The Ultimate Camper Van Essentials Checklist: Gear, Supplies, and Tips for Organization

When you are new to van life, it’s inevitable that you will pack too much and overcompensate what you think you need versus what you actually need. That’s why it can be helpful to make a list of camper van essentials.

Figuring out how to streamline what van life essentials you pack and how you stay organized is sort of a right of passage for van lifers (and it’s personal), so we won’t reveal too much. But we do want to share some things we’ve learned from van life.

So, here are some helpful packing-related tips and tricks you can consider using in your camper van and incorporating into your van life adventure. Or you can go for the “organized” chaos option. That’s up to you.   

Van Life Essentials for Your Ram Promaster Van

When you are on the road, everything revolves around your camper van. This usually feels incredibly liberating, but sometimes it can feel like you’ve got all your eggs in one basket. The best way to feel secure with that “eggs in a basket” sensation is to ensure two things– one, that you have what you need to care for your van in case of emergency, and two, that you have what you need to be comfortable.

Vehicle Necessities: Safety equipment and tools

We don’t necessarily recommend that everyone become a mechanic before starting van life. But we do recommend investing in a good supply of safety equipment and important tools so you can work on your van when things break or make improvements.

Safety equipment

  • Work gloves
  • Eye and ear protection
  • Face masks
  • Reflective vest (for roadside work)
  • Snow chains

Important tools

  • Power drill, impact driver, and a selection of bits
  • Wrench and screwdriver set
  • Multi-tool
  • Tire wrench and jack
  • Portable air compressor

Comfort Essentials

When it comes to the comfort-related van life essentials, we’ve already got you covered. Every DM camper van comes with basic van life comfort essentials that make your van feel like home.

  • A lofted sleep system for one to two people. Just add your favorite bedding and pillows
  • In-van toilet (either cassette or composting, depending on the model) and external shower
  • In-cabin heater
  • Solar-powered electrical system with lithium batteries, power inverters, chargers, battery monitor, USB, and 12-volt outlets
  • Fully electric kitchen with induction cooktop, 12-volt refrigerator, sink and faucet
Check out DM Vans >>

Kitchen and Cooking Supplies

Every DM Van features an intelligently designed and functional kitchenette design. The standard features in our van life kitchens include:

  • 5 drawer kitchenette
  • Overhead cabinet with LED lighting
  • Divider with electrical access
  • 12v Refrigerator
  • Induction cooktop
  • Sink and faucet with electric pump
  • 7 Gallon fresh water tank
  • 7 Gallon gray water tank

Besides that, we recommend a few compact appliances and cookware for small spaces to round out your van kitchen. For example, van-sized blenders are perfect for making fruit smoothies and protein shakes, and compact pressure cookers are great for a variety of things like cooking rice and making stews.

Of course, you’ll need a solid array of plates, bowls, pots, and a frying pan. In addition, a selection of cutlery is a good idea, along with other important kitchen must-haves like a cutting board, bottle opener, cheese grater, spatula, slotted spoon, can opener, and ladle.

For food storage, we recommend a small selection of Tupperware that can be nested to save space.

Don’t forget you can cook and eat outside!

We think our van kitchens are fantastic functional spaces. But don’t forget you can cook and eat outside also. If you enjoy cooking and eating outside, it’s a good idea to pack things like camping chairs, camping lantern, camping table, and camping stove. And don’t forget the bug spray!

Clothing and Personal Items

Although we know a lot about van life and camping essentials, we’ll try not to tell you what to pack regarding your wardrobe and clothes. (That’s a task for your mom.) But if it’s okay, we’d like to recommend a few things that may make your van living easier.

Wardrobe considerations for all seasons and activities

  • Consider the outdoor activities you love doing, and make sure to include appropriate clothing
  • Vacuum seal seasonal clothing to save space (or use packing cubes)
  • Pack a special “going out” outfit for special occasions
  • Restrict yourself to one pair of footwear per category, like sandals, tennis shoes, hiking boots, etc. (You decide which categories will suit your van living the best.)

Personal care items

It’s no secret that self-care and daily hygiene are linked to a happier and healthier life. It’s the same for van life. That’s why personal care items are one of the top van life essentials. Here’s a short list of items we never forget, whether we’re on a short road trip or in the van full-time.

  • Toothbrush, toothpaste, floss, and mouthwash. (Use a kiddie brush to save space.)
  • Travel-sized shampoo, conditioner, and face wash
  • Baby wipes
  • Makeup essentials and makeup remover
  • Hairbrush, comb, and shaving kit

Technology and Entertainment

Some folks like to hit the road in a van and “disconnect” from the modern world. We agree– some radio silence and off-grid living are nice every now and again.

But for other van dwellers, like digital nomads, staying connected while traveling and living in their van is a massive necessity for their way of life. So, here are some van-life essentials from the technology and entertainment department.

  • Portable power bank for recharging devices
  • Dedicated wifi hotspot device (maybe even a Starlink satellite dish) 
  • Multi-charging cables
  • Bluetooth speakers 
  • Cell-reception booster 
  • Headphones or earbuds 
  • Bluetooth keyboard and computer mouse 

Regarding entertainment, well, in our opinion, the view out the window is the best television program you could ask for—unless you’re in Nebraska. (No offense to folks in Nebraska.) 

However, if you enjoy watching movies or listening to audiobooks or podcasts while you drive, make sure to download them ahead of time just in case you end up in a dead zone for cell reception.

Having a good old-fashioned book on hand is also a must. Okay, fine. E-readers like Kindles are also great for van life.

Outdoor and Activity Gear

We like to think of our vans not only as homes with four wheels but also as garages for all the gear you require to recreate outdoors. That’s the biggest reason why we’ve worked hard to create intelligent layouts that maximize usable storage space. 

Between the internal storage space our vans offer and a little ingenuity on your part, you can easily live on the road and equip your favorite activities with must-have gear. 

For example, all our van designs feature a lofted sleeping area. This unlocks the underside of the bed, also known as the “gearage” and allows you to fill it with whatever gear you need. Here are some ideas.

  • Front fork-mounted bike mounts
  • Labeled storage totes for camping gear
  • Hanging storage for helmets or climbing ropes 
  • Slide-out drawers 
  • Vertical back door storage for cycling and climbing shoes or any additional footwear

Health and Safety Items for Van Life

When it comes to health and safety, we don’t mess around. After all, we want you to have fun in our vans, and a big part of having fun is staying healthy but also being prepared for the inevitable sickness or roadside inconvenience.

All of our vans come equipped with a dual-purpose smoke and carbon monoxide detector. In addition, our vans come with a fire extinguisher and ground fault circuit interrupter.

First aid and emergency preparedness

We think it’s important to have a fully-stocked first aid kit in an accessible location in your van. Make sure to routinely maintain your first aid kit as you use up medications or other supplies like band aids. 

Similarly, having a roadside safety kit is also important, just in case you break down. There are all kinds of pre-built kits you can purchase or you can build your own. Regardless, having items like jumper cables, road flares, reflective safety triangles, and a flashlight (or headlamp) will make your life easier.

Security measures for van lifers

  • Have a go-to spot for your keys
  • Keep valuables hidden when you’re not in the van
  • Lock your doors
  • Back into parking spaces
  • Avoid parking overnight on roadside shoulders

Camper Van Cleaning and Maintenance

One of our favorite parts about van life is that everything is within arms reach. That makes it so much simpler to keep things clean, organized, and maintained. It’s way better than vacuuming and mopping extra bedrooms or sweeping a full-sized garage. 

Van life essentials for cleaning

We recommend having a go-to spot in your van where you can stash a small tote of cleaning-related must-have items. Then, when it’s time to clean, you can bust it out and get to work.

  • Glass window cleaner (It’s great for cleaning solar panels also)
  • Multi-surface cleaner 
  • Reusable rags (to avoid endless paper towels)
  • Upholstery spray
  • Rechargeable handheld vacuum
  • Broom and dustpan 
  • Dish soap and sponge

Can’t you find a van-sized broom and dustpan combo? Hack off a section of the broom handle to make it smaller.

Want to clean out those finicky and hard-to-reach crevices? Use an adaptor on your air compressor to blow those areas clean.

Want to clean the exterior of our van after a long road trip? We recommend avoiding drive-through car washes. You are better off using a self-serve car wash. (Close those air vents!)

Maintaining your DM Camper van

Besides cleaning, performing regular maintenance on your DM Van Ram Promaster will be essential and will make all the difference in your van’s longevity. You do not want to miss out on routine items like oil changes and tire rotations, as well as bigger ticket items when you can reach certain mileage milestones.

For those sorts of things, we recommend following Ram’s manufacturer guidelines for Promaster maintenance.

Customization and Personal Touches

Every single DM Van is 100% ready to hit the road after purchase. But even then, we encourage you to make the can your own by adding some personalized touches to make your van feel like home. 

DIY upgrades and personalization ideas

  • Hang up your favorite van-sized artwork, family photographs, magnets, and other trinkets you find throughout your journey. 
  • Grow a plant– succulents and air plants make for ideal, low-maintenance van plants.
  • Slap on a few stickers because how else are people supposed to know how rad you are? (Oh wait, the DM Van you’re riding in takes care of that.) 
  • Try a small area rug to add a pop of color, add coziness, and protect the floors
  • Install a sink cover to maximize the countertop area of your kitchenette 
  • Hang fairy lights to add some mood lighting to your van
  • Add a pack of removable mounting putty to secure decorations and essentials—like planters and decor items—so they won’t slide or fall while you’re driving.

Top Tips and Tricks for Packing

  • A go-to grocery kit with reusable bags and other containers for holding food items makes grocery shopping and food storage easier. 
  • Thanks to the external showers that all our vans come with, you can shower al fresco. However, having a portable shower kit with toiletries, sandals, and a travel towel makes using public showers more pleasant.  
  • In a van, bigger is not always better. Not even if you’re in Texas. Instead, opt for van-sized everything. For example, repackaging bulk food items into smaller containers, travel towels instead of full-sized towels, and travel-sized toiletries.  
  • Living inside a cargo van means you’re often surrounded by metal, which makes magnetic hooks perfect for optimizing hanging space.  
  • Drawer organizers in the kitchenette can keep your utensils, pots, pans, plates, and bowls more organized. 
  • Packing cubes for your clothing drastically reduces the footprint of your clothing items and helps you organize by type of garment. 
  • Ask any Promaster van dweller about the most underutilized storage zone, and they’ll mention the bulkhead– it’s a perfect location for items you need to quickly and easily access. 

Start Van Life with a DM Van 

The reason we started DM Vans was to help make van life more accessible to more folks. 

The reason? Because we’ve spent countless days on the road and have learned it’s one of our favorite places to be. So our mission is to help you experience van life also.

We’ve chosen the Ram Promaster as the foundation for our van builds because they are roomy and reliable. To transform an empty cargo van into a fully functional mobile living space, we rely on our ample van life experience and cunning craftsmanship. 

After we are done building our camper vans, the only thing missing is you and your gear. We hope you found our van life essentials and travel tips helpful. Take it with a grain of salt and customize it to your liking. It’s your journey!

See you around the campfire.

-Dave and Matt

Curious about our pre-built class B camper vans? Check out the DM Vans Inventory.
Have a specific question about one of our vans? Call us!

  

WE WANT TO HEAR YOUR STORIES

We’d love to hear your Dm vans travel stories, if you have something to share, send us an email to: stories@dmvans.com

DIVE INTO MORE

Van Life Hacks for Couples: Sharing Your Tiny Space

Save space and enjoy van life with your significant other even more with these van life hacks If you are…

The Ultimate Camper Van Essentials Checklist: Gear, Supplies, and Tips for Organization

The Ultimate Camper Van Essentials Checklist: Gear, Supplies, and…

When you are new to van life, it’s inevitable that you will pack too much and overcompensate what you think…

Why the Ram Promaster is Perfect for Van Life

Why the Ram Promaster is Perfect for Van Life

The Ram Promaster Cargo Van is the essential foundation of pre-built Class B camper vans because of its size,  performance,…