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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
You can use ropes as a clothesline or to string up a tarp to create sun or rain protection.
Aside from providing additional seating, camp chairs also allow you to sit outside and enjoy the outdoors in (relative) comfort.
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.
- Be sure to include a wide-brim hat for sun protection as well!
For the car
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.
In case you run out of gas, you’ll be able to go fill up and return to the car.
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.
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.
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.
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.
- On that kindling note, check out these awesome camping hacks for your next outdoors adventure.
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.
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 bags are great for keeping your warm and cozy without being too bulky and taking up precious space in your camping bag.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?