2021 camper essentials: the complete checklist for your next van life trip
Convinced by the promise of an amazing van life adventure, you’ve finally bought your own camper. But what’s next? What are the van life essentials you really need to make the whole experience even more memorable?
After living the van life in Australia in a 4WD, we decided to buy Perla, our 30 years old VW bus. We’ve been living in our bus since then, with two kids.
Travelling around in our own van life camper, we learned a thing or two about the best campervan accessories. This list is, however, a very personal thing.
People tend to disagree about the ultimate camper essentials list. It all depends on how much space you have, what your van life budget is and what’s important to you.
So we’re giving you an extensive list of useful van life accessories following our own experiences. Some are absolutely essential and used daily by us. Others are just fun and make great van life gifts for your next birthday.
We hope this list will be of great help when you’re planning for your next trip!
Pin and save this list of van life gear for later
Power, electronics and gadgets
Van life power options
Solar panel (Sungoldpower 100 Watt)
Van life solar panels are definitely one of the RV camping essentials. If you love off-grid camping or want to be self-sufficient, they are worth the investment. We use ours all the time. You can either choose for a fixed panel, a flexible or a foldable panel, depending on how much power you want.
Deep cycle battery (Universal Power 100 Ah)
If you have a solar panel, you want to be able to store the power in a deep cycle battery. Choose the right van life batteries depending on the wattage of your solar panel.
12 V USB Socket (Linkstyle 4 in 1)
We have one of these attached two our deep cycle battery. Very easy to load anything with USB or a car charger. It even gives you how much of your battery is left.
USB Car charger (QGeeM Quick Charge)
One of the must haves for RV camping!! Smartphones, tablets, e-readers, … We need to charge all the time. Charge even faster while driving with this QGeeM USB quick charger.
Power inverter (Bestel 300 Watt 12V to AC 110V)
Full-time van life living means we need to have power for our laptops even when we are off-road. A solar panel, deep cycle battery and van life inverter do the trick for us.
Portable power station (Jackery Explorer)
Another great alternative is this portable power station. This eco-friendly (solar powered) and quiet generator enables you to charge laptops, drones, camera gear and so much more.
Sound, tech and van life gadgets
E-reader (Kindle paperwhite)
We carry along two e-readers for two adults and two kids. And we love them! Hours of reading fun without the heavy and spacious books. It’s waterproof and has a non-glare screen that lights up at night.
Bluetooth speaker (Bose portable outdoor speaker)
One of our favourite camper van accessories is our Bose portable Bluetooth speaker. We use it in our van, on the beach, at the pool or on any campground. Waterproof, Bose’s known qualitative sound and with an easy strap to put it anywhere you want.
Camera gear (Sony a6000 set)
Unmissable on every trip is a decent camera and lens(es). As we love photography, we have an extensive camera gear collection inclusive a drone.
Wireless Headphone (Soundcore Silver)
Camper van travel is amazing, but you live close together. Especially when you travel with kids. Being able to listen to music, a movie or something else without disturbing anybody is a gift from heaven.
External hard drive (WD Elements 2TB)
Store all of your pictures and videos on the go with this 2TB external hard drive.
Camper van life connectivity
Cellular signal booster (weBoost Drive X RV)
These signal boosters can’t work if there isn’t even the slightest connection, but they will definitely boost a weak signal which might be a life saver if you need to work or upload something.
WiFi signal booster (WiFi Camp Pro 2)
Van life WiFi is important and with this WiFi signal booster, it gets much easier. It picks up a weak signal (for example from a campground) and transforms it into a stronger personal hotspot.
Global mobile hotspot (GlocalMe Hotspot)
Enter a SIM card and enjoy van life internet, worldwide high-speed WiFi without roaming charges.
Light bulbs outdoor string (Solar String Lights)
I could first talk about all the essential van life lighting you need, but who follows us on our Instagram knows we love light bulb strings. To us, they are essential to every van life design.
Battery operated string lights (100 Led Battery Lights)
For your van life interior you could either choose for regular lighting options, but we love these fairy lights. They create an amazing atmosphere and give enough light for the dark evenings.
Camping lantern (LE Led Rechargeable Light)
This amazing camping lantern should be a part of every RV packing list. It’s waterproof, USB rechargeable and also serves as a power bank for your smartphone or camera.
Van Life Kitchen Essentials
Van life cooking
Propane camping stove (Hike Crew Stove/Grill)
Even when you have a little kitchen in your campervan, we think bringing along a portable van life stove is always a good idea. That way it’s never a problem to cook outside. And this one even has a grill!
Oven on the stove top (Omnia Oven)
With this Omnia oven, you can bake anything in your camping van kitchen, right on the stove top! Even the not so obvious van life food as pizza, bread, cakes or casseroles are suddenly possible! The perfect van life oven, without needing the place for a real oven.
Dutch Oven (Lodge Deep Camp Dutch Oven)
We carry one of these around in our VW bus and love it! Hang it of a tripod over the fire and prepare some delicious van life meals. Back to the real cooking!
Collapsible silicone pot (GSI Escape Cooking Pot)
Collapsible silicone pots and pans are the perfect RV kitchen supplies when you don’t have a lot of space. You can find many different kinds of these amazing collapsible camper van cooking essentials.
Bamboo cutting board (Sky Light cutting board)
There are many van life kitchen ideas, but this one is an essential. Never leave without a decent cutting board with juice groove.
Water and drinks essentials
Water bottle (Thermoflask bottle)
Every little think helps to reduce your footprint and using a water bottle in stead of plastic bottles is a very easy step. We always carry our water bottles around and love these Thermoflask bottles because they keep your drink cold (or hot).
Thermos (Stanley Classic Thermos)
Who doesn’t remember this classic thermos from the old days? A very handy item to take along when camping.
Water filter (Waterdrop waterfilter straw)
If you hike a lot or camp remotely, it’s a good idea to take along one of these water filters.
Refillable water containers (WaterStorageCube)
These eco friendly water container bags are very handy to carry along when you’re living the van life. Ideal to bring extra water when you go off-grid or travel through very hot environments.
Italian coffee maker (Bialetti Express)
Starting the day in your van with this Italian coffee maker is a joy in itself. This little coffee maker allows you to have a perfect coffee, even when camping off-grid.
Bamboo coffee cup (Eco friendly coffee cup)
These bamboo cups aren’t just eco friendly and handy, but they look good as well. We use them for our coffee and tea in the morning and love the fact we can easily use them when we are driving.
Other RV kitchen essentials
12V Portable fridge (Massimo E-kooler)
One of the camper van essentials is a portable cooler (if you don’t have a built-in fridge in your van). Especially when you’re travelling through hot areas.
Portable cooler (Lifewit collapsible cooler bag)
These portable cooler bags are very handy to carry along when you’re travelling through warm countries. As they are foldable, they don’t take a lot of free space.
Camping chairs (Sportneer Ultralight Chair)
If you don’t have a lot of space, these lightweight but sturdy camping chairs are amazing! They fold together into a small bag.
Camping table (Sportneer Ultralight Table)
Another great piece by Sportneer, this incredible light and compact folding camping table. Ideal when you don’t have a lot of space.
Camper van Heaters and ventilation
Propane heater (Mr. Heater F232000)
If you haven’t isolated your van or you’re planning to try out the van life winter, this propane heater is a life-saver.
In our VW bus, it can get very cold, but this heater makes it perfectly warm. One of the best van life hacks if you ask us. However, make sure you have ventilation and best not to leave it on during the night.
Carbon monoxide detector (Kidde Alarm)
Better be safe than sorry! If you use a propane heater for camper van living, you better take a carbon monoxide detector along to be sure.
Clip-on fan USB rechargeable (OGAJO Fan)
We made the mistake to travel through Italy in the summer without a clip-on fan. Won’t happen again! This silicon fan can be attached anywhere and is USB-rechargeable. One of the essentials for van life in hot weather!
Air Vent (FAN-tastic Vent 7350)
If you’re planning a van life conversion, instal a fan for ventilation in your RV. The best part of these fans is the rain sensor, which means it will close when it starts to rain.
Security, safety and maintenance
Van life security and safety
GPS Tracker (Invoxia Cellular GPS Tracker)
Unfortunately, you hear stories about stolen vans all the time. With our old VW bus, we didn’t want to take the risk, so we bought this magnetic GPS tracker. Hide in the car and you can track where your camper is. He even gives a sign if there is movement on your stationary camper.
Roadside emergency kit (Car Kit WNG)
Let’s hope you don’t need it, but an roadside assistance emergency kit should be part of your van life gear.
First aid kit (Surviveware Large Kit)
We always carry along a first aid kit and love this one. Although it’s rather large, it has everything you need for travelling with a van and enjoying the outdoors.
Fire extinguisher (First Alert)
Everybody should have a fire extinguisher on their RV must have list. Especially if you prepare food inside, you never know what could happen.
Tool kit (Cartman 148-piece tool set)
When you’re living the van life, it’s better to be prepared for everything. It’s hard to say what the best RV tool kit is, but this one never failed us!
Jump starter (UTRAI Portable Jump Starter)
This is a life-saver if you’re driving an old van like we do and love to camp remotely! It is rechargeable with a car charger and also has an emergency light. One of the must haves for a camper if you ask us.
Air compressor (Prow portable tire inflator)
A great way to inflate your tires when you have a flat tire or simply when you want to add some pressure. Works great for off-road driving!
Keeping the van clean
Hand vacuum cleaner (VacLife Handheld Vacuum)
Keeping the camper van interior clean is almost impossible without one of these, especially when you are travelling with kids or pets.
Doormat (DII Camper Doormat)
On your RV essentials list should be a doormat, and certainly a cute one as this one 😉! Having this doormat right outside your van will keep all the dirt outside (or most of it at least).
Van life bathroom essentials
Van life shower and van life toilet
Solar shower (Advanced Elements 5 Gallon/2L)
Maybe not one of the camper must haves for everyone, but a solar shower comes in very handy when you are travelling remotely.
Just fill it with water, place it in the sun for a couple of hours, and you’ll have a hot shower when you return from your daily adventures.
Portable Outdoor Shower (Ivation Battery Shower)
This showerhead pumps water from a bucket and creates a steady stream with great pressure. Very handy for a quick shower on the road!
Portable toilet (Thetford Porta Potti 345)
Is remote or free camping your thing? One of the must haves for RV living is a portable toilet. The best toilet for van life in our opinion is this Porta Potti we carry along in our VW bus.
No more worries when you need to go during the night or won’t make it in time to a public restroom. A lifesaver if you ask us!
Pop up bathroom tent (Green Elephant Utilitent)
A lot of van life conversions don’t incorporate a separate bathroom. This tent is the perfect solution! It has all the necessary accessories such as a shower opening, toilet paper holder, hangers, … No more shameful situations during your next trip!
Toiletry camper van essentials
Eco friendly shampoo and soap bar (Ethique Bar)
Enjoy nature but don’t leave a trace. This brand uses no plastic and only biodegradable ingredients. Zero-waste, which is exactly what we want for van life!
Wet shower wipes (Epic wipes)
These wipes are a game changer! Ideal when there is no shower around and it’s too cold for an outdoor shower. Best part, they are biodegradable!
Turkish towel (Organic Turkish Beach Towel)
We always used to bring microfiber towels along during our travels. And we still do! But recently we fell in love with Turkish towels. They look good (even as a blanket or rug), are highly absorbent and dry very quickly. And these ones are made of 100% organic cotton!
Van life laundry
Portable travel clothesline (Hawatour)
Easy to forget but so handy if you brought one along! We love this clothesline and use it all the time.
Portable laundry system (Scrubba laundry bag)
I wish we had discovered this earlier! With this laundry bag, you can wash your clothes wherever you are, in minutes, with washing machine like results.
Camper van Storage Ideas
Mesh pouch (DiMiK Velcro pouches)
A van is small, so you need to take advantage of every free inch. These velcro pouches are perfect for storing small stuff anywhere in your camper!
Packing cubes (Shacke Pak)
One of the best van life storage ideas, in our opinion, are these packing cubes. We use them for regular travel and for van life travel. No more piles of clothes, everything is perfectly in order.
Portable foam van life mattress (Ibigbean)
A good night’s sleep is essential, it can make or break your experience. So if you don’t have a decent camper van bed, these portable foam mattresses are one of the van life must haves!
Wool blankets (Pendleton Yakima Camp Blanket)
Nature always has the best solutions, which means wool is still the best remedy against the cold. We take a wool blanket wherever we go and love it! One of the best van life accessories, especially such a fashionable one as this Pendleton blanket.
Other handy or RV fun stuff to have
Inflatable SUP (Goosehill Paddle Board)
We recently discovered the SUP and can definitely recommend taking one along. Paddling on a lake or at sea will make your stay so much more memorable!
Hammock chair (Kanchimi Hanging Chair)
If you’re looking for fun camper van gifts, have you considered a hanging chair? It’s so much easier to find one good tree near your camping spot than two. And it looks amazing as well!
Camping hammock (Winner Outfitters)
These lightweight and very compact camping hammocks are amazing! This one even is for two persons. Camping just isn’t the same without a hammock.
Survival Camping Gear (Verifygear survival kit)
If you love to camp remotely, you should consider to take one of these survival kits along. Perfect for all those adventurers among you!
Survival Axe (Greenever Multitool Axe)
We love to go off-grid and make a campfire. But we don’t have the place to carry a lot of would with us. So we use this axe, to make smaller pieces out of dead would we find near our campsite.
Foldable shovel (Rhino Shovel with Pick)
This probably isn’t on your RV essentials checklist, but we learned bush camping in Australia that a shovel can come in very handy. Especially when there are no toilets around or when your van gets stuck in the sand.
Wheel ramps (Zone Tech wheel ramps)
One of the RV accessoires must haves are these wheel ramps. We made the mistake on our first van life trip not to buy some, which caused us a lot of hassle trying to find a good sleeping spot.
Inflatable Kayak (Intex Explorer K2 Kayak)
If you are looking for fun camper van ideas, you should put an inflatable kayak on your list! Not one of the things you need for a camper, but definitely something that will bring you a lot of joy!
Ready for your next van life trip?
We hope you liked our list and it was helpful to determine which are the best RV accessories. Time for some amazing van life adventures now!
Did we miss some van life essentials? Any questions? Do you want to share a van life story with us? Leave us a comment below!