Van Life Essentials

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We’ve been living van life for over two years now and there are definitely some items that we couldn’t live without. In this post we will share what we have found to be essential for a life on the road.

Vanlife essentials

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Solar Panels:

Solar Panels are an absolute game changer for van life. Having solar means that your home is self sufficient. It allows you to have endless options for camping without having to worry about “hooking up” for electricity. This is a must if you plan on spending less time at campgrounds and more time on public land and boondocking. With solar, you have the freedom to stay in remote places and can also save money by taking advantage of free campsites. We have three 100 W solar panels from Renogy and they have been more than enough to power our home.

Ventilation Fan

A ventilation fan is a two in one essential. These fans can be used to help cool the van down and blow air out on one setting and also have the ability to pull air out of the van which is useful when cooking or using propane. We have the Maxxair fan and have found the fact that it comes with a built in rain shield to be a huge perk so we can use it even when it is pouring outside.

Portable Power Station

A portable power station is great to have on the road, especially if you work remote or want to work outside. It also comes in handy if you ever have an issue with your electrical system and need a backup plan for charging.

Insulated Window Covers

These window covers help tremendously with keeping the van cool in the summer and warm in the winter. We didn’t purchase these until the end of the summer and wish we would have known about them sooner. It makes a huge difference in maintaining a comfortable temperature. The ones we attached are for the Promaster but there are options to fit almost every van on Amazon.

Portable Stovetop

We use our two burner stove every day.  One benefit to having a portable stovetop is that you have the option to cook inside or outside of the van. During our build, we opted to forego a built in stove to save counter space and have not regretted that decision at all. It takes less than a minute to get our stove set up and ready to go and we love that we are able to utilize two burners at the same time. We have the Camp Chef Everest Two Burner stove and would highly recommend it.

Fridge/ Freezer Combo

We love cooking our own meals so it was important to have a place to store our food. We opted for a 12 V fridge that also has a freezer and we are still impressed with how much it can hold. Typically, we can fit an entire weeks worth of groceries inside comfortably and it keeps everything nice and cold. There are several options when it comes to 12 V fridges and they vary in shape and style so there is something for every build.

Portable Heater

There have been many cold nights when we have had to break out the Mr. Heater and it does a great job of keeping us warm and toasty.  These heaters are powered by propane so it is good to use caution and have proper ventilation when using them. Insulating the van properly during your build is also helpful and 100% worth the extra time and effort to help seal in the heat.


While having a toilet is not considered essential to some, this is one item that we need to help make our van feel like home. There are not always options for public restrooms and we don’t have to worry about going outside in the middle of the night just to use the bathroom. There are many choices for toilets, which we cover in our Vanlife Hygiene post, but we chose a cassette toilet and do not regret our decision.

Camping Chair

One huge perk to living in a van is that the outdoors is your backyard. In order to enjoy it to the fullest we suggest investing in a comfortable, folding camping chair that will store easily in your space. We also have a collapsible table that we can cook on while we are outside and a rug that we can put down and get cozy.

Packing Cubes

Packing cubes make storing clothes in a small space so much easier. They allow you to fit a decent amount of clothes in one cube while keeping things organized. Trust us, your going to want to keep your space as organized as possible so things don’t feel cluttered.

Dry Shampoo

Another frequently used item in our home because sometimes those showers are few and far between. We’ve tried just about every brand out there and Batiste is still the front runner.

Essential items will vary for everyone and may change depending on the season and weather, but the ones we listed above cover the basics and give you an idea of things that will make your van feel more like home.

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