VanLife Gear and Essentials

A Full-time Vanlifer's Top Ten!


InergytekMore power! Without a doubt, the top of my must-have list for VanLife Gear and Essentials is my power system built by Inergytek! Without it, Vanlife would be a lot tougher while rolling down the highway towards your next grand adventure. There is a multitude of ways to power one’s life while out on the road. Some, for the more electric savvy folks, are hand built and constructed. Other options, for those of us who are not so savvy, can be purchased as plug-and-play systems. A few years ago, when I did my van build, I opted to go plug and play.


Since then, I’ve been super happy with my choice of power. Even after all the hours, all the adventures, and all the places I’ve gone, my Inergy Apex is still going strong. Things have changed quite a bit in the two years plus since I started using this system so the Apex model that I have is no longer available, but they have built two that are even bigger, better, and equally as reliable as my Apex. I would encourage you to check out their website for the new power stations available. I am really digging the sleek new design too! I do not get paid or have any affiliation with Inergytek, but I think they have a solid product that I’m more than happy to promote. Go check these guys out as they are a really solid company with some top-notch products that can help you live your dream of rolling down the highway to some amazing adventures!

In the event that is out of your price range check out the Jackery. This is super popular in the VanLife circuit and is a great alternative to the more expensive option.   

2. Portable Toilet

To pee or not to pee? That is the question! There is a lot of banter about whether a toilet (or even a full bathroom) is needed in one’s home on wheels. I think most of us Vanlifers would agree that it is. I personally did not feel the need for a full bathroom, but a toilet for someone of my age and gender was a must-have. The other debate is between composting and cassette toilets. For me, the composting was just too much to deal with so I opted for a cassette toilet and have never regretted that decision. I chose the Serene Life Outdoor Portable Toilet. This toilet has a water tank so it is fully flushable, comes with a carry case so it can be discreetly carried into any bathroom, and the bowl detaches from the holding tank for easy portage and cleaning. There is a lot of talk about odor when speaking about one of the basic functions of the human body. I can tell you from experience that other than during cleaning (which is to be expected) I have never had an issue with this toilet having any odor escaping into my living space.

I installed a trap door under my bunk area and the unit slides under the bed and out of sight when not in use. And just for the record, boy is that a convenient location when the middle of the night I gotta go pee comes a calling. As stated in my comments about my power system, I have had this toilet since I moved full-time into my van two years ago and I wouldn’t change a thing. The honorable mention is the Lug-a-Loo. I had this in my truck camping days and trust me in a pinch (pun intended) It works just fine. Happy Pooping!

3. Cook Stoves

Have Coleman stove will travel! And eat well to boot! Coleman is one of the most trusted and most popular camp stoves for campers/vanlifers and for good reason. A sturdy construction, a reliable starter, and the two-burner area gives one the ability to cook anything you need for yourself and your family. I have two. One is the Coleman Triton Gas Camping Stove. It is a standard propane, double burner in a slick new design that is as awesome as the original green beast from years gone by that everyone on the planet is familiar with.

I also have a one-burner camp stove. The Coleman Portable Butane Stove is the one I purchased and use when I just need to cook a quick single-pot meal for one. Of the two, the compact one burner is the stove I use the most. If you are a solo traveler, as I am, and don’t need the bigger camp stove, this a perfect choice. It is nice however to have the bigger one for when you might have visitors over for some camp chow and cold beers. Let’s eat!                                                                                       

4. Refrigeration

Speaking of chow time, let’s talk turkey about refrigeration! There are so many choices out there that it can be a bit overwhelming. Are you a solo traveler like me? Just the two of you? A family of four? In this regard, size matters. Either way, one of the best items on the market to keep all your stuff cold is any type or size of Dometic Portable Refrigerator/Freezer. The Dometic products are, in general, known for their low watt usage, their ability to be a fridge or freezer, and their solid, reliable construction. Keep in mind, even though these are low-watt usage fridges they still do take up a fair amount of power.

Also, be aware of the power usage when purchasing any fridge and when putting together your solar power package. I bought the least expensive model they made at the time of my build and the smallest one they make because they are not exactly cheap. But that goes for any fridge you will purchase for your van. In the end, the Dometic brand gives you the most bang for your buck and they are worth every penny. One thing to note; no matter what you decide to buy for your cold storage needs, be sure it has a compressor like an ordinary house fridge. If you don’t, the ambient temperature in the van can have a major effect on its ability to keep your stuff cold. Check out the links embedded in this section to see all the styles and types that I would recommend for different budgets, differing family sizes, and different power availability.  So, stay cool and travel on!  


5. Non-Electric Cooler

Long before I moved into my van, I lived in the back of my pick-up truck for about two years so I could save money to travel around the world. At that time, I bought a great cooler to keep my stuff cold as I did not have a power source. For those looking for a cooler that is not electric-dependent, I recommend the RTIC Cooler. It is every bit as good as its more expensive competitor (that shall remain unnamed). It can keep a bag of ice and your other stuff cool for several days depending on the ambient temperature outside. As I currently live in my van full time my space is at a premium and since I installed a power system, I eventually gave my RTIC cooler to my son. He’s been dragging it around on all his excellent adventures ever since.


6. Fans, Fans, and More Fans!

Be cool! And I don’t mean hip and groovy! The one thing about Van Life is being able to travel with the cooler weather if that is your jam. But inevitably you will encounter some hot days and nights along the road. I’m not sure about you, but I hate sleeping when it’s too hot. To survive any uncomfortable evenings, I decided to buy a fan that fit my meager budget. I then installed it right over the bunk.

I went with the Fan-Tastic Vent. This fan was easy to install (although cutting a hole in the roof of my brand spanking new van was a little nerve-wracking), has three speeds, and is reversible so it can bring cool air in, and remove stale air by venting air out. It works best when it’s on high but, in that mode, it will take more power. I normally just use mine on low and that is enough to bring some nice fresh air in from the great outdoors. Some say it’s too loud, but I find it is the same as running a house fan. Plus, who doesn’t want to fall asleep to the sound of a fan whirring away? I’m also including a link here for another very popular fan that has all the bells and whistlesMany of my Vanlife friends (who have more money than me) use this fan. The MaxxFan Deluxe comes highly recommended if it can fit into your budget. In the event you opt out of installing a roof fan/vent the honorable mentions are the tiny but mighty EasyAcc USB Desk Fan and the Honeywell HT 900 Turbo Force. Both can really get the job done and keep you cool as a cucumber!

7. Cutting Tools

I love a good knife, machete, or hatchet! I carry all three in my van. Being able to use them as a self-defense weapon aside, having a freshly sharpened cutting tool on hand is important for gathering and chopping firewood (where permitted of course), as well as cooking and other tasks around camp. Back in the day, I was a land surveyor so having a machete on hand at all times was the standard operating procedure.  The Tramontina 24inch Machete was the exact one we all used and the one I recommend. My expert advice is to never buy a machete with a saw blade on the back of the cutting blade. Swinging one of those can be a disaster waiting to happen. Be sure to choose one with a flat back like this one.

Let’s talk hatchets. I guess most will do. However, I think you will like the one I use at camp to chop wood into kindling. The WilFiks 15-inch Chopping Axe is a perfect size and weight for any task you may have around the campsite.

As far as knives are concerned, I have many knives that I keep around for different reasons and tasks. For this blog and if I was only going to recommend one knife, I think my favorite utility knife will suit all your needs. The GVDV Utility Pocket Knife is great for hunting, camping, hiking, and of course any other chores you may have at camp. You know, like whittling sticks and junk.

Want to know about all of the Pocket Knives that I recommend? Click Here to check out my full blog post.

8. Study Desk

One of the things I just added to my van was a study/work desk. I know there are some traveling desks out there that are built specifically for this and that and have lots of jazz and cool tricks, but I just needed somewhere to run my business that didn’t take up too much room and didn’t cost an arm and a leg. I bought a small TigerDad Mobile Bedside Laptop Stand. I discarded the base of it and clamped it right to my wooden bench seating area. It swivels, tilts, and has a great black semi-rough finish that helps my laptop stay put even when I’m driving. It is a great little desk for a tight budget right around 50 bucks.

9. Coffee Maker

 If you are a coffee drinker, I’m telling you now, that I love my Keurig Single Cup, Coffee Maker! However, I cannot run it on my power bank as it would just take too much power. I do use it on the regular when I am at a campsite where I have a power hook-up. When I’m not at a campsite, which is most of the time, my pour-over Travel Coffee Maker makes a great cup of coffee for sure! It comes with an insulated stainless steel 20 oz. cup and paperless drip filter. If you absolutely must have your coffee in the morning before hitting the road, the trail, or hiking up that mountain, you can’t go wrong with either of these options.

10. Honorable Mentions

Here is a list of the smaller things I also carry on the regular on any hike no matter the difficulty or distance. A rain poncho is an absolute must as is a heat-reflecting blanket. Again, these are for emergency situations. I also carry a compass because compasses are just freaking cool. And, you know, it actually might one day save your life. And last, but not least, you are going to need a great pair of shades. You are going to love these Calcutta Islanders! They are polarized, water resistant, and have UV sun protection built in. Plus, they look great! These are just some of the little things that can help you make your outdoor adventure a success.

So, here it is! Your call to action! Don’t let those awesome ideas you have sit idle any longer!  It is time to gather your gear, take that adventure you’ve been dreaming of and make it into a reality! Go for it! 

Compass Info

Thermal Blanket Info

Sunglasses Info

Rain Poncho Info

Be sure to go check out my blog on the Canon EOS Rebel T7 Digital Camera! It’s the one I carry with me on all my Adventures!

So, there you have it! Many of the things you might find useful once you move into your van or if you’ve already hit the road and are looking for some items to make your life of adventure just that much more awesome! Happy trails and happy adventuring!