Van Life Accessories
Living in a van is more than just having a mattress on the floor and “winging it”! There are some essential van life accessories that will drastically improve your van life experience from the start. If you haven’t yet started living in a van, then you are one step ahead of us when we started our van life journey. Live and learn! That has been our mantra.
Today, we are going to share some van life accessories that you really should not be without if you are planning on making van life a full-time thing. If we knew then what we know now, we could have saved a lot of headaches and frustrations starting out the gate.
What do I need for living in a van?
Besides the van itself, of course, there are certain elements, gadgets, and van life accessories you are going to want for living in a van. Living in a van is nothing like living in a house or apartment. Living in a van requires a different mindset and set of skills designed specifically for tiny living.
Embracing this change of living culture and habits will go very far when adapting to living in a van. The thing that rings most true about the difference between living in a van and living in a house or apartment is that most things in a van have a dual purpose.
Think about it for a moment. Living in a house or apartment, you are used to approximately 1000 square feet or more of space. You have a nice-sized kitchen with cabinets and drawers for storage. A decent-sized refrigerator, microwave, and a full-sized oven. Your bathroom is nice and roomy with a linen closet just for all of your “bathroom stuff”.
A living room, bedroom, and some kind of utility closet. Not to mention a normal walk-in closet for your bedroom.
Now, think about living in a van. You have the driver and passenger seats. You have the living area which also is the same as your bedroom, living room, kitchen, bathroom, and storage for everything you plan on living and traveling with.
If we throw a pet or two in there, then we are looking at a whole new set of variables.
So, living in a van you are going to have to learn to adapt and adjust to using normal everyday items for multiple uses. Your kitchen sink will become the same as your bathroom sink. Your bed may also double as your sofa.
Van life accessories become something much more than just gadgets. They make life easier and more enjoyable! There are some items that you are going to want that will make this transition much more smooth and more comfortable for you.
How do I make my van life more comfortable with van life accessories?
Driving Van Life Accessories
I don’t know about you, but I would rather spend a day in July picking watermelons in the Mississippi sun than spending all day driving down the highway from destination A to destination B. Driving can make us so tired.
There are some van life accessories that can help alleviate that and relieve some of the stress and strain of long drives. Breaking your drives up into shorter hours would be the obvious thing to do, but sometimes, you have to, or really want to, get to your destination, so an 8 or 10-hour day of driving is what it is going to take. When you finally make it to your destination, you are dog tired!
Here are a few van life accessories we have discovered that make those long drives seem much shorter than they actually are.
Comfortable Seat Cover and A Seat Pad
I don’t care how nice you think your van seats are, having a seat pad or a seat cover can make all the difference in the world for your driving comfort.
Oh man, it is so nice to hop up into the van and sit in a warm cozy seat. This is one van life accessories item you do not want to be without!
Van life accessories don’t have to be something tangible. Whether you use Spotify, YouTube, or an old iPod, having a good music playlist can make the longest more boring drives whiz by quickly!
A good pair of sunglasses are much more than a fashion statement while you are thumping down the highway. They are much more than just van life accessories. Especially if you are facing the sun while you are driving.
Be sure to wear sunglasses that are polarized and have good UV protection. Trust us on this one, your eyes at the end of the day will thank you and you are much less likely to develop a headache too!
In addition to a good pair of polarized sunglasses, having an extension to your sun visor can be a godsend! There are times when we are driving into the sun and the sun is in just the right position that it peeks through enough to catch our eyes just outside of the visor’s protection. Van life accessories that keep you comfortable and safe are invaluable.
When you pull the visor over to cover the side window, having a couple of extra inches can make all of the difference in the world! (That’s what she said!)
Sleeping Van Life Accessories
Having a nice bed that allows you to stretch out as much as you like is like winning the lottery after a long, stressful, or exhausting day. Being able to get a good night’s sleep has become such a focus and priority for us since we have been living the van life.
A comfortable mattress is one of the van life accessories you do not want to compromise. Today, there are so many choices and it is so easy to purchase a mattress and have it shipped to you wherever you may be at the moment.
Personally, we prefer a memory foam mattress. We have had a few different ones, but we are using a queen memory foam from Walmart right now, and it sleeps great!
Having our own comforter is a Van life accessories must for us! It is like having our own sleeping bag! Never worry about someone hogging the covers from you! Besides that, the down comforter keeps us cool when it is warm outside and keeps us toasty and warm when it is freezing outside!
One of our favorite Van life accessories is a good pillow. Actually, this is just a life accessory!
Having a comfortable pillow is the difference between a “meh” night’s sleep and a great night’s sleep! We use a memory foam pillow for our heads and a Sobakawa pillow for hugging, covering our heads, sleeping on, or just snuggling. The Sobakawa pillow is the king of all pillows! By the way, a Sobakawa pillow is a pillow made from buckwheat hulls.
Window covering, inserts, reflectix, whatever you prefer to call them are the icing on the cake when it comes to staying stealthy and keeping warm air in or cool air in depending on your location and preference.
Having some good window coverings keeps people on the outside from seeing what is going on inside your van! If you are anything like us, we don’t want people to even know we are in our van when it is parked. If you are able to keep the windows covered sufficiently, then no one will ever suspect you are stealth camping!
Night lights are a great van life accessory because they are so versatile and easy to install. A good LED 12v reading light or dimmable puck light can be great for moving around in your van at night without creating much light to alert others you are inside your van.
To be able to have a small light in the bed area to read or just have one to look for something is a very nice thing to have on hand!
Sometimes quiet is too quiet! When there are no sounds inside of the van and no sounds outside of your van, the silence can be deafening!
A fan can usually do the trick for some mind-relaxing white noise, but, if it is too cold to run the fan, then something to put your brain to sleep is needed. You can get a white noise machine to take care of that need. A great alternative to another electronic cost and space in your van though would be some rain or campfire sounds from your phone or tablet.
YouTube has some great videos for white noise. Just about anything from the wind blowing through trees, to the ocean, a relaxing rainstorm, or a warm, cozy campfire crackling inside your van. Whatever you use to create that white noise, it is nice to have it sometimes!
This is a topic we love to talk about and take very seriously. Safety items are not just essential van life accessories, safety items are critical items for van life itself!
Below are our mandatory must-haves when it comes to van life accessories and safety!
Situational awareness is not something you can order on Amazon or pick up at the closest Walmart Supercenter. Unfortunately, it is not something we are all naturally gifted with either. Situational awareness however is something that can be learned by anyone. The closest thing to having street smarts as I can describe.
It is such an important aspect of van life or really, just living in today’s society, that without it, you run the risk of being a victim just about anywhere you might wonder.
A great idea to read up on how to become more aware of your surroundings, people, and situations to keep you, your family, and your van safe and secure in any situation or environment.
For safety considerations, we are talking about lights on the outside of your van! A reliable solar-powered motion detector light that can be attached to the exterior of your van with a magnet is a great safety accessory for your van.
Whenever you open your door or approach your van at night, the exterior will light up bright enough to see all around your entry. It is great for others who may wander too close to your van as well and discourage them from approaching your van after hours.
If the solar motion light is not enough, we installed some bright LED 12v light bars on the front, rear, and sides of our van. With one click of a remote or a light switch inside of our van, we can illuminate the outside of our van 360’ with over 30,000 lumens of bright white lights!
How is that for safety at night?
Let us start off by inserting a disclaimer here.
We do not encourage nor recommend you use lethal force in any situation where you may feel threatened or frightened.
That being said, we can only speak from our own personal experiences and perspective.
We believe in the right and necessity to carry self-protection with us wherever we are legally allowed to do so. Whether that is in an urban setting or a remote off-grid wilderness setting.
It doesn’t matter if it is another human being, a bear, wildcat, dog or venomous snake, there is always something or someone who has the potential and ability to cause you harm.
Being able to protect yourself in any situation is not only your right, but it is your personal responsibility and obligation to yourself.
So, whether you choose a knife, self-defense baseball bat, taser, firearm, bear spray or pepper spray, or a very loud emergency whistle or compressed air horn, do yourself a favor and exercise due diligence in protecting yourself, your family, and your van!
Emergency Glass Hammer and Seat Belt Knife
This is a great van life accessory most people do not even know about. You will find at least one of these in all commercial trucks, busses, and school buses. It is usually brightly colored and able to mount onto your A-pillar or somewhere close by for easy accessibility.
The emergency glass hammer and seat belt knife are great for situations where you may need to exit your vehicle quickly but are unable to lower your windows, open your door or remove your seat belt in a normal fashion. Most of the time, this tool is used after an accident has occurred.
Lounging: Van Life Accessories
When you are not sleeping, working a job, eating, hiking some epic hills, or kayaking somewhere peaceful and serene, you just may want to chill and relax around your camp.
We want to talk about a few things we feel are mandatory van life accessories. The things that bring your zen and relaxation to a whole….nova…..level.
Good Bluetooth Speaker
It doesn’t matter if you are watching a movie, a sitcom on a streaming channel, or listening to your favorite music, being able to hear what you are listening to with a clean, clear, and crisp sound makes it worth everything you want and expect it to be!
We recently replaced our JBL Bluetooth speaker with a Sony Bluetooth speaker. It has 360’ sound and we are very happy with it so far. We’ve been using it for a few months now. The best $100 we have spent on entertainment in a long time!
Entertainment for Decompressing
Entertainment is a very broad subject. So, whatever that means to you, make sure you are embracing it. For us, it is watching an engaging show or movie on Amazon Prime Video, HBOMax, or Disney apps.
Sometimes, it is playing a video game on our Nintendo Switch or Xbox One. A deck of playing cards, a set of dominoes, or a good book is just what you need to relax. Just decompress from the day’s events and get your mind into a relaxed and happy place.
Maybe you are into astronomy, wood carving, fishing, or something else. Whatever puts you in a good place spiritually, emotionally, and physically, be sure to spend some time doing those things.
Van life is great for adventures, but we need to take care of ourselves mentally and allow ourselves ample downtime.
If you are retired, independently wealthy, or have a sugar momma or daddy to fund all of your van travels, then more power to you! The rest of us, still work for our gas and lunch money!
If you do telework or run your own business while traveling, it is a great idea to have a dedicated workspace to get your job done when you need to get after it.
Having a place to set up your tablet, laptop or desktop goes a long way toward being productive and comfortable while you are working your job. We have a couple of different setups that work great for us!
We have a desktop computer that is set up on the kitchen counter and we will sit on the sofa. This is great also for working, watching Youtube, or playing video games.
Another workstation we have is the passenger seat. We have a portable or detachable desk that clips onto the dash where we will sit the laptop and work from there. In fact, that is exactly what I am using right now as I work on this blog post.
When we want to work outside, we set up a TV tray and an outdoor lounge chair. Being outside in the fresh air makes for a great office. Of course, if you are easily distracted, SQUIRREL, then it may not be the most productive work environment.
Having a solid and reliable wifi signal is crucial to be productive while working remotely! There are few things more frustrating than not having a good reliable data or wifi signal!
Currently, we use OTR for our mobile data plan. We have the SkyRoam hotspot that uses a virtual SIM card. So, regardless of where we are, the hotspot will pull from the closest or strongest data signal regardless of carrier. We may be using an AT&T tower in one location and a Verizon or T-Mobile tower in a different location.
So far, it has worked out great. We have clocked our download speeds to close to 100mbps in some locations. Of course, having a cell signal available is a must. There are just some locations around the country where there are no signals for any carrier to be found.
Back-Up Plan for WiFi
Just in case something happens to our service with OTR or something happens to the hotspot itself, we also have a backup hotspot. We have a blah blah blah from T-Mobile. It has worked when we need it, but rarely do we have to call upon it.
Having the proper van life accessories will vary from one person to another. We all are different and we all have our favorite things and stuff we feel is essential. This is our experience living the van life so far. Just like when we started two years ago, our preferences and needs are ever-changing.
Most of the items we have discussed and mentioned here today have pretty much been a constant for us. If you would like to see a more comprehensive list of van life accessories and essentials, check out this blog.
We are always improving and tweaking things to make life simpler and custom fit for our lives.
We would love to hear about what your van life accessories must-haves are. Leave us a comment below!
FTC affiliate disclosure:
We only recommend products we would use ourselves and all opinions expressed here are our own. This post may contain affiliate links. If you purchase a product, at no additional cost to you, we may earn a small commission.