One challenge of van life is making sure we eat well so we need a well equipped kitchen to prepare and cook our meals. With limited space indoors, having compact and practical kitchen accessories makes life easier, more organised and minimises the storage we need.
To help you prepare for living in a van, this is a list of the van life kitchen essentials making our life on the road easier.
Van life kitchen essentials
Van life cooking equipment
Wherever possible we cook outdoors because it helps keep down cooking smells and minimises water vapour. All of our cooking equipment (except the fitted cooker) is used both indoors and outdoors too so we don’t have to carry 2 of anything.
This is a new addition we’ve included in our Sprinter van conversion. We chose a diesel cooker to save space on storing a gas bottle. We’re still getting used to using it but so far, so good.
When we had Mowgli with loads of storage, we used a portable Weber BBQ. However, it uses quite a bit of space and now we’ve downsized to Baloo, we’ve replaced it with a fold away BBQ. We’ve not used it yet but it take up a fraction of the space of the Weber.
Coleman’s petrol cooker
When we travelled for 2 years in Mowgli, we only carried the BBQ and had a gas cooker inside. In hindsight, we wished we packed the petrol fuelled camping cooker too.
We’ve packed it in Baloo now and it will come in handy when we can cook outdoors but don’t want to BBQ.
Essential reading: have you seen our ultimate packing list for a road trip?
Dutch oven cooking is one of the most rewarding activities on a camping trip. Dig a fire pit, put a few hot coals on the lid and we can cook cakes, bread and roasts too. Move over Ray Mears!
Although the pressure cooker is quite bulky, it rewards us by saving loads of fuel because food cooks so much faster than in a normal pot.
We have a 3 litre pressure cooker and it’s a perfect size for 2. We always get a meal each and leftovers for the next day too. And it’s not just for stews wither. We cook rice in 3 minutes in ours.
Collapsible saucepans & kettle
We did away with our kitchen saucepans because they had silly fixed handles making storage so awkward!
These collapsible saucepans pack away inside each other and save so much precious space! We’ve even invested in a collapsible kettle.
Camper van food preparation accessories
We all need a few for preparation accessories. We could get by with less than we use or have in the drawer but a few choice accessories make preparing meals so much easier. Here’s a list of the kitchen utensils we wouldn’t travel without:
- Knives (sharp ones) and a sharpener too
- Chopping boards – one each for meat, chicken & veg/fruit
- Tin opener – ring pulls aren’t common everywhere
- Oven gloves – fantastic for the dutch oven or any of the hot pots
- Grater – this one saves on the mess
- Mixing bowl – we use this as a salad bowl too
- Stirring & serving spoons
- Measuring jug
Preserving food in your van or camping car
Unless you plan on spending 1 or 2 nights away, you will need a way to preserve food in your camper van. A fridge is an expensive investment but one to make your life simple.
And isn’t that what van life is all about it? Take a look at this article on how to buy the right 12v fridge.
And don’t forget to invest in useful food storage boxes too. You can use them for dry foods like rice or to keep food in the fridge. Never buy round boxes either because they take up too much unused space.
Camper van dining accessories
Now let me be really clear. There is no need to use plastic cutlery. No need whatsoever! I don’t want to live my simple life feeling like I’m on a kiddies camping weekend.
Would any self respecting van dweller really use folding forks or plastic spoons? We take 4 knives, forks, desert spoons and teaspoons and we’re set.
Essential reading: our essential guide to buying a 12v fridge.
We used to carry a couple of thermos cups but we don’t bother with them anymore. We use proper, crackable, chippable mugs now.
I accept the risk of breakages and carefully wrap them in a tea towel when we’re on the move. I just prefer to drink my coffee from a proper mug than a tin cup. And in 2 years, we only lost one mug so not bad going really.
Plates & bowls
For years, we had melamine plate/bowls. They were highly practical because we didn’t need to pack plates and bowls. They worked just as well for dinner as they did for our morning cereal. But I missed a proper flat plate to eat my dinner from so much.
I know it sounds weird. And even as I’m writing this I think I sound like a snob. But I don’t care really. After 2 years of eating my dinner from a bowlplate, I now enjoy my evening meal from a proper plate. It’s still plastic though.
Now wine is my thing and while I’d love to have decent wine glasses actually made from glass in the van, even I know they wouldn’t last 5 minutes.
While I will drink red wine from anything, I always prefer a glass and these plastic glasses look just the part. They’re no replacement for the real McCoy but they’re far better than using a mug (or swigging from the bottle!)
Are you looking for the ideal gift? Take a look at these ideas for travellers.
This is self explanatory really but make sure to pack a good quality one. There’s nothing worse, nothing, than being unable to open the bottle just as you sit down to eat.
Just a little hint of luxury perhaps but they take up so little room and protect our table top so why not?
Planning a road trip? Check out our planning guide here
Those are our van life kitchen essentials
We do carry a few extra bits and pieces sometimes, especially on shorter road trips. But this is a list our van life kitchen essentials we wouldn’t travel long term without.
Have we missed anything from our camper van kitchen? What do you pack for your camp kitchen we’ve not listed here? We’re always looking for ways to make our van life just a little bit easier.
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