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If you’re an avid camper, then you know the importance of having all your bases covered. There’s nothing worse than being out on the road and realizing that that one important item is missing. Here are the 25 must-have accessories that will make your camper van more comfortable and practical!
Newbies, this list is also for you! Are you looking to purchase some campervan accessories but don’t know where to start? Read on!
25 Must-Have Camper Accessories
Without further ado, let’s get into this. Like every part of van life, what you pack in your van is a personal experience. But in general, there are essential items that make road life easier and more practical.
1. Solar panel
First up, is are solar panels. These are an essential part of getting power to your rig.
When you are mapping out your campervan conversion, is the best time to consider how you are going to supply power to your van. Solar panels are a great way to get your fairy lights on, A/C running, devices connected, and whatever else you need running. They are especially important (and practical) for anyone who is camping or traveling to remote areas.
Another method for powering your van is a generator – and in some cases a solar-powered generator.
When you don’t have the funds to install a fully built-out solar system in your campervan, a solar-powered generator is a great, eco-friendly solution. They are also perfect for off-grid living or a weekend away from service.
Our favorite is the Jackery Portable Explorer 1000.
Read more about the best portable solar generators.
3. Bike rack
If you don’t need a ton of extra room but just want to get your dirty bike out of your living space, a bike rack is a great solution.
Bike racks are available to be installed in multiple ways, including on your roof, behind your rear doors, and even on the front of your van.
Mike and Susan recently purchased a Thule bike rack for their Lectric e-bikes and they absolutely love it! The Thule bike rack can swing down which allows access to their storage department and it can handle up to 130 lbs. Mike recommends also buying two sets of extra-long straps if your bikes have fat tires because the standard straps aren’t quite long enough.
4. Roof rack
Anyone who lives in their van full-time knows the struggle of storage. There’s no secret that in a tiny space, you have to manage your storage carefully.
A clever way to increase your storage capacity is to simply install a roof rack. Move all your outdoor toys like paddleboards, skis, and snowboards to the roof.
Plus, if you’re really needing more space, you can install a cargo carrier as well. The extra outside storage is a gamechanger for freeing up your space. Just keep in mind that your van will now need higher clearance.
5. Mattress underlay
Moisture is one of the biggest threats in van life. It creeps in, hides on corners and forgotten spaces, and slowly rots away or causes mold. Seriously, it’s something you should take seriously. Living, cooking, and sleeping in a tiny space can result in condensation that can cause problems.
To combat this silent destructor, place mattress underlay under your sleeping area. These breathable pads allow air to flow under your mattress.
Mike and Susan use the HyPUR-Flow moisture protection underlay from Tochta Mattresses and highly recommend it. Check out their video below to see how and why your mattress underlay works.
6. Sleeping bags
When you take off in your camper van for an epic camping trip, an important must-have is your sleeping bag. If your bed is a tight squeeze, having a narrow sleeping pad and bag can be a great alternative to a bulky mattress and bedding.
At night you simply need to unfurl the pad and bag. Then in the morning, you can quickly stow everything away and make space for the day’s activities.
7. Fire extinguisher
This might be something that even the van lifer veterans don’t think about too often. But it’s a complete must-have for your campervan.
Not only should you have a fire extinguisher in your van, but you should also regularly test and inspect it, have it somewhere with easy access, and know how to use it.
8. Gas detectors
All too often we see van conversion walk-through videos where they have installed a gas detector and think that they’ve done a good job.
But, did you know your gas detector needs to be below your head level? Propane is heavier than gas so having the LP monitor above where your head is (consider where it is when you sleep) is useless.
On the other hand, carbon monoxide is slightly lighter than air so your carbon monoxide detector should be higher up the wall.
9. First aid kit
While on the topic of safety, another not-so-fun (but super essential) accessory is a first aid kit.
You never know when you or someone you know is going to need first aid.
10. Water tanks
Water is the life-giving elixir that you have to manage carefully whether you’re wild camping or stealth camping in the city. One feature of van life is that suddenly a large part of your day revolves around finding water.
Having water tanks onboard your van can make that job a little easier. You don’t have to get too crazy with this. Simple 5-gallon jugs are usually sold for low prices. Get one (or two) freshwater jugs or consider a high quality water bladder. A water bladder is much easier to fold up and store when not in use.
Alternatively, when you are building out your van, you can install permanent tanks that you can fill and dump like in an RV.
11. Water bottle
We are in a time of life where it’s completely normal (and necessary) to carry a reusable water bottle. Get yourself one for van life.
Having access to your own water bottle filled with cool water is such a relief when you’re out adventuring, hiking, or even just working in your van.
Plus, water is essential to a healthy body… so just drink up.
12. Portable shower
Unless you have a fully-loaded Sprinter conversion, your rig might be lacking in the shower department. Luckily, there are alternatives to a full-blown bathroom in your van. This is especially good news for those with small vans.
There are lots of portable shower solutions on the market. These range from a simple bag hanging over your head to solar-heater shower bags with a showerhead. Whatever your needs, there is a way to keep yourself fresh and clean.
13. Head torch
If you’ve done any kind of camping, you know that having a head torch is very practical. Not just for wild camping, van lifers also know that a simple headlamp is a must-have.
No more feeling your way through the dark to cook a meal, read a book, or find a bathroom. Light your path with a hands-free method.
The best headlamps are rechargeable, have a red light which is the best light when star gazing or night fishing, and also have a strap that goes over the top of your head from front to back. You will quickly discover that head torches with a single strap that only goes around the sides and back of your head constantly creep down and need adjusting.
14. Mobile hotspot
Stay connected while you’re on your road trip. A mobile hotspot is a great way to allow van lifers to keep working without a fixed location.
You might be able to activate one on your mobile device or you can get a separate unit. There are tons of options out there as the interest in digital nomad life increases.
15. Roadside emergency kit
When the road is your home, a fully-stocked kit is one of the most important campervan accessories you can carry.
Breakdowns are a part of life, but when you’re home is on wheels, you have to consider things you’d need for the home part and the vehicle part of your house. A proper kit should include:
- Tire repair kit and jack
- Fix-a-flat spray
- Lug nut wrench
- Tool kit
- Tire pressure gauge
- Signal flares and warning triangles
- Tow strap
- Silicone repair tape
- Jumper cables
- Duct tape and electrical tape
- 12-volt fuses
- Reflective vest
- Zip ties
Traveling somewhere with snow? If you’re not migrating south for the winter, you should add some snow chains, an ice scraper, a bag of kitty litter, a shovel, a thermal blanket, and extra winter clothes.
16. Air conditioner
Staying cool is a must-have feature of any van build and an air conditioner is a must-have accessory.
Keep your tiny home inhabitable by installing an A/C unit that works for your lifestyle (and your budget).
Read more: Best Air Conditioners for a Camper Van.
17. 12-volt fan
A great companion to your campervan A/C is a 12-volt fan. One of these can help keep your van cool and keep the air circulating.
Moving air is important in preventing humidity and the subsequent problems that follow.
Check out RVBlogger’s article called 12 Best Battery Operated Fans for Camping to find your best choices.
18. GPS tracker
As a campervan owner, being able to track your van is important. Hopefully, you never need to use a GPS tracker, but I guarantee when you park at a campsite and leave to go explore, you’ll be grateful to have tracking should it get stolen.
Simply put, equipping your van with a GPS tracker is surprisingly affordable and totally worth the investment. You’d instantly be able to track your van’s movements and share that invaluable information with the authorities.
19. Security box
Now, this won’t help you if your entire van is gone, but a security or safe box is a great way to keep your valuable possessions out of the hands of would-be thieves. Unfortunately, it’s also one of many campervan accessories that no one thinks about until its too late.
Locking cupboards or other compartments can be broken into with some basic tools. But being able to hide away anything super important – like your passport – is a good reason to invest in a safe. The best security boxes are fireproof, waterproof, and can be bolted down.
20. Van toilet
However you choose to live your best van life, it no doubt involves a toilet.
When it comes to your van toilet, you need to think about three things:
- It’s comfortable (whatever that means to you)
- It’s easy to install or access
- It’s simple to empty
A self-contained composting toilet is a great option if you have limited space. You can have it built into your storage and have it slide out when you need it.
For some others, this might be a pee cup. And if that’s the case – we’re not here to judge.
21. Tire inflator
Driving down bumpy roads and having excess things in your van, it’s not a secret that your van tires will deflate over time.
It’s important to monitor your tire pressure and maintain it at the right level. This keeps you safe and your van road-worthy. It’s a good habit to check your tire pressure regularly (think daily) and at every stop when you’re on a long trip.
When you find yourself a little flat far away from a service station, having a tire inflator on board can come in clutch.
22. Portable coffee maker
Instant coffee is a sure-fire way to reduce your happiness drastically. Don’t torture yourself just because you live in a van. There are so many great portable coffee-making solutions out there.
A great, no power required method is the Aeropress. It also doesn’t Simply buy your favorite beans (or grind your own) and pour in hot water. If you’re off the grid, you can always boil water over a fire. Get yourself a reusable filter for extra eco-friendly points.
23. Extension cord
An extension cord is a must-have for stealth camping in urban areas. When the conditions are right, you can simply plug in your extension cord to your friend’s house or favorite business to get a little free power.
24. Van refrigerator
Having a way to keep your food fresh is essential for van life cooking. A van refrigerator can keep food that might have a short shelf life edible. This also helps you shop less.
One method for refrigeration is a camping cooler. This is a great option that requires no electricity and can keep your basics chilled with a bag of ice.
Other options include 12-volt coolers. If you have solar or a generator, this is a good way that doesn’t involve the hassle of ice melting. If you regularly park at campgrounds or have shore power, you can look into installing a 120-volt AC fridge. Or if power is an issue, check out propane fridges.
25. Portable cooker
Last up, but certainly not least, is a cooker. This is a broad word but for van life, you can choose a portable induction burner, or a propane or natural gas cooker. Whatever the method, you need some way to cook yourself hot meals.
A portable induction cooker is a great option when you have reliable power and don’t want to deal with gas canisters. A great feature of these burners is that they are generally pretty good energy savers but still generate the heat you need to cook.
When power isn’t reliable, a gas-powered cooker is a great alternative. You can go low-tech like your traditional Coleman cooking stove or get a stove and oven combination.
Which Campervan Accessories are Most Important?
At the end of the day, what you bring on your van journey will be personalized. However, there are so many common items that the vast majority of van lifers will need. For each item, there is a wide range of options from the cheap, DIY version to the fully-loaded version. It’s your journey, so you get to decide what you need and what you don’t. Plus, van life is notorious for bringing out the ingenuity in us.
There are so many accessories out there for van life that it can be hard to know what you need and don’t. Here’s our list of 25 must-have campervan accessories.
What are your must-haves for campervan life? These are things we couldn’t live without! What is your essential gear?
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About the author…
Jennifer is a full-time RVer and part-time van lifer. She is one half of DashboardDrifters.com and the founder of RVSpotDrop, a web service for full-time RVers.