Van Life Hacks: 9 Simple Van Life Tools You Need to Have on the Road

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This short list of everyday van life tools is one of the most essential van life hacks for those just beginning their life on the road.

Many who take up the vanlife come into it fully formed handy people. They are tradespeople or artisans. They are people who have built their own houses, cars, and boats from nothing more than an ancient oak tree and bits of scrap scavenged from the dump. They come in confident of their own ability and with a set of tools likely passed down through several generations. 

If this is you, these van life tools are not for you.

This van life hack is for vanlifers like us. The hapless give-it-goers, the why-not-me-ers, the learn-on-the-road-ers. A much braver (in our opinion) sub-set of vanlifers who set out into the great unknown without a clue. For us and the thousands like us who don’t necessarily know our nuts from our bolts, we need simple solutions to real problems. 

These 9 simple tools can get you out of a sticky situation or stick up a loose one and get you and your mobile home back to the mechanic or hardware store. 

This vanlife tools list is by no means exhaustive, and we fully endorse going out and buying a complete tool kit before hitting the road. But we can say in all honesty that these 9 van life tools have got us out of 99.99% of the jams we’ve been in.

If you or your loved one is planning on hitting the road woefully underprepared, why not pick up one or two of these simple and useful van life tools.

Duct Tape

Gaffer tape, or duct tape, is easily one of the best van life tools and helps in most van life hacks.

Ancient wisdom dictates that if it moves and it shouldn’t, tape it.

A large roll of duct tape will only set you back a few dollars and can help hold things together when it seems like everything is falling apart… at least temporarily.

From faulty fridge switches to shaking furniture, to broken shock absorbers, tape has gotten us further down the road than we care to admit. If it rattles and it shouldn’t… tape it up. At least until you can get to a hardware store or a mechanic. 

Tape is one of the beginner’s most essential van life tools on the road and a simple van life hack for all those (un-)sticky situations.

WD-40

WD-40 a handy van life tool for sticky situations

Similar to the tape but in reverse, if it doesn’t move but it should then WD-40 should be the first thing you reach for. Rusted bolts, stuck windows, or a zipper that just won’t budge, WD-40 is a silicone-based solvent and lubricant that should get most stuck things going again.

WD-40 penetrates and softens rust and corrosion that may have built up around various moving parts, slowing them down. Simply spray onto the previously moving part and wait a few minutes for the WD-40 to get in and do its job. If things don’t loosen up with copious amounts of WD-40, it may be time to call in some professional help.

In addition to helping stuck things get going again, WD-40 is handy for, stopping squeaks, cleaning grime and build up, and protecting various materials from moisture. Another one of the great vanlife hacks for those beginning life on the road!

Silicone Sealant and Caulking Gun

Pllug up leaks with this essential van life tool

For when it leaks.

Van life often means cutting and drilling your roof and walls to fit fans, install roof racks, mount awnings, and affix solar panels. And holes can mean problems when it rains. If your rig springs a leak, silicone is the obvious answer to get that leak plugged.

For under $10 you can pick up a tube of silicone and an applicator known as a caulking gun to plug up any leaks as they appear.

Applying silicone can be a sticky, messy job. A caulking gun helps you apply the silicone. Use the caulking gun to apply silicone in holes and gaps you want to fill. A putty knife is also handy to help you smooth the silicone before it sets. Apply WD-40 to your putty knife before using to stop the silicon adhering to it instead of the hole or gap you are trying to fill.

Screwdriver

Don't leave home without this van life tool, a screwdriver

If a screw is too loose or too tight.

Screws are one of the most common fasteners around and are no doubt currently holding heaps of things together in your home on wheels and probably one of the most used van life tools. From mechanical bits and pieces under the hood to the furniture in the back, screws are everywhere. When you need to fix something in the van more often than not screwing or unscrewing is going to be one step of the process.

Most screws these days are Phillips headed, that is they have a little cross on top for your Phillips head screwdriver to fit in but it doesn’t hurt to carry a flat head screwdriver around with you too.

The flat head is also great to jimmy stuck things open (another one of the great vanlife hacks)!

Adjustable Wrench

A simple adjustable wrench is one of the basic vanlife tools needed to create your own vanlife hacks.

If a nut is loose!

Not quite as common as screws, nut and bolt fastenings are still a pretty regular occurrence in van life. But if you don’t have the space or the funds to run out and by a full set of wrenches for every sized nut on your vehicle, or if you don’t even know what size nuts you’re riding around with… well an adjustable wrench might just do the trick in a pinch and is an essential van life tools.

Utility Knife

The utility knife is one of the best basic van life tools to keep handy while on the road.

A utility knife, sometimes known as a box knife or a Stanley knife is another staple van life tools to keep handy. A utility knife will save you reaching for the good kitchen knives every time you need to open, sever or cut, something that seems to be a regular requirement on the road.

Hammer

An essential van life tool for life on the road

From banging in those rogue nails that have started to work themselves loose, to hammering tent pegs, or using it as an impromptu coconut mallet when you forget yours. When it comes to hitting things, this iconic tool has earned its spot on the roster of essential van life tools.

Bungee Cords

Must have tools for van life

Much like tape, bungee cords can stop things moving when they shouldn’t. These van life tools are essential to any van life starter kit.

Capable of fastening large objects in place or securing heavy loads, bungee cords are a great thing to keep in your vehicle. When things come loose, or if you need to secure something to the outside of the car, a set of bungee cords is invaluable.

We even used these essential van life tools to reattach our shock absorber when it fell out of the bottom of our card in the jungle of Peru to make it back to the mechanic two hours away. Bungee cords are definitely one of the van life tools to make sure you keep with you because you never know what kind of van life hacks you will come up with for these vanlife tools!

Hatchet

A hatchet is a great van life tool for the road

Dreaming of sitting by the van with a roaring fire while you sing kumbaya with some of your new van life pals? Have you stopped to consider how you’re going to gather wood for your fire? Collect timber, make a huge fire and be the most popular camper on-site with your trusty hatchet. A hatchet takes any beginner’s set of van life tools to the next level, especially on those cold nights.

These essential van life tools cost no more than a hundred dollars combined and can get you going again when you find yourself stuck.

Again, this list is the first step and we fully endorse owning and knowing how to use a more complete tool kit. A full kit will allow you to not only complete essential repairs on the fly to a much better degree than duct tape, but it will allow you to make upgrades and adjustments to your camper van as you travel which is helpful as you begin to discover different ways of optimizing your house on wheels. A full tool kit should include socket wrenches, different sized wrenches, various screwdriver heads, grips, and pliers, as well as electrical tools like crimpers.

Thinking of buying any of the above? Use the links included above, you won’t pay any more and you’ll help support this blog!

Have you got any other van life tools you can’t get without on the road? Let us know in the comments below.

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