If you’re planning to hit the open road and embrace a campervan life, then be sure to check out these 22 top campervan hacks and tips to get you started!
If you’ve ever embarked on or thought to embrace campervanning, you’ll no doubt know that hitting the open road for a once-in-a-lifetime trip can be a journey filled with endless thrills and unexpected adventures that are bound to lead to unforgettable memories along the way.
Part of the appeal is no doubt the ability to see where the road may lead you and having the freedom and flexibility to create your own home away from home on four wheels.
It goes without saying that part and parcel of any long, or short-term travel adventures is the planning phase that involves organization and logistics, and campervanning is no different.
Today, it’s become increasingly popular for van life enthusiasts to plan and customize their campervan to suit their own preferences and needs to ensure that life on the road is as comfortable and homely as possible.
That’s why we’ve teamed up with fellow campervan aficionados to bring you 22 of the best campervan hacks and tips! These van life hacks cover a broad range of topics and will hopefully help and inspire you to be better suited for your next campervan quest!
- 22 Top Van Life Hacks & Tips
- Park4Night App To Find Overnight Parking
- Download Offline Maps
- Stock Up On Canned Foods & Meal Planning Tips
- Indoor Hydroponic Growing System
- Be Sure To Bring Along A Small Water Boiler
- Useful Meal Prep Items & Foods
- Microfiber Towels Are Your Best Friend
- Anti-bug Hammock
- Don’t Leave Home Without A First-Aid Kit
- Outdoor Solar Lights – Campervan Tips
- Comfy Camper Mattresses
- Water Management & Conservation Camper Hacks
- A Small Hand Vacuum Is A Must
- Reusable Silicone Bags
- Space Efficient & Multifunctional Gear – Van Life Storage Ideas
- Helpful Apps for Campervan Life
- Clothing & Laundry – Campervan Tips
- Invest In A Campervan Bio Toilet
- How To Find Safe & Free Camping Spots To Overnight
- Have A Toolbox Handy – Camper Van Life Storage Ideas
- Buy A Handy Filter Water Bottle
- Solar Showers For Campers
22 Top Van Life Hacks & Tips
Park4Night App To Find Overnight Parking
By Paulina from Ukeveryday
You can find plenty of great places to van camp around the world such as the US, Australia, Canada, or Scotland. However, finding overnight parking is not always easy. If you want to travel stress-free with your van, make sure to get this awesome app – Park4Night.
It is available for iPhone and Android devices, as well as being updated on a daily basis. All van lovers are creating this amazing platform by adding parking spots all over the world. The Park4Night app is free and simple to use. Just choose a place that you are interested in, press navigation and you will be redirected to google maps.
Download Offline Maps
By David from The World Travel Guy
It’s always a good idea to download and save offline maps when going on a long road trip or camping trip. I like to download a Google map for the entire state (or even multiple states) before I start a road trip, that way if I lose reception in the middle of nowhere I can still keep using the maps for navigation and GPS.
This can be a big help if you’re camping remotely or driving through the mountains or desert (e.g. Colorado or Utah), which are places where you might lose reception completely. This simple step has come in handy many times while traveling!
Stock Up On Canned Foods & Meal Planning Tips
By Michelle from The Scrapbook of Life
Before you hit the road, one of the top campervan tips is to stock up on non-perishable goods and plan simple meals. This is even more important if you’re taking a road trip somewhere more remote, like a 7-day motorhome tour of Scotland, where shops are few and far between.
Ensure you have plenty of canned reserves, including tinned veg which can be a good substitute for fresh so you don’t overload what can often be a smaller campervan fridge. Stock your cupboards with items such as packet risottos and pasta which have powdered sauce in them and only require boiling water to cook, and par-bake bread.
It can be wise to preserve your gas and electricity supplies whilst on the road, and one way to do this is to plan one-pot meals, such as soups, fajitas, and casseroles.
Indoor Hydroponic Growing System
By Nathan from All About Glamping
Another of the top campervan hacks, especially if you love preparing your own meals on the road, is to consider growing your own fresh produce.
Conventional Gardening when on the move in a van or skoolie can be tricky. This is where Hydroponics can help. No need for soil and the water is recycled and reused many times before needed replenishing.
How it works is the roots of the plants are embedded in a foam-like material. Roughly 3 times a day for about 5 minutes, water is pumped into the embedded roots from a small tank below the plants.
Grow lights are used to keep the right amount of artificial sunlight for your garden. Depending on the size of your hydroponic system, from 4 plants to over 12 plants, the systems consume anywhere from 8 watts to over 50 watts. So you will need some sort of power source for their use.
A small solar panel will run most kits. They can be scheduled in cycles to conserve energy as well. The big plus is having fresh herbs, salad, and other fruit and veggies at your disposal year-round in your vehicle. There’s nothing like it.s
Be Sure To Bring Along A Small Water Boiler
By Elisa from Travel France Bucket List
I never leave on a campervan trip without my small water boiler, for me, it’s a must-have of campervan life!
I take many road trips in France, where I live, and I use it every day to prepare anything, from tea or coffee thermos for when I am driving to instant soups for when I am too tired to cook at night.
I also try to live without plastic so I don’t hesitate to boil tap water when I am not sure about its quality instead of buying a plastic bottle of water. I just need to let the water cool down during the night and fill my reusable bottle with this boiled water the day after.
Regardless of whether you are looking for an electric boiler or a non-electric camping coffee pot, be sure to read out our guide outlining the perfect selection of top camper coffee makers!
Useful Meal Prep Items & Foods
By Nick from The World Overload
Just because you’re living that camper lifestyle doesn’t mean you have to stick to eating quick takeout and protein bars. It’s nice to have a homecooked meal over the fire or stove with great views in the distance. That’s what every person imagines the perfect campervan life to be.
And it’s pretty simple. All you need are a few key items that can be easily stored in a corner of your van.
The stove is key – the right stove can make or break how your cooking will be on your camper trip and lifestyle. It really all depends on what you are comfortable with. A simple 2-burner stove can be moved and stored with relative ease, but you will need to keep propane or gas on hand. Or you can go towards a more solar-based option with an induction stove, which is easier to manage but takes a lot of power.
Everything is collapsible – If you’re short on storage space or want to make every cubic inch count, nothing beats a full set that can easily fit into a corner of your campervan. You’ll find a wide variety of stainless-steel lightweight pots and pans out there. They will fit into each other perfectly. Get a set of plastic bowls and cups to fill out your kitchen set and some 3-in-1 utensils to make sure you have everything you need.
Treat yourself- Just because you are living or traveling in a campervan doesn’t mean you can’t live with a few luxury items. Instead of a standard cooler, switch it out for a nice portable refrigerator. For a good cup of coffee a percolator will help your mornings. If you can’t set up a fire, use an instant cooker or crockpot for a nice bowl of chili or stew in the wild.
Even just one of these items will help make your campervan life easier. Get them all and your worries are just going to fade away as you head out onto the open road.
Microfiber Towels Are Your Best Friend
By Stephanie from The Unknown Enthusiast
One of the best hacks for campervan life is ditching your regular, fluffy bath towel and upgrading to a microfiber towel.
Microfiber towels aren’t very expensive, yet they pack down extremely small (maximizing space in a campervan is essential!), they dry quickly, and still somehow are extremely absorbent.
This is helpful no matter where you are campervanning (everyone needs to shower!), but if you are traveling somewhere where you are regularly visiting the beach, hot springs, or pools, this little towel can be a real game-changer!
It’s also worth noting that while they were indispensable on our Iceland campervan trip, we’ve used these towels on canoe trips, camping trips, and even in Costa Rica, where we were staying in hotels. Once you start using a microfiber towel for travel, you’ll never go back!
By Elizabeth from Three Week Traveller
An anti-bug hammock is such a 2-in-1 combo camping tool. Not only can you provide yourself with an above-the-ground bed for the night, but you can also avoid using high-chemical bug spray on your body.
This hammock can be set up between trees or any sturdy poles. The twist is that it comes with a bug net on top of it which also has its own string, so the net won’t sit on top of you uncomfortably.
If you don’t need the net, simply turn the hammock over and use it as usual. You can pack it away with an easy bag sewed into the hammock. It’s lightweight and comes with high-quality hooks and ropes.
Don’t Leave Home Without A First-Aid Kit
By Cat from Cat’s Nine Lives
One of the most important things to have when you’re planning vanlife, and one of the campervan hacks that is often overlooked, is a first aid kit. When you’re driving, living, working, sleeping, and cooking all in one place there are plenty of opportunities for minor injuries, and you’ll be glad that you’re not having to hunt for a store in the middle of the night!
Your first aid kit doesn’t have to be big and complicated, but there are a few things that are definitely worth making sure you have – Band-Aids, painkillers, antiseptic ointment, and allergy tablets are the most used items in my kit.
You’ll find that most of the time you’re helping out other people so, as an added bonus, a first aid kit is actually a great way to make new friends!
Outdoor Solar Lights – Campervan Tips
By Candice from CS Ginger
Outdoor solar lights for an awning are one of the best and easiest ways to make the living space outside your campervan more usable with a fun vibe. There are a variety of different solar lights you can add whether you want classic white Edison bulbs or more colorful and festive lights.
It is nice to have lights outside your campervan, especially if you are boondocking and don’t have any lights outside of your campervan. It makes cooking and utilizing the space outside a lot easier after the sun has gone down. Plus, who doesn’t enjoy a fun strand of lights to spruce up their campsite.
The solar lights are really easy to set up and use. You can use clothespins to attach the lights to your campervan or you can buy metal clips specifically designed for attaching the lights. You can also buy poles to help set the lights up.
Comfy Camper Mattresses
By Morgan from Crave the Planet
Getting a good night’s rest is the foundation for every great adventure. The whole point of the Great Outdoors and spending time in Nature is to get away from all the noise and light and let Mother Nature melt the stress away.
Unfortunately, too many campervans have really lumpy, uncomfortable, and often smelly mattresses that seem custom-built and impossible to replace without significant cost.
But did you know that there’s a whole world of car mattresses for avid Outdoors People that fit into existing campervans, are easy to clean, and offer support even for us side sleepers?
There are mattresses that are self-inflating, some inflate using a car charger, and some with mechanical pumps, perfect for every type of camper.
Water Management & Conservation Camper Hacks
By Izzy & Phil from The Gap Decaders
When you live in a campervan, managing your freshwater is an everyday part of life. Campervan beginners may be surprised at how much time it takes to find sources of potable freshwater, and when your water supply is limited, every drop counts!
The average person uses 110 liters of water a day, but there are steps you can take to conserve your freshwater. Try washing at the sink, or if you have a shower, rinse then turn off to soap up before turning on to rinse again. We’ve also used beach showers and washed in rivers (using environmentally friendly soap).
If you have a chemical toilet, don’t flush every time you pee, but use a spray bottle with a mild detergent solution to spray the bowl. This will save water and keep your loo smelling lovely!
A Small Hand Vacuum Is A Must
By Christina from Live A Wilder Life
Whether you’re traveling in a campervan for a quick weekend getaway or a road trip across the country, a handheld vacuum is a must.
The nature of campervan travel often means trekking through glorious outdoor destinations complete with dirt, dust, and sand. All too often, you end up tracking in the elements into your cozy van.
The easiest way to manage the outdoors in your camper is a daily vacuum of your van. Make it a routine to do it at the same time every day, and you’ll have a sparkling campervan that’s clean and ready to get dirty all over again.
Reusable Silicone Bags
By Melody from The Winding Road Tripper
Reliable food storage bags like silicone bags are a perfect van accessory.
What makes silicone bags great is that they are tough and can handle the beating they’ll get in your van. These bags don’t leak, are easily cleaned, dry fast, and keep your food fresh. They are also perfect for storing food in an ice-filled cooler. No more soggy sandwiches!
Using silicone bags instead of single-use plastic also reduces your impact on the environment around you. You can’t go wrong with adding a few silicone bags to your van packing list.
If you want to try reusable silicone bags for your van adventures, start with a brand like Stasher Bags. They are by far the best that we’ve tried.
Space Efficient & Multifunctional Gear – Van Life Storage Ideas
By Natasha from Planes, Trains and Karcz
When living out of a campervan, space conservation is of the utmost importance. Usually, that results in getting a little innovative with the versatility of particular items. The more compact and multifunctional your gear can be, the better it can serve you in all facets of campervan living.
There’s perhaps no better example than multitools such as those manufactured by Leatherman or Swiss Army; which can serve as your knife, saw, scissors, screwdriver, pliers, and more.
Another often underestimated item is a tarp poncho, which aside from serving as the obvious (a tarp or a poncho) can be fashioned into a footprint for a tent when camping, a waterproof layer over your day pack while hiking, or used as a doormat outside of the campervan while parked as to not carry in any dirt.
Lastly, consider a portable power station as an alternative to a roadside emergency kit as they often contain vehicular essentials such as booster cables, air compressors, LED lights, etc. while also being the perfect solution to charging your electronics without running off your campervan battery, permitting you to stay off-grid for longer.
Helpful Apps for Campervan Life
By Jessica from Uprooted Traveler
Nothing makes living on the road easier than having some of the best RVing apps downloaded on your phone and at the ready.
Looking for a free campsite- with a solid cell phone signal? Check out Campendium or The Dyrt apps, which both allow you to search for a campsite based on location and cost, as well as provide the strength of cell signal reported by other users.
Looking for a shower, propane, or a place to fill up with water? The iOverlander app has you covered, providing a user-generated map of pretty much anything you’d need in van life.
Whether you’re trying to find cheap gas along your route (Gas Buddy) or wanting to test how strong of a signal you have (Speedtest), there’s an app out there that’s guaranteed to make your time in a campervan better.
Clothing & Laundry – Campervan Tips
By Ania from The Travelling Twins
We spent two years exploring Europe in a campervan and have various tips and tricks, but the most surprising, and at the same time most valuable one is about clothing and laundry.
First clothes – don’t take too many. They take space, and space is critical if you need warmer clothes, you will always find some charity shops to buy missing items.
The second tip is: always have more lingerie than you think you need. Why? Because not every country in Europe has laundromats – like, for example, Albania or Greece.
And you can wear a T-shirt the second day but do you want to wear your underpants two days in a row?
So pack more undies and, just in case, have your own washing powder. Not all laundromats provide them, and if they do, it’s always overpriced.
Invest In A Campervan Bio Toilet
By Athul from Our Backpack Tales
Bio-toilets are one of the best gears to include in your camper vans. They are budget-friendly and are also a sustainable choice for your campervan life. Bio-toilets basically convert the human waste into compost-like substances by decomposition and they do not need flushing with water hence they’re also called the dry toilet.
They are easy to carry and can be moved according to necessity. They are usually odor-free and also very compact in size such that storage won’t be an issue. Using a shower tent around a bio-toilet can be a good way to pitch a simple bathroom for yourself where it can be arranged.
Overall, a bio-toilet is a valuable and useful setup for anyone choosing a camper van lifestyle.
How To Find Safe & Free Camping Spots To Overnight
By Agnes from The Van Escape
Sometimes we decide to spend the night for free when we travel by campervan. Especially when planning long road trips, we look for a free camping spot when every dollar counts. Also, the need for freedom and beautiful views makes us want to spend the night in a particular place.
But how do you choose a free and safe camping spot to spend the night in a campervan? First, always familiarize yourself with the rules and regulations of the area you are traveling in. Do not spend the night there if it is forbidden to camp in a specific area. Always put safety first.
Use valuable tools to find a free campsite. Some popular and important ones are Allstays App, Freecampsites.net, Campendium, Overnight RV Parking, and RVParky.
Another option is to visit the Bureau of Land Management, National Forest, and National Parks websites directly. Here you can find out about your options for camping on government-owned lands. This is an excellent solution because BLM areas are large and free if you follow rules. Camping on BLM land is an adventure, as you will not find showers or hookups. Only quietness and often fabulous views.
If you have a small campervan, backcountry camping can be a fantastic choice. You can rest safe with this option. Before you decide to camp in the backcountry, check if you need a backcountry permit.
Before, it was possible to stay in parking lots at the famous Walmart chain. RV friendly were also Cracker Barrel, Cabela’s, Flying J Truck Stops, or Camping World. Most casinos allowed free overnight parking. But in recent years, many companies have issued bans. So check actual regulations. Call the store, check the websites or ask security.
Also, truck stops are one of the most common places you can park your RV for the night and rest without having to pay.
Finally, listen to your intuition. If for some reason, a parking lot does not seem safe to you, you should leave it and head for another one.
Have A Toolbox Handy – Camper Van Life Storage Ideas
By Celeste from Slow Travel Blog
One of the most frustrating things about camping is all of the little items that end up loose. Not only are there many one-off supplies that need to be brought out over and over again, but it’s also difficult to pack up the “miscellaneous” efficiently.
Bringing a toolbox is a great solution! Not only can it hold a decent amount of little kit such as lighters, first aid items, etc, it is also rain-proof and has a handle for easy carrying. Choose one with an inside tray to have extra sorting capabilities built right in!
Here are a few more things that you can store in your trusty toolbox:
- Solar lights
- Garden spade
- Rubber mallet
- Extra tent pegs
- Patching kits
- Insect repellant
- Bear spray
The best part is that toolboxes are very inexpensive, especially compared to other camping-specific storage solutions.
Buy A Handy Filter Water Bottle
By Nina from Where in the world is Nina
Everyone knows the importance of having water on you at all times while campervanning, hiking, and generally being in the great outdoors! But finding a good water source can be hard, finding one that actually tastes good could be even more difficult, and sometimes it’s a HUGE pain to carry tons of water on those longer hikes.
Luckily if you have a good travel water filter bottle then you don’t have to worry too much. There are tons on the market but a personal favorite is the Grayl. It filters out all the nasties making most water not only safe to drink but also helps improve the taste too!
So when you’re on a long hike that has a water source along the way, all you’ll need is this single water bottle (your back will thank you). And if you’re campervanning but your source just tastes odd or if you have to get it from a questionable rusty sink, you can use this filter water bottle and you’re good to go! It’s a trusty item to have when you’re on the road or on the trail!
Solar Showers For Campers
By Victoria from Guide Your Travel
Having a solar shower with you when you go camping can be a real lifesaver especially if you enjoy going off the grid and camping in nature. Bathrooms or shower facilities might not always be accessible so a solar shower is another great camper hack that will allow you to be far more flexible.
Simply fill it up with water and hang it outside, ideally in the sun. This will heat up the water through the black plastic and give you a far more comfortable shower experience than cold water. There are solar showers available in different sizes so you can choose which one fits your camping setup and needs.