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29th March 2023

How to pack a campervan: the ultimate guide

We give you tips on how to pack your campervan efficiently.

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A poorly organised campervan can quickly become a claustrophobic space – the last thing you want when you’re trying to relax on holiday. Thankfully, the experts at Sterling know a thing or two about campervans. We’ve outlined the best tips for packing your campervan given the limited space on offer.

Tip 1: Don’t fill your campervan completely

One of the most common mistakes people make when they first start campervanning is that they tend to pack more than they need. In a campervan’s confined space, taking too many personal items can quickly cause issues, especially if you’re sharing the space with others.

Instead, we recommend that you fill your campervan to just over half capacity. This way, you have space for souvenirs and gifts, extra food, dirty laundry, and other items that might need to be tucked away while you’re travelling.

This might seem nerve-wracking at first – especially if you aren’t used to staying in a campervan and don’t know what to expect – but there are some cheats that will help with this.

Tip 2: Only take what you need

You would be surprised how little you actually need while living in a campervan. Although you might be tempted to pack up your entire home kitchen, chances are you can get by on a lot less than you would expect.

If you’re travelling as a couple, two sets of cutlery, bowls and plates will usually be enough. Likewise, for a family of four, four sets of each will likely be enough too. After all, in such a small space, you’ll probably need to stay on top of the dishes anyway. This will also help prevent you from attracting any insects.

Tip 3: Pack extra layers of clothing if you’re unsure about the weather

Layering your clothes is one of the most effective ways to stay warm in cold weather while you’re on the go as warm air gets trapped between the layers. If you’re not sure what the weather will be like, it’s a good idea to pack a couple of outer layers too.

You don’t need to pack lots of different bulky coats and jackets; instead, bring along layers like a couple of fleeces or sweatshirts, a couple of jackets, and a few pairs of long johns in case of cold weather. If worst comes to worst, you can always stop by a laundrette to wash your clothes.

Tip 4: Make use of space outside

When you reach your destination, a great way to explore the area is to get around on a bicycle. If you’re worried they’ll take up too much space in your campervan, a good alternative is to install a van swing towbar to the back of your van. This allows you to access the back of your van even with bikes secured to the back.

Tip 5: Secure items to the inside of your van with hooks, velcro and bungee cords

You’ll probably find that some items are bulky and difficult to store, in which case they can be secured by a bungee cord or velcro, or placed on a hook. These items can add to the decor of your camper too, so it’s good to get creative.

Many people use bungee cords to secure items like shoes, magazines or books. Some even use them to secure heavier items like surfboards or instruments to the roof or wall.

A few well-placed hooks can help you hang towels, hats, keys, and more, allowing you to use valuable wall space as storage. Velcro can also help secure items to prevent them from moving around while you’re on the go.

Tip 6: Keep essential documents within easy reach

Make sure you keep your essential documents close to hand so they’re easy to retrieve when you need them. Items include:

  • Proof of identification (e.g. driving licence or passport)
  • Green card if you’re travelling outside of the UK
  • Valid campervan insurance
  • Cash and some way of taking out money (if necessary)
  • Phone and charger
  • Physical maps if you’re travelling to a remote location
  • Any medications you need for your trip

A good way of ensuring that you always know where these items are is to store them in the glove compartment or a bag you keep with you while you travel.

You’ll also want to make sure that items you’ll need during your trip are easy to take out. This includes road trip essentials like water, snacks, and entertainment.

Tip 7: Sort your items by use

Much like you would when moving house, categorising your possessions by ‘room’ can help keep your personal possessions organised. This, in turn, will help you retrieve items when you need them.

Tip 8: Pack the heaviest items first

As a general rule, it’s a good idea to use your heaviest items as a ‘base layer’. This will give you a solid foundation and will also prevent heavy items from toppling over, which can be dangerous.

It’s important that your heavy items are distributed evenly across the van for improved safety. You should try to put heavier items in the middle of the vehicle.

It’s a good idea to put heavy items that could roll around, such as tinned food, into a container to prevent them from moving too much during your journey.

Tip 9: Think about the storage spaces you have

There’s no point in packing cutlery and crockery in a high cupboard if you know that when the van moves, the cupboard doors open and items will fall out. A bungee cord strap with two pegs on either side of the cupboards can help keep your cupboards closed if you find this is an issue. You might also want to put fragile items like crockery down low, ensuring they’re wrapped well to prevent breakages.

Creative solutions are key. For example, you might decide to store your kettle or pots and pans in the sink if you don’t have another good place to put them.

Most campervans have some storage space underneath seating spaces, beds and tables. Before you pack important items in any of these spaces, consider how accessible each space is. As a general rule of thumb, the less frequently you use an item, the less accessible it needs to be.

Tip 10: Store your outdoor furniture in the back of your van

The first thing you’ll want to do when you get to the campsite is to relax, but doing so can seem impossible if you’ve packed your camping chairs away. Storing chairs in the back of your van is a great way of accessing these items easily. You could also secure these items with bungee cords or wedge them behind the passenger seat.

Tip 11: Store bedding and clothes high up

Softer items like bedding and clothing can be stored safely in overhead cubbies. Even if these cupboards open while you’re on the go, this will prevent any of your possessions from becoming damaged. 

Tip 12: Invest in items like a tool roll for sharp objects

Although you might have a drawer for cutlery, you might feel a bit wary about adding sharp knives to this drawer, especially while driving. A tool roll is a great way of keeping your knives secure while on the road.

Tip 13: Be kind to yourself: plan a quick first meal

Person cooking in campervan with view of outside, about to stir something in saucepan

This is an important one for families with small children! After living off petrol station food and snacks, you’ll probably want something a little more nutritious, but travelling can take it out of you. Prepping a meal at home or buying a couple of ready meals is a good way of taking the pressure off on your first night. Read our blog on campervan cooking for tips on how to prepare food in a small space.

Ready for your campervan trip?

Whether you plan on living in your campervan full time and need van-life insurance, you go on frequent trips and need an annual policy, or you need short-term hire insurance for a trip, make sure you have the right insurance in place before you set off. Our flexible campervan insurance is available from £165 a year and can cover personal possessions up to a value of £2,000. We also offer optional extras such as:

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