When building your van conversion a well thought and laid out kitchen is a top priority. Picture yourself waking up and having the ability to quickly make coffee and a hot breakfast. What kind of breakfast did you make? Did you have sausage and eggs or do you prefer a casserole? Or are you a cereal kind of person? Better yet what are you eating on a day to day basis. It’s completely possible to have a vanlife stove, oven, or both inside of your conversion van.
Having lived in our van for two years we’ve had plenty of opportunities to test out different cooking methods and discover the benefits and disadvantages of having an induction, propane, and portable stove options.
After two years we know exactly what we wish we had and had not done. This guide will help you decide if you need a vanlife stove, oven or, both.
This post was originally written March 2020 and was updated August 2020.
How to Choose Which Vanlife Appliance You Need
When designing your van life kitchen here are a few things to consider and ask yourself before deciding on a certain stove or oven.
What Kinds of Meals Do You Most Enjoy?
Think about the kinds of meals you make every single week. Literally write down what you have had in the past week and what are some of your favorite meals to make. Do these meals require an oven or can you make them on a stove? When we decided on a stove only we thought we had no choice but to give up things like nachos, pizza, and roasted veggies.
We improvised for the sake of money and space then made do.
What is in Your Vanlife Budget?
Although an oven may be something you want at the end of the day you simply may not have the budget for it. A vanlife stove can be as cheap as $30 and is easy to install. A vanlife oven can definitely cost more if you are looking for one you build into the van. If you have the storage space this is your opportunity to purchase a portable oven that can run under $100 compared to a Dometic inset oven.
What Will Fit Into Your Vanlife Kitchen Build?
Does your van have the room for an inset stove or oven? If your priority is your kitchen then you might have the space to have a full kitchen setup. Otherwise, portable stoves or ovens might be the best option for space.
Having the ability to cook easily on the go is one of the best ways to make vanlife more enjoyable and to feel like you are in an actual home compared to camping outside. Having a stove in your van allows you to have hot meals where ever you are. There is nothing better than being able to wake up and enjoy a hot cup of coffee and warm breakfast in your home on wheels while you enjoy the sunrise.
This is why you need a stove. You can have a stove inset or a portable stove that you store when you are not using it. You can choose from propane, butane, electric and induction. The most popular choice amongst vanners is propane. To learn more about different vanlife stove options read my guide on choosing a vanlife stove.
Pros: Easy to install, low price point
Cons: You cannot roast veggies, make pizza (easily), or bake things.
Flame King RV Cooktop Stove
A low priced propane inset stove option, the Flame King easily rises to the top of the list. We installed the Flame King RV Cooktop Stove a year into our build and we were so much happier with it over having an induction inset and a foldable Coleman portable stove. If you love to cook and find yourself cooking 2 or more meals a day then I highly recommend considering an inset stovetop.
Coleman Double Burner Portable Stove
If you value counter space in your van then a great alternative to an inset stove is the Coleman Portable Stove. They offer several different stove options from a single burner to a double burner stove which you can easily store in a cabinet or drawer and take out when you are ready to cook.
Vanlife Oven Options
When it comes to vanlife ovens there are quite a few different options for your van. There are ovens that do not have a stove/cooktop. These ovens, for the most part, are portable and can be moved from a storage spot in your van to a countertop or outside when you are ready to use it.
The benefit to these ovens is that they are portable and take up less space. Therefore if you find that you are not using the oven often then you can take it out of your van easily where a built-in oven will always be taking up space.
Pros: Having an oven in your campervan kitchen gives you the ability to make so many varying items and your kitchen feels more complete.
Cons: Having an outdoor or oven only appliance will take up quite a bit of space and will be a bit of setup every time you want to use it.
Coleman Camp Oven
The Coleman Camp Oven is a really cool option for a vanlife oven. It pairs with a Coleman 2-3 burner propane stove and sits right on top of the portable stove, utilizing the burners as a heat source. Basically, the stove heats up the oven and you use the oven to bake whatever you need. Reviewers mentioned that they also used it with a single burner Coleman stove with great results. This Coleman camp oven folds flat and is easy to store. The main benefit is that you don’t have to have an inset stove to be able to bake cookies, small pizzas, bread, cinnamon rolls, etc. For around $30 this is truly a great option for baking items on the road.
Pros: Easy to store, priced under $50, easy setup
Cons: Smaller capacity (12×12 outside dimensions), In theory, you need a Coleman stove to pair with the oven
Omnia stovetop oven
The Omnia stovetop oven is a great option for a low priced oven alternative while you are on the road. The Omnia stovetop is a ceramic bowl or bundt shaped pan that gives you the ability to bake on top of your stovetop. There are many vanlifers that swear by the Omnia stovetop oven for pizza, cornbread, cake, roasted veggies and so much more.
Pro Tip: Katie from Soweboughtavan said that when you fill the entire oven it cooks faster and more evenly.
There are quite a few small countertop toaster ovens that you could utilize as a vanlife oven. The issue is that you would have to be quite aware of the power draw coming from your toaster oven. To use an electric toaster oven you need to have enough solar power and have an inverter large enough to convert the power. For example, this toaster oven pulls 500 watts, however, you need to consider how long you will be cooking for and if your battery bank can handle it.
Pros: cheap, draws a small amount of power
Cons: very small oven space, takes up quite a bit of counter space, may be hard on your batteries
Vanlife Combo Options
A stove/oven combo is the best of both worlds in my opinion as you have the ability to bake things in your oven and have a cooktop as well. Our current van only has a cooktop and we are constantly missing the ability to bake a pizza, nachos, cakes, etc. When we decide to build out a second van we have full intentions of having an oven/stove combo. You feel even more so like you are in a true tiny home and can make any meal you possibly want. The downside is that this is a choice you should make before you build out your van so that it can be inset inside of your build.
When installing an oven into your van you do need to make some considerations for venting and safety. Although there are cheaper options for ovens that some vanlifers do build into their van, they are technically meant for outdoor use only and are not safe to use inside your van.
Pros: An oven/stove combo is the ultimate vanlife goal in my opinion. You have both the ability to saute and to bake things which gives you the option to make so many different meals on the road.
Cons: By having an oven in such a small space, similar to the campervan stove you need to have proper ventilation and use safety measures such as having a carbon monoxide detector. An oven also takes up quite a bit of valuable counter space.
Dometic is the gold standard for vanlife appliances and a vanlife oven is no different. The Dometic Oven is known for its quality and is designed to be inside a campervan or boat. It is a pricier option but you will be buying from a brand that is known for its quality. There are several Dometic Oven options ranging from $500 and up. The Dometic R31 is a great option as it is priced around $500 and is only 17″ Deep. The R31 is the oven we are putting into our Transit build.
Atwood Mobile Products
Atwood Combo Ovens are another option that is lower in price than Dometic but is gaining in popularity due to its price point. As with any pricier item I always recommend getting the extended warranty that Amazon offers.
Camp Chef Deluxe Outdoor Oven
The Camp Chef Outdoor Oven is different than the two above options because it is designed to cook outside. You can keep it in your van and then when you are ready to cook you bring it and your propane outside. There are people who opt to build the Camp Chef oven into their build however we do not recommend it. It gets hotter than an indoor oven and needs to be properly ventilated.
My Recommendation on the Vanlife Stove vs Oven Debate
Although I think every van and vanlifer is going to need something different overall I have seen that most vanlifers end up feeling the same. Being on the road in a portable home can sometimes feel like camping. Having a kitchen inside your van that you can easily and quickly cook in makes all the difference in the world. Although in my next build we will be putting a stove/oven combo my recommendation is at least put an inset stovetop in your van. My favorite and least expensive is the Flame King which has two burners and doesn’t take up a bunch of space.
At the end of the day, your vanlife kitchen has to fit your needs and cooking desires. Whether you love cooking and want a full setup or prefer sandwiches and cereal and only need a portable stove for rare occasions I hope this guide helps you decide whether you need a vanlife stove, oven, or both.