Things You Need to Know When Living in a Camper

January 9, 2024


Photo credit @sebsantabarbara

How hard can living in a van be?

Well, if you’re the type of person that likes to skip introductions and get straight into the body of an article, then you’ve probably already seen the answer to this question in my first heading, but let’s keep the tension alive for a little longer until that point for everyone else…

As someone who has spent a long time living in a van as their full-time home, I’ve learned a thing or two about small space living. And, while it’s not always easy, it’s definitely one of the best and most rewarding ways not just to travel, but to live too.

Lippert have asked me to give you some top tips on things you need to know and look out for when living in a camper, and while they might not be prepared for some of my answers (number 7 really catches people off guard – but no skipping ahead guys!), they know that I’ll give you a true and honest checklist of some of the most important things to consider while making the jump into tiny home living and also living in a van on the road.

Don’t worry; we’ve got you covered! Check out my top 10 tips to store in your brain, and happy travelling!

1. Small Space Living Is Tough

I’m not trying to put you guys off on the first hurdle, but in a world where social media romanticises everything we see and only shows half of the true picture, it’s important to let you know what you’re going to be letting yourself in for.

Small space living isn’t easy, at least not straight away. It takes a little getting used to; not only is it a change of pace, but a change in space (a line that I just made up know which I am incredibly proud of). You’ll need to get used to having your whole life in one small room, saying goodbye to as much storage and most to all of your belongings. It can be a bit of a challenge, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth the sacrifice, far from it.

My advice – ease yourself into it. If you’ve got a van and are planning on living in it, do some smaller trips away in it first. Don’t just jump into your van and decide to live in it straight away without giving it a thorough test out and trying living in it in the wild (even if ’the wild’ is your front street). If you already have your van, then try living in it outside of your house for a little while so you have the safety blanket of heading back inside if things go pear shaped or you just decide it’s really not for you.


Photo credit @sebsantabarbara

2. Pack All The Essentials For Life On The Road

I mean, that’s all well and good Seb, but what are the main essentials that you need on the road. What do you really need to pack inside van for full time living. Well, sure you’ll need clothes, cooking utensils, and many of the other basic items you use every day like a sink, water, a 12V fridge and that all-important spice rack, but what items are super essential for tiny home living?

Well, a torch for one. They’re perfect at night for when you’re heading to the toilet in nature or at the campsite, or just for looking in the back of drawers or your bulkhead storage to find that last pack of bayleaves.

A Bluetooth speaker and a good sim card for streaming your favourite music is essential for that ‘home comfort’ feeling, as well a having internet for working on the go. I can’t tell you how many nights I spent listening to audiobooks while kicking back in my van and watching the sun go down. Everyones’ needs are going to be different; make a checklist of the small things you use the most everyday and think about how you could implement them into your tiny space.

3. Get Savvy With Water Usage

How many times have you turned the tap on today already? Did you take a guess at how much water you flushed down the toilet after you had done your business?

Don’t be too harsh on yourself if you didn’t; it’s an action that we all do that we just take for granted so much these days. Still, if you’re planning on spending any time off grid in a van, you’re really going to have to think about how much water you waste and curb that habit as soon as possible.

Wipe out pans with kitchen roll before washing, don’t fill the whole sink, and use a pan as a bowl when washing smaller items so the soapy water can tackle tough stains in the meantime. Finding water can be tricky in some places (there were hardly any water fill up spots in Sardinia), so just be clever with your usage and stock up whenever you can.

4. Make Sure You Have Great Breakdown Cover

This one kind of goes without saying. When I broke down in Italy, my breakdown cover was the main thing that prevented me from having a mental breakdown too. Well, that and the fact that I was in my favourite country and could get an ice cream and espresso for €2.

My breakdown cover allowed me a certain amount of onward travel to other places I wanted to visit while my van was being fixed and also put money towards to parts too, as well as an accommodation allowance while my camper was in the parking lot of the garage.

Having cover like that really puts you at ease while you’re out on the road, leaving you to enjoy your adventures without worrying that you might end up being stranded in the middle of nowhere with no help.

5. Cooking Is Going To Be Different, But It Doesn’t Have To Be Boring

So many people ask me about the kind of stuff that I ate while living in a van. Having a tiny kitchen doesn’t mean that you have to eat sandwiches and soup 24/7 – I regularly baked bread and cakes, made lasagne and pizzas, cooked fish and incredible toasted sandwiches, all without an oven and just using a 3-burner hob.

You start to get savvy with your cooking practices too, using fewer pans to make meals and relying on gear like the RidgeMonkey XL and the Omnia Oven – there’s nothing like making Calzone’s in the Sierra Nevada mountains or Sundried Tomato and Olive bread beside the ocean.

Spot the Italian in the room…


Photo credit @sebsantabarbara

6. You Can Still Wash Your Clothes On The Go

I’m not going to lie; you probably will be spending a little more time in launderettes than you did previously. But hey, they’re a relaxing place to get some work done and usually pretty warm in the wintertime, so it’s not all bad!

There are only a certain number of vans big enough and with the power to run a washing machine (I’m looking at you, Ford Earthroamer), but there are other tools available for people to use while out on the road.

I used the Scrubba Wash Bag to wash my underwear, shorts and t-shirts while out on the road, filling it with hot spring water when available or boiling pans of water from car park taps or lakes when I wasn’t lucky enough to be near some natural hot water. With some eco-friendly washing up powder and some elbow grease, your clothes will be fresh and clean in no time. All you need is space to put up a washing line and you’re sorted!


Photo credit @sebsantabarbara

7. Your Toilet Habits Are Going To Change…

Yeah, we were always going to need to talk about the toilet, weren’t we?

I’m not going to beat around the bush here, you need to hear this from someone who spent five and a half years living in a van, and I’m going to be blunt. You will end up weeing outside more, you will need to empty your toilet late at night, and you probably will get some of it on your shoe at some point. That’s just van life, but like changing nappies for the first time and then having a couple more kids and it becoming like second nature, you will get used to it.

8. … As Is Your Privacy

And when you’re travelling with another person, there’s probably going to be a time when that other person needs to use the toilet while you’re in the van. Hey, that’s just life, and it’s something that you’ll find yourself laughing about or not even noticing.

You certainly learn to live a little more openly when you’re in a van. I’m not sure if I would get changed with the door open or shower in my back yard now like I used to do when I was living in a van, but it’s just a completely different pace of life and you take these kind of things in your stride.

One thing I will say, and something that I talk about in my book Road Life and my other Lippert blogs is that it’s important to create time for yourself while on the road. You’ll burnout without, so make sure you have time to recharge.

9. Keep Tabs On Your Electric Usage

You’re not going to get slapped with a massive electric bill like you would when in a house, but you might use all of your energy reserves up by leaving a speaker or TV plugged in, and that means that your fridge might cut out or your lights might not come on while you’re trying to make something tasty for your dinner.

Solar panels are brilliant, but you’ll need to think about your electricity usage when parked in shady spots or at times where there isn’t as much sun such as during the winter. If you haven’t thought about your Summer vs Winter usage before setting off in a van, then it’s worth doing some calculations to make sure that you’re completely covered. I’m sure if you asked Lippert where to find some of these calculations, they’d tell you to check out a book written by an awesome author they have partnered with to write their blog posts… including this one…


Photo credit @sebsantabarbara

10. Here’s How To Find Those Park Up Spots

Finally, you’re going to need to know how to find park up spots, and this one isn’t as hard as you might think.

First up, I would always advise checking out park up spots during the day so that you can get a proper feel of the place. Although there was no chance I could have guessed that Stupingi outside of Turin would have turned into a dodgy area at night (although I suppose if I had looked at it on a map I guess I could have guessed what kind of place it might have been once the streetlights went on…).

Apps like Park4Night and iOverlander are perfect for finding places to park. They are user-driven, with members of the Vanlife community writing about their findings, places they know, what amenities are available etc. You can plan routes with them and even find free showers along the road.

Oh, and if you happened to share that aire with me in Spain on the day I used up all the hot water, I’m really sorry… but it was a great shower!

About the Author

Things You Need to Know When Living in a Camper

Lippert guest blogger, Sebastian Antonio Santabarbara, is a thirty-two-year-old writer from Yorkshire, UK. His first breakthrough role came as the Head of Written Content for Van Clan, an online media brand documenting the van life movement with a weekly reach of over 5 million readers. This role has led to Sebastian being head-hunted to write several inspirational non-fiction books on alternative living (to be published by Frances Lincoln 2022/23) and Van Life for Dummies (published by John Wiley & Sons Sept 2022). He is also the Editor in Chief for Retro Dodo, a media/news company with a monthly reach of 1 million people. Follow his travels on Instagram!

Never miss a blog post!

Subscribe to Lippert’s blog and receive an email when a new one is posted.