Camping is a luxury upgrade from backpacking, and camper/caravanning is a luxury upgrade from camping. But, it isn't quite as simple as that because there are two tiers to the campervan holiday.
One involves a vehicle such as the Volkswagen Grand California or Fiat Ducato Base Campervan. Both are great, the Fiat, in particular, is, for lack of a better word, awesome. Yet both are predictably expensive.
At the other end of the scale, you have a simple and affordable van such as an aged Ford Transit or Toyota Hiace that has undergone DIY modifications to turn it into a mobile cabin. This is the area of the market we are focused on here because frankly, there is not much to add to the top-end campervans short of a contemplation zone and robot masseur. Despite this, we do have an article recommending some more luxurious campervan accessories.
What we have done here is put together a collection of nifty but useful camping gadgets for basic campervans, or indeed those taking their car on a camping road trip. Some of our picks are more functional than others, such as the Survivor Filter Pro, while the Wacaco Nanopresso is very much a tiny piece of luxury.
The best camping gadgets for campervans:
Survivor Filter Pro
Essential water purifier
One of the camping essentials is a biggie when travelling around remote places: water. Whether you're staying in your campervan or parked up and gone on a bit of hiking, trekking, or wild camping, the Survival Filter Pro is a water filtration system that'll give you unlimited access to clean drinking water.
The device's filters are proven to remove 99.9% of bacteria and viruses and reduce the presence of heavy metals, like mercury. Its small size means that it's easy to pack and transport, too. It'll filter 500ml of water every minute, and the hose allows for filtration straight from a wild water source. It's a simple, quick to use, and a trusted friend for our expeditions.
what3words - Free safety app
Best safety app
What3words is one of the most powerful safety tools you can access, and it's free. The app has broken down the entire world into 3 x 3-meter squares, each tagged with a unique three-word combination. In the case of an accident, these words can be passed onto emergency services, allowing your location to be told with extreme accuracy. This allows you to avoid having to repeat complex coordinates in high-stress situations. For example, the peak of Ben Nevis becomes "marble.messaging.hacksaw", rather than 56.7969u00b0 N, 5.0036u00b0 W. Do note: your smartphone will require activated GPS/Location to work with this app.
TP-Link M7000 4G LTE MiFi
Staying connected aboard your camper is entirely optional. For those who wish to do so this egg-sized device offers a good solution. Insert a SIM card loaded with data and you can connect up to 10 devices to it. It's password secure. I have one of these and it works very well indeed, though the battery life of eight hours is a little optimistic.
Gerber Folding Spade
The Gerber Folding Shovel is a great tool to have on hand at camp, allowing you to stoke fires, clear debris, and dig latrines (aka. toilet holes) in more rural locations. This shovel's carbon steel construction makes it robust enough to handle any situation, and also doubles as a hammer. Plus, it comes with a stow bag. Camping is all about being economical, so anything that has more than one function is a winner.
Ring Automotive RTC6000
Best tyre inflator
Due to its power and versatility, this is the tyre inflator you'll want to take on your campervan travels. It runs off a 12V plug; inflates tyres quickly (13" tyre in two minutes); weighs just two kilos; has an auto-stop function; is a power bank; and comes with 10 adaptors for air beds etc. Ring Automotive is a highly reputable name and this unit will last the distance.
Goal Zero Nomad 10 Solar Panel
Top-rated travel solar panel
Goal Zero is a very cool company that delivers not only brilliant power solutions, but is itself powered by a great ethos. The Nomad 10 provides 10 Watts of power but weighs a mere 0.51kg. It is foldable and you can easily attach it to your pack if you go on a walk so it charges devices as you hike. But the Nomad 10 also has a kickstand to use if you need it when parked up too.
It's no fragile thing either - the Nomad 10 is durable as designed specifically to cope with camping conditions. Charges via USB and can charge a phone in two or three hours in full sun.
NOCO GB40 Boost Plus 12V Portable Jump Starter
Best power pack
When away on a trip in your campervan you want a power pack that can not only charge your devices but also jump-start your van if you need it to. The Boost Plus GB40 from one of our favourite brands in this field, NOCO, can do just that. It can jump-start petrol engines up to 6.0-litres or diesel engines up to 3.0-litres.
Additionally, the GB40 will charge devices via USB and be charged by USB too. It also features a flashlight that has an SOS flash function, should you need it. The GB40 is small at about 17cm x 8cm and only weighs about one kilogram. It's tough too, rated at IP65.
Biolite CampStove 2+
Best overall gadget
The Biolite CampStove 2 is a seriously smart piece of campsite technology, with every feature linking and aiding another. Fuelled by sticks and twigs, the stove provides the ideal stove for cooking up a fireside feast. Excess heat is reclaimed by the attached heat probe and converted into electricity, which can be used to power a USB device. Unused power charges an internal battery pack for later use.
Some of the power is diverted to internal fans, which stoke the flames and ensure optimum fuel efficiency, and reduces smoke output by 95%. On the side, three LED gauges feedback to the user on fire, fan, and power performance.
Wacaco Nanopresso Portable Espresso Maker
The smallest coffee maker
Arguably the only problem with the great outdoors is the absence of coffee shops. This problem is solved with the Nanopresso, as it allows delicious espresso coffee to tasted at base camp with ease. It uses ground coffee, hot water, and internal pressure-creating pistons, the compact device delivers the perfect hillside coffee in a matter of seconds.
It's small too, fitting into a backpack's bottle pocket and weighing 336g. And it comes in a number of colours too.
Thermacell MR300 Mosquito & Midge Protector
Insect spray alternative
With no flame and no harmful chemicals, the MR300 will successfully repel flying insects like mosquitos, gnats, and midges, preventing them from becoming a blight to your camp. The gadget uses a small butane cartridge to heat a pad dowsed in an odourless natural insect repellent, found in chrysanthemums. The area that's affected is around 4.5m by 4.5m. It'll run for 12 hours, and can be connected to a pack if required.
Vango Compact Gas Stove
Small and efficient cooker
A larger cooker is a nice luxury if you have the space. For a space-saving but potent cooker that you can also take hiking, this little Vango unit is superb. It locks onto the top of a gas canister and provides the support arms for a saucepan or mess tin. It only weighs 103g but can boil one litre of water in about four minutes, and slips easily into a backpack pocket. Just make sure you use it somewhere sheltered because a breeze will impact its effectiveness.
Matador Pocket Blanket 2.0
Best mini picnic blanket
The ground is a damp and chilly place to sit without protection, but carrying a big old picnic blanket is a waste of space. Thankfully, the Matador Pocket Blanket is here, offering a pocket-friendly, lightweight, and waterproof nylon blanket for any situation. When it's unfolded, it'll comfortably seat two people. Four corner pockets allow for the use of natural anchors like sand or pebbles, and there are also some small tethering pegs included.
Helinox Chair One
The Helinox Chair One is ideal for camping because of its extremely lightweight design, which incorporates light, but very strong, steel tubes to build up the frame of the chair. The seat itself sits very close to the ground, which also helps to reduce the amount of material needed in the construction. The result is an item that folds down to a small, hike-friendly package and weighs only 960g.
Petzl Noctilight Headlamp Case
Turns Petzl headlamps into a regular lamp
If you've got a Petzl headtorch (if not, why not? They're great) then you'll want the Noctilight. A headtorch, headband and all, fits inside to become a lantern with a diffused light. The soft-touch case allows the torch to be fully operated, and the elasticated hook and fabric loop allows for various tent or backpack attachment possibilities. This is a simple and highly versatile purchase.
PacSafe Travelsafe 3L Anti-Theft Portable Safe
This travel safe and bag hybrid provides peace of mind when camping. The material is reinforced with steel mesh, and the stainless steel cable both fastens and anchors the bag, with the help of a three-digits combo lock. We use it for all sorts, including watches, cash, Kindles, smartphones, and tablets. The Pacsafe Travelsafe isn't just useful for campsites, but any public place where your attention isn't 100% dedicated to your valuables u2013 beaches, parks, airports, and hotels. This is the smallest of five sizes going up to 25 litres.
Garmin eTrex 10 Outdoor Handheld GPS Unit
Superb basic GPS unit
A handheld GPS is the ideal gadget if you ditch the campervan to go on a hike. The eTrex 10 is a simple but highly effective GPS unit, bearing a global basemap and geocaching in order give you the necessary information regarding position and terrain. IPX7-rated and up to 25 hours battery life on two AAs.
GOTOP Portable Toilet
Admittedly, we haven't put this to the test yet. If standing out does concern you, this commode of sorts is available in camo colour. The weight limit is an impressive 150 kilos but don't use it on boggy ground otherwise your throne may sink.