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12 Van Life Essentials You Absolutely Need

Are you moving into a tiny house on wheels? Traveling the world in a camper van? Whatever the reason you start van life, there are many things to prepare for off-grid living. Here, we list 12 products you need to help you live life on the road comfortably.

1. Solar Panels

Utilizing solar power is one of the most important things you can do to become genuinely energy-independent. Newpowa solar panels are one of the most popular panel brands for camper vans and are often priced the most competitively.

Our Experience: We installed two of these Newpowa solar panels on our campervan roof, and they have provided the bulk of our battery charging solution ever since. And they’re still working perfectly after four years of full-time travel in a van.

  • High Durability / Long Lasting
  • Longer Warranty – Up to 25 Years
  • Lots of size options
Newpowa | Solar Panel (200W)

We use Newpowa panels on our van, and they've been working great for over four years of van life. Newpowa also tends to sell the lowest cost panels, dollar-per-watt.

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Learn More: Best Camper Van Solar Panels (Updated 2022)

2. Lithium Battery

Every van conversion requires batteries to charge all our electronics, including laptops, phones, lights, fridge, etc. Li Time sells lithium batteries at an unbeatable value, and their “TM” model batteries contain many additional features, like a robust BMS and anti-shock resistance, that may be worth it to a particular segment of camper van travelers.

Our Experience: When we set out to build our DIY camper van, we knew immediately that we wanted to drive the Pan-American “highway” from Canada to Argentina. Our length of travel made it easier to go with lithium batteries, knowing that lithium batteries were rated for longer lifespans than their AGM counterparts.

  • Internal battery heating capabilities
  • Extended warranty (8-10 years)
  • Longer Life Span Than AGM Batteries
  • Premium built quality
Best Budget LiFePO4
Li Time | Lithium Battery (100Ah)

Our top lithium battery recommendation! The Li Time "TM" packs a serious punch in a compact enclosure. Wide-ranging BMS with low-temperature protection. And superior shock resistance.

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Learn More: Which Battery is Best For Camper Vans – And Why We Chose Lithium

3. Battery Monitor

Keeping on top of our batteries’ SOC is also crucial to maximizing their life. All batteries have a level of discharge that users should ideally not surpass. If you’re running the more common AGM or lead-acid batteries, you should not discharge your batteries past 40%.

Doing so can lead your batteries to a premature death.

  • Bluetooth Enabled
  • Easy to manage/monitor with the VictronConnect app
  • Easy to program

Our Experience: Our BMV-712 Battery Monitor from Victron has quickly become one of my favorite gadgets in the van. It’s Bluetooth enabled, so with just a few taps on my phone in the Victron App, I can get a detailed, numeric overview of the electrical input, output, and state-of-charge (SOC) of our batteries. Worth the investment!

Victron | Battery Monitor

Prolong your battery's lifespan. Knowing your battery's state-of-charge (SOC) is a critical factor in preventing it's premature death. This monitor displays percentage charge, voltage, instantaneous power flow, and more. Bluetooth capable means easy connection to any smartphone.

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4. Maxxair Vent Fan

A vent fan may not be the sexiest item in your camper van, but it is low-key one of the most essential items to have.

  • Intake & Exhaust with 10-speed setting
  • Comes with rain cover
  • Comes with a removable insect screen

Our Experience: We keep our Maxxair fan on 90% of the time. The only time it’s turned off is while we’re driving. Otherwise, it’s kept on and continually bringing in fresh, cool air.

Maxxair | Maxxfan Deluxe

A high-quality vent fan is a top van life essential. It exhausts stale, greasy, & musty air and promotes fresh air flow into the van. The Maxxfan's unique rain cover allows you to continue operating the fan even when it's raining hard outside.

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Learn More: The Best Vent Fan For Camper Vans – Maxxair Fan Review

5. Dometic 12V Fridge

People always wonder about it before starting van life: cooler or refrigerator? The answer is the fridge if you plan a full-time van life! The best thing about this Dometic 12V refrigerator is that it can run with 12V, making it more efficient than a regular fridge at home.

  • Refrigerator & Freezer
  • Low Power Consumption
  • No Ice Needed

Our Experience: After 3.5 years of traveling in a van, our Dometic fridge is still working great! We are so glad with our choice and not going for the cooler. Storing fresh food has been helpful when we travel in warm climates.

Top Fridge Recommendation
DOMETIC 45-Liter 12V Fridge

A 12V fridge is a top van life essential. It keeps food cold & fresh and allows us to wild camp for more days. We recommend getting a top quality fridge with a durable compressor, electric components, and frame. Our Dometic fridge has handled all the crappy roads we've driven on.

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Learn More About RV Dometic fridge: Dometic 12v Fridge Review: The Best Fridge For RVs

6. Proper Sink & Faucet

Installing a regular home-sized sink can be challenging with limited space. Also, doing dishes in a small sink can be annoying every day. Combining the two items below can solve both issues and make it more practical for camper van living.

Ruvati sink is explicitly designed for tiny kitchens like RVs or camper vans. It is compact yet deep enough to prevent water from splashing.

  • Compact in size but deep enough
  • Comes with cutting board & dish drying rack
  • Easy to clean / rusts free
  • Easy to install

Learn More: Best RV Sinks For Campers – Which Are The Most Practical For Van Life?

A faucet that can pull out and swivel makes it easier to do dishes in a compact sink.

  • able to switch spray & stream mode
  • Swivel 360 degrees
  • Pull out spout
  • Easy to install & clean

Learn More: Faucets For Campers: Which Are The Most Practical For RVs?

Our Experience: We love combining these two items because the sink is deep enough to fit pots and pans even with compact size, and doing dishes with a pull-out faucet keeps it splash-free.

7. Water Filter

Where to get potable drinking water is constantly on the minds of most van lifers. Purchasing plastic water bottles every time is environmentally and financially unfriendly. Installing a water filtration system requires a complicated plumbing system.

Berkey Water Filter

Go Berkey, Gravity-Fed Water Filter filters out 99.9% of:

  • Pathogens;
  • Pharmaceutical chemicals, and;
  • Pesticides

These Berkey filters last for 3,000 gallons before needing to be replaced.

Go Berkey Water Filter Kit

The ideal travel companion. Filters out over 99.8% of contaminants, heavy metals, pesticides, and viruses. Packs up quickly when not needed and takes up minimal storage.

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SteriPen Ultra UV Water

SterPen Ultra UV Water Purifier is a stick-type water purification method. Just stir the pen inside the water bottle for the time on the display. (90 seconds for 1L and 45 seconds for 500ml).

  • Destroys over 99.9% of bacteria, viruses, and protozoa
  • Long Battery Life: ability to purify 15,000 liters of water
  • USB rechargeable

The other best part of this product is its portability. While the Berkey filter is still not so easy to carry around all the time, this one doesn’t take up much space in your backpack.

SteriPEN UV Water Purifier

Ultraviolet rays purify water by destroying 99.99% of protozoa, bacteria, and even viruses. UV-C purification protects you from risks that cause botulism, cholera, dysentery, and typhoid.


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Our Experience: Traveling through Latin America for over two years, we have had no physical issues drinking tap water by filtering with a combination of Berkey and SterPen. They are both compact and perfect for short backpacking trips, too!

8. Diesel Heater

Van life isn’t nearly as fun in the cold winter months. But with our Diesel Heater, we can travel in all four seasons. The heater is:

  • Space Efficient
  • Fuel Efficient
  • Functions At High Altitudes

Our Experience: We used our heater almost daily during the coldest months as we drove around the highlands and national parks in Arizona, New Mexico, and Utah. And even at 7F (-14C), our tiny heater kept us warm all night. The diesel comes with a 10L diesel tank (~2.6 gallons). In our experience, we can get almost 40 hours of heat on the low setting. So it’s super cost-efficient.

Espar Airtronic Diesel Heater
$1,055.00

We can't rave enough about our Espar heater. It keeps our van toasty during the frigid winter months and regularily works above 14,000 feet.

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02/16/2024 11:21 pm GMT

Learn More: How To Heat Your Campervan During Winter

9. Instant Pot

Convenience at the Push of a Button

It’s as simple as throwing in some diced vegetables, meat, spices, soup stock, and water. Close the lid and pressurize. Then you can lounge around, and 45 minutes later, you will have a perfectly cooked, delicious hot meal.

Multifunctional

Pressure cook, slow cook, rice cooker, yogurt maker, steamer, sauté pan, and food warmer.

No Baby Sitting Needed

All you need to do is throw ingredients, choose the cooking method, and set a timer—no worries about burning, over, or under-cooking your meals.

Millions of Recipes Available

The Instant Pot is one of the most popular cooking tools out there. You can discover millions of recipes online; you will be surprised what you can cook in this pot!

Our Experience: Our Instant Pot has been a primary cooking tool throughout our van life. Just chopping veggies and throwing them into the pot makes cooking fast and easy.

Instant Pot Duo Mini (3QT)

The perfect companion when cooking in a van. Throw in your favorite meats, vegetables, and spices, and press the 'start' button when ready. It's that easy. You must have at least a 2000-watt inverter to power this device.

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10. Cordless Handheld Vacuum

The best thing about van life is being in the nature with your comfortable tiny home. It means you have to deal with dust every day! If you use this cordless vacuum, you will notice how much dust, sand, and seeds are coming into your vehicle.

  • Cord Free/Rechargable
  • portable & Compact
  • Washable filter
  • Works well both on soft & hard surfaces

Our Experience: We’ve made vacuuming and de-dusting our campervan a daily morning ritual. It’s made a massive difference in the livability of our van. And our handheld vacuum plays a considerable role in that.

Cordless Car Vacuum (12V)
$27.99

Compact vacuum that plugs into any standard 12V (cigarette-style) socket. Great for picking up dust, dirt, and sand tracked in from outside. HEPA filter included.

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02/17/2024 03:17 am GMT

Learn More: Top Tips For Keeping Your Camper Van Clean

11. Air Compressor

If you are into adventure, the ability to service your van and fix issues yourself shouldn’t be underestimated. Viair Air Compressor helps to keep tires at the perfect pressure at all times. No more having to rely on and pay for gas station air compressors.

  • Quick Tire Inflation
  • Portable and compact package
  • 12V powered with alligator clamps direct to the vehicle’s battery
VIAIR Portable Compressor Kit
$79.99

A van life essential for getting your camper van out of sticky situations. Perfect for reinflating tires after you get a flat, or when you purposefully deflated your tires to cross mud, sand, and soft dirt.

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02/17/2024 03:25 am GMT

Learn More: Campervan Maintenance Tips

Our Experience: We got stuck TWICE on the beaches in Baja, California, and the only way to get out of the sand was to deflate our tires down to 15 PSI. Once we were out and on asphalt, we used our air compressor to re-pressurize our tires, and we were good to go.

12. SumoSprings Suspension

Adding a suspension is a great way to upgrade your adventure vehicle. SumoSprings drastically smooth out your ride, reduce sway, and give you more control as you drive on uneven terrain. For the price you pay, they provide fantastic value.

  • Easy & quick installation
  • Reduce sway and more stability
  • Comes with pair ( left & right)
  • Maintenance Free

Our Experience: Our rides are considerably smoother with less side-to-side sway because the SumoSprings pick up our camper’s weight and dampen its overall movement. Installation was simple! We installed the front and rear SumoSprings at a Walmart parking lot in less than two hours.

Find Out Correct Size For Your Vehicle Model: SumoSprings Review For RVs: We Tried Them! Are They Worth It?

#1 Suspension Pick
SumoSprings (Rear)
$245.00

SumoSprings are our #1 value pick for upgrading a camper van's suspension. They stabilize sway, decrease vibration, and reduce rear-end sag. Best of all, they are easy to install yourself. Click for Ford Transit models.

RAM Promaster (Amazon) Mercedes Sprinter 2500 (Amazon)
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02/17/2024 12:47 am GMT
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