Hit The Road: Essential Gear for Car Camping

Make the most of your van or camper adventure with the right gear.

Living out of a van or camper has become an increasingly popular way to explore the world and enjoy the freedom of the open road. Whether planning a short weekend trip or a long-term adventure, having the right gear can make all the difference. Here are some essential items for your adventure:


To ensure a good night’s rest, you will need a comfortable mattress, sleeping bag or bedding, and curtains or blinds for privacy. Blackout curtains or window covers can also help keep the inside of your van or camper cool during hot summer days. Bring an extra blanket or two, just because. If you happen to have any moving blankets lying around or stored, you can use them for additional cushioning or warmth, among other things. Check out our article for more ideas for repurposing moving blankets for the van life.


For cooking needs, bring a portable stove and griddle along with fuel, cookware, utensils, plates, and cups that can be stored in small spaces. Sporks are a great option to consolidate space reserved for utensils. Don’t forget a cooler or refrigerator for food storage.


You will need safe drinking water wherever you go. A water jug, pump, and gravity bag or portable water filtration system are essential for clean drinking water. A water bottle is always necessary for hydration during outdoor activities, and a four-season hydration reservoir can be handy in cold or hot weather.


It’s difficult to navigate in the dark, so for illumination at night, get equipped with flashlights, headlamps, battery-powered lanterns, or led lights. Led lights are energy-efficient, long-lasting, and make it easier to find things at night. They can also create a cozy ambiance inside your van or camper, especially important during long trips away from your other home ꟷ the one without wheels.

Bug & Sun Protection

Spending time outdoors also means exposure to the elements, including bugs and the sun's harmful rays. Pack insect repellent and sun protection to avoid pesky bug bites and potential sunburns. Sunscreen, hats, and long-sleeve men’s and women’s shirts can all help keep your skin safe from the sun, while bug spray or citronella candles can deter insects from ruining your outdoor experience.

Power Supply

If you plan to live on the road for an extended period, keeping your devices and appliances charged can be challenging. In this case, you might want to invest in solar panels or portable power banks to provide you with a reliable power source. In addition, the Schumacher 12v or Schumacher 2-amp battery maintainer can help keep you powered up.

Climate Control

Depending on the weather, a fan or heater can provide much-needed temperature and airflow regulation for a more comfortable environment in your van or camper.

Tools & Equipment

For self-sufficiency and safety, you will need a set of basic tools, a folding shovel, a fire extinguisher, and a first-aid kit to treat minor injuries and for emergencies. In the event of a flat tire, you’ll need a spare tire, lug wrench, jack, and, if you have the know-how, a tire repair kit. Also, a breakdown kit is useful for any emergency or breakdown that requires you to pull over to the side of the road. The kit could include reflective hazard signs or cones, jumper cables, and tire chains for snowy/icy conditions.

Outdoor Living Gear

When living out of a van or camper, outdoor gear for the outside proximity of the van can be as important as indoor gear. Folding chairs, a table, and a hammock can transform any outdoor space into a comfortable living area. A padded sofa chair can create a cozy reading nook or just a comfortable place to relax.


One of the many benefits of van life is the opportunity to disconnect from technology and spend more time in nature. Pack a few games or activities that don't require a screen to pass the time and stay entertained. A folding chess set or Farkle dice game can provide hours of fun for the crew. At the same time, an all-weather notebook or journal is a great way to record memories and reflect on your adventures.

Navigation & Communication

The bottom line: don’t get lost or lose touch. Stay on track and connected and stay that way with reliable navigation tools and communications devices. A GPS device and maps can help you find your way, while a cell phone with a reliable data plan can allow you to stay in touch with loved ones and access important information on the go.


Remember to pack only what you need and prioritize items based on travel plans and preferences. With the right gear and a sense of adventure, van and camper life can be an unforgettable experience.

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