When living the van life there are things that you will need that are the same as when you are living in an apartment but there are also a bunch of things that make life more comfortable and more fun while you are traveling. there are also things that are totally essential for traveling in a camper and you should always have these.
We have spent a lot of time thinking about these things to make our campers as comfortable as possible for users and have all that we need for any situation. we hope this list helps you out with your own adventure.
Van life accessories
In this list, we have included all the basic items that we have in our Van to help you set up your own. Some of these items are things that most others have and some of them are more specific to us. We hope this list gives you some inspiration and makes your van life more comfortable and fun.
Thongs (not flip flops)
I am an Australian and there is nothing we love more than a pair of thongs. They are great and for a van they are perfect. You never have to wear real shoes, you can walk around in the van in bare feet and just jump out with a pair of thongs its the best. They are tiny for when you go to the beach. Just perfection in a shoe.
Perfect for the beach or really anywhere, just fill it up and chill out. These are awesome if you have some friends around and you need some more chairs. Or like the hammock below just want to chill out somewhere on something super comfortable.
What kind of van lifer doesn’t have a hammock… Ok, it’s not required but why not. Forgoing to the beach or a hike somewhere there is nothing better than having a hammock where you can just set it up and relax with the sounds of the ocean, rainforest, or wherever you are while reading a book or having an afternoon nap.
I chose the double hammock but it’s a compact one so it doesn’t take up too much space.
This one should be pretty obvious and like a pack of cards or a table, they are just a must. It will depend on your budget, what style you like, and how much space you have as to the exact type that you get but a set of outdoor chairs are great. We just went with some basic ones that you can find below.
Whether you are going for a bushwalk or just going to have a picnic in the park a small portable table is a great thing to have with you. Especially for the vans that don’t have a lot of space inside for sitting and eating. In our camper, we have a great indoor table but this still doesn’t beat eating outside where you have amazing views that inside the van just can’t match. The table we got is this one below, it’s not very big but for us, that’s a good thing it’s small enough to carry in your backpack so we can eat something after a hike.
Waterproof Playing Cards
Essential for the times when it’s raining and you just want something to do. Especially if there is not a lot of suns so you need to save some power. This is one of those items that will give you so much enjoyment for a tiny price and only takes a tiny bit of space. Honestly, I don’t think there should be
In a time of Covid this really is a necessity, to keep yourself and others safe you really need to be doing this whenever you enter or leave the van or whenever you eat, at the bare minimum. I prefer to just use the sanitizer when out and about because I much prefer to clean my hands with water and soap when in the van but this is still completely essential for any van lifer in the world as it is now with our great friend Covid.
Essentials for your Van
So we have covered a number of basic essentials that we think you should all start with. But here are some of the more functional items, these are the things that you will need if you plan to spend any time in your van away from direct support. Also, just things that should be in the van at all times no matter what.
Even if you are not good with engines or vans everyone should have a tool kit with the basics at the very least. You never know where you will be when something goes wrong. Sometimes help can be a long way away and it cal also be very expensive.
No matter what van, camper, or RV you buy no matter how new it is, it’s always worth having some tools. Even if they are just used to change a light bulb from time to time they are worth having around. Some simple tools will save you a significant amount of money not having to pay someone for every little repair you need. And the more you use them the more you will save money.
Road Safety Kit (Required in Europe)
A road safety kit is essential wherever you drive in the world. Having some basic safety equipment like a high visibility vest and a first aid kit. We all hope that we never have to use it but trust me it’s worth the few dollars in getting one so that you have what you need when something goes wrong.
There are so many options when it comes to lighting it’s not funny, really this comes down to function and taste, what kind of lights do you need, and also what ones do you like the look of. There are two main kinds loved by van lifers the world over.
Tips: make sure you get LEDs that are a low temperature, personally, I try to go for 2700K as these ones have a nice warm glow to them rather than the overly white light that makes your van look like the inside of a hospital.
The first is the amazing led string/fairy lights. These can run for weeks on a couple of batteries and you can get some that work via USB too so you will never need batteries at all. They also look great.
Second is the LED Strip lights, these are great for direct lighting, soft mood lighting, beautiful lighting in the bathroom, or really anything you want. They do use a bit of power but they are well worth it, the quality of the light you get is awesome and just makes a van really feel like a home.
Invaluable, everyone needs a decent torch and or a headlamp. For the times you want to adventure in the dark or have a breakdown on the side of the road a good headlamp or torch will do you wonders.
We believe in buying good quality items that will last you years, so you could just buy cheap options but the ones we have listed below are good ones that we have used and they will last you years and years. I use my LEDLenser P7 a lot, I have had it for around 7 years now and it’s still perfect.
LEDLenser H8R Headlamp
If you want to sleep comfortably wherever you go then these really are a great investment. You can’t always get the best spot, and sometimes an entire camping area has a slope to it. The only real way of dealing with this is to have some leveling ramps. They will allow you to stay in many more places comfortably. They will also allow you to get into that awesome spot with the best view without the van being on some crazy angle, and before you ask, yes, yes I have done that.
Fire Extinguisher and Blanket
I am not sure there is much to say for this one. All vehicles should have a fire extinguisher at the very least. This is very important and especially in a van you are living in where there is gas and other combustible materials you should 100% have at least a fire extinguisher but also a fire blanket.
Kidde Fire Extinguisher
Tonyko Fire Blanket
Carbon Monoxide and Smoke Alarm
If you have gas in your van, a gas heater, a diesel heater, a gas fridge, really anything that uses fuel. Even just a candle, actually especially a candle you should have a smoke detector and a carbon monoxide detector. They can be a little pricy for something that just annoys you when you make toast but if you could spend $30 to save your life, don’t you think that’s important…
A carbon monoxide detector is a detector specifically designed to detect you guessed it, carbon monoxide. This is very important because this is the silent killer, you have a gas flame in an enclosed space burning for too long its not the smoke that will kill you it’s the carbon monoxide. And it will happen while you are asleep. This also goes for diesel heaters, they make carbon monoxide so all it takes is a hole in the exhaust or something to go wrong with the heater, and well put it this way you are not going to have a good night’s sleep. More than anything else on this list this is So So important.
Also a smoke alarm, this is for the normal fire, you left the candle burning and it’s now started burning something else. The stove was left on and it’s now burning, this is where you will get the smoke.
You can also get combined models with both in the same unit. Stay safe kids.
Chinese diesel heater
A favorite among van lifers, campers and so many more the humble eBay special diesel heater is a godsend for those living in a van in cold temperatures. We have had our van in -10°c with it snowing outside and been comfortably warm inside, they are great. They use such little diesel that you can run them for weeks on 10L of diesel, they are cheap, there really isn’t another alternative.
Just check your van for the correct size, and this is a unit that will need to be built into the van properly so make sure you have the right tools, place, and time to do the job.
Personally, I have installed our diesel heater so that the exhaust of the heater passes through our gas water heater. This means that we get hot water when we are using the diesel heater for free and don’t need to spend any money on gas. Here is the guide on how I did that.
Power and Tech Van Life Essentials
What would life be without technology, the world of the internet is something that people find it hard to be disconnected from for too long, and for more and more people living in campers, like us, it’s more than just Netflix and Facebook, it’s a way of life?
Having enough power to run your computer so you can work remotely is essential for many people living in a van and that’s what this section is all about, along with some other essential tech.
Solar Panel and Solar Controller
Solar is the way of the future, if you want to be environmentally conscious or you just want free electricity for years and years then you just have to have solar. There really isn’t any question about this one for living in a camper. Solar is the way to go, the only alternatives you have are to run the engine or always go to a camping park. If you want to stay in the wild at all you need a decent amount of solar power to support everything you do.
You will also need a solar controller to manage your solar panels so that they charge your batteries the right way. If you are installing solar panels you just need to have one of these there is no question about it. There are two different types, PWM and MPPT, they are different and we recommend reading up on it a bit but really it boils down to this.
If you want more features and more efficiency then go for an MPPT controller but they are more expensive.
If you are ok with fewer features and just a box that does the job then go with a PWM. We also think this is the way to go because then you can spend that money on a bigger solar panel.
30A Solar Controller
100W Solar Panel
Camper Battery (LiFePo4)
For many years the best options out there for the batteries in your van were simply large lead-acid batteries. But these days there are more modern alternatives that are better in every way to the old dinosaur batteries.
What you want is Lithium Ion Phosphate batteries, this is a lithium-ion battery but it’s a bit different from the one on your phone or laptop. They are mostly much larger but have a higher capacity for the same weight as lead-acid, they also have a significantly longer life than lead-acid. Where lead-acid has an operational life of between 100-400 cycles before it starts degrading significantly LiFePo4 batteries can run up to 5000 cycles before they suffer similar degradation. This is the difference between 1 year, and 13 years of daily operation.
Cost, the only issue here is cost, the upfront cost of LiFePo4 batteries is much higher than lead-acid, but the benefits far out weight the cost. Over the life of the batteries LiFePo4 batteries make up for their extra cost many times over.
Not to mention the benefits of the battery itself, they don’t lose power through charge and discharge where lead-acid loses up to 20% of the power put into them. Also, they don’t suffer from voltage drop and the battery is depleted meaning that all your 12v accessories work better with more power all the time.
Trust my I have used lead-acid batteries in the past and once I changed to LiFePo4 I would never go back.
If you want to know more here is an article specifically about van batteries for you.
USB Car Charger
If you are anything like us you have a bunch of different devices that all charge from USB ports. These kinds of devices are awesome for van life as they are usually low power and but they are also super easy to charge up.
This is why I have several high-power USB adapters in the Van, I have a 4 port high-power car adapter, another 2 port high-power adapter, and also several built-in USB ports. I also have a built-in USB-C fast charger as we have android phones and this will give them a quick charge in about 30-40 mins. Great for in the middle of the day when you have heaps of solar power.
While running all your devices directly from 12V or with USB adapters is the way to go when you are in the van there will inevitably be some things that cant be run like this. There is always the odd thing or 3 you can’t live without that needs to run on mains power. This is where an inverter comes in. It will allow you to run any of your normal appliances from your battery.
When choosing the size of the inverter you need, have a look at all the things you want to run in the van. This one is small and is really just meant to run the odd item from time to time that you cant run off 12v. If you want a more permanent option and one that is better for bigger appliances then you will need one with a higher power rating.
One thing that we love is music, while your van will no debatably have a radio built in a Bluetooth speaker is great to have anyway. You don’t want to be leaving the accessories on in your van, running the risk of killing your battery just so that you can listen to some music. This is why a Bluetooth speaker is so good. Also perfect for when you are away from the van, walking, having a picnic, at a party, or just having a beer by a river somewhere in the world.
This really is a luxury item and it’s not really essential but I have put it on this list because it’s cool and can mean that you don’t need a tablet or laptop to be able to watch some Netflix or something else. You can use this to watch a movie off your phone, and you can even host movie nights if you want.
Essential Oil Diffuser
When you are living in a small space like a camper or a van they can get smelly. Especially if you have a couple of days of rain where you are stuck inside for a while. A small battery-powered one like this will mean that you can charge it easily and all you need is some of your favorite essential oil and your van will smell great all the time.
Kitchen Van Life Essentials
Coffee Maker – Aeropress
This is something that I bought years ago before I started traveling in a van and loved it. Coffee is something we love and being Australian I have a particular taste for coffee, the Aeropress is the ultimate portable coffee maker. Bring it with you on a hike, or use it day to day in the van it’s perfect and makes a perfect cup every time.
This is one of my favorite things on this list.
Unbreakable Plates and Bowls (eco-friendly wheat straw)
We like to be eco-friendly where we can and this one is a no-brainer. Glass plates and bowls weigh a lot in a van and can too easily get broken if they fall or get dropped.
We found these eco-friendly wheat straw ones that are great, unbreakable, light and they are biodegradable. You couldn’t really ask for much more.
Hygiene in a van or camper is not the easiest thing to maintain and one of the things that many people have issues with when first living in a van. Not being able to have a long hot shower every day can be a real problem for some people. So hopefully some of these items will help you out with that.
Portable Camping Shower
Extra water for showers is not that easy. It is fine by all the time. And hot water is even harder, many vans don’t have a hot water service, and the ones that don’t have unlimited supplies of water so you will have to have military-style showers anyway.
Enter the humble camp shower, this is really just a bag of water that you leave out to warm up in the sun. While it doesn’t give you a long time to have a shower it will give you a shower without having to use up the water in your drinking tank. Perfect for spending a week in the bush somewhere.
Quick Dry Towels
Again, with the small and easy-to-use items, some quick-dry towels are great for use all the time. The best thing about them is just that they are small and light, not quite as luxurious as a large fluffy towel but takes up much less space, dries faster, and are lighter.
The humble laundry bag is wildly underrated, having somewhere to store all your dirty clothes is essential for keeping the mess under control not to mention the smell.
Portable washing machine (dry bag for washing laundry)
One thing that is always a bit of a chore when traveling in a van is doing the laundry, the vast majority of vans and campers don’t have a washing machine so they have to find other ways of washing their clothes.
The most common one and one that everyone will use even if they have a laundry bag is going to the laundry from time to time to do a big wash for laundry day. While this will always happen there are ways you can extend the times between visits. This also helps save some money too.
Enter the laundry bag, while there are some dedicated options like the Scrubba bag and if you want to get one of these they are great. You can also do the same job with a standard dry bag.
Just put in your clothes, some water, and the soap. Then throw it around shake it, squash it, kneed it and in 10 minutes you have some clean clothes, just rinse off and dry them out.