Between quarantine and a house full of very bored kids, you may have thought to yourself, “Why don’t I go on that camping trip I always talked about?”
Well—so did millions of other Americans.
According to Kamgrounds of America, there were five times more first-time campers in 2020 than in 2019, with 48.2 million households camping at least once in 2020.
If you’re feeling a similar itch, camper vans are the perfect way to camp in style without losing out on a genuine, rustic experience.
Before you hit those country roads, though, a few extra utilities can go a long way into making your dream camper a reality.
To get you started, here’s our list of 20 of the best camper van accessories every van lifer shouldn’t live without.
1. DECKED Drawer System + Modular Storage
So here’s the deal: Storage in van campers can get real ugly, real fast. It’s a tempting challenge if you’re a DIY-er, but a cramped living space requires a smarter, more effective storage system than any old garage or shed does.
Here’s where custom vans come in.
Tailored specifically to your taste and most car models, DECKED’s Drawer System turns loading and unloading into a painless, foolproof experience.
Great for past truck campers, future van campers can also keep their outdoor gear and perishables in tip-top shape with our portable, weatherproof D-Box, Crossbox, and other modular accessories that are fully compatible with the drawers.
2. DECKED D-Bag
If you’re interested in backpacking or hiking during your trip, you’ll not only need to pack light, but you’ll have to pack smart, too.
The D-Bag (short for Drawer-Bag, of course) will protect all necessities and expensive gadgets from that other kind of d-bag you might find along the road. Designed for use and abuse, this military-grade, weather-resistant tool bag can handle any off-road adventure you’ve got planned.
When you wanna ditch the old van for a day’s hike, the D-Bag is perfect for on-the-go plans.
3. Solar panels
Requiring little maintenance beyond periodic cleaning, solar panels are a must-have for those living in a van full-time or even just for the summer. Extra benefits? You’ll stay topped off on power while traveling around with your favorite appliances. (Waffles, anyone?)
4. Chargers/power inverters
Though you may be looking to disconnect (which we both encourage and applaud), you should never be without means of contacting home base, much less charging any electronics that aren’t a part of your camper.
Before you start, you’ll need to figure out what kind of inverter you’ll need for all devices you plan on bringing.
5. First-aid kit
While you’re unlikely to come across a suspicious hitchhiker or rabid animal while on the road, it never hurts to be prepared, even for the mundane. Some of the most common camping-related injuries are caused by dehydration, poisonous plants, and bug bites.
So it’s not that bad-ass. But for peace of mind, we still recommend you stay safe with First Aid Only’s All-Purpose First Aid Emergency Kit.
Every good first-aid kit should come equipped with:
- Burn cream
- Antibiotic ointments
- Over-the-counter pain medication
PS. Don’t forget any allergy or prescription medication you may need, such as insulin or an inhaler.
6. Camping table
Van camping is no fun if you’re stuck inside all day! Take your mini living room outside with a foldable camping table for eating, cooking, or working whenever your van’s itty bitty counter space can’t cut it. For this, we suggest either REI’s portable Co-Op Camp Roll or their larger Heavy-Duty Roll-Tip Table.
Awnings are the quintessential camping accessory for vans (tragically) without. After all, what is van life without an awning? Stay out of the sun or enjoy a light shower with a durable, lightweight Dometic Awning.
Alternatively, you can opt for a driveaway awning to act as an additional living or sleeping space.
8. Camping chairs
If you’re on the hunt for killer sights or the perfect fishing spot, camping chairs are a must. Lightweight and foldable, a quality camping chair can make all the difference between camping with style and roughin’ it. To get started, we recommended REI’s Co-Op Camp X Chair for you and your companions. (They’ve got child sizes for your mini-me’s too!)
9. Coffee maker
You’ve got your camper, your peace and quiet, and a great view—but no cup of Joe? Better turn this van around right now.
If you can’t get out of bed without your homemade brew or need an extra kick during those early morning hikes, invest in a portable French-press/travel mug such as the Bodum Travel Press. It’s a great no-electricity add-on for more energy-minded campers and handy whenever you’re on foot.
10. Camping stove and BBQ grill
Living out of a van doesn’t mean you can’t eat well! Remix your home recipes or come up with new meals on the go with a high-quality camping stove and BBQ grill.
Versatile and easy to store, you’ll have everything you need with the Jetboil camping and backpacking stove. For the most rugged of backyard cookouts, trust no one better than Coleman’s propane camp grill/stove.
11. Sleeping bag and mattress topper
When it comes to living in a small space for weeks on end, comfort is a luxury you should always cash in on—which is why we recommend a twin-sized foldable foam topper from Olee Sleep! These babies are optimal for both compact storage and backache-free nights.
Meanwhile, when sleeping outdoors, try out TETON Sports’ Polara 3-in-1 sleeping bag for a night of sleep so warm and cozy, it’s almost like a grizzly bear’s embrace.
If you’d rather spend the night under the stars and (somewhat) safe from critters, set up a hammock and let Mother Nature soothe you to sleep. You can even kick back and relax with a cold one.
For the best leisure experience, we recommended the ultralight Roo Single by Kammock for casual van lifers.
13. Fire extinguisher and fire blanket
Word of advice: Just because you’re van camping, it doesn’t mean fire restrictions don’t apply to you.
An average of 88% of wildfires is man-made, a portion of which is caused by unattended and/or illegal campfires. Even if you’re under no fire restrictions where you’re camping, it’s better to be safe than sorry with a fire extinguisher and fire blanket at the ready.
14. Headlamps and lanterns
LED lights are great for campers in general. They give off a nice, warm fuzzy glow without blinding you and causing you to break your ass while taking a leak.
15. Portable toilet and shower
Camper vans excel at making the best out of very little. However, unlike motorhomes, most camper vans forego a full bathroom, so you’ll have to make do with an outdoor shower and portable toilet.
Thankfully, you’ll never miss hot water with Advanced Elements’ solar-powered Summer Shower. Be sure to check the temp before you get nude! Oh, and we also recommend an outdoor shower tent for privacy and a portable loo from Reliance Control Corp for when you really gotta go.
16. Heavy-duty cooler
Source: Review from Freedude
For fresh cuts after a hunting trip or to store other perishables, a heavy-duty cooler will never fail you. Even if you’ve got a mini-fridge on-board, a cooler never hurts while outdoors.
For coolers, good ole YETI has never disappointed us.
17. Roof racks
Camper vans are great! But sometimes, it’s good to stretch your legs and use a different mode of travel.
For our resident canoe-enthusiasts and cyclers, a sturdy roof rack will keep all your gear secure throughout your trip. We recommended this affordable roof rack from SportRack to help you along the way.
18. Roadside emergency kit
Here’s another footnote out of the DECKED camper van safety manual—don’t forget your roadside emergency kit. There’s no shortage of potholes, burst tires, or flat batteries in the backcountry. Stay on your toes with Lifeline’s sure-fire Excursion kit.
While on the road, be sure that your emergency kit includes:
- Jumper cables
- Spare key
- Tire Pressure Gauge
- Emergency Warning Triangle
Camping isn’t much fun if you have to survive on trail mix and instant ramen. (You can do that at home… We sure did in college…)
To save up on space and focus on efficiency, a versatile kitchen set will see you through thick and thin. We personally recommend REI’s collapsible containers for food storage and the Stanley Adventure set for cooking and eating.
A good camping kitchen set should also include:
- Collapsible Tupperware
- Reusable cutlery
- Cutting boards
- Small but durable pots and pans
- Camping knives
- Environmentally-friendly dish soap and other cleaning agents
20. Water filter
Although that babbling brook and serene lake may appear clean, it’s definitely not. There’s plenty of gnarly waterborne diseases and parasites lurking in calm waters, such as crypto and giardiasis (aka beaver fever). If necessary, only drink untreated water with a LifeStraw. Otherwise, install an inline filter from Culligan to keep your rig clean throughout your trip.
Before any trip, be sure to double-check, triple-check, and, yes, quadruple-check everything you’ll need to stay safe and comfortable while on the road.
Just like Mama told you to never leave home without clean underwear, don’t forget to bring along:
- Insurance cards – Always keep your insurance cards somewhere secure, such as in the glove pocket compartment or on your person(s).
- IDs/Drivers license – Hard to forget, but it happens! You don’t want to cross state lines without your driver’s license or valid form of ID.
- Maps – There’s no telling when you’ll have cell service. Buy paper maps of the areas you’ll be touring and check up on local news for updates on wildfires, floodings, mudslides, etc.
- Car insurance and registration – Be sure to pack your car insurance info and the correct registration for your van.
- Passport – Another form of valid ID; you’ll need this if you’re thinking of crossing the border.
- Clean underwear – Several pairs, preferably.
Why DECKED is the Ultimate Camper Van Accessory
It’s time—you’ve fully outfitted your camper van with everything you’ll need or want on the road. It’s officially the perfect vehicle to chart the backroads of America.
Truck or van camping may be fun, but it requires an expert organization system to keep your ride from turning into a college dorm room. And you don’t want to up-put with THAT for weeks on end, do you?
So give yourself a break with DECKED’s weatherproof modular drawer system.
Customized to fit your van’s storage space, DECKED is the go-to solution for all your organizational needs. Whether you’re on the road short-term or traveling stateside to fill up that bucket list, our smart and effective organization items will keep all your gear secure during this epic chapter of your life.