Packing for a Road Trip

Vanlife packing

After building out our van and getting it roadworthy, Sarah and I had to decide what to bring and what to leave behind. This turned out to be trickier than either of us imagined. Packing for a road trip is a delicate balance between too much and too little. We wanted to have everything that we genuinely needed for 8 months on the road without burying our tiny home with stuff. Here are a few of the big supplies that we packed for our trip:

Vanlife kitchen
Our fully stocked kitchen


  • Coleman 2-burner camping stove
  • Jet boil for heating water
  • Pots, pans, and cooking utensils
  • Cups, mugs, silverware, plates, and bowls
  • Cooler with nonperishable food and drink


  • 1 plastic bin of clothes each
  • Shoes, hiking, boots, and scandals
  • Travel kit for personal hygiene
  • Small library


  • Backpacking Backpacks 2x
  • Sleeping bags + pads 2x
  • 2 person tent
  • Water purifier, camel packs, rope, etc.


  • Laptops, IPad, and phones
  • Cameras


  • 2x Longboard skateboards
  • 2x Skimboards
  • Camping Hammock
  • Slackline
Vanlife Library
Our humble library
Vanlife kitchen and food
Looking into the van from the back. The kitchen is on the left side and food storage is on the right side.

Initial Problems

During our first stop in Joshua Tree National Park, Sarah and I found out that finding space for all our stuff was going to be a problem. Almost immediately we started having trouble keeping things organized and accessible. We started to talk about ways to free up some extra space inside the van.

While building the van I had considered adding a storage compartment on the roof, but decided that it wouldn’t be necessary. Now some extra storage on the roof seemed like the perfect way to get the infrequently used items out of our way. Fortunately we had a few free days in Solvang, CA to find a solution.

Extra Storage

Roof Carrier Van
Our new roof carrier has plenty of space and still fits in front of the solar panels!

Our friend Paula had an old roof container sitting around her yard that hadn’t been used in years. Before buying anything new, we wanted to have a look and see if we could get a second-hand carrier for cheap.

Paula’s roof carrier was a fiberglass container that opens like a clamshell. It was about the size of the trunk on a car, so we could count on it fitting just about everything that had been cluttering our living space. The roof carrier seemed compatible with our van and was big enough, so we decided to buy it on the spot.


After a thorough cleaning and some new weather stripping, we were ready to put our new roof carrier on the van. I used some adjustable straps and parachute cord to secure the carrier in front of our solar panels. Then we got to packing.

Almost all the bulky items – tent, sleeping bags, skateboards and skimboards – now moved up to the roof. The difference inside our van was like night and day. The plywood chest that had been packed to the brim now had enough space to store our backpacks, cameras, and tripods. The longboard skateboards that almost had to be left behind were now out of the way, but still available if we needed them. Best of all was the feeling of order and organization inside the van. Living in such a confined space will always take some adjusting, but it’s so much easier when theres a little room to stretch out.

Inside camper van
The inside our van after repacking with the roof carrier. The skateboards and skimboards are gone and the backpacks that were hanging from the seat backs have moved into the plywood trunk.


4 thoughts on “Packing for a Road Trip

  1. Well, you would have lost me at the one plastic bin for clothes. My shoe collection would have been sobbing at having been left behind. That being said, this is actually pretty amazing. One year from now you will be prime candidates for a “little house”. So very glad the longboards did not have to go …. looking forward to more blogs as your adventure continues.

    1. I think that deciding which clothes and shoes to part with was a little more difficult for Sarah than it was for me. I could have probably do this whole trip with just sneaks and flip flops :). We didn’t budget for stops at upscale places, so we both knew that it didn’t make sense to bring more than 1-2 dress shoes and outfits. It’s definitely preparing us for simple living!

      Thanks for reading!

      1. Matt I can’t imagine the time that went into this. You’ve got to have a very strong relationship to pull this off. Godspeed.

        1. Mom,

          It was nothing. I obviously put this all together so you could keep an eye on what I’m up to! Thanks for 28 years of love and support. Looking forward to the Connecticut leg of this adventure!

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