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Van Lifer’s Summer Road Trip Packing List


There’s a lot to remember when you pack the camper for your summer road trip. Sure, you’ll throw in your clothes and your kitchen supplies along with a few of your favorite outdoor toys, but there’s a lot to consider when traveling on the road. We’ve made a list of a few things you’ll definitely want on your epic summer trip. Keep these items in mind while you’re making that all-important list. 

Van Necessities

Water Hoses

You’ll need a hose for drinking, not only to avoid that metallic garden hose taste but also the ensure drinking safety. Don’t forget your water filter. Have a plain green or black hose for rinsing things out. Also, protect your camper’s plumbing system with a water pressure regulator. 

Chock Block and Levels

If all campsites were level, you could leave these at home but as it were, nature has a plan of its own. Be sure to pack your chock blocks and block kit, and have a level on hand to check your results. 

Emergency Kit

You never know when you’re going to need a reflective safety vest, a flashlight or warning devices such as flares and reflective triangles. Keep them handy. Have a pocket knife, a shovel, and a few tools with you at all time. Electrical and duct tapes are useful for all sorts of emergency patch-ups. You’ll need a tire gauge, and it’s good to have jumper cables, or better yet, a portable jump start kit. Be sure to keep it charged and ready!

Practical Needs

Kitchen Supplies

You’re not likely to forget pots, pans and plates, but some campers miss miscellaneous items that they’ll want on the road. Examples: Aluminum foil, trash bags and baggies. Food storage containers (stackable containers save room). Be sure that sponges, wipes and moist towelettes are there when you need them. How about straws for the kids and a corkscrew for the grownups, along with some wine stoppers. You’ll need tongs, ladles, and large serving spoons. Potholders or oven gloves are easy to forget. Zip ties and chip bag clips are handy, and you never know when you’ll need matches or a lighter.

Cooking Staples

You already have spices and condiments at home, many of the jars nearly full. If you want paprika or tarragon on the road and don’t have it, you’ll have to do without or buy a container you may never finish. Also, you might want a little flour without having to purchase a five-pound sack. Additionally, think about sugar, baking soda and similar staples. Pack a small bottle of cooking oil. You can pick it up along the way, but it’s nice to have it the first few nights out. 

As much as you might resolve to eat square meals, it’s probably not going to happen. Purchase your snacks – cookies, sweets, gorp, jerky, etc. – while you’re still at home and can buy at a favorable price.

Shower Time Aids

You’ll no doubt remember the towels, but what about flip-flops and shower bags? Also include back scrubbers and loofahs for travelers who just have to have them.

Cleaning Up

You may not like all-purpose cleaners at home, but they’re a life-saver on the road. Not all do everything, but you should be able to narrow your inventory down to two or three. Don’t forget laundry detergent and dryer sheets. Have something that cleans glass; it’s easier than squeegeeing every window at a gas stop. Don’t forget a broom, and a handheld spot-cleaning vacuum is great for unexpected messes (especially if you travel with a pet).

Layerable Clothes

There are two things you can almost count on. At some point it will be hotter than you expected, and at another it will be colder. That’s why you need an assortment of clothes from wicking t-shirts to sweaters and jackets. Don’t leave out hats and rain gear. And add an extra blanket or two. No one ever regretted bringing too many blankets, but many campers have been sorry they carried too few.

Sewing Kit

You never know when an emergency repair will be called for in clothing or possibly one of your van’s fabrics. Pack a kit with small scissors, pins and needles in a pincushion, a thimble and an assortment of threads.

Document Bag

Don’t find yourself digging for a campground reservation or a critical sales receipt. Use a large zip-lock bag or other waterproof container to keep all those important documents in one place. This could include your proof of registration and insurance, various licenses, itineraries, maps and your address book.

First Aid Kit and Supplies

Always have an off-the-shelf or DIY first aid kit on hand. It should contain bandages, peroxide, ointments and rubbing alcohol. A few flexible splints are handy for those who have recurrent problems with knees, ankles, wrists, etc. At some point someone is certain to need some aspirin, ibuprofen or Tylenol. Include any supplements and prescription meds. Be sure all your prescriptions are adequately refilled before you take off. Bring along Dramamine or motion sickness patches if you suspect you might need them. And of course have plenty of bug spray and sunscreen along with lip balm with SPF protection.

Maximizing Your Fun

You won’t be in trouble if you leave these items home, but the trip will be a greater adventure if you have them with you.

Outdoor Living Room

Your RV may already have an indoor version, but you’ll want to spend leisure time outside. Include a tarp or fly for rainy or sunny days. Have an assortment of camp chairs. A small foldable table makes a useful centerpiece of your outdoor room. If you like to really kick back in the afternoon, include a hammock.

Cards and Games

It won’t be nice out every day, so you’ll need something for those times when you’re stuck inside. Compile a stash of cards, games, puzzles and books. It can be fine to break these out on a laid-back afternoon when you’ve had your fill or hiking and exploring.


If you’ve ever tried to figure out what kind of animal is on that ridge or to get a truly detailed view of the land beneath an overlook, you know the benefit of some magnification. A good pair of binoculars is an investment that will boost the enjoyment level of your journey.

Day Packs

Whether it’s a heavy-duty backpack or just a string bag, it’s nice to have a way to carry snacks and other useful items when you hike the woods or explore in town. Now that your hands are free, you can even make use of walking poles if you think to bring them along.

Outdoor Games

It’s great to set up some lawn games and maybe invite the campers next door to join in. Frisbee, boccie, horseshoes, croquet, ladder toss and corn hole are all good candidates.

Water Wonders

If you have a foldable kayak, it’s a great carry-along. But even inner tubes and rafts are fun. Don’t forget the personal flotation devices and the water shoes!


It may be a long way across the campground, but it’s quicker on a bicycle. Also consider trikes and scooters for those who use them.

Every van lifer is different, but most of these items will surly come in hand for the majority while vanning this summer. Happy trails!