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We’ve been living in our converted Ford Econoline e350 for almost 8 months now and we’ve learned quite a bit along the way. We downsized from a 1,650 square foot house to just over 60 square feet of living area in the van and have really figured out what we need and what we don’t for day to day living.
We made a van life must-have list right as we were setting out on our trip, but decided to make an updated list with all the other gadgets and gear we still find ourselves using on a daily basis. These are things that we use every day on the road; we couldn’t do van life without them. This list combined with our original Van Life Must-Haves will have you ready to start your van life adventure on the right foot.
Van Life Must-Haves: Technology
We’ve had a lot of people ask us, “How do you get any work done when you’re on the road all the time?” The truth is, it’s been difficult. Finding the time to work, and areas with good cell service has been tricky. These tech must-haves make work days and leisure time so much more enjoyable though!
Sometimes it’s tough charging all of your gear off of your van’s solar and batteries. This gets increasingly more difficult after a few days of rain or clouds. The Anker Power Bank will charge your phone, computer, or other electronics quickly. It also holds its charge for weeks! We have used the heck out of ours and it really helps to save our van battery power for stuff we really need, such as running our fridge, fan, and John’s c-pap. (So I won’t kill him because of his snoring.)
Listening to music or podcasts over your phone speaker can get old real fast—especially if more than one person is trying to listen. It can get pretty annoying having to move your phone or iPad just right so everyone can hear, plus the sound quality is pretty terrible. Luckily you won’t have to suffer if you pick up a JBL Bluetooth Speaker. Its small size makes it perfect for van life and the handy clip allows you to attach it to all sorts of things. It’s also waterproof, which is a bonus if you decide to take it hiking with you and the skies open up. This speaker is tough and holds a charge for several days. We love ours.
Need directions while you drive to your next destination? We sure do! We use our phones on a daily basis for navigational purposes. Chances are, we also have music or a podcast playing in the background. This sucks the life out of our phone batteries FAST. That’s where the wireless car charger comes in handy. It holds your phone steady and you don’t have to deal with a mess of cords. This comes with all the attachments to either clip it to your air vent or suction it to your dash or windshield. We use ours literally every day and don’t know how we lived without one for so long. (Of course, you need to make sure that your phone can charge wirelessly!)
I got a pair of Sony Noise-Cancelling Headphones for my birthday a few years ago. I wanted them for flying, but I have used them a ton in the van. It’s really nice when John and I are both trying to work. I get distracted really easily and these help me tune out what is going on around me and focus. It’s also really convenient if we want to be listening to different things. He can have the sound on whatever he’s listening to, and when I put on my headphones and turn on the noise cancelling, I can’t hear a thing. I don’t travel anywhere without these guys.
This is another essential item if you are planning on working on the road. Most campgrounds we stay at don’t have Wifi and if they do, the signal is usually terrible. This Mifi Jetpack Mobile Hotspot from Verizon lets us have Wifi as long as we have cell service. Having good cell service is another battle. Just check with your cellular provider before purchasing this to make sure it will work with your phone plan.
Van Life Must-Haves: Organization & Storage
When you live in a van, having an organized space is a must. Square footage comes at a premium and if everything doesn’t have a place, things can get out of control real fast and your van will become a total mess. These items help to keep our van clean and organized.
I had a hard time figuring out which category to put this ladder in. We use it to get to our cargo carrier that we have on the roof of our van for extra storage, hence the category. Anyway, this telescoping ladder collapses down and fits under our bed for easy access. The ladder weighs about 25 pounds, so it isn’t the lightest in the world, but holds up to 330 lbs. and extends to 12.5 ft. It also telescopes out and collapses so easily that I can use it by myself. It makes putting things in and taking stuff out of our cargo case a breeze.
I love these woven plastic storage baskets. We don’t have a high top van, so we have less than a foot of clearance under our bed for storage. These small sized baskets slide under our bed perfectly. We have 4 that hold bulkier items that we don’t need every day like our big bottles of shampoo and body wash, our extra bear spray, and tire compressor just to name a few. They really help us keep our van tidy and organized.
Van Life Must-Haves: Kitchen Essentials
If you know me, you know that food is a very important part of my life. I love to cook and I love to eat, but camp cooking isn’t always easy and finding a place to store all of the essentials in the van can sometimes be tricky. This compact kitchen gear makes cooking and clean up just a little easier when you live on the road.
We don’t have running water in our van. Most campgrounds that we’ve stayed at on the road haven’t had sinks for washing dishes. They also don’t want you to wash dishes at the water spigots, which I totally understand, since food scraps attract animals. This is why you need a dish tub if you are planning on spending any time camping. This dish tub is perfect because it collapses for easier storage. We use ours to carry our cooking gear out to the picnic table and it makes washing dishes at the campsite so easy.
We love our Sea to Summit gear. We have the x-pot and pan, bowls, cups, and silverware. This gear is light weight and collapsible, so it’s great for van life or a backpacking trip. One of my favorite pieces is the Sea to Summit Kettle. We use this kettle every day to heat up water for my morning tea or for John to use with his Stanley Coffee Press.
Our van has a 2 burner alcohol stove built in. This works great when it is cold and snowy outside and you want the extra heat to warm up the van. It’s not so great when it’s summer and already hot inside the van. Enter the Coleman Propane Grill Stove Combo. This little guy has a single burner and a grill section and we have been using it daily ever since we got out of the winter weather. We love cooking outside as much as possible. It helps keep our van cleaner and MUCH cooler. This grill stove combo has been well worth its weight in gold. It also folds down for convenient storage. Keeping it clean, however, is another post entirely.
Van Life Must-Haves: Staying Comfortable
Living in a van isn’t always easy. Sometimes it gets really hot. Other times the bugs are terrible. And then sometimes it’s really hot AND the bugs are terrible. Here are a few things that help to keep us a little more comfortable when conditions are less than ideal.
This is really one of the only things we’ve bought for the van that we don’t have room for. After a terrible night of getting eaten alive by no-seeums, when there wasn’t any breeze, and the temperature didn’t drop below 80 degrees, we decided we needed another source of air circulation besides our Maxxair fan. We love our Honeywell Turbo Air Fan on really hot nights. We are able to plug it into our power inverter on days or nights when it is just too hot to handle. When we are parked, it’s stored on top of our cabinets. When we drive, we throw it on the bed. It’s not the ideal storage setup but it’s so nice to have when the weather gets unbearably hot.
It seems as if hot weather and mosquitos go hand-in-hand. We have been really lucky that we haven’t had to deal with too much of either so far. But during the few times we have had to deal with mosquitos, we were glad we had our Thermacell Mosquito Repeller. John got this little gadget years ago when we lived in Texas and had to put up with Texas-sized mosquito, and it really works! It’s also small enough to slide into our storage rail or one of our baskets when we don’t need it. Poor John gets eaten alive by ALL the bugs, so this Mosquito Repeller has been a life saver for him.
Van Life Must-Haves: Revisiting Old Favorites
All of the items above are things we use at least a few times a week if not every single day. We thought we’d also add two of our favorite things from our first van life must-have list that we have used non-stop since hitting the road.
Guys, this might be my all time favorite piece of gear. We have only used the Nemo Helio Pressure Shower as a shower a handful of times, but it makes dish washing so much easier. Fill it up with water, pressurize it with the foot pump, let it warm with the sun, and it’s almost like you have a sink with running water when you pair it with your collapsible dish bucket. It also collapses down to the size of a lunchbox when you’re not using it. We love this thing!
When you live in a van, a good blanket is essential, especially on cooler nights. John has used our Rumpl blanket as his main blanket for most of the trip. It’s also great to cozy up with by the campfire or throw in your backpack for a picnic on the trail. This blanket is built to last. It also comes with a convenient stuff sack to make for easy storage and transport. I’ll be honest with you though, we haven’t used the stuff sack at all. Once we took the blanket out, we haven’t put it away because we are using it non-stop.
That’s all folks
Well, there you have it, our essential van life must-have list. We love all of these items and hope this list makes prepping for your van life adventure a little less stressful!
Let us know if you have any gear questions or if you think we left anything off of our list.
Thinking about transitioning to van life? You might enjoy some of our other van related posts and videos. Check them out below.