Are you planning to hit the open road and experience the ultimate freedom of van life? Living in a van can be an incredible adventure, but it also comes with its unique set of challenges. This post is about the little stuff you may never thought of to buy, but can be so helpful when living or traveling in a van. We'll share some of the best van life hacks we've discovered to help you make the most of your mobile home on wheels. and makes the vanlife so much easier or more comfortable.
These always come in handy. Sometimes just to clean your hands after you’ve eaten something.
Or your shoes when you accidentally stepped into that big mud pool, which you have been so careful about. But also if you weren’t able to shower for a while.
Even if you have insulated very well, it will happen that there are so many ambient noises that you will still hear them inside your van. And not only for the ambient noise, but when you’re not sleeping alone in your van, you cannot help but lie close to each other in such a small space. And who doesn’t snore?
Whether you just need to know where to camp nearby or you want to plan a free camping road trip, these apps will come in handy. There are many different applications for finding the perfect location to stay the night. They include camping sites, parking lots, laundry services… and even private persons or farmers who open their domain to park your van, sometimes for free, sometimes for a small contribution. You’ll find pictures, reviews and any other information you need. We use Park4night and Campercontact, but there are many others.
Put a GPS tracker in your van that’s connected to an application on your mobile phone. In this way you can always find your van in case it gets stolen. But also useful if you give your family or friends access to the tracker so they’ll always be able to know where you are in case of emergency. Depending on the kind of application you have many different features such as real time geo location, information about driving speed, alarms when your van leaves a certain area, when it moves and so on…
This one’s a must have for your own safety. Living or traveling in a van means living or traveling in a closed space. Therefore it is important to know when you have to ventilate the room. You can hang a CO detector inside your van. Also when you use gas inside your van, make sure you install a gas detector close to your gas supplies to be notified as soon as possible when there’s a leak.
Packing cubes can ensure that everything remains tidy and organized. They”ll keep your clothes from getting mixed up at every speed bump. Aslo when packing your van, packing cubes are super efficient to move your clothes into or out your van.
Gel pads will prevent your stuff from moving while driving. Put them underneath your loose parts and they’ll stay in place without using glue or anything else. They are almost invisible, you can cut them to size and you don’t have to put everything away over and over again when you go driving.
Get your own gel pads here.
Maybe you haven’t noticed yet, but you are living in a metal box. So why not use its physical properties? You can buy magnetic stuff or just some magnets and attach them to whatever you want: keys, go pro, phone… We have magnetic hooks to hang up whatever we want, for example some light clothes. We also have those magnetic flashlights and we absolutely love them. No spare hands to hold your flashlight when it’s dark? Just hang it onto your van.
Window covers and/or curtains are useful for at least three things.
First of all: temperature. Because they have an insulating effect, they’ll keep the temperature inside your van more consistent.
Secondly they’ll provide more privacy. You can cover yourself from the outside. It’s not that comfortable when people are walking by and they look inside your van like you’re a fish in a tank.
And last but not least: light management. It’s amazing to wake up and watch a beautiful sunset from your bed. But we can imagine that sometimes you want to sleep in for a day, instead of being awakened by the light. Curtains and/or window covers can keep it relatively dark in your van.
When living or traveling in a van, you are obviously limited in storage space. And what takes up more space than those huge towels? Well, not all towels. Travel towels are lightweight and only take up little space. At the same time they also dry super quickly. What else do you want?
Both for showering and for your hands and dishes, it’s best to use sustainable soap. Especially when you have an outdoor shower. The water will run into nature and you don’t want to harm the environment with those chemical soaps. Also when you have a grey water tank for your shower and/or sink, use sustainable soap. You never know your grey water tank will fill up faster than you expected, and you have to discharge some of your grey water on the way. In this way you won’t harm the outdoors. But avoid discharging your water along the road and always try to discharge in places provided for it.
Everyone knows it: the bad timing of things breaking. When traveling in a van, you are on the move with something that is constantly moving and shaking, so it’s not uncommon for parts to loosen up. So always make sure you are one step ahead and be prepared for things to break or loosen up. Bring along a toolbox and some spare parts (screws, straps…) so you can fix any broken part immediately or that you can at least provide a temporary solution.
That little appetite while driving: A snack for on the go can’t be missing. But where do you leave your waste after that? Although we prefer the use of reusable drinking bottles or coffee cups, we also know that you will always have to deal with waste. To ensure that our cabin does not become cluttered with papers and waste, we have placed a trash bin in front. This prevents the cabin from becoming a mess after every ride.
Can you imagine that your house is tilted, so you have to cook and sleep on a slope? No, we neither. It will not be possible to park perfectly straight everywhere. So to compensate for uneven surfaces you can use levelers to make sure your van is parked straight. With a level tool you’ll always have an objective measurement of what’s ‘straight’.
It is almost inevitable when traveling around with a van and chances are it’ll ever happen to you: You get stuck in a swampy surface. We cannot guarantee you will get yourself free with just a shovel every single time. But in some cases it will certainly help you out.
Not only to help out your van but also to help yourself out of distress, a shovel might be helpful. If you have no other option than to relieve yourself along the road, it is recommended to dig a hole first. But, please, try to make sure you always have the opportunity to use a toilet and don’t poo outside.
And we are sure there will certainly be other situations in which a shovel can come in handy.
There is nothing better than sitting outside in the evening and enjoying the fresh air, but we are not a fan of making a fire to have some light. It’s dangerous and harmful for the environment. To have some light in the dark, we use a table lantern, chargeable with USB and solar energy. The light is bright and warm, which makes it super cosy and it’s so easy to use. No mess to start a fire. Also for a late evening walk, this table lamp will provide you with enough light instead of those uninviting flashlights.
One of the properties of tableware is that it is usually quite fragile. And unfortunately driving around with fragile things usually does not end well. This is where we decided to buy melamine tableware and shatterproof glasses. And we are so satisfied with it. You don’t notice that it’s plastic and you don’t have to worry that your tableware will break with every hole or bump.
Make a checklist of things you have to do and check before you go on the road. In this way you avoid having to stop after a few meters because you forgot something.
Things that can be on your checklist:
- Close gas bottle
- Switch off electrical devices to safe battery
- Close windows and roof hatch
- Turn off the lights
- Open all curtains
- Check if everything is stored away properly
Last but definitely not least.
It’s not really a hack but rather a rule: LEAVE NO TRACE camping. We care a lot about the environment and try to combine both living a human life and preserving nature. When you go out there camping, please leave nothing but footprints and take nothing but memories.
Leave everything the way it was when you arrived. Or even better: if you find any trash, take it with you and throw it away in a trash bin where it belongs. To learn more about the principles of Leave No Trace camping, you can read our blog post: Leave No Trace camping: Do’s and Don’ts.