Wash one, wear one. The art of packing light.

It’s that time again. I’m flapping like an old fishwife, trying to work out what to pack for our three week adventure in Northern Spain. We’re off in less than a fortnight so we’re getting close to the off. And that means we are getting close to packing time. This year I have given each of my family a box to fill with whatever they like. They can take millions of pairs of pants and no hats if they like or they can take 10 pairs of trousers and no socks. It’s up to them really.

The reason for this is that I know my family like to overpack. They produce new outfits each day while I bum around in the same old pair of shorts for weeks on end. It’s happened before. They are crazed packers, fitting in as much as they could get away with. Until now there was no way of knowing if it would all fit in.

The only way I’d know was when we’d get to the packing the van stage and we’d suddenly find that we’d run out of room very quickly and everyone would have to reconsider what they take. The last time we headed off I sacrificed my space for dresses and tinkles and sprinkles that ensured every night was dress up for dinner night. Meanwhile, I stewed, literally.

The thing about the boxes is that I know they fit in the van. They sit on the back shelf above the Slidepod side by side in a heavenly line of neatness. If you want something you go into your box and you get it, then you close up your box again, stick it back in place and the status quo is maintained. Boom!

Am I anal? Maybe. But when it comes to packing camper vans, space is everything. In packing you must never forget that there will come a time when everything needs to be moved and stashed away so you can go to sleep. It’s kind of important. And for someone who has previously done that 65 nights on the trot, it’s safe to say it can get tedious if you take too much crap with you.

It seems that no matter how much storage you have, you’ll never have enough. For that reason I have compiled my art of packing light top ten list of campervan packing dodges.

1                     Give everyone a set amount of space to fill and don’t let them go over. Make sure they don’t over pack useless items, like millions of pairs of shoes they’ll never wear. Be draconian. Be strict.
2                     Roll up clothes as they are easier to pack and get less crumpled. But don’t be tempted to over pack and stuff your allocated space to the brim. Allow a little room for laziness.
3                     Take CDs out of their cases and put them in a wallet to save carrying loads of extra stuff. Or, better still, take an iPod (don’t forget the charger!).
4                     Decant spices and herbs and oil into smaller tins or bags to save space in your kitchen cupboard. Put butter in a kilner jar so it doesn’t go everywhere. Don’t get hung up on kitchen gadgets. A sharp knife will suffice.
5                     Invest in square plates and bowls. It’s amazing how much space they can save. Consider taking a plancha for frying as it’s cupboard shaped and doesn’t have awkward handles.
6                     Don’t waste cupboard space with duvets and pillows. You’ll need them every night anyway. Cupboards should be for clothes and kitchen stuff.
7                     Don’t overpack or it’ll be a nightmare to get it all back in. Kitchen cupboards that are over packed are a pain as you need to take everything out to get the useful stuff at the back.
8                     Take a pup tent to stash all the unnecessary stuff you don’t need day to day.
9                     Find a place for everything – agree it with the rest of them – and everything will be found in its place.
10                 Have a practice with everything in its place. Then see how it is when you put the bed out and stash it all away. Then halve it and start all over again.

Good luck!

Signed copies of The Camper Van Bible are available - along with a lot of other great camping and outdoor books - at martindorey.com


  1. I have two teenage sons who seem to think they need a suitcase each for two weeks camping in France, whilst my husband and I share a bag!

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  4. Timely post...struggling to pack for a weekend camping trip :-)

  5. I'm so spoilt. I can take as many clothes as I need. After 20 days away last year I was handwashing my pants during the rain in an outdoor sink, whilst wearing a pink hooded mac with the sleeves rolled up (not a pretty sight). My resourceful husband ran a washing line inside the van and they dried overnight. Then the glorious Portuguese sun came out the next morning.

  6. We love having a "wardrobe" to hang clothes, it means we don't have any extra bags to move around at night. A cargo net on the back of the front bench seat is really handy for holding the outside table and chairs.

    I'm definitely going to look into square plates and a plancha? thanks, great post :)

  7. Great idea about the square plates ...will give it a go. Would like to offer a tip in exchange ...if you have somewhere where you can hook on a stretched bungee strap it is great for hanging up damp towels/t-shirts/jackets to dry while you are driving. Best across a window. Have a great day!

  8. I'm pretty bad a space saving when I go away by myself for a weekend, but somehow I can be very minimal when my wife and daughter join me - I think I go into a minimal mode so that they don't have to as much. I'm going to get myself a plancha (hob plate/griddle). I use travel towels as they dry quickly and take up the space of a flannel.

  9. There is also a fine line between space saving and being comfortable. If members of the family feel they are suffering then the planning of future trips is compromised. Packing a few extra pairs of shoes and handbags always seems to balance the argument ;)


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