Travelling can be stressful when you don’t have the right gear. We joined vanlife not knowing exactly what we’d want or need to live and work on the road. Some things, we’ve ditched (a second mixing bowl, extra cutlery, lots of clothes) and others we’ve collected as we puttered along endless highways that took us across two countries and coast to coast.
So what improves the livability of a micro home? The list of things that make vanlife easier is pretty random. But odd as they may seem, I swear to you, each of these items is essential to being comfortable and happy on the road.
A decent-sized plastic basin plays triple duty. First, you can store things that you don’t want moving around when you driving. Second, you can carry dirty plates or mugs or whatever to and from a dishwashing stations (if you’re at a campground). And third, you can use it as your own little sink to wash dishes. We have a circular one that fits our portable pressure shower when we’re in transit.
We hang metal “S” hooks from our gutter rail and attach all sorts of things to them including our fruit basket, lantern, paper towel holder and toiletries.
Hanging fruit basket.
Our first fruit basket was just a cotton cargo net. It worked fine, but our current two-tiered metal hanging basket is far better. It was vintage find in a town we can’t remember, somewhere along the Pines to Palms Highway in California.
Plastic woven mat.
Having a large outdoor mat that you can sit or stretch on outside makes it feel like you have a little patio out your sliding door. On the first weekend we lived in the van, I splurged on a new oversized outdoor mat. It was pricy, pretty, and totally worth it.
The Germans thought of everything when they designed the Vanagon, with the exception of adding a centre console between the drivers. Where else are we supposed to put loose change, packets of gum and random pairs of sunglasses? We’ve got a little unit that sits in between the two front seats with a couple cupholders and other openings for our junk.
Want to instantly make your rig feel like a home? Throw down some rugs. We’ve got two, one from Coleman’s late grandmother and the other a handmade gem that we scored in Tucson, AZ).
Just had to change your water pump on the side of the road and are covered in grease? Baby wipe that shit. Making breakfast and got egg goo on your fingers after cracking them into the pan? Baby wipe that shit. Sleeping in a parking lot and don’t have anywhere to wash your face before bed? Baby. Wipe. That. Shit. Seriously, buy the biggest box of these things you can find.
Slippers with a rubber sole.
Slippers are a vanlife game changer. Everywhere we travelled this year was colder than expected, especially at night, which meant chronically cold feet. By the end of the day, I’d be so over wearing hiking boots, but my toes would turn into icicles without their protection. Then, a pair of red plaid slippers landed in my lap and nighttimes haven’t been the same since.
Solar powered lamps.
Solar powered lights are wonderful and you won’t waste as much money on batteries. Charge ‘em up on your dash during the day and reap the benefits after sunset.
Hula girl and/or dream catcher.
A hula girl on the dash will defuse many a stressful situation, including, but not limited to, missing an important turn, spilling coffee on your lap, and stalling in the centre of an intersection.
And on the note of lighting, consider a headlamp. Going to the bathroom at night when you’re camped somewhere remote is easier with a light source strapped to your skull. Trust me.
We keep our gear charged on the go with a portable power bank because there’s nothing worse than being unable to upload a new Instagram post. Heaven forbid! We’re fortunate enough to have a second battery in our van, and that usually charges our devices, but when it’s drained we turn to our handy dandy Kodiak power bank.
When you work remotely from the road, transporting the essentials–laptop, power cord, wallet, sunnies, iPhone, iphone cord, keys, water bottle, snacks–from your tiny living space to your office space for the day needs to be easy and painless. Invest in a backpack you actually like–they aren’t just for school kids or hikers anymore.
Handsome foldable knife.
Fine, it doesn’t have to be handsome, but it should be. From cutting produce to picking out cactus spines from your flesh, you never know when you might need the thing.
French press travel mug.
A neighbour gave us one of these before we’d even spent a full week in the van. We thought it was novel, but probably a waste of space. Boy were we wrong. But being able to steep your tea or coffee and keep it warm while you turn your bed back into a couch, cook breakfast, etc., is magical.
Did we miss something? Let us know your vanlife or road trip must-have on social media or in the comments below.