Packing (plus a few green tips!)
Your basic packing list
Packing lists are very personal but to get you started, here is what most travellers should need. Customize it (and don’t hesitate to add your must-haves in the comments below!).
- Identity and travel documents: passport, driving licence (and international driving licence, if applicable), visa, work permit, etc. If you’re spending your time abroad travelling you will likely have them with you all the time, but it’s easy to forget one of these documents if you’ve settled somewhere and you’re just taking a side trip during your WHV. Remember that police may ask for ID and immigration status during a routine traffic stop.
- Sleeping gear: mattress, pillow, bedsheets and pillowcases, blanket, sleeping bag, sleeping pad, tent, etc. Make sure to check average nighttime temperatures. For instance, in the Australian outback, it’s very hot during the day but nights are chilly. Make sure to bring extra blankets.
- Cooking equipment and supplies: stove, fuel, cookware (cast-iron pots and pans, cutlery, plates and bowls, glasses), can opener, colander, matches or lighter, grill, etc. You will also need basic food supplies, like canned food—read Shopping, cooking and eating for more details.
- Kitchen cleaning products: dish soap, wash basin, towels.
- Food storage: boxes, bottles, containers, cooler.
- Picnic table and foldable chairs: some camp sites offer tables and seating space (and in North America and Australia, there’s often a BBQ available) but not all of them are well equipped. If you don’t have enough room to sit inside your vehicle, bring a foldable table and chairs.
- Several large water jugs: especially in hot countries like Australia.
- Garbage bags: don’t litter, always pack it back!
- Personal care supplies: toilet paper, toothbrush and toothpaste, soap, shampoo, wipes (for when you can’t shower!), washcloth, bucket, solar shower and bug repellent.
- First-aid kit: bandages, over-the-counter painkillers, anti-venom (check what you should bring depending on the local fauna) and other drugs for common health issues (antidiarrheal, motion sickness, etc.
- Sun protection: sunglasses, sunscreen, after-sun lotion, window covers, hat or cap.
- Navigation gear: paper maps, GPS, phone apps, compass…
- Flashlight: solar models and headlamps are best. You don’t want to fumble around in the campervan after sunset to find stuff you need!
- Power inverter and charger: to plug on the dashboard and charge your devices while you drive.
- Car maintenance basics: engine coolant and oil, windshield wiper fluid, spare tire, full jerrycan of fuel (only if you’re driving across a long, empty stretch of road, check local restrictions regarding how much gas you can carry), small toolbox, pump, towing rope.
- Clothes: sturdy shoes, comfy clothes, dirty laundry bags, clothes line, clothespins, sewing kit.
- Portable fire extinguisher: to consider, if local laws allow it in a vehicle.
Where to shop
Here are a few big-box stores where you’ll find generic supplies:
- Kmart in Australia and in New Zealand
- The Warehouse in New Zealand
- Big W in Australia
- Canadian Tire in Canada (and Dollarama for basic tableware, bowls, clothespins, anything plastic made in China)
- Walmart in the US, in Canada and in Argentina
Keep in mind minimalism is the key to a successful road trip. Less gear means better campervan space optimization—you’ll save on gas too with a lighter vehicle!
Tips for a green(er) road trip
Okay, driving a campervan may not sound like a very earth-friendly way to travel. However, it’s the best way to reach remote areas and you can minimize your carbon footprint if you follow these simple tips:
- Focus on producing less waste. Take a reusable bag when you go to the supermarket, buy bulk products or choose products with minimal packaging, avoid single-use products, etc.
- “Pack it in, pack it out”—pack out all trash when you leave a place. If there are no garbage cans or recycle bins, keep your waste until you find a place to dispose it properly.
- Avoid buying bottled water. Opt for a water purification system (e.g. tablets) and fill containers with drinkable water when available. Bonus—it’s cheaper!
- Use biodegradable soap when doing your washing, bathing or cleaning in rivers or lakes.
- Dispose of wastewater properly. There are designed places for that!
- If you go to the bathroom in the woods or in the back country follow instructions (i.e. digging a hole or using a human waste disposal). Always avoid going close to a water source.
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