To say I have dabbled in road tripping is an understatement, I live for these days. Give me a campervan, solar shower and an open road any day and I will grab it by the teeth and run off into the hills! Equally, I have also been known to pack two checked bags for a one-week holiday so how do I handle packing light for a campervan road trip you ask? By prioritising my essential campervan road trip items…
I’m not going to tell you to pack a map and lighter because hopefully you’ve done enough research already to know that you need a lighter to cook (aka stay alive), instead I’m breaking down my essential items that I wish I brought before my first campervan road trip. Assuming your campervan comes with all the basics (cutlery, sauce pan, plates, bedding, gas, steering wheel) here are the items I recommend:
1) SOLAR SHOWER
Now, you won’t be using a solar shower every day but there will be plenty of occasions when you’re roughing it and there’s not a campsite in sight. On these wilder nights a solar shower is your best friend! Simply fill it up with water (either bottled or from a passing tap), lie it out in the sun for a couple of hours (the longer, the hotter) then prop it up on the roof of your van and wash away!
There is something so liberating about showering in the middle of a forest or lakeside. However, try not to leave shower time until dark as balancing a torch, shower hose and toiletries can be a circus act! To be honest, our solar shower was so good that we often preferred using it even when staying at campsites just to avoid having to tiptoe over icky muddy shared facilities.
2. DUCT TAPE
This is like sellotape or masking tape but is much stronger – it is used to stick plane parts together! If airlines are using it, then you definitely need to bring it on your road trip. This stuff came in handy taping my sunglasses, car radio, charging cables, mosquito net and leaking water bottles, just to name a few. So who knows how this handy sticky tape will help you out?
When we first entered the ‘wild’ and decided to spend the night without campsite facilities, I knew I would be squatting in bushes. What I hadn’t considered was the Number Two side to this, which is wear a trusted pocket size trowel comes in handy. It is totally unacceptable to leave any kind of mess behind in the woods whether it’s natural or not – so using the trowel to dig and burry is good manners for the earth. And while we are on the subject – please burn any used paper as we nobody wants that lying around the wilderness.
4. HAND SANITIZER
In keeping with hygiene, hand sanitizer is an essential to my whole life and not just in a campervan. Living in London means I am always fully stocked on the liquid gold. You never know where you are going to end up on the road and having clean hands for spontaneous snacks is a gift.
On my first campervan trip in Australia I had so much hammock envy as everyone we passed seemed to pitch a hammock as part of their van set up. I quickly acted on this envy and by the time I road tripped around America, the hammock was used as much as hand sanitizer.
From our camping spot in the woods, to lakeside hikes there really are countless places to pitch your hammock and their super light so don’t add any extra weight when you need an emergency nap.
6. DRY BAGS
Before you even reach your campervan you need to ensure you packed all your clothes in dry bags. Not only do they make for easier organisation but when you live in an unpredictable van you can never be too careful with bottles leaking onto bags, muddy shoes rubbing off on your things so dry bags protect all those outfits from van life realities.
7. TEN THOUSAND HAIR BANDS
Unlike what Instagram portrays, van life is messy and not at all glamorous. Every day is a bad hair day so bring all the hair bands you can fit as, if you are anything like me, they will always be disappearing. High bun or plaits are the easiest for keeping dirty hair away from your face and getting in your way of the views!
8. WASTE BAGS
When I say waste bags I mean whatever bag is available at the supermarket for you to put your rubbish in. Opt for environmentally friendly ones and tie it to the door of your campervan, close to the ‘kitchen’ for tidying ease. Make sure you buy a few so you can sort your recycling and drop it off when you pass a recycling point.
9. MOSQUITO NETTING
I have to admit this one isn’t my essential but my travel partner’s, as he is a magnet for mosquitos. We strung up a huge mosquito net over our campervan bed using trusty duct tape and a few hooks which kept him safe for the whole duration! It also adds to the fairy-light-magical-chill vibe of the van, clearly separating bedtime with food and mess time.
Item 9½: Mosquito Candle (for all your outside sitting needs).
10. DIRTY FLIP FLOPS
Errr surely you should be packing clean shoes? Nope. Don’t even think about bringing a pair of cute sandals if you’re planning on doing your campervan trip properly. You need flip flops that can survive icky public bathrooms, squat for nature wees in the forest, keep your feet above ground during solar showers and jump out the van in a split second to push it out of any sandy pits. Dirty flip flops for the win.
Item 10½: Old Bikini- Similarly, to your dirty flip flops, bring at least one old bikini for lake dips where you can’t be sure what else is swimming in the water with you. Natural thermal pools have a tendency of staining my nice white bikinis so avoid my mistake and plan ahead. Besides lakes and thermal pools, you will need that old bikini for daylight solar showers when you are in public view!
11. BABY WIPES
Baby wipes save lives in campervans. Although you should have your solar shower, sometimes the need is far more urgent and can’t wait a few hours for the water to warm up! For any and all kitchen/ bathroom/ hiking/ life messes baby wipes are an absolute must.
12. GOOGLE MAPS
There is a tonne of apps that will help you on your road trip, but without a doubt Google Maps is my most used. Journey times, directions, pit stops and petrol stations all feature as well as being able to pre-load maps for the area you are going in case 4G doesn’t stretch that far. But make sure you check before following the directions as you don’t always want to go on the faster route if option two is incredibly scenic – it’s a road trip after all.
Google Maps also assisted with finding free (and legal!) camping spots in America so all the more reason to add it to your favourites.
13. PORTABLE CHARGER / USB CHARGER
If you don’t already have one for daily life, then this is your excuse to buy a portable charger. I’ve said this before but chargers save lives. Genuinely. They get you out of sticky situations by having a charged phone for map directions (and personal safety too obviously for all you solo explorers).
14. OUTSIDE SEAT
The very nature of road trips means you will be spending the majority of your time outside, so having a decent folding chair for you has to be an campervan essential. Wherever you end up pitching, comfy chairs (with bottle holder as standard!) are needed to switch off from driving and switch onto chill time.
Item 14½: A blanket for when you find yourself needing to lie down in a meadow.
This last one is slightly obvious but I still wish I had brought a pack of playing cards on my first campervan trip. Long nights in the wilderness, a fire and playing cards fit well together as does, portable speakers (check noise control of where you are staying first!).
So those were my 15 essential items to bring on your campervan road trip, but above all else bring a spontaneous attitude as taking a left turn down an unplanned route makes for all the best adventures.
Have you been on a camper van road trip? If you have any additional tips for our readers or questions please leave these in the comments below.
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Read More About Road Trips:
- Road Trip Through Western Australia
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- A Guide To Roadtripping Around the North Island, New Zealand
- Iceland Road Trip: 5 Epic Hidden Gems To Seek Out
- Ultimate Road Trip: Driving The Road To Hana
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We Are Travel Girls Contributor Sarah Bryant
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