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Camper Van Kitchen Essentials: For The Best Van Life Meals

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Having decent kitchen set up is one of the most important factors for an effortless van life. Cooking is a fun activity to do together especially if you are living in a van with your partner or families, and it also helps you to save on expenses.

In this article, we share our camper van kitchen essentials, which are compact and efficient, perfect tools and appliances for camper van kitchen. 

1. 12v Electric Cooler / Freezer

If you are having questions whether to get a ice cooler or to spend a bit more to get an electric cooler, we absolutely recommend the electric cooler.

It’s a little on the pricey side, but Dometic 45L Electric Cooler/Freezer is most reliable with high quality and durability, the best in the market for RV fridge. It is easy set up to just hooking up to your house batteries and can support your van life journey 24-7, 365 days with efficient and economical energy usage.

DOMETIC CFX3 45-Liter Portable Refrigerator
116 Reviews
DOMETIC CFX3 45-Liter Portable Refrigerator
  • NO ICE NEEDED: Refrigerate or Deep Freeze down to –7 °F using powerful VMSO3 compressor cooling...
  • RUGGED CONSTRUCTION: Heavy-duty, lightweight ExoFrame construction and aluminum alloy handles will...
  • ULTRA LOW POWER CONSUMPTION: Power via AC, DC or Solar and built in 3-stage dynamic battery...

Our Experience: Our electric cooler model uses roughly 1amp per hour, so even a single 100ah battery can keep this fridge powered all day and night. it's been working great for us without any issues in the 3+ years that we've been on the road.

12V RV Fridge - Budget Options

Thanks to the popularity of camping and RV living, there are many brands offering more economical options with same features, although as you know that you get what you pay for, the durability in long run is questionable compare to Dometic brand. 

2. Coleman Camping Stove

Cooking outside with Coleman - Van Life Essential For Kitchens

If you opted for a traditional camping stove, as opposed to a built-in burner Coleman Camping Stove  is the best option.

Coleman Triton+ 2-Burner Propane Camping Stove, Push-Button Instant Ignition, Portable Camp Grill, Adjustable Burners, Wind Guards, 22,000 Total BTUs of Power, Beach Cookouts, Backyard BBQ, Tailgating
3,848 Reviews
Coleman Triton+ 2-Burner Propane Camping Stove, Push-Button Instant Ignition, Portable Camp Grill, Adjustable Burners, Wind Guards, 22,000 Total BTUs of Power, Beach Cookouts, Backyard BBQ, Tailgating
  • PORTABLE: Built-in handle makes it easy to bring to the campsite and more; heavy-duty latch keeps...
  • TWO INDEPENDENTLY ADJUSTABLE BURNERS: For precise temperature control; PerfectFlow and PerfectHeat...
  • MATCHLESS LIGHTING: Push-button Instastart ignition for automatic, matchless lighting

Setting Up The Propane Tank

If you are planning to do a full time van life, don’t waste money by buying those tiny 16oz propane canisters. Instead, use a proper propane tank, which would be much cheaper in the long run.

To hook up our camping stove to our propane tank, use a 5ft Propane Adapter Hose

In Our Case: An 11lb Propane Tank lasts us about 5-6 weeks before needing to refill. We love our 11lb tank because it has a smaller footprint than the traditional 20lb tanks but is still the same height as the smaller 5lb tanks, just a wider circumference. Because of our tank's compact height, we were able to build a smaller, more space efficient cabinet space.

3. Instant Pot


 If you don’t want to spend much time on cooking, yet still keeping a healthy diet, Instant Pot (Duo Mini) can makes it possible.

It’s as simple as throwing in some diced vegetables, meat of your choice, spices, soup stock, and water. Close the lid and pressurize. Then you can lounge around and 30 minutes later, you have a perfectly cooked, delicious hot meal. You don’t have to babysit your pot once you press the button.

Instant Pot Duo
165,265 Reviews
Instant Pot Duo
  • 7-IN-1 FUNCTIONALITY: Pressure cook, slow cook, rice cooker, yogurt maker, steamer, sauté pan and...
  • QUICK ONE-TOUCH COOKING: 13 customizable Smart Programs for pressure cooking ribs, soups, beans,...
  • COOK FAST OR SLOW: Pressure cook delicious one-pot meals up to 70% faster than traditional cooking...

Our Experience: There are days we are exhausted from exploring and driving all day and simply don’t have the energy to put together a time-consuming meal, but Instant Pot has been delivering us healthy, warm meals with one push.

4. Le Creuset Cast Iron Rice Pot

I have to say as a Japanese person that Le Creuset Rice Pot is the best purchase I have made for rice cooker.

While some people purchase over thousand dollars electrical Japanese rice cookers in order to perfect the art of cooking rice, Le Creuset Rice Pot is designed specifically made for cooking rice, does the perfect job for its price.

Le creuset Cast Iron Rice Pot - Van Life Kitchen Essentials
Le Creuset Enameled Cast Iron Rice Pot with Lid & Stoneware Insert, 2.25 qt., Cerise
318 Reviews
Le Creuset Enameled Cast Iron Rice Pot with Lid & Stoneware Insert, 2.25 qt., Cerise
  • Enameled cast iron delivers superior heat distribution and retention
  • Ready to use, requires no seasoning
  • Easy-to-clean and durable enamel resists dulling, staining, chipping and cracking

In Our Case: I have tried series of rice cookers from multiple brands in the past and over all this is the best choice considering reasonable price for its high quality. The best thing is about this rice cooker for us is that we don't have to buy expensive Japanese rice to have soft and fluffy rice. With Le Creuset rice pot, we can make any rice the way we like with adjusting the level of water.

5. Magic Bullet Blender

A blender is another great tool to prepare quick & easy meals. Great thing about this Magic Bullet Blender is its compact size and versatility, that you can make smoothies and you enjoy without serving to another cup or bowls, which is perfect for van lifers who are always conscious of water usage.

Magic Bullet Blender, Small, Silver, 11 Piece Set
101,813 Reviews
Magic Bullet Blender, Small, Silver, 11 Piece Set
  • Included: (1) 250W motor base, (1) cross-blade, (1) tall cup, (1) short cup, (1) party mug, (2) lip...
  • The magic bullet chops, mixes, blends, whips, grinds and more. Cups are made out of high-impact...
  • Effortlessly create your favorite meals and snacks like smoothies, omelets, sauces and dips. 250...

Our Experience: Not only for making smoothies, we love making our own pesto sauce using whatever greens we can get her hands on; basil, cilantro, spinach, and even carrot top greens!  We love it especially because it is compact, easy to store in our kitchen drawers.

6. RV Sink & Faucet Combo

If you’re still hunting for that perfect camper van sink and faucet, look no further.Unlike other RV sinks, Ruvati Sink is deep enough to wash pots and pans easy while still maintaining its compact design.

To maximize efficiency, it is the best choice to pair Ruvati sink with pull-down faucet, which allows you to rotate the faucet 360 degrees that makes doing dishes breeze.

Ruvati 15 x 15 inch RV Sink
501 Reviews
Ruvati 15 x 15 inch RV Sink
  • Practical design with RV and TINY HOME Kitchens in mind: WORKSTATION style sink with built-in...
  • TOPMOUNT Installation: Ultra-thick 8 GAUGE rim for a solid overmount installation; rest of the sink...
  • Commercial grade BRUSHED FINISH - Easy to clean and long-lasting | Heavy duty soundGUARD...
APPASO Kitchen Faucet (With Pull-Down Head)
1,518 Reviews
APPASO Kitchen Faucet (With Pull-Down Head)
  • EASY TO OPERATE -- Commercial kitchen faucets with 2 mode sprayers allow you to easily switch from a...
  • SAFE AND HEALTHY -- Stainless steel kitchen faucet include eco-friendly,lead-free materials,complied...
  • MONEY WELL SPENT -- Brushed Nickel Kitchen pull down faucet with soap dispenser, high quality...

Building a camper van? Download our free e-Books with intuitive electrical, solar, and plumbing diagrams.

7. Collapsible Items

Space is at a premium in a camper van. These items collapse flat when they are not used, help you to save extra space in the tiny kitchen storage. 

8. Pour Over Coffee Kettle

For making coffees / teas, instant noodle, or just to warm up your van in the winter, (YES it works!) you will be surprised the amount of times you boil the water during van life. Pouring hot water with regular pot is always  annoying experience.

XIRGS Kettle will give you smooth and spill free coffee making experience every morning.

Our Experience: Two things we really like about our kettle is the wood handle and the thermometer attached to the top of the lid. We like the water for our tea and coffee boiled to different temperatures. So we're always glancing at the thermometer when we turn on the camping stove.

9. Water Filter

Water filter is one of the most important van life essential, so you don’t want to be cheap about it. This is the smallest size of Berkey’s portfolio, it packs much more compact than travel Berkey, it is also suitable for backpacking.

Go Berkey Water Filter Kit
341 Reviews
Go Berkey Water Filter Kit
  • A PERSONAL WATER FILTRATION SOLUTION FOR ON THE GO- The 1-quart Go Berkey Water Filter System...
  • READY TO GO- The Go Berkey Water Filter is the smallest gravity-fed water filter system available...

Our Experience: When we camp where there are no clean water source like Latin America, it has been literally our life saver. We simply filter tap water from each countries, and we had no problem so far in last 3 years.

10. Stick and Peel Backsplash

NextWall Peel and Stick backsplash

What great about NextWall Stick and Peel Backsplash is that it is easy to peel (so easy to adjust if you make mistake when installing) yet stays on semi-permanently, doesn’t come off easily unless you really try to pull it off.

It also is water resistant vinyl wallpaper that makes cleaning super easy as well.

Our Experience: We made decision to install back splash stickers instead of real tiles because of weight issues and still stays on perfectly after 3 years. Currently, we're able to fool about 50% of our visitors into thinking this is a real tile backsplash 🙂

Our Camper Van Kitchen Essentials Tour

Check out our camper van kitchen tour, which is part of our greater van tour. The video below just focuses on the kitchen part.

Video is in Japanese! (Turn On English Subtitles)

Thank You For Reading!

We’re Yuko and Eric! We both grew up in Asia ( Japan & Hong Kong ), we left our jobs and homes in 2018 and started traveling full time from Canada to Argentina in our self-converted camper van since end of May 2019. “Asobo” means “Let’s play” in Japanese. We named our site “Asobolife” because the life is always uncertain and we live only once so it’s important to always keep positive, playful mind and enjoy the moment you are in the present. We also want to use this website to share our road trip and van building experiences to inspire our readers. We hope you enjoy!

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