View original topic: How do you pack to reduce clutter? (packing accessories) Page: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8  Next
RHMoore Mon Aug 23, 2010 7:05 am

I was wondering what kind of suitcases or luggage folks use when travelling. I have an 85 Wolfsburg Westy Weekender, and I noticed that we (my wife &I and 2 kids) were moving suitcases and bags around the whole trip. What containers do you use for food, and do you use a centralized place for dirty laundry? How do you minimize clutter? We figure that everyone else out there has dealt with this issue and has figured out ways that work. Perhaps people could post pictures on how they pack their vans and what containers folks use. Alternately, do you purchase waterproof bags and store them outside? Anyone have a good method for handling several pairs of shoes cluttering the floor?

When sleeping, we ended up putting most of the luggage on the 2 front seats and placed 2 suitcases under the lower bed. We put extra sheets, blankets, and pillows in the cabinets so we could pull them out in the middle of the night.

When driving, most of the luggage was placed in the back. The 2 boys unrolled their sleeping bags and stored them flat on the fully extended upper bunk. With the bed extended, I found it tough to lift the top, but the boys could do it.

Thank you and best regards,

ShootingFish Mon Aug 23, 2010 7:18 am

We have a Mountain Smith 4 Pack Cube that is pretty cool. Now, there are only two of us, but each person gets their own back for clothes and personal stuff, and then we have another bag that we just keep packed with linens and the like and then the 4th bag is for whatnot... It is a really slick system and can be had from Sierra Trading Post for like $47 on one of their nearly daily sales.


climberjohn Mon Aug 23, 2010 7:31 am


This is great topic and I am sure you will get a lot of useful responses we all can learn from. I will toss out my 2 bits (I have a westy full camper).

This is more for trips of less then 1 week. Full time van dwellers have different needs.

1) Minimize your clothes and esp. extraneous kid related stuff. My family of four each has a small gymbag sized duffel for core items.

2) Most all games and electronic toys/stuff stays at home. Kids need to learn (I feel) that camping means a different sort of nature-inspired self entertainment when on the road.

3) All dirty laundry goes on a sturdy pillowcase with a sewn drawstring at the top.

4) Shoes . . . still have not figured this bugger out. Someone posted here recently of a crafty solution that I recall involved cutting up and resewing a shoe storage bag from Ikea that was then installed horizontally along the bench seat. Sounds great, I hope they repost it here. Again, minimize what you bring. 4 people times more than 2 pairs of shoes get out of control in a hurry.

5) Food storage: Ikea makes some nice cube shaped, stackable, locking kid clear plastic storage boxes that are the ticket for smaller food items. Recommended.

6) If you really need more room, a rack system and a rooftop cargo box works great. If you are not Superman, you'll want a set of poptop shocks to lift it. Search this site for 'poptop shocks", sold methinks from member Jack Bombay. Get the heavy duty version. It's a very useful mod that many here love.

Hope this helps!

Zero419 Mon Aug 23, 2010 7:45 am

We take way to much stuff. Family of four.
Can't see getting rid of any of it though.
We have a spread sheet a mile long that we print out before every trip and cross off stuff as we pack.
We just added those antigravity chairs to the pile, they weigh a ton and take up a lot of room. oh well.
Last year we added a HUGE roof top box to hold most everything.
Almost everything fits in the back and on the roof.
Only thing in galley while moving is the canopy (again, huge with two awnings) and (once again HUGE) cooler.
Our food goes where the fridge once was, I put shelving in that cabinet.
Our cloths go on the front seats.
bench folded into bench by day, bed by night.
Sink/stove always open so nothing gets piled on top of it.
top bunk holds lots of stuff until bed time.

In a week and a half my wife and I will be going to a music fest, 4 days no kids. We are going to have tons of room!

wyomingriviera Mon Aug 23, 2010 7:55 am

These things are handy for food:

For refrigerated stuff, I bought a hitch haul platform so's I can stick the cooler outside the bus. That way I got more room for shoes.

pnwkayaker Mon Aug 23, 2010 8:39 am

We go out camping with 2 small kids. We have a full camper, however, me and my wife used to be backpackers and camp out of our kayaks, so we still like to minimize clutter.

1 - in the cargo area outside at the front we store the 4 chairs.
2 - in the closet go all the clothes for everybody. We even have space for a sleeping bag (you don't need to carry a full wardrobe, usually it's just the kids that need lots of clothes)
3 - in the cargo area behind the bench seat we have two Action Packer boxes (24 gall) to store the Coleman propane stove, water bottles, extra propane canisters (we like to cook outside if possible), wood, grill, and whole lot of extra stuff (like rain boots and such). This is probably the biggest improvement we've done to minimize clutter.
4 - I have two small plastic toolboxes with all my tools and spares that sit between the 2 Action Packers
5 - Lastly, all the books and toys of the kids are stored in a box that sits between their car seats.

UPDATE: oops, corrected the actual size of the Action Packers, they're 24 gallons each, not 8 gallons

aswah Mon Aug 23, 2010 8:44 am

I echo a lot of Climber John's sentiments...

Food, I usually pre-prepare as much as possible at home, i.e. make an Asian stir fry base that is shelf stable, precook and smoke ribs then put in vacuum pack bags that I can reheat in a pot of water then use water for cleaning and/or coffee/tea etc. I use a lot of vacuum pack bags that require low space in fridge and take up low space in garbage (pack in/pack out). The rest of my food storage is usually in recycle glass jars. Pretty much they go from y shelves at home to the shelves below the sink (flour, sugar, rice, beans)...

I use a Thule box on week long trip and have a dry bag that we fill with dirty clothes. I generally wear clothes two days when camping. The thule box is filled with the bulk of our stuff as I HATE having too much crap in the bus while camping. I put a twelve bottle wine storage in the bottom of the closet that holds, guess what, wine/beer. Books go on the shelf in closet. I usually have a backpack full of cameras, lenses, computer, etc.

Things like large boules of bread end up in a cargo net that stretches behind the stove top. Back up water/gas go on our cargo carrier that attaches to our bumper (thanx gw) and tables and chairs get stuck in the luggage rack on top... next to our grey water tank.

My laptop has twenty or thirty movies loaded on it for evening entertainment... though I have to be honest it is hard to watch a movie/documentary when the stars are shining bright.

After years of camping/backpacking I learned I am happiest with less stuff and less clutter.

Hope this helps

Here's our packing list:


o 3 prong thingy
o Batteries
o Camera
o CDs
o Extension Cord
o Laptop
o Macro lens
o Movies
o MP3 Player
o Phone
o Speakers
o Tripod
o Video Camera
o Power Cords for Devices


o Bowls
o Bread
o Butter
o Chai
o Cheese Grater/Microplane
o Chef knife
o Coffee
o Coffee pot
o Collapsible bowl
o Cups
o Cutting Board
o Dry Rub
o Egg cups
o Eggs
o Garlic
o Griddle
o Milk
o Mustard
o Napkins
o Nutmeg
o Olive Oil
o Pancake Batter
o Paring Knife
o Parmesan Cheese
o Pasta
o Pasta sauce
o Pepper
o Plates
o Popsicles
o Salt
o Sauté Pan
o Serrated Knife
o Silverware
o Snacks
o Spatula
o Strainer
o Sugar
o Syrup
o Toaster
o Tongs
o Towels
o Vinegar
o Vitamins
o Water
o Water canteens
o Whisk
o Wine opener
o Wood Bowl/Tongs
o Wood spoon


o Garbage Bags
o Paper Towels
o Poop Bags
o Toilet Paper
o Zippies

o Bedding
o Beer Glasses
o Books
o Candle
o Chairs
o Change for showers/parking
o Clothing
o Games
o Gas Can
o Grey Water Tank
o Hat/Gloves
o Hose
o Incense Box
o Jackets
o Lighters
o Maps
o Raincoats
o Shoes
o Table
o Thule Box
o Toiletries
o Water Can
o Wine Glasses
o Wine/Beer

LUCY (doggie):

o Lucy Bed
o Lucy Collar/Barker
o Lucy Food
o Lucy Food/Water Bowls
o Lucy Towel
o Lucy Treats

j_dirge Mon Aug 23, 2010 8:59 am

In my youth I did a few thousand miles touring by bicycle, mostly along the Pacifc Coast.

What I gained from that experience, in addition to packing light and doing without.. is the "daily" repack".. .

Every day.. sometimes twice a day, I find that repacking the contents of bags and coolers really helps in reducing space needed to store stuff.
The process also helps locate wayward items.
This is not necessarily a complete repack.. But an organizational dig and re-order of things

As noted above, the 4 pack (or 3 pack) system from Mountain Smith(?) thru Sierra Trading Post is a real handy set of bags.. And we use that style of packing with all our bags.

I prefer soft bags to hard luggage.. you can stuff. And I prefer soft cargo bags on top or in back to hard shell.

Sleeping bags and pillows are stored in oversized duffles (keeps em clean from dust and grit.. makes it easier to toss all of them around on one soft bag when stowing.

When we arrive at the site, the kids' car seats come out and go onto the overhead Westy carrier.
Top pops and sleeping bags, pillow duffles, towels and clothes duffles go overhead in the pop top sleep area..

Food stays in the van (bears and raccoons.. even those chipmunks are getting voracious!) but cooking boxes go outside on a table (if there is one, on the ground if there is not).. Chairs come out. etc. Coleman stove.

Now we are opened up and room has been made to work.

We each have "day pack" (small back pack)
Each kid gets one duffle (12x24")
Each adult gets one duffle (12x24")
Sleeping bags (4) in a large duffle (18x36")
Pillows (4) in a large duffel (18x36).. towels fit in this one too.. but on lake trips we have one more container of water toys and beach towels.. floaties, snorkel-n-mask, squirtguns, etc.

One of those Mountian Smith cubes holds toiletries, simple first aid, sunscreen, bug juice, soap.
A real first aid kit is stored permanently in the rear Westy cabinet.

We have one more large duffle for cold temp layers.. if needed.

We usually have one storage container of playthings.. crayons, paper, legos, hotwheels.. though as the kids get older they are having more fun with rocks, sticks, bugs, and lichen.

We have one medium sized Igloo (38qt)
And we usually have 2 or 3 reusable grocery bags for odd-sized foods. Bread, bananas, ceral boxes.. that type of thing. Sometimes we have an additonal cardboard box for non-perishables. (the cardboard box holds food and/or firewood on the way to the site, It acts as a holder for trash bags on the way back)

Big tools, jumper cables, oil, brake fluid, window cleaner, simple green, etc. store under the rear bench, and I carry one tool box for box ends and screwdrivers, snips, pliers, vice grips, etc.

That fills the van pretty well.. though we still have room for an inflateble raft, bike helmuts, etc.. and other odds and ends depending on the focus of the trip.

We don't put stuff on the roof, yet.. but will likely do so in the future, since 4 bikes off the rear is the limit on that end..
And we would like to add a small sailboat to the arsenol.. An El Toro, Opti, or similar from some trips. A trailer might be employed, too.

Again.. that daily repack and organization task is really helpful.
As the kids get older, they are learning that less is more.. They are liking the scrambling and hiking more.. Legos and hotwheels, less. And they are growing more and more accountable for thier own clothes and packing as they get older.

aswah Mon Aug 23, 2010 9:16 am

oh, want to add: daily clothes fits in cabinets and extra clothes packed in stuff sacks in Thule...


1621 Mon Aug 23, 2010 10:13 am

Great thread topic, lots of useful information already posted. A simple solution for packing clothes is to pick up a couple large plastic storage bins (rubbermaid or something similar) to fit side by side in the back while traveling. We have one marked for the kids (3 boys) and another for the wife and me. Dirty/wet clothes go in a stuff bag that either resides in the roof bin or Yak box if it's up there.

The double bin trick is really handy for quick removal and repack. They are generally water resistant so light rain isn't an issue. Also depending upon your van's stance, you can slide these bins under the van at night below the slider door.

I also use one of those Buese shelves designed by a forum member He has the plans available publicly, but will send one complete if you lack the time or woodworking skills to build one. It's essentially a shelf that resides atop the pushbar for the poptop and folds flat when the top is closed. Very clever and useful item.

Have yet to come up with a good spot for shoes, eager to hear some clever ideas.

j_dirge Mon Aug 23, 2010 10:37 am

1621 wrote: Have yet to come up with a good spot for shoes, eager to hear some clever ideas.
Family of 4.
We use one of those larger rubbermaid type totes for shoes.
I leave it under the van by the sliding door.
No shoes in the van.
So you step on a matt, knock off your shoes into the bin and step into the van. Keeps the van cleaner, the sleeping bags, in turn stay cleaner.. And all shoes flipflops etc, are in one location.

Invariably, some extra shoes find their way between the front seats and under the dash.. (I usually swivel the fronts around as soon as we park.) But that dead space behind the swiveled seat and under the dash is great for things like hiking boots, wet suit booties, tackle box.. that type of thing..

gaff rig Mon Aug 23, 2010 10:38 am

My solution to your question might seem elegant to some and simply rediculous to others.

If "camping" to you means taking pride in trying to recreate your home away from home, then your van will be stuffed to the rafters. I've seen some Westy owners take hours to explode upon a site with every contraption and gizzmo conceivable.

If you define "camping" as an oportunity to experience the simplicity of the essentials, then "setting-up" usually means popping the top!

I tend to belong to the later group. My daughter and I each pack all our personal clothing in two seperate plastic bins that reside on the rear cushion. The sizes allow the bins to store under the lip of the lower bunk at night. Other than that, we simply use the designed vw lockers and forward roof area. This may seem like slim pickin's, but it works for 3 weeks at a time and has the added benefit of causing us to question all the unneccessary crap we have back at home.

bjrogers86auto Mon Aug 23, 2010 10:40 am

We just got back from a 1900km/14 day trip around N.S. and N.B. Clutter is a BIG issue with my better half. She is in charge of organizing the van at the site. This trip seemed better than our 14000km last summer for a few reasons...

1-Packed the coleman stove,propane,bbq,utensils,lantern and folding camp seats in a plastic tote. At the site it came out and stayed out for the duration. This freed up under the seat for towel and screen and rainfly storage.

2- Thule roofbag in luggage rack held 4 chairs, 2 bodyboards, frissbee,poles for fly and a soccer ball.

3-Bags,sleeping bags and pillows behind the seat for travel. Bags on the front seat at camp.

We don't use the stove or sink so the back table was up on the stove like I saw someone here doing. Food stored there.

The rear closet is our nightmare. Shoes,rainwear,warmwear and a empty backpack all stuffed in there. It's bad. I think I'll do the side door mod for next year.

Also plan on adding the shocks for the roof so I can take along my roofbox.

Not sure what's more fun...camping or planning...


Summers420us Mon Aug 23, 2010 10:51 am

I have lived in a school bus (talk about roomy) and have spent many days in many different VW busses and vanagons. My number one thing that I can advise, besides the daily repack above, is to skip using luggage, boxes, and bags whenever you can, instead opting to fill the cabinets to the brim in an orderly fashion.

Obviously that is not possble for everything, but I am always amazed just how much you can put intop the little spaces in my Westy. If you take clothing for instance, I roll my clothes tightly and stash them all, in the lower cabinet to the left of the fridge. With all my shirts and pants rolled up tight, they stay wrinkle free... well kinda anyway... and I can get a lot in there and stacked neatly enough that I can identify the clothing easily and retrieve it. I usually have room for other goodies in there too (like shoes and toiletries) and now I do not have to deal with the bulky luggage/bag/box taking up space. I just try to pack it neatly into the cabinets, where I don't have to turn everything upside down to get it out.

jeffklein Mon Aug 23, 2010 11:41 am

We just completed several trips with a full Westy. This includes Buffett near you on Aug. 12. That trip was 6 people, but only for 2 nights. In July, we did a full week in the Adirondacks. I had to pack the Westy for 6 people and a dog. (Me, my wife, my 17 year old nephew, 4 year old daughter, 2 year old son, 3 month old son and Maddie the Rottweiler) What a trip!

First thing we did for 3 kids was to put in the middle bench seat with rails. We have 2 car seats that are always attached to it so it makes it easy when we want to go. Under that seat goes our Coleman stove, extra water jug, and kids shoes. I made the child cot for up front (found here: and that gets stored overhead by strapping it to the rail that lifts the top. You'd be amazed at how much you can put on top of that cot while it's stored overhead. There we put the oars, pillows and towels.

We put a Yakima rack on top for the canoe and ROK straps (found here: for the roof cargo box up front. Under those straps we store all of our camp chairs.
We put a bungee cord gear hammock (found here: under the rear AC cabinet. This is an awesome storage spot for the kids' books and some toys for the ride. We carry a 2 person tent under the rear bench along with lanterns, griddle, tarps, stove fuel, adult shoes, and inflatable sleeping bag pads. Head lamps, flashlights, etc. go in the storage area above the kitchen. The utensil drawer is filled with everything we need to prepare and eat meals. We use lexan utensils so we can wash and reuse them. We also stock up on small pack condiments that we get at gas stations/restaurants along the way.
Each adult is allowed one backpack filled with whatever they can fit. Those go in the far back over the motor. We fill the back area the rest of the way up with 2 coolers that we bring. We keep one cooler loaded with drinks and the other with food and both situated for quick access when we stop for gas.
The closet has a lot of clothes hanging in it. The refrigerator is used as storage for dry foods like oatmeal and bread.
The porta-potty goes right behind the drivers' seat and in front of the middle bench. Lastly, Maddie the Rot likes to lay between me and my wife up front.
It sounds like we are cramped, but for the most part we all ride comfortably. My biggest concern was my nephew and he had no problems at all. I hope I could help a little. Have fun!!

andy syncro-nutz Mon Aug 23, 2010 12:35 pm

Put Beer in fridge, Leave wife at home,

singler3360 Mon Aug 23, 2010 12:47 pm

Great post, great comments. This is an area that haunted us on our 3 week Canada trip this summer. We don't pack alot of gizmos, but the comments on shoes had me laughing. Before the trip, I was convinced a hitch mount swing-away cargo box was the answer to clutter. Then our neighbors offered their hitch mount bike carrier a few days before departing. So instead of the cargo box, we opted for the bikes hanging back there. With kiddo, it was great to pull into a camp spot and get her bike deployed so quickly and easily. Needless to say, I'm back to the roof mounted Yakima/Thule box with poptop shocks and RMW side ladder as the answer to clutter. Full disclosure, I haven't purchased anything yet.

bjrogers86auto Mon Aug 23, 2010 1:00 pm

I like beer...but I like my wife more.

On another note...the cargo net that GW sells never really worked for me above my head when sleeping and when the back is full during travel it was useless. So, on this last trip I removed it from it's home and tried something different. I removed the snaps on the front edge of the upper bunk and looped the net around and resnapped. Once my girls were in bed I hooked the end of the bungee on the tab thingy on the poptop hinge. This prevented pillows, stuffed animals and used tissues from finding there way to the floor through the night. Not a safety net by any girls haven't fallen out yet but it worked great. I'll get a pic one day.

I had a tent gear loft in the van and tied it around the mounts for the gear loft thingy. It tied tight and didn't sag. We used it for watches and glasses at night.

Sometimes a plan comes together...except for shoes....


Vanagator Mon Aug 23, 2010 1:00 pm

One way to reduce a whole lot of clutter - leave the kids at home! :shock:

Huxmobile Mon Aug 23, 2010 1:22 pm

oh yeah, shoes are always a hassle to find a convenient place for (hiking, biking, water shoes, flip flops, comfy slippers.....)!

The Mountainsmith cubes look great but I don't think I could get the wife to fit all her clothes in there.

Our usual long weekend trip with kid and dog:
1 backpack/duffle bag each - thrown in the way back during travel, and stored up top once we arrive and pop the top.

3 sleeping bags and pillows stuffed in the closet along with heavy/soft coats. They also make their way up top upon arrival.

Toiletries, lights and other fun stuff are tucked into to cabinet above the water tank.

Dry food in the fridge, cold food and beer in a cooler (tied down in the galley)

And then there are the shoes :x

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