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Vanlife Essentials: 40 Items for Life on the Road

Looking for a list of must-have vanlife essentials? I’ve got you covered. In this article, I share 40 vanlife necessities to help you prepare for your time on the road.

Embracing the vanlife culture is more than just a commitment to the open road – it’s about adopting a lifestyle of freedom, adventure, and self-reliance. As exciting as it is, this unique way of life calls for comprehensive preparation and strategic packing.

It’s not just about fitting your life into a van; it’s about carefully selecting your campervan essentials to ensure a smooth, comfortable, and enjoyable journey. 

Whether you’re a seasoned road tripper or just gearing up for your maiden voyage, these 40 vanlife essentials are your passport to a well-prepared, stress-free adventure. So let’s hit the road!

Converted Ford Transit Camper
Our converted Ford Transit Campervan!

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Vanlife Essentials for Travel

Navigating the open road is an integral part of the vanlife experience. Here are some vanlife essentials to ensure you’re always heading in the right direction and staying connected.

1: Maps and Navigation Tools

As romantic as the idea of getting lost may sound, in reality, it can be rather stressful. Reliable navigation tools, whether traditional paper maps, mobile apps, or sat nav systems, are a must-have. 

An updated road atlas is handy for getting the big picture and for those times when digital services may not be available. While a reliable sat nav, preloaded with your routes, will make the journey smoother and more enjoyable.

2: Essential Vanlife Apps

RingGo Vanlife Parking App

Alternatively, there are some really handy apps that ensure that getting lost is never something you have to worry about.

Apps like Maps.Me and Google Maps allow you to download the map of the area or country that you’re travelling in. So when it comes to navigation, you have a route planner always available.

It’s not just navigation apps, either. There are vanlife apps for finding campsites and park-ups, locating campervan services, and comparing petrol prices.

3: Portable WIFI or Internet Solution

Staying connected while on the road is important for both practical and recreational reasons. And as digital nomads, it was a vanlife necessity that we have a reliable internet connection in the van.

Our solution: to invest in a decent 4G wifi Router and an excellent mobile data plan. Our wifi Router works with any sim card and works great in remote areas with reduced coverage.

4: Spare Keys for the Campervan

Campervan Essentials

It might seem obvious, but this vanlife essential is easy to overlook: always have a set of spare keys for your campervan! The last thing you want is to be locked out of your van in a remote location. 

Keep your spare keys in a safe, accessible spot – perhaps even with a trusted contact who’s not on the road with you. You’ll thank yourself later for this small but crucial preparation.

Vanlife Essentials for Comfort

Living the vanlife doesn’t mean you have to compromise on comfort. Here are some vanlife must-haves to help you create a cosy and convenient home-on-wheels.

5: Compact Bedding and Insulation

vanlife couple

A good night’s sleep is vital, especially after a day of adventure. Invest in compact, comfortable, and warm bedding that suits your campervan.

Don’t forget about insulation for those colder nights. Consider thermally insulated curtains for windows and a quality sleeping bag or blanket for extra warmth.

6: Ear Plugs

vanlife essential items

Earplugs are another vanlife must-have to ensure a comfortable and peaceful night’s sleep. Particularly at the start, adapting to sleeping in a van takes some getting used to.

A good set of earplugs can help you fall and stay asleep. These come in especially handy when we wild camp in our campervan.

7: A Blanket Hoodie 

vanlife essential items

Anybody who has experienced winter vanlife will tell you that it can get extremely cold. And it’s not always convenient to run a heater because of its demands on power.

That’s why we invested in a blanket hoodie from Kuddly. These are super cosy and warm – perfect for those chilly mornings and evenings in the van.

8: Compostable Toilet

vanlife essential items

One of the downsides of travelling or living in your campervan is that you don’t have the conveniences of a traditional Western household—for example, a flushing toilet.

There are a few different options when it comes to campervan toilets, but we opted for a compostable one. A compost toilet is more-eco friendly and more convenient than a chemical toilet.

9: Solar Shower

Maintaining hygiene on the road is a vanlife necessity for me – especially as I like to keep fit on the road.

When available, I bathe in natural water sources – using no products, of course – but occasionally, I will use our solar shower. A good freshen-up can make a world of difference to how you feel. 

10: Levellers

vanlife essential items

A vanlife essential that’s easily overlooked is levellers! More often than not, you’ll find yourself parked on ground that isn’t level. This can cause several issues when cooking and sleeping, amongst other things. Levellers can get you levelled up in no time.

11: Camping Chairs

Practical Campervan Gifts

One of the things I love most about this lifestyle is how it encourages you to spend more time outside. We love to sit with a coffee or glass of wine, watch the sunset, or have a fire.

None of that would be possible without the comfortable camping chairs we have to sit on. We went for a high-backed chair that allows for good support and a headrest.

12: Campervan-Friendly Clothing

vanlife essential items

Your wardrobe should match your nomadic lifestyle. Opt for versatile, durable, and comfortable clothes that can handle various weather conditions.

Consider clothes that are easy to layer, quick-drying, and don’t require ironing. I also recommend a Dry Robe or something similar that’s windproof, waterproof and ideal for water sports enthusiasts.

13: Storage Solutions

Another must-have vanlife essential for any campervan is convenient storage solutions. Not only will this make your van tidier and more organised, but it will also save you a lot of headaches.

Without storage solutions, you won’t be able to find anything, things will crash down on top of you, and it will be my version of a nightmare. Check out some of these clever campervan storage solutions for inspiration.

Vanlife Necessities for the Kitchen

Of course, vanlife means making some sacrifices, but you shouldn’t have to when it comes to meal times. Having a kitchen set-up that allows you to prepare your favourite meals is a game-changer. And these vanlife kitchen essentials will let you do just that.

14: 2-Ring Hob or Camping Stove

vanlife essential items

There aren’t many vanlife meals that you can’t make on a hob. From curries and soups to stir fries and pasta dishes, there are enough options to ensure you never get bored.

We installed a 2-ring gas hob into the countertop of our van, but this isn’t the only option. 2-ring camping stoves are cheaper, easy to stow away, and help to free up counter space.

15: Low Power Air Fryer

air fryer

While installing an oven in your campervan is possible, we didn’t feel we would use it enough to warrant the time and space it would take to install.

Instead, we bought a low-wattage air fryer that we power using our inverter. This little powerhouse works just like an oven, so we don’t feel we are missing out on anything.

16: Wooden/Recycled Plastic Crockery

Lighter than traditional crockery and far more durable! Let’s face it; there will be times when you forget to lock your cupboard doors before driving. And we all know how that will end with china and glass.

17: Collapsible Pots & Pans

If you’re tight for space in your van, it might be worth investing in collapsible pots and pans. These will take up far less space than traditional cookware and work just as efficiently. 

18: Low Power Blender

A blender may not be a vanlife must-have for all, but it certainly is for us. We use it to make healthy smoothies, blend soup or sauces, and whizz up lime juice for margarita night!

Ours is this nifty little Breville blender. It’s less effective than the more expensive brands and models, but it’s low-power and easy to store away. These also make for a great vanlife gift idea!

19: 12v Compressor Fridge

A 12v Compressor Fridge is one of the most expensive vanlife essentials we own, but it’s been worth its weight in gold. Ours also has a small freezer compartment which comes in super handy.

Compressor fridges allow for excellent cooling performance with super low energy consumption. So your food will always be fresh, and your beers will always be cold. Winning! 

20: Mini Gas Stove

mini gas stove

Nothing is more frustrating than running out of gas while cooking a meal or before your morning coffee. That’s why we always keep a mini gas stove and cylinder as a backup. 

Vanlife Must-Haves for Power and Energy

Powering your mobile home is a critical part of the vanlife experience. Here are some vanlife must-haves for your campervan electric system.

21: Solar Power System

Motorhome solar system

Harnessing the power of the sun is an efficient and eco-friendly way to generate electricity, so we always recommend installing solar panels in your campervan.

Wiring your campervan with solar panels will allow you to charge your leisure batteries, which in turn will power your devices, lights, and appliances. 

22: Portable Power Station

Having backup power is crucial, especially when you’re off the grid or during periods of poor sunlight. A portable power station like this the 500 Solar Generator by Jackery can provide the necessary power to keep your devices running smoothly.

23: Efficient Lighting Solutions

vanlife essential items

Proper lighting can transform your van into a cosy living space after sunset. Opt for energy-efficient options like LED lights for the inside.

For outdoor use, consider investing in a rechargeable lantern and some fairy lights to create a warm and magical atmosphere.

I also recommend keeping some solar-powered lights and a torch for emergency situations like a loss of power.

Update Your Van Insurance!

Have you chosen the right van insurance? We could have saved nearly £400 if we had told our insurers our van was no longer a working van and, in fact, being converted! Make sure you compare online using the button below.

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Vanlife Necessities for Safety and Maintenance

Taking the vanlife route means assuming responsibility for your safety and the condition of your campervan. These vanlife essentials will help prepare you for any surprises the road might throw.

24: Carbon Monoxide Detector

carbon monoxide alarm

One vanlife must-have you should never sacrifice on is a carbon monoxide detector. Should there be a gas leakage of any kind in your van, it is potentially very dangerous. A detector will alert you, LOUDLY, once the carbon monoxide levels reach a certain level.

25: Security Camera

security camera

When we leave our van unoccupied for the day, we have a selection of campervan safety and security measures in place to minimise the likelihood of damage or theft. 

The first is an indoor security camera that alerts our phones when motion is detected. You can also monitor the camera from your phone and record the footage.

26: Motion Sensor

vanlife essential items motion alarm

Another security measure we have in place is a battery-powered motion sensor. This makes an extremely loud noise when motion is detected inside the van and aims to off guard and scare any intruders.

27: Steering Wheel Lock

vanlife essential items wheel lock

Prevent thieves from stealing your van by using a heavy-duty steering wheel lock. Sure, there are probably ways that experienced thieves can get through them, but it will certainly act as a deterrent for most.

28: GPS Tracker

gps tracking air tag

In the unlikely event that your van does get stolen, having a hidden GPS Tracker somewhere in your van will help ensure that they don’t get too far.

GPS trackers can be pretty expensive, so an affordable alternative is to use an Apple AirTag. You will just need to remove the speaker so it won’t alert the thief while tracking. 

29: First Aid Kit

Mini First Aid Kit - Gift for backpackers

Injuries can happen at any time, but especially when you’re out adventuring. Therefore, a well-stocked first aid kit is a non-negotiable vanlife essential.

It should include bandages, antiseptics, pain relievers, necessary prescription medications, and a guide to basic first-aid procedures.

30: Fire Extinguisher

vanlife essential items security

A fire extinguisher is a critical safety item that should be within easy reach. It’s especially important if you’re cooking inside your van. Ensure it’s appropriately rated for all types of fires – Class A, B, and C.

31: Roadside Emergency Kit

vanlife essential items security

Breakdowns can occur, and you may not always have immediate access to roadside assistance. A roadside emergency kit should include items like battery-operated jumper cables, a tire inflator, a tire changing kit, reflective warning triangles, a tow strap, and a multi-tool.

32: Routine Maintenance Tools

vanlife essential items tools

Certain things will inevitably need maintenance when you’re on the road. A basic set of tools can go a long way in keeping your campervan running smoothly.

Your maintenance tool kit should include a tire pressure gauge, wrenches, screwdrivers, and other tools specific to your van’s needs. Remember to carry a good flashlight for those unexpected late-night fixes.

33: Recovery Boards

If you plan on doing some off-road driving or camping, you’ll want to add recovery boards to your list of vanlife necessities.

Some spots are sandy or get muddy after it rains, so it’s not unusual for vans to get stuck. Recovery boards like these allow you to self-recover and save money on recovery charges.

Vanlife Essentials for Entertainment

Living the vanlife isn’t just about travel – it’s also about enjoying your time in the great outdoors. Here are some entertainment essentials that can enhance your experience.

34: Portable Speaker

Speaker

As avid music lovers, we do not travel anywhere without our portable speaker. One of our favourite date nights is to have some drinks outside, listen to music, and enjoy quality time together.

This speaker by Sony is tiny, so it doesn’t take up much space but certainly packs a punch for its size.

35: Projector

Travel Gift for Couples

Another vanlife must-have we’ve come to love and adore is our projector. It just hits different than streaming movies directly from our laptops and means we can set up cute little movie nights outside on summer evenings. 

36: Compact Leisure Items

Make sure to pack some compact leisure items to keep you entertained during downtime. This could include some great vanlife books, playing cards, or even a portable musical instrument like a ukulele.

These items can provide much-needed relaxation and fun, making your van feel even more like home.

37: Outdoor Recreation Gear

Montanejos Hot Springs

Exploring the outdoors is a significant part of the vanlife experience. Whether you’re hiking, swimming, cycling, or water sporting, you’ll want to ensure you have the appropriate gear.

This could include hiking boots, snorkelling gear, a collapsible bicycle, or a paddleboard. In fact, paddle boarding is one of our favourite hobbies we’ve picked up since living the vanlife.

Vanlife Essentials for Sustainability

Living on the road also means caring for the environment that serves as your temporary home. Here are some sustainable vanlife essentials to consider.

38: Reusable Water Bottles and Food Containers

water bottle

Single-use plastics can quickly accumulate in a van. Opt for reusable water bottles and food containers to minimise waste. They’re not only eco-friendly but also practical for life on the road.

39: Biodegradable Soaps and Toiletries

Biodegradable soaps and toiletries are gentle on the environment and suitable for outdoor use. Whether you’re washing dishes or taking a shower, these products ensure you’re not leaving any harmful residue behind.

40: Trash Management System

eco bin bags

Keeping your campervan clean and organised will help with morale and allow you to sustain this kind of lifestyle.
 
A simple trash management system with recycling bags will help you properly sort and dispose of waste. This small step can make a big difference in preserving the natural beauty of your surroundings.

wild camping Portugal

 Time to Hit the Road with These Vanlife Must-Haves

Embracing the vanlife is an invitation to a lifestyle of freedom, adventure, and an intimate connection with nature. It’s about simplifying your life yet enriching your experiences. 

As you prepare to embark on this journey, remember that it’s not just about the destination but also about making the most of every moment along the way.

These 40 must-have vanlife essentials will help ensure your journey is safe, comfortable, enjoyable, and respectful to the environment.

What do you think? Is there anything we have missed? Let us know in the comment section below!

Stay adventurous and Happy travels.

If you enjoyed this article, you might also be interested in our other Vanlife Guides to help with inspiration.

Charlotte & Natalie
If you enjoyed our free guide, you could support us by buying us a coffee! Don’t forget to follow us on Instagram, where we share more travel advice and inspiration. Charlotte & Natalie x

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Charlotte & Natalie

Hi There!

We’re Charlotte & Natalie, a British lesbian couple with a passion for travel and adventure.
Here you will find everything from LGBTQ+ travel & lifestyle advice, to comprehensive guides and itineraries designed to make your travel planning easier.
We want to inspire you to live the life of your dreams.

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