Congratulations! You have purchased a caravan (or camper trailer, or tent, the same tips apply). Perhaps you have ordered it new (and may be keen to get some things ready before delivery). Or maybe it is a ‘new to you’ and you are looking to make it your own. Or you might have had the van some time and are planning a big lap of Australia or a big trip and are looking to refresh and set up the space.
Whatever your circumstances, we have put together some tips to assist you to set up a well organized space that works for you.
1. Make a Plan
As with anything, the first step is to make a plan. Walk around the inside and outside of the van, making a list of what you think you might need. Keep it handy, as this list will grow over time! Open cupboards and drawers and think about how you will use them. Think about your essentials, must haves and like to haves.
There are some items that are specific to caravan and camping. For example, inlet and outlet hoses, extension chords, camp beds, etc. It might help to visit an outdoor store to browse at the options available. Sometimes you don’t know something exists until you see it! Camping with others or watching a video of a tour of a caravan also helps to realise what you might need.
Where possible, use items that you already own. If you will be travelling full time, consider using your kitchen cutlery and utensils rather than buying more (it’s also one less thing to pack away in storage). When you return home, you now have an excuse to purchase new items for your home kitchen, giving you that new home feeling again. Win, win! The same goes for non-perishable food items that you have in your pantry – transfer them to the van. If you are setting up the van for holiday travel, think about picnic sets, camping gear and spare items that you might already have. This will minimize what you need to purchase. Of course, some items such as break-proof plates and bowls will most likely need to be bought. You need strong, but light weight items wherever possible
3. Review you contents
everything out or place it in a room on its own so you can review and see it
all in one place. Think about how you will use each item. Many people say that
every item in a caravan should have at least two uses. If there are duplicates,
consider removing them or placing them on a ‘wish list’ pile, to be added only
if you have the space at the end. Also consider your weights (see point 9
below)…the lighter the better.
4. Storage! Storage! Storage!
Your cupboards will be reasonable sized spaces, but for efficiency, consider breaking them up with containers. No one likes to pull everything out just to get to the things at the back. For example, draw dividers, storage containers and tubs all make for efficient separation of contents. Measure up your cupboards before you hit the shops or get browsing online. Take some time to consider how you are going to use your storage space and all of the different options available from different suppliers. Personally, I love Sistema containers and can’t resist adding to my collection when they are half price at the major supermarkets! You may be surprised at the quantity you need, so waiting for a half price sale can make a huge difference to your wallet. Consider buying one of each size first, bringing them home to try in the van before purchasing multiples. This can save a lot of frustration and wasted dollars on the wrong sizes. We’ve also find that flexi-tubs are fabulous, they give you flexibility to fit into some tighter spaces. K-mart or cheap shops often have these for a reasonable price. Tip: Hang on to your microwave turntable packaging, it becomes very useful when on the move to keep the glass plate in one piece.
5. Storage whilst in transit
Some items need to be packed away or stored securely whilst you are driving. This can include removing the television from the bracket and storage outside furniture. Whilst some of this may fit in a boot accessed from the outside, there may be some items that you need to find a safe home for whilst you are on the road. Many vans have space at the end of the bed that can be used when in transit. We found a brilliant storage tub that fits across the width of the bed and houses our shoes. When we stop, the tub is moved outside by the boys, placed next to the door. This frees up the space inside. That area at the end of the bed can also be used for a BBQ, sporting equipment, brooms or vacuums or anything else that you use outside but need a space for when driving. Don’t forget space either side of the bed and around the dining table too. Stretchy straps are great for holding items in place.
Think about where you are going to store and charge devices. It’s a modern day problem, but a challenge none the less. It pays to have a designated charging location, or home for your phone to avoid cables everywhere and misplaced technology. Kitchen benches can also pose dangers to sensitive devices. Be creative, we love wall mounts for keeping technology off tables, beds and sofas to avoid damage. Remember to purchase additional chargers to leave in the van permanently.
Whilst thinking technology, consider how you are going to power your devices. If you are planning to stay in powered sites, you should be OK. If you are planning to free camp or stay at national parks, you will need an ‘off the grid’ system. Will you use a generator or a solar setup? There are many options, including Redarc electronics. It might be a fixed solar panel, or a portable solar blanket. Take time to research and work out what is best for you.
7. The fun part – Interior Design
Don’t be afraid to personalize! Window or wall stickers are great fordecorating and making the space feel like your own and can be changed easily if and when you decide to redecorate. Choose a bright coloured bedspread, throw blanket and tea towels. Caravans can be bland! Many people select a favourite colour to tie everything together and add personality (mine is teal). This will also bring together separate ‘rooms’ into a cohesive space.
8. Stick it so it stays!
3M Hooks and adhesive Velcro will be your best friends. Use them to secure everything that could move! We use ours for keys, remotes, bathroom sponges and towels, hats and a clock. Suction cup caddies for the bathroom are also brilliant. They do hang in there! Pack extra hooks and velcro, as you are bound to find new uses for them when you are finally on the road.
9. Weight Matters
Your caravan will have a Tare weight (weight before adding luggage, etc) and a Payload (the weight that you can add into the van). For more information on this, we have made a video explaining weights (it can be quite complicated, but is very important from a safety and insurance perspective). Ensure that you place heavy items carefully. The best spot is around the wheel axles, then forward of the van in that order. Ball Weights and overall balance are important things to be aware of for safety.
10. Moving In
Consider living in your van for a week or two at home (or going on a trip close to home) prior to heading off anywhere for any great length of time. This will give you a real feel for what you do (and don’t!) need. There will be things you haven’t thought of, and getting away first, or at least living in the van, gives you an opportunity to reach for it and realise it’s not there. Likewise, discovering that you may not need a 12 place cutlery setting or 6 different serving spoons is good to learn early. Reviewing your original plan will be an ongoing process. We love Caravan Parks that have a ‘free to good home’ area, and have left behind many good quality items that we realise we don’t need, for others to enjoy.
Enjoy the process of setting up your home on wheels, and remember that you can make adjustments and additions as you travel.