Galley Gear

“Looking for cookware recommendations for the Travato – any ideas?”

“Hello Group! I am buying an Airstream Interstate. I want to buy dishes and pots and pans before I pick it up. Any ideas?

“We are bringing our new 2018 K home in a few weeks and I’m preparing to outfit the galley. Any suggestions. I’d like to use real dishes, but I’m afraid they’ll rattle around. Very excited.”

If you ordered a van and need to wait weeks to pick it up it is easy to get carried away and order the ultimate set of kitchen items. On the other hand you can resist that urge and once you get the van head over to a big box store to get the basics. Or you can go the middle way, which is what I did, and order the key items that were important to me. 

Keep in mind that cooking in a van is nothing special. If you have a cookset and dishes from your car camping days you can use that. A simple frying pan, one sauce pot, and some picnic plates from Walmart will also work. There is nothing fancy that you actually need. That said, there are some kitchen/galley items that repeatedly get recommended in the various vanning forums. I am simply consolidating those recommendations here. 


Magma Nesting Cookware

By far, the most recommended cookware mentioned in van forum posts is the Magma Nesting Cookware. They sell a number of different models. The 7 piece consists of a 2 qt. sauce pan, a 5 qt. pot and a 10 inch frying pan (plus lids and a handle). The 10 piece adds a 1.5 qt. and  a 3 qt. sauce pan. There are sets that are induction ready and some with a non-stick coating. People love the fact that they all stack together in the stock pot making the set easy to store. They also like the quality and durability. Many people with the 10 piece set leave part of the set at home (“ordered the Magna set, but found it had way more pots than I actually needed for two of us”) People with the uncoated sets report that the pans stick when sauteing. “I have a separate ceramic non-stick pan for pancakes.”

Keep in mind they are expensive (typically, $150-250)!

Magma Nesting Stainless Steel Colander

A nice addition to the set is the Magma Nesting Stainless Steel Colander which people use both as a colander and as a  steamer. It can nest inside the cookware set but it raises the lid increasing  the overall height and preventing the set from being stored in some overhead van bins

Stansport 7 Piece Stainless Steel Cookware Set

This nesting set is a fraction of the cost of the Magma (around $55). In contrast to the Magma 7 piece which has 2 pots and one frying pan, the Stansport 7 piece features 4 pots: 1 qt. 2 qt., 3 qt. and 4 qt. and a 10 inch frying pan. This set is stainless steel and has a triple ply bottom, similar in quality to my home pots and pans. For some reason this set is not mentioned much on van forums. Common complaints are that it only has one common lid for the 1, 2, and 3 qt pans and only has one handle shared among the pots and frying pan. This is the set I own

Lodge Cast Iron Cookware

As nature photographer and YouTuber  Mandy Lea says “Number one in any camping situation has got to be cast iron pans [and] the number one brand in cast iron pans … is Lodge.” Cast iron is equally at home, cooking in your van or outside on a Coleman stove or campfire. In fact, there is no better choice for cooking on a campfire than with cast iron. The frying pans in the Magma and Stansports sets mentioned above are great, but when you need more space, for example, for a stir fry, a cast iron skillet is the way to go.  I have the Lodge Combo Cooker, which is a 3.2 quart deep skillet and dutch oven. It has plenty of room for making stir fries for two. Others prefer  having a traditional Lodge skillet and an adorable yet functional small Lodge Dutch Oven. Don’t forget the extremely useful Lodge Pan Scrapers. If you never cook outdoors, you might not find having cast iron cookware useful. 

Carbon Steel Skillet

Like the cast iron concept but don’t like the weight? You might consider its lighter brother, carbon steel. Carbon steel is thinner than cast so it doesn’t retain heat as well, but the benefit of that is that it adjusts to temperature changes faster. Carbon Steel cookware tends to be more expensive than cast iron. That said, I’ve had a cheap $20 carbon steel wok for years and it has been my go to pan for stir fries, Thai fried rice, and green curry. I love the thing. The wok is small by wok standards — 12 inches by 3 inches high. Still it is a bit too bulky for me to carry in the van. My solution is an 11 inch carbon steel skillet. I prefer the BK Cookware Black Carbon Steel Skillet, which I like because it has high sides (easier to cook stir fries in). Others prefer the Lodge 12 Inch Seasoned Carbon Steel Skillet (better for searing meats). The Lodge has lower sides, which might be fine for your style of cooking. It has a rough finish, reminiscent of cast iron and unlike my wok. Carbon Steel is definitely not as popular as cast iron among the Class B camper van crowd, so you will be in the forefront of the carbon steel crowd.


There are wildly different opinions about dinnerware in Class B vans. And there are a lot of trade-offs. Some opt for paper plates to conserve cleanup water, but that is not an environmentally friendly choice. My preference is with enamelware but here are the most popular options mentioned in van forums.

Nordic Ware

A popular choice among van owners is to use reusable plastic plates such as those from Nordic Ware. The benefit of plastic is that it is unbreakable and they don’t rattle when traveling. However, there is some debate as to the health safety of any plastic so some avoid it.


In a YouTube video, photographer and RVer  Mandy Lea, a person I mentioned in the cast iron section above (and who I think is absolutely fantastic), recommends Melamine dinnerware and, in particular this set, saying that melamine is durable and virtually unbreakable. Both of these are true and melamine is an extremely popular choice for any RVer including those in a van. If melamine makes you happy, go with it, but here are my concerns.  Melamine dishware is made from a resin of melamine formaldehyde and. When you eat food from a melamine plate, some amount of the chemical melamine migrates from the plate into your body. While the E.U. is considering banning melamine dishware, it is considered safe by the United States FDA with this caveat: “Foods and drinks should not be heated on melamine-based dinnerware in microwave ovens.”[FDA] This is because the amount of melamine that migrates from a dish to a person increases as heat increases and as the food becomes more acidic. In an article published in The Journal of the American Medical Association Internal Medicine, Dr. Chia-Fang Wu found that the dinnerware released high quantities of melamine into people who were using melamine bowls to eat hot soup [2013]. Melamine is not a benign chemical. An article in the journal Science describes a case where 53,000 children were hospitalized due to melamine tainted infant formula powder [2008] and there are adult cancer risks according to the International Agency for the Research on Cancer [2017][WHO]. In addition, the manufacturing of melamine is bad for the environment [2010]. In summary, why risk it when there are much safer options such as enamelware described below and silicone dishware for microwaving. I apologize for this long rant. 


Another very popular option is Corelle, which from a health safety perspective is significantly better than plastic. People like Corelle  because they are “real dishes”, are break resistant, thin,  and lightweight.  Plus you can use them in a microwave.  Although they rarely break, when they do it is a mess “Corelle dishes were a disaster in our RV. They are made of glass, not ceramic or porcelain. Every time we broke a dish we would find small, very fine shards of glass throughout the van for weeks after. We broke most of them. On one notable occassion [sic] the cupboard door sprung open in hard cornering, the dishes hit the floor and all but one shattered.” – Murray, Lorri, and Clara.  Others have echoed this experience although most say they are unbreakable.


Since the 1910s, enamelware has been associated with recreational vehicle camping. (For a fascinating glimpse of early RV days see George Lorando Lawson’s “An Automotible Praire Schooner” Country Life June 1908). From the traditional speckled pattern to more modern designs, enamelware is a great choice today. Healthwise, it is safe to use and it is unbreakable. Enameled dinnerware is thin and attractive. The drawback is you cannot use them in a microwave. Also since metal transfers heat better than other material, an enamelware bowl of hot soup will be, well, hot. You can buy a lower quality enamelware 12 piece set for under $30 online or at a big box store, or, expensive elegant enamelware from Falcon, one of the original manufacturers. The best from a price-to-quality perspective, and the one I recommend is Crow Canyon.

The best surge protector and EMS

For most owners of Class B camper vans I recommend the Hughes 30 Amp Bluetooth Surge Protector with Auto Shutoff. Another good choice is the Progressive EMS-PT30X. For vans with the Volta Lithium system, a standard surge protector such as the Progressive Industries SSP-30XL may be a better choice (see our Lithium discussion below).

Van power

Most class  B vans have 2 electrical systems. One is commonly 12 volt and runs off of a bank of batteries. The other is commonly 120 volts AC (the same as house current) and runs off of a glorified extension cord connected to an outlet that supplies power to your van. This is called shore power. (The term originally applied to the electrical system that supplied power to docked boats.) At a campground, shore power is typically provided by an electrical pedestal that has different shaped outlets for 30 amp and 50 amp service as well as a switch (circuit breaker) to turn the power on. A Class B van typically uses 30 amp service. WIthout going into the weeds, an amp is, very roughly, how much energy you are using. For example, a typical RV air conditioner uses around 10 amps and a microwave another 10. When you are running both at the same time you are using 20 amps. Since you are using a 30 amp service, the total of everything you are concurrently using in your van must be under 30. Bigger RVs, such as Class As,  have larger energy needs and typically have a 50 amp service.


In your house, you connect devices directly to your outlets. You plug in a floor lamp or a cell phone charging cable. However, instead of directly plugging a device into a wall socket, many people protect their expensive televisions, computers, and audio systems by using a surge protector. As the name suggests a surge protector protects against surges, or power spikes.  A spike is a temporary increase in voltage above what is normal. These spikes can come from lightning strikes, the power company, or even devices within your home. Normally, your house is supplying 120 volts to your devices but when a surge occurs, it may deliver a 1,000 or 5,000 volt spike. What can happen without a surge protector? In a demonstration reported on in this wirecutter article, they sent a 5,000 volt spike to a Dell LCD monitor protected by a surge protector. The monitor worked fine after the spike. When they repeated the test with the surge protector absent, the monitor was destroyed “never to be turned on again.” You can imagine how bummed you would be if your $2,000 OLED 4K television was destroyed by a surge when you could have protected it with a $40 device. Now imagine how bummed you’d be if the electrical system of your $200,000 van was fried by a surge. Hopefully, this avoidance of possible future suffering will convince you to tolerate the immediate slight pain of buying an expensive (~$200) surge protector that does not make your average van trip any more wonderful.  Also, remember that a surge protector only protects the van when connected to shore power. There is no need to use a protector if you are on battery power. 

The measure of how much protection a particular surge protector provides is called a joule. A joule rating is a measure of how much energy can be absorbed by the surge protector before it fails. Everytime your surge protector absorbs energy, it uses up joules. Eventually, after doing its job and absorbing surges, the surge protector is used up. The average lifespan of a home surge protector is three to five years.

Electrical Management Systems (EMSs)

Surge protectors only protect against voltage surges–when the voltage exceeds the limits of your device. They don’t protect against brownouts which is a decrease in voltage below the normal level. Not that long ago I lived in an apartment in Northern Virginia, whose lights would dim when the fan for my apartment heat would come on and also dim when my laser printer started up. So I invested in a system that protects against both occurrences. Anyone who crucially depends on their devices working should protect their gear. For example, in advice given to musicians Ikes Taylor writes “Never plug anything straight into the house electrical system, other than your power conditioner. Remember, you may be on the same circuit as the bar refrigerators.”

In a van, or for that matter any RV, if either a voltage spike or brownout occurs there could be damage to the components in your rig. Here are a few actual reports:

“We were in Mobile, Alabama during Hurricane Lee. The RV park power was hit by lightning and we had a MAJOR power surge melting our 50amp power line and burning the 12VDC and 110 VAC wiring in the coach–2007 Pace Arrow–as well as ‘doing in’ all the electrical appliances and controls.”.    Roger Allen Phoenix USA RV.

“Two weeks ago I posted a note regarding the 220 volt power surge that occured at Tampa East RV park due to the parks faulty underground wires. The spontaneous power surge caused damage to several RV’s in the park. Ours was one of them. We lost our main AC, our microwave, a bedroom television and a convertor.” –RN Enigma

I don’t want to stress you out by suggesting that it is inevitable that you will experience one of these conditions. Having your van damaged by surges and brownouts is extremely rare. That said, a house fire is rare but we protect ourselves with smoke detectors so it might be wise to protect your van from these electrical anomalies.  

While a surge protector only protects against surges, an Electrical Management System (EMS) protects against surges, brownouts, and other anomalies. What are some other anomalies? Some electrical pedestals in campgrounds may not have been set up or maintained by professional certified electricians, or even competent amateur ones and in non-technical language, the wiring may be messed up. For example, in one condition known as reverse polarity, wires are swapped. The electrical systems in your van would work normally but metal surfaces of your van, including exterior surfaces, could be energized which could cause a potentially lethal shock hazard (on the good news front, all RVs manufactured after 2020 are required to have reverse polarity protection). Yet another way of getting a lethal shock is through an open ground. In household plugs the third rounded part of the plug is the ground. For example, if your toaster has an exposed wire, this ground prevents you from getting shocked.  An open ground is when the ground part of an outlet is actually not connected and it doesn’t provide this protection. Again, such events are extremely unlikely.


General Information about an EMS

All the recommended Electrical Management Systems (EMSs) below offer protection against these hazards. Keep in mind that some advanced Lithium systems, such as Winnebago’s Volta system, are not compatible with EMSs and for those it is recommended that you use a standard surge protector, which we describe further below. 

All the units are surprisingly large–about the size of a yoga block, weigh around 4-5 pounds and cost around $200-$250. Each model comes in several configurations. You can get a 30 amp version or the 50 amp. Again, all the Class B vans that I am aware of are 30 amp but please check your manual. You can also get either the portable or hardwired version of these devices. The hardwired version is one that is directly wired to your van’s electrical system and it requires a bit of electrical prowess (or knowing someone who does). The portable version is similar to surge protectors for your house. You plug one end into the plug on the power pedestal, dangle the EMS unit downward, and plug the other end into your van’s power cord. People typically get the portable version. The EMS is both an analyzer and a protector and the steps of using a portable unit reflect this. This is the typical pattern (please consult your EMS/Surge Protector manual for details). 


  1. Make sure the breaker (the power switch) on the pedestal is in the off position.
  2. Plug in your EMS
  3. Wait for the EMS to analyze the power (depending on the EMS this could take from a few seconds to a few minutes).
  4. If the EMS detects a problem, do not plug in your van, instead, report the problem to the park manager.
  5. If the EMS says everything is good, move the breaker to the off position.
  6. Plug in the power cord from your van into the EMS, and switch the breaker to ON.
  7. Now you can use the electrical devices in your van while the EMS is providing protection.

The key point here is that you first plug in the EMS to the pedestal without having your van connected. Only when the EMS says that the power is good, do you plug in your van.

My Pick - The Hughes Power Watchdog + EPO

The EMS I recommend is the Hughes Hughes Power Watchdog + EPO.  It was introduced in 2019 and won second place in the RV Industry Association’s Aftermarket Product of the Year Award. One thing that sets it apart from others is its IP65 waterproof rating.  As you may have learned from shopping for a rain parka, the term ‘waterproof’ can mean different things and the IP rating is an industry standard measure for electrical devices. The IP65 rating makes the Hughes similar to outdoor street lights and it can survive being out in severe thunderstorms (a good thing since one of its primary jobs is to protect against lightning strikes).  In comparison, the new iPhones have an IP68 rating meaning they can survive being under 13 feet for 30 minutes. This Hughes is not rated to sit in a pool of water. In fact, all surge protectors and EMSs are designed to hang from the power pedestal and not lay on the ground and be susceptible to puddles.

The other novel feature of the Hughes is that it has Bluetooth connectivity and a companion iPhone/Android app. This app provides detailed information about power including the energy consumption of your van. Finally, this unit features a replaceable surge module. Recall the surge protectors can get ‘used up’ and when this happens to other brands, you need to replace the entire unit. With the Hughes unit, if the surge component gets used up you just replace a $20 module. 

The startup time is also faster. The startup time of some other brands exceeds two minutes whereas the startup time on the Hughes is 4 seconds! 

The other features are comparable to other EMSs listed here. It protects against surges, high and low voltage, open ground and reverse polarity. The surge protector component is rated at 2,400 joules.

The one drawback this unit has is it only has a 3 year warranty when other brands feature a lifetime warranty.

Also Good - Progressive EMS-PT30X

The Progressive EMS-PT30X has long been considered the gold standard of surge protectors and is by far the most commonly mentioned EMS in various RV forums.  A big plus to this unit is its lifetime warranty and a number of people have mentioned this in their forum posts. Their EMS-PT30X would go bad, they would call customer service, who would ship out a new unit. Unfortunately there are an equal number of people that express difficulty in reaching the 24/7 customer service hotline. 

It offers the same basic protections as the Hughes. Its surge protector component is rated at 1,790 and its startup time is 136 seconds.

The main reason this isn’t my top pick, is that numerous people in various forums and on Amazon report water intrusion into the unit. For example, one person on the Airstream forum  writes “Our Progressive Industries EMS-PT50X quit working after a storm yesterday and I realized it was full of water!” and a user in the Forest River forum says “So upon inspection my unit was full of water. More than a cup, and it really didn’t rain that hard. These units are not water tight as represented.”  Many of the people who had water damage received a new unit under the lifetime warranty, but some did not.

Even with this defect it is perhaps the most recommended in the Class B forums..

Runner Up - Southwire 34930 Surge Guard 30 amp

While not as full-featured as the Hughes, a solid choice would be the Southwire Surge Guard. The protection it offers is similar to both the Hughes and Progressive. Like the Progressive, the manufacturer states that it is weather resistant but some owners report water intrusion. At one time they were the budget pick for good EMSs, but now their price seems comparable to the others. Unless you can get the Southwire for a greatly reduced price, the Hughes or the Progressive are better options.

Winnebago Pure3 Volta Lithium Systems

There are rare reports of problems with using an EMS unit with the Volta Lithium System found on some Winnebago vans. The Volta system already checks for conditions like open ground and over/under current and some users report problems with connecting the Progressive EMS-PT30x to the van and the problems are resolved when using a standard, non-EMS, surge protector. I have not seen reports of problems with other lithium based systems and most people still recommend the more comprehensive EMS units. If you are worried about compatibility, the following non-EMS surge protectors are recommended.

Photo at head of article by Frank Cone from Pexels