Van Camping Equipment and Features: A Quick Overlook

Updated July 2, 2021
Senior man talking to son while family relaxing outside van at campsite

Camping is a fun activity for many people. When it comes to camping, there are numerous ways to enjoy the experience, including tent camping, motorhome camping, hammock camping, and van camping. If you choose to take on camping via van, know what camping equipment is an absolute must.

Start With the Right Van

When it comes to camping and vans, not all vans are cut out for a camping excursion. Some vans are more adaptable to the experience than others. Be sure to purchase or rent a van that will best suit your camping needs.

A Minivan

Minivans are great options for people who want to use the vehicle to camp and need to cart around several kids in their day-to-day lives. Owning a minivan kills two birds with one stone and is more cost-effective than owning a car and an RV.

A Cargo Van

Cargo vans are large, spacious and allow ample room to create conversions that will make van camping life exciting and comfortable. Avid van campers can essentially strip or gut the inside of the van and make it a space completely devoted to camping needs.

Pop Top Camper Van

Think of this vehicle as part van and part camper. When the van is in park, the roof pops up to allow for more standing space.

Essential Van Camping Equipment

If you are going to take on van camping, you'll want to have a few helpful camping items on hand to create a comfortable experience.

Van Camping Equipment for Sleeping

Young woman having a stunning view out of the back of her Camping Van

No one can have a quality experience when they are getting zero sleep. Be sure to set up your sleeping space with everything you need to catch a good night's rest.

  • An air mattress or a pull-out van bench seat. If your camping van is converted and bare, lay soft foam tiles on the van floor to create soft, flat space.
  • Plenty of warm bedding. Your van might get cool at night. Consider a space heater if you are camping in chilly weather. A portable fan can assist in a good night's rest during warmer months.
  • A sleeping mask - The natural light creeps into a van mighty early.

Van Camping Equipment for Cooking

Cooking over an open fire is one of the highlights of the camping experience. Be sure to have cooking essentials on hand during your van camping outing.

  • A collapsable cooking table to prepare food on
  • A small cutting board
  • A few sporks (part, fork, part spoon, complete package)
  • A collapsable water jug and water bottles
  • A portable refrigerator, so much better than spoiling food floating in melted ice
  • A small portable stove and a pan, don't forget a spatula!
  • A cutting knife
  • A water filter (if you are camping off the grid)

Van Camping Equipment for Bathroom Needs

When you gotta go, you gotta go. Having the means to use the bathroom or clean yourself up is essential. If your campground doesn't have a lavatory or you are spending some time off the grid, be sure to have bathroom essentials on hand.

  • A portable shower
  • Compostable wipes for body wiping and other parts wiping
  • Dry shampoo and soap shavings
  • Portable toilet
  • A means to keep shower and toilet private, such as a bathroom tent

Other Helpful Van Camping Equipment

These items will make camp life more comfortable and will come in handy.

  • A toolkit
  • A quality camping chair that folds up
  • A high-powered lantern and battery-powered touch lights for your van.
  • Insect repellant
  • A shallow bucket to clean feet before entering the van
  • A dustbuster (for all that sand and dirt you will undoubtedly track into the van)
  • A laundry bag or if van camping for a longer period, a portable laundry system

Keep Van Camping Equipment Organized

Man eating breakfast next to his camper van

Staying organized during any camping excursion is key, especially when camping in small quarters. When partaking in van camping, organize your belongings so that they stay out of your way and don't get ruined.

  • Invest in a car-top carrier. These can be soft or hard-shelled models. Make sure that your carrier is waterproof.
  • Use waterproof totes and a pop-up tent. Put the pop-up tent next to your van and store miscellaneous items in waterproof totes, leaving them underneath the pop-up tent. Put the totes with the most commonly used items at the top of the tote stack.
  • Make hidden storage. If you convert the back of a van to a space with a bed, build storage underneath the sleeping space. If benches or table space exist in the camper van, build hidden storage under those areas.
  • Bring a small tent along. Perhaps you sleep in the camper van but consider popping a small tent next to the van for your storage needs. The tent will keep items clean, dry, and out of sight.
  • Build storage into the walls
  • If your van walls are bare, create storage along them. Make sure everything is reinforced, so items don't get tossed around during travel.
  • Pack in duffel bags or soft carriers instead of hard, cumbersome suitcases.

Living the Van Life

Living the van life is something more and more people are turning to these days. They are forgoing their hefty mortgages and 2,000 square foot homes and trading them in for a nomadic lifestyle. Living the van life is freeing, invigorating, and an experience of a lifetime. You will certainly be giving up the creature comforts you are used to for adventure, nature, and excitement. Before committing to van life, consider the following:

  • Do you have the means to support yourself? The ability to work remotely is ideal for van life.
  • Work out the costs of having your van stay at various parks for extended periods.
  • Prepare for mechanical hiccups. When something goes wrong with a vehicle, the costs can be high. Be sure to have funds stored away to fix pertinent problems, especially since this van is about to become your home.
  • Where will you sleep, and where will you clean? Searching out places to wash up can become exhausting. Consider installing a solar van shower, a camp shower, or stay at parks where there are bathrooms and shower facilities.
  • Ensure your privacy. Vans have windows. If the van becomes your home, make sure to have window coverings.

A Whole New Way to Camp

Van camping is unique and thrilling. To get the most out of the experience, be sure to have the van camping necessities on hand. Spend the time thinking about what you truly need, what you can live without, and how you will move from one place to the next with all of your gear. Careful thought and planning will helo your van camping trip go off without a hitch.

Van Camping Equipment and Features: A Quick Overlook