Having put a good deal of thought and effort into researching your new ’van, to ensure that it meets your needs, and laid out a substantial sum to buy it, the next important step is to load it correctly and thoughtfully with the items and the best motorhome gadgets you are likely to use during your travels.
If you are moving on from a previous motorhome, you will probably have most of your contents put together, ready to fit into the new vehicle.
If you’re upsizing there shouldn’t be a problem, as you will have loads of spare space; but if you are downsizing, careful selection (and some crafty ideas) will help you fit the essentials into limited space.
If this is your first ’van, a lot of thought will be needed to gather your essentials, ready for packing.
Most motorcaravanners keep the basic items permanently in their vehicle, adding specific perishable goods and everyday clothing when preparing for a holiday.
When first equipping a new ’van, I start by checking out my plastic storage boxes, to see which sizes will best fit into the cupboard spaces available. These can then be allocated functions according to their dimensions and where they are situated.
Depending on your personal preferences – and the space you have available – your motorhome bedding might consist simply of sleeping bags or duvets, or could involve a full domestic-style bedmaking kit.
Either way, one advantage is that items of bedding are very adaptable in shape, so storage boxes are not normally required.
One of my favourite ways to save space is to store a couple of pillows in large or bespoke cushion covers, so that they can be used both day and night, without taking up valuable cupboard space.
Other bedding can be stowed away in the underbed lockers or the overcab.
Perishable items can go straight in the fridge at the last minute, and we often store meat short-term in the freezer compartment – otherwise this area
is sometimes underused.
Tinned food and drinks are relatively heavy and need to be stored low down, perhaps in a kitchen unit. For convenience of access, we tend to fit tinned goods into a suitably sized plastic box, which can be reached into, rather like a drawer.
If you can select pans and a kettle that fit inside one another (perhaps with a tea towel between each), so much the better, as you will certainly save cupboard space. A large plastic storage box would help to keep things tidy here.
For crockery, melamine – virtually indestructible – is a popular choice, but I prefer thin white glass crockery, such as Corelle, or Oftast, the Ikea equivalent.
Although they are quite heavy, plates stack very compactly and are hygienic, stain-resistant and pleasant to use.
Fitting out a bespoke crockery cupboard will minimise the space required and offer protection from chipping or rattling.
Cutlery might be fine in a cutlery tray in a drawer, but to prevent it from rattling about, use or make a tool roll to store it in.
A small kettle and toaster can be fitted into any spaces left in the kitchen, as can a small water-carrier for drinking water supplies, if like us, you prefer to keep the tank water for washing.
Oil, vinegar and washing-up liquids are best fitted into a small plastic container to keep them upright – you might also use this to store some 3-in-One oil, WD-40 and a small bottle of methylated spirits, which is handy as a solvent for ink stains and sticky adhesive remains.
Medical kits should not be confused with first-aid kits, which you might already have as a motoring essential.
A suitably sized box, or a small toolbox, is ideal to hold tablets and medicines for digestive upsets, headaches and pains, travel sickness, hayfever and so on, in addition to stocks of routine medication.
Pack some sticking plasters and elastic bandages; tweezers, nail-clippers and small scissors are also sensible additions.
The size and contents of your toolkit will depend on the storage space available, as well as your DIY abilities.
A small multimeter, sets of screwdrivers, spanners and pliers, and a small hacksaw will come in handy from time to time.
Useful consumables include cable ties in various sizes, fuses and connector blocks. A small container of miscellaneous screws, washers, and nuts and bolts, and a reel of insulating tape, would be a good idea.
A couple of old wire coat hangers can be cut up to perform various emergency tasks, and I never travel without a supply of duct tape and a couple of extra-strong plastic rubble sacks, for temporary repairs to a broken window or lost rooflight.
Items needed for pitching can include levelling ramps, electrical cables and connectors, an aerial cable, water-hoses and water-carriers. Some of these are quite bulky if your ’van is small, but fit what you can under the floor at the rear if storage is provided.
I normally carry a full-length mains cable on a reel and a half-length one folded, which will often fit conveniently into a door pocket.
Storing your folding camping chairs and table can require much thought to ensure easy access while keeping them out of the way when not in use. One possibility if there’s space is to fasten them with straps behind the rear seat backrests.
If you are driving on the Continent, you will need high-vis jackets, which must be stored where they can easily be accessed before you leave the vehicle. Your warning triangles and first-aid kit should also be stowed in an accessible spot.
No doubt there will be plenty of smaller items to accommodate, such as maps and guides, spare glasses and sunglasses. Most of these can be stored in the door pockets, except perhaps large map-books, which can be stored flat, possibly on the floor of the Luton roof or similar.
Many ’vans have full-sized spare wheels under the rear, but if not, rather than depending on a ‘gunge kit’, you might consider adding a spare wheel, or at least the tyre, so you are not stranded with an irreparable wheel on the Continent on a bank holiday! These can be stored in a bedding locker or the garage, or attached to the rear doors – but check your payload.
Cameras, laptops and binoculars require a safe place, while books and CDs can be fitted in remaining spaces, door pockets or underseat compartments. Some paper, envelopes and stamps, stored in a thin packet, might come in handy, as will a small sewing kit for emergency repairs.
By the time you have accommodated these items in appropriate places in your ’van, you will be ready to add perishable food and your clothes – then you should be all set for that exciting first trip!
Looking for more great on tour inspiration? Then be sure to head to our Back to Basics – On Tour category, where you can find plenty of ideas that will help you take your motorhome adventures to the next level!
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