We purchased our VW T5 campervan back in 2012. Now… if I am really honest, we had never really been campers before we had our camper, but we always loved our glamping holidays. The one bit of advice I often give is to hire a campervan out first to really get a feel of what you need. This is something we didn’t do so we have definitely learned HEAPS along the way! My next tip is to create a packing list of all the campervan essentials to ensure that you are organised and don’t forget one of those campervan must have items!
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So you have bought a campervan, thought of a name for your camper, and planned your first adventure. What next?
We have slowly converted our van into a camper over the years, and have adapted our vanlife as our family has grown. Sleeping a family of 5 in a small camper van is not the easiest of tasks. We have shared many of our tips for campervanning with young kids along the way. Having children of different ages has meant that we have had to try out plenty of sleeping arrangements in the camper to allow us to comfortably sleep babies, toddlers and juniors.
If you have experienced vanlife with kids, (and add in to the mix vanlife with a dog!!) then you will know that space is often an issue. We find a camper packing list for all of our trips definitely helps, and good organisation is key (packing cubes are the ultimate storage hack for organising clothes in a small camper) ! You may find our post on camper storage ideas helpful!
So really…… what essentials do you need for a campervan? In this post I will share our ultimate campervan accessories to make life on the road a little easier.
So…. without further ado … Here are our campervan essentials list (the must have items for your first time in a campervan)
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campervan essentials– must have items for your camper
Are you just about to set off on your first adventure in your campervan and wondering what you need to pack? Here is our complete campervan packing list
Just to add, we are a family of five (two adults and three children) and we also have a golden retriever dog to add to the mix. We probably need quite a lot more ‘stuff’ for our trips, but the basics are here, and it can give you a rough idea of the essentials to pack.
Camping bench and table
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! Even if you have a built in table you need to think about if you want to eat all your meals in the campervan.
We have a Vango bench set (This Vango orchard bench set is similar) and it has been our go to foldable table and chairs for a fair few years now. It also works for evening beach bbq trips, and additional storage for glamping holidays too. I like that it is foldable, allows for easy storage and transportation and you can alter the height of the set by adjusting the legs to allow you to use it as a low table or dining table.
Portable gas stove and Camping gas
We don’t have a built in hob in our van conversion. We made the decision that we would cook our food outside of the camper with an additional campervan stove. We have tried out a number of stoves over the years. We love the Vango Trangia Stove as it is very portable and great when on the go. It also lightweight and fits in a backpack easily so great for hikes.
You also need to make sure you have the correct camping gas bottle. May seem straightforward but we have been caught out before!
Read here for one of our favourite camping recipes!
Drive away awning for campervan
When converting a campervan, 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.
We have had the Vango Cruz drive away awning for years and it is brilliant way to more than double your living space on your campervan adventures. We also love this Vango awning too. We often use the awning if we stay anywhere longer than a couple of days on our road trips, as we also have a Fiamma canopy awning for shorter breaks.
The Vango AirBeam® makes it pretty quick and easy and quick to pitch (the first time took us about an hour or so!) but we have got much quicker over the years. The OLPRO awnings are also a popular choice with other van families. Alternatively we have also used a small pop up tent for the larger items that we need to store out the way in the evening, and this works a treat too.
So is it worth getting a drive away awning for a campervan?
- It provides extra storage space for all the larger items that we don’t store in a camper
- It offers shelter in the rain/wind
- It keeps your pitch reserved if you go off for the day
- It proves a sheltered eating area
- It can provide an additional bedroom
What are the disadvantages of a drive away awning?
- They are bulky and take up quite a bit of space in the camper
- Drive away awnings can be expensive
- They are not quick to put away in the pouring rain!
Folding Camping chairs
One of the first items we purchased and an absolute campervan must have….. foldable camping chairs.
There are plenty of lightweight camping chairs available that fold small if space is tight. Additionally there are some great kids camping chairs on the market including camping chairs for a baby that double up as highchair with a tray.
We love our Vango Radiate heated chair – perfect for chilly evenings outside!
additional campervan awning storage
We are always on the lookout for ideas for campervan awning accessories to help organise all of our camping gear! We have an additional Vango storage unit that we store in our awning and this offers great camping storage. If you have experienced vanlife with kids – you know that storage is key, and space is limited!
We use this additional camping 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 is foldable and comes with a carry bag for protection and easy transportation.
Other storage hacks include back of headrest hooks, plastic storage boxes with lids, foldable buckets. You may like my post with awesome camper storage and organisation ideas
Portable shower for vanlife
A portable campervan shower was never considered a must have item until the Covid pandemic – when many of the wash blocks and facilities were closed due to Government guidelines. We have moved on somewhat and the restrictions are lifted, but we now always keep a solar shower in the van.
It also comes in handy with a vanlife dog who loves the mud and the beach!
Electric hook up cable
You can opt for electric or non electric hook up pitches. You can choose to rely on your leisure battery which may be your option if you are wild camping or attending a vanlife festival for example.
Alternatively you can opt for electric hook up with an EHU cable to connect to the mains onsite electricity.
Campervan kitchen Accessories
If you are wondering what to pack for the kitchen of your campervan. Here is our ultimate packing list for all of the kitchen items you need to include in your camper! I have thought of everything so you don’t have to!
- Coffee percolator
- Foldable bowl
- Plates, bowls, serving bowls
- Water carrier
- Chopping board
- Tea towels, dish cloth and washing up liquid
- Collapsible washing up bowel
- Cooking pans
- Glasses and mugs
- Bottle and can opener
Additional campervan accessories
Pegless Washing line/ magnetic hooks
We can’t do without our washing line and magnetic hooks. They work wonders for drying washing, wet clothes, swimwear and wetsuits!
We love our black wraparound front windscreen cover. It comes with a storage bag, and acts as a black out blind to stop the sun from streaming in the morning.
You can also purchase thermal screens (interior and exterior screens). Thermal screens can keep your campervan cool by stopping the sun from heating the windscreen.
A small hand held torch and medical kit
A small hand held torch is a useful item to have to hand, along with a planned and well stocked first aid 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.
Space is always an issue when squeezing five into a VWT5 campervan, so we have thought carefully about or campervan bedding.
We opted for a coverless duvet, as it is lightweight and folds into a small hanging bag that we hang on headrest hooks. The bedding also washes and dries really quickly which is great when you are on your travels.
For the children we have Vango sleeping bags as they packway small, and wash and dry quickly.
Remember to pack pillows, crochet blankets, and cushions! Cushions make for an awesome storage hack too as you can store fleeces and coats into cushion covers!
Travelling with kids?
Don’t forget the travel toys and accessories. Travel games, colouring, sticker books, and tablets are all popular choices. The neon art set is great as it is mess free and perfect for the journey.
We also love the walkie talkies, and collapsible buckets and spades too!
There you go, our ultimate campervan essentials list! Do you have any to add?
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