Last Updated: November 11, 2022

Van Life Essentials: 37 Things You Need On The Road

Not sure if you’ve got everything you need for life on the road? You’re definitely in the right place because we will list all the van life essentials in this detailed guide!

From obvious things like solar panels to items you’ve likely forgotten about like shower sandals, we’ve got you covered! Our guide covers all the items that will make van life easier, and allow you to focus on what really matters and not worry because you forgot something as silly as earplugs.

Read on to see what we consider van life essentials, and see what the packing list below contains!

Top Products


Car Emergency Kit

Kolo Sports Roadside Emergency Car Kit - 156-Piece Multipurpose Emergency Pack with Automotive Tools and First Aid Kit - Car Tool Kit Includes Heavy-Duty Jumper Cables and Tire Pressure Gauge

A car emergency kit is the most essential item you need in your camper van. It includes jumper cables, tire repair materials, tow straps, and all the stuff you might need in case of an emergency.

Stuff happens when you’re spending all your time on the road, and eventually, you will need to deal with a dead battery or a flat tire – it’s better to have tools to deal with this on your own than to rely on help from strangers.

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First Aid Kit

First Aid Only 298 Piece All-Purpose First Aid Emergency Kit (FAO-442)

One van life essential you might not have considered is a first aid kit. Because you are often away from civilization or just can’t get to a doctor in time, it is critical that you can solve those everyday emergencies yourself.

Anything from a simple kit with pain killers and bandages, to a more comprehensive one is an option, but at least having something is the key.

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Alarm System And GPS Tracker

GPS Tracker - Optimus 2.0 for Vehicles, Fleets, Assets, People – 4G LTE Real-Time GPS Tracking Device – Instant alerts - Low Cost Subscription Plan

Although these are two separate items, they both have the same purpose – ensuring that your van stays safe in the exact place you parked it. An alarm system will go off if anyone tries to get near your van, which can prevent break-ins and save you a fortune in damages.

A GPS tracker will help you find your van in case someone steals it, as long as you hide somewhere where it’s not visible. But honestly, just having these two items in your camper van will give you the peace of mind you need to go on hikes and trips away from the van without stressing.

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Solar Panels

Renogy 200 Watt 12 Volt Monocrystalline Solar Panel Starter Kit with 2 Pcs 100W Monocrystalline Solar Panel and 30A PWM Charge Controller for RV, Boats, Trailer, Camper, Marine ,Off-Grid System

If you’re considering embracing full-time van life, solar panels are certainly one of the top priorities. They’ll allow you to live as normally as possible, by providing sufficient electricity to power a fridge, a stove, and even a water heater.

It’s not smart to rely just on the car lighter – leaving something plugged in while you’re parked could drain the car battery, and you’ll always be limited in terms of how many items you can have plugged in at the same time.

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Waste Tank

Class A Customs | UM-1500 | One (1) UnderMount 15 Gallon RV Fresh and Gray Water Holding Tank RV Concession

A waste tank is an essential part of camper van gear. There are too many campers out there who don’t have one, and they just try to discreetly dump their gray water wherever they can. This is not okay, and please don’t be one of these people.

Gray water is full of toxins and chemicals, and it can be very bad for the environment. You can usually empty the tank at any RV dump site, and the bigger your tank the longer you can go without having to empty it.

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Wheel Ramps / Leveling Blocks

OxGord RV Leveling Ramps - Camper or Trailer Leveler/Wheel Chocks for Stabilizing Uneven Ground and Parking - Set of 2 Blocks, Yellow

Finding a level parking spot off the beaten path is harder than you think.

Even if you’re staying at campsites, there’s no guarantee that you’ll be able to find a perfectly level parking spot for your van. And if you have a fridge inside, your van must be level when parked. A simple thing like wheel ramps/leveling blocks could make your life a lot easier, and ensure you still have cold drinks in that fridge.

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Window Covers

RecPro RV Entry Door Window Shade Sunshade Camper Privacy Entrance Sun Blackout Fabric 16' x 24'

Window covers are a must if you’re at all concerned about your privacy, especially if you stay at campsites. You can always end up with neighbors just inches away from you, and window covers will protect both yours and their privacy.

Also, these are great for keeping the heat out in warm weather, and they can help you make the van somewhat darker if you’re in the mood for a nap in the middle of the day.

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Divider Curtain

OMAC Van Cab Divider Curtains Campervan Sunshade Kit | Van Accessories 2 pcs. Curtains 1pcs. Profiles Screws 54'x71' (Black)

If you are traveling with a partner or family, a divider curtain will be very helpful for ensuring you can get some me-time. Whether you want to be alone with a book, need some privacy to work, or just want to use the toilet in peace, a divider curtain is an essential piece of gear for campers who aren’t alone on the road.

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Bug Screen

TheFitLife Magnetic Screen Door - Heavy Duty Mesh Curtain with Full Frame Hook and Loop Powerful Magnets That Snap Shut Automatically (62''x81'' - Fits Doors up to 60''x80'', Black)

Here’s another one almost everyone forgets about, but that could significantly change your life. A bug screen on the door of your van means you can go to sleep with the door open without worrying mosquitoes will eat you up for dinner.

It’s an absolute necessity if you like that breeze in your van life and you want to enjoy the sounds of nature, but without the hassle of dealing with flies in the van.

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WiFi

TP-Link AC750 Wireless Portable Nano Travel Router(TL-WR902AC) - Support Multiple Modes, WiFi Router/Hotspot/Bridge/Range Extender/Access Point/Client Modes, Dual Band WiFi, 1 USB 2.0 Port

If you’re planning to work on the road, WiFi is certainly a necessity. A lot of van lifers turn their travels into a way to make money by posting photos, stories of their travels, and guides that are helpful to van life newbies. If this is something you’re interested in, or you already have an online job, a WiFi hotspot is a must.

Verizon Jetpack mobile hotspot is the best option if you’re in the US. Just keep in mind that the data plan is limited, so I wouldn’t really use it for Netflix. You can always download movies and shows for later whenever you have access to free WiFi!

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Compact Safe Box

Amazon Basics Small Slim Desk Drawer Security Safe with Programmable Electronic Keypad - 11.8 x 8.6 x 4.4 inches

If you’re traveling with valuables, be it your favorite jewelry or tech devices, it’s smart to get a small safe box. It will give you some peace of mind while you’re away from the van to stick the most valuable items you own in a locked box.

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Portable Shower

Coleman 5-Gallon Solar Shower

You need a portable shower if you want your van life to last more than a few days. It can be one of those simple bag showers that heat water when you leave them in the sun. You can get these for $10-20, and there are loads of different options out there.

I really like the Coleman showers because the bag material is extra durable, but know that there are many other options available.

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Shower Sandals

shevalues Shower Sandal Slippers Quick Drying Bathroom Slippers Gym Slippers Soft Sole Open Toe House Slippers, Blue, 8-9 Women / 7-8 Men

Most people forget about shower sandals and regret it deeply when it’s time for the first van life shower. Living in a van means you’re either showering next to your vehicle while you’re standing in dirt or using communal showers at campsites.

Either way, shower sandals are one of those van life essentials if you want to keep your feet clean and away from all the germs and bacteria.

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Camping Toilet

Thetford Porta Potti 365 Portable Toilet (for RV, Marine, Camping, Vans, Trucks, Healthcare) 92820, White

Having a toilet in your camper van will significantly improve the amount of freedom you have while on the road. You won’t have to look for gas stations every time you need to go, and you will be able to opt for cheaper campsites that might not have the best facilities.

Stuck in the middle of nowhere with a flat tire and you have to use the toilet? If you don’t have one in your van, you’re forced to find a decent bush.

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Wet Wipes

Cottonelle FreshFeel Flushable Wet Wipes, Adult Wet Wipes, 8 Flip-Top Packs, 336 Total Wipes

If you’re an experienced camper, you already know this one belongs on your list of van life gear. But if you’re just getting into life on the road, my advice is to stock up on a pile of wet wipes.

They’ll become your best friend soon enough, whether you need to freshen up your pits or quickly clean up the camper van kitchen. They are in many ways the best van life shower alternative you could find.

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Scrubba Wash Bag

Scrubba Portable Wash Bag – Foldable Hand Washing Machine for Hotel and Travel – Light and Small Eco-Friendly Camping Laundry Bag for Washing Clothes Anywhere

A Scrubba wash bag is an essential item in your van if you often wash clothes by hand. The bag has a flexible washboard inside that makes hand washing almost as efficient as machine washing.

Put your dirty laundry in the bag, add some water and liquid soap, scrub the clothes in the bag, and you’re good to go! It’s fast, easy to use, and fits in the palm of your hand for easy storage!

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Carbon Monoxide Detector

First Alert CO600 Plug-In Carbon Monoxide Detector

If you have any gas-powered appliances in your van (water heater, fridge, stove, etc.), a carbon monoxide detector is a must-have. It beeps constantly if carbon monoxide is present in the van, and the annoying noise might save your life.

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Solar Powered Power Bank

Solar Charger 38800mAh Solar Power Bank with Dual 5V3.1A Outputs 10W Qi Wireless Charger Waterproof Built-in Solar Panel and Bright Flashlights

A solar-powered power bank is one of those van life accessories that is always great to have when you’re on the road. The sun charges it, which means you’re not spending any electricity produced by the solar panels on your van. And this particular one has a massive capacity of 35800mAh, which could charge your phone 10 times!

Plus, it will work for any USB-charging device, and you can use it to charge three devices at the same time since it also supports wireless charging!

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Car Charger

Anker Car Charger, 320 Car Charger (24W II), Mini Aluminum Alloy Dual USB Car Charger with Blue LED for iPhone 14 13 Pro Max, iPad Pro/Air 2/Mini, Galaxy and More (Not Compatible with Quick Charge)

A cigarette lighter car charger is an essential piece of gear for van lifers. It allows you to charge your phone, tablet, camera, and any other USB charging device. Just don’t use it too much while you’re parked, since it can drain the car battery.

I’ve featured the two-port charger from Anker here, mostly because I swear by their products. Output per port is 12W, which is okay – it’s not fast-charging, but it’s faster than most other car chargers. You can also get a four-port charger if the two ports are just not enough for you.

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Water Filter

LifeStraw Flex Advanced Water Filter with Gravity Bag - Removes Lead, Bacteria, Parasites and Chemicals Blue, 1 gal

A water filter will make your life on the road much more convenient. Instead of having to rely on campsites to stock up on water, a filter lets you grab clean drinking water from a stream. Filters get rid of 99% of bacteria, transforming any body of water into safe drinking water. Pair it with a good insulated bottle, and you’ll never be thirsty again.

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Campervan Fridge

SMETA Propane Fridge LPG 12V 3 Way Fridge 2.1 Cu.ft Outdoors Refrigerator Gas Refrigerator without Freezer Propane/110V/12V Fridge for Camping, RV, Motorhome and Campervan, Black

If you want to stay on the road for several weeks at a time, you’ll definitely need a good fridge in your camper van. At the very least you will need a sturdy cooler that can keep ice frozen for several days. If your build allows it, you can get a very nice fridge that can hold enough food for a week, and it can fit under your cabinets.

Some fridges fit inside drawers, and you could also go for simple coolers that require no electricity and instead just use ice.

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Camping Stove

Coleman Gas Camping Stove | Classic Propane Stove, 2 Burner, 4.1 x 21.9 x 13.7 Inches

A camping stove is a must in every camper van kitchen. It’s something you’ll probably use every day to make coffee and prepare food, so don’t be hesitant to splurge on a quality stove.

Propane camping stoves are usually the best option for camper vans because you can use them without any electricity. Just make sure to crack open a window, and check that your CO detector is on if you’re planning to cook something for longer than an hour.

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Cutting Board

Wood Cutting Board Set - Bamboo Cutting Board with Juice Groove - Kitchen Chopping Board for Meat (Butcher Block) Cheese and Vegetables | Heavy Duty Serving Tray w/Handles (3)

A cutting board is one of those things that we don’t really think about as essential, and yet we use them on a daily basis. You might be cutting bread for sandwiches or chopping onions for lunch – whatever you plan on cooking, (except if you are making toast!) you’ll definitely need a nice (preferably wooden) cutting board.

Also, it’s easier to clean up the kitchen later, since you won’t really have to wash the countertops.

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Insulated Water Bottle

Thermoflask Double Stainless Steel Insulated Water Bottle with Two Lids, 24 Ounce, Cobalt

An insulated water bottle is a small and inexpensive item that can significantly improve the quality of your van life. It will keep your water cold for hours on a hot July day, but also your coffee will stay warm until you’re finished with it.

And not just while you’re in the van – you can take hot/cold beverages on hikes, you can fill up the bottle with cold water at a campsite so you’re using less of your own supply, and you can even pair it with a water filter to get drinking water from a stream.

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Coffee Maker

Bialetti Moka Express 1-Cup (2 Oz - 60 Ml) Aluminum Stovetop Espresso Maker, Silver

There’s nothing like a fresh cup of coffee to wake you up in the morning. But if you’re used to your favorite expensive coffee maker, making your own coffee each morning could be a challenge. At the very least, it’s not going to be easy to make coffee that tastes the same with subpar equipment.

That’s why you should get something like the Bialetti Express Moka pot – it’s perfect for propane camping stoves, and it makes delicious espresso in just a few minutes.

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Cast Iron Pan

Amazon Basics Pre-Seasoned Cast Iron Skillet Pan, 10.25 Inch

Honestly, a cast iron pan is something everyone should have in their kitchen, and not just van lifers. You need one of these because they are extremely rugged, and can be used for cooking on the stove, in the oven, and even for cooking on a campfire. Also, everything that comes out of a cast iron is just delicious!

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Folding Table And Chairs

Office Star Resin 5-Piece Folding Square Table and Chair Set, Light Grey

A nice set of folding tables and chairs is a must-have for all van lifers who enjoy the company of others. Even if you have a dining table (or desk) in your campervan, what are you going to do if you meet up with a group of other likeminded individuals?

You won’t all fit in the van! Grab the foldable chairs and table from under your bed, set them up next to the van, and enjoy the company!

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Earplugs

Flents Foam Ear Plugs, 50 Pair for Sleeping, Snoring, Loud Noise, Traveling, Concerts, Construction, & Studying, Contour to Ears, NRR 29, Beige, Made in the USA

Earplugs are one of those things that most people forget about, but they could significantly improve the quality of your van life. You might be staying at a busy campsite or you might be parked just a little too close to the highway – instead of tossing and turning all night, put these babies in your ears and get some sleep despite the noise!

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Hanging Mesh Pockets

MISSLO Durable Hanging Closet Double Sided Bra Stocking Clothes Socks Organizer 15 Large Mesh Pockets, White

Insufficient storage space is something everyone who travels in a campervan deals with eventually. There’s just not enough space for all your stuff, even if you’ve managed to narrow it down to just the necessities.

That’s where hanging mesh pockets come in – they are great for storing smaller items, and they take up very little space in your van. Just hang these on the walls, and now you have plenty of space for cables, chargers, spices, toiletries, etc.

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Bungee Cords

Amazon Basics Adjustable 36-Inch Bungee Cords, Red, 2-Pack (20-Piece)

If you have shelves in your van, you definitely need some bungee cords. When you’re driving the campervan, it’s inevitable for some stuff to fall off the shelves.

Maybe you’ll hit a pothole or you’ll have to break suddenly – such a common driving experience could cause all your stuff to fly off the shelves. Secure it in place with bungee cords and it’s one less thing you have to worry about.

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Pocket Knife

LEATHERMAN, Rebar Multitool with Premium Replaceable Wire Cutters and Saw, Stainless Steel with Leather Sheath

A good pocket knife or a multi-tool can make your life much easier when you’re camping often. Some multi-tools have 30+ features, so instead of carrying a toolbox in your van, you can literally have one in your pocket. Whether you need a bottle opener, a saw, or a screwdriver, a good pocket knife will have you covered.

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Bluetooth Speaker

Xeneo X21 Portable Outdoor Wireless Bluetooth Speaker Waterproof with FM Radio , Micro SD Card Slot , AUX for Shower - Hard Travel Case Included

If you enjoy listening to music, you should put a Bluetooth speaker at the top of your list of van life essentials. I would recommend the Xeneo X21 one because it can SD Card support – if you put an SD card in the speaker, you never have to worry about draining your phone’s battery again.

Pair it with a high-capacity power bank, and you can listen to music non-stop for days, without actually using any electricity your van makes.

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Handheld Vacuum (Dustbuster)

BLACK+DECKER dustbuster Cordless Handheld Vacuum, Flexi Blue/Grey/White (HHVI315JO42)

Get a handheld vacuum now and thank me later. Traveling in a van comes with a lot of dust everywhere and it just gets worse if you’re on the road with kids or pets.

Small, handheld vacuums are great for cleaning up the small stuff like dust, crumbs, and even insects (spiders included!). Plus, they’re wireless, they charge quickly, and you can get days of use from a single charge.

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Insulated Slippers

THE NORTH FACE Men's ThermoBall™ Traction Mule V, TNF Black/TNF White, 8

The coldest part of your van is the floor, and unless you want to be dealing with a cold every other week, you need a good pair of insulated slippers. They’ll be your favorite piece of gear in the colder months, especially if you’re not the one driving the van.

Also, good slippers (like these TNF ones) have textured soles with plenty of grip and traction, so you could even walk around campsites in the slippers. Another pair I just love is the UGG Fluff Yeah slides – they are so warm and comfortable you will want to sleep in them!

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Insulated Sleeping Bag

Kelty Cosmic 20 Degree Down Sleeping Bag - Ultralight Backpacking Camping Sleeping Bag with Stuff Sack, Blue, Regular

If you’re no stranger to living the van life in winter, an insulated sleeping bag is something you should have in your van. Even the best heating systems can’t always keep the van warm enough when it’s sub-zero outside, and an insulated sleeping bag will help you get a good night’s sleep.

It’s also great to have this in case you end up camping in the mountains, decide you want to spend the night in your tent, or just want to lay on the roof of your van and look at the stars.

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Headlamp

PETZL TIKKINA Headlamp - Simple, Lightweight, Compact 250 Lumen Headlamp for Hiking, Climbing, and Camping - Black

Don’t forget to pack a headlamp before you hit the road! It’s a lot more convenient than a regular flashlight, the batteries normally last longer, and it’s perfect for those times when you need light and both your hands to do something.

A headlamp is a great item to have in a crisis, whether it’s changing a flat tire in the middle of the night or a long hike with your friends.

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Retractable Clothesline

Retractable Clothesline - Portable Heavy Duty Indoor and Outdoor Washing Line - 40 Feet PVC Retracting Clothes Line with Wall Mount Hang The Wet Dry Clothing Laundry - Easy Installation (Grey)

If you’re going to do your laundry by hand, you’ll need somewhere to hang it to dry. Using washers and driers at campsites is always an option, but it’s not something you can rely upon while living in a van. Plus, most campsites charge an extra fee for access to the laundry room, so why not save some money if you can.

Therefore, another van life essential is a retractable clothesline you can hang near your van – on a hot sunny day, everything will be dry in just a couple of hours.

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Physical Road Map

Rand McNally 2021 Road Atlas & National Park Guide (Rand McNally Road Atlas)

I know, it’s 2021, and the last time you held a paper map you were probably in middle school. But unforeseen things happen, and tech is not always reliable – what if your phone dies, gets stolen, or your faithful navigation system just stops working for no reason whatsoever?

Just get a physical road map, put it in the glove box compartment, and hope that you will never have to use it. But in case it comes to that, you will be glad to have a backup.

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