Planning a campervan road trip this year? It can be hard to decide what to bring, so I’ve put together this list of campervan essentials with all the campervan equipment you might need to have a fabulous campervan experience. I’ve also included a printable campervan packing list for you to make your life even easier!
What Really is Essential?
When I was writing this list, I realised that a lot of the things I wanted really aren’t “essential”, in that you could quite happily head off in your campervan and survive with the basics. However, road trips are supposed to be fun, and camping is a lot more enjoyable with some home comforts.
So, I decided to categorise my campervan essentials, and include the things that really are essential, as well as those little extras which will make your trip more enjoyable and a little easier. Non-essential items will have a little asterisk next them so you know which ones you could leave off your packing list if needed.
Personally, when I don’t have to carry everything myself, I would rather over-pack, so I know I am prepared for every eventuality. However, you need to make sure that everything will fit comfortably in your campervan without getting in the way.
This campervan essentials list doesn’t include clothing or food for your campervan trip, so remember you will need to pack those in somewhere too!
Converting a Campervan?
I am the new owner of a fabulous campervan. Mabel is a purpose-built campervan, so I didn’t do any of the campervan conversion myself, but no matter if you are planning a conversion or have a campervan that is ready to go, you will need these campervan essentials to give you some ideas for what you need to include, and to make sure you pack everything once you’re ready to go.
Planning a campervan conversion can be a challenge so make sure you do plenty of research before you take the plunge.
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Renting a Campervan
If you are renting a campervan, some of these items won’t apply to you, and some will be included already in your camper. Check the inventory of what is included so you can cross that off your campervan packing list.
Get Your Printable Campervan Packing List
I highly recommend reading the whole article to give you some background on what some of the items are and why you’ll need them. However, for quick reference and to make your life even easier, I’ve created a printable campervan packing list which you can download and print off.
Campervan Essentials You Need for an Awesome Trip:
Essential Paperwork for Campervans
Before you set out in your own motorhome or campervan, you need to get your paperwork sorted out. Boring, yes, but definitely essential! If you are hiring a campervan then this paperwork might not apply to you but check all of the details in your rental agreement and insurance.
In the UK, once you’ve purchased your new campervan, the previous owner will give you a section of the vehicle logbook to keep, and you will fill in your details on the section they send off to the DVLA. It takes a couple of weeks for the new documents to arrive, so keep the temporary paperwork with you until it arrives.
I provided my email address and got an email confirming that I am the new registered keeper before the new documents arrived.
Of course, you need to make sure you have insurance for your campervan arranged from the date it comes into your possession. I have a paper copy of my insurance certificate in the van with me so I have all the details handy should I need them.
You are not allowed to drive your campervan without taxing it first, so if you are buying a campervan as soon as you have the keys you will need to get it taxed. In the UK, taxing is quick and easy on the UK government website. You’ll need the registration number provided on your vehicle log-book to process the tax.
This isn’t mandatory but I highly recommend getting some kind of breakdown cover so if you have any problems while you are on the road you can get someone out to fix it or at least take you to the nearest garage. This is particularly useful with older campervans which might have more things go wrong!
Driving License and Copies
Don’t forget your drivers license! If you have other people with you who might be driving, they’ll also need their license and insurance to allow them to drive.
Camping & Caravanning Club Membership *
Membership to the British Camping and Caravanning Club (or any other association) isn’t essential, but it can come in very handy! I joined the Camping and Caravanning Club as my parents were members when they had their caravan, and membership gets you access to their exclusive campsites and discounts on stays and other campervan essentials like insurance.
If you are staying in one country then you will only need to check the requirements for that particular country, but if you plan on driving around Europe or elsewhere then each country will have its own requirements. Border crossings can be complicated, so make sure you have everything prepared and in order, and don’t overstay your visa.
In Europe, you are required to have extra items such as a GB sticker (for Brits), emergency triangle, and high-vis jacket. You may also need an international driving permit, so check if your destination country/countries require(s) one for your nationality.
You may also need to look at changing the direction of your headlights for driving on the other side of the road, again check each destination you plan on visiting to make sure you have everything you need. The AA website has more detailed information on each country’s requirements.
Campervan Essentials for the Vehicle
If you are renting a campervan or motorhome, this should all be taken care of for you, but check everything is up to scratch when you pick up your camper.
However, if you own a campervan and are heading out on a long trip, or plan to live in your campervan these are some of the essential things you will need to pack for the upkeep and care of your vehicle.
Unless you’re the kind of person who likes to get lost and explore, a sat-nav is a very useful piece of kit, especially if you’re a solo traveller and don’t have a navigator beside you. Garmin and TomTom are two of the best-known brands, but there are other options available. If you don’t want to buy a new sat-nav, you might be able to pick up a second-hand one on Ebay, or download an app for your phone.
Even if you have a sat-nav or phone app to direct you, should everything else fail, a decent road atlas or street map really is essential. I keep mine in my door pocket and check I know roughly where I’m going before I set off.
Windscreen Washer Fluid
When I bought my campervan, there was absolutely no windscreen washer fluid left to clean the windscreen! Luckily, I remembered to check before I headed out, and topped her up so I can have a sparkly clean windscreen.
For short trips, you may not need to take spare oil with you, but always remember to check the oil level before a long journey to make sure your van isn’t leaking or burning oil off too fast
I admit it, I am a bit precious about getting my hands dirty, so I have a pair of old gardening gloves that I have in the van that I can put on to do any dirty work with the engine or tyres.
Spare Tyre & Jack
Most campervans should already have these included, but make sure they are present and correct, and the spare tyre is in good condition.
Spare Bulb Kit*
Spare bulbs are really handy in case one of your headlights or taillights stop working. A small box of bulbs won’t cost you much to buy, and they will easily fit into your glove compartment or door pockets.
Steering Wheel Lock & Wheel Clamp
When you have all your worldly possessions in the campervan, you want to do as much as you can to protect them! So, taking precautions to stop your van getting stolen is absolutely essential.
A steering wheel lock is a quick fix when you go to the supermarket for example, but for longer walks or trips away from the van, a wheel clamp will put off most thieves.
High Vis Jacket & Warning Triangle
Electrical Pitch Cable
Most campervans will have an electrical cable already included, but if not they are easy enough to get hold of. Make sure the cable is long enough to reach a fair distance as some camping sites may not have sockets very close by.
I also have a UK plug socket adapter on the end of mine which allows me to plug into any home electrical supply, so I can plug into my parents’ house or when I’m camped at a friend’s place I can still plug into the grid and get electricity.
When its not in use, I have mine coiled up under the passenger seat.
A hose is really useful for filling up the water tank, rinsing out your portapotty and for cleaning the van. Most campsites will have a hosepipe where you can fill up, but you never know when it might come in handy. Try to keep your water supply hose well away from the toilet cleaning area!
Mini Spirit Level
This handy little gadget will help you check if your campervan is level before setting up for the night. Small enough to fit in your pocket, choose one with a vertical and horizontal gauge so you know you’re dead level. >>>>BUY NOW
Once you’ve used your spirit level to determine which side of your van needs levelling off, some wheel levellers will do the job for you. I have some of these yellow levellers which I put in front of the wheels to drive onto, or there are plenty of other designs which do the job.
I didn’t even know these existed, but after booking a pitch on a campsite they reminded me to place a pitch marker if I left the site in my campervan, so other people would know that the pitch is reserved. I don’t think these are required in the US (please correct me if I’m wrong), but in the UK they will come in handy.
You could make your own, as long as it is sturdy enough to withstand all kinds of weather, or just buy one, like this one from Amazon which comes with holes where you can peg it to the ground. It’s also a good idea to write your number plate on the pitch marker so you know it’s yours!
Campervan Essentials Inside the Van
For anywhere where you will be sleeping, a fire alarm could save your life so it’s a no-brainer. Make sure you test it before you set off anywhere – the one that came in my van didn’t have a battery in it, so I ordered a brand new one. >>>BUY NOW ON AMAZON
Carbon Monoxide Detector
If you have any gas appliances or gas canisters in the van then a carbon monoxide detector is essential. Like fire alarms, they aren’t expensive but could save your life so it is well worth the money!
Make sure it is working properly and follow the instructions for where to put it in the van. Generally, carbon monoxide detectors need to be high up (as CO rises) and close to your gas appliances. You can also get smoke alarms with built-in CO detectors too! >>>BUY NOW ON AMAZON
Fire Extinguisher and Fire Blanket
Again, let’s not mess around with our safety here, it is better to be prepared. If you already have a fire extinguisher in your van, check what kind of fire you can use it on – wood, gas, chemical etc as each fire extinguisher has different uses.
First Aid Kit
It doesn’t need to be anything fancy, but having some basic first aid supplies is really useful. Bandages, plasters (band-aids) and antiseptic wipes can all come in handy, as well as surgical gloves. In these times, I also have face masks in the van and a couple of spare ones in the first aid kit.
With the amount of time you’re likely to spend outdoors, and with your campervan doors and windows open, having something to deter biting insects really is a must. I have insect repellent for my skin, and I’ve also ordered some citronella candles for when I’m sitting outside the van.
Emergency Tools and Useful Bits
I really don’t know if I’d class this as essential, but all of these bits and bobs could come in really handy for something! My dad gave me a little ice cream tube of useful gadgets, including gaffer tape, pliers, cable ties, bungee ropes, string and electrical tape. You never know!
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A must on any camper’s list, a penknife isn’t necessarily a campervan essential, but you can get a whole lot of useful gadgets in one small knife. I have a mini pen-knife which has a knife, scissors, tweezers, nail file and toothpick, but you can also get larger ones with things like bottle openers, tin openers, and everything you could imagine.
It’s the middle of the night and the electrics have gone out on the van. You need to go to the toilet and the campsite loos are half a mile away. There are all sorts of reasons why you might need a torch, so make sure you have one, with some spare batteries.
I have a Maglite handheld torch which can also stand up and double as an electric candle, and a head torch so I can see what I’m doing while keeping both my hands free. Most phones have built-in torches these days, but even a small torch attached to your keys is a good idea.
Lighter Phone Charger
When you’re driving your campervan, it’s very useful to be able to charge up some of your electronics while you are going along. The van electrics should be switched off while you’re on the move, so having a USB charger which fits into the cigarette lighter socket means you can charge up as you go, without draining your leisure battery.
Inverter for Charging Laptops*
This isn’t essential, but if you have a laptop then an inverter which plugs into the cigarette lighter and charges up your larger electronics also comes in handy.
Multi-Plug Extension Cable*
Depending how many plug sockets you have in the campervan, a multi-plug adapter can be very useful, if not essential. I haven’t needed to use the one I have as I’m just one person, but if you have several people wanting to charge phones, laptops and other electronics then a multi-plug would definitely come in handy!
If you’ve got long legs then a step up to the van entrance may not be necessary, but a campervan step is a cheap and useful item which could save you a nasty fall. Foldable ones feel more flimsy but take up less space in the van when you are driving, but as it’s just for me a fixed one does the job for Mabel.
I found having a doormat to be very useful, as when I climb into the van, I have somewhere to wipe my feet and take off my shoes so I can keep the inside of the campervan as clean as possible. You can get all sorts of designs too to match your campervan style!
Although Mabel has a built-in water tank, I’m not keen on drinking water that has been through her system. At the moment I’m using 2-litre bottles which I fill up straight from the drinking water tap to use to drink, as they fit nicely in the fridge if it’s hot. Other people have a larger water carrier, or buy bottled water although I don’t want to buy more plastic! I also have a water bottle with a built-in filter so I can drink out of Mabel’s system if I need to. Read my review of the Water to Go Bottle here.
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One thing that is seriously lacking in Mabel is wardrobe space. There are plenty of shelves and cupboards though, so to keep my clothes tidy I got some packing cubes. There are various different sizes of cubes you can get, so measure up your cupboard space before you choose which ones to buy. I also have a couple of plastic bags for my underwear and a cloth shopping bag for my laundry.
Wellies and Flip Flops
I’ll share my campervan clothing packing list in another post, but two things you don’t want to forget are rubber wellington boots (wellies) and flipflops so you can quickly and easily slip some shoes on, no matter what the weather!
Campervan Cleaning Essentials
Keeping your campervan clean and tidy is absolutely essential, as the small space quickly gets untidy, dusty and dirty if you don’t keep on top of it.
Washing Powder and Hand Wash
I’m not sure how much I’ll be able to access laundry facilities while I’m away this year as many campsites have closed their laundry and shower blocks. However, I’ve got some washing powder in case I can, and some handwash which I can use for underwear and lighter items.
Washing Line & Pegs
For hanging out your laundry of course! Often you can find a tree to hang your line from, or you might be able to hang some things off your awning if it’s not too heavy. Otherwise, draping wet things over the steering wheel, dashboard and front seats also helps to dry off clothes.
Dustpan & Brush
There’s no space for a vacuum cleaner in Mabel, so a dustpan and brush will have to do.
For cleaning and for emptying out the toilet – rubber gloves are definitely a campervan essential!
Because you never know! I usually have a couple on the go at a time – for washing up, cleaning the inside of the van and cleaning the toilet.
A no-brainer really!
Since COVID arrived, face masks are the must-have accessory for travel this year! I bought some reusable face masks as I love the patterns and wanted to reduce single-use waste.
Hand Sanitizer & Anti-Bacterial Wipes
Anti-bacterial wipes are very useful for wiping down anything you buy to make sure it is virus-free. Hand sanitizer is also a must for if you are out and about and need a quick fix before washing your hands.
A bucket (collapsible if you can get it!) can be used for all sorts of things – a rubbish bin, to clean the van, and to collect greywater from the tank.
Van Shampoo & Sponge
Not really essential, but you may want to give your trusty campervan a clean, especially if you are travelling somewhere wet and muddy! Something to bear in mind, if you take it to a car wash, make sure you can clear the height restrictions. Be careful with hand car washes too, as a power washer can get all inside the vents and pipes and cause a few problems there!
Campervan Essentials for your Bathroom
Porta-Potty and Toilet Chemicals
Many campsites won’t be opening their toilet and shower facilities this year due to the strict cleaning and social distancing protocols, so having a place to do your business is essential. Varying from a simple bucket to a full-on porta-potty, you will need somewhere to pee and poop. I’ve heard that kitty litter could do the job, but I’ve got a built-in loo that needs chemicals to break down what’s inside and to stop smells.
You can never have enough toilet paper as far as I’m concerned! Campervan toilet manufacturers will recommend getting their special paper, which is easier to break down, but I’ve found normal toilet paper does the trick just fine. Try to avoid the very thick, quilted kind though.
Some regular household cleaners are too harsh for porta-potties as they could damage the valves and sealants, so check what is recommended. However, something to clean up the bathroom and toilet is definitely a campervan essential!
Camping doesn’t mean going without washing for weeks on end! Especially if you are sharing your campervan, keeping yourselves clean is better for everyone. I’ve got solid soap for hand washing and solid shampoo for my hair too
Arguably not essential, but I find a flannel handy to use as it doesn’t take much water to clean my body and rinse off afterwards.
Quick-drying ones like microfibre trek towels work best as they take up less space and dry quicker, especially if you put them in the front of the van on a sunny day!
I use a ‘normal’ hand towel after washing my hands, as it feels nicer than the trek towels, but each to their own!
Essential Items for your Campervan Kitchen
Whether you are rustling up meals on a camping stove or in a built-in kitchen, these essential kitchen items will make mealtime much easier!
I won’t bother explaining why they are useful, as that should be obvious – but if you have any questions just let me know!
Crockery – Plates, Cups, Bowls
Cutlery – Knives, Forks, Spoons, Teaspoons
Pans with Lids
Oven Tray (if you have an oven)
Cooking Dishes (if you have an oven)
Oven Gloves (if you have an oven)
Tupperware Storage Containers
Beeswax Wraps (instead of plastic bags)
Bin Bags (I re-use shopping bags)
Ice Cube Tray (If you have a freezer compartment)
Drying Up Towel
Washing Up Liquid/Soap
Washing Up Bowl/Bucket (if you don’t have a sink)
Reusable shopping bags
In the Bedroom
I currently have 2 pillows, but am looking at trading one when I get some cute cushions that will double up as decor and pillows at night.
Duvet or Sleeping Bag
This comes down to personal preference and space – a sleeping bag will probably take up less space, but there is nothing more comforting than a cosy duvet. I have a thin summer duvet and plenty of blankets to keep me warm.
I always have a sheet as a base layer, otherwise it doesn’t feel like a real bed!
You do not want to be cold in bed, and it’s surprising how chilly it can get – even in summer! I have 2 blankets, and a hot water bottle just in case!
Hot Water Bottle*
Again, not really essential but on a chilly evening, you will be glad of a nice hot water bottle! I bought this super cute sloth hot water bottle cover which I love; there are lots of designs to choose from!
Earplugs & Eye Mask*
I don’t travel anywhere without my earplugs as I’m a light sleeper – campervans are not as soundproof as double-glazed houses so you may find even if you don’t usually use earplugs you’ll be glad of them in the van! Similarly, depending on how good your curtains are, an eye mask can come in handy.
Arguably none of these are really campervan essentials, but who doesn’t want to be comfy sitting outside your van?
Camping Chair & Picnic Blanket
What use is being outside if you don’t have anything comfy to sit on?
I’ve got a couple of citronella candles to keep the bugs away, and to provide some lighting. I’ve also just got a battery-powered lightbulb that will hang from the awning.
Wow, that’s all of the campervan essentials I can think of, plus plenty more besides! Have I missed anything? Is there anything on here that you love or hate? I’d love to hear your thoughts, please leave your comments below.
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