11 Kitchen Essentials to Pack for Vanlife

By: Scott Adamson
/ July 8, 2020
Whipping up a nice meal after a day of adventuring is one of the many pleasures of Vanlife.

When designing my van layout, one of my top priorities was a comfortable kitchen and cooking area. I didn’t want to get in a habit of seeking restaurant drive-thrus or boiling water for noodles every day… The ability to prepare nice and healthy meals was a must.

When stocking up the van with all the conveniences that make a home a home, it’s important to determine what items are truly essential. This includes your kitchen utensils!

There are a few things to keep in mind when purchasing utensils and cookware for your van:

1. Avoid storing breakable dishes.
This obviously excludes that favorite mug of yours. But otherwise, you want to avoid risking broken dishes while off-roading to that perfect camp spot. 

2. Cookware should be compact and easy to store.
Space is limited, in a van. Avoid big, clunky pieces that don’t store well in small cabinets. 

3. And finally, take all the utensils you would see in a normally stocked kitchen and cut that in half.
You won’t be needing those 10 measuring cups, peelers, and pizza cutters… You will make do with basic necessities.

And now, here are 11 of the Most Essential Kitchen Items in My Van.

1) Induction Cooktop

An induction cooktop uses an electromagnetic field to heat up a pan while leaving the cooking surface cool to the touch and without heating up the kitchen.

This cooktop requires a fair amount of energy so if you want to use this, you have to have a decent-sized battery bank and solar system to accompany it.

For this reason, a lot of people go with propane cooktops. Propane is a popular option because it’s cheaper (upfront) and often portable, meaning it can be stored somewhere else, freeing up counter space for other things. Induction is generally more of a built-in unit.

The reason I chose induction over propane was that I was already planning a hefty solar and battery system and I like to take full advantage of that. I also prefer to have a single fuel source in my van (diesel).

All I need to do is make sure my batteries are charged up and I’m good to go!

sprinter van cooking
Aside from Induction and Propane, another popular option in the Vanlife world is Diesel cooktops.

The benefit of using a diesel cooktop is being able to use your vehicles diesel, by adding a secondary fuel pump (that is, as long as your vehicle runs on diesel of course). A lot of these units are also used as a heating source (e.g. Wallas XC Duo).

The downsides to this system are that it can take a while to heat up and they are quite expensive.

2) Fridge / Freezer

A dual fridge/freezer is high up on my priority list. I like to avoid grocery shopping for as long as possible and my dual fridge/freezer allows me to store enough food for about 3 weeks.

I’m a big fan of top-loading fridges as they are more efficient and can store a lot more than the chest-style fridges.

In my first van, I used a top-loading Whynter fridge, which worked great. In my second van, I went with the Dometic CFX3 75DZ. Both Whynter and Dometic are top brands to choose from.

fridge

3) Sink and Fresh Water Source

The sink I selected for my van was the SpinFlo Kitchen center. This sink is the perfect size for washing hands and dishes in a small space.

Under the sink is where my hot water and water pump are located.

I’m a big fan of having a built-in electric water pump. Some people will use foot or hand pumps to pressurize the system, but if you already have an electric system in your van, it’s easy enough to add an electric water pump.

hotwater

4) Small Kettle

I boil water every day for coffee and oatmeal, so having a kettle in the van is a must.

What I like about the Bonavita Travel Kettle is that it’s small and holds exactly 2 cups of coffee worth of hot water. It boils really quickly and doesn’t take up much space. Win/Win!

5) Non-Stick Nesting Cookware

Pots and pans can take up an incredible amount of kitchen storage space. That’s why I chose to purchase nesting cookware. Nesting cookware stack together much more tightly than normal pots and pans, and even have releasable handles.

If you’re using an induction cooktop, be sure to get a set of nesting cookware that’s compatible with induction.

6) Insulated Coffee Cup

If you’re a coffee drinker, like me, you won’t regret grabbing yourself an insulated coffee cup. I don’t go anywhere without my MiiR cup!

This cup has survived several years on the road with me and never fails to keep my coffee hot.

7) Enamel Tableware Set

One thing you want to avoid purchasing for your van is breakable dishes.

A great alternative to your traditional glass dish set is Enamel. Enamel is able to withstand being banged around and dropped, and it stores very easily.

Enamel Cup

8) Aeropress

When I’m on the road, I rarely have specific plans for the day… But the ritual of making coffee is one that I look forward to.

I find the Aeropress to be the quickest and easiest way to make a cup of decent coffee while in the van. It’s easy to store, making it the best coffee maker for Van Life, in my opinion.

9) Paper Towel Holder (with tension spring)

If you want to avoid having your paper towel roll unravel while you’re driving down the highway with your windows open, then you need this paper towel holder.

This paper towel holder has a tension spring which provides the perfect amount of resistance to tear off one sheet at a time.

sink-area

10) Soap Dispenser

With a bit of hesitation, I chose to drill a hole in my countertop to install a soap dispenser. Thankfully, I have zero regrets!

I store dish soap in this dispenser and use it for washing my hands as well. It’s so easily accessible and get’s used several times a day.

11) A Blender

And finally, my blender. I drink a lot of smoothies, especially when I’m on the road and want something quick and nourishing.

A lot of people carry Vitamix blenders, but I opted for a small Ninja which is easy to store and works great for my needs!

 

 

Scott Adamson
Wanderful Idea Guy
Coffee drinker, adventure seeker, below average photographer.
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