TOP 10 ESSENTIAL ITEMS FOR VAN LIFE

When I started living out of my Honda Element full time, I had spent years thinking about and planning for van life. It took me a long time to finally make the leap, but when I did, I had most of what I would need to live comfortably out of my vehicle. I also added items as time went on that substantially improved my quality life (I'm looking at you, Dometic CF-18!).


Van life in a Honda Element. This is a picture of the inside of my Element camper conversion!

Here's my list of the 10 most important items that I own, and some reasoning as to why I recommend them to anyone considering van life.

  • 10. Tool Kit - Having a decent tool kit has been great. This comes in handy for minor repairs to the Element, adjustments to the solar system and for tinkering around with the camper conversion.
  • 9. KanuLock Lockable Tie Down Straps - Securing my surfboards to the roof rack is very important. I simply cannot fit them comfortably inside the Element, so I am left with no choice but to leave them on the roof. These Kanulock straps have a stainless steel interior and come with lockable mechanisms designed to secure items to a roof rack. They are fantastic!
  • 8. Camping Non-Stick Pan - I use this non-stick camping pan to cook the majority of my meals. It has a folding handle, which is excellent for storage. A pan without the folding handle does not fit well inside my cabinet and wastes a lot of space in the Element.
  • 7. All Purpose Shoes - I have these Merrell hiking shoes which I use for just about everything. They became my gym shoes, casual shoes, outdoor shoes, etc. As an active step towards minimalism, I was able to get rid of 3 different pairs of shoes and replace them with this one pair.
  • 6. Single Burner Camp Stove - This single burner propane camping stove is very fuel efficient and works well for cooking and reheating food.
  • 5. Sink Faucet Pump - This is the faucet that I used to create my sink setup. It works well for brushing my teeth, washing dishes and cleaning up. It is a simple addition to the Element which makes it feel more like a home!
  • 4. 12V Electric Fan - An efficient 12V fan is one of the nicest things you can have on a warm night in the van. It is remarkable how turning on this fan can cool down the interior of the Element. I would not be able to sleep on warm summer nights without it!
  • 3. Simple Solar System - I have an entire article dedicated to this here. The most important components are the Solar Panel, Deep Cycle Battery and PWM Charge Controller. The solar system provides me with off grid power that is integral to my comfort while living in the Element.
  • 2. Comfortable Mattress - I cannot stress this one enough. Having a comfortable sleeping surface is hugely important to being happy and healthy while living in a van. It took me multiple camper conversions to finally find one that worked well, but my current memory foam mattress is the most important part of my Element camper.
  • 1. Dometic CF-018 Fridge - As foreshadowed earlier in the article, the Dometic CF-018 12v Compressor Fridge is the most essential item for making van life comfortable. I battled with ice and a cooler for many months before finally switching to this fridge. After doing so, I have saved enormously on the cost to buy ice. I now have an efficient method for food and drink storage, which greatly improves my quality of life.

And some honorable mentions:

  • A good smartphone/ camera is a nice thing to have when you travel. I shoot the majority of my videos and pictures with my LG G4.
  • A wireless 4G LTE hotspot is also nice to have. I like to be connected whenever possible, particularly for the times that I don't want to spend all day at Starbucks!
  • A decent backpack. A big part of living out of a car or van is spending most of your time OUTSIDE of your vehicle. So, how would you be able to bring some of your possessions with you without a decent backpack? I use this Ozark Trail Backpack. I am able to take it with me on hikes or just use it to transport my laptop to and from the local coffee shop. It is great because it has a compartment built in for storage of a hydration pack or laptop. It certainly comes in handy.

Check out this video for some more information on minimalism and van life!