for swimming, scuba or any other aquatic gear.
Then, when you’re ready to play in the water, you’ll use it to keep your clothes dry as well as phones, cameras, lunch…
Even if you’re not into water sports, use dry bags to store any items you want protected from high humidity and general dampness that happens on the road.
|Dry Sacks from Backcountry.com|
A staple for exploring a new town, heading to a coffee shop to work on the laptop… Can be grabbed for a light trip to a grocery or hardware store.
I keep cable chains in an old canvass messenger style bag (their original bag fell apart after a couple seasons in the garage) as it’s easy to work out of when it’s time to install them.
|Medium Rugged Twill Field Bag by Filson|
Small Canvas Shoulder bag
Carry a few small items like your sunglasses case, notebook, billfold, small camera, iPad or tablet.
Beats a pocket full of loose coins, or a cup holder full of sticky, dirty change.
I put all my dimes and quarters in a durable, canvass coin purse that I keep in my drivers door pocket.
I always have parking change on hand and some cash on hand garage sale item.
|Small Canvas Shoulder Bag|
Tough, durable duffel bags can be used to organize so many different groups of things.
I look for features like waterproof material, heavy zippers, shoulder and end straps, pockets, washable…
I currently have 3 different sizes on board. I use one for spare bedding, another for gym gear and a small one for my bugout bag (more on that below).
|Ledmark Large Canvas Duffel Bag|
Bicycle storage bags
This gets a bit controversial as my opinions about campervan bicycle storage tend to be outside the popular norm.
Without going on a rant (much), I’ll just say that I’ll never understand why so many vanlifers store their bikes fully assembled, inside the van.
It’s not difficult to remove wheels, which reduces the storage space of the bike by at least 40%.
Alternatively, if you need to store the bike fully assembled, I suggest a good campervan bicycle rack to get it out of the van.
A bicycle storage bag can save so much space compared to a bike that’s always set up.
Removing wheels and other bike mechanical tasks need not be daunting.
Getting a good book on the subject and learning about your bikes will not only save space, but repair costs, too.
|Speed Hound Padded Bike Bag|
Whether hiking, walking to a nearby grocery store or just bopping around a flee market, a small pack is a must have in your campervan.
If you’re into hiking, you’ll want two sizes of pack; one for short hikes and another for longer excursions requiring more gear.
I’ve owned a multitude of packs over the years and I have to say, my favorite has been my Osprey 10 Liter day pack.
It’s tough, light, functional, comfortable and has a great color scheme.
Keep in mind that I almost never store a bag empty. For example, I keep my relevant hiking gear in my hiking pack.
Fanny Pack (US) or Bum Bag (UK)
Yes, they’re back from the 70’s with a vengeance!
That’s a good thing because they are easy to wear, provide quick access to your stuff, are more secure (harder to steal) than many shoulder bags…
I like to use a tough old canvass fanny pack for tools while crawling around under the van. I sometimes use one when touring busy areas, flea markets…
|Herschel Supply Co. Seventeen Hip Pack|
Shoe and boot bags
There are few things more space wasting than a pile of loose shoes.
Also, how much cleaner would your van interior would be if you never allowed shoes inside?
I typically have 3 or 4 pairs of shoes on board plus one or two pairs of boots, and they all go in bags.
I use a medium duffel bag for all my shoes and each pair of boots gets it’s own bag. If I have a pair of dress shoes on board, I put them in their own bag, inside the larger shoe bag.
|Eagle Creek Shoe Sac Organizer|
Call me fancy, but no matter how rugged my vanlife gets, I always have a blazer on board to wear to a nice restaurant or a show.
Also, I love Merino wool, which is not cheap, so I keep it zipped up in a hanging suit bag in my closet when I’m not wearing it or airing it out in the fresh air.
If you don’t have much hangar space, or you need to lay it flat, consider a carry-on style travel garment bag designed to keep suits and dresses in nice shape during travel.
|Zilink Breathable Hanging Garment Bags|
We’ve written at length about Vanlife laundry. It’s an ever important topic with lots of angles to success.
I carry two types of laundry bag; canvass and mesh.
I use one canvass to transport to and from the laundromat as it’s durable enough to be lugged around.
Another canvass bag is for storing any very nasty stuff between laundry days such as dirty mtb riding clothes.
The mesh is for on-board storage of all other dirty clothes since it allows for greater breathability.
If you go the mesh route, your van should have excellent ventilation. Otherwise, keep it all locked up in canvass between washings.
|Commercial Mesh Laundry Bag|
Ski and Snowboard bags
Any serious outdoor gear is going to get filthy and should go in it’s own bag, and skis and snowboards are no exception.
Furthermore, those binding were pricey and you don’t want your wax job getting marred up by other equipment.
As mentioned, I like to store related gear together so gloves, pants and other snowboard specific stuff goes in the bag with the board.
“Honey, where’s the large crescent wrench?”
It’s in the the drivers door pocket in the red, tough canvass tool pouch with the other frequently used hand tools, right where it belongs.
I don’t like to use traditional rigid tool boxes in my vans because It’s rare that the space in a tool box gets used efficiently.
If you carry only essential tools, the box won’t be full and if the box is full, it’s very likely full of redundant or otherwise unnecessary junk.
A bag, on the other hand, can be stocked with necessary tools and then crunched down to it’s absolute minimal use of space.
I carry a 12 inch heavy canvas bag for the bulk of my tools and smaller zipper pouches for strategic locating of often used tools.
I use color coordinated zipper pouches. One for bike tools, one for often used hand tools such as crescent wrench, screwdrivers, torx…
|Workpro 12-inch Canvas Tool Bag|
Re-usable trash and recycle bags
In our article about campervan trash, composting and recycling bins, we wrote about reusable trash bags.
It hangs off the back of the seat or a cabinet door. Rinse and dry every few days for years of reliable use. Not for messy food scraps, which go in the sealed compost bin.
|Keep It Clean CarBage Bag|
Bug out bag
Okay this is not a topic we can claim to know much about. There’s a whole world of very serious bug out bag aficionados.
But it’s an important topic and We’ll be doing our research and publishing an entire post about it in the future.
We believe there are some aspects of the bug out issue that are peculiar to Vanlife.
For now, give some thought to the 20 or so things that you’d want to have with you if you had to leave your van (possibly forever, like if a fire broke out) in under 30 seconds.
If you just want something asap that will allow you to survive for a couple of days, get a full kit.
If you want to build your own, there are some great bags designed specifically for the task.
When I know I’ll have access to nice campground shower facilities, I keep my toiletries organized with a hanging travel toiletries bag.
Even if you have a big, fancy vanity, these bags are a great way to keep it clean and organized.
I love mine because I often have a few vanity related items that I use in both the van and the house and it allows me to grab in and go and have everything in one place.
Or, if you’re very low maintenance, the basic toiletries zipper bag might be all you need…
Of course any toiletries bag should be easily wiped down, so go for vinyl or nylon canvass.
|Hanging Travel Toiletry Bag|
Medicinal and prescription bags
Pain killers, Pepto-Bismol, lip balm, iodine… infrequently used pharmacy stuff can go in it’s own, small bag.
Emphasis on small. We’ve all had that box at the back of the cabinet full of outdated Mercurochrome and Ace bandages. That’s not an option in a Class B RV or VW Campervan. So keep in minimal, clean, sorted and organized.
I keep a separate bag for NSAID’s, Neosporin and any other regularly used medicinals, and I keep prescriptions in there whenever I have them.
I’ve seen vans and other RV’s with piles of prescription bottles on the dash, in door pockets and cup holders. This is madness.
At the very least, you can’t find them when you need them. Worse yet, someone with a drug problem smashes a window… Or a campground neighbors kid wanders in and helps herself to some “candy”.
Put it all in one bag and keep it up high and out of sight.
I like the TSA approved transparent bags because it allows me to see what the heck is in there and saves me from digging around…
If you have little ones running abound, you might consider a locking prescription bottle bag.
|StarPlus2 Large Padded Pill Bottle Organizer|
First aid kits
I’m sure the “I keep two bags for this” thing is getting a bit tiresome, but it really does make sense for many applications to have a small, easy to access daily version and a larger one for infrequently used stuff.
So yes, I have one first aid bag for band aids and other minor medical stuff and another with sterile needle and thread, QuickClot, scissors, sterile solution and other, higher level emergency stuff.
|100 Piece Small First Aid Kit|
Bags for spare parts
Your van has its quirks. The air filter that’s so hard to find, the odd fuse size that ends all water flow when it blows…
An extra spark plug, a bundle of zip ties, a roll of duct tape, a tube of Skaflex…
Since I lean toward a high mechanical aptitude I have to keep myself in check or I’ll carry an entire auto shop.
I’m sometimes better off calling my breakdown insurance provider than I am messing with the repair myself, especially on the road.
Still, if I can resolve a problem without too much fuss, I’ll break out some tools and deal with it and for this I carry an odd assortment of small parts and materials.
For this I like to use a small duffel (emphasis on small, lest the rolling shop take over my living space), organized with various other, smaller bags. This is another great use for those small, color coordinated canvass tool bags.
When I do work on the van myself, as I remove parts, I use plastic zipper bags to organize the relevant parts.
This also keeps greasy parts from spoiling everything around them.
I keep sharpie pens on board for marking the parts bags, a hack that’s saved my bacon on more than one occasion.
|16-inch Round Duffel|
Water storage bags
A folding water bag can be an option for filling a built in water tank when a hose isn’t available.
Or when boondocking, you can use a collapsible water container to carry extra water from a stream for washing gear.
These nifty bags collapse down to almost nothing when not in use.
I’m a hiker and a mountain biker, so I always have hydration bladders to go in my backpacks.
Even if you’re not into the rugged adventure life, you’ll always have water on hand when exploring a new town.
|Collapsible Water Container with Spigot|
Vacuum and compression bags
I was never a fan of the vacuum bag storage system. It didn’t make sense that I needed to buy an electrical gadget for sucking all the air out of a bag to save a bit of space.
But over the years I’ve seen how effective that system can be so, who am I to judge?
Fortunately for people like me, no-vacuum products have emerged.
With or without the electric vacuum system, reduce the space of stored clothes and bedding by more than half, while keeping it dry and mildew free.
|Hibag 12 Travel Compression Bags|
Camera and electronics bags
Padded, tough, multi-pocketed, with handles and shoulder straps…
Whether it’s a small digital camera or a full sized DSLR with extra lenses, it needs a bag.
Any expensive electronic gear on board needs it’s own storage and carry bag.
I’ve been known to reuse older camera bags for other sensitive electronics such as portable audio recorders, electrical test gear…
Campervan Hack: Put some silica gel packets in the bottom of your camera bags to totally avoid condensation.
|Hama Bag for small Camera|
Thanks for reading. Please comment below
How do you use bags to organize your van?