We know it’s probably going to be some time before we all hit the road again for an adventure. But we’re optimistic that the day will come soon so we decided to share our camper van clothing packing list so that you’re ready to roll. (And, if you need some inspiration while you’re stuck at home, check out our 50 Fun Things To Do At Home When You Can’t Travel, Best Van Life Skills To Learn During the Coronavirus Pandemic and Best Van Life Books to Fuel Your Travel Stoke.) Until then, it’s not too early to start checking out your gear and making sure you have everything you need. We’ve taken several month long trips in our van and have learned from our packing mistakes through trial and error and figured out a packing list that works for us. We hope it works for you, too! Keep reading to see our camper van clothing packing list.
Step 1: Plan
To make sure you have everything you need for your camper van trip, you’re going to need to do a little planning. First off, you have to figure out when you’ll be traveling as the season will impact your clothing list. Then, you’ll have to figure out where you’ll be traveling as that will also have an impact. We’re based out of Asheville, North Carolina which has four seasons but we’re often traveling to places that are much cooler or warmer than it would be at home. Thankfully, technology can help you minimize surprises. We like figuring out what the average temperatures will be in the locations we will visit as well as the precipitation. To figure that out for your own destination, all you have to do is Google search “Average temperature (your destination) (your month) and your computer will spit out your information. It’ll also give you the precipitation in the same table.
Step 2: Assess What You have
Step two for acing your camper van packing list is to take stock of what you have. For us, that means we literally go to our closet and drag out everything we ‘think’ we’ll need on the trip and we lay it out on the bed. Items that are a little too torn and worn don’t make it on the trip. We need everything to last so we don’t have to take time out of our trip to visit a store.
Step 3: Determine What You Need
After you’ve laid out all of your gear, you’ll need to take stock on whether or not you need everything you have. The answer is almost always ‘no.’ So, you have to decide what you want versus what you ‘need.’ We have a rule that everything that goes into the van must serve at least two purposes. This applies (loosely) to clothing as well. We love clothing that has been designed with the trail-to-town mentality. Meaning it functions as a proper piece of gear and it also looks good enough to wear to the brewery after your adventure. Clothing for the outdoor adventurer has improved a lot over the last several years. It’s possible to have an entire wardrobe of high-performance gear that feels good enough and looks good enough to wear out for a beer after you leave the trail.
If you must buy something, see if you can’t purchase it used either from a local gear shop or second hand store. Reusing things keeps them out of the landfill and is one of the ways you can improve upon becoming a greener van life adventurer.
Step 4: Make Your Final Cuts
Okay, so you’ve assessed what you have and possibly even purchased a few things to help round out your camper van clothing list. Maybe you’ve had to do the opposite and pare down the number of items you’re bringing. If it’s your first trip, you may find that you only use a fraction of what you bring. That’s normal! Over time we have learned to pack less and less, relying on past experience that we will lean into the simplicity of less ‘stuff’ and also wear the same things over and over in an effort to avoid wasting time at the laundromat!
Step 5: Pack It In Your Van
A clean and organized van is well, easier to find things in. And will reduce the number of times you want to pull your hair out looking for something. There’s only so much space in your van so when you’re packing, be mindful of where you are packing things! We have separated the boxes in our Wayfarer Van so that we each have one compartment that is for our clothing. Caroline’s is almost always very neat. Mine, not so much. Having one’s own compartment makes for getting in and out of it in the morning and evening more efficient and it makes for finding your things a bit easier.
We played around a little with various packing methods in our van. Caroline has had some good success with these packing cubes from Eagle Creek, pictured above. She keeps her underwear and bras in the smaller one which keeps them clean and dirt free when they’re washed and stores lighter colored clothing in the other two. Even though our clothes are in a wooden box inside our van, things still get dusty just from being on the road and opening it numerous times a day. The packing cubes lasted all of five minutes for Erin who chooses to just throw her stuff into the van and call it a day. If you like organization, however, give these cubes a look.
Essential Camper Van Clothing Items for Women
The following is a list of camper van gear that we have traveled with on the last several 3-4 month longs road trips we’ve been on. These trips were taken during the spring, fall and summer. That said, we’ve packed several important cold weather gear items because we were often in places where, though it was summer, the temperatures felt more like winter. Elevation and latitude will make a big difference on what you pack, so as mentioned above, do your research. Also, you may decide that what we have listed is too bare bones for you. That’s just fine! In fact we’d love to know what else you’d bring. Leave a comment below.
- 1 Rain Shell – North Face Apex Flex GTX Rain Jacket. Gore Tex makes the jacket breathable and waterproof so you can stay dry and comfortable no matter what the weather throws at you.
- 1 Puffy Jacket – The North Face Down Puffer Jacket. Depending on where you’re going, you may be able to get away with a 2-in-1 coat like the one listed above. That said, if you’re going somewhere really cold, there’s nothing quite as warm and comforting as a puffy jacket.
Footwear and Socks
- 1 pair of flip flops or sandals – Chacos
- 1 pair of hiking boots – Forsake’s Range High
- 3 pairs of hiking socks – Swiftwick’s Pursuit hiking socks
- Running gear – We’ve got an entire post about some of our favorite and best running gear including clothing, shoes and safety gear.
- 2 sports bras – Uprise Pullover Sports Bra. If you’re not bringing running gear you’ll probably want to pack at least two of these for hikes and other adventures.
- 2 regular bras
- 10 pairs of underwear – New Balance Undewear. They’re made with a polyester and spandex blend. They’re also tagless and seamless so you don’t get any chafing or big lines under your tights. We bring 10 day’s worth and know that we’ll be able to wash them in a sink or in a bucket if we can’t get to a laundromat right away.
- 6 trucker hats – 6? Yeah. In all different colors. It’s a weakness.
Pants and Shorts
- 3/4 tights – Patagonia Cut Capri
- Full length tights – 8th Day Tights
- 1 pair of jeans – Duer Performance Denim
- 1 pair of pants – prAna Egress Pants
- Boardshorts – Caroline loves the Title Nine boardshorts and Erin loves Patagonia boardshorts
Shirts and Tees
- 2 flannel shirts – Outdoor Research Ceres II shirt
- Long sleeve t-shirt or rashguard – Title Nine Aquatic Life Rashguard. We wear these a lot more than we thought we would for sun protection and warmth.
- 2 performance short sleeve t-shirts with StinkStopper technology – We like these more than regular cotton t-shirts because they’ll help keep you feeling and smelling fresh.
- Pair of gloves – Outdoor Research PL 150 Sensor Gloves. You can use your smartphone without having to take these gloves off because they have sensors in the fingertips.
- Beanie / cold weather hat – Carhartt beanie
- 1 bathing suit – Caroline likes the Better 2.0 Bikini Top by Title 9, pictured above. She pairs it with the Lehua Full Cover Bikini Bottom, also above. Both of these pieces do a great job not falling off when surfing or stand-up paddleboarding. Lately I’ve opted for a one piece bathing suit, also from Title Nine.
- Buff for your hair or neck
- A pair of polarized sunglasses – O’Neill Offshore Polarized Wayfarers
- Sunglass neck strap – Croakies Eyewear Retainer
Camper Van Packing List For Women Notes
The above packing list keeps us out of the laundromat for about two weeks. If you’re wondering how, it’s because we often re-wear things and/or rinse/wash them in a bucket with mild soap and water. You’re going to need to carry more clothing if you are the kind of person who needs to wear something fresh every day.
If you’re wondering whether or not we can share clothes…we can. And we do! The only thing we can’t share are shoes and boots. It’s one of the best things that makes our road trip packing list so small. We understand that not everyone has the luxury of sharing clothes with their travel mate. There is no shame in bringing more, it’s just a matter of finding the space to carry it. We’ve actually made some of our own DIY storage pockets for the side doors to help with some space needs. We have also strung a mesh net inside our van which is where we keep our puffy coats and rain layers.
We like moisture wicking fabric. It dries quicker both on your body and on a clothes line. It often costs more than cotton but it’s worth the extra you’ll pay.
We’ve been doing our best to purchase second-hand gear whenever possible. It’s part of our commitment to being greener camper van travelers. Also, before we make a purchase, whether it’s second-hand gear or new gear, we research the heck out of it. We have only posted links to gear that we have tested and love.
Feel free to print, save, share or pin our camper van packing list so that you have it when your next road trip arrives. Also, we’d love to hear about any must-have, can’t live without item that you travel with.
Erin McGrady and Caroline Whatley are professional travel writers photographers and the authors of Authentic Asheville. Their road trip packing list is incrementally getting smaller and smaller.