Vanlife Essentials

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Vanlife Essentials

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Living in a van is not the most convenient lifestyle. However, there are some things that can make life in a van much easier. For this post, I have compiled a few items that make the van life experience a little better.

Vanlife Essentials

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A Heater and a Fan

It’s difficult to control the temperature in any RV/van/car, especially if you do not have an air conditioner or heater. The best advice is to try to remain in mild weather as much as possible (ie north in the summer, south in the winter) but it’s not always possible. Even if you are able to be in a more moderate climate the weather does not always cooperate.

For those cold nights, I recommend the Lasko Personal Heater, 200W. It only heats a small space but makes my tiny van warm and toasty. For those warmer nights, this rechargeable small fan is ideal. The best part is it’s quite powerful for a small fan and does not need to be plugged into the inverter. I definitely do not like being hot and this fan, as well as the fantastic vent fan, makes a big difference.


My van is tiny but it has a lot of windows, thus keeping light out is rather difficult. I have a large blackout curtain with a tension rod that works well between the seats and the back of the van. I also place a sun visor on the front windshield which keeps the sun out in the morning. I tried velcro, which adheres to the van pretty well but not the fabric. I spent my first night with completely uncovered windows because they all fell down.

Vanlife Essentials

Eventually, my friend helped me fabricate magnet pockets in the curtain. This way they can be taken down easily when I need to drive. These worked really well for a while but I’m starting to look into other options that can stick to the windows better to have more optimal coverage. Any ideas?


I mentioned the fantastic vent a few times in my blog already, because it really is fantastic! It’s definitely worth that terrifying feeling of cutting a hole in the top of your van/camper. I get most use during those warmer nights, it’s basically like a ceiling fan! It also creates a less stuffy environment as it may not be safe to leave a door or window open all night. The vent allows air to circulate through the small space with a screen which keeps the bugs out.


Lights are essential in a van to help you do you what you need to do at night, but they can also be cozy and set a nice ambiance. I have string lights across my ceiling with tapestry over. These lights use very little power and have been on for several hours without any consequences. I also recently received a Lumio as a gift, although I realize it’s quite pricey, but it’s definitely convenient and bright. The most convenient part about the Lumio is it’s rechargeable and does not need to be plugged in unlike my string lights.

DVDs and Books

DVDs and books are essential to me for van life! I haven’t quite yet found the need to get wifi, but I feel I might in the future. Instead of watching TV/Netflix when I get home, now I read or watch DVDs. My go to are Greys Anatomy season 1, 2, and 3. Books are another great leisure activity but they can be space consuming, thus I typically download some on my Ipad Kindle app when I do have wifi.Vanlife Essentials

Off-Grid Power

I knew I wanted to have solar power when starting this whole process. I did not want to depend on electrical hookups for power.  I went with Renogy and I still am very happy with this decision a year later. Not having to depend on electric hookups and always having ample power to charge electronics makes van life more affordable and much more convenient.

All these items make my van feel more homey and less like a car. If you choose van life, you might not want to always feel like you are in a car!

What are your vanlife must-haves?

About the Author


Hi there! My name is Sarah and I am the creator of Tiny Van Big Living. I am a former traveling Occupational Therapist who lived in a converted camper van (Vanny Devito) full time for almost two years. I am collecting experiences, not things while slowly climbing out of the giant hole that is student loan debt.

4 Comments on “Vanlife Essentials”

  1. For the curtains I was thinking of a simple curtain on a rod system? Finding hardware would be simple enough and having a horizontal rod both above and below the window for two curtains to run on would work. The curtains themselves would likely have to be custom made, which would be easy enough if you know someone handy with a sewing machine. I hope I explained my vision clearly enough. It’s how most RV’s have the curtains setup.

    1. Hey Dan!

      Thanks for the input. I actually thought of this yesterday when I was looking at some tension rods in Walmart. I’m going to try and make some custom blackout curtains stat as its starting to get colder out. But you know I’m not good at crafty things so I’ll keep you posted. Thank you for this helpful comment!


  2. We recently got a canopy for our truck and have been camping in the back, and we’re slowly learned what makes trips most comfortable. While it’s not quite the same as a van (and not full time), there does seem to be a lot of crossover between the two.

    1. That’s a great idea. Before I converted my van I attempted to hang a canopy in the back but there was not enough space. I think truck camping is a great inexpensive way to camp for short trips. Being able to sleep in your vehicle when needed is so convenient if the weather is not cooperating and also much cheaper than a hotel.

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