Are you ready to live your best van life? Strategically packing your campervan with the essentials puts everything needed at your fingertips—here’s exactly how to pack a van to maximize space and enjoyment.
Packing a camper van is no easy task. You might have a place for everything and a bunch of gear carefully stored in the van, but spend your first week on the road and it will look like a bomb went off inside.
I’ve been on the road for a year now, and my system is ever evolving. While driving the Pan American Highway, I’ve had the chance to meet other van lifers, ask how they pack their own van, and poke around their rigs. We are all learning and constantly improving while traveling. The common theme among most vanlifers living from a campervan is the approach to organizing clothing, food, and equipment to maintain order in a small space.
1. Build it Right the First Time
If I could do it over, there are a few things would certainly change. I built my van on a deadline, attempting to move in before my housing lease expired. I’ve met a few folks on the road who spent a good year working through every detail and it certainly shows in their daily life. Their campervans are meticulously planned and highly organized. If you’re in the research phase, study every van around and gather ideas. Take your time and work out every detail.
2. Minimize, Minimize, Minimize
Campervan life comes with the luxury of having extra space, at least when compared to travel by backpack. That is not an invitation for hoarding, however. The biggest benefit to the space available is using it to stretch out and relax on rainy days. Approach van life with a minimalist mindset. Stick to your van life essentials and cut out everything that is unnecessary. You really only use a few basic necessities on the road and removing the clutter makes life so much nicer. I dropped quite a few items from my campervan before leaving the United States.
3. Food Storage
Keep your food safe and dry. A good storage bin with a locking lid will keep things sealed and prevent a rodent invasion. Look around to find a few dry containers for rice, tea bags, and anything loose. Containers that fit within your shelving are the best. My favorites are the small ice cream containers with screw top lids because they line my narrow top shelf without shifting. The key to food storage is keeping all of your van life essentials within arms reach and contained to prevent spills and rodent access.
4. Pack Your Clothing
Minimize and mobilize so your clothing and gear can transition between the van, hostels, boats, and airplanes. You might be living in a campervan, but having a go-bag ready to jump out and explore is nice. I have a large drawer for clothes and I use several packing cubes within the drawer to segment and organize clothing—this ensures my clothing essentials are separated between socks/underwear/shirts, cold weather layers, and shorts/pants. Pretty simple. The only issue is pulling out the drawer when my van has gear spread across the floor.
A medium-sized duffel is the perfect solution. Slide it under the bed with your clothing and use it for traveling outside of the van. The Migrate Duffel kit includes the Pack-It system to separate clothing within the bag. It also has a shoe compartment, making it the perfect van companion.
Are you packing your bags to become a #vanlifer? We want to see your organized campervan—share your photos and tag us on Instagram or Twitter .
Related Links (from Eagle Creek blog):
Buying Guide: Pack-It Packing Organizers and Compression Bags
A Beginner's Guide To Minimalist Travel
By Zach Lazzari on May 22, 2019
Zach Lazzari is a freelance writer, fly fisherman, and explorer. He is currently driving the Pan American Highway in an old Astro Van with his dog Shale.