Life on the road is full of bumps, twists, and unforgettable adventures. Outfitting your camper van with versatile space-saving items is key to making the ride that much smoother. When you’re in a small space, making life easier through organization and planning is a lifesaver.
We’ve learned a ton about van life from traveling in our Sprinter Campervan, Benji in Canada and our campervan, Tilly the Troopy, in Australia. From what to use for insulation to where to shower, there is a lot that goes on behind the scenes that isn’t captured by the shiny #vanlife content on Instagram.
So here are our best van life storage hacks and tips for overnight camping in a van.
Our 25 Best Van Life Hacks and Campervan Tips
1. Find a spot for everything
When everything in your van has a home, it keeps the van organized which is crucial for keeping your small space neat and tidy. Working with limited space can be tough but when you keep on top of organization, it gets a lot easier. Using simple campervan hacks storage ideas to tuck everything away will prevent clutter and damage to your items.
2. Pack the essentials
Even the best camper organization hacks won’t save you if you are trying to fit a house’s worth of stuff into a tiny space. As far as storage ideas for campervans go, minimalism is key.
Making the most of your small space begins with cutting down on non-essentials and prioritizing versatility. For instance, if you’re going to use a duvet, do you really need sleeping bags too? Packing only the essentials is one of the top vanlife tips to make all other organizing campervan hacks possible.
3. Use apps to find free places to camp
The best way to make van life cheap is to find free camping spots. Thankfully, there are a lot of them! We’ve used apps to find van camping ideas throughout our travels in North America and Australia.
In Canada, we use iOverlander and Backroads Mapbooks while Wikicamps was our go-to in Australia. We’re also members of Harvest Hosts, which has allowed us to stay at some pretty cool farms and wineries.
In the US, Harvest Hosts are available in every state, along with lots of free camping on public lands. And, you might even meet other van lifers there (who might have other great camper van hacks to share!).
4. Get a gym membership to take showers
A gym membership will be your best friend when living on the road. Opt for a nation-wide gym that’s open late so you can shower on your own schedule. We use Anytime Fitness, which has hundreds of locations across Canada as well as elsewhere in the world. Planet Fitness is another popular option among van lifers that’s convenient and affordable. Although we have a built-in shower in our van, not having to worry about hot water or dumping water tanks is a treat.
5. Sign up for a Husky membership to get free showers (Canada only)
Let’s face it, baby wipes can only get you so far when it comes to hygiene. When you don’t have access to a gym or outdoor shower, truck stops can be a life saver!
In Canada, one of our favourite vanlife hacks is to sign up for a Husky membership. Every time you get fuel, you’ll collect points that you can redeem for free showers. This is one of the best van life shower ideas since you’re already getting fuel anway! You earn one shower for every 50 L of fuel you fill up so you’ll be racking up points in no time.
6. Attach your spice rack under the cabinets for easy access
We added a magnetic spice rack beneath our cabinets to help save space in our panty. The magnets keep the containers in place while we’re driving and they’re easy to access for cooking. Plus, our set came with pre-made labels so the spices were easy to organize.
We buy all of our dry goods in bulk so these magnetic containers come in handy for other things too. We can store tea, nuts, and other loose items without any unnecessary packaging.
7. Invest in a portable toilet
When it’s cold and you need the bathroom in the middle of the night, these are the van life tips you’ll thank us for! Investing in a portable toilet was one of the best van conversion hacks we incorporated into our build. Our toilet is compact, easy to clean, and really doesn’t take up too much space inside the van. It makes life on the road a lot more comfortable and our van feels a lot more like a home.
8. Use bungee cords to keep items in place
Bungee cords are essential campervan accessories. We use them for keeping our toilet from sliding across the floor of our van. Bungee cords are also useful for securing other loose items when we’re driving. They’re great for minivan camping ideas or in van builds that don’t have much extra space to spare. Some of our best campervan storage hacks involve finding a spot for everything—and making sure it stays there.
9. Maximize your storage space
Anything that creates more storage space is a van life essential in our books. Adding shelves above the bed and baskets or magazine racks in the kitchen area is a great storage solution.
You can store your van camping equipment in different places based on how easily accessible it needs to be. For example, keep cleaning supplies handy under the sink but you can store other items that you dont access very often under the bed. We also installed an elevator bed which allowed us to maximize the storage in our van. We gained a ton fo space by not having a permanent platform bed.
10. Get collapsible everything
One of the best campervan storage hacks is to use collapsible storage containers. They save space by packing away into flat bundles when you’re not using them and easily expand when they’re needed. We have collapsible bowls, storage containers, and a bucket that always come in handy.
11. Get a wifi extender or data connection booster
Some key van life and motorhome tips for working on the road rely on having internet. Adding a WiFi range extender is one of the best motorhome hacks to make the most of weak campground WiFi. Sometimes your parking spot doesn’t have the best signal, so adding a booster strengthens your connection so you can work on the road.
12. Don’t forget to insulate drafts and fans
If you plan on traveling in the winter, we recommend investing in fan covers and draft stoppers. Even when your fan is closed, it can let just enough air in to create a draft. You might also run into this if you have a pop top roof, so don’t overlook extra insulation. We invested in a bunch of these door draft stoppers and used them to get rid of drafts coming from the doors of our van.
READ NEXT: The Ultimate Camper Van Insulation Guide
13. Opt for unbreakable kitchenware
One of our best van camping tips is to save yourself the headache by opting for unbreakable kitchenware. No need to worry about bumpy roads breaking glass or dishes when you have shatterproof items. We love our wheat straw plates and bowls. They are lightweight, durable and eco-friendly.
14. Use GasBuddy to find the cheapest gas
Campervan life and travel usually go hand in hand, which means you’ll be doing lots of driving. And with lots of driving comes LOTS of gas. We use GasBuddy to help find the cheapest fuel in gas stations across Canada. We can even plan our stops ahead of time based on gas prices along the way. This makes budgeting for a campervan trip a lot easier.
15. Invest in rechargeable magnetic lights
Rechargeable magnetic lights have been a great addition to our van build and one of the most helpful campervan hacks. They’re better than fairy lights since they’re cordless and can be used in a variety of places thanks to the magnetic strip. We use them inside cabinets, above the sink when we are doing dishes and even outside. Thanks to their magnetic strip at the back they stick to the side of our van creating the perfect outdoor lighting set up!
16. Get a handheld vacuum
A full-size vacuum would take up too much space in our tiny Sprinter van but a handheld vacuum is the perfect size. One of the best campervan hacks for keeping the van tidy is having a portable rechargeable vacuum. We use our Shark WandVac daily to keep our floors and surfaces nice and clean.
17. Hooks, hooks, and more hooks
One of our top tips for making the most of your wall space is to add hooks—and lots of ‘em. Hang as much as possible to keep things off the floor and organized. Some of our favourite Ikea campervan hacks include these folding hooks. They fold down when not in use, keeping the walls of your van nice and tidy. Hooks are necessary when you have wet clothing after a swim or if you are looking to hang some laundry. Trust us, you can never have too many!
18. Add a doormat to every entrance
Depending on your van model, you might have multiple doors that can quickly get dirty from boots and shoes. Keep the dirt of the great outdoors off of your floors by adding doormats to every entrance. You can leave your muddy shoes on the mat without tracking in any extra mess.
19. Use foam to create a custom storage area for your electronics
Line your drawers with plucking foam to keep laptops, iPads, and cameras safe while you drive. This creates a padded box for fragile campervan storage item that need that extra protection during bumpy rides. Cut smaller pieces and use them as dividers to keep your camera batteries from bumping into your tablet.
20. Install a carbon monoxide alarm
This is one of those van living tips that you can’t skip. Being in a confined space with different types of fuels and chemicals can be dangerous. A carbon monoxide alarm and smoke detector are essential camper tips for any van build. We use this 2-in-1 alarm to save space and stay safe. We also highly recommend adding a fire extinguisher into every van conversion.
21. Use a memory foam topper as your mattress
If you’re looking for campervan hacks to make sleeping more comfortable, this tip is for you. Whether it’s vanlife or motorhome life, using a memory foam topper as your mattress makes for the most comfortable sleep ever. We know that many campervans don’t have a standard size bed. It’s a problem for regular mattresses but if you are using a latex topper, cutting it into the right size is a breeze! Plus a latex mattress topper is natural, antimicrobial, it helps regulate temperature and supports your body for restful sleep.
22. Install swivel seats
Installing swivel seats for your driver and passenger seats allows you to double down on space in your campervan. This way, your driving area isn’t wasted empty space when you’re parked and hanging out inside.
We have installed a Scopema Swivel Seat from the Swivel Shop in our van and it has made a world of a difference! It’s perfect for eating dinner, working and offers extra seating for guests!
23. Make window coverings
Window coverings can help a lot with temperature regulation in the summer and winter. In hot places, blocking the sun from baking into your campervan conversion makes being inside a lot more comfortable. Similarly, covering your windows can help keep heat inside and block drafts.
You can easily make your own window coverings with Reflectix and a down blanket like we did. We use magnets to pop them into the windows so it looks clean on the inside and doesn’t attract attention on the outside. They’re ideal for stealth camping and eliminate your need for curtains so it’s a win-win!
24. Add a mosquito net to your door
Traveling in a van in the summertime is amazing, except for one thing: bugs! Keeping the doors open makes the van feel bigger and helps with airflow. Adding cheap mosquito nets is a quick and easy solution for enjoying the breeze bug-free. We recommend a magnetic mosquito net so it stays shut when you’re moving in and out.
25. Get a 12v power inverter
Keeping your phone and devices charged can be a challenging task if you don’t have a full electrical system in you van. Even if you have a solar system, we recommend getting a 12-volt power inverter that plugs into your cigarette lighter. This way, you can top up your devices while you’re driving without having to tap into your batteries. We use this DC to AC inverter that has a regular 120v plug and two USB ports.
Do you have any favourite campervan hacks that make living in your camper van conversion even more enjoyable?
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