Are you about to embark on your first great adventure in your new campervan and wondering what you need to pack for your trip? Read on and see what we recommend in our campervan essentials packing list.
First up, we are a family of four, two adults and two kids, so our list is based on those needs. Even if your passenger numbers look different to ours, you might still find a couple of good tips on essentials to pack.
Our campervan is a VW California, so the space and facilities we have available in our vehicle may well differ from yours. Most of the gear is equally applicable to any campervan or motorhome.
These are the essential items we always include on our campervan trip packing list.
- Cooking and eating
- Clothing & bathroom
- Campsite setup
- Just-in-case items
- So that’s our campervan packing list
Let’s start with the basics. Nothing is more miserable than a bad night’s sleep. If we are going away, then we want to be sure we get a decent amount of rest.
Sleeping comfort is paramount to us.
After much research, we decided to purchase some Duvalay sleeping bags. We purchased four separate bags so we could have flexibility on who would sleep where.
In addition to this, we also bring a decent pillow each; full-sized comfy pillows from home.
The sleeping bags mean we do away with the need for any other bedding such as sheets or duvets.
Our VW California Ocean came with the comfort mattress installed which was excellent. Although for yours truly, it was still a bit hard.
Our Duvalay sleeping bags have a built-in mattress so give us the extra mattress comfort that we need.
If we used regular sleeping bags or sheets and a duvet, we would certainly consider purchasing a mattress topper to get that extra bit of softness.
Cooking and eating
With two hungry children on board, we need to be able to whip up a meal at short notice. We keep it fairly simple but always tasty and filling.
This is a very important consideration in our family, we all love to eat. I will usually have planned a few meals in advance of the trip, each of which is easy and quick to make.
I will always bring dry ingredients such as flour, sugar, pasta, dry noodles, tins of soup, beans, stock cubes, etc.
We have a drawer below the rear seats. This is always filled with snacks, crisps, biscuits, sweets, cakes, and bread products. All the goodies can be found there!
The “snacks drawer” (as our kids refer to it) is handily located for access when on the road. Accessing one side of the kitchen cupboards proves tricky if the bench seat is rolled forwards to allow maximum space in the boot.
The VW California has a decent sized 42-litre fridge which is more than enough space to fit all the essentials we need for our first couple of days.
Campervan cooking utensils
The VW California Ocean kitchen cupboards are really spacious and well thought out.
The design even comprises a built-in cutlery drawer. We have found there is space above the cutlery drawer to store a chopping board and tea towels.
In the cupboard below the cutlery drawer, we keep a plastic tub with all our kitchen utensils in. It’s handy to grab the lot as a whole if we are cooking outside in the annexe.
Our Campervan cooking utensils include:
- Collapsible cheese grater – we have a Joseph Joseph one that collapses flat. Sadly these aren’t made any more.
- 3 knives with blade guards – The knives we bought didn’t have guards, so we purchased a set of Nosh knife guards separately. It is very important to keep knives sheathed if kept loose in a drawer or box to avoid nasty accidents.
- 3 x wooden spoons
- Fish slice/turner
- Potato peeler
- Teabag squeezer
- Chopping board – we have a foldable Joseph Joseph Chop2Pot chopping board which fits nicely in the drawer.
Campervan pots and pans
We have a set of Russell Hobbs 5 piece clip and cook stackable pans to use in our campervan. As they are stackable they take up minimum space. We also have a whistling kettle, a Ridge Monkey Connect XL cooking set, and a small non-electric folding toaster.
We always keep cork mats handy to leave on the campervan kitchen top to provide protection against hot pans.
Camping plates and bowls
We’ve found the best camping plates and bowls are melamine plasticware. We have a set of 4 x dinner plates, 4 x side plates and 4 x bowls which suit us perfectly. Having two sizes of plates gives us a bit more time before we’re forced to wash up!
We also keep little coloured plastic bowls from IKEA, which are handy to pass around the campervan when on the road. These are perfect for biscuits or crackers and help to keep the campervan tidy. They are also a good size for a small portion of cereal in the morning.
I really detest drinking from plastic, so we keep four porcelain mugs in the campervan for tea and coffee, together with four small IKEA drinking glasses.
We have a set of three collapsible bowls for when we are sharing food. Outwell do a brilliant range of collapsible products. We have the set of three bowls, washing up bowl, and collapsible bucket. They are great space-savers and are very robust.
As well as the collapsible washing up bowl and bucket mentioned above, we take a dustpan and brush to quickly sweep the out the van. Also a small range of cleaning products including washing up liquid, sponges/cloths, washing up gloves, and liquid soap.
Portable stove and camping kitchen
You might ask why we bring an additional two ring stove and kitchen stand if we already have cooking facilities in the campervan?
With the children in and out of the van, I feel much safer cooking outside than inside. If it’s just a cup of tea then that’s OK but a full meal is a lengthier prospect. I also prefer all the bedding and clothes don’t smell of cooking.
We always add the outside kitchen to our campervan packing list for longer trips, subject to space requirements.
For this reason, we had considered buying a VW California Beach instead but after much deliberation, we decided the VW California Ocean was the best choice for our family overall.
Extra table and chairs
When we travel, we are always a minimum of four people. The VW California Ocean comes with two external chairs and table as standard. All very clever. Not enough for four of you to sit around together though.
We purchased an Outwell Pemberton Table and Bench Set to bring with us on day trips and longer trips away. The extra table space always comes in useful and the benches can be used as coffee tables or a step if extra reach is needed as well as seating for four more people.
Yes, they take up valuable space but they are never surplus.
Clothing & bathroom
When packing personal gear the likely weather conditions have a big say. We try to cover every eventuality but not overdo it; it’s a balancing act.
Clothes, shoes, and coats
This stuff always takes up more room than we’d like but that is because we are four people, everything is x4. It’s not like we can take only one pair of shoes each; usually, we need at least two, with one pair being something to wear in the shower or on the beach.
I can’t remember how many times we’ve had to set up in the rain, so having shoes that can get wet and will dry quickly, and full waterproofs are always a must.
To minimise the space used we will use soft bags, like the blue IKEA bags to hold coats and shoes and they are squishy to fit in any spaces but nice and open to grab what you need in a hurry.
For clothing, we use Amazon packing cubes. These are fabric and mesh square pouches which come in various sizes. One person’s clothing items are all contained in the pouch and again they are squishy to fit into tight spaces.
We will usually store the clothing cubes and bag of coats in the wardrobe cupboard of our VW California Ocean.
Quite often, campsites we stay at have washing machines on-site, so if we are staying for a week, we will most likely take enough for four days and do a wash. I take a couple of pre-measured laundry detergent doses in small resealable plastic bags.
Towels and toiletries
We take one bath towel each and a couple of swimming towels too.
A little bulky, but they can be shoved in anywhere there is space or used to stop gear from rattling en route.
All of our toiletries are in soft wash bags, stored in the overhead locker cupboard above the rear seats in our California.
Clothes line for drying clothes
This is always a bone of contention for us. I like to bring our camping rotary line with us for a longer stay, but we often don’t have enough space for it.
As a family of four, we do need a facility to dry towels, coats, and maybe wetsuits after a day at the beach.
We compromise with a roll of washing line cord which we’ll attach to a tree and the awning rail or we’ll bring a small clothes horse. Pegs are a must of course.
We purchased some radiator airers to hang on the sliding door of the van. These weren’t very successful though and mostly got in the way. We use those in the house now instead.
We have two types of toilets. One for short trips and day trips and a second one for longer trips away.
Our short trip and day trip toilet is a popup Bivvy Loo. This lives permanently in the van as it comes in handy in an emergency when out and about or if we are away for just a couple of nights.
We will nearly always stay on a proper campsite as we have children with us and so will use the campsite facilities most of the time.
For longer trips away we have a Porta Potti 335 Portable Toilet which comes in useful in the middle of the night when we don’t want to stumble up to the amenities block in the dark.
The camping gear we pack for trips away varies depending on how long we’ll be away and if we plan to stay at more than one site.
Pop-Top Cover and Windscreen Cover
We opted for a Comfortz “Cali-Topper” pop-top cover and matching windscreen cover for our VW California Ocean.
Although the VW California Ocean has internal windscreen blinds, they do allow plenty of light in around the edges. The pop top lets plenty of light in too, so the cover helps to keep things dark during those summer mornings when the sun rises early.
In addition to keeping the pop-top dark, the roof cover also adds a layer of insulation for warmth.
An early-spring stay in a hired campervan a few years ago demonstrated to us the need to have insulation in the pop-top. We woke each morning to find all the bedding in the pop-top damp from condensation and freezing cold. Not very nice to wake up to and hard to get bedding dry during the day.
We have also been lashed with rain and high winds whilst sleeping in the roof bed and the cover has done its job to keep the rain and wind out.
As well as keeping warm and dry, the pop-top cover helps to keep the beating sun out on hot days. It’s a must-have if we are away overnight in the van.
Drive away awning or Comfortz awning kit
If we are away for a long stay or might need to have the facility to sleep more than 4 people then we always bring our drive-away awning. If we are away for just a couple of nights and not touring in the van we might be able to make do with the Comfortz Awning kit.
We find as a family of four we need some extra covered space outside the van to house items which are in the way at night-time, like car seats or bags of shoes or coats.
Always essential and sometimes forgotten is a mallet for driving in tent pegs. We also carry a set of rock pegs in case of very hard ground, and a tent peg extractor to make it easy to pull them out again.
Campervan electric hook up kit
We’ll bring the full electric hook up kit if we are staying for more than two days on a campsite.
For up to three days, we find we can manage well enough with the leisure battery supplying our electricity. We use power for lighting, charging devices, the fridge and if very cold, running a camping heater in the drive-away awning.
Our electric hook up kit comprises:
- Caravan site extension lead 25m (230V).
- 3-way mains hook up lead Y splitter (a 2-way is actually enough).
- Mobile mains roller power unit – used for powering the awning only.
- Worldwide Travel Adapter with 2 USB ports (for use inside the campervan as the VW California has a 2 pin socket behind the passenger door).
Occasional electric hook up kit:
- UK Mains hook up adapter – we only bring this if we are near a domestic outlet we might want to use – i.e. a friend’s house.
- European mains hook up adapter – obviously only bring for European travel.
Heating and lighting
Yes, you read that heading correctly. We’re comfy campers!
We take a small heater for our annexe (both the large or small versions) to take the edge off chilly mornings and cold evenings. It’s a Kampa Cuboid low wattage fan heater designed for camping, and runs off the campsite mains power supply.
For lighting, we have a Kampa SabreLink Flex lighting system. This LED light strip is also low wattage and can be plugged into the mains or the van’s 12V supply. It sticks to the annexe ceiling with velcro but can be mounted elsewhere with some string and a little imagination.
We do have ramps and chocks as part of our kit but rarely need to use them. It does make a real difference to sleeping in the pop-top in particular if you have the campervan nice and level. We have slept on a slope before without them and one of us ends up rolling on top of the person next to them.
Games to play in the campervan
We always have a healthy supply of table games in our campervan. We keep a range to suit all ages and abilities.
Ball games and sports equipment, wetsuits
Permanently resident in the boot are a couple of tennis balls and frisbees for a bit of throw and catch fun.
Depending on the destination, we might take a plastic cricket set, football, beach toys, and wetsuits for swimming in cooler water.
Noisy campsites with music blaring into the night are a pet hate.
We do enjoy listening to our own music sometimes, just not sharing it with our neighbours. So we always pack our JBL Flip 5 Bluetooth speaker (and keep the volume sensible).
We like to get away from the tech and encourage our kids to enjoy the outdoor environment with us. They do, but the British weather can mean we spend a few hours back at our little camp while the rain passes (or doesn’t).
Carrying a tablet or laptop means we can enjoy watching a film together. It also gives us more comfortable access than phone screens to more mundane things we may have to deal with.
This category is really for things we would prefer not to use, but better to be prepared than not.
Campervan First Aid Kit
We are never too far away from a pharmacy or a doctors surgery should we need help but we keep a small box of essential first aid kit supplies with us at all times in the van.
Our campervan first aid kit comprises:
- Nurofen tablets and Nurofen for Children
- Antiseptic wipes
- Micropore tape
- Roll of bandage
- Hand sanitiser gel
- Insect repellent
- Insect bite/sting cream
- Earplugs (for noisy campsites)
- Piriton tablets for allergies, bites, and stings
Campervan tools and extras kit
You never know when you might have to get creative on the road, so we keep a box of kit which might just come in handy if things don’t go to plan or you need to fashion a solution on the fly.
- Bungee cords
- Old towels
- Clothes pegs
- Tools – pliers, screwdrivers, bike multi-tool
- Work gloves
- Spare fuses and lightbulbs
- Tie-down straps
- LED torches including a head torch
- Mobile phone charging cables
- Strong utility cord
- Ball bungees – very handy for attaching together almost anything.
- Large S hooks for hanging gear in the annexe.
- Milton tablets for cleaning the water tank
- Boot buddy – great for cleaning up muddy boots and wellies before putting them in the van.
- Gorilla glue
- Gorilla tape
Finally, we make sure to take the documents (or copies) that we may need.
- Passports, when travelling to Europe.
- Vehicle registration papers.
- Proof of insurance.
- Campsite booking print-outs.
- Ferry and train tickets.
- Membership cards – roadside assistance, camping clubs, etc.
We also take photos of all of these documents with our phones and make sure to record contact numbers for our insurance company and roadside assistance.
So that’s our campervan packing list
That covers most things we consider packing for trips away in our campervan, as well as the items which have a permanent home there.
I hope you find this list useful for when you are deciding what essentials to pack for your next campervan trip. Happy travels!