Van Life Essentials:15 Must-Have Items For A Thriving Mobile Lifestyle

For some lucky folk, living in their RV is a full-time thing, and for the rest of us, it’s a pleasure we get to engage in when we’ve got the time and money to spare.

Those interested in living the van life hope to take things one step further and turn their vehicle into their home, and sometimes with mixed results.

So, what are the van life essentials one needs to live on the road?

To live full-time from your van, you’ll need to cover the basics like healthcare, hygiene, food and water, safety and security, and power.

On top of this, whatever you need to ensure your vehicle is going to be comfortable, safe, and pleasant to live in will be able to join the others on the list.

Van life is more than just staying somewhere for a few days in a fully loaded RV, but more about surviving on the basics.

If you’ve always wanted to try out this minimalist way of living and didn’t know where to start, we can help you out with our list of van life essentials.

The Ultimate Van Life Essentials Your RV Needs

Van Life Essentials

Living that van life might seem like a dream come true, and it can be, provided you don’t leave home without anything important.

If you want to know the absolute basics needed for this type of lifestyle, check out these Van Life Essentials and why they’re so important for making it out on the road.

#1 Security Kit

Security Kit

Living in your van might seem like it’s safe enough but compared to a home with many locking doors and screened windows, it’s not quite the same.

Thankfully, you can choose from a range of security options made for vehicles so you’re kept safe while you’re sleeping inside and away from the van during the day.

A simple alarm system can be set off if someone tries to break in and even notify you on your smartphone if you’re too far away to hear.

#2 Camping Stove

Camping Stove

You’ll no doubt want to be able to cook from your van, even if it’s just basic meals, as having take-out every night could get expensive.

A simple camping stove is all you need then, and you can get a simple single burner or up to four if you need it.

These are compact enough to fit in the van and then you can set them up wherever you want to cook, with the ideal spot being a makeshift kitchen that pops out whenever it’s time to eat.

#3 Cooler


Rather than having a fridge in your van and churning through battery power to keep it running, why not invest in a quality cooler?

This can store all of the basics you need like milk, eggs, and meat, without taking up much room or electricity.

To make the most of it, try purchasing your groceries on the day you want to cook and benefit from discounted cuts of meat and other specials.

The cooler can be topped up with ice whenever you need it and they do a good job of keeping things cool for days on end.

#4 Car Kit

Car Kit

Some car owners have one of these at the ready even if they don’t plan on living in their vehicles but if yours is about to become your new home, you want to be prepared.

Car repair kits come with all kinds of tools and gadgets like air compressors, tire repair kit and jumper cables, and you can go as basic or advanced as you like.

Even though you hope never to use anything in your kit, just knowing that it’s there will be all the peace of mind you need.

#5 Portable Fan

Portable Fan

Even when the weather is cool, it’s still nice to get some air moving through your van, especially if you have all of the windows closed.

A portable fan is a simple way to achieve this and it doesn’t use much power at all, usually just a couple of batteries.

The best choice for a van would be one that can clip on rather than a standing pedestal fan, and you’d be surprised at how much air they can circulate from such a small package.

#6 LED Light

LED Light

Since your living quarters are quite small, you only need a small, portable LED light to keep the whole place lit up.

LED lights are more energy-efficient and give off a nicer glow so they’re the perfect addition to a van that’s also a home.

For ease of use, have a push-button light and keep it situated close by to where you sleep so you’ll be able to turn it on and off as needed.

A backup torch can be handy for those nighttime bathroom trips as well.

#7 Solar Kit

Solar Kit

A quality 12-volt solar kit is a wise investment for those living in a van as it allows you access to free and renewable energy from the sun.

These kits can be as basic or grand as you like, depending on how much power you need and the conditions you’ll be living in.

The solar kit can charge up during the day and then power you up for as long as it lasts, all without having to pay a cent.

#8 Deep Cycle Battery

Deep Cycle Battery

A powerful battery is another must-have for van life, especially if you want to put your solar kit to even better use.

These batteries are designed for deep discharge which means you can practically wear them down to nothing without it doing any damage.

Choose one with solar compatibility to the kit you’re using so you can use this to bring its power bank back up and store it away for the next time you need it.

A deep cycle battery can be connected to your van in some cases or an inverter where you can plug all of your essential electronics straight into it.

#9 Folding Table and Chairs

Folding Table and Chairs

No matter how big your van seems, you’ll get pretty sick of it in no time at all.

The simple solution is to invest in a folding table and a couple of chairs so you can set up in the great outdoors and get away from the confines of your van.

This will be the place you eat your meals, watch movies on your laptop, and have friends to visit for a few drinks, so you’ll want to make sure it’s well made and comfortable to sit on.

#10 Mattress Pad

Mattress Pad

As your new bed, the mattress pad you choose for your van home will need to be top-notch quality.

This is where you’ll sleep at night so you don’t want to skimp on this purchase and should budget to spend more than a couple hundred dollars just on this.

A quality mattress pad should be comfortable but easy to roll up or store away so that it doesn’t take up too much room during the day.

Don’t forget the other bedding essentials like comforter, pillows, and sheets to complete the setup.

#11 Portable Toilet

Portable Toilet

The least glamorous part of van life, but an absolute necessity, is figuring out how you’re going to use the bathroom.

When you’re not able to rely on local amenities, you should have a portable camping toilet at the ready.

These toilets are a quick and clean way to use the bathroom and then you can empty them in the designated areas, but it’s probably better to only rely on this as a backup.

Living the van life, you’ll learn pretty quickly about where you can find a public bathroom, and this will undoubtedly become your preferred method, but it’s always good to have a backup at the ready.

#12 Portable Laundry System

Portable Laundry System

If you’d rather not do a weekly trip to the local laundromat or are planning on living way off the grid, you can make your laundry a lot easier.

Portable laundry bags are like washing machines you use manually with your hands, and you just insert your dirty clothes, some laundry detergent, and water, and then let the bag work its magic.

Hanging your clothes out to dry in the sun is the quickest way to dry them, and thanks to your van, you already have somewhere to anchor your new clothesline.

#13 First Aid Kit

First Aid Kits

A first aid kit is a smart investment for any home, whether that happens to be a van or an apartment in the city.

A good first aid kit will cover you for basic needs and emergencies, which can be an absolute lifesaver if you’re not able to get medical attention.

These kits start as small as just a few basics and range into 100+ piece sets that have it all, so it depends on what would make you feel more prepared for an emergency when living in your van.

#14 Water Filter

Water Filter

Living the van life means doing things a little differently, and without access to running water, this is one area that will change the most.

Until you establish your water supply method, it’s good to have a water filtration system always handy in your van.

This way you’ll be able to turn whatever water is available into clean and sanitized hydration when you can’t get back to civilization in time.

#15 Food Supplies

Food Supplies

If you’re living in a rural or urban area, the thought of running out of food might not seem like such a daunting one.

However, those planning on venturing away from society will want to be prepared for the worst.

Pick yourself up some camping food that stores away for years and has a long shelf life, just in case you ever get lost or run out of gas and can’t make it to a food supply, and keep it tucked away in your van.

Van Life Essentials is all about turning your everyday van into a permanent home, but you need the right gear to do it successfully.

Whether you have a fully loaded van ready to go or something more basic, you won’t get far without the essentials and a little bit of knowledge about living this way.

To get you started, we’ve answered some FAQs that newcomers to RV living have, so read on to see what else is required.

Is Van Life Cheap?

One might assume that living in your van is more affordable than renting an apartment or house, but there are costs involved and it’s not necessarily cheap.

Can I Live in My Van Legally?

There is no federal law in the United States that says someone cannot live in their van full time, but there are laws that you’ll need to consider if you want to embark on this way of life.

How Do You Survive Living in a Van?

In addition to all of the necessities you need to live in a van, like access to a power supply, fresh water, and food, there are some things you can to do the living environment easier for you mentally.

One might assume that living in your van is more affordable than renting an apartment or house, but there are costs involved and it’s not necessarily cheap.

Costs like parking, gas, vehicle maintenance, and required gear should all be considered on top of the usual everyday living expenses like food, clothing, and medicine.

There is no federal law in the United States that says someone cannot live in their van full time, but there are laws that you’ll need to consider if you want to embark on this way of life.

It can be hard to find somewhere to legally park your van for the night to sleep in which will be the biggest legal hurdle to overcome.

In addition to all of the necessities you need to live in a van, like access to a power supply, fresh water, and food, there are some things you can to do the living environment easier for you mentally.

Set an alarm for a regular time each morning, clean the van each night, make your bed when you wake up, and have a set of goals for the day, and this will give you a sense of pride and consistency in your new living quarters.


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