DIY Mosquito Net with Awning

5 Things We ABSOLUTELY Love in Our Van Build

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After living in the van for six months, the van is well-lived in. Now we know what we like and what we don’t like. There are certain things we don’t love about our van build and there are things we do. If (and when) we do embark on our next van building adventure, we’ll be sure to include these five van life hacks.

MaxxAir Fan

Having traveled South America in a cargo van with no windows, we knew we needed air circulation in our second van. We added the three-speed manual MaxxAir Fan to our van build, and it is probably our most used item in the van. The extraction allows us to cook in the van, even with the doors and windows closed, and it helps circulates the air when our side windows are open at night. This is perhaps the single most necessary addition to our van build, outside of solar power. It is a game-changer for life on the road. There is no way that we would live in another van without one and you shouldn’t either!

ARB Awning

Overlooking our campsite in Monterrey. A good awning can elevate van life by providing a lots of space.

We love our ARB awning. Living in such a tiny space, the ARB awning allows us to almost double the size of our home. It is quick and easy to set up and provides shade during the day from the fierce heat. Plus it allows us to hang up mosquito nets or lights if needed at night. We did not have an awning on our last van, but it is definitely a staple on all vans going forward.

Pro-tip: Make sure you always secure the awning with the guy ropes provided. One gust of wind can have your awning slung over the top of your van. We also recommend purchasing sand pegs in addition to the pegs provided.


Working in the van for us is key and thus electricity is of extreme importance. Although we have sufficient solar panels to provide for our output needs, that is only in sunlight (and if they are connected properly). For those long cloudy days and weeks, we need another way to keep everything charged. Having the ability to simply start the car and run lights if need be, is crucial, especially if you work in the van. We have been caught without power a few times, and our isolator quite literally saved our jobs. It is definitely something we would install again and recommend for everyone to install this handy device.

Inside Table

Attempting to podcast from inside the van. Our indoor table is a great van life hack.
Inside table in action!

With limited space in the van, everything counts. You do not have the additional space for things you are not going to use every day. We recommend building things within the van that serve two (or even more) functions. With our inside table, it acts as a countertop in the cabinet covering our cooker by day and a table when working or preparing dinner at night. The legs assemble quickly and easily and store away while taking up little room. It is one of our favorite additions. Next time we will be looking for more ways to make double use out of things. Check out how to build your own table in our DIY van conversion guide!

Permanent Bed

Having a permanent bed was important to us. It allows one person to sleep while the other person is still awake. It eliminates the need to move furniture and pillows around each morning. We have read forums where people have opted for the table and bed combo and admitted that 90% of the time, the table is tucked away and the bed is the main fixture. Instead, we created our inside table that can be stored away and left the bed just what it is… a bed! Plus, the additional storage under the bed is great in the tiny space.

What do you think of our van life hacks! Let us know your favorite hacks and products in the comments below.


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