A Beginner’s Guide to Van and RV Camping: How to Get Started and What to Expect

Exploring the wilderness in a camper van or RV is an excellent way to enjoy home comforts on the move. But for those of you new to this type of adVANturing, it can seem daunting, so we’ve put together this handy guide for beginner #vanlifers.

Vanlife essentials

First things first, you need a van or an RV! Depending on your budget and the amount of space you need, you can choose to buy or rent one. If you’re on a tight budget, a van might be a better option as they tend to be less expensive than RVs.

Once you have your vehicle, it’s time to get familiar with what you need and, more crucial, what you don’t need. We recommend taking short overnight or weekend trips close to home at first, so you get a feel for what to pack and where it’s best to keep everything.

The great news is that if you’re not in the market for an RV, we have them for rent here at Blue Ridge Basecamp.

What to expect

Van and RV camping is different from traditional camping because you have all the comforts of home with you. You can sleep in a cozy bed, cook your meals, and use a bathroom whenever you need to. However, you’ll also need to learn to conserve water and energy as you’ll have limited resources…which brings us to the next point.

Saving water and energy in your van or RV

One of the most important things to dial in on when van and RV camping, particularly off-grid, is how to conserve water and energy.

Some of the things you can do to save water are:

  1. Take short showers: When you take a shower, try to keep it short. Consider turning the water off while you soap up, then turning it back on to rinse off. This can save a lot of water.
  2. Collect and reuse water: Rather than letting water go down the drain, collect it and reuse it for other purposes. For example, you can collect the water you use to wash dishes and use it to flush the toilet.
  3. Plan your meals carefully: When planning your meals, consider using ingredients that don’t require a lot of water to prepare. For example, use pre-packaged salads or sandwiches instead of cooking a meal that requires washing pots and pans.

Some of the things you can do to save on fuel – LPG or Diesel are:

  1. Check for leaks: Regularly check for any leaks in your LPG system, especially around connections and valves. Even small leaks can result in a significant loss of LPG, which can increase your usage and costs.
  2. Use energy-efficient appliances: Choose appliances that are designed to be energy-efficient, such as LPG-powered stoves, refrigerators, and water heaters. Energy-efficient appliances consume less LPG and help you save on your fuel costs.
  3. Cook in batches: When cooking, try to cook in batches rather than cooking one meal at a time. This helps you to reduce the amount of LPG you use, as you don’t have to heat the stove multiple times.
  4. Insulate your campervan: Properly insulating your campervan can help you retain heat, which means you’ll need less LPG or Diesel to heat your living space.

Some of the things you can do to save on electricity in your campervan are:

  1. Install solar panels: Installing solar panels on your campervan is a great way to generate your electricity without relying on external power sources. This can help you reduce your reliance on electrical power and save on costs.
  2. Use natural light: Make the most of natural light during the day by keeping curtains and blinds open. This reduces the need for artificial lighting, which can save you a significant amount of electricity.
  3. Turn off appliances: When appliances are not in use, make sure to turn them off completely rather than just putting them in standby mode. This helps to prevent ‘phantom’ power usage and can save you a lot of electricity over time.
  4. Use power banks: Use power banks to charge your electronic devices when you’re not connected to an electrical outlet. This helps to reduce your overall power consumption and save you on power costs.
  5. Use energy-saving settings: Use energy-saving settings on your electronic devices, such as turning down the brightness on your phone or putting your laptop into ‘sleep’ mode when not in use. This also helps to reduce your power consumption and save you on power costs.

Finding a good campsite

When it comes to finding a good campsite, there are plenty of options to choose from. If you’re planning an off-grid trip, you can stay at national parks, state parks, campgrounds, or even on public land. But if you need to top up your water tank, charge your leisure batteries, and empty your blackwater tank, you’d do well to include a night or two at a full-service campground.

Some of the things to look for in a quality campsite are space to accommodate your vehicle as well as any other vehicles or gear you have in tow, hook-ups for electricity, water and sewage, amenities like Wi-Fi, laundry, showers and bathrooms, location, accessibility, safety, and noise (some campsites might be close to a busy highway for example).

Storing food

Storing food in a van or RV can be tricky, but with a bit of planning, it’s easy to do. Consider investing in a good cooler or refrigerator to keep your food fresh. You can also use dry goods like canned goods, pasta, and rice, which don’t need to be refrigerated.

Cooking tips

When it comes to cooking in a van or RV, the key is to keep it simple. Invest in a good camping stove and cookware, and plan meals that are easy to make. You can also cook outside on a campfire or grill.


Finally, when you’re on the road, it’s important to have good navigation tools. Consider investing in a GPS or downloading a navigation app on your phone. Also, bring a map as a backup in case you lose the signal.

Happy camping!