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Van life is all about living simply and doing things the easy way. To help you get started the right way we have put together 51 of our favorite van life hacks, tips, and tricks that we wish we knew before we started living in a van full time!
We have included the top van life tips and ideas from building a van conversion, storage, vanlife kitchen hacks, cleaning hacks, van lifestyle hacks and every other thing it pays to know before you go.
Van Life Hacks (and Campervan life Hacks) to Simplify Life on the Road
Van Life Build & DIY Campervan Hacks
Here are some campervan hacks you might want to think about prior to buying or building out your DIY van life conversion. Many of these things we wish we would have known BEFORE our first van conversion.
#1 Think Carefully About Your Requirements BEFORE Selecting a Van
You should consider your personal requirements when it comes to the size of your van. Bed size, interior height, and how much space you need should all be established before you begin your search for a van to convert. You can’t fit a shower in a mini-van.
#2 Choose a Van That’s Easy to Build Out
Vans that are boxy and square are easier to build in. Curved vans create potential difficulties. Vans with fiberglass rooves can also be less structurally sound when planning to add external racks, roof fans, solar panels or tanks, or internal ceilings. Passenger vans with a lot of windows have fewer structural points to build out from.
#3 Easy Repairs
Try to choose a van that is popular and readily available in the regions you plan to travel to. This means you will be able to get replacement parts and expert help if it is necessary.
Looking for more conversion inspiration and ideas? Check out our DIY van conversion guide for beginners!
#4 The Devil You Know
Do your research and try to choose a vehicle that has a reliable reputation. Once you have selected your vehicle learn about its inherent weak points. Have known issues inspected before a long road trip at and carry spare parts that are known to fail. A good mechanic, online forum, or Facebook group dedicated to your vehicle or style of vehicle is a good place to start researching known flaws.
#5 The Window Dilema
Ideally, you want to be able to let some air and light into your home. At the same time, a passenger vehicle with lots of windows lacks privacy, is harder to build out, is harder to keep insulated, and is not as stealthy as a cargo van.
If budget constraints allow, the optimal solution is to start with a cargo van and add portal windows with security screens near the bedroom which can be slid open to allow air and covered with insulated panels when you want to keep the van warmer or cooler. Alternatively, you can cheaply self-install an extraction van in a cargo van (you should probably do this regardless), or create insulating window covers for a passenger van.
We recommend buying the Maxx Air Fan. Easy to install, an extraction fan is one of the best additions we made in our first van conversion. Having driven from Chile to Colombia without a fan at all, we highly encourage this easy addition!
#6 Custom Multi-Purpose Table
You can create a purpose-built custom table that doubles as bench space inside, a separate table inside, or an outside table. We have done this in both our van conversions and it is a lifesaver on space!
By adding flanges to the underside of the table and having detachable steel pipes as legs, you can create any kind of table you want.
#7 Demountable Solar Panel
Keep the power flowing when you are parked in the shade by necessity or by design. Having one solar panel that you can position directly into the sun will help you keep your batteries full and happy. Either make one mounted panel demountable or invest in a storable solar blanket that can be easily packed away when it is not being used.
#8 DIY Window Shades
Window shades are a van life essential. They help keep the car cooler or warmer. They keep nosy visitors out. And they are important to use when stealth camping. But you don’t have to pay a fortune for premade window shades. A huge roll of reflectix costs less than $30 and can be cut to size. You can cloth also upgrade your basic shades by adding seams with magnets, covering oneside with material, or additional insulation.
#9 DIY Bug Screens
It’s easy to create custom-fitted bug screens for your windows and doors using mesh netting. We ordered a french door bug screen and then modified the screen to fit our rear door. Using a combination of magnets and sticky velcro strips, we secured the bug screen to the inside of the vehicle. The magnetic strip down the center allows for easy access in and out of the van. We used the leftover material to fashion mosquito screens for the rear windows which are attached to the metal framing of the van with magnets.
A simple DIY project that can be completed in a day, it is one of the van life hacks that has saved our lives on more than one occasion!
#11 Hooks Everywhere
Put random hooks throughout your van. We have small hooks throughout the van that hold things from keys when we are parked, hats, towels to dry, and more. A simple and easy van life hack that can be implemented at any time when you are on the road, but one that will prove to be beneficial!
#12 DIY Mattress
Is your bed custom-sized? A memory foam mattress can easily be cut to suit the specifications of any bed you decide you want to create. Alternatively, you can hit up your local foam store for custom pieces and sew your own covers to fit. PRO TIP: Wash the cover material before cutting it to size or you will have a challenge fitting your mattress into the mattress covers every laundry day…trust us.
#13 Plywood Van Floors
An easy way to save on costs and lighten the weight of your van conversion is by using only a single floor layer of plywood. Instead of purchasing laminate or vinyl to lay over the plywood, we dressed up the plywood to look similar to hardwood floors. A quick and easy hack that can save $$$ in your van conversion.
Van Life & Campervan Storage Hacks
Space in a van is a commodity and space can quickly evaporate as things accumulate. Being organized and tidy is a key van life hack to make sure you don’t lose your keys or your sanity while living in a van.
#14 Seat Organizer
Maximizing storage and organization is key in the van, and a seat organizer provides both when there was none. A simple solution and the vanlifers version of a junk drawer, a seat organize can help you store all of those bits and pieces that don’t have a home otherwise. We keep playing cards, headlamps, camera gear, and books in a seat organizer for quick and easy access.
#15 Bendable Hooks
A hook that is bendable? Why would I need that? Bendable hooks can come in handy in all sorts of manners from hanging lights under your awning to hanging hats. We keep at least one pair handy because you never know what odd job they may be used for and are a cheap van life hack!
#16 Cloth Storage Bins
From pantry storage to undies, storage boxes help you keep things neat and orderly. But, boxes made from hard materials take up more room, can’t fit neatly into odd spaces, and can break more easily during travel. Storage bins made from fabric like felt or canvas are great ideas for lightweight, durable, and functional storage areas.
#17 Hanging Shoe Organiser
Another way to turn any vertical surface into an organized storage area is a hanging shoe organizer. Not just for shoes, these versatile racks can be used to organize kitchen utensils, food, clothes, or any other bits and pieces you need to store away!
Van Life Kitchen Hacks
If you are like us, you will spend quite a lot of time in your van life kitchen, so taking advantage of the best campervan cooking hacks is a must.
#18 Quality Cast Iron Cook Wear
We love our cast iron cook wear. It cooks evenly, retains heat, is naturally non-stick, doesn’t wear out, and imparts great flavor to food. Our cast iron pots and pans are potentially our favorite van life kitchen essential.
#19 Dutch Oven
A dutch oven is a heavy pot (like one made from cast iron) with a heavy, tight-fitting lid. They are fantastic for stews and curries but on the road, they can also be used to make nachos, roast chicken, or even pizza!
#20 Meals That Keep Well (Leftovers)
Cooking in the van is not always easy depending on your setup. If your campervan has the cooker outside instead of inside, cooking every single night can be challenging. We try to cook meals during the week that store well and are delicious as leftovers. This frees up our time to do other things like exploring and writing down tips.
#21 Collapsible Tupperware
Incredibly useful for food storage and meal prepping, space-saving, collapsible tupperware is a great van life hack where room for kitchen wear is always at a premium. And if you are following van life hack #19, this collapsible tupperware will be one of the most used items in your van life kitchen!
#22 Fresh Coffee on the Road
Van life needn’t mean a life of instant coffee (no life at all in our opinion). A moka pot will make a strong real coffee on the stove. Although not quite as strong as espresso coffee it packs a punch and tastes delicious.
Other options for delicious java on the go include minipresso portable espresso makers or making cold brew with a coffee filter and a mason jar.
#23 Enamel Plates and Bowls
Sure plastic might be lighter and more durable but it also feels a little bit kindergarten. Dine with a little more style with durable and attractive enamel plates and bowls.
#24 Stainless Steel Wine Glasses
A sure-fire way to make you feel a little bit more classy in your van life kitchen is to grab a pair of stainless steel wine glasses. Not only will these guys keep your cold wine chilled during consumption, but these can also double as regular glasses for just about any beverage of choice.
#25 Insulated Mugs
Make sure you pick up an insulated mug before heading out on the road. Insulated mugs are a lifesaver for those cold mountain mornings.
Interested in more van life kitchen items? Check out the 25 items in our van life kitchen that we would not leave home without!
#26 Coffee Hand Grinder
There are few things in life finer than freshly brewed coffee. And what makes freshly brewed coffee even better? Freshly ground coffee beans. A weekend treat we afford ourselves to break up the week, we would not begin any adventure without a trusty manual coffee grinder. A van life hack that doesn’t require much effort, but makes all the difference.
#27 Bulk Buy Whole Spices
Spices are the variety of life or is it variety is the spice of life, either way, having a range of spices on board is an awesome van life cooking hack. Spices will take your cooking from bland to bam. Whole spices have way more flavor than preground spices and buying in bulk not only makes sure you always have enough flavor on deck when you are ready to whip up your next meal, but it also saves on cost as bulk prices are only a fraction of the price you would pay in a regular grocery store.
Stock up on your go-to spices and you won’t be sorry!
#28 Spice Grinder
#29 Water Filter
A Platypus water filter is a must for anyone contemplating van life in a country where the water is not always reliable. An easy way to purify multiple liters of water in minutes, this water filter is extremely handy.
Van Life Cleaning and Laundry Hacks
Just because you are living life on the road doesn’t mean you can shirk your responsibilities. Cleaning the van is a must and cleaning your clothes as well. Here are a few handy van life tips to make clean-up a breeze!
#30 12-Volt Vacumm Cleaner
One of the best parts of tiny living is tiny cleaning. Make that cleaning even easier with a portable 12-volt vacuum.
#31 Swedish Dishclothes
Bad news, most vans don’t come with a dishwasher, so cleaning dishes is a daily routine that really shouldn’t be missed. We have found that having quality dishcloths really makes the process go smoother.
These eco-friendly ones last longer, are more durable, and can be washed up to 60 times for the freshest dishes around!
#32 Soap Berries
The upside of using natural soapberries or soap nuts over washing powder is that they are cheaper, better for the environment, and easier to transport. However, our honest opinion is that these do not get your clothes as clean traditional washing powder. If you are living an active outdoor lifestyle and your clothes are regularly dirty the benefits may not outweigh the negatives.
Van Life Lifestyle Hacks
Life on the road comes with some truly amazing payoffs but there are some limitations to living in a car. Many of the day-to-day luxuries we take for granted living in a house or apartment are hard to replicate in a van. But there are some common-sense tips and tricks you can use to make van life a little more comfortable.
#33 Pre-Download Movies in Wifi
Just because you live in a van doesn’t mean you have to forgo your lazy nights in front of the tellie. A great van life hack is to pre-download movies, shows, and podcasts when you are on free Wi-Fi to be enjoyed later. An easy way to save a few bucks in the long run!
#34 Signal Repeater
For the remote worker, who wants to get off-grid, without going …off-grid. Make yourself a little bit more connected with a signal repeater. A signal repeater gives you the chance to work in those places that are a little bit more remote allowing you to amplify a 4G (or 5G) signal if there is even a trickle of cell service nearby.
Our signal repeater in Australia has enabled us to work in some of the most remote regions down under such as Cape York and the Western Wilds in Tasmania.
#35 Public Libraries
Public libraries are one of the best van life hacks around. Many public libraries offer free internet where you can catch up on emails, work or simply peruse the web. Public libraries are also a great place to cool down if you are traveling in warm areas.
#36 Camping and Overlanding Apps
Like the hobos of depression-era US who moved from town to town carving hieroglyphs to let others behind them know where they might find a hot meal or an angry dog, today’s van dwellers have a similar albeit more sophisticated system. Van life, overlanding, and camping apps provide databases of user-contributed spots where you can find everything including great campsites, points of interest, water sources, and much much more.
#37 Charge During the Day
If you rely on solar power then don’t forget to charge electronics during the day while the sun is shining. Recharging during the day keeps your batteries and devices topped up and your nights a little bit more restful.
#38 Shop at Markets
Fresher, cheaper, and a wonderful way to experience a new region. Markets tend to showcase and highlight the best of the best in the area. Plus, it is a great way to give back to the local communities that you are visiting along the way and a way to be a more sustainable and eco-friendly traveler.
#39 Speak with Locals BEFORE You Set-up Camp
One of the best pieces of advice that we received on our first van life trip through South America was to speak with locals nearby places we planned to camp. This helps give you the lay of the land and insight into whether the place you have chosen to squat in is safe. It also lets your new neighbors know you are not a sinister weirdo in a van, but a regular harmless weirdo in a van.
#40 Don’t Drive at Night
Unless you know the area like the back of your van, it is best to stay off the road at night. Whether it’s kangaroos in Australia, speedbumps in Mexico, or the cartel in Colombia, bad things happen to vans driving at night.
#41 Van Insurance
Insuring your vehicle is one thing, but most regular insurance coverage doesn’t include all the bells and whistles that you have (or will) have kitted out in your home on wheels. Consider purchasing motorhome (RV) insurance to insurance the contents and all your hard work on the van.
Miscellaneous Van Life Hacks (and Campervan Life Hacks)
These are the hacks that don’t quite fit anywhere else. But these misfits will go a long way to making life on the road a bit easier.
#42 Electric Bug Zapper
You won’t know you need this until it is too late. On more than one occasion, we have been posted up in a picturesque location waiting on the sun to set before the attack of the mozzies.
A handy electric bug zapper will not only let you practice your tennis swing but will also fry mozzies before they can get you.
A must on any van life essential list for those heading towards tropical, beach destinations.
#43 Telescopic Ladder
Need to clean your solar panels but you aren’t quite 10 ft? Don’t worry a handy telescopic ladder is a great van addition that will help you clean those hard-to-reach places without having to sit on someone’s shoulders.
#44 Photo Clip String
It is a given that you will be heading out to some pretty epic places as you begin van life. With a simple photo clip string, you can decorate your van, making it a bit homier and reminding yourself of all of the great adventures you have had along the way.
#45 Bungee Cords
Bungee cords are essential van life tools that can get you out of a lot of sticky situations. Whether you need to hold something down, keep something from rattling, or just keep a door open in the wind, having a few of these around is a must.
We have even used a bungee cord to reattach our shock absorber after it broke off the frame of the car in rural bolivia 200+ kilometers from the nearest mechanic.
#46 Duct Tape
90% of the time duct tape can fix it, temporarily. Duct tape has gotten us further down the road than we care to admit. From hanging headlights to fallen curtains, if it moves and shouldn’t grab the duct tape. At least until you can get to a hardware store or a mechanic.
#47 Universal Twelve Volt Charger
A universal 12-v charger can be used to charge multiple devices without the need to carry multiple cords. Cameras, speakers, telescopes, computers, you can charge a host of things if you find the right charge suited for your devices.
#48 Cordless Tools
It is inevitable. Being on the road, you are going to have something that breaks. Something that needs to be fixed. Something that you may not have done exactly right in your DIY van conversion in the first place, but now that you have been in your vehicle for a few months you know how to fix it.
A cordless drill is probably the tool that you will need most on the road and the one that we carry. If you need something else, you can always rent it from your local hardware store or find a friendly handyman to help you out.
A clothesline, a tie-down, guy ropes, having some light strong rope on had is a great idea with hundreds of applications.
#50 Levelling Blocks
Finding a level parking space is more uncommon than you think. An easy van life tip is to grab a set of leveling blocks to even things out when parked.
Can you live without leveling blocks? Of course, but it sure will make life on the road a little bit easier.
No one likes sand in the bed. An easy van life hack is to pick up a mat to lay outside to clean your feet before heading inside.
Just make sure you don’t forget to pick it up before you leave!
#52 Accept No Matter How Many Van Life Tips and Hacks You Adopt You Will Find a Better Way to Do Things After the Fact.
Just as soon as you’ve finished perfecting your van, some smartass will inevitably come along and point out something that could be improved. Or you will realize you could have done something differently. Maybe someone will release a revolutionary new product you just can’t live without. Accept it and let us know so we can add it to our list!
We hope you found this list of van life hacks, tips, and tricks helpful for your own van life adventure! If you have another hack, let us know in the comments below!
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