Must Have Items For Van Living
So you've just bought a van and wondering what essential gear you need to comfortably get by for van living? Well every person has a different view on what they can and can't get by with but I don't think any vanlifer would disagree with the must-have list we have put together below.
These are all items you will more than likely use on a daily basis however there are many options to choose from within each category and we have tried to make a point of highlighting some of the choices available to you. It really depends on how much space you have to work with and what your budget is. Our build is very basic and we have very little space so finding those gadgets that take up less room is very important to us.
If you are planning on full-time van living it is best to invest in solar panels. This will ensure you are self sufficient and able to go off-grid if you please. The Goal Zero Boulder 90 pictured on the right can deliver up to 90 watts of power. You can also look into these flexible solar panels which are much lighter.
PORTABLE POWER BANK
If you’re vanlife adventure involves traveling then think about picking up a portable power bank because it sucks when your phone is on low battery but you still need it for photo’s or directions. This little gadget comes in handy for us all the time! Charge it once when you have access to power and take with you at all times just in case. Also, if you haven't invested in solar for your van these are useful to charge your phone instead of using the cigarette lighter if you're worried about draining the vehicles battery when it isn’t running.
CIGARETTE LIGHTER CHARGER
A MUST HAVE!!! Keep all your devices charged while you are driving. Dual USB is great for charging two phones simultaneously and even better is if you pick up a Quick Charge which will charge your device 4 times faster than a regular USB charger.
MR HEATER BUDDY
This one was a game changer for us. If you are just following the warm weather then this might not be necessary for you but if you are planning to head north in winter or want to include some ski trips then you need to invest in a Mr Heater Buddy. We did the entire Oregon and Northern California coast a few years back before we knew this existed. It was cold, wet and miserable in the van (well maybe not that last part). We were given one for Christmas of 2016 and were both a little skeptical of its efficiency but boy were we wrong! We took it on a New Years Eve trip to Mammoth Lakes and we were almost sweating most nights. They are powered by propane gas so no need to plug in to any outlets.
The Mr Heater Buddy can release harmful gas into your van as they are supposed to be used outside so if you want to be safe rather than sorry you can pick up a CO alarm from the store or order online.
CAR TOP CARGO BOX
Space is always an issue if you're living in a van. Chances are your bed takes up the majority of space leaving not much room for anything else. To fix this problem we bought a roof top cargo box to store all of our seasonal gear and other items like tools, snowboards, camp chairs, etc. They come in a wide range of sizes to meet your needs. We actually have two mounted at the moment. Yes, the struggle is real.
If you don't already have roof racks then you may need to purchase some if you are going to get yourself that cargo box. We found these roof racks on amazon that were super cheap and mounted ourselves with ease. They are heavy duty and fit most vans.
NEMO HELIO PRESSURE SHOWER
The Nemo Helio Pressure Shower provides 5-7 minutes of steady water pressure using the attached foot pump. All you need to do is fill the 11 litre bag and let the water warm up over the course of the day.
COLEMAN 5 GALLON SOLAR SHOWER
The Coleman Solar Shower is essentially a black bag that heats up in the sun that you can shower with using the shower nozzle. You will need a tree or something else you can hang the bag from.
Don't forget you can always turn to wet wipes for those times you are unable to shower properly. We always stock up on these as they have multiple uses. You can stock up on them too through amazon.
PORTABLE CAMP OVEN
We don't own one of these and while it would be nice to have one it would take up too much space in our van. However some of our friends do have portable ovens in their Sprinter conversion vans. It's up to you whether you can live with or without this luxury item.
COOLER / REFRIDGERATION
We do have a cheap cooler in the van but honestly we never use it. Things don't seem to last very long in it so it gets used as storage more than anything else. But Yeti Coolers are top of the line and if we could afford one it would definitely be beneficial.
GAS OR ELECTRIC STOVE
Probably one of the most essential items of vanlife! You need to eat right? Depending on your needs and how much space you want to cut down on there are a few options to choose from. We have a Coleman two-burner stove however there is a wide range of single burner stove systems to choose from or you could even purchase electric cookware. Click on any of the images below to learn about each item.
POTS & PANS
You are going to need some pots and pans in order to be able to cook. You will be glad to know there are so many space saving options these days. For instance, check out some of these incredible collapsible pots and kettles we've shown below. They are not only great for vanlife, but if you are into hiking they are also great for overnight trips!
You can save even more space in your van with kitchen utensils that are either multi-purpose, that fold or are compact.
JBL blue tooth speakers are great for vanlife. Listen to music on your phone or watch movies on your laptop at an audible level. No more straining to hear when you are parked up in noisy area's. We love ours!
Unless you want your day to come to an end when the sun goes down you will definitely be needing interior van lighting. There are so many options and styles to choose from. You can build lighting into your van, use a camping lantern or our favorite option which is to hang battery operated string light's. You can view some of our favorite options below.
Having at least a basic tool kit is essential for vanlife. This could save you from being stuck in a remote location or at least allow you to perform minor repairs until you reach a mechanic workshop. Getting a tow is not cheap! At a bare minimum you should have a kit that includes a set of wrenches, sockets, screwdrivers, pliers, hammer, knife, duck tape and zip ties.