Saturday, July 9, 2011

How Do You Cook in a VW Bus?

How do you cook in a VW bus? Early buses argued that you didn't. Early buses are designed so the cook stands outside using a portable stove placed on a fold-up folding table attached just above the spice rack.

A later Vanagon interior with cooking
accessories inside along the wall.
Things changed in 1976 with the redesign of the interior. Now, instead of cooking standing outside, cooking was brought inside with kitchen accessories including fridge, sink, stove and cabinetry placed along the interior wall behind the driver's seat.

There is something to be said for each school of thought. Having a complete kitchen inside, though a small one, makes it easy to get up, start the coffee, fry the eggs and bacon, and get on with the day just like at home. The same goes for dinner.

But some will argue, do you really wish to cook inside vehicle at all?  Maybe. Maybe not. How much grease do you want floating around?

The outdoor approach as shown in this 1972 brochure has the sink, folding table, spice rack, water supply and refrigerator/ice box at the door. Just visible inside is the fold-up table on the back wall. The interior table can be set while the chef prepares the meal standing outside.

The refrigerator door is hinged to be accessible from the outside. A portable stove, of course, has many advantages. It can be used on the fold-up table shown in the brochure. It can also be placed on a picnic table at some distance. Often this makes the most sense.

Almost all early buses had an icebox and not a refrigerator. A few had refrigerators that were sometimes loud and noisy and run on propane or 12 volt.

A 12-volt 1.5 cubic Norcold refrigerator
 replaces the original  icebox.
In my bus the original ice box has been replaced by a Norcold 12-volt unit of almost the exact same size. In it powered by an auxiliary battery which in turn is charged by a solar panel

There are pros and cons to both indoor and outdoor approaches. Cooking outside in cold, wet and windy weather is no fun, and sometimes impossible. On the other hand thinking of the entire outdoors as an extension of your kitchen is a good way to not feel all cramped up in a vehicle that at 14-feet in length is shorter than a Toyota Camry.

Either way the most important thing is to plan meals in advance making sure you have all the ingredients, cookware, etc. needed.  For those who live in a bus it is important to plan good, hearty and well-balanced meals. It makes travel and living in a bus all that much more enjoyable. It takes time, effort and sometimes a bit of ingenuity. But well worth it.

Boeuf bourguignon anyone?  Next: laundry and housekeeping.



  1. Dear John,
    when I found your blog and your VW and your life with it, I was transported back to 1976 and my first VW-Transporter, purchased in Germany and I picked up directly at the factory in Hannover. That van became my very first RV. I traveled through Scandianvia with it, and felt like in heaven. I did not have the lift-roof and built the entire camping conversion myself. When I am going down to California in our 40ft. motor home for the winter, I often think of the wonderful mobility I had with my first RV. I have actually a posting about it in my blog. If you to the following link and read on beyond that you will find it.

    I am very sorry reading about your loss, and I can imagine how much you miss her. A travel companion like her makes a whole world of a difference. Thank you for sharing that with us.

  2. Hi Peter,

    Thank you for your comments. I followed your link to your blog and am now a follower, and want to know the rest of the story -- what happened next, and what you are doing now?

    Cheers and good luck with everything!


  3. Wow! I had one of those 72 campers and traveled with out west. Thanks for the memories ;)

  4. John:

    I am a friend of your brother, Will. I am a fan of your writing and I especially enjoy the comments from your's and Miranda's friends. The American Southwest is a special, magical and spiritual venue. Your blog is allowing me to re-live the the times I spent under the desert stars.

    John, I am very sorry for the loss of Miranda; what a special individual. As tragic as her loss is, your resulting journey and experiences keep alive the "outdoors" I know she enjoyed all her life.


  5. Nice post, John. For me, the ideal has been to have the option of cooking indoors or out, depending on weather, mood, circumstances. When I was traveling full-time in my Dolphin, I brought along a little Bodum grill for quick outdoor cooking and a cast iron dutch oven for slow outdoor cooking. I still have the same options where I live now--there's a courtyard with a fire pit outside my casita and I still use the Bodum frequently.

  6. John,
    I have a 71 with the original set up but you would love my uncle's bus. He has a splity that he got in the late 60's and still drives it today. Actually it's been his only way to get around since he bought it. It's been through the ice a couple times and started on for once. He's gone through 4 motors and tons of tires, but the best part is the set up. He put in a wood burning stove and an ice fishing flap so he just pulls out on the lake, catches a few pan fish and throws them on the wood burner. Now that's fresh food. He has written a book about his adventures in the bus called "A bus will take you there" he has it at Just thought I'd share for all of us Bus lovers.

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