Kitchen Tips and Essentials for Easy #Vanlife Cooking

May 06, 2019 by Amanda Ellis, @WanderRedFox

A reliable kitchen makes #vanlife more comfortable. But properly stocking that kitchen with the right accessories is key to enjoyment.

This doesn’t mean piling your home kitchen’s odds and ends into the back of your van. Make the most efficient use of your van’s space.

Individual needs may vary, but having a minimalist attitude helps. Stock up on cooking essentials and consider cleaning ease and durability. Here’s a roundup of kitchen tips and essentials.


Counter space is the principal component of any camper’s kitchen. While location possibilities are many, it’s best to maximize surface area for chopping vegetables and assembling meals.

A couple of ideas: A pull-out near the van’s bed or entryway or an installation behind the front seats.

Camco Counter Top Extension

Camco Counter Top Extension (Photo: Amazon)

Our recommendation: Camco Counter Top Extension ($22)
Why we picked it: Camco’s Counter Top Extension is inexpensive, and its built-in metal hinge makes it easy to mount to any existing piece of camper van furniture.


Ramblewood DC2-43P camp stove

Ramblewood DC2-43P camp stove (Photo: Amazon)

Companies like Coleman and Primus offer dependable mobile camp stoves but installing a permanent two-burner gas cooktop makes cooking easier. Consider placing the cooktop into counter space next to the sink. A double cabinet underneath will hide plumbing and propane tank components.

Our recommendation: Ramblewood DC2-43P ($290)
Why we picked it: This two-burner cooktop features a battery-powered electric ignitor but also allows for lighting by match if power is unavailable or being conserved.


#Vanlifers who spend an extensive amount of time off the beaten path should consider investing in a portable refrigerator. This removes the need for bags of ice and keeps perishables and beverages chilled.

Ideally, select a unit that runs on AC and DC power. You’ll also want one that features interior drain plugs and includes an integrated battery-protection system.

Portable refrigerators come in three varieties: thermoelectric, absorption and compressor:

Thermoelectric:Although affordable, thermoelectric units use less efficient technology. Instead of being temperature-controlled, they maintain a temperature roughly 35 to 40 degrees Fahrenheit less than the ambient air. These are ideal in cool climates or for keeping food cold for short periods of time.Absorption: Absorption units use three types of power, including DC, but operate most efficiently when using gas. They pull more power when plugged into a DC outlet compared to a compressor but aren’t temperature-controlled. Absorption units need to be level to operate properly, not a guarantee in a van.
Compressor: Compressor refrigerators are optimal. They’re temperature-controlled with both refrigeration and freezer components, use less power than absorption units, and can function on an uneven surface. They’re also the most expensive.

Dometic CFX 50W Portable Refrigerator

Dometic CFX 50W Portable Refrigerator (Photo: Amazon)

Our recommendation: Dometic CFX 50W Portable Refrigerator ($1,000)
Why we picked it: The Dometic CFX 50W maintains temperatures as low as minus 7 degrees Fahrenheit for its fridge and freezer and operates at low power via AC or DC plugs. It’s also compatible with solar-power setups.


Collapsible products safe space, making them ideal for mobile living. Kettles, trash cans, colanders, Tupperware and measuring cups are all available. A few key pieces will free up valuable cabinet, counter and refrigerator space.

Sea to Summit collapsible pot, kettle

Sea to Summit collapsible pot, kettle (Photo: Sea to Summit)

Our recommendation: Sea to Summit Collapsible Cookware Collection ($20-$110)
Why we picked it: The collection features kettles, coffee drippers and multiple sizes of collapsible pots that are inexpensive, durable and easy to clean.


Also consider these items.

  • Cast iron pan: A cast iron pan meets many needs. It can be used on the stove, over the campfire and in the oven. You can even bake breads and cakes in one.
  • Cutting boards: Cutting boards can function as additional counter space but can also take up a lot of space. Consider flat cutting boards that bend and store easily.
  • Bamboo utensils: Bamboo utensils are a good alternative to metal pieces, as they don’t make noise and are easy to clean.
  • Spice containers: Spices are necessary for gourmet cooking, but dedicating a drawer to several rounded jars costs space. Plastic, rectangular spice containers are a great alternative; they stack nicely and take up a small area.

Editor’s note: compiles information about vehicles, gear and gadgets, often through testing and interviews with experts. Our recommendations are made independent of the advertising being sold by our business development team. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission. 

Amanda Ellis May 2, 2019
Make effective use of your van’s interior space with these storage system tips.

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