Camping Must Haves

A lot of people go camping on Memorial weekend. Generally B and I do not but thought this weekend would be a great time to post about our camping must haves.

Independence fireworks over Lake Lucern

I’ve mentioned before that we camp…A LOT! We camp in a VW bus about once a month rain or shine [or snow, or wind….we have pretty much camped in every kind of weather]. Over the years there are products that we have purchased that just really make the trip every time and are so worth the expense. In fact, they live in the bus so we have no need to repack them.

Camping with the Lagrou’s at Larrabee State Park

The white bus in the photo above is the Synchro [4WD bus] and not the one we usually camp in. This was a special trip for my birthday last summer.

I thought I would do a roundup for camping items we could live without but why would we since they make the experience so much easier! Go ahead, call me a glamper! The below list is by no means exhaustive but things that we use every time we go.


I don’t know about you but camping in the summer is a must! What is NOT welcome are those pesky mosquitos. I am not a fan of using DEET products but prefer something a little more natural.

  • I made my own spray. Its basically essential oils, rubbing alcohol, witch hazel & water.
  • I also made citronella candles for the bus I reused old jam jars and some larger ones from existing candle containers and a cool bowl for our fire pit at home.
  • In our main camping bus we have a sunroof not a pop up [as in the photo above of the 4WD van]. I also made a mosquito net. It has magnets sewn in to the binding around the edge and covers the sunroof opening.

Bus Line Up

Marty is third from the right in the photo above.

Lighting + Electronics + Emergency

  • Guys the Luci light is a little solar lantern is amazing and worth the price! I think we have five of them now. I just discovered they even have ones that will charge your phone. It compresses down to practically nothing [1 inch] and inflates really easily. They are waterproof and float [just in case you want to take that midnight swim in your birthday suit]. We leave them on the dash of our bus to charge while we are driving. They have a handy strap and we can string them from a tie down strap [another handy item] that we always have in the bus and hook it up on the frame of our easy up. Our very own camping chandelier! Great for playing board & card games!
  • Flashlights are great and you should have one in your camping kit but even better so you can remain hands free is a head lamp. We have about five of them and prefer the Black Diamond brand. Pro tip; always keep a supply of AA batteries on hand.
  • A voltage converter in something we have and use occasionally to charge items like our phones and sometimes I bring my kindle or iPad mini to read a book. [The one pictured is not the one we have but I like how compact it is and it also has plugs for different countries].
  • A portable battery charger has come in handy a few times for us and for others. Old VW’s are notorious for issues and having this along is peace of mind.
  • Another item for peace of mind, a comprehensive first aid kit is a must. Especially if you are somewhere remote.
  • B and I do a lot of Geocaching. We generally use our phone app but in more remote or rural locations a GPS comes in handy. It can be used for more than just Geocaching. It’s a helpful tool for hiking as well.

Repurposed Items

  • Rubber backed bath mats. One of our first camping trips about five years ago together was in February and it poured! We had an easy up to sit under but nothing to sit on the wet benches. B took the rubber mats out from the foot wells of the bus so we could have something dry to sit on which gave me the this idea. They are perfect for sitting on a bench and keeping you dry and as a bonus just a bit of insulation [sometimes I will put this on the seat of my camp chair].
  • This squeegee is great because of its compact size. We use them to wipe away excess water on camp benches [tables too] before using our bath mats as well as wipe off interior condensation on van windows.
  • We also have a whisk broom that lives in the bus. Its great for sweeping off the floor and keeping things tidy.
  • Binder clips are indispensable for so many things! We have strings of battery powered lights that we like to clip to the easy up [we store them in an old ammo can]. They are great for hanging wet items to dry or keeping Luci lights in place. We even use them to clip multiple easy ups together, especially in wet weather so no water seeps in between.

Canine Comfort

  • My dog Beej comes camping with us. He has a dedicated camp chair and I attach the handle of his harness to it with a carabiner. My dog doesn’t like to wander around much but prefers his camp chair or the bus [with blankets and his sweater if its cold]. I also can use this to clip to my day pack when we hike. Other dogs that come camping with us like to have more freedom of movement so clipping their leash to a run of rope tied between two trees is great for them when their owners need to be hands free.
  • A dedicated dog towel is also a good idea. I wipe Beej’s paws off before he gets on the bed so he doesn’t track dirt in. The one I linked to is not the one I use but I like that its quick dry. I have a beach towel that is reserved specifically for him.
  • My dog also doesn’t drink much water [he will literally turn his head when offered – so I feed him a soupy style of food to keep him hydrated]. Anyway, a collapsible water bowl is a great option for those of you who have dogs who actually will use them!
  • A great item for hiking with your dog too is the OllyBottle which has a piece that comes off to make a bowl to fill for your dog. Great for hiking!

Personal Use

  • After one camping trip in November a few years back where I had to layer up in 5 degree weather and walk about 1000 feet to get to the bathroom I vowed to get myself something I could use in the van. Right after that trip I purchased the Luggable Loo and for $20 is was a great investment. [I even have used it for getting out and Geocaching in non populated areas – like long power trails where a bathroom is not convenient]. I just recently had to replace the lid after four years as the hinges broke [even that didn’t prevent me from using it]. The replacement was $19. To keep things contained I buy these toilet waste bags. They are double lined and have a gelatin in the bottom to help with odor [doubled up garbage bags and kitty litter work in a pinch]. Generally I try to use the toilet for liquid only since it is in the van where we sleep and the gelatin helps with no smell. Bonus it works as an additional seat in a pinch.
  • I place a roll of TP in a ziploc bag and that works great. We also have a couple of these portable dispensers which are awesome if you are out on a hike.
  • However, I just purchased this pop up portable changing room to use as a bathroom so solids are not a problem. This changing room collapses flat really easily about 2 feet around and comes with a carry bag. We plan to do more camping in areas where they don’t have facilities [BLM] so this tent will make it nice for both of us to use. Pro tip, place your luggable loo in a corner facing the opposite corner – it’s roomier.
  • I just recently purchased the pStyle for long hikes where there are no facilities. Definitely would recommend practicing with it at home first!

Cold Weather Gear

  • My feet get cold easily even sitting around a campfire. A friend told me about Bogs and I purchased these boots a couple years ago. You don’t even need to wear socks with them. They keep my feet nice and dry and warm! Great for hiking too. They are currently having a sale – use code MAYSALE for 25% off [expires 5.25 11:59 PM].
  • Hot water bottles are a great option for keeping parts of you warm.

Sparkels and Marty

The blue bus in the photo above is Marty who we normally camp in. This was at Camano Island State Park and it snowed on us [obviously]. Pictured is our friends school bus he converted to enjoy Burning Man which they go to every year. He now has a company that converts Ford Transits in to two person campervans.

Dishes & Utensils

We like to eat well when we camp and bring the necessary items to do so. Along with our camp stove, we have a dedicated set of pots and pans that live in plastic tubs in the bus and a full set of silverware. We also have a dedicated cheese grater, microplane, tablecloth, measuring cups/spoons, wine cork, bottle opener, French press, spatulas & mixing spoons, can opener, tongs etc. Some of this was made easy when we combined households so we didn’t have to go out and buy things.

  • We always travel with 5 gallons of potable water for washing dishes, drinking, putting out campfires, etc.
  • Our go to lunch or late night dinner is a panini. We found our camping panini press at the local goodwill but they are not that expensive.
  • Another item we love to use is the Toas-Tite. It takes Hot Pockets to a whole new level! [My fave is banana or strawberry and nutella].
  • Being beer loving campers we bring along melamine Solo cups to drink our beverages from. [Pro tip; let others know they are not disposable, we lost one to the garbage as a new camper threw it away not knowing – even though we have blue ones].
  • B was gifted a personalized stainless steel growler in a carrying case for helping a friend and this generally comes with us camping. We like to check out local breweries wherever we go and this allows us to take something we like home [or back to camp] with us.
  • We also recently started drinking more cocktails. B will mix up a batch of Manhattan’s or Old Fashioned’s to bring along. We use these plastic tumblers for sipping our cocktails.
  • One item that has made life easier are these super thin flexible cutting boards. Each color is marked with a symbol [beef, fish, poultry & veggies]. We don’t use them that way but they are easy, don’t take up a lot of room and clean up is a breeze! [Pro tip; clip them to the easy up with a binder clip for quick drying].
  • We also have a set of sleeved knives for cutting and chopping. They store away nice and safely!
  • We often pack paper dishes but found these melamine ones and have them in the bus. Easy to clean and match our dishes we have at home even! We bought four plates, four bowls and one serving bowl. Often when we camp we have a potluck dinner on Saturday night so a serving bowl comes in handy.


  • A hatchet in a protective sleeve is super useful for cutting up wood for the campfire and making kindling.
  • B bought me my very own multi tool which has any number of useful items on it. [Sog is a brand B is loyal to. They are only a few minutes from our house, super friendly and if you bring in your knives they will sharpen them for you for free].
  • Delorme map for your state. Phones and Google maps work great but sometimes there is no reception and a phyiscal map is a good thing to have.
  • Reference books for trees, plants and geology for your area are also nice to have with you.


  • Foldable camp chairs are a must have. Portable and easy to pack away.
  • We have this rollup camp table that B bought years ago. I found this similar one for a lower price. I may purchase it as we have thought about buying a second one and I would be curious to compare the two.
  • A shade cover is always packed in the bus. As good as it is for rainy trips it also nice on hot warm days as well.
  • An easily cleanable rug for right outside the van door. This way we leave nature outside and it doesn’t get all over our bed. [The one I linked to is not the one we have].
  • When we go camping I like some time just hanging out and reading a good book or taking a nap. I love the ability to hang a hammock. Our hammock takes up hardly any room and lives in the bus. It has really long ties and I keep additional peri cord so we can tie it up just about anywhere we have trees.
B in the Hammock
B the Camping Model


We also generally bring a bunch of board, card and lawn games to play. I wrote about our favorites a while back. Along with the games listed in that post we have picked up;

  • Codenames is a social word game with a simple premise and challenging game play. Two rival spymasters know the secret identities of 25 agents. Their temmates know the agents only by their codenames. The teams complete to see who can make contact with all of their agents first. Spymasters give one-word clues that can point to multiple words on the table. Their teammates try to guess words of their color while avoiding those that belong to the opposing team. And everyone wants to avoid the assassin. The game words very well with 4 players if you prefer to guess without help. Or you can add more players if you prefer lively discussion. There is also a cooperative variant where a single team tries to achieve the highest score they can by playing against the game itself.
  • Bocce although our version is called Extreme Woodland Bocce. One player tosses the small white ball we call the Botch and then players attempt to get as close to the Botch as possible. Highly entertaining for player and spectators, especially when beer is involved. There have been several instances of quite a bit of time spent searching for the balls. Many times down holes. One time we had to dig out a tree stump to get a ball back.

Even with all of the above I do have a few wish list items;

  • Non toxic, bee safe mosquito repellent sticks are a product I currently do not have in my camping goodie bag but am interested in purchasing them and will report back.
  • My dog still hikes but as he get’s older longer trails are harder for him [he will be 15 in July]. I found this four in one dog carrier which I have not purchased but have my eye on [for dogs under 15 pounds]. You can wear it as a backpack, a cross body bag, or a duffel. It has a fleece insert as well.
  • One thing we currently do not have is a camp shower. We have never gone camping for more than a few days and generally we have gone somewhere where facilities are available. In future for longer trips and/or BLM camping we want to invest in a camp shower setup. I am researching this and will post when we have more info. We are thinking of rigging up something that attaches to the side of the bus so you don’t have to hold the shower head [I believe this heats the water as well]. A curtain you can pull around you and a cedar shower mat to stand on. This plastic shower caddy would be perfect to hold shampoo, conditioner and body wash.
  • Our friend Glen uses an old tea kettle he places right in the campfire to heat up water and then uses welding gloves to be able to pick it up and pour. Both items are on our purchase list.
  • We have utensils but I would like to get a couple of these sporks which is a fork, spoon and knife in one. I have owned these before but not in titanium. Purchasing a couple [even four] of these would reduce the amount of utensils we have in the bus and free up a little more room. Our utensils are in a double bagged ziplock which is a pain to find what you are looking for. I have considered making fabric cutlery bags [like this] so we can easily grab a setting. Shall see what we end up with. Maybe both!
  • I’ve debated getting a mosquito net door for the slider of our van. Not sure we would really use it that much since we have the sunroof and usually keep the door closed even when in camp.

Hope you like the list I put together and it helps you on your next camping trip. If you have suggestions for me leave them in the comments. I am always looking for great ideas and hacks to make our camping experience better!



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