Are you looking for vanlife hacks to make your life on the road easier? Maybe you’re thinking about living the van life, you’ve just moved into a van, or maybe you’ve been living this lifestyle for years.
This is a list of 19 things you can add into your van to make life easier. Some are things you’ll incorporate into the build, and others are things you could consider adding once you’re on the road.
We’ve been living in our self-converted 4×4 Sprinter van for almost three years now. We’ve learnt a lot, and we are still learning! There are lots of little van life tips that make this lifestyle easier and more comfortable.
We remember what it’s like starting out in vanlife – it can be a bit overwhelming moving from a house where you have everything you want and need and then some. Minimising your life can be a challenge, both practically and emotionally.
We’re here to help make your transition smoother. In this post we’re sharing 19 essential items that make vanlife easier.
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Vanlife Hacks – Storage Solutions
One of the biggest challenges living in a van is storage. Living in a small space forces you to be minimalist and find clever ways to store things.
1. Hanging jars
You can attach hanging jars to the bottom of your cupboards to store all those foodstuffs you use regularly. Tea, coffee, rice, oats – whatever you find yourself reaching for daily. I’ll admit, hanging jars wasn’t our idea, and a lot of people use them in their van.
The best way to attach your jars is by screwing the lid into the bottom of the cupboard. We did find over time that the lids tend to break, so not only do we hold the jars on with several screws (which also stops the lids spinning) but Nigel put sikaflex under the lids as well.
2. Packing Cubes to store your clothes
With packing cubes you can organise your clothes by type (eg. T-shirts in one, pants in another, dresses in another etc) to make finding something to wear easier. You can also roll your clothes to keep them a bit less creased.
When you use packing cubes you’ll be able to fit a lot more in your overhead cupboards, and won’t need to worry about clothes falling out every time you open the door.
I have hooks with 2 hangers in the shower cubicle and I’ll hang a dress up in there the night before I want to wear it so its a bit less creased in the morning. If you don’t have a shower cubicle just find somewhere to attach a hook so you can hang clothes overnight.
3. Winter Clothes in Cushion Covers
A great way to store your winter clothes during summer (and vice versa) is to use cushion covers. Simply stuff your puffer jackets, scarves and beanies into a cushion cover which sits on your bed during the day.
We like to watch a movie in bed in the evenings, and its really comfortable to be propped up on these cushions. We did have proper cushions in the covers and ended up chucking them out!
4. Hat storage on the ceiling.
Nigel created this hat storage idea using 2 pieces of stretchy cord which is screwed into the bottom of the overhead shelf above the drivers cab. We actually have 5 hats stored here. We also put a small hook along the middle of the stretchy cord to keep it close to the ceiling.
Keeping things safe and stopping rattles
Our van is a 4×4 and we often drive off road. The Australian Outback is one of our favourite places to explore. Once we thought it was just an empty desert, but we’ve learned that this is where the real Australia is, with amazing landscapes, hidden waterholes, and aboriginal culture. We keep finding ourselves being drawn back onto these red dirt roads.
However, these roads can be ROUGH, which means things rattle around in the van like crazy (and sometimes accidents happen). Here’s a few things we use to keep the rattles and breakages to a minimum.
5. Stubby Holders (beer koozies)
Now these things are so useful!! Not just for keeping your beer cold, but we use them all throughout the van – especially in our pull – out pantry and so we can stack water glasses inside coffee cups to save space in our crockery cupboard.
Use these anywhere you have glass items you want to keep safe, like jars of peanut butter, olive oil bottles etc. Just don’t forget to keep a few spares for when it’s time for a cold beer.
6. Rubber matting between plates
If you’re like us and you’d rather eat off china plates than plastic, you’ll love this tip. We use rubber matting between the plates to keep them safe. You can buy this in sheets or rolls and cut it to size.
When Nigel is here he even wraps it around things like glasses, the spice jars and anything that moves; but the rattles bother him a lot more than they bother me!
7. Velcro under pot plants
If you’ve got a pot plant on your bench (or anything else that’s not too heavy you want to hold down), try velcro. This basket had a beautiful pot plant in it until we crossed the border into Western Australia where there is quarantine.
Now it’s usually just a storage basket, until Christmas comes around. I put one half of the velcro under the basket and stuck the other half to the bench.
Vanlife Hacks for keeping comfortable in the van
One of the best things about vanlife is being able to spend time out in nature. Of course that means sometimes its very hot, and sometimes its super cold. Living in a van year round, you’re going to experience all the variations of temperatures.
We don’t have aircon in our van except in the driver’s cab, for use when we’re driving. We did include a diesel heater in our build, and that was great during this last winter which we spent in the colder part of the country.
There’s a lot of debate around insulation and ventilation. When it comes to insulation your weakest points will always be your windows. Having effective window coverings will keep you much cooler in summer and warmer in winter.
8. Insulated window covers
We have these insulated, magnetic window covers that are made specifically for our van model. They also work effectively as blackouts, if you’re planning on stealth camping. Use the code nas_adventures at checkout for a 10% discount.
Other than keeping your windows and doors open, the best device for ventilation is ceiling fans. These are fantastic in the summer, but you’ll lose a lot of heat through them during the winter when they will be closed anyway. Living in a Bubble also supply covers for the Maxx Fans. (use the same code nas_adventures)
9 Magnetic fly screens
The flies in Australia can be relentless, so when they are too bad outside, we can retreat to the comfort of the van and hide behind our fly screens.
When we first moved into the van we had the cheap magnetic screens from Bunnings. However, we found that the slightest breeze caused them to blow open and let the flies in.
We switched to the magnetic flyscreens from Living in a Bubble which are much better. These attach around the door of the van with strong magnets, and the magnets joining the opening are super strong too. We have one on our side door and one on the back door. You can use our discount code nas_adventures at checkout.
Some people take their screens up and down, but we are kind of lazy so we leave them up all the time. Just be sure to lift the bottom section inside the door before you close it.
10. “Tennis racquet” electric bug zapper
Sometimes the flies do manage to come in when we are going in and out, and this rechargeable 12V Fly Zapper is not only useful, its also a lot of fun chasing the flies around and zapping them. We can simply charge it up on the USB charger.
Cheap, simple vanlife hacks
Here’s a few more tips we have that are cheap, simple van life hacks but will really make your life easier.
11. Tips for keeping your towel dry
Many van-lifers use travel towels as they take up less space and are quicker to dry. We started off using travel towels, but soon missed the comfort of having a real towel. We have a separate shower cubicle in our van, so we have plenty of space to hang them.
However, hanging them on a hook wasn’t great, because they wouldn’t dry properly and the shower (and van) started to smell musty. Our tip for keeping your towels dry is to hang them over a tension rod in your shower cubicle. You can then put pegs on the sides of the towels so they don’t fall off while you are driving.
12. Toilet paper
I think I lost count of how many times I would go into the toilet after we’d been driving and the entire roll had unravelled and was all over the floor. And if there was still residual water that hadn’t drained out properly, good bye TP!
I started putting a rubber band around the toilet paper, but forgot as often as I remembered. When I jokingly posted about this on Instagram, someone gave me the excellent advice to squash the roll into an oval shape. This is GENIUS, and completely stops the roll from unravelling.
13. Paper towel holder
We bought a ratchet paper towel holder to stop the paper towel from unravelling while we drive. This works great except when we are parked up with the door open and it’s windy. Then the wind blows the paper towel everywhere. This is where we do use a rubber band. Simple, cheap and effective!
Vanlife Hacks – Keeping your van clean
One of my favourite things about living in such a small place is how quick it is to clean up. I mean, the van does get messy very quickly but the upside is, it only takes 5 or 10 minutes to clean. A dustpan and brush will be your best friend!
14. Sand brush by the van door
Keep your dustpan brush (or better yet, a beautiful sand brush), by the front door and you can use it to brush the sand off your feet after you’ve been on the beach.
We also love our Muk Mat – which is a purpose designed fake grass mat that lives on our step into the van. A quick shake and all the sand and dirt it collects is gone.
15. Wooden mat in the shower
While we love having a separate shower in the van, one thing we hated was getting wet feet when we would use the toilet in the hours after showering. Often the floor stays wet for a while.
We put a teak wood mat into the shower room, and we actually remove it while we are showering, and replace it after we’ve finished. That way, even if the floor is wet, our feet stay dry when we are using the toilet.
16. 12v rechargable vacuum cleaner
A dustpan and brush are great, but there are those little crevices, nooks and crannies you just can’t get into with a dustpan and brush. A 12v rechargeable vacuum cleaner will help you get into these smaller spaces and keep your van clean.
This vacuum cleaner is great and we can just plug it into our 12v USB sockets to charge it back up. No need to turn on the inverter.
Vanlife Hacks – Finding safe drinking water
One of the biggest challenges with living in a van is finding fresh water and filling up the tanks every couple of days. In Australia, you can find places to fill your water tanks on the WikiCamps app. In Europe use Park4Night and elsewhere iOverlander apps will help you.
We have a 110 litre (30 gallon) fresh water tank under the van which lasts us around 3-4 days. We have stretched it out to 6 days when we have been able to shower elsewhere and/or use non-potable water for washing dishes.
So filling up the water (along with emptying the toilet) is one of those twice weekly chores that is just part and parcel of van life. We do have a couple of vanlife hacks that make this job easier though.
17. Flat wind-up hose
Firstly, we use a flat, wind up hose. Not only is this a huge space saver, its also much quicker and easier to store away with it’s own reel. Of course, this hose is food grade and designed specifically for caravans and RV living.
18. Inline Water Filter
Sometimes the places that we source water from can be a little questionable, so we have this BEST inline water filter to keep us safe. BEST stands for Bacteria Eliminating Silver Treatment, and the filter has silver in it which kills any bugs that could grow in a weaker filter.
We are happy to say, that with using this filter for the last 3 years we’ve never had a problem, and I know we have filled our tanks with bore water more than once.
19. Tap Key
Occasionally you will arrive at a water point only to find the tap handle has been removed. This is usually because vandals have left the tap on, wasting the water. Carrying a tap key has helped us on more than one occasion.
Watch the Vanlife Hacks video
If you want to know more about these 19 Essential Vanlife Tips, check out our YouTube video where you’ll see these must-have items in use.
We hope you’ve found this list of 19 Must-have Van life items helpful. If you have any questions about any of these items, just ask us in the comments below or, send us an email and we will get right back to you.