Living in our van is a catalyst for more freedom and adventure and less obligations and errands to run.  When living this way, we must keep our collection of things down to a minimum, but these 10 van life accessories make van life a breeze.  

Top 10 Van life Accessories we can’t live without

  1. Reflective Window Covers
  2. Blackout Curtains
  3. Leveling blocks
  4. Primus Prime Tech Pot Set
  5. Tumbler
  6. Solar shower or instant hot water heater
  7. Collapsible Bucket
  8. Helinox Sunset Chair / Eno Hammocks
  9. Jackery Portable Power Station
  10. Remington Storage Bins

Honorable mentions

  1. NiteIze Steelie Dash Mount Kit
  2. 7 Gallon Jerry Can Style Water Container
  3. Dustpan and Brush Set

 

#1.  Reflective window covers for the cab  

These are a lifesaver to keep the sun out, keep the heat in, or give us more privacy.  They help us regulate the internal temperature of the van however we need to. We purchased this kit from Eurocampervans.com that is custom-made to the size and shape of the Dodge Ram Promaster van and has suction cups to keep each piece adhered to the windows. There are a lot of options for reflective window covers available, just try to find something that is insulated and will fit your window.  

We put them up every night to sleep, but they also go up during the day to keep the sun out during the summer and keep the heat in during the winter.  Since they are usually up when we are hanging out in the van, we simply leave them on the bed when we are driving places. They do take up a bit of space when not being used, but generally that is not an issue for us.

#2.  Insulated Blackout curtains

We made custom blackout curtains for the van, but you can easily purchase ready made blackout curtains as well.  While shopping for something insulated as well light-blocking, we couldn’t find anything online at a reasonable price.  We happened to have several moving blankets from Harbor Freight in the garage so, we made curtains out of them!  It was easy to cut them to size, hem the edges, and sew Rare Earth magnets around the edges so that they hang securely in the windows.  They certainly aren’t anything pretty, but they are very functional and one of our most important van life accessories.

Leveling Blocks for vanlife, van life accessories

#3.  Leveling Blocks

I didn’t think we needed leveling blocks at first and most van lifers don’t have these; I had this naive misconception that we would always be able to find a spot that was “flat enough” for sleeping.  Finding a flat campsite is one of the worst things about van life.  In reality, that doesn’t  exist, except for in parking lots, so these leveling blocks have come in handy several times.  We have a 360° Bubble Level to help us figure out which corner(s) of the van needed to be higher. We bought a set of 10 leveling blocks from Wal-Mart for $30 and it has given us many nights of better sleep in return.  We get them out almost daily.

#4.  Primus nesting pots & pans

Rather than using traditional housewares, camping-specific pots and pans are the perfect van life accessories. We purchased the Primus nesting pots and pan and they have been great the entire time we’ve lived in the van.  The kit contains 2 pots with a lid and one pan that fit together in one neat little bag for storage. I can make all of our meals with these, and I love that they are non-stick for easy clean up.

#5.  TumblerS

We aren’t coffee drinkers, but we do like a hot cup of tea, as well as the ability to drink water without the waste of plastic water bottles.  The OtterBox tumbler and lid system allow us to drink from the same cup all day long, changing out the lid based on the beverage of choice.  For example, the closed lid is perfect for hot tea, the straw lid is great for water or iced tea, and the hydration lid is perfect for when we need the tumbler to be mobile and completely sealed.

#6.  Instant Hot water Heater

Basecamp Boss Instant Water Heater, Vanlife Shower, Portable Shower

Greg and I are very adventurous, and that typically means… dirty.  We hike, bike, fish, etc., so after a long day of wandering it’s nice to be able to rinse the grime off before bedtime.  A Solar Shower works great and takes up very little space in your tiny home.  We purchased the Mr. Heater BOSS Basecamp Battery Operated Instant Hot Water Heater.  If you’re looking for a built-in hot water heater for the interior of your van, something like the Camplux Pro Portable Water Heater  is an excellent choice.  A hot shower  is the ULTIMATE van life accessory!

#7.  Collapsible Buckets

We bought a collapsible bucket for in the van and then immediately bought another one.  Since we don’t have a grey water tank, our sink drains out the bottom of the floor directly on to the ground.  This is not wastewater, but primarily dirty dishwater. Food waste goes into our garbage bin and we use environmentally friendly dish soap (Dr. Bronner’s) so that we aren’t having a negative impact on the places we camp.  When we are in places where we can’t just let our grey water drain directly onto the ground, we put a collapsible bucket underneath the drain to catch it.  These meet all of the criteria necessary for van life accessories:  compact, inexpensive, and multi-purpose!

#8.  Camp Chairs/Hammocks

It’s no secret that the reason so many people choose to live in a van is to spend more time outside.  With such a small indoor living area, having gear that creates outdoor living space is really important.  The hammocks and chairs we carry in the van at all time are essential. We have the Helinox Sunset Chair because we wanted something compact and super comfortable.  We are really happy with these chairs, but there are several other brands available like these:

Trekology YIZI GO Portable Camping Chair

Sunyear Lightweight and Foldable Camp Chair

Our hammocks are amazing too!  Especially when we find a really nice spot and want to hang out for a few days!  (See what I did there?!).  You can get single-person hammocks or double-person hammocks:

ENO – Eagles Nest Outfitters SingleNest Hammock

ENO – Eagles Nest Outfitters DoubleNest Hammock

Helinox Camping Chairs, Van life Accessories

 

#9.  Jackery Power Station

This is van life accessory that we only use to power traditional items that do not have a 12V or USB plug.  For example, when Greg needs a haircut, I use clippers that require a normal outlet, which we do not have in the van.  So we have the Jackery Explorer 240 Portable Power Station.  It will power small appliances like the hair clippers and our laptops, and can be recharged through our 12V in the dash while we drive.  It recharges relatively quickly, and is small enough to stash away  when not in use.

#10.  Remington Watertight Storage Bins

With so many hobbies, knew we would need to be able to bring a lot of gear with us on the road.  We like to hike, mountain bike, climb, fly fish, and have recently added inflatable kayaks to the toy collection, so we needed a way to keep all of this gear accessible and organized in the van.  During the van build, we designed the slide-out trays specifically for the available space, and purchased the Remington Storage Bins because they would maximize the dimensions we had to work with.  We can have 8 bins in the right-hand storage tray, and an additional 4 bins in the left-hand storage tray when the bikes aren’t with us.  

Honorable Mentions

#11. NiteIze Steelie Dash Mount Kit

The NiteIze Steelie Dash Mount Kit is a great little gadget enables you to dock your phone wherever you mount your Steelie ball.  In our case, being able to dock Greg’s phone to the dash of the van helps him with hands-free navigation, calling, music, etc.  His phone is within quick reach, and is super helpful.  Not to mention, it makes my co-pilot duties easier as well.

#12. 7 Gallon Water Containers

We own 4 of these 7 Gallon Jerry Can Style Water Containers and carry at least 2 with us at all times.  Even though we have an 8-gallon on-board water tank that pumps through the sink, we like to have additional water for drinking and showering.  All 4 water containers are necessary when we go to Mexico, because it can be hard to find potable water in some areas and we like to have as much with us as possible.

#13.  Hand-broom & dustpan

I used to spend several hours a week cleaning our house, even with just Greg and I living there.  I love that it only takes me about 5 minutes to clean my house now, and one of my cleaning essentials is a small Dustpan and Brush Set.  Most of the time I don’t even use the dustpan and I just sweep everything right out the sliding door.  It has literally changed my life.

If you’re curious how we chose our van before we started this whole adventure, check out our blog post on How to Choose a Van.

What van life accessories do you have in your van, RV or tiny home that you can’t live without?  Comment in the section below, we’d love to hear from you!

 

 

6 Comments

  1. Hi Jessica, Great post. I am spending a great deal of time planning a “micro house” trailer to pull with my Jeep and these tips were very helpful. I liked the tip about the collapsible buckets – I went to the Colapz website and they have many cool products. https://colapz.co.uk/
    The shower solution was completely new to me. I had no idea something like that existed. I have a Nemo Hilio for camping. It is nice, but not as fancy as your product. https://www.nemoequipment.com/product/helio-shower/
    And the harbor freight moving blanket converted to a insulated black out curtain with rare earth magnets was brilliant. Love using what we have vs buying more things. Well done,

    Have fun and keep posting.
    Greg

    • Thanks Greg – you found some great options as well! It is great that tiny/minimalist living is gaining momentum and there are more products coming to market everyday! Take care, Jess & Greg

  2. Wow, this post is gold! I had to save it in my bookmarked websites because I’ll want it when I decide to live this life for myself :).

    I never thought of buying a battery-generated water heater. That’s my favorite tip, followed closely by the Jackery Power Station. Thank you for writing such an informative post!

    • Hi Gabe – thanks for reading along, we are glad the information is useful to you! The portable hot water heater is priceless!

      Happy Travels,

      Jess & Greg

  3. I have used nearly every item you recommend here – apart from the instant hot water heater. What a fantastic idea, being able to have a hot shower wherever you are! I must invest in one of these. Thank you so much for the suggestion.

    • Aren’t all of these vanlife gadgets so neat? We love having a portable hot water heater. It makes all the difference when traveling full time. And then we don’t have to pay for a gym membership!

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