What would you consider van life essentials? Over the years we have tried out so many products to try to make living in a van conversion a little easier. We know that sleeping 5 in a camper van is not the easiest of tasks. Five people come with a lot of well.. ‘stuff’, and we have learned that there are a few essentials that make living in a van for even a weekend much easier! Here, I have picked a few of our favourite camper van essentials – those items that are a must have for living in a camper van, RV or motorhome … The key here is to plan well … and to pack with thought, to try to reduce the ‘stuff’ you need to take.
Van life essentials for a camper van trip (or small RV) with kids!
Camping table and chairs
If you have not built a table into you camper van conversion then buying a portable camping table and chairs is definitely one of those van life essentials! This Vango bench set had to be our most used product of Summer 2019. It literally came everywhere with us, beach trips, days out, glamping trips and on our campervan trips. We also pack it in the car for our day trips.
The Granite bench Set features a durable granite table top and aluminium frame to ensure it is strong but stays light. You can alter the height of the set by adjusting the legs allowing you to use it as a low table or dining table. Unlike a similar bench set that we previously owned, the Vango Granite 90 bench set folds down really quickly to allow for transportation and storage, oh and it is super lightweight too.
It comes with two benches that are a great size, and has a carry handle to make it easy to transport. We also have a set of camping chairs and we found a great camping chair for a toddler that comes with a detachable tray that was amazing during our travels with a toddler in tow!
Portable gas stove
We decided not to have a camper van stove built in during our van conversion. This was mainly because we have young lively kids and also liked the idea of cooking food outside of the camper. We have used a number of stoves during our travels. We have been using the Vango Trangia 27.1 Stove for about a year and it has been absolutely brilliant. It is made from ultralight aluminium and is therefore lightweight and conducts heat well. The aluminum stove system spreads heat quickly and evenly, meaning that food does not stick to the centre of the frying pan. The hard surface also means that it is resistant to scratching and wear.
The stove is really easy to pack and transport – it can even be popped into a backpack for family days out!
We have also used a Coleman Fyre Champion gas stove which is a small propane stove for the camper and is easy to store and transport. It operates from Coleman propane cylinders and features a double stove. The stove packs away safely and the lid doubles up as a windshield.
Read here for our favourite camping recipes and make ahead camping meals
Good camper storage
We are always on the lookout for good storage ideas for our camper van. This Granite storage unit is a really good unit. If you have been on a camping trip or campervan holiday with kids, you know that it can be difficult to keep your camper tidy and organised, particularly when space is limited.
We use this storage unit for all of our kitchen utensils, cutlery and crockery, although it would make a great storage unit for shoes and clothes too. It features a durable granite effect table top and has three internal shelves and external pockets and mesh panels. It has a strong frame and what we love is that it easily and quickly folds downs to a compact size and comes with a carry bag for protection and easy transportation. We also make use of plastic storage boxes with lids that easily store under the rock and roll bed, and we use a large plastic storage bucket for all the outdoor toys and beach toys.
Camper van awning
When converting a camper van, an awning is definitely something to consider. It’s a great way to provide an additional outdoor space, extra storage, shelter from the weather, or to provide an extra sleeping area.
The Vango Cruz drive away awning is a brilliant way to more than double your living space on your campervan adventures. We only use the awning if we stay anywhere longer than a couple of days on our road trips, as we also have a canopy awning for overnight breaks. Vango AirBeam® makes it super easy and quick to pitch and creates a really strong rigid structure to withstand the elements.
We love the front canopy that create a little shade when the sun is out – perfect for little ones.
Although we have not tried this – the Cruz has the option of adding a 2 bed inner should you want to create a sleeping space.
You can also add awning carpet to the drive away awning. This Vango cruz carpet is an additional luxury but definitely makes the drive away awning comfortable and warmer. It is fitted to match your awning so fits beautifully, and also it stays put! The carpet comes in a carry bag for easy transportation and is really easy to clean. A small dustpan and brush can be used to keep the carpet clean during your travels.
We also have a canopy awning. This is an awning that is permanently attached to the van. We opted for a Fiamma awning for our VW T5 and this is fitted to our van and winds out as we need it. This awning is extremely easy to set up, and provides basic protection from the rain and sun.
Camper van refrigerator
Another van life essential is a camper van fridge. We opted for a fridge with a freezer compartment when planning our camper van conversion. Living in a van, even for a short trip is easier knowing you can pack fresh food such as butter, milk, cheese, and fresh salads. It means that you don’t have to worry about eating food really quickly, or having to visit the supermarket on a daily basis…and if you a camping with young kids, babies or a toddler, you have a constant supply of milk!
Camping coffee maker
Coffee definitely helps with those long journeys and camper van road trips, plus there is nothing better than the smell of coffee first thing in a morning. So what are the best camping coffee makers? A cafetiere is a simple and cheap option and simply requires a kettle. Alternatively we have tried a stove top coffee percolator, great if space is tight and also makes awesome coffee
For the longer road trips, we have packed a pod based coffee machine – it is simple and convenient. We found a coffee machine that fits in a cupboard when we are travelling and doesn’t take up too much space on the worktop, and we have constant supply of coffee for those beautiful mornings outdoors!
A small hand held torch and medical kit
A small hand held torch is a useful item to have to hand, along with a small well stocked medical kit. Store the medical kit somewhere that is easy to get to if you need it in an emergency and include plasters, scissors, antiseptic cream, children’s paracetamol etc.
Camper van essentials for van life – other items
You may find my camping list for camper van life (or motorhome or RV) with kids useful!
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