Fifteen Items Every Vanlifer Needs

Girl sitting in conversion van holding fifteen items every Vanlifer needs

After almost two years on the road, I've discovered quite a few items and gadgets that have made Vanlife easier or safer. Some items I discovered on my own and some I learned about through other Vanlifers, but I wanted to share them with all of you here. I think you'll find some of these items will make your time on the road more enjoyable! Even if you don't live in a van, you might still find some of these items helpful for every day life or road trips!

1. Magnetic Phone Mount - Ok, anyone that drives while using their phone as a GPS should have one, not just Vanlifers. The one I use fits into the heat vent and a magnetic strip hides behind my phone case. Once I'm in the driver's seat, I just pop my phone on the mount and go. It's so easy and convenient to use.

2. Carbon Monoxide Detector with Digital Display- This one is a must for me and I hope it is for every Vanlifer. When I first moved into the van, carbon monoxide poisoning was my biggest fear. I was worried the heater would produce CO, and it has when it’s not working properly. I also discovered that my hot water heater produces CO pretty quickly. Your smoke detector most likely has a CO detector built in, but most CO detectors don’t sound the alarm until CO is already at a dangerous level, so I highly recommend getting one that has a display and shows a low level detection like the one below. If I ever move into a house again, you'll bet I'll be installing these there too.

3. Wall Mounted Fruit Basket - I added this to the van after a few months of being on the road. I desperately needed something to store fruits and veggies in. My bananas were always getting bruised by other food in the cabinet and sweet potatoes were left to just be rolling around the van. The basket has made for a nice stationary place to store fruits & veggies bruise-free, plus I think it's cute. This is the one I have, but banana hammocks are also popular among the van community.

4. 12 Volt Computer Charger - You can order a 12V charger for just about any computer on Amazon. Using the standard 120V charger that comes with your computer will use more power from your house batteries since it has to convert the charge from DC to AC. If you don't have a 12V outlet in your build you can still use this in the van's outlet while you're driving. In the Mercedes Sprinter, it's the outlet at the bottom of the driver's seat. I've been told not to use the cigarette lighter for charging things. The charger linked here works with a Mac.

5. Camp Chair and Folding Table - These two items go hand in hand. If you’re like me, you’ll probably want to sit outside of your van as much as possible soaking up the sun, at the beach, or around a campfire. A folding camp chair and table don’t take up a lot of space for how much you’ll use them. I even keep an extra chair in the garage for when I have company. Now all you need is a beer.

6. Battery Powered String Lights - The string lights provide lower ambiance lighting at night when you’re chilling or trying to be stealthy. I recommend battery powered so you don’t have to use power from your house batteries. When my house batteries are running low (like most of the winter) I will only use the battery powered string lights to conserve power and you can get battery powered string lights in just about any shape, size, and design you want.

7. National Park Pass - If you’re planning on visiting more than one National Park throughout the year, getting the Annual National Park Pass will save you a bundle of money. A single day at one of the major parks will cost $35 per vehicle. The America the Beautiful Annual Pass cost $80 for the year and gets you unlimited access into all National Parks, National Monuments and National Forest.

America the Beautiful Annual National Park Pass

8. Toolbox - Things break in the van all the prepared. I keep a small tool box with the basics in the van and that has worked for everything I can repair myself on the road. Along with your toolbox I recommend keeping a variety of tapes (Duct, electrical, painters), screws, and washers- you never know when you're going to need it.

9. Packing Cubes - With limited storage space, having all my clothes organized in packing cubes makes getting dressed so much easier and keeps my cabinets tidy. I have a cube for each type of clothing item so I know exactly which cube to grab when I’m getting dressed. For folding the clothes, I use the Marie Kondo method so I can see all the shirts from the top!

10. Dinosaur Phone Stand - Ok, it doesn’t have to be a dinosaur, but a phone stand is very convenient. I use Facetime to keep in touch with friends and family and holding the phone up with my hand for an hour is very tiring. Dinosaur to the rescue. It also works great for watching TV and works with an iPad too.

11. Tripod - If you’re traveling solo like me or want a picture with both you and your partner in it - a tripod makes that possible. I set my camera up on a tripod and connect my phone to the camera to work as a remote. By using my phone as the remote, I can also see the frame of my camera on my phone. Then I get into the position I want and then hit click from my phone. The camera is set to a 2 second timer which is enough time to hide the phone and flash a smile. If your camera doesn’t have the option to connect to your phone you can still use a timer or remote. I’m currently using a Sony Alpha A7 and iPhone 11 Pro for all my pictures. You could also ask a stranger to take your picture, but the results you want aren’t guaranteed, plus I hate handing my phone over to a stranger during Covid times.

12. 12 Volt Fan - Cooling the van in the summer heat is next to impossible, but having a 12V fan that I can blow directly on me is life saving. As I mentioned above, using 12V will use less power from your house batteries.

13. Quick Dry Towel - You’re hopefully going to shower at some point; having a towel that dries quickly is handy since space is limited. I purchased two Norwex Bath Towels before moving into the van because they dry quickly and are designed to prevent bacterial growth, odor, and mold. Since I do laundry infrequently, I thought the second part was rather important. I ordered two of the same color, but I would highly recommend getting two different colors so if you have a guest or partner traveling with you, you can differentiate towels. I also love Norwex’s face towels for washing my face in the van.

14. Museum Putty - I literally just found out about this stuff from another Vanlifer within the past week and immediately ordered and tested it. Seriously, how are more Vanlifers not talking about Museum Putty. Stick this on the bottom of the item you want to leave on your counter while driving and you’re good to go. It’s easy to move the item around when you want to and it doesn’t leave residue on your counter.

15. Water Tank Filler with Shutoff Valve - This was also recently introduced to me by

an Instagram follower who recommended it when I was complaining about backflow always flooding the van when filling my water tank. Since using it I’ve had no issues with backflow and the shutoff valve makes filling the tank so much easier.

I hope you found some or all of these gadgets helpful! I'd love to hear your feedback on which items you found most helpful or if there are any gadgets I missed here that you think I can't live without!

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