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What to Pack for Campervan and Car Camping

campervan car camping pack list

When you don’t have to carry all of the necessities on your back when going camping, you have a lot more versatility in what you can pack. Campervan and car camping are popular throughout Europe, New Zealand, and Australia.

If you’re renting a campervan, check with the rental company beforehand to see what is provided and what you’ll need to supply yourself.

Whether you’re attending a music festival or just plain road tripping, here are the must-haves for campervan and car camping.

For Camping

car camping in Australia
One of Brooke’s favorite trips – car camping along the coast of Australia.

Tent

Unless you plan on sleeping in your car, bring a tent to sleep in so you can keep any valuables in your car. Don’t forget a waterproof cover for your tent.

Headlamp/Torch

Whether you’re backpacking or traveling in a campervan, having a headlamp or a torch is a must. While mobile phones nowadays have a torch/flashlight function, it’s still important to have a dedicated torch to light your way, so you don’t waste precious battery life. 

Bug spray/Insect repellant

Being close to nature also means being close to all insects. Keep yourself protected from being bitten by using a bug spray. If you’re not comfortable slathering yourself with mosquito repellant, there are insect repelling gear and gadgets you can consider as an alternative.

First aid kit

You can buy a pre-made First aid kit from the drug store or online from Amazon, but you can also make your own first aid kit using items that are a better fit for your type of travel.

Garbage bags

Trash bags are essential for keeping your camping site and camper van clean. Not only that, they can also be used to keep your things dry if you’re caught in a sudden downpour.

Tarp

A tarp can be used for an overhead sun and rain cover. They can also be used as a ground cover or an impromptu picnic mat.

Ropes

You can use ropes as a clothesline or to string up a tarp to create sun or rain protection.

Camp chairs

Aside from providing additional seating, camp chairs also allow you to sit outside and enjoy the outdoors in (relative) comfort.

Sunscreen

Regardless of whether the sun is out or not, slathering on some sunscreen protects your skin from harmful UV rays. It also prevents sunburns, which can get really uncomfortable and even painful.

For the car

preparing car for car camping

Jumper cables

If you accidentally run the battery for too long while you’re charging your electronics or using the generator on your campervan, you should have jumper cables so that someone can help you start your car.

Spare tire and wrench

All rental cars should be equipped with these, but double-check before leaving.

Campsite Finder Apps/Map or book of campsites

While winging it is perfectly acceptable, it’s not a bad idea to look into downloading a campsite finder app for your destination. If you’re more of an analog traveler, have a book or map of area campsites just in case. You might arrive at one and find that it’s full or that you’re not welcome on private property.

Gas canister

In case you run out of gas, you’ll be able to go fill up and return to the car.

Water jug

If you’re driving through a desolate area like Australia‘s Nullabor Plain, bring a large container of water for emergencies like car overheating or extreme thirst.

For cooking

campfire cooking
Because you might want to prepare yourself some food over the campfire.

Camp stove

This isn’t something I would recommend bringing unless you absolutely have to. Most campervans have some sort of stove included. Don’t forget the extra fuel and matches.

Pots and pans

This is essential when you plan on cooking food while camping. It’s a good idea to have at least one skillet and one casserole or saucepan with a lid.

Plates and utensils

You’ll need these for serving up food and of course, for eating.

Drinking cups and water bottles

It’s a good idea to always bring water bottles when traveling. You can easily refill these and lessen the use of plastic bottles. Many water bottles now can keep your beverage hot or cold for up to 24 hours. Having drinking cups that are reusable are also a great addition. These can be used for drinks and even soups.

Food

Cooking fresh food is always a great idea. However, in case you’ve gone far off the grid and don’t have access to fresh produce, it’s good to have some ready to eat camp food. It’s also a good idea to have a small stock of canned goods and dry grains that you can prepare in such cases.

Cooler

It’s great for keeping your food fresh. You can fill it with frozen jugs of water and some frozen food to keep it cool. Make sure to put in the items you will be consuming first on the top so you can minimize the time you have the cooler open.

Pocket knife/Utility knife

Make sure to pack a knife that you can use in different ways around the campsite. A knife is handy when preparing food, and also if you need to cut up some tree bark for kindling.

Chopping board

If you plan on cooking, this is a must-have. Opt for a plastic chopping board as it can easily dry and not mold, as a wooden board is prone to if not dried properly.

Reusable containers with secure lids

This is good for keeping leftovers and can double as plates and bowls for eating.

For Sleeping

sleeping in a camping hammock
Sleeping in a camping hammock.

Air Mattress

Since you’re going by car, you can bring an air mattress to make you sleep more comfortably. Just plug into an adapter in your car to inflate or even use the electricity in your campground.

Sleeping bag

Sleeping bags are great for keeping your warm and cozy without being too bulky and taking up precious space in your camping bag.

Sleeping pad

This is basically an additional cushioned padding if you’re sleeping in your tent. This gives your body a much-needed space and protection from the cold and rocky ground. You can also use a yoga mat in place of this.

Pillows

You can opt for those blow-up camping and travel pillows that you can inflate and deflate and packs flat or allow yourself the luxury of bringing actual pillows for a more restful snooze.

Sheets and blankets

There’s nothing better than laying down on clean sheets and burrowing under a cozy blanket after a tiring day outside. Bring an extra set so you have something to use while one set is dirty or is still hanging out to dry.

Hammock

If you prefer to stay off the ground when sleeping, you can opt to sleep in a hammock. New designs feature built-in mosquito nets, guaranteeing a comfortable night.

Miscellaneous

campervan camping tips
Some essential items you may need to think about when campervan and car camping.

Clothes

This can vary from person to person, as well as the season when you are camping in and where you are camping. Some of the basics:

  • T-shirt – The basic for any outfit. Try something made of merino wool as it will smell less and help you regulate your body temperature better.
  • Shorts – It all depends on the weather and time of year you are camping.
  • Underwear – How about something fast-drying.
  • Pants – Whether you prefer to camp in yoga pants or cargo pants, here are some options.
  • Long sleeve shirt – Layers are key!
  • Jacket – Something that is waterproof and windproof is great for camping.
  • Hiking boots – Or good trail runners will do the trick.
  • Hiking sandals – You can’t go wrong with a good pair of Tevas or Chacos.
  • Flip-flops – For using communal camp showers.

Hygiene

Again, this varies depending on the products you use on your body, and how you will be camping. Some basics for keeping clean:

  • Soap + Hand santizer – To keep it sanitary.
  • Shampoo – Check out these concentrated shampoos that work well while camping.
  • Lotion + Lip balm – Because it can get dry out in the elements.
  • Toilet paper – Some of these toilet tips for female travelers will come in handy.
  • Towel – we recommend a Turkish towel
  • Wet wipes – For the countless times you wish you had a sink but don’t.
  • Dish soap – Some of those concentrated shampoos also double as dish soap!
  • Dish sponge – Those dishes aren’t going to wash themselves! 😉
  • Clothesline + Detergent – Get a simple tie-up braided laundry line.

Entertainment

Keep the boredom at bay, keep the peace, or break the ice with a variety of ways you can keep yourself and your campmates entertained while in the middle of nowhere with these:

  • iPad/Tablet/Smartphone – For entertainment, communication, and navigation.
  • Speaker – If you want to watch something or listen to music together.
  • Portable power pack – Never leave home without an extra battery bank.
  • Charging cables – Because you never realize how much you need them until you don’t have one!
  • Books – How about one of these books about female travelers?
  • Playing cards + Board games – Nothing beats a good card game.
  • Notebook/journal + Pens/pencils – We recommend always packing the power of paper and pen.
  • Art supplies – For the traveling artist, check out this packing list.

That’s our essential campervan packing list. What are your essential must-brings when car camping?

Download the HPL Campervan Packing List! This is a handy packing list spreadsheet that you can copy, edit, and refer to when preparing your campervan for travel. This is based on Shayla Huynh’s original packing list.

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Written by Caroline

Caroline Eubanks is a native of Atlanta, Georgia, but has also called Charleston, South Carolina and Sydney, Australia home. After college graduation and a series of useless part-time jobs, she went to Australia for a working holiday. In that time, she worked as a bartender, bungee jumped, scuba dived, pet kangaroos, held koalas and drank hundreds of cups of tea. You can find Caroline at Caroline in the City.

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Gear We Use

Organization

Packing Cubes – Organize your luggage with the lightweight, durable and compressible Eagle Creek Pack-It Specter Compression Cubes.


Backpacks + Daypacks

Pacsafe – Since they come with extra theft-resisting features, Pacsafe bags make you a more confident traveler. We especially love this bag.

Sea to Summit – Of all the Sea to Summit products, our most recommended is the fits-in-your-palm, super packable Ultra-Sil Daypack.


Personal Care

Nalgene Toiletry Bottles – These leak-free toiletry bottles and tubs come in all sizes – even super tiny, helping minimalists pack it all without bulk.

Turkish Towels – They’re thinner than most travel towels, and they actually cover your body! We can’t get enough of Turkish towels for travel.


Clothing

Speakeasy Supply Co. – They make the awesome hidden pocket infinity scarves that are perfect for stashing secret cash, lip balms, and passports.

Anatomie – Anatomie travel pants come with luxury prices, but they offer many benefits for travelers. See our review of the famous Skyler pants.

Travel Resources

Booking Airfare

Dollar Flight Club – Get flight deal alerts for your preferred departure airport. There is both a free and premium version (recommended for more sweet deals). Members save on average $500 USD per flight!

Skyscanner – Skyscanner is our preferred site for searching flights. They offer unbiased search results and are free from hidden fees. You can also book your hotels and rental cars.


Accommodation

Airbnb – Airbnb is the best place to book out apartments around the world. Sign up using this link to get $37 USD off your first stay booking + $14 USD towards an experience booking!

Booking.com – Search for hotels, hostels, and apartments using this one resource. Use it for flights, car rentals, and airport taxis as well.

Hostelworld – For hostels, Hostelworld remains our number one source for booking stays. Choose from straight up hostels, budget hotels and bed and breakfasts.

Trusted Housesitters – Save money on travel accommodation by becoming a housesitter. Housesitters often have extra duties, like caring for pets and gardens.

Reader Interactions

Comments

  1. Cate says

    You mentioned extra water for crossing the Nullarbor (yep – there’s an extra R in there) desert in Australia, for instances of car overheating or extreme thirst.
    It needs to be said – this isn’t a day’s drive through some remote landscape, this isn’t New Zealand or Europe – its remote and somewhat primitive. It takes approximately 4 days of constant driving to get from Perth to Ceduna. And for the desert stretch, I really don’t think you can understate the importance of porting your own water for this desert crossing, nor the amount.
    If you’re going to give it a go, you need to be fully researched and prepared, roadhouses, stops and petrol are all sparsely available, and drinking water even more so. Showers are occasionally available, but probably cost around $1 for 5 mins. Water tanks right across either rely on unpredictable rainfall or bore water (not drinkable), and are often found vandalised. If you break down, assistance can be many many hours away, and in the heat (esp our summer) it is critical to remain hydrated beyond what you would normally do, remembering there is also little to no shade.
    It’s an amazing trip – but it can be hostile & stressful if you head off with unrealistic expectations & being under-prepared (which many do, forgetting just how large and lowly populated this continent is).
    If you want to make the trip, suggest first checking out – http://www.nullarbornet.com.au. Prepare to have ‘birdy baths’, take plenty of dry shampoo, stay hydrated and stock up on plenty of snacks. Happy travels!

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