You can catch me all over the world sketching out my blueprints for #VanLife. I watch an embarrassing amount of VanLife-ers on youtube and I’ve probably seen more van build videos than the average human. So it should be no surprise that I’ve compiled a list of van life essentials that I wouldn’t be comfortable living in a van without.
Van Life Essentials You NEED
When it comes to van life, I think most people assume it’s going to be as hot as hell in a van. That, or they don’t consider the fact that after converting your van in the heat, you just may travel to a cooler climate. You may even think that with your amazing insulation and body heat, you’re sure to keep warm. WRONG. Installing a heater during your build is imperative to your comfort, but it also keeps frostbite at bay. The popular location for this heater is right under the passengers seat and while it may increase your budget, you’ll regret not getting it out of the way in the beginning. I’ve also seen many plug in heaters but I think they’re are a quick band aid solution for those trying to get around the problem. If you’d rather have a portable heater, here’s a great option.
In addition to your ventilation fan, you’re probably going to need something a little closer and all up in your face. This particular gimbal fan comes highly recommended by more than a few van lifers and while it’s pretty compact, it packs a punch. Here’s a much cheaper, 12V fan. A fan, in addition to your other ventilation are sure to create that breeze you need on those warmer nights.
Your window panels should serve multiple purposes. They should keep light out, give you complete privacy, and if you’re lucky, they serve as the extra insulation you need to both stay cool and warm. Most people make their own panels using cloth and reflectix, but depending on your van, you can probably get pre-made panels or find a company that specializes in them.
A handheld vacuum is pretty self explanatory. You may not have the space for a full sized broom but I’m sure a mini one would work just fine if you’re set on manual labor. A handheld vacuum is great for picking up everything from cat litter to the Raisin Bran you spilled early this morning. The right one will also get into tight crevices that your hand can’t reach.
When I first saw a Van Life couple whip their enamelware I thought it was an eyesore, but I’m sure someone will love it. I’d rather have something a little more pretty, like this simple set, however, this plate set gets the job done and will survive any winding road or city speed bump that you drive over it without shattering. I’ve seen a lot of cupboards full of mismatched dinnerware so before you even invest in any, get this indestructible set.
Van Life Essentials to Consider
If you don’t have fruit or non-refrigerated vegetables on your counter, are you really a van lifer? Me thinks not. A fruit hammock will stop your tomatoes from rolling down the walkway to your bed and your bananas won’t stick to the counter when they’re too old. The trick with a fruit hammock is to install it at an angle. That way avocados don’t smash into the wall while driving along bumpy roads and you can make your guacamole or avocado on your own terms. Don’t let the van tell you when to do it. Take control!
A stove is quite high on the list of van life essentials unless you are a raw vegan or eat out all day. I’m very torn between a portable stove and a stationary one. Because I cook all of my meals, a stationary one seems best for me so that I’m not taking out a stove several times a day. However, depending on the size of your van and whether or not you’d rather have more counter space, you may opt for a camper stove. It also matters if you cook once a day, or 3+ times a day, like myself.
A simple hack to organizing your dry food is mason jars. Take the rice, quinoa, and oats out of their bulky boxes and packaging and throw them in a jar. It should not only save your space, but it’s aesthetically pleasing as well. Clear storage also allows you to see what you need a lot sooner. I’m sure that Uncle Ben’s rice box looks eerily similar to that box of granola you love so much.
So many people nix showers from their van builds and can’t stop promoting a Planet Fitness membership or tell us how they can shower at some other gym. I think a solar shower is not only something that’s great to have when the nearest Planet Fitness is in the next state, but for those days when you simply need a good rinse and don’t necessarily feel like heading to a gym. Now having a built in shower used to be a non-negotiable for me but I think a solar shower and wet room (shower without the actual shower head/plumbing) could be a happy medium. It’s the number one thing on my personal list of van life essentials because I don’t even feel comfortable getting in bed without showering (I literally can’t get comfortable), and the solar part with help with warm/hot water versus water that’s cold or freezing. Here’s a shower tent that you can pop up just about anywhere.
Believe it or not, I’ve seen a lot of vans without bug screens. I’m going to assume that mosquitos hate them, but they love me, so a door screen is high on my list of van life essentials. This wouldn’t be just for mosquitos, but for any type of fly that might get confused and think it’s a welcome visitor in my tiny home. With screens, you can usually leave your door wide open without worrying about bugs…but if a mouse hops up in there and gets cozy with you, don’t yell at me.