How To:

Campervan Kitchens

Food requiring a campervan kitchen!

1. Campervan Kitchen Introduction

If you’re going to the effort of converting a van to give yourself a roof over your head whilst sleeping then why not squeeze a kitchen in too! There’s nothing much worse when you're camping than trying to cook when mosquitos or midges are out in force so...putting a kitchen in your van will be one step closer to solving all your camping problems - no more roughing it outside and you can wash up at your leisure - in warm water if you so desire! The best thing is that it’s actually possible to get small fridges and stove/sink combinations with lids you can close when not using them thereby giving you more surface space. For those who enjoy spatial rearrangement problems it’s even possible to get oven grills (although if converting a small van you might not have space for everything..!) enlarging your options for what you eat whilst camping. All of these different appliances make meal times on the road a real pleasure and give you the chance to actually enjoy eating! After the bed, we think that a small kitchen should be next on the list, whether you go small and simple, just a couple of gas rings and maybe a sink or you go all out and go for the stove, sink, fridge and oven grill the important thing is being able to escape the weather and still enjoy a reasonable meal!

An important question to think about is: depending on van size, what can be fitted into a van in terms of kitchen and if not everything then what is most important? We think that the most important things to try and squeeze into your campervan conversion are a small sink, a stove (it can be just 2 gas hobs, nothing fancy) and a fridge. The sink and stove allow you to cook and clean in a dry and warm environment and the fridge is great because it lets you keep things fresh ie. milk, cheese, meat and veg, which become particularly important when travelling in hot countries as in a hot van things go off incredibly quickly if not kept cool.

Campervan sink with lid

2. Stoves and sinks in campervans

There’s a reasonable amount of choice here. But before you decide whether you just want a hob, or a stove - sink combo you should probably think about what sort of things you’re likely to be cooking and therefore how much space you ideally require. We think that you really want to have at least 2 rings to cook on purely because even the simplest meals usually have 2 component parts. These easy meals like pasta and sauce are probably the sorts of meals you’re likely to cook when tired and hungry because they’re quick and don’t require too much thought. This being the case you need 1 ring to cook the pasta on and 1 for concocting your sauce. Having said that, the culinary masters amongst you may well want to upgrade to a 3 hob stove.

Once you’ve decided this then the next question is if you want a stove with a cover?  Stoves with covers give yourself more sideboard space when not cooking, and if the sink has a cover it can become a handy storage space when travelling.  You also need to choose whether you want a combination sink attached to the stove, or two separate items. One big advantage of stove-sink combos is that you only have to fit one slightly awkward shape into a worktop, and although this is obviously bigger than individual sink and stove units it can end up being a good way of saving space.

In terms of fitting stoves and sinks the main thing you need to think about is where the waste water will go, where the fresh water will come from and where the gas canister (for the stove) will be stored.

Campervan fridge with food for scale

3. Campervan Fridges

There are two different options for campervan fridges, both of these come in a range of sizes and both have their pros and cons associated with them.  The two main types of campervan and motorhome fridges are compressor fridges and absorption fridges.

Compressor fridge:

A compressor fridge tends to be smaller and therefore (some would say) better suited for smaller conversions like T5s, Vitos, Trafics than absorption fridges. The great things about compressor fridges is that all you need is a 12 V connection, meaning you can just wire them into a leisure battery. The advantage of this is that with a compressor fridge you don’t need to cut holes in the side of the van. So, compressor fridges like domestic ones use a compressor to circulate the refrigerant and are powered by the 12V system or can be powered via the mains using an adapter.  You can also power them using solar power panels and this can prove a good setup.

Absorption fridge:

Absorption fridges are also called 3-way fridges because they can usually work on 12V, gas, or mains.  Instead of using a compressor, they use heat to circulate the refrigerant chemicals, and because there aren't any other moving parts they tend to be quieter at night than compressor fridges.  Because of the heat generated you need to fit vents in the side of the van for this type of fridge.  Cutting holes for the vents and plumbing in to the gas isn't too hard, but is certainly more involved than a compressor fridge. Although they are a bit harder to fit, absorption fridges are particularly good for use in campervans and motorhomes because they’re generally quieter than compressor fridges, plus it’s good to be able to run them off the gas so that you don't run out of power.  Being able to run the fridge off the gas instead of the battery is particularly important if you plan to park up for any length of time between being at a campsite with a mains hookup or driving.

A well filled campervan fridge

4. Campervan fridge pros and cons

Both types of fridges are great options in campervans and both are in wide use. It is possible to get a range of sizes in both types and even though there’s a perception that absorption fridges are better for larger conversions and vice versa with compressor fridges but you can get smaller absorption and larger compressor fridges so it’s not size that matters if you want a specific type of fridge.

There are pros and cons to both types of fridge, it used to be that you had to be parked really flat for a 3-way (absorption) fridge to work but they’ve come on a lot in the last few years so this is not such an issue any more. The main reason to use absorption fridge is if you want to run it on gas, if you are reliant on a 12V power supply you will likely need either solar power or to be driving regularly to recharge battery thereby ensuring that your fridge doesn't stop working! The amount of noise made by the different types of fridges also varies, compressor fridges do make more noise than absorption fridges however absorption fridges do need ventilating out of the van.

In terms of the size of the fridge you might want the smallest we recommend is a 50L which is big enough for a couple of days worth of meat, veg, sandwich stuff, milk, beers, etc whereas if you’ve got more people or want to last for more than a couple of days between going to the shop you probably want to be looking at about an 80L fridge. Campervan fridges can go much bigger as well if you really have to feed a lot of people or are a long way from shops for a long time however the larger the fridge capacity the more space it will take up inside the van, so you’ll need to be converting a really big van if you want more than a 100L fridge capacity.