It’s never been easier to pack up your life, jump into a camper van and hit the road, whether you’re a #vanlife influencer or a remote professional. It’s an appealing lifestyle for anyone.
Despite new views of work-life balance, being on the go isn’t without challenges. It’s daunting for newcomers to know exactly what they need to stay safe, comfortable and productive in their rolling home.
Space is a precious commodity, and everything you carry needs to serve a purpose. To help determine what makes the cut, here’s a list of camper van essentials for every #vanlifer.
Physical safety should always be top of mind, but when you’re traveling and living in the same space, the concept takes on new meaning. Though a van’s doors feature their own built-in locks, you’ll want something more effective, especially if you’re traveling alone.
Installing a security system is important because it not only keeps you safe, but also will alert you with visual and audio cues of any unwanted entry. This is helpful for sleeping at night and protects your van when you aren’t present.
Our recommendation: Viper 2-Way Security + Remote Start System ($235)
Why we picked it: Viper’s 2-Way Security System is a self-install device that not only offers a vehicle alarm but also a keyless entry. It comes with two remotes capable of supporting up to two vehicles and has a 1-mile range.
Relying on fast food for every meal isn’t ideal or healthy while on the road. With the right equipment, preparing meals on the go doesn’t take much effort and affords a wider variety of options.
A portable cooktop is an effective, versatile option, easy to use whether on- or off-grid. And it provides a simple method for heating or cooking food. It’s also great for boiling water for tea or coffee.
Our recommendation: Rosewill Induction Cooker ($55)
Why we picked it: Features five preprogrammed settings such as Soup, Stir Fry, Warm Milk, Hot Pot and Fry. And it lets you heat or prepare food with minimal operation. At just $55, it’s easy on the wallet, too.
When things break, and they will, self-repairing your van is a must. But before doing your own repairs, consult your van’s owner’s manual, reference forums or online how-tos.
About as important as the know-how is a reliable, portable set of tools. You’ll want a diverse selection of equipment such as screwdrivers, wrenches and sockets, as well as a variety of sizes of each. It’s also smart to carry a hammer and sharp knife.
Our recommendation: Craftsman 230-Piece Mechanics Tool Set ($117)
Why we picked it: The set includes ratchets, screwdrivers and wrenches, as well as 116 different sockets and 40 separate bits, all made of alloy steel. Its carrying case is small enough to fit under a seat.
It’s important to check your van’s battery before hitting the road, but even the strongest battery can handle only so much. And you won’t always be able to use jumper cables. Even vans with dual battery setups run the risk of running out of juice.
Invest in a high-capacity power station to help power your van’s appliances or charge your smartphone, laptop or camera. Roof-mounted solar panels that feed into the power station allow it to continuously bank its own power and afford more off-grid time.
Our recommendation: Goal Zero Yeti 400 Power Station with Boulder 50 Solar Panel ($575)
Why we picked it: The Yeti 400 has a 396-watt-hour capacity capable of charging a laptop five times and a smartphone more than 30. And it can even power small appliances like microwaves or coffeemakers. Its companion solar panels come with a kickstand to harness energy while stopped. Or they can be attached to your van’s roof. The Yeti 400 also has wo USB ports, two AC ports and a 12V output.
Many #vanlifers live in their vehicles year-round, meaning they’ll spend several months chasing warmth. Adding a portable space heater is an effective way to warm your van while still allowing you to move around in it.
Space heaters tend to not take up much room inside the van while offering enough heat to warm the interior from the back doors to the front windshield. Installing heated flooring is a viable alternative for van warmth, but a portable space heater is the easiest option.
Our recommendation: Lasko Ceramic Portable Space Heater ($40)
Why we picked it: At just $40, Lasko’s Portable Space Heater is inexpensive and compact. It features an adjustable thermostat offering 1500 watts of warmth and three settings: high, low and fan only. It’s able to heat an area of 300 square feet, making it great for any size van.
ADDITIONAL GEAR TO CONSIDER
- Electric cooler: An electric cooler takes away the need to constantly refresh the ice in a standard cooler, and helps keep perishables fresh and drinks cold around the clock. Larger options have compartments that can be function as freezers.
- Coffee maker: A portable coffee maker provides quality coffee no matter how far off the grid you are. Most require a power source or power station but won’t sap enough energy to become a liability.
- Compost toilet: You can’t always find a public bathroom, so it’s important to pack along a portable toilet. Buy one that’s small enough to fit in a van’s cabinets and that fights odors.
- Camp chair: Your van is one large chair, but there will be plenty of times when you’ll want some fresh air. Comfort is important, but find a chair compact enough to fit behind either of the front seats.
Editor’s note: Trucks.com compiles information about vehicles, gear and gadgets, often through testing and interviews with experts. Our recommendations are made independent of the advertising being sold by our business development team. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission.
Trucks.com Adventure Editor Rick Stella contributed to this article. This article was updated May 21, 2019, to include additional gear and explain Trucks.com’s recommendations.