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FORMERLY: ADVENTURE IN A BACKPACK

Top 10 Van Life Must Haves

VAN LIFE MUST HAVES

Years of on-the-road full-time travel has given us insights into what gear and equipment makes #vanlife more comfortable and efficient and this is OUR must-have list of Van Life Must Haves.

SOLAR

We live in the digital age and we are not alone in the fact that we work remotely from the road.   That means staying powered up.  Of course you can check out our blog post about how to design your own solar setup, but if your energy demands are smaller, you can always go for a smaller unit like one from Goal Zero or Kodiak.

4G CELL BOOSTER

We work from the road, so having cell signal is absolutely imperative. Our RV didn't have a cell signal booster, and there were many times that we had to skip a destination or leave early so that we could drive just a few miles to find cell signal. While I cannot claim that the WeBoost stops us entirely from having to do that, I can say that it helps tremendously. 

The WeBoost Drive 4G-X RV has an external antenna the mounts on the back of the roof rack, which then connects to the antenna inside the van. The antenna inside the van repeats the cell signal, boosting it inside the van. The WeBoost has often been the difference between having just a bit of cell signal and having 4G, or boosting from no signal to a couple bars of signal. This one was definitely a game changer and a necessity for van life.

ARB 12V REFRIGERATOR

Of course, food storage is important. The ARB Fridge Freezer is great in so many ways. Since it was made for overlanding, this fridge is durable and will stand up to the shimmy and shaking of the van driving down the road. It's also super energy efficient, so we don't have to worry about using too much of our power to keep our food cool.  The chest style makes it even more efficient because we don't lose too much cold air each time we get into the fridge. Since cold air sinks, there is minimal temperature loss when we open the door from the top.

This fridge can fit about 3-4 days of food for us along with a 6-pack of beer comfortably. We could probably squeeze a week's worth of food in if we were to forgo the beer, but let's be honest here… we aren't going to do that! 😉


COMPOSTING TOILET

Call me a princess or whatever you want, but a toilet was a no-compromise essential to our van life. We had this Nature's Head Composting Toilet when we lived in the motorhome, and we loved it. So we made sure to include it in the design of our campervan. And let me tell you, being able to pee in the middle of the night without having to leave the van raises our quality of life tremendously.

The awesome thing about this composting toilet is that it really doesn't stink. The separation of solids and liquids stops the sewage smell, and the smell of urine can only be noticed when the tank is actively being emptied. While we try to limit our use of the ‘poo compartment,' it is nice to have just in case. That also doesn't smell other than just a couple minutes after using the bathroom. It's mixed with peat moss, which neutralizes the smells and starts the composting process. I'm telling you guys, this think is awesome. We might even consider getting one if we ever move back into a house!


PORTABLE STOVE

While there are many options for stoves for van life, we opted for an alcohol burning marine stove for a few different reasons. The first was safety. We did not want to have a pressurized propane tank in the living area of the van, and we certainly didn't want to be constantly moving it from the back to the kitchen. We also wanted a two burner, which removed any backpacking stoves from our list. And finally, we wanted the option to expand our living space and counter space by having a portable stove. We can move it onto the counter, park table, or back boxes while we cook and then store it in a drawer when we are finished. That saved us a ton of counter space!

We've also recently seen a Camp Chef oven/stove from our friends at Life Without Waiting. While it is much larger than we could really fit in the van at this point, this may have been worth designing it into the build. And, honestly, it's portable just like our little two-burner stove. And it can bake… pies on the road?!


WATER STORAGE

This is actually something we debated on for a while – get a large, mounted fresh water tank or stick with a couple smaller, portable water jugs. We decided to try out the smaller water jugs to begin with and we can honestly say that it was a good decision. Filling small water jugs that you can carry by hand is 10 times easier than filling a mounted water tank. We can use campsite or rest stop water spigots or even fill at breweries as we are passing through. No one worries about giving you 7 gallons of water in a jug – but they do think twice about letting you hook up your mounted water tank.


MERINO WOOL CLOTHING

When you live in 80 square feet and adventure on the regular, your clothes are likely going to get stinky.  We have changed many of our shirts and socks out to Merino wool to combat smells. Merino wool shirts are a major life changer when it comes to fighting smells and having clean clothes. The fabric is quick drying, so we can wash it in the sink and hang it to dry overnight and have clean clothes fast.

Unlike other quick drying fabrics, Merino wool is also anti-microbial, meaning that it is anti-stink naturally. And I know what you're thinking: wool is itchy. Well, this wool is spun to a soft thread that is soft rather than itchy. If it does itch a bit originally, it goes away after a wash or two.


QUICK DRY TOWELS

This is straightforward.  These Microfiber, quick-dry towels aren't as plush and luxurious as 37,000 thread count Egyptian cotton, they will not only dry YOU off faster, but they will also dry faster.

We got these because time after time, our old cotton towels were the LAST things to dry in the laundry, and when you are killing time at the laundry mat, you are always wishing you had more quick dry stuff.  These are probably the cheapest, yet best things on the list.


DRY DOG SHAMPOO

Living in 80 square feet with two dogs can get stinky in a hurry. We bathe them as often as we can, but sometimes it just isn't possible to get a full bath for them. When we found this no-rinse dog shampoo, it was incredible! Since dogs' paws are sensitive to baby wipes and hand sanitizer, this foaming shampoo is perfect for wiping their paws after hanging out outside. I also use it with a washcloth and brush it through their coats to give them a quick sponge bath in between real baths. It smells great, too!


HAND SANITIZER

As simple as it seems, a gentle alcohol-free foaming hand sanitizer is an absolute must have in the van. The obvious use for this is for sanitizing hands after using the bathroom or touching something dirty without having to use our precious water. We also use this hand sanitizer for quick sponge baths in between showers. Since it is alcohol free, it doesn't dry out our skin. Saving water is always at the forefront of our minds when living in our van!


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