Road travelers can get seriously creative when it comes to van life storage ideas.
Maximizing the space in your van and making it multi-functional when possible can be just as challenging as building the van itself.
From using your portable toilet as your daily work seat in your mobile office, to using your campervan shower as a closet, there are infinite ways to store things in your van…some more ideal than others 😉
Table of Contents
I’m sharing all of the obvious (and not so obvious) DIY storage spaces that I use throughout my campervan. If your van has a completely different layout than mine then some of these ideas may not work for you, but most are a good fit for all campervans, old and new, big and small!
1. Two-Way Pull Out Drawers
My pull-out drawers get the most comments because they have a special feature: they open from two directions. These drawers can be opened from the inside or outside of my van, making them super practical for storing items I need quick access to.
The drawers are made of plywood and we used rope that runs all the way through each drawer, knotted on each end, as the “handles”. This design helps reinforce the drawers’ frame by “pushing” the whole drawer from its “back” every time I open it, rather than pulling on the frame every time I open it, which would weaken the frame over time.
I can also pull out each drawer to use as a toolbox, picnic basket or anything I need a carrying case for.
2. “Wine Holder” Shelves
These shelves are built into what we named the “kitchen tower”, which holds my camp stove on top and the two-way drawers. It’s a really simple extra use of space by adding some wood panels across the shelves. We made sure the shelves were just tall enough to fit…bottles of wine!
3. Above Cab Storage
This storage space above my cab was originally just a hollowed-out area that had been covered by the previous van outfitters. My van used to be a Holiday Inn shuttle bus, so it was outfitted accordingly by a third-party company.
When I uncovered this storage area, it was unfinished, raw fiberglass. I sprayed lots of layers of Rust-Oleum rubber coating spray to cover the fiberglass and give it a smooth finish. Of course, your van may not have this same design, but if it does, definitely take advantage of that upper storage space!
4. Velcro, Velcro, Velcro
Heavy-duty velcro can be just as handy as duct tape for hanging things up or making use of otherwise dead space. I use this huge strip of velcro across my cab to hang up my blackout curtain.
Not sure if this counts as a storage idea, but you could sew velcro to cloth baggies and hang them from various places in your van. Or add velcro to lightweight items and hang them by a velcro strip along the van’s wall. Whatever works!
And even if you opt for super heavy-duty velcro, I recommend screwing in the velcro strip to your van’s wall for a guaranteed fix. The sticky side of velcro won’t cut it for the long haul!
5. Lifting Kitchen Tabletop
Just about every van lifer makes use of the space underneath their kitchenette/sink area. But mine is slightly different because the countertop lifts up on a hinge. This makes it possible to lift and change out the five-gallon water jug. I also store my batteries in this area, and it’s easier to check on them from above than open a side door.
6. Window Utensil Holder
Got a window in your van that you want to turn into storage space? Screw a small panel across it and hang whatever you want from it! Maybe a spice rack or toiletries holder? I use mine as a dish utensil / sponge rack. This is a super simple use of space.
7. Bench Exterior Storage
The bench-style bed creates a mini “hallway” down the center of the van. This storage area is nice because I have access to it from inside the van or from its back doors. This is the typical storage space provided by most bench-to-bed conversions.
It’s perfect for keeping my cooler in and actually helps keep the cooler cold. I keep my frequently-used outdoor items (camp chair, solar panels, portable toilet) at the back of this storage area so I can quickly access them from the van’s backdoors.
8. Bench Interior Storage
The common downside of bench-to-bed conversions is having no way to quickly access the storage space inside of the benches. Sure, you can store things there–but if you want them, you’ll have to put your whole bed away first!
In order to get better access, I have a few access points throughout the van. Only one of these access points was intentional–the other two were just awkward parts of the build that I decided to keep!
Access Point 1
We built this door into the side of the bench and simply latch it shut with an old piece of dirt bike chain. This is the perfect spot for storing outdoor items like my good ‘ol poop shovel, spare camp chair and selk’bag sleeping suit.
Access Point 2
This access point underneath my bench allows me to manage the propane tank–it’s also the perfect place for storing dirty shoes. I guess this was a semi-intentionally built access point since I need to access the propane tank.
Access Point 3
This awkward gap between the bench and the kitchen table is just enough space for me to grab a can of soup from. Although not “attractive” looking, it was another way to gain quick access to underneath the bench area.
9. Wall Pocket Storage
This interestingly-shaped piece of plywood, covered in fabric, came from the original Holiday Inn shuttle bus design. Since the van’s walls aren’t perfectly flat and really tricky to build over, it made sense to simply re-use this!
It acts as a shelf that rests on the seam between where the econoline’s roof was cut off and the fiberglass roof added. I use it to store smaller or lightweight items like books, maps, mosquito netting, phone tripod, and anything I want quick access to.
10. Floating Kitchen Cabinet
This cabinet makes my van kitchenette feel like a real kitchen! It’s nice to have storage space that isn’t just on the floor, but instead putting the van’s interior upper wall to good use. Not sure what I’d do with that space otherwise. I lucked out that my childhood friend’s dad is an amazing carpenter and built this for me.
11. Wall Hooks
I use these simple home wall hooks in the front and back of my van to hang a trash bag and a spare flashlight by my bed. Having a few of these around the van will always go to use!
Vanlife Storage Final Thoughts
You may need some time on the road before you know where you want more storage space in your van. That was the case for me–I was tired of storing a trash bag on my van floor, so up went the hook wall! I was tired of carrying dirt into my van, so now I store dirty shoes under the bench by the propane tank!
Being able to access things efficiently in your van makes life a lot easier. I recommend keeping this in mind as best as you can while building out your van!
Need inspiration on campervan interior ideas? Check out my van friends’ builds or my own Ford econoline interior build for inspiration!