The campervan kitchen set up was one of the most important parts of our DIY Promaster build. We love to cook and we wanted to incorporate all the necessities of a basic kitchen set up in our van so we could continue making our own meals on the road.
Cooking saves you a ton of money when traveling and it’s also a great way to stay healthy and even meet other travelers. There is no better ice breaker for overlanders than sharing a home-cooked meal and a drink.
In this post, we lay out everything that went into our campervan kitchen set up from the big stuff that we incorporated during our build to all the kitchen essentials that we bring along.
Kitchen Cabinets & Countertop
Our entire campervan kitchen build revolved around our cabinets. It’s the first thing that we installed and we built everything else around it.
We got our kitchen cabinet from a second-hand store for $10. Our goal was to save as much money as possible during our campervan build so we tried to use repurposed materials.
We just put a few fresh coats of white paint on the cabinet and made a couple of minor adjustments to fit the fridge.
For the countertop, we used the 74″ KARLBY IKEA countertop that we found on clearance at the IKEA store. It already came in the perfect dark walnut color so we just had to cut the length to fit our cabinet and make holes to drop in the sink and stovetop.
The next step after installing the kitchen cabinets was creating space for the fridge.
We use a Dometic CRX-50 fridge that fit into our campervan kitchen perfectly after making a few adaptions to the cabinet. Unfortunately, Dometic doesn’t seem to sell this exact fridge in the US anymore.
A lot of people go with a chest style fridge but we like the appearance of a built-in fridge because it looks more finished plus it comes with a freezer which chest style fridges usually don’t have. Having a freezer was super nice because we could stock up on extra groceries and even keep ice cream in our van.
For our campervan kitchen, we decided to go with a built-in stove. We had plenty of countertop space so we installed a propane stovetop with two burners.
This stove doesn’t have a spark igniter so we always have to keep a few lighters in our van to fire up the stove for cooking.
We use 1 lb green Coleman propane tanks to run this stovetop. We hooked up the stove’s propane line under the sink with the Coleman fuel cylinders and each cylinder lasts us about a week.
We keep extra 1 lb Coleman tanks in our pelican case in the back of the van along with an 11 lb Flame King propane tank that we use to refill the green Coleman bottles whenever they run out. We also had to get a propane refill adapter to fill up the Coleman propane tanks.
A lot of overlanders go with a camping style stove that you can bring out when cooking and store away after you’re done. This type of cooking stove is great for vans where kitchen space is limited. But camping style stoves have a really big flame so you have to be careful when using indoors and it also uses a lot more gas.
Sink & Running Water
Having a sink & running water in our campervan is essential for us, especially for cooking and cleaning our dishes (and occasionally washing our underwear – I know. Gross. But that’s the reality behind the “glamorous” van life).
We got a basic stainless steel sink from IKEA. It’s the best sink for campervans because it’s ultra-cheap, it fits perfectly and it’s the smallest sink you can find anywhere for under $100. And it’s square not round which is easier for doing dishes because it’s impossible to get a round plate out of a small round sink.
To run the water we got a water faucet from Amazon. We chose this faucet because it was cheap, simple to install and had only two settings – on and off. This faucet is also lifted enough that it doesn’t get in the way.
We added a Tri-Max adjustable aerator to slow down the water flow and save water. Most of the time we keep it at the lowest setting which is 1/2 gallons per minute, plenty for washing dishes or brushing our teeth. If we want to fill something up fast we can just change the flow up to 1-1/2 gallons per minute.
For water storage, we use two 7-gallon water containers. One of these is used for faucet water and is enough to last us a few days. The other one is used for fresh drinking water.
We really like these containers because they are square which save space and have handles that make it easy to carry them around.
We keep both of these containers in the back of the van right by the water pump to leave space in the kitchen for more food. It also makes it really easy to fill these up from the back.
The hardest part for us was finding a water pump that wouldn’t make too much noise which is especially important for stealth camping in cities. After testing out a few different ones we settled on this SHURFLO pump that was by far the quietest one we found.
Magnetic Spice Rack
After we modified the kitchen cabinet we ended up with a small open space in front of the cabinet. We used a leftover piece of the countertop to add a magnetic spice rack in front of our kitchen cabinet next to the fridge.
Having spices out in the open comes in super handy when cooking and it also ads a decorative look to the van especially if you fill the containers with colorful spices like turmeric, cayenne and green herbs.
We used a set with 6 spice containers that came with a magnetic strip. This spice rack worked pretty well for us but after a while, the containers did start to rust. After 2 years of use, I ended up replacing them with a new set of spice tins.
I love coffee. These days I can’t even function before my second cup of coffee in the morning.
But a regular glass French press or Keurig take up a lot of space and can be fragile so we had to look at alternative ways to make coffee in the morning in our campervan.
We’ve been using an AeroPress for a couple of years now during our camping trips and love it. It’s small, it’s lightweight and it’s plastic so you’ll never break it if you drop it. AeroPress is the ideal van life kitchen accessory for coffee lovers.
But it did take me some time and practice to master the perfect cup of coffee with this system. Plus I’ve knocked it over a couple of times in our van while making coffee and it made a huge mess.
Overall it’s still my favorite coffee maker and makes the most delicious coffee with lots of flavor and no bitterness. We even got a Porlex manual coffee grinder for the ultimate fresh cup of coffee.
Foldable Cutting Board
We cook a lot of meals in our van so it’s important for us to get kitchen essentials that are practical and make our life easier. While I love to use a solid wood cutting board at home, for our van we chose to get a plastic cutting board because it’s lighter and thinner.
We also looked for a cutting board that’s foldable in the middle so after cutting up the food we can fold up the cutting board and dispose of leftovers easily in our trash bin without making a mess or clogging up our sink.
Since we don’t have a whole lot of cabinet space in our van, we try to pack as little as possible. For cooking, we only have one cutting knife but we got one that is super sharp and can be used for many things.
We got a kitchen knife with a cover because occasionally when we hit a bad pothole or take a sharp turn our kitchen drawers come out flying and spill everything on the floor. Having a blade cover is essential for safety so you don’t accidentally cut yourself.
I like my coffee really hot but most store-bought travel cups will hold the heat only for a little while before it starts to cool off.
My personal favorite vacuum mug is Hydro Flask because it comes insulated with double walls so it will keep your hot drinks hot and your cold drink cold for a very long time.
Hydro Flask is also very versatile so you can use the same mug for water, juice or even wine. It doesn’t keep the smell of previous drink after washing it so your evening wine won’t taste like your morning coffee.
Plus Hydro Flask vacuum mugs come with a sleek design and a lock-in lid so if you happen to knock the mug over your drink won’t spill everywhere.
Cast Iron Skillet
I love cooking with a cast iron skillet. Personally I think it’s the best pan out there for cooking.
A cast-iron skillet can be used for grilling, frying, cooking veggies, breakfast, etc. Just about everything in casts iron skillet comes out super delicious and mouthwatering.
We keep one cast-iron pan in our van but on the downside, they are very heavy and can be difficult to clean. After each use, you are supposed to clean this skillet immediately to prevent rust and cover it with a slight coat of oil and salt.
We have a 10 inch cast iron skillet that makes enough food for 2-4 people which is great for times when we cook family-style meals with other overlanders.
Pots & Pans
Along with the cast iron skillet, we have one pot and one regular pan in our campervan. We got our regular cooking pan with a detachable handle so it’s easier to store it in our kitchen cabinet. We just pop on the handle on the pan before cooking and remove it after for storing it.
Camping pan with a foldable handle would be another great option because the handle is already attached so it will never get misplaced.
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Having a drying mat comes in super handy for washing and cleaning your dishes in a campervan.
We didn’t have a drying mat for our Pan American road trip so we used hand towels but after a while, I noticed that our countertop was getting damaged from the moisture that would seep through the towels. If you’re worried about that, drying mats are very cheap and don’t take up much space.
When looking at campervan kitchen essentials we always ask ourselves “Do we need this, will it break, and is it easy to clean?”
For eating, we got some melamine plates from Target. It’s nothing fancy but it does the job. Melamine material is very similar to plastic so it’s very light yet durable.
A lot of van lifers get camping enamel sets that have a bit more style.
A fun item that can add a decorative look to your van is a fruit hammock. A hanging fruit hammock is great for storing bananas, tomatoes, avocados and other fruit or veggies in a campervan where storage is limited.
With this suspended fruit hammock your fruit will get air circulation and ripe naturally instead of being stored inside the fridge or stuffed into cabinets. It saves space plus it looks really cute.
For eating, we got a few sporks that double up as a spoon and a fork. This saves space in our van since we have to bring fewer utensils but we got the plastic camping sporks which eventually snapped in half after heavy everyday use.
Instead, I would suggest getting a more durable version like this titanium spork that is very light yet won’t break easily.
Other Campervan Kitchen Essentials
Along with the major items, here are a few other kitchen essentials that you will need:
- Small trashcan – we store ours inside the kitchen cabinet to keep the smell contained.
- Small brush and dustpan – this is essential for daily cleanup especially after cooking when things fall on the ground.
- Dish scrub brush – personally we like the round brush that can be used to clean different types of dishes and it doesn’t start smelling, unlike sponges that you have to keep changing out all the time.
- Dish soap – right now I’m obsessed with Meyer’s dish soap. It smells so good and it’s also biodegradable which is great for van life since the kitchen water ends up on the ground outside.
- Kitchen utensils – we got a set and picked out the utensils that we would actually use like a couple of spatulas, thongs and a large soup spoon.
- Can opener – because van life is can life. Canned goods can be stored for a long time and can be found anywhere so canned foods become a staple ingredient in many van life meals.
- Beer and wine opener – so you can unwind with a nice refreshing beverage after all that cooking and cleaning at the end of the day.
We hope you found this post helpful and got some new ideas for your campervan kitchen set up. For more van life inspiration don’t forget to check out some of our other popular posts below:
- DIY Promaster Camper Conversion Guide – Part I
- 50 Van Life Tips For Living On The Road
- Driving The Pan-American Highway? Here’s All You Need To Know
- VAN LIFE – How Much Does It Really Cost?
- 10 Things You Should Know Before Living In A Van
Interested in how I capture my photos? Here is my suggested camera gear that I use to create my images:
- Main camera: Sony a7II Camera With 28-70 mm Standard Lens
- Polarizer Filter for the standard lens (helps eliminate reflection and enhance color especially on super bright days): Amazon Basics 55 mm
- Wide Lens (great for nature shots): Sony 16-35 mm F4
- Polarizer Filter for the wide lens: Amazon Basics 72 mm
- Small Tripod (to stabilize photos and eliminate blur): JOBY Gorrilapod
- Memory Cards: SanDisk 32 GB
- Batteries: Wasabi Power battery charger and extra battery pack
- Camera Bag: Lowepro weather-resistant bag
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