My favorite van camping hack is to be social! The best tricks and tips I’ve learned have come from other van lifers with more experience than me. This is an especially useful way to find the best and most beautiful free campsites wherever you’re traveling!
Don’t leave home without a little cash in hand. This is even more important if you are traveling without a set plan (my favorite way to travel in my van!). The cash is handy for things like last minute campground fees (although many do accept checks) and firewood.
Keep it simple. As mentioned in the organization tip above, a simple van camping setup is the best van camping setup. Practice minimization to achieve van camping bliss. You definitely don’t need to bring as much clothing or as many gadgets as you might think!
No one likes sleepy in a sweaty box. Crack your windows at night to minimize condensation in the morning. Nighttime airflow helps you sleep better and wake up refreshed. I prefer to open up windows on each side of my van to create cross ventilation, especially on hot summer nights. It’s especially important to prevent condensation while stealth camping as you don’t want anyone to know you’re inside your van!
Van camping in the winter can get cold – and fast. We recommend bringing along a portable heater to keep you warm. Although both electric and propane models are available, I’ve found propane heaters to work best for van camping. Of course, it’s important to follow all safety best practices, including keeping windows cracked for ventilation. I never run my heater at night – just before bed and in the morning.
Van life and hammock camping go hand in hand. Kick back in your hammock during the day or sleep in your hammock all night long. Our Mock One is a portable folding hammock with a built-in stand. It’s quick and easy to set up. Plus, it's incredibly comfortable. And you can use it almost anywhere!
It’s possible to find free or very cheap places to shower across the United States! I’ve found that many free campgrounds, especially campsites at city parks in the Midwest, have free hot showers on site. Many pay campgrounds also offer cheap or free hot showers for overnight visitors. Another great van camping hack is to stop at local indoor and outdoor swimming pools. They often only cost a few bucks to use, especially in smaller towns. You don’t even have to swim – just hit the showers and get clean!
Just as important (if not much more so) than knowing how to shower while camping is knowing how to go to the bathroom while van camping. Of course, most campgrounds have at least a vault toilet – but most dispersed camping areas do not. A portable toilet is one option. More cost efficient are the bucket method or burying it in a hole. Make sure to follow all rules and regulations for the area you’re camping in – many do not allow you to bury your waste. You must pack it all out.
One of the top van camping hacks is to always bring a tarp or canopy with you. Huddling up inside your van gets old when camping in the rain. A tarp/canopy provides some protection from the rain and also shade from the hot sun. I prefer to use a pop-up canopy. Another option is a built-in van awning you can install on the side of your vehicle.
All but the most luxurious class B camper vans come without a shower. That’s why knowing how to shower while camping is a must, especially for longer trips. When an on-site campground shower isn’t an option, a portable camping shower will help you get the job done. I prefer a solar shower that warms the water up with the heat of the sun!