best campervan gear

Travel Light, Travel Right: Best Gear for Camping in a Van or Small Camper

These lightweight accessories are functional and space-saving.

One of the challenges, and triumphs, of stocking our campervan is bringing all the essential gear we need in the space we have, just 90 square feet.

With two large dogs and three people (one who is 6’5″), everything needs to fit together just right to live our best camping life. A math equation rolling down the road.

After years of experimentation, we’ve struck equilibrium, hitting the right balance of utility and comfort.

Here are the camping gadgets and gear that make it possible. Each accessory is super functional, high quality, lightweight, and easy to store. Our favorite, must-haves! πŸ™‚

We use, and swear by, every product on this list.

Whisk broom

wisk broom to clean small campers

This simple, flat whisk broom is a winner, beating out its electric-powered competition in the battle to keep our small space clean.

The whisk broom replaced a hand-held vacuum that never worked well: it lacked suction, clogged easily and the plug popped out of the cigarette lighter as I swept. It was bulky and came with a bunch of plastic attachments I never used (yet was afraid to throw out!)

I said sayonara when a friend recommended I go old school with the whisk.

This little broom whisks away sand, dust, dirt, and even dog hair better than a car vacuum with the flick of a wrist. It works on the hard floor, upholstery and carpeting, pulling our pooch’s fur up and out of the van.

The whisks, made of bristles from corn, fit in the cracks between the floor and seats. It’s soooo satisfying to brush out dirt in those hidden crevices!

Pop-up trash can

camping trashcan

When it comes to the best campervan gear, this pop-up trash can easily makes the cut.

It weighs under a pound and is less than an inch high yet expands to accommodate a standard, 30-gallon trash bag.

The trash can is spring-loaded. Just remove the toggles from the loops, and the can automatically springs into place. There are also loops to stake it into the ground so it stays put.

The camping trash can comes with a zippered top. When we turn in for the night, we like to tuck the trash bag into the bin and zip the top to discourage animals from visiting.

Leakproof, hanging trash bag

campervan garbage bag

It’s handy to have another garbage bag inside the van so I don’t have to go outside to pitch scraps when cooking.

We attach this hanging trash bag to the seat headrest. It’s leakproof and washable so I can pitch all my cooking scraps, even soggy ones, right into the bag.

I wash it in the washing machine after each camping trip (it goes in the dryer, too). We’ve had it for years and it’s still going strong.

Camping blanket

Rumpl blanket in a campervan
A cozy couple on the couch: My Rumpl blanket and Good Vibes pillow.

Another true original to mention here: the Rumpl Original Puffy Blanket. This blanket is made of 100 percent recycled material and is warm, cozy and cute.

The Puffy Blanket is advertised as a blanket you can wear as a cape, which I don’t really do, but it comes with a clip if that’s your style.

I like to put it on my lap around the fire or sit on top of it to keep my seat warm. Inside the van, it’s the perfect extra layer for chilly nights.

Lanterns that charge your phone

lanterns with power banks for small campers
These two lanterns have built-in power banks.

I have two amazing camping lanterns to recommend to you small campers out there. These little guys will light up your campsite and power up your devices.

This is some of the best gear in our van because we don’t have an auxiliary power setup, but we definitely do like to keep our phones charged. We depend on these when we’re camping without shore power in the same spot for a few days.

One is solar and the other is powered by rechargeable batteries.

Battery-powered lantern

This magnetic camping light doubles as a phone charger

Not only is this rechargeable camping lantern water-resistant, it’s also magnetic! We can stick it anywhere on the van to get the lighting just right. If you’re a tent camper, there is a hook you can use to hang it from above.

The light it casts is bright but softer than some other lanterns we’ve had. We find the high setting a little too bright and use medium when we’re hanging out in the van.

We can get a full phone charge out of this light, with a little wattage left over. Note that the amount of charge varies according to the type of device; iPads, for example, use more juice.

Solar-powered lantern

This inflatable lantern takes up hardly any space when deflated and gives off the sweetest glow, bright but soft. It’s chargeable either by the sun or by USB and can be used just about anywhere. Packing down to less than an inch, it’s a great item for small campers.

It has three levels of brightness and will run up to 100 hours!

We hang it outside so it can soak up the rays. It’s a nice light to put on the table or to hang on a tree to brighten up the campsite.

We get about one charge from this lantern when it’s fully charged.

Quick-dry-yet-plush camping towels

The “plush-est” camping towel around

We camped for years with bulky, regular bath towels. As much as I hated seeing them hang all over our campsite to dry, the thought of using small, microfiber wipes – towels kept me dutifully draping them on any available tree.

These towels changed my mind.

Many microfiber camping towels feel like dust cloths, but these feel like cotton (okay, almost) and are the size of a regular towel.

Basically, they are luxe camping towels. They are big enough to wrap around your body and don’t feel like cold polyester on your wet skin!

And they will be dry for you when you need them, even if you shower every day.

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French press coffee maker

French press coffee maker for campervan
Delicious coffee made with a French press and served in my enamel camping mugs

The French press-style of coffee maker works great for small camping setups. You simply boil the water, mix it right in the carafe with the coffee and wait four minutes.

Delicious, hot coffee is ready to go with a push of the plunger.

We love this French press. It’s sturdy and larger than others, giving us two cups each per pot.

Cordless, rechargeable fan

Geek Aire outdoor camping fan
Rechargeable, weather-proof camping fan

Sizewise, this item is the biggest on the list, but I decided it should make the cut because we can’t live without it, especially in summer.

There’s no camping fan better than the Geek Aire fan!

This powerful fan has saved us from many sleepless nights for two reasons: it blows some serious air that cools the whole van, while making a just-right amount of white noise to block out sounds.

When we’re outside, we use it to blow the bugs away. It’s cordless and has a handle on the back that makes it easy to move around the campsite.

The quality is excellent. The blades are metal and the base is sturdy – this fan can tilt 360 degrees, and its base won’t move an inch. The fan is weatherproof and durable. No worries about leaving it outside in the elements.

You can adjust the speed to your exact liking with the dial.

This fan seems to run forever on a single charge. Depending on the speed, it runs between four and 20 hours on a single charge. No more waking up in a sweat surrounded by dead fans in the van!! lol.

DIY shower kit

This recommendation is actually two items that together make an awesome shower.

The items are a collapsible bucket and a battery-powered pump.

To make a warm shower you can use just about anywhere, fill the bucket with warm water, submerge the pump and presto! The pump is rechargeable and holds its charge for a long time. We are never without a shower with this set up!

For more details on this shower set up, see this post or watch my video.

Pop up tent

gigatent-pop-up-pod privacy tent
Use this tent for a shower stall, bathroom & changing room

If you’d like a shower stall to go with your shower, you can get this pop-up tent.

This fabulous invention can also be your bathroom – we refer to it as our “pee tent”. It comes in a slim, disc-shaped bag and sets up in seconds – 24, to be exact!

Sand-free mat

An outdoor mat is key for cutting down on the dirt you bring inside your camper. A good one also stops you from tracking in sand.

The Original Sand-Free Outdoor Camping Mat does just what it says. It has a weave that’s actually patented to allow dirt, sand, and dust to fall through the fabric.

It really works! It’s heavy-duty and is great for beach days, too. It comes in different colors. We have the medium-sized mat with one blue and one green side so we can choose between the two. You can check it out in the picture just below.

The best camping chairs

camping with Helinox chairs
Three Helinox chairs, including a rocker, far left. Also pictured: our sand-free mat.

I haven’t found a chair that comes close to the comfort, quality, and style of the Helinox Chair One.

Pound for pound, this chair handily wins its weight class. It’s lightweight, durable, and compact.

Helinox Chair One is the original collapsible, camping chair that has spawned many imitators – but none with the perfect five-star rating of the Chair One, with over 1,000 reviews!

We store three of these under the backseat (including a rocker version) and still have room for our tools, lanterns, heater, and mat. We’ve used them for years and they are in perfect condition (Actually, one suffered a burn from a flying ember that burned a small hole in the seat fabric, but the seat has held up fine).

Collapsible food storage

These containers are the bomb!

Our campervan has a very small fridge, and we wouldn’t be able to store leftovers without these collapsible silicone containers.

They take up very little space and when I fill them with food, I actually push them down so there is no wasted space in the bowl, using the button on top that lets the air out.

These containers are airtight, so you can store them horizontally on their sides or stack them on top of one another.

They turn your fridge into a filing cabinet of food storage efficiency!

Folding toaster

folding camping toaster

If you’ve read this far, you know I have a thing for camping gear that folds down and packs flat – and maybe you do, too? πŸ™‚

Bet you wouldn’t guess this format would be possible for a toaster.

I can’t remember who turned me on to this ingenious camping gadget. Not only do we use this to make toast, we use it to play a game of “guess the gadget” with our camping friends.

Only a few have come up with the right answer.

Win or lose, all players are treated to delicious toast afterward.

Pocket bellows

pocket bellows
These pocket bellows come two in a pack

The final item on my list is also the smallest, the pocket bellows. Last but definitely not least – this clever gadget is a life saver fire saver.

It’s a telescoping steel tube that lets you pinpoint a gust of breath right where your fire needs it. It will blow your mind!

Each pocket bellows is the size of a pen and keeps your fire going. If you buy these, you get two for less than $10.

I love good gear recommendations and campers are some of the most resourceful people I know. If you have a favorite item to share, drop it in the comments below.

Happy camping, friends!


Advertising Disclosure: recommendations in this article contain links that may pay me a small commission, at no cost to you, when clicked. As always, thank you for your support.


4 thoughts on “Travel Light, Travel Right: Best Gear for Camping in a Van or Small Camper”

  1. Great gadgets!
    The toaster looks a lot like the first toasters made to use on electric stoves. We used one at Bob White Cottage, and I think I had one in our first apartment, in 1961. You had to be very watchful to keep from burning the toast. Hence all the jokes about brides who couldn’t even make toast.
    I think I will go buy a whisk broom, after reading this. I had forgotten what good tools they really are.
    Your interior is looking so designer-color-coordinated! Very pretty!

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