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12 Van Life Essentials You Absolutely Need

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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 absolutely need and helps you to live life on the road comfortably, without any headache.

1. Solar Panels

Newpowa 180w Solar Panel For Camper Vans
180W Solar Panel

Utilizing solar power is one of the most important things you can do to truly become energy independent. Newpowa solar panels is one of the most popular one on the market, with reasonable price and its durability.

Our Experience: We installed two of these Newpowa solar panels on our campervan roof and they have been providing the bulk of our battery charging solution ever since. Still working perfectly after 3.5 years of full time travel in a van.

DIY a solar system within your budget with our FREE custom solar diagrams eBook. 

2. Lithium Battery

Van Life Electrical System - Battleborn LiFePO4 Battery
Battleborn 100Ah Batteries

Every van conversion requires batteries to charge all our electronics, including our laptops, phones, lights, fridge, and more. Battleborn offers high-end lithium batteries contain lots of additional features 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 right away 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 these batteries were rated for longer lifespans than their AGM counterparts.

3. Battery Monitor

Keeping on top of our battery’s SOC is also crucial to maximizing the life of your batteries. 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 be discharging your batteries past 40%.

Doing so can lead your batteries to a premature death.

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'm able to get a detailed, numeric overview of the electrical input, output, and state-of-charge (SOC) of our batteries. Definitely worth the investment!

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.

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.

5. Dometic 12v Fridge

45L Dometic Fridge

It is always a question people wonder before starting van life ; cooler or refrigerator? If you are planning for full time van life, the answer is the fridge! The best thing about this Dometic 12v refrigerator is that it can run with 12v so it is more efficient than regular fridge at home.

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

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. Being able to store fresh food has been really helpful when we travel in warm climate.

6. RV Sinks + Faucets

Installing regular home sized sink can be challenging with limited space. Also it can be annoying doing dishes in a small sink everyday. The combination of  two items below can solve both issues and made more practical for camper van living.

Ruvati sink is designed specifically for tiny kitchen like RV or camper vans. Compact yet deep enough that minimize water from splashing.

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

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

7. Water Filter

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

Vanlife Essential Gear - Berkey Water Filter
Go Berkey Water Filter

Berkey Water Filter

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

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

SteriPen Ultra UV Water

SterPen Ultra UV Water Purifier is a stick type of 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).

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

Our Experience: Traveling through Latin America for more than 2 years, we had no physical issue drinking tap water so far by filtering with combination of Berkey and SterPen. They are both compact and perfect for short backpacking trip too!

8. Diesel Heater

Van Life isn’t nearly a fun in the cold winter months. But with our  Diesel Heater, we are able to travel in all four seasons. The heater is:

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 temperatures at 7F (-14C), our tiny heater kept us warm all night long. The diesel comes with a 10L diesel tank (~2.6 gallons). And in our experience, we can get almost 40 hours of heat, on the low setting. So it’s super cost efficient.

9. Instant Pot

Essential Vanlife Gear for Kitchen - Instant Pot Duo Mini
Instant Pot - Duo Mini

Convenience At The Push Of A Button

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

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

All you need to do is to throw indegrents, choose cooking method and set timer. No worry about burning, over or under cooking your meals.

Instant pot is one of the most popular cooking tool out there. You can discover millions of recipes online, you will be surprise what you can cook in this pot!

Our Experience: Instant pot has been one of the main cooking tool throughout our van life. Just chopping veggies and throw into the pot makes really cooking fast and easy.

10. Cordless Handheld Vacuum

Campervan Kitchen Essentials - Cordless Vacuum
Cordless Vacuum

The best thing about van life is being in the nature with your comfortable tiny home. It means you have to deal with dusts, everyday! If you use this BLACK+DECKER cordless vacuum, you would notice how much dusts, sands and seeds coming into your vehicle.

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

11. Air Compressor

If you are into adventure, the ability to service your own 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.

Our Experience: We got stuck TWICE on the beaches in Baja California and the only way to get us 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

SumoSprings SSR-330-47 For Mercedes Sprinter 2500
SumoSprings Rear for Mecedes-Benz Sprinter 2500

Adding a suspension is 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.

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

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

Building a camper van? Download our free e-Books with intuitive electrical, solar, and plumbing diagrams.

Thank You For Reading!

We’re Yuko and Eric! We both grew up in Asia ( Japan & Hong Kong ), we left our jobs and homes in 2018 and started traveling full time from Canada to Argentina in our self-converted camper van since end of May 2019. “Asobo” means “Let’s play” in Japanese. We named our site “Asobolife” because the life is always uncertain and we live only once so it’s important to always keep positive, playful mind and enjoy the moment you are in the present. We also want to use this website to share our road trip and van building experiences to inspire our readers. We hope you enjoy!

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