Camp Westfalia

Archive for Organization

What’s Your Van Plan for This Year?

The New Year is a great time for a fresh start.

Never mind the resolutions to spend more time at the gym and less time watching cat videos (we both know that’s not gonna happen). The real question is, what are your plans to get your campervan in tip top shape, and enjoy some great traveling this year?

Most vans (and van owners) are inactive this time of year, so now’s your chance to set some goals, make some plans, and resolve to make this year even better than last.


Some aspects of traveling and camping in a decades-old camper van are necessarily mechanical, and require ongoing maintenance. Reliability is of the utmost importance, especially if you want to avoid breakdowns while far from home. Regardless whether you hire out your van’s mechanical work, or turn the wrenches yourself, here are some items to ensure are in top form.

Fuel Lines

The VW Bus and Vanagon Transporters certainly have their quirks, but the fuel system is perhaps the most potentially dangerous and deadly. Too many vans have been lost to fire due to neglected fuel systems. Old and brittle plastic connectors, rusty clamps, and rubber hoses deteriorated by modern ethanol-laced gasoline can all cause leaks. Gasoline injected into a hot engine compartment is a recipe for disaster for you and your family.

So, if you don’t know when these parts were last replaced, inspect and replace them before embarking on summer road trips. Use fuel line rated for use with ethanol fuels, and the correct pressure rating for your electronic fuel injection system, with quality fuel injection clamps. Here’s a good write-up >

The Big List

Most Vanagon owners keep a running to-do list of needed mechanical repairs, fixes, and other maintenance. These often get lost in the heady days of summer when the highway and the forest call, so start working on those procrastinated loose ends now when you have no impending trips.

If you have not been religious in your maintenance, or the van is new to you and of unknown provenance, a good place to start is the 15k, 30k, and 90k-mile maintenance items on the lists found in the back pages of the Bentley manual. Just start at the top and begin working your way down. You won’t get it all done in one day, of course, but in pretty short order you’ll be able to inspect, adjust, or replace everything needed to get your ride ready.

These will include the following, and a whole lot more:

  • Fluids: oil, coolant, brake and clutch, windshield washer
  • Filters: oil, fuel, air
  • Belts & hoses
  • Lights: all interior & exterior
  • Wires: battery, starter, alternator, grounds, etc.
  • Battery: clean, inspect, charge, and test
  • Tires: inspect for wear and cracks, rotate, treat with UV protectant
  • Jack: factory jack or aftermarket, plywood support plate for use on rough ground

Record everything you do in a simple logbook, with date, mileage, and any notes, so that you can look back later for reference. Once you’ve got caught up on all this delayed maintenance, it will be a simple matter to keep up on the recommended intervals.

Outfit for Travel

If you’ll be spending a lot of time driving and living in your campervan, you’ll want to make it as comfortable as possible for you and your companions. Organize the cab, kitchen, and other living areas so you’re always ready to roll!

  • Charging jacks & cords: USB, phone, cameras, etc.
  • Maps, gazetteers, guidebooks
  • Logbook to track fuel & oil usage
  • Beverage bottles & travel mugs
  • Kitchen kit: all pots & pans, plates, utensils, containers
  • Food staples: your favorite non- or semi-perishable pastas, rice, spices, canned goods. Store in hard plastic containers to prevent spoilage and pests.
  • Bedding: sleeping bags, blankets, pillows
  • Heaters (electric or LP), cooling fans
  • Emergency tools & parts, fire extinguisher
  • Vehicle Recovery & Extraction: folding shovel, 12-volt air compressor, traction boards or tire chains, recovery & tow straps

Check & Test all Camping Equipment:

Other Activities

Sometimes the campervan is the means to another end—biking, hiking, paddling, skiing, fishing, etc.. Make sure your other equipment is ready for the season:

  • Roof or trunk racks, cargo boxes
  • Trekking poles
  • Binoculars
  • Gear bags or boxes

Travel Plans

The entire purpose of all this preparation is going places! Now, in the doldrums of winter, is a great time to start thinking about sunnier days and destinations close and far. In fact, poring over maps and planning a getaway is often the only thing that gets me through a dreary winter.

You and your travel mates no doubt already have some destination ideas, what season to go, and what sights and other activities to take in. How long will it take you to get there and back? How long to stay in each place?

One you’ve discussed and have a rough idea, start collecting info to make your goal a reality:

  • Travel guide websites
  • Maps, gazetteers, guidebooks
  • Relevant apps for navigation, finding attractions and sites, camping, etc.

Shakedown Cruises

Once you’ve attended to most of the points above, start taking your campervan on short trips close to home, then progressively longer and longer trips. This will give you opportunities to inspect your work, and to ensure your van is up to all those big miles and long days you have planned.

Traveling and camping in a vintage campervan, whether close to home or far afield, should bring plenty of adventures. But not mechanical misadventures. Once you’re reasonably confident in the reliability and comfort of your ride, hit the road!

Product Review: 3 Shelf Closet Organizer

A great way to organize the Vanagon Westfalia clothes closet


Dimensions: 10″ W X 15″ D X 24″ H

  • Natural canvas fabric
  • 3 large shelves
  • Each shelf reinforced with fiberboard liner
  • Includes two closet hooks

I’ve always found the stock Westfalia ‘clothes closet’ to be an underutilized space. Located along the driver’s-side wall, just behind the bench seat, the compartment is empty except for a tiny closet rod, presumably for hanging one’s assortment of pressed Oxford dress shirts or blouses.

Cuz that’s how people camp, right?

The rather large cavernous space offers no other means to organize the contents, so it quickly becomes a dark, cluttered catch-all of chaos. Recently, Lorie came up with this quick and easy solution, and it has transformed our closet into a neat and tidy storage space, always a precious commodity when packing your camper van.

First Impressions

The Three Shelf Organizer is intended to store sweaters, jeans, shirts, etc. in your home closet, but this particular size fits perfectly in the Vanagon Westfalia closet. Made of canvas, with internal fiberboard stiffeners, the shelves easily support lightweight linens like clothing, towels, pillows, etc.. Among other domestic goods, we store our Westfalia camper curtains here when not in use. The organizer is not intended for storing heavier objects like canned goods or tools.

Installation couldn’t be simpler: just put the whole thing inside the closet and clip the hooks over the stock hanger rod. Likewise, it can be just as easily removed later if needed.

Once installed, there is still space beneath the shelf unit for heavier and seldom used items like tools or LP heater, and more space to the right.

Though the Three Shelf Organizer works great right out of the package, we found that if loaded with somewhat heavier items like small storage bins or packaged food, the shelves may tilt and swing around while underway, perhaps spilling their contents. So, I removed the unit and added a simple extension to the bottom-most shelf, which also serves to stiffen it for heavier items.

Just cut a sheet of thin fiberboard or plywood about 10 x 18” and bolt it to the underside of the shelf unit, with the excess protruding to the rear, to stabilize the shelves against the back wall of the closet. I added a couple chunks of foam pipe insulation to keep things quiet.

In The Long Run

We’ve used this shelf unit for a couple of years now, for a few month-long road trips, and have found it to be a great addition to our little temporary home on wheels.

The Three Shelf Organizer is a simple, lightweight solution to organizing the Westfalia clothes closet, and opens up a valuable and previously unused storage space.

Hits: easy, lightweight, removable, affordable
Misses: may sag if overloaded, can tip w/o extension

Get the Three Shelf Organizer here

The Routine

One of the greatest attributes of the Westfalia Camper is just how quickly and easily it is readied for a camping trip, and how adeptly it makes and breaks camp.

We generally keep our permanent camping equipment (pots & pans, kitchenware, extension cord, water hose, etc.) packed in the Westy, so an impromptu weekend jaunt often requires little more than chucking in our duffel bags of clothes, stowing a bagful of groceries in the kitchenette cabinets, and picking up a couple of cold six-packs on the way out of town.

Here’s a simple routine for hitting the road and getting home.

Vanagon-Westfalia-water-tank-fillerPre-Trip Preparation, often the day prior to departure

  • Ensure that LP (liquid propane) tank is sufficiently full, and that main shutoff valve on tank is closed
  • Fill onboard water supply tank (13.2 US gals)
  • Pre-chill refrigerator overnight on 120V AC shore power; add cold beverages to provide thermal mass
  • Load any unrefrigerated foods, luggage, and other camping equipment

Hitting the Road, the day of departure

  • Load any last-minute items
  • Load any remaining cold food into pre-chilled refrigerator
  • Disconnect refrigerator from 120V AC shore power, switch to 12V DC or LP for driving

Arrive in camp:

  • Park van using parking brake and, if necessary, RV levelers
  • Extend popup roof if desired
  • Open main shutoff valve on LP tank to use refrigerator and/or stove. To use LP to operate refrigerator, switch refrigerator control to LP, and light
  • If 120V AC power is available, you can optionally power the fridge with this; use extension cord to connect campsite shore power station to camper hookup; switch refrigerator to 120V AC; connect any electrical accessories to camper’s internal power outlet
  • To use City water, connect campsite water supply to camper hookup using supply hose; alternatively, use onboard water supply tank
  • Connect a portable gray-water container to external sink drain outlet to collect kitchenette waste water
  • For mealtimes, swivel front seats and deploy dining table
  • Before bedtime, stow dining table and convert upper and/or lower bunks for sleeping

Breaking camp

  • Fold upper and/or lower bunks for driving
  • Empty portable gray-water container into campground gray-water dump station or toilet if allowed
  • Disconnect 120V AC shore power and water hookups
  • Close main shutoff valve on LP tank, switch refrigerator to 12V DC or LP for driving
  • Retract popup roof
  • Remove RV levelers and hit the road

Post-Trip Cleanup

  • Drain onboard water supply tank
  • Turn refrigerator off, remove remaining food and wipe clean; to prevent stale odors during long-term storage, prop door open, or slide door upwards from hinges to remove entirely between trips.
  • Unload any other foods, luggage, and camping equipment
  • Extend popup roof for a day or so to allow canvas and upholstery to thoroughly dry

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