I spent 8 months living in my van and during this time I have learned a lot about van life essentials- what you need, what you don’t need, and what you really, really, really need! Life is difficult without a kitchen, a bathroom and just space in general. You need to be organised, and you need to have the right tools to make this experience as easy as possible.
Here are 10 must have items for van life. These items have saved me time, space, money and stress and should be everyone’s van life packing list.
10 Van Life Essentials
1. Baby Wipes
Baby wipes are one of my must have items for vanlife.
What can’t you use baby wipes for? Baby wipes have a magnitude of uses: make up remover, dish clothes, hand wipes, toilet paper, baby wipe showers…
They should be on everyones van life packing list.
2. Propane Stove
Next on my van life essentials list is a propane stove.
A propane stove is by far the easiest way to cook your meals.
I love my Coleman Classic Propane Stove- it is super easy to use and takes less than a minute to get up and running.
Gas canisters can be purchased for around $6 CAD and these last for at least a week or two (cheapest power bill ever!).
I’m always using my stove to heat soups, cook up a stir fry and heat up water to use for my hot water bottle on those chilly nights.
3. Super Long Phone Charger
Another one of my must have items for vanlife is a super phone charging cable.
My friend used an extended phone charger while he was staying in hostels. It makes a lot of sense; if you’re in the top bunk it’s hard to reach your phone while it is charging. Having a super long phone charging cable is not only easier but you’re also less likely to have your phone pinched if you are using shared accommodation.
It was super annoying for me to plug my phone into the charging cable at the front of my van after I was tucked into bed (it’s only like 5 ft away, but I am lazy okay?) so this little gem means I can now charge my phone and use it from the comfort of my bed.
It’s one of my favourite must have items for vanlife.
4. Emergency car kit
Don’t get caught out. Some problems associated with vanlife are running your car battery dead (from constantly charging things or accidentally leaving a light on), flat tyres, and things coming loose. Keep a tool kit handy as well in case you need to do a bit of DIY at any time.
5. Battery Operated Fairy Lights
There is nothing quite like cuddling up in bed each night with a book underneath my fairy lights.
Installation for battery operated lights is easy- put them into a mason jar to create a lantern, or drape them across the roof of your van.
6. A Good Book
Once you’ve installed your fairy lights you need a good book to read as well. My favourite novel is Wild by Cheryl Strayed. It’s an inspiring memoir of a woman who hiked the Pacific Crest Trail.
You can also find out some of my favourite books by travel writers by clicking here. Any vanlifer will relate to these brilliant books.
7. A Leather Journal
While living the vanlife you tend to have a lot of revelations, so make sure you write them down! I love anything that is vintage, a little quirky, or handmade.
I found my handmade leather journal in Scotland, however you can also buy some pretty cool ones from Amazon.
8. Warm Socks
The first week I lived in my van it snowed. Not only did it snow, but I woke up to 30 centimeters of it!
Because the van isn’t insulated, I had to rely on what I had to keep me warm. Luckily I had some warm clothing from the previous ski season.
The best kind of socks I can recommend are merino socks. If you are doing van life during a fall or spring, the weather can change at the drop of a hat (especially in Canada where one day it can be 25°C and the following day it’s -2°C and snowing!).
Merino socks keep you super warm but if you start to overheat and sweat these socks will draw the moisture away from your body into the sock lining so when the temperature does drop again, you still stay warm.
9. A Shewee
For the ladies, a Shewee is a necessity. I’m not going to go into too much detail here, but get one of these babies and I promise, you will thank me.
10. Warm sleeping bag
I lived in Alberta, Canada when I lived the vanlife which meant the summers were warm and the winter- well, there was a lot of snow!
The coldest temperature I dealt with sleeping in my van was -8 degrees, and that’s why I was so glad I invested in a good quality sleeping bag.
I recommend buying a 3-4 season sleeping bag rated to at least -10°C [14°F] if the temperature drops below 0°C [32°F] where you live.
And last on my van life essentials list- a dreamcatcher!
I love the dreamcatchers designed and handcrafted by HippBee. While shopping in Kelowna, I stumbled across the beautiful range of dreamcatchers.
With her baby on her back, HippBee owner Celisha trawls thrift stores for materials to create these unique dreamcatchers she describes as her “labours of love”.
Each dreamcatcher takes about one hour to make and 80-90% of the materials used are up cycled. You can shop HippBee’s dreamcatchers on Facebook.
Do you have any items on your van life packing list that you swear by?
Saturday 25th of May 2019
Great list!. Just about to head out for the first time. I have multi solar fairy lights, solar motion detector lights and a solar vent with intake and exhaust and a solar generator/battery box "River" (like a yeti but better). I am so into being self sufficient I have been buying for and planning what I will need .... for the last 6 years. Found myself suddenly unable to work which has forced me to finally put it all together. Scary, exciting and freeing all at the same time. Does anyone come in here anymore?
Sunday 5th of August 2018
A feminine cup. We all know why!
Saturday 6th of January 2018
We mounted a bottle opener in the back of our van, it's an essential on our list.
Also, Boondoggle socks!! (Full disclosure, this is my company :P)
Cheers and safe travels friends.
Thursday 17th of August 2017
This list makes me laugh. But you make it seem like loving the van life must be very carefree. I hope you enjoy it.
Thursday 17th of August 2017
These are very useful tips! I've never experienced living in a van before but I've always wanted to try hitting the road with it. Know a lot more after reading this :)