When you’re traveling and sleeping in a small footprint like a Sprinter van, space for stowing your van life essentials is at a premium and so it pays to think carefully and plan what is going to be important with you on the road.
Your choice of van life essentials will of course depend on your personal needs and preferences, the size of your van, and whether you’re going to be spending extended periods of time playing, living in and working out of your van vs traveling and using the van mainly for leisure and vacations.
If you’re used to the comforts of home and don’t want to feel light you’re ‘roughing it’ on your camper van road trip, then you’ll probably feel you need to include more ‘essential’ van life gear on your van life packing list than someone who likes a more minimalist van camping setup.
This top van life essentials list will give you plenty of ideas and recommendations to choose from when gathering your own van life necessities and other essentials for your time on the road.
If you’re researching the pros and cons of van life and working out if it’s feasible for you, read our ultimate guide to van life next.
Van Life Essentials for fun and chillaxing
Comfortable folding camping chairs
One of the best things about van life is that you can travel all over and find beautiful places to park up and camp.
Comfortable camping chairs are camper van essentials that will help ensure you can sit out and enjoy what Mother Nature has to offer you while you’re there relaxing or eating your dinner!
To really level up your van life experience, consider getting heated chairs like these Gobi Heat Terrain chairs, that will keep your butt and back warm on those chillier evenings when you still want to sit out and enjoy the fresh air.
For more camp chair options, including more compact, lightweight folding chairs, read Trail & Kale’s guide to the best camping chairs.
Warm puffy blanket
There’s something about these Rumpl puffy blankets… they’re super lightweight, look and feel good, are made from durable fabric, and are super-warm.
Oh, and they don’t cling on to pet hair and dirt like wool or fleece fabrics do, so it’s easy to keep them clean and shake hair off.
Being able to shake off dirt and pet hair is especially great for van lifers who have pets traveling with them.
The Biolite Smokeless FirePit
Is a campsite complete without a grill? If you’re allowed fires in your campground, then a compact grill levels-up your campsite cooking game and is an awesome camper van life gadget to have with you.
This Biolite firepit grill is not just any old grill!
It burns wood and charcoal, is smokeless, has variable fan speeds, and can be used as a firepit, grill or BBQ. If that wasn’t enough, it also features a rechargeable battery powerpack with USB charging ports for your devices.
A camping lantern and/or string lights
Because nothing says #vanlife than some good lighting! Also, it helps to be able to see what you’re doing once it gets dark 🙂
We have also included portable work lights in this list which are a better option if you quickly need to fix something on your camper van exterior at night.
A high-quality camera
To document all your camper van adventures / misadventures you can’t beat the original action-ready GoPro camera.
The latest GoPro model is capable of capturing amazing quality footage, with built-in stabilization – it’s really incredible.
A way to iron out your achy back
Everyone’s talking about the Chirp Wheel – probably because it featured on Shark Tank, and it really works!
The Chirp Wheel comes in three sizes – or you can buy the set of three for working on different parts of your back – and it is far superior to a standard foam roller – so much so that it has been FDA-registered as a medical device.
The smallest Chirp Wheel is portable enough to tuck away somewhere in your van, to be whipped out at a moment’s notice to help you iron out those back aches.
It features a patented design and is simple, yet truly effective!
A portable toilet
Is having your own bathroom facility the ultimate van life essential?
One guaranteed aspect of camper van living (especially if you’re planning for full time van life), is you’re going to have times where you need the bathroom and there isn’t a suitable public facility anywhere nearby.
If you’re going out into the wilderness and camping somewhere without toilet facilities, Leave No Trace principles should apply.
One way to help ensure you’re leaving no trace is to have bathroom facilities on-board, so you’re not faced with the problem of where to go when you have to go, or having to bury your waste.
While we love composting toilets, if you have very little space in your van to store a toilet then this porta-potty may be a more suitable van life accessory for you, as it is small and can stow more easily in your van’s garage area or a good-sized cabinet.
Van Life Essential Kitchen Gadgets
If your camper van’s electrical system has the capacity to power one, then an induction cooktop will change the game when it comes to swiftly cooking meals in your van.
If you’re in the process of planning a camper van conversion, then we highly recommend ensuring you have sufficient capacity in your van’s electrical system to allow you the option of an induction cooktop, as opposed to a more basic electric, or gas-powered cooktop.
When not in use, it will cool down exceptionally quickly, meaning you can almost immediately pack this van life gadget away in a cabinet or drawer to save valuable countertop space for the rest of your meal prep.
An Advanced Multitool
Multitools are, by definition, super-versatile van life accessories to have on the road. These multi-functional gadgets can help with everything from making repairs to opening a beer, making a multitool one of our most highly-recommended van life essentials.
If you’re only going to have one multitool, the new FREE P4 from Leatherman is hard to beat.
It features 21 tools, including a saw and serrated knife – but is lightweight at less than 9 ounces, so not only is it handy to have in your van, but if you want to use it when out adventuring then it won’t weigh you down.
A hard cooler
Even if you have a fridge in your camper van, a cooler is a must-have for keeping drinks cool, as well as storing any food or snacks that don’t fit in the fridge.
The YETI Tundra range of coolers are pretty much unbreakable and should last a lifetime.
A Titanium Spork
If you’re looking to go minimalist with your van life kitchen essentials then a spork is a great multi-functional utensil.
A hybrid between a spoon and a fork, with edges for basic cutting, you can use a spork to eat most simple meals you may create while living the van life, including many rice, pasta, noodle and soup dishes.
We love this Snow Peak Titanium Spork for its durability and light weight – not to mention the cool range of color options.
Vanlife gear: Campervan safety and security
A portable power station
These portable power stations from Jackery are seriously impressive – capable of powering your lights, chargers and other devices for hours, and can be charged via your car’s 12v sockets while you drive, or with their own compact solar panel setup.
Portable power stations are not only great van life gadgets but are also very useful to have at home in case of a blackout, or if you don’t want to run long cords or extension leads to work or play in your yard.
The Jackery Explorer 1000 is the largest in their range and features 3x 110v outlets, as well as 12v USB outlets for powering and charging all your devices.
A powerful headlamp that lasts for hours + a work light!
Perhaps you need to find a bathroom spot outside in the middle of the night, or just need some extra light to help rummage around in a cabinet or your camper van’s storage areas.
Either way, a headlamp is the perfect hands-free companion when you need light, and a good headlamp will offer you varying levels of brightness, as well as a red light setting, which is great if you need a bit of light, but don’t want to ruin your night-vision or blind/wake up your camping companions when you have it on.
This headlamp is compact, lightweight and no-bounce, so you can use it for sports as well as general camping stuff.
Another lighting source that can be overlooked is an outdoor light source. The KODA brand make a magnetic battery-powered portable swivel light which you can snap to the outside of your camper and use as a work light.
If you need to fix something under your camper van you can use their built in stand to prop them up on the floor. These lights are invaluable when you need to do things outside the van in the dark.
If you’re taking your van off-road, even if it’s just to find a nice boondocking spot to camp in the forest, then there’s a chance you can get stuck in mud, sand or snow.
Given you’re out on a van life adventure somewhere without many other people around, you may be stuck out there for a while if you’re waiting for help – especially if there’s no cell service to call for help!
Having a good quality pair of recovery boards with you is not just something 4×4/off-road lovers should consider.
These are some of the best van life accessories to have with you if you’re planning to take your camper van off the tarmac even if just to find a quiet and private camping spot.
These boards can make all the difference between being stuck in the mud for hours, awaiting help vs. getting stuck, freeing yourself, and continuing along your trail like happy van lifers 😉
Jump Starting Booster Battery
Argh, there’s nothing worse than getting a flat battery when you’re on a van life journey in the middle of nowhere, with nobody around to help you get it going again!
A flat battery is one of the most common roadside emergencies to experience.
This NOCO Boost Car Battery Jumpstarter is not only a useful portable lithium power bank, but it is specifically designed to enable you to jumpstart your vehicle without needing a loaner car to help. This is a pretty damn handy van life gadget.
The NOCO Boost comes in several different sizes, including the ‘Plus’, ‘Sport’, ‘HD’ or ‘XL’, so it’s best to compare your chosen NOCO’s specifications against your van’s engine type and size to ensure that it is the right size.
Also consider getting a more comprehensive roadside emergency kit, that includes tools and accessories to help get you and your van back on the road.
A First Aid Kit
Not only is having a first aid kit in your van a good idea, just as it is to have one in any car or other vehicle you drive, but it could help or even save you or someone else in an emergency.
This first aid kit available from Amazon is comprehensively stocked and can also be useful to take on adventures such as hiking while you’re on your road trip.