Building a kitchen in your campervan will make van life much easier. It may seem daunting to fit your entire kitchen into your van conversion, but with some strategic planning and purging of anything except the essentials, it’s not a difficult task. Your kitchen doesn’t need to be anything extravagant, you’ll just want something that can at least provide quick and easy access to your kitchen appliances. Your van kitchen will ideally need space for a stove and/or oven, sink, fridge, and storage for cooking accessories and utensils.
In this chapter, we highlight numerous DIY kitchen layout options for any type of camper van. The size of your specific van will play a big role in the layout of your kitchen, so you’ll need to plan accordingly. Another big factor to keep in mind is whether you will be primarily cooking inside or outside. If you’re traveling to climates with inclement weather, cooking inside is a very nice luxury, and it’s far more stealthy. When cooking inside, keep in mind that you’ll likely want to keep a window cracked.
DIY Camper Van Kitchen Ideas
Side Door Slide-Out Van Kitchen
This is my favorite kitchen design for low top vans that are shorter in length. I like this pull-out option for low top vans in particular because you can stand up to cook without hitting your head. And if you wanted to cook inside as well, you could place the stove on the inside countertop.
Back Door Slide-Out Kitchen
This is a great design if you have a van short in length. It allows you to have more room towards the front of your van for a longer bed, more storage, or whatever else you need space for. The only downside to this design is you’re required to cook outside, so unless you live in a warm climate with minimal inclement weather, this may not be your best choice.
Basic Materials for a Slide-Out Kitchen:
Drawer Runners – You will need 2 heavy duty drawer runners for sliding from under the bed. You will need to purchase more if you want them for pull-out drawers.
Birch Plywood – We recommend purchasing a large piece of plywood and cutting it up into whichever size pieces are needed to fit into your van.
Hinges – If you want to have a sink, we recommend using hinges to allow the sink to lay flat when not in use.
Knobs – You may also want to purchase knobs or handles for the kitchen cupboards.
Kitchen Parallel to Front Seats
This option is great for vans shorter in length. The downside to this option is you will not be able to access the front seats from within the van. You could, however, split the kitchen area into two sections to make a walkway to the front seats. For the van pictured, they will need to exit the van to access the front seats anyway because they have 3 seats.
Kitchen Parallel to Side Walls
This option is best for high tops and sprinter vans because you’ll want to have a clear walking space to the front seats.
Split Kitchen Design
She has her sink and stove parallel to the walls and her fridge next to the side door facing the back of the van. This is a great design if you have a large fridge or want a little extra cabinet space under your sink or stove.
Side Door Kitchen
This is a good option for optimizing space in your van, but you will need to be careful when closing the doors because it will cause things to fly around if not secured well. As you can see this is used on a VW van. Keep in mind that this will not work on a sprinter van because they have sliding side doors. However, there are numerous other cargo vans that have doors like this. This may also work on the back doors of your van.
This isn’t the ideal kitchen option for a van conversion because you’re forced to outdoor use only, but if you have a small van, it may be your only choice.
Basic Materials for a Slide-Out Kitchen:
A magnetic knife bar is great because it frees up countertop space that a standard knife block would take up. This knife bar is made of some serious magnetic power so you don’t have to worry about your knifes flying off. And you can, of course, use the knife bar for other things besides knives like scissors or a whisk.
Every time you hit a bump in the road you will hear the metal utensils rattling. Metal is certainly more effective, so you’ll have to weigh the pros and cons for this one. A decent option is something like bamboo. It gets the job done and is easy to clean.
Using materials like glass or ceramic will make a rattling noise when you hit a bump in the road and can easily scratch or break.
This will keep things from sliding and rattling around in your drawers.
I’m sure you’ve seen these fruit/veggie hammocks in camper vans before. They definitely a staple of van life. They’re also very practical and pretty dang cute!
Mug straps are another staple of van life. They make it so your mugs aren’t in a cabinet rattling against each other in a cabinet. There are tons of these on Etsy, and they’re pretty easy to DIY.
A lot of sauces come in glass containers which will rattle around if placed in cabinets. You’ll be better off transferring these sauces into plastic containers.
You will almost certainly be drying your dishes by hand, which is why a towel that absorbs more water and dries quicker is a must.
These are just another thing that will rattle around and potentially crack in your van while driving. They might not be as classy but your wine will still be delicious.
If you’re cooking greasy foods in your van, you won’t want to get grease all over your blankets, sheets, clothes, etc.
Collapsible anything is great when you’re living in a van. Space is sparse so you need to make room whenever possible.