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Why I love having a microwave in my camper van

It starts with convenience

In my custom Sportsmobile Sprinter, the microwave is one of the van’s most-used features.
Photo by Lucy Beaugard

A few weeks ago, I wrote an opinion piece that explained why I abstain from having a full bathroom and toilet in my Sportsmobile Sprinter van. It struck a nerve; some people loved the story, some people hated it—and everyone had an opinion on the great toilet debate. Love campers and trailers? Come join our community group.

Today, I’m back with another controversial topic, the RV microwave. Now, you might think that a free spirited, port-a-potty-using van camper would be all about fewer amenities, nature, and simplicity. And while those things are great, let’s face it: I own a large van with lots of bells and whistles. If my goal was simplicity and fewer amenities, I’d still be backpacking up Colorado’s highest peaks like I did in my early twenties.

My family bought our van to make things easier for our motley crew of four, including my husband, myself, and our two kids ages six and three. Our van helps us camp more often and more consistently, it’s our secret weapon to maximizing adventure time. What’s one of the items we use the most? The microwave.

Our microwave sits discreetly in an upper cabinet in our galley kitchen, bordered by storage cabinets to the left and a full-height pantry to the right. It’s not huge, but it fits a full-size plate, mug, or glass container easily.

We debated putting the microwave in, and there are plenty of good reasons to leave it out. I went back and forth with my husband. He wondered why we would need a microwave when we had the induction stove, whether it would be better to have more storage space, and how often we would use it. Isn’t the point of camping to cook outside in the great outdoors and marvel at the nature around us?

Tell that to the screaming three year old in a snowstorm who really wants some mac and cheese. Here are the three main reasons why I’m grateful that we chose a microwave.

The interior of a camper van. There is a kitchenette with a sink. There are storage cabinets running along the top of the van.
My 2017 4x4 Mercedes Sprinter sleeps six, has plenty of room for bikes and skis, and has a small galley kitchen perfect for cooking.
Photo by Lucy Beaugard

It’s convenient

Just like in a traditional home, a microwave isn’t really necessary in an RV if you also have a stove. But it’s the convenience of the appliance that sells it. I can heat things up without much hassle, and I can do it fast. Leftovers, soup, the important aforementioned mac and cheese; I can have them piping hot in two minutes flat, all without dirtying any other dishes.

As any parent will tell you, the importance of convenience can’t be overstated when you have kids. I’ve already packed up all the things, wrangled two wiggly children into carseats, and now I have to get out an extra pot and pan to satiate their need for a snack? Hell, no. Microwave it is.

It’s an all-weather friend

If you’re a fair-weather camper, it might follow that you don’t actually need a microwave. If so, great for you. I wish you all the best on those lovely 70-degree evenings cooking outside with your Coleman stove.

If you don’t follow the warm weather and dare to use your camper all year, however, I advise a microwave. It might seem ludicrous, but we camp in three feet of snow. We camp in ski parking lots. We camp in -20 degree temperatures with wind chills that make you shudder just thinking about it (shoutout to our amazing heater). When we happily haul our beleaguered bodies down the mountain after a powder day on the ski hill, nothing beats heating up some hot Chinese food from last night’s delicious dinner.

You pair convenience with frigid Colorado mountain temperatures from December through April and the microwave is our most-used van appliance (besides the fridge).

It makes breakfast easy

I don’t generally do a lot of actual cooking in my microwave because, let’s face it, food tastes better when cooked on a grill, open fire, or stovetop. But beyond leftovers or the occasional lunch, I love using my microwave for breakfast.

When we’re in the van, breakfast can be a hassle. We’re often on the go, driving to the next destination or heading to a trailhead to mountain bike, hike, or explore. The last thing I want to do is to spend an hour making and cleaning up pancakes, so we stock frozen breakfast burritos and instant oatmeal that can be made quick.

If we have a long way to drive, I’ll pop the kids in their car seats and use the microwave to cook breakfast—quickly, I know seat belts are crucial—while my husband’s behind the wheel, carefully balancing in the center aisle like I’m on a plane. That’s just not possible with the induction stove.

There are probably some die-hard camper owners reading this thinking, “I don’t need a microwave and I never will.” Look, I get it. If you don’t want a microwave in your camper that’s totally fine. Camper enthusiasts have a common love for the outdoors and the open road. RVs come in so many different shapes and sizes that one person’s dream home-on-the-go could be another’s person’s nightmare.

But if you’re new to RVs and camper vans, or are trying to decide which amenities you might want in a camper, take heed. For a van-addicted family-on-the-go, our microwave is essential.