We love cooking in our camper van. It’s a fun activity we can do together and it helps us save on expenses. Since living in a camper van is compact and all about space efficiency, everything we own, including what we have in our kitchen must be essential. So in this article, we want to go over our camper van kitchen essentials. These are some of the most important appliances and products that we use daily to cook our meals.
In our van life kitchen essentials article, we want to show you the products that helped us make cooking in the van more fun, yummy and efficient.
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Recommended kitchen appliances For Van Life
12v Electric Cooler/Fridge
To keep our perishables fresh, we use this Dometic 46L Electric Cooler/Fridge. It’s a little on the pricey side, but it’s worked awesome for us without any issues in the 2+ years that we’ve been on the road. 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.
Having an electric cooler means:
It can be powered by either 110v or 12v. So it was pretty easy to hook it directly to our house batteries.
The our electric cooler model uses roughly 1amp per hour, so even a single 100ah battery can keep this fridge powered all day and night.
To us, our Dometic Fridge greatly supports our van life journey and is absolutely a camper van kitchen essential. To be able to keep our food cold without having to worry about refilling a cooler with ice is a huge stress relief. Though these fridges cost a pretty penny to buy, we think they are absolutely worth it if you are interested in long term van life living.
Cheaper Electric Fridge Option
However, in the last year there have been plenty of cheaper alternatives without the name brand tag (and price). This COSTWAY 12v Fridge is larger than our Dometic Fridge and is roughly half the price!
They get great ratings on Amazon and if we could purchase a fridge again, we might go with this model instead.
We’ve found the size of our electric fridge to meet most of our needs. But having a 55L fridge means we could survive just a bit longer when boondocking out in nature.
2. Coleman Camping Stove
To cook, we opted for a traditional camping stove, as opposed to a built-in burner.
We opted for this method so that we could maximize our counter space when we didn’t need to cook. When not in use, our Coleman Camping Stove tucks nicely away under our sink.
And we need to cook, the stove sets up in less than a minute.
For propane, we didn’t want to waste money by buying those tiny 16oz propane canisters. Instead, we wanted to use a proper propane tank, which would be much cheaper in the long run.
Therefore, we purchased an 11lb Propane Tank, which 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.
If this tank is still too big for your needs, the 5lb Tank is super cute, space efficient, and probably a better buy if you are more of a weekend traveler.
To hook up our camping stove to our propane tank, we use a 5ft Propane Adapter Hose. We thread the hose through a small hole, that we drilled, through the countertop so we can easily connect the camping stove to the hose.
3. Instant Pot
Our Instant Pot (Duo Mini) is perhaps the most convenient product we own in the van.
Living in our van has been one of the best decisions we’ve ever made in our lives. But just like normal life, there are days we’re exhausted, or grumpy…or just flat out lazy. And many times we’ve pulled up into a Walmart or truck stop in the evening after a long day of driving and simply don’t have the energy or the will power to put together a time-consuming meal. That’s when the Instant Pot really delivers for us van lifers.
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.
4. Le Creuset Enameled Cast Iron Rice Pot
If you crave for a perfect white fluffy rice, like me, this is a must have item for your camper van kitchen! Yes, a Japanese person approved this.
I’ve also tried cooking rice with our Instant Pot, but it never turned as good as cooking rice with our cast iron rice pot. This pot, from Le Creuset, is not our cheapest van life kitchen essential, but it’s easily one of our favorite items and a “buy it for life” product.
If you seek for high quality electric rice cooker it could cost up to $1,000 USD. But our cast iron rice pot, while not our cheapest van life kitchen essential, costs just a fraction of that. It’s suitable for van life because it’s multifunctional (great for “one pot” recipies) and easy to store since it doesn’t come with a lengthy handle.
5. Magic Bullet Blender
There’s something about van life and smoothies that go so well together. With our compact Magic Bullet Blender, we love making banana/papaya/oat milk smoothies with a hint on cinnamon. The perfect compliment to any breakfast.
But Yuko loves making her own pesto sauce using whatever greens she 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. Perfect Sink & Faucet Combo
If you’re still hunting for that perfect camper van sink and faucet, look no further. We purchased a functional Ruvati RV Sink with a beautiful pull-down faucet and have been super happy with our pairing for over 2 years. It’s made doing dishes a breeze and the sink’s depth helps store our dirty cookware when preparing meals.
We love our sink and faucet so much we dedicated two posts just for them. Check it out here:
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Useful Camper Van Kitchen Products
How do we pack everything in our tiny kitchen? We set our priority on kitchen appliances that we are able to cook our meal tasty and easy, and often times they are usually heavy and bulky. So instead we try to downsize other essential items. Here are the essentials items that packs compact and small, perfect for campervan life.
1. Coffee / Tea Kettle
We are ALWAYS brewing coffee or tea. Probably every 2 or 3 hours we’re boiling hot water. And so in our 1+ years on the road, this Gooseneck Coffee & Tea Kettle has been seriously stress tested and is still chugging along nicely.
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.
2. Coffee Grinder
We bought our travel-size coffee hand grinder in Japan, but this one is pretty much the same in size and function.
Like ours, this grinder has an adjustable setting so you can fine tune which size granule you prefer for your own coffee needs.
We use our coffee grinder literally every day. It’s a good arm workout but we love grinding our own beans. The freshest smells and taste really come from grinding the beans right before using them.
And because it’s travel-size, it stores away really easy and quick when we’re done with it.
3. Berkey Water Filter
Water filter is one of the most important van life essential for us, so we don’t want to be cheap about it. Especially when we camp where there are no clean water source, it has been literally our life saver. Especially if you plan to travel to Mexico, Central and South America, you must get one of those.
This is the smallest size of Berkey’s portfolio, it packs much more compact than travel Berkey, it is also suitable for backpacking.
4. space saving Camper van kitchen Essentials
In a campervan, space is at a premium. We really need the maximum amount of space to hold our pots and pans which are heavy and usually not space efficient. These items helped us to save extra space in our tiny kitchen storage.
Collapsible Colander: Whether it’s to drain our pasta, wash our fruits & vegetables, or just to temporarily hold our dry foods, our Collapsible Colander has been super useful for us.
Collapsible Food Containers: It is nice that comes in 4 different sizes, they are easy to store in tiny spaces.
Standing Reusable Food Container: Great eco friendly alternative for keeping Ziploc bag. It’s really helpful that they stand by itself, it is easy and space efficient in our fridge.
Joseph Joseph Cutlery Tray: We love this silverware tray because it’s narrower but can still fit up to five different cutlery types. And because of its narrower design, the tray frees up the rest of the drawer for us to put our knives, measuring cups, spatula, cork screw, and more.
5. Gorgeous Camper Van Kitchen Backsplash
The final item on our countertop is our backsplash. We went back and forth on whether we wanted a real tile backsplash. But tile is heavy and we were sure how the tile would handle bumpy roads.
So we decided on this Peel and Stick Backsplash and couldn’t be happier.
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)