Over three million Americans live in vans or use them recreationally, which proves that the #vanlife trend is here to stay.
Familiarizing yourself with the latest gear is essential for a comfortable journey and ensuring that it aligns with your lifestyle. But with so many accessories on the market, knowing where to start can feel overwhelming. Maybe that’s why you’re here; you want to enhance your van life experience but need a nudge in the right direction.
If that sounds like you, you’ve come to the right place. Here’s a list of must-have van accessories for your next trip.
One thing that all converted vans have in common is a source of electricity. Mostly, vans get power from permanent or portable solar panels, depending on their budget and preference. This means you can enjoy long periods off-grid without worrying about charging your phone or using your essential appliances.
Portable Power Station
If you don’t like the commitment or have the budget, another popular option is portable power stations. The beauty is that these great travel accessories take up minimal room while keeping you charged up. Many can accommodate a range of devices, from your laptop to blending your morning smoothie, making them popular with van lifers.
Adventurers should always get in the habit of bringing along a regular power bank. Because they’re small and lightweight, you get peace of mind knowing that you can quickly charge up your electronics when you’re on the go.
Don’t risk getting robbed when you can install a robust alarm system. If anyone tries to break in, you know that the system will deter thieves. Many systems work with a smartphone app, so you’re notified in an emergency.
Additionally, most van lifers hide an Apple AirTag in their van, so it’s far easier to track its whereabouts if it gets stolen. Luckily, this is a rare occurrence, but it’s always good to be prepared.
Battery Jump Starter
Every van needs a battery jump starter, especially if you’re going on a long adventure. You never know when you’ll break down or get a flat battery, so don’t let this become a potential problem. A bonus is you can find a robust jump-starter that appeals to every budget.
Another must-have is a do-it-all toolset. You never know when something needs to be fixed or tightened, so you always want to be prepared.
Wireless Motion Lights
Another useful piece of van camping equipment is motion lights. Simply install them underneath any steps or in the bathroom, so you can see them in the evening. You also needn’t worry about disturbing your loved ones because they let you navigate the van without giving off a bright light.
Cell Phone Booster
The biggest advantage of van life is that you can visit remote, beautiful places. But on the flip side, you likely won’t find any cell service, which can be problematic if you need to work on the road. Luckily, you can find cell phone boosters, so that you can get a signal wherever you are.
Out of all the adventure van upgrades available, a vent insulator is the greatest. Aside from being easy to install, you can flip the settings to use it during both seasons. For instance, it will keep your van cool in the summer and stave off cold air during the winter.
Anyone who loves spending time in the mountains or cooler climates needs a diesel heater. Out of all the heating options available, this is the most cost-effective and uses minimal gas to heat your van. But hire a professional to install it to prevent problems further down the line.
If you don’t want a permanent heat solution, choose a portable propane heater instead. But make sure that you always crack open a window and never sleep with it on as a precaution.
You need somewhere to store your adventure gear, so why not take advantage of the roof?
Decide whether you want to strap down a permanent box or invest in a purpose-built pad. Make sure that you choose one that fits your van’s dimensions so that you can store your off-season equipment.
If you decide on a roof rack, it’s wise to get a telescoping ladder. This makes it easier to grab something from above and is far cheaper than mounting a ladder onto your van.
Storage is always an issue for van lifers, which explains why packing cubes are so popular. Give each household member one as it’ll organize everyone’s clothes without taking up space. They can also be used in your luggage, making it a win-win.
One of the top van life essentials is a handheld vacuum. Because you have little space, this gadget is a no-brainer and keeps your living space pristine. It also lets you tackle those hard-to-read places, such as the ceiling or even in your cab’s footwell.
You should also get a mini dustpan and brush set for backup. These are a lifesaver when you need to sweep a spillage or dirt that has been tracked in by your pooch. An added bonus is that you usually store them flat, so you needn’t worry about using up valuable space.
Sure, it’s not the most glamorous accessory, but a portable toilet is a lifesaver when you’re on the road. A popular size is the 5.5 waste water tank, so you needn’t worry about constantly dumping waste. Most models also have a pullout spout, which allows for a mess-free emptying.
Unless you have a built-in shower room, invest in a solar model for the van. Many hang these on the outside of the van with no unnecessary attachments. To use solar showers, simply let the sun gradually heat the filled bag to a comfortable temperature.
You can also boil the kettle and fill it with partially hot water if you’re not a fan of cold showers.
Black Tank Deodorizer
In a similar vein, vans with a black tank should have a specialized deodorizer. After dumping the tank, throw in a packet and a gallon of water to eliminate the smell. It also breaks down waste faster, so you can quickly move on.
First Aid Kit
Although less exciting, first aid kits are one of the top road trip essentials. You never know what can happen on your adventure, so it’s wise to be prepared. Ideally, find one that has bandaids, bandages, and over-the-counter medication.
Thermal Windscreen Covers
Windscreen covers are great at keeping the van cooler during the summer months and warmer during the winter. This also stops condensation from forming, which is every van lifer’s nightmare. Just make sure you get one that fits your van’s model to avoid disappointment.
Also, many adventurers prefer internal screens as they stop them from getting wet and extend their lifespan.
Stumped on finding must-have outdoor adventure tools?
Then, treat yourself to an awning for your van. You quickly add more living space to your van, which means you can enjoy the outdoors rain or shine. If you live in a cooler climate, choose an awning with an extra side to keep you warm on windier days.
Detachable Bug Net
Ward off creepy critters by installing a detachable bug net. You attach this to the doorframe to prevent any insects from buzzing around your van. Or, if that’s too big, get one for your smaller windows instead.
Another useful tip is to stock up on insect repellant. A few spritzes and you can still enjoy the outdoors without worrying about mosquitos or other pesky bugs.
Camping Chair and Table
Every happy camper has a foldable table and chair for their van. Spend time browsing options because there are thousands of possibilities on the market. Because of this, you can choose a lightweight set that can easily squeeze into your internal storage space.
The size of your household and the length of your adventures will influence your choice of refrigerator.
If you go on weekend camping trips, you’ll only need a 12v model to fit food and cold beverages. But if you have a larger family, you may need a larger interior and a removable freezer section. Pro tip: get a standard front-opening option as it’s hassle-free and minimizes spills.
Portable Coffee Makers
Instead of Googling the nearest Starbucks on your road trip, grab a portable coffee maker instead. Unlike stovetop models, modern ones come complete with a water tank, spoon, and filter to streamline the process. It also means you get fresh, quality coffee, rather than instant.
Magnetic Spice Holders
There’s a common misconception that you can’t flex your cooking skills on the road, but that isn’t true.
Regardless of your kitchen space, you can bring your favorite herbs and spices, so you don’t miss out on your favorite dishes. A popular option is magnetic spice jars because they attach to the wall instead of cluttering up drawer space.
Kitchen Sink Cutting Board
An effortless way to maximize space is by using a kitchen sink cutting board. Slip it over the sink and you’ll get an extra countertop area to prepare your meal. Many models also double as a serving tray, making it useful when you’re hosting a summer BBQ.
Scrubba Wash Bag
Tired of visiting laundromats?
If that’s the case, a useful solution is to get a Scrubba Wash Bag for your van. Toss in your dirty clothes, add a strong detergent, and fill it with water. The key is to move the bag around and rinse thoroughly before hanging out to dry.
Moving onto our next point…
No one wants the smell of damp laundry in their van, which is why a clothesline is essential. The elastic line can stretch across your living space and comes with attached pins, so you needn’t worry about dropping clothes. It also means you can use it inside or outdoors, depending on the seasons.
While drying can be problematic in vans, many adventurers swap their cotton towels for microfiber. Not only do they take up less closet space, but microfiber is renowned for drying much faster. As a result, there’s less moisture in the van while it dries, so drastically reduces the risk of condensation in the winter.
Collapsible Water Containers
Regardless of whether you’ve found a drinking fountain in town or at your campsite, you’ll need a way of transporting it.
Van lifers swear by collapsable water containers, so you always have a clean water supply on the road. As the name suggests, they fold down into nothing and are BPA-free, so you needn’t worry about contamination.
Additionally, you can benefit from a collapsible washing-up bowl to tackle dirty dishes. It also means you can carry larger items or store ice, so it doubles as a cool box for drinks.
If you’re staying in a city, you need to install blackout curtains. Most van lovers use them to cover their side windows and across the front, so passersby can’t peek through the cab. Depending on your van’s dimensions, you may need to get them customized so that they efficiently block out the light.
You won’t always stay in campsites with level ground, which is why most van lifers swear by leveling blocks. As the name suggests, these will stop your van from being at an angle, which is often a nightmare for cooking. But check that you have enough space, so they’re easy to stow away.
Our Favorite Van Accessories
Now that you have a list of top van accessories, it’s time to shop.
There are endless possibilities for van lovers, whether it’s loading up on a killer security system or a diesel heater for your next ski trip. Before you buy, it’s essential to list your family’s must-haves and lifestyle, so you’re always comfortable on the road. Happy shopping!
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