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18 Van Camping Tips for Beginners (The Essentials)

Gray pop top camper van parked in meadow

Are you looking to try van camping for the first time?

The first step to successfully camping in your van is choosing the right one for the job. A few things to consider are the size of the van, the type of camping you’ll be doing, and your budget.

Not all vehicles are created equal when it comes to camping. You’ll want to choose a vehicle that is comfortable to sleep in and has enough space for all of your gear. Additionally, you’ll want to make sure your vehicle is equipped with the proper tires and suspension if you are going off-road camping.

So before you set out on your first adventure, here are a few tips to help make your journey even better.

Tips for Beginners

1. Take advantage of all available storage space. Van camping can be tricky when it comes to storage, so it’s important to get creative. For example, consider hanging shoe organizers on the back of the seats, buying a foldable bed frame and mattress that can be stored away during the day, and using any space underneath your seating area.

2. Bring extra blankets for warmth. Nights spent in a van can be cold, believe me, I know, especially during the winter months. So bring plenty of blankets and sleeping bags to keep you warm throughout the night.

3. Invest in a power inverter for your van. This device will allow you to charge devices that require electricity while on the road so that you’re always connected and can access important information.

Cooking fire in portable grill

4. Consider bringing a portable stove or grill. By having a camp stove or a flat-pack grill, you save money by cooking your meals, as well as providing variety to your diet while on the road.

5. Plan ahead for bathroom breaks. If you’re camping in areas with no public bathrooms nearby, it’s essential to plan ahead and bring a portable toilet with you.

 And while we’re on this subject, remember your toiletries. Just because you’re roughing it doesn’t mean you have to forego personal hygiene. Pack all your essential toiletries, such as soap, toothpaste, and toilet paper.

6. One of the most important things to take along camping is a good sleeping bag and a comfortable mattress or pad. When on the road, you’ll want to ensure you have a warm place to sleep, especially if camping where temperatures drop quickly at night or in a colder climate.

7. Pack plenty of food and water. It’s vital to bring enough food and water for everyone in your party and some extra in case of emergencies. Packing food that doesn’t require refrigeration is also a good idea, as you will only have a cooler or camping fridge while you are gone.

8. Consider placing a tarp, groundsheet, or even an old blanket in the back of your van to keep it clean. The tarp will help protect your van from dirt, mud, and other debris that can accumulate during camping trips.

Red first aid kit in glove compartment

9. Bring along an emergency kit. No matter how well you prepare, there’s always a chance something could go wrong. It should include a first-aid kit, a flashlight, extra batteries, a screwdriver, and other items that could be useful in an emergency. In addition, bring along a map of the area.

Van Camping Life Fun Fact: The average person will burn approximately 400 calories per hour while hiking, making it an excellent form of exercise for people of all ages and fitness levels. Additionally, research has shown that hiking can also reduce stress levels, making it an ideal activity for mental health as well.

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10. Invest in a secure box or lockable storage space for your valuables. A secure box or lockable storage space will help keep your belongings safe while away from your vehicle.

11. Install blackout curtains in your van’s windows to keep out light and provide privacy from prying eyes.

12. Camping can be a lot of fun, but sometimes it’s nice to have additional entertainment options available. For example, you can install a sound system so that you can enjoy music or listen to podcasts while on the road.

Pack extra batteries or a portable charger if you’re bringing along electronics. Books, games, and playing cards are also good options for entertainment while camping.

Camper van parked for the night, Milky Way stars overhead

13. Sleeping while van camping can sometimes be challenging, so to help get a good night’s sleep, bring a good pair of earplugs, noise-canceling headphones, or a USB-powered white noise machine.

14. Pack trash bags so you have something to contain all the items that will accumulate in your van to be disposed of while camping.

15. Whether an unseasoned or seasoned camper, it’s always imperative to be prepared for any sudden changes in weather conditions. You never know when the temperature may drop or rise drastically, so have gear and clothing that can handle both hot and cold weather.

Pack clothes that you can layer and rain gear, such as waterproof jackets and pants, so you can stay warm and dry in case of unexpected rain or snow, and remember to bring extra socks.

16. When looking for a comfortable place to stay overnight, find a campsite with shelter from the wind. It’s also essential to find a flat area to park your van – sleeping on an incline isn’t ideal, after all!

17. Pack wisely. One of the most critical aspects of van camping is packing wisely; only bring the essentials so you have plenty of room for other things. In addition, be sure to pack versatile items that can be used for multiple purposes.

18. Before setting off on your camping adventure, plan your routes and campgrounds at which you will be staying. When planning the route, consider the weather conditions and terrain issues affecting your journey.

Van camping is an easy and cost-effective way to explore the country, and the key to a successful trip is to plan ahead and be prepared for any surprises that come your way. Be sure to bring extra supplies, check the weather forecast, and look for spots with access to amenities like bathrooms and picnic areas. With some research and practice, you’ll be enjoying the great outdoors in no time.

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Ever since I was little I have been a traveler at heart. It all started when I was six years old and my family took a road trip to Alaska. I enjoy visiting new places and revisiting some of the great locations that I have been to already.