What Is In A Camper Van? Complete Guide For Beginners

Cooking inside a camper van

If you have never been inside or even seen inside a camper van, you are in for a real treat. A camper van is somewhat of a mini home on wheels. It’s similar to any other RV, only usually a much smaller version. Depending on the type of camper van, there are different layouts and features that you might find.

Most camper vans include all of the amenities that make for a comfortable living environment. This includes a bed or multiple beds, lounging area, dinette, kitchen, storage areas, running water, electricity, and some even have a full bathroom with a hot water shower.

A living space like this will allow you to live comfortably and allow you to maintain the level of convenience that you are used to.

After looking at lots of different vans and owning my own camper van for a while now, I’d like to share with you some of the areas that you might expect to be included in nearly any camper van that you might find on the market.

Living Area

Sitting in camper van watching TV

Just like other types of RVs, camper vans contain a living area inside that allows you to relax and enjoy your time. This might include a seating area such as a fold-out couch or other creative, space-saving solution. These small vans often make use of the front passenger and driver seats. Swiveling these two seats around so that they face the living area of the van allows for two very comfortable seats. These often end up being the most popular places to relax. Although I only have one swivel seat, it’s the most comfortable seat in the whole van.

Oftentimes, vans have living areas that are converted into other spaces when not being used as such. This is often found in dinettes and couch areas that fold down to become a bed. This may be the primary bed but it’s often an extra space that can be used as a second bed for children or visitors.


View from camper van bed looking out the back

The primary bed in a van is generally a larger bed that is similar in size to what you would find in your home. This could be queen size or even larger in some vans. The primary bed might also fold out from a seating area which makes you able to kill two birds with one stone so to speak. Since a van has a small footprint, you have to make use of every square inch that you can. Having your bed to fold down and become a dining area or other type of area makes sense. However, this is often inconvenient since it is something that has to be put up and stored away on a regular basis.

Oftentimes, when you convert your bed to a dining area or other space, the bed linens have to be removed and stored in another location. This takes up additional space so a lot of people see this as a bad setup. Many vans contain a bed that remains set up at all times. No matter the type of bed, it’s definitely an important part of a camper van and all of them will contain one. This is the one area that you must have so it stands to reason that the bed is often the primary piece of furniture in the van and everything else is built around it.

Dining Area

Similar to the bed, the dining area is another important part of a camper van. You have to have a place to sit and eat if you expect to have a true home on wheels. This is included in nearly any camper van. Some are permanent, similar to the bed, while some can be transformed into something else in order to become another type of living space.

There are some ingenious designs on the market that allow for more space when not in use but once the dining area is set up, it becomes a spacious place for you to enjoy meals, play games, work, or just sit and relax with family and friends.

One such innovation is the Lagun mount that allows you to swing a table into the location that you need no matter where you are. Once you are done, it can easily be moved out of the way or even be taken out of the mount and stored somewhere else. This makes for an easy dining table setup that allows you to have sufficient space in the van. Some people also make use of a mountable table that inserts into a hole in the floor. Similar to the Lagun mount, these can be removed when not in use in order to save space.

Learn about how I integrated the Lagun mount into my camper van design.


Shower and toilet inside a camper van

Perhaps one of the most debated topics on camper van living is the inclusion or exclusion of a bathroom. While this can be a necessity for some, others would rather do without it in favor of saving the space. Some people are just fine with using public restrooms and showers when needed. This is especially true of those who often stay in campgrounds and other places that have restrooms available to use.

I, for one, would not want to be without a bathroom in my camper van. Even for emergencies, it’s great to have an option in your van so that you can use it when nature calls rather than having to rush to some public location. Camper vans can be found with and without bathrooms and some of them can be customized so that you can have a minimal amount of bathroom space or you can make it a luxury item within your van.

As mentioned above, this is debated by camper van owners about whether it is needed or not but it ultimately comes down to personal preference. It’s available if you need it but if you don’t, you can certainly find camper vans that don’t include any kind of bathroom, including a toilet or shower. Some vans have a built-in, dedicated shower or a wet bath while others have an outdoor shower that can be used as needed. This kind of setup allows you to save space but still have a shower that can be used.

For a toilet, a cassette toilet is often the type of choice since they are small and easy to work with. A simple cassette toilet gets the job done and allows you to have an emergency way to do your business.


A kitchen is another necessity if you will be spending a lot of time in your van. Most vans have a space that is dedicated to cooking, washing dishes, cleaning, and just doing odd jobs that require a counter space to work with. Where this varies, is the size and features. Some camper vans will have built-in stoves, sinks, and cooktops while others may not have any of these features and only utilize portable camp stoves.

This is what I chose to do in my van. I chose not to have any kind of built-in cooking unit. Instead, I use my portable camp stove that fits easily on my countertop but can also be used outside my van when the situation calls for it. I find this to be the perfect setup for me but this will vary amongst others.

No matter what type it is, nearly any camping van has a way to cook meals. They are usually designed with space-saving features including flip-down faucets, sink covers that serve a purpose of extra counter space, flip out counter extensions, and sink sprayers that can be pulled outside the van. Kitchen drawers and doors are often found so that you can conveniently store items out of the way.


Storage cabinets in van

You’ll often find a lot of cabinetry in camper vans since it is important to have as much storage as possible. This helps to keep your belongings up and out of the way. Since you are working with such little space inside a van, it can get cluttered if you don’t have cabinets of some type to keep things neat. Most vans will offer lots of storage and make use of every square inch of the space. There is usually plenty of storage for multiple people to store all of their belongings.

Whether it is overhead cabinets or other types, camper vans are usually not lacking in this department.

Garage Storage

Garage storage is usually the area in the rear of the van where other accessories are stored. These are items that might usually be stored in a garage in a home and this might include things like tools, bikes, hoses, cords, and other items you might need on your trip. Depending on the layout, it could just be a cubby hole underneath the bed or dining area in the back. It could also be a large space where large items can be stored.

Garage storage in a camper van

As you can see in the picture of my garage, I have a large space under my bed where lots of items can be stored. I often put my bike here when I travel. Tools and other items that aren’t needed regularly stay in this space so that I always have them but they won’t be in the way inside the main living area. This is a great space to keep items that you might need but you want them to be out of the way. Be careful in spaces like this though. Be sure to keep it clean and neat and easy to get to things. Otherwise, it could become a big messy toy box full of junk.

Air Conditioning / Heating

Air Conditioning

Some camper vans are equipped with air conditioning and this can be a welcoming feature to have in the summertime. Most of the premium models that you purchase will have a rooftop air conditioning unit installed. The problem is that these require a lot of electricity to run. For those who boondock and use mostly solar energy, it won’t be useable. Air conditioning usually requires that you are connected to shore power for them to have enough electricity to run.

Staying in a campground or finding a location that has hookups is the only option in the summertime if you are looking to be able to use this feature and get relief from the summertime heat.


For heating, a camper van will usually have some type of gas heating that utilizes propane or another type of gas. There are also options available on the market that utilize diesel and can tie into the main diesel fuel line of the van. Some camper vans may not have a heater and may rely on using a portable type of heater such as a ceramic space heater or something like a Mr. Heater type of product that uses propane.

Mini space heater

In my van conversion, I chose not to install any type of heating because I live in a fairly mild climate area and do not travel to very cold areas. I have a portable space heater that I use as needed when I am plugged up to electricity.

Running Water

Running water is a necessity and most camper vans are equipped with a fully capable plumbing system. Similar to any RV, the plumbing system can be connected to a water source where available or they may utilize freshwater holding tanks that must be filled up regularly. This is often the case for those who prefer to Boondock and are not often in a situation where they can connect to utility services.


Solar power in camper van

People who drive camper vans are often the type who want to get away from it all. Since a camper van is nimble and easy to drive anywhere, one can often find a camper van traveler off the beaten path in a possible boondocking situation. The electricity situation in a camper van often relies on solar power. With solar panels typically mounted on the roof of the van, it’s easy to have a system capable of maintaining the power needs of even the most power-consuming folks.

While solar often provides enough energy as needed as long as the sun is out, camper vans are also equipped with shore power connections. These are the same as any RV would have and can be used in campgrounds and other locations where utility services are provided. Electricity is an important part and camper vans are often well-equipped in this area.

Other Features


Some of the other features you might find in a van or other small RV include entertainment.

  • There is often a TV mounted, and even though it’s usually a small one, it may be mounted on a swivel mount and can be viewed from different areas of the living space.
  • Surround sound speakers. Some of the higher end vans may be outfitted with a higher-end speaker system that can be heard throughout the van. The TV will be connected to this system so that you have a full immersion sound system when watching movies.
  • Some vans make use of a small projector which is more space-saving. The projector screen can be pulled down when needed rather than having a TV that is always mounted.

Either way, vans are often equipped with entertaining features that can help you get through boredom at certain times during your trip.

Pop-Up Roof

Not every camper van has an interior that is tall enough for standing or walking around upright. For these, a pop-up roof is often used to add additional space to the living area. A pop-up roof works great when you want to have a small, inconspicuous van that opens up into an impressive living space.

Learn more about camper vans with pop-up roofs.

Conversion Van Interior

Conversion van layout

While it’s common to see most of the features discussed in this article in manufactured Class B motorhomes, conversion vans may differ. Since people convert vans into campers, they often only include features that they want. You may or may not find all of these features in a van that has been customized by an individual.

On the other hand, you will also see some truly amazing layouts in conversion vans that include lots of features that make manufactured Class B RVs seem lame. Conversion vans are great because the choice is in your hands since you are completely customizing it from the ground up.


Think of a camper van as something that allows you to live comfortably but also enjoy being able to travel more places. It has everything you need inside of it but it’s small enough to be able to drive and park almost anywhere you wish.

A simple answer for what’s in a camper van would be, all the essentials needed for living comfortably. Living or traveling in a van like this will provide you with spaces to cook, sleep, relax, and enjoy your stay no matter where you are. It can be quite amazing to see some of the comforts included in some of the luxury camper vans on the market.

There are also basic camper vans that provide a basic level of comfort. However, the luxurious ones provide a level of comfort above and beyond what you might be used to. It’s truly a way to enjoy camping in a luxurious state. Even a small, basic van can be a luxury if you are used to other small camping setups like a tent, or small trailer.

The beauty of the camper van is that you have all of these amenities in a living space that can be easily driven from place to place. All of these necessities are included in a van that takes up little space, can be driven anywhere, and allows you to enjoy a comfortable and restful experience no matter where you go.

Dan Collins

I consider myself an outdoor enthusiast. I love to travel and go to places that most people don't get a chance to go. I want to see it all and live life to the fullest while I'm alive. My camper van is helping me to do just that. I write about my experiences to help inspire others to do the same.

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