Friends enjoying a trip with several van life essentials

22 Van Life Essentials You Need for a Seamless Adventure

A complete guide of useful van life essentials you need for indoor and outdoor comfort, proper cooking, safety and recreation.

Anyone who spent some time in an RV Rental or camper van knows that bringing van life essentials makes all the difference. A casual campervanner will bring the basics for road safety, comfort, and things needed to eat and sleep in an RV.

Take your RV road trip to the next level and get a taste of the van life by personalizing your experience. Add a personal touch to your interior, bring the right items to stay on the road longer, and make your adventure unforgettable with the right extras.

List of 22 van life essentials for the Ultimate trip

Essentials for the living area & comfort

Going from casual vacationer to van life enthusiast starts by making your living area homely. Large modern RVs are extremely user-friendly and well equipped, but their prefab looks require a personal touch. 

1. Blanket

Blankets are van essentials for many reasons. As a clothing item, use them as a coat, poncho, duval, or kilt. On picnics, blankets are unmissable. With a belt, you can turn a blanket into a bag. Together with a stick and a few stones, a blanket turns into a tent. 

As for your living area, adding a blanket just makes it so much more comfy and colourful.

2. String lights

Why string lights when camper vans are outfitted with energy-efficient led lights? Because you want to create a cosy atmosphere! Candles are impractical, especially given the increased risk of knocking one over in the limited living space of a van. String lights are easy to use (especially when they come with batteries) and create a nice atmosphere.

Couple relaxing in a camper van with an ocean sunset

3. Plants

While you’ll have plenty of nature to your disposal when living the van life, plants do make a home homely. Add a few plants to your RV’s living area. Tiny plants like succulents or cute cacti. Or fresh herbs to be used in the kitchen. Use small hanging pots so they don’t fall while driving or keep them in a kitchen rack if you have those. 

Outdoor van life essentials

If you think that trading a house for a van means less living space, you’re looking at it the wrong way. The van life facilitates living in nature and when spending a great deal of your time outside you need less space inside. The following items help you make the outdoors your extended living room. 

4. Outdoor table and chairs

An effective way to spend more time outside and increase your living space is by adding outdoor furniture. Camping tables and chairs just so happen to be our most rented extra!

Girl handing food from a campervan to a man sitting on outdoor tables and chairs

5. Hammock

A hammock strung between two trees is just about the best way to comfortably lounge in nature. Hammocks are easy to bring and often fold into a pocket-sized bag. Bring one because you’re bound to find two trees that beg for a hammock to be hung between. 

6. Sleeping bags

It’s a starry night after a hot day and that summer breeze is rocking you straight to sleep. Spread out a blanket and spend a night under the stars with a sleeping bag, because why not?

7. Lantern

City dwellers will comment on how dark it gets away from civilization. Bringing a lantern is vital if you want to do anything outside at night. Solar-powered lanterns charge during daytime to be used at night.  

8. Pocket knife

A versatile tool that you’ll end up using more than anything else listed here. Once you have one, you’ll soon find plenty of reasons to take out the swiss army knife and go full MacGyver. 

Hygiene essentials

9. Portable toilet

While semi-integrated RVs and CUV’s will have built-in bathrooms, smaller camper vans usually don’t. In the latter case, bring a portable toilet. Don’t forget to bring an extra chemical tab and always empty your toilet cassette in designated disposal points.

10. Portable shower

Going to bed without a shower after an intense day of hiking dusty trails is suboptimal. And so is not showering for a week straight. If your camper van doesn’t have a built-in shower, bring a portable shower for your sake and for those around you. 

11. Mosquito repellent

Stay near a lake in summer and you’ll likely get assaulted by hordes of mosquitoes. There are a few ways to deter them from doing so. First, mosquito repellents with DEET are a very effective way of protecting yourself from mosquito bites. 

For those who prefer natural products, lemon eucalyptus essential oil proves a powerful deterrent. Mix one to ten parts with a carrier oil. Lastly, get a door and window screens installed in your RV to not have to bother with any of the above while inside.

Girl applying mosquito repellent in the wild

12. Eco-friendly detergents and soaps

Staying clean means staying sane. Because the truth is that living in a vehicle you’re only one degree removed from being a hobo. If you’re in nature, using eco-friendly soaps and detergents means you don’t impact the environment with your stay. 

Make sure that your products aren’t just organic or sustainably produced, but that they are non-toxic to the environment and don’t affect groundwater acidity. 

13. Medical kit

Anything can happen on a road trip and you want to be prepared in case of emergencies. Trying out the van life, you’ll visit remote places where you are your own best help. Bring an emergency kit to play it safe. 

Kitchen van life essentials

With a bit of creativity in your cooking workflow, an RV kitchenette is as good as any kitchen. To use it to its full potential, you’ll need the right RV kitchen essentials. We cover most of the kitchen basics in our RV essentials post. Here we list necessary additions to take your camper from van to home on wheels. 

14. Chef’s knives

Cooking in an RV is great fun, but cheap thrift-store knives take a large part of the fun away. They’re even dangerous. Bring good knives on the road to make yourself at home in the kitchen and prepare meals efficiently. Just make sure to stow your kitchen knives properly, like with a knife roll. 

Girl cutting cheese with a good kitchen knife, a van life essential

15. Herbs and spices

Bring a few spices on the road and you can turn any otherwise bland meal into a feast. They’ll make a meal taste of home or exotic places. Collect local spices while travelling and buy local produce to really get a feel for the region. 

16. Grill pan

Smokey, slightly charred food tastes of adventure and fuels your inner explorer. You can’t afford to not bring one when you’re serious about the van life. 

17. BBQ

For all the above reasons and more (like the warmth and comfort of glowing embers), you should bring a small barbeque too. 

18. Coffee press

On a short road trip you can get away with ordering coffee out, but the van life is fueled by piping hot coffee to be enjoyed while overlooking natural vistas. Our favourite way of brewing coffee is with an Italian press.

Extras for living the van life

Your van will get super comfy with the right equipment, but it’s important to remember that your van is secondary in the van life. Adventure comes first. Adopt the lifestyle of a van lifer with the van life elements below: 

19. Surfboard

New to surfing? If water is your element, a surfboard is a must-have addition to your van life. Surfing offers a unique and intimate way of studying the ocean and camper van travels completely support the surf lifestyle. 

Travel around the coast and observe the ocean change shapes endlessly, picking out the tides and swells for the best waves. Stay when the waves are good, or move on to another spot to see if the waves are firing there. When renting an RV, see if you can rent a surfboard as an extra!

A couple enjoying breakfast next to a van with a surfboard

20. Folding bikes

Folding bikes are a great way to increase your range of motion. Leave your camper van at the city outskirts and bike to the centre. Or cycle from the campground to the local grocery store. In both cases, taking a big RV would be impractical. 

21. Yoga mat

When you’re on the road for longer periods, getting enough exercise is crucial. Especially stretching your body is important for keeping healthy, with all that sitting behind a steering wheel and all. Practice yoga to balance body and mind, pilates for strength and posture (though that could be said for yoga too), or do a tabata workout routine. All you need is a yoga mat.

22. Pets

Bring your furry friend buddy on the adventure of a lifetime. Indie Campers allows for pets on all road trips with Indie Campers own fleet in exchange for a pet-cleaning fee post-trip.

About the Autor

Jeremy Sudibyo
Jeremy Sudibyo

Seasonal vanlifer on a permanent holiday. Does occasional creative work to sustain his diet of beachside margaritas and paperback thrills.