The 8 Best Things We Bought for Our Campervan In New Zealand

Here are our top 5 things we bought for our campervan in New Zealand. From absolute MUST HAVES, to the things that just made our lives that little bit easier whilst we were travelling around New Zealand .


Shani Wilson-Aggarwal

21 min read

The 8 Best Things We Bought For our Campervan in New Zealand

You've bought a campervan in New Zealand and you're ready to hit the road and get exploring the country! Woohoo! Travelling New Zealand in a campervan is definitely the best way to get aorund and see all the amazing things New Zealand has to offer, but living in a campervan isn't without its difficulties! Living in such a small space takes some getting used to and everything is a process! So here are the best 8 things we bought for our campervan in New Zealand which might help to make your trip that little bit easier!

The Best 8 Things:

Tip: Click each subheading to jump straight to that section


Living in a campervan is great fun and an awesome experience, but it can come with it's challenges. We have found that living in a campervan in New Zealand is definitely the best way to get out and see the country, but we have had to adapt to living in such a small space and get used to the way of life, #vanlife!

There are a few things we have bought for the camper which have proved to be really useful unexpectedly, as well as some which have saved our arse on occasion that I now wouldn't be without!

This list is not exhaustive by any means when it comes to useful things you can get for camping - you only need to walk into a KMart and you will find heaps of camping gizmos and gadgets - from collapsible kettles, collapsible bowls (seriously you can get everything collapsible!), to solar showers and stove top toastie makers! So without further ado, lets get into the 8 best things we bought for our campervan in New Zealand.

campervan parked in front of a lake and mountains
campervan parked in front of a lake and mountains

1. Campervan Insurance

Ok, Ok, I know this is a bit of a boring one to start off with, but I actually can't stress enough how important decent insurance is and how much it saved our arses on our trip around New Zealand! This was definitely one of the best things we bought for our campervan! To some people, getting vehicle insurance is a no brainer, however, car insurance in New Zealand is not compulsory like it is in the UK where by law, you have to at least have third party insurance. Nope, not in NZ! It is merely 'recommended' that you have third party insurance.

Because of this, it becomes one of the easiest ways to save money, particularly for backpackers on a budget, but I'm telling you now, this is not something I would advise cutting corners on!

Drivers in New Zealand, from our experience, are a little bit different to drivers in the UK. You will quite quickly see that most cars and vans in NZ have some sort of dent or scratch on them which says enough in itself! We are often found hitting the brakes a little harder than we'd like, or saying 'ohhh that was a bit close' or 'did they even look!?!' Don't get me wrong it is completely safe to drive in NZ, it just takes a little time to get used to the slightly different driving culture - as it would in any new country.

But why was campervan insurance for us one of the best 8 things we bought for our van in New Zealand?

Story time... We have actually had two campervans whilst we have been in New Zealand. The reason for this, is that our first campervan was unfortunately and very sadly crashed into and written off! We were nicely squashed in the middle of a three vehicle pile up, but luckily no one involved was hurt. This was simply due to the flow of traffic slowing down for roadworks but the van behind us not slowing down enough and slamming into the back of us, pushing us forwards into the car in front. Of course this was scary and on seeing the damage the panic set in - we were in the middle of nowhere and now had no where to live!

Campervan insurance to the rescue. Now, apart from the obvious benefit of having insurance which meant that we were eventually paid out for the agreed value of the van (this had been agreed when the insurance policy was bought for about the cost I had paid for the van), but we were entitled to some other services because we had specifically bought motorhome insurance.

Towing and Road Clearance
As the van was a write off and not drivable, it had to be towed off the road and to a garage. This was covered by the insurance. Had we not had this cover, a tow could have set us back $200+. There was also, as you can imagine, debris in the road from the three vehicles which needed clearing by the transport agency, another cost which was covered in our insurance.

Emergency Accommodation
On top of this, we now had nowhere to stay as our home was pretty smashed up (insert crying face here). Having proper campervan insurance meant that we were entitled to $500 of accommodation which our insurance reimbursed us for. This was a godsend as it gave us a few days to get ourselves together after the initial shock and plan our next move.

Travel costs
As we were over 100kms from the registered address of our vehicle - which you likely will be at any time if you are touring New Zealand - we were also able to claim back the costs of getting us 'home'. We were lucky to have friends who were kind enough to make the epic journey to come and pick us up, and we were able to claim back their fuel costs so they weren't out of pocket! This saved us about $150. Alternatively, we would have been able to claim for some form of transport cost - check the terms in your policy for what you are entitled to!

If that's not enough to make you want to get proper insurance, then maybe the amount of vehicle thefts that happen in NZ might. Multiple friends of our have had their vans broken into, one friend had his van stolen twice... TWICE!? Now this is not said to scare you in the slightest, it is just to highlight the importance of getting insurance and yes Paul's van was insured when it was stolen the second time so he wasn't out of pocket, just highly inconvenienced!

Our insurance was through the AA and was a 'Motorhome insurance policy' which cost us around $700 (£350). I know this may seem like a lot, but if you factor it into your budget when looking for a campervan then it won't sting as much! And my gosh will you be grateful for it if the worst happens! You can see that it essentially paid for itself by the end of all the drama! If you shop around you may be able to find cheaper cover, just make sure to check exactly what you are covered for and check your details are correct on the documents.

I can highly recommend the AA for how easy they have been to work with during our time in New Zealand - I have never been on hold for very long when setting up my policies or making claims, and when I noticed an error on our personal details they changed it quickly and for free - not like in the UK where you would have to pay an admin fee! They have also been really quick with any pay outs we have been entitled to and reimbursements which we have been super grateful for, not only during the period following the accident but also when we have had breakdowns but you can read a little more about that below in the AA Roadside cover section!

car crashed into the back of a campervan
car crashed into the back of a campervan
man sitting outside of garage with belongings
man sitting outside of garage with belongings

2. Second Battery and Inverter

Next up on the list of the best things we bought for our campervan is the second battery and inverter that we had fitted. The what now?

The second battery - also called the leisure battery, is what we use to run our electrical items. This is things like our internal lights, fridge and wifi, as well as being able to plug in our phones and laptops to charge. As David and I have been working from our laptops and phones whilst on the road, it has been imperative that we are able to charge our devices. Sometimes we won't be near a power source for 10 days, so mobile power is where it's at!

But how does it work? Well, I am no electrical expert but here is what I have learnt in its simplest form...
The van itself has a main battery called the house battery, which runs the headlights, windscreen wipers and radio. When the engine is running, a part called the alternator belt spins and charges the house battery. The second battery, or leisure battery is hooked up to this (by an auto electrician!) so that it is being charged simultaneously. This means whenever we are driving, the second battery is being recharged, genius!

It is however important that the second battery doesn't drain the main house battery - otherwise you'll be needing a jump start! So somewhere along the circuit - between the main battery and the second battery, there is a little module called the dual battery isolator. This little device means that when the engine is off and we are parked up - the second battery stops charging and therefore protects the main battery from being drained.

From the second battery we have a couple of 12v sockets fitted which we plug our fridge and wifi directly into, as well as two USB sockets where we can charge our phones and iPad.

When it comes to charging laptops however, we are unable to do this through 12v sockets. We need to be able to plug them into to a bigger power supply and proper plug sockets, like in our houses, which is 240v. This is where the inverter comes in. The inverter is attached to the second battery and does some electrical magic so that we can plug our laptops directly into it and charge them!

A lot of campervans come with a second battery set up already in them which powers lights and charges phones, so this may be something that you specifically look for when you are browsing for a campervan to buy. We spent some money on having a bigger battery fitted as it was important that we were able to charge our laptops for work. We had a 120ah deep cycle battery fitted ($350) with a 600w inverter ($200) and installation costs of $250, so a total of $800. This generally allows us to stay in one place for up to 3 days without moving, before we need to have a drive and recharge the battery. This is perfect for us, but you can also consider getting solar panels fitted if you are wanting to stay off grid for longer or stay put in one place for a longer period of time. Of course you may not need something as big as this if you are only wanting to charge phones and smaller devices which will create variability in the cost.

As I say, spending this money is optional and it is possible that you will find the perfect van with these items already installed - and that would be my recommendation - finding a van which has a second battery so that you can have the 'luxury' of charging your phones, plugging a fridge in and not relying solely on battery operated fairy lights when the sun goes down!

Whether you buy a van thats ready to go in this way, or you spend the time having a second battery and inverter fitted, it is definitely one of the best things we have bought for our camper and comes in, like motorhome insurance as one of our MUST HAVE items!

a campervan leisure battery
a campervan leisure battery
an inverter for a campervan
an inverter for a campervan

3. Wifi

Alright, so I know this one might sound a bit bougie, why would anyone need wifi when they are off camping? But, just like the battery and inverter, this was a really important addition to our van to allow us to be able to work. Particularly in Davids line of work, he needs constant access to dropbox which requires an internet connection. This is in the list of the 8 best things we bought for our campervan - particularly if you plan on doing extensive travelling and remote working.

Now, as you get to know New Zealand, you will realise that although most places have a reasonably good level of mobile reception, there are also heaps of patches which have little to no signal - particularly in some of the more remote areas of the South Island. David and I purchased phone plans from two different providers to increase the chances of one of us having reception at any one time, but there were frequently times when neither of us had any signal. Somehow though, our little wifi box was able to pick up signal, I'd say 98% of the time!

This was ideal in terms of David being able to work relatively seamlessly, but our little wifi box also came in handy for me to be able to keep planning our trip as we went along giving us complete flexibility. No matter where we were, I was able to research things to do in the area, book campsites, book activities and map out our routes. We were able to watch movies online, download whatever we wanted on the iPad and facetime friends and family back home at any time - a real bonus.

Sure I could have done these things when we had good phone reception or by using wifi at campsites and bars, but it was often the freedom campsites that lacked phone reception and by having the little wifi box, I was able to organise stuff whilst we were on the move. To be honest, it was just extremely convenient! And convenience is the reason that Wifi has made it onto my list of the best things we bought for our campervan in New Zealand!

By using the wifi box whenever we were in the van, it left the data from our phone plans to be used for google maps when we were out getting lost on hikes, searching for the best restaurants for dinner and settling the debate on what the strongest creature in the world is. I was pretty shocked at how quickly I was able to eat through 15GB of phone data whilst we were googling things and mapping places (with the odd scroll on social media too!) It also helped us when campsites were a little stingy and only offered a limited amount of free data when you stayed with them!

It also actually came in handy when I pitched up in Gisborne for a few months. The place I rented didn't have wifi, but I was able to plug my trusty little wifi box in without any faff!

You can absolutely go without wifi, I get that it's a bit of a luxury. Having a decent mobile phone plan with unlimited data would probably be more than enough for most people!

If you do plan on working whilst you are on the road and are interested in a mobile wifi box - we went with Wireless Nation which cost us about $300 for the wifi box and then about $90 per month for 300GB - more than enough! It came with a mains plug (the one I used in the place I rented in Gisborne), as well as a 12v plug which is what we plug it into the van with!

There are some other options such as starlink - but I think these are a bit pricier and maybe even require an arial.

a Wifi router
a Wifi router
12v campervan cable
12v campervan cable

4. 12v Fridge

We have tried #vanife around New Zealand both with and without a fridge. We have both agreed that buying the 12v fridge for our van, was possibly the best decisions we made!

Don't get me wrong, we managed a good 4 months without a fridge so it is definitely possible, but I feel as though our quality of life has significantly improved since getting the fridge! (I know, how dramatic!).

Fresh Food
By having the fridge on board, the most obvious benefit is that our food doesn't go off as quickly. But what this has actually meant, is that we have been able to eat better foods. During our 4 months of fridgeless vanlife, we ate a considerable amount of packet noodles, soups and tinned foods - stuff we could keep for days and weeks on end without it going bad. We did eat some fresher foods but this was usually on the day or day after we did a food shop when the food was still fresh enough. Then it was onto tins and packets for the next few days until we did another food shop. I'm sure you're thinking - only two days of fresh food!? Surely food can last a bit longer than that!? You'd be surprised! We are living in a metal tin, a mini greenhouse! The slightest heat and your bread is sweaty and bananas ripened! Lets not even think about leaving meat unrefrigerated in the van for days on end, a risk even David wasn't willing to take!

Eating Healthier
From this kind of a diet you can only imagine how chubby us little van dwellers got! Prompting us to take on a 16 week exercise program to try and shred just a little bit of vanlife 'winter weight'! But, with the addition of our little fridge, we are now able to eat a bit healthier! Breakfast tends to be granola and yogurt, now that we can keep yogurt for long enough to finish the pot, lunches are various forms of salad now that our ball of lettuce doesn't get sweaty and sad, and dinners are just a lot more varied - to be honest I can't actually face eating those noodle packets without gagging a little bit, so good riddance! (Though we do have an emergency supply just in case...)

Reduced Waste
We have also hugely reduced how much food we waste. I am very conscious of wasting food and throwing stuff out, so this was something I was struggling with when we didn't have the fridge. I felt like we were constantly throwing food away which made me feel bad inside, not to mention the amount of money we must have wasted!

Less Cooking
Strangely enough, it has also reduced the amount of cooking we have to do! Just like most things in #vanlife, cooking requires quite a considerable amount of effort. Now that we have the fridge, I am able to cook a big chilli, curry or fajita mix in one go and then store the left overs to have in the following days! One of our favourite things to do is cook a veggie chilli and have it with rice one day, in wraps for lunch the next day and also as quesidillas for dinner another time! This mitigates food wastage and saves me having to make effortful meals ever day! Win Win!

Nice Cold Wine
Let's be honest, one of the best things about having a fridge is the nice cold beer and wine we can have in the evening. Sure, we coped with drinking mildly warm beer and wine previously, but how much more enjoyable is that glass of wine after a long day of hiking or exploring, when its ice cold!? And it's not only alcoholic drinks that taste better cold... so does the orange juice, and good old coca cola! Delish!

The Fridge we purchased is a 'Brass Monkey' which is a raved about brand and they come in lots of different sizes. The reason we got our 18L fridge is because it was on a really great deal at the time we bought it - $400 down to $200! I have noticed that they are quite often on sale - particularly around October, November time so keep an eye out! Our little fridge fits neatly in the back of the van when we are driving around, and then when we park up it sits perfectly in the middle console of the front seats so its stored out of the way but within easy reach when we want to grab a beer or start cooking dinner!

If you are looking for fridges, make sure you get a compression fridge rather than a thermo cooling fridge. A fridge with a compressor is just like the one you would have in your house - it cools the fridge down to temp and then turns off, as the fridge warms slightly the compressor turns back on to maintain the temperature. This is much more energy efficient and will conserve your second battery compared with a thermo cooler which just runs and runs and runs...

a blue and white portable fridge
a blue and white portable fridge

5. Bungee Cords

This is one of the more simple purchases we made which has turned out to be on of the best things we bought for our campervan!

I'll keep this one short and sweet - its just a useful item!

The humble bungee cord.

It has two main uses for us - as a washing line and as part of our 'home cinema' set up... of sorts!

As a washing line we are able to simply open the back door of the van and strap the bungee cord across, or we can hook it from the van to a tree or between two trees. This creates a line we can then hang our wetsuits, swimming cossies or towels to dry after a day at the beach or down by a river.

We also use it to secire items in the back of the van when we are diriving around and works well provided it is taut enough.

The home cinema set up, as we like to call, is of course my favourite use for our bungee cords. It just felt like a stroke of genius. To create this we hook the bungee cord across the van from curtain line to curtain line and hang the iPad over it by its case. Then we lay back in bed and relax to watch a movie. We do this a majority of nights before going to bed but when the weather has been bad we have also pulled out the popcorn and had snuggled up movie nights with our fairy lights on which is just supercute!

Don't under estimate those small unexpected items which turn out to be useful and end up being one of the best things to have in the campervan!

an ipad hnaging from a bungy cord like a campervan movie theatre
an ipad hnaging from a bungy cord like a campervan movie theatre

6. AA Roadservice Membership

Here comes the AA again, holding two out of the 8 best things we bought for our campervan in New Zealand!

Becoming members of the AA Roadservice was a great decision and has again paid for itself - a few times over in fact.

Now I think we have just been really unlucky with some of the trouble we have had with our van and I certainly don't think its normal to have to rely on the rodservice as much as we have, but I guess you just never know what is round the corner when you buy an older vehicle.

We certainly couldn't have predicted that after the car accident where we waved goodbye to our first van, that we would be getting towed back to a garage in our new van after only two weeks. Nor did we imagine that we would have to have the same van repairs done twice to our van because the new part that was fitted would become faulty within a month! As I say - just really bad luck!

But throughout our little van dramas, the AA have always been solid in helping us out through their roadside membership. This cost around $125 for the year for the AA plus roadservice membership.

Having this membership paid for itself when we hitched our second ride of the trip on a tow truck when the engine light came on in the new van (saving us $200+)! But the real savings came with our ability to claim for accommodation costs when the van was stuck in the garage for a few days. With AA plus you are entitled to reimbursement of accommodation costs up to $150 per night for 3 nights. We have had the misfortune of having to call on this service for support twice! This means it has saved us around $900 in accommodation costs!!

Again, just like with the insurance, the AA raodside service have always been quick to get someone out to us to check the van over and quick to reimburse us for the accommodation costs we incurred, so a service well worth having! And in finding silver linings, it was quite nice to spend a few nights in a hotel and out of the van!

We have also had friends who got a flat tyre and the AA came out and changed it for 'free' for them as they had roadside cover, as well as a friend who locked her keys inside her van and the AA roadservice came to the rescue then too!

Another benefit is that you are covered as a person, not per vehicle. This means if you are ever travelling in another vehicle with other people and there is an issue, you can use your membership as long as you stay with the vehicle until the AA patrol gets out to you!

Definitely money well spent and a really good service in our experience, so gets a spot on my list of the 8 best things we bought for our campervan!

an AA membership card
an AA membership card

7. Sunshade

Another really simple item that has unexpectedly ended up being one of the best things we have in our campervan, our reflective sunshade. Cheap, simple and effective!

It is literally a piece of reflective material that we put across the windscreen, I have no doubt you will have seen them in vehicles everywhere previously - honestly its nothing special its just been really useful!

Before we had the sunshade, we just had a sheet of material that we would peg across the front of the van at night to act as a bit of a privacy curtain so people couldn't see in through the front windscreen. This worked well enough in terms of blocking the view but that was about it.

Having the sunshade, which cost us about $8, not only acts a privacy shade, but it also protects our fridge from sitting in direct sunlight when we put it in the front once we are parked up somewhere. This is helpful in conserving a little bit of battery as the fridge isn't having to work overtime to stay cold.

More importantly though, it helps to keep some of the heat out during the summer months. Once the sun is up, living in a little greenhouse can make it unbearable to stay in the van for very long, so that can mean some very early mornings! However, the trusty sunshade buys us a little bit of time as it reflects some of the heat off of us for a more comfortable and less early wake up in the morning!

An inexpensive little item that we are very grateful for having in the campervan!

a windscreen sunshade
a windscreen sunshade

8. Second Gas Stove

Most campervans will come with a gas stove for cooking, which come in various forms. I know it seems obvious that having a cooker is an essential item to have in the campervan, but the reason this is in the list of the best 8 things is that there is a second stove top specifically. And heres why..

We spent a week using a single stove portable gas cooker which came with our van. Absolutely fine for single pot heating like boiling water for a cup of tea or some instant noodles, or cooking up pasta and then adding a jar of sauce. But as soon as we tried to make anything slightly more exciting, it was a faff. The first 'more than one pot' meal that I cooked was a mushroom pasta. So I boiled some water in the saucepan, added the pasta and cooked it for 10 minutes. I then needed to cook the mushrooms and onions and add the various other ingredients into a frying pan to make the sauce. Once the sauce was ready, the pasta had gone cold so I had to add it into the frying pan with the sauce to heat it back up again! By the time we were eating, I wish i'd just bought a jar of sauce to throw over the pasta considering the time and effort it had ended up taking! Later in the week, a similar feeling returned when I cooked rice and then had to cook the sauce for a curry.

Thats when we decided to push the boat out and treat ourselves to a second portable gas stove for a mere $30. This has made life so much easier. I can now boil pasta or cook rice in a saucepan on one stove, whilst making sauces or curries at the same time on the other stove with much less faff and half the time!

Some campervans have double burner stove tops which connect to a 3kg LPG gas bottle, some come with the single burner portable stove in a carry case which uses butane gas canisters - this is what we have. For us this works better in terms of storage as we can pop them away into the cupboard neatly and don't have to worry about storing and replacing the heavy LPG gas bottle that the double stove tops need. The butane gas canisters cost around $10 for 4 and we can usually go a couple of weeks per canister depending on what meals we're cooking and how much tea David is drinking!

My advice would be, when you are buying a campervan in New Zealand, to make sure you have some form of double stove top for cooking on as it will make your life so much easier! Whether thats with portable butane gas canister stoves or an LPG fed stove, make sure you've got two tops!

a camping stovea camping stove
Camping stove gas bottle
Camping stove gas bottle

And there you have it! The best 8 things we have bought for our campervan! Hopefully some of this information is useful, and if it is, feel free to drop us a follow on my social media accounts so that you can see what we're up to! Happy Camping!!!

tiktok logotiktok logo
instagram logo instagram logo
facebook and messenger logofacebook and messenger logo