These Essential Van Life Tools Are Crucial To Maintain Your Camper Van
Breakdowns happen! Whether something happens to your vehicle or to your camper van’s interior living space, it’s a very good idea to bring along several tools and spare parts to keep your van life journey moving forward. In this post, we go over some of our essential van life tools that we bring along with us in our camper van.
When we started van life and set out on our travels across the America’s, our camper van was ready to go, no problems at all. But starting on Day #3, things began to go wrong for us.
Our plumbing leaked! Our solar panels stopped charging our batteries. And screws began to pop out of our wood beams. Hey, stuff happens when you travel in a moving home. But we were able to fix each of the different problems that arose because we carried a tool box with all the essential van life tools inside. And in this post, we will discuss everything that we bring with us.
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General Van Life Tools
First up in our list of essential van life tools are our big ticket items. Items we use often for general maintenance purposes.
Irwin 9-Piece Screwdriver
“The one screw driver to rule them all…”
This Irwin 9-Piece Bit Screwdriver is the perfect companion for any van life tool box. Instead of having 9 different screwdrivers, this single one replaces them all.
I’ve fixed my plumbing, my electrical, my counters and upper cabinets, and even my license plate brackets.
This screwdriver is so useful, it doesn’t even stay in my tool box. It’s stored in my top drawer because I always need it.
The handle is made of rubber, so you get a great, comfortable grip when using it.
Definitely a recommended tool for van life!
When we had to cut 2/0 electrical wire to connect our van battery to our house batteries, we used this Utility Knife.
When we had to cut through rope tie a tarp to our van roof so get through the rainy season in Mexico, we used this knife.
We when had to cut pointy ends on our wood sticks so we could make smores 😋, we used this knife.
It’s a utility knife, and can be used for anything and everything. It should be a mainstay in every person’s toolbox.
You might already have a caulking gun if you are converting your own van, but if not, you should pick one up at a hardware store or on Amazon.
Fix leaks, re-caulk your kitchen counters, re-seal your windows and solar panel bracket attachments, or even adhere loose pieces together.
The caulking gun is a multi-faceted tool that really comes in handy when you need it.
Heavy Duty Work Gloves
Work gloves is that one thing that we use for everything around our van.
We wear them to loosen our hose fittings, when we collect wood in the forest for our campfires, when we changed a flat tire in a McDonalds parking lot, and even to unscrew our jam jars.
You might already have one in your garage, or your parent’s 😉, but if not, these work gloves should come in really handy when you need them.
Lineman's & Needle Nose Pliers
In a constantly moving vehicle things are always coming undone and loose. Along with our screw driver, we use the Lineman’s Pliers to tighten nuts and bolts throughout the van.
In the last 13 months, we’ve only used our Needle Nose Pliers twice. But this was the only tool that I could use that would have solved my issue.
Van life is a super tight living arrangement. Small nuts and screws in hard to reach areas. And sometimes you need a tool that can really get into tight spaces without banging into other things.
If you’ve already gone through a van build, chances are you already have a Tape Measure in hand.
Even when we finished our van build and got on the road, we still used our tape measure.
Sometimes we needed to make adjustments to our build, or to measure our drawer space, or to double check the length and height of our van.
Whatever the case, it’s always good to have a tape measure on hand to get precise measurements.
Well, not going to lie here. Our Blade Saw is very likely the least useful tool in our collection.
I thought maybe we’d have a need to saw things, but it turns out we didn’t.
It did come in handy that one time to cut through a thick branch to throw on our camping fire…but that was honestly about it.
I still keep it around because it’s light and it folds nicely away, so it really doesn’t take much space in my bag.
DeWalt Power Drill
The DeWalt Power Drill is fairly big and clunky to bring along in our van. And most of the time we can solve our issues with our Irwin Screwdriver.
But sometimes we’ve needed to pre-drill and there was this one time we needed to use our hole saw attachment. So there have been several uses for this drill along the way.
I wouldn’t highly recommend bringing this larger appliance with you in your van, but if you can fit it, it’s a worthwhile, multifaceted power tool to have with you.
Essential Van Life Tools For Our Electrical System
Next in our list of essential van life tools are tools and extra components that we use to maintain our electrical system.
Electrical is one of those things we take for granted when it works. But when something goes wrong, we really end up missing our electricity. So we keep a fair number of tools and spare components in case something goes wrong.
Our Etekcity Multimeter is not something we use all the time, but when we have an electrical issue, we’re very glad we have it on hand.
With this device, we’ve measured our solar panel output, checked if there was uninterupted current flowing throughout the wires of our van, and verified the depth of discharge (DoD) of our van battery.
As an added usage, if you plan to not use a battery monitor to monitor your house batteries, having a digital multimeter really helps to ensure you do not discharge your batteries past the ‘safe discharge point’.
As with all budget multimeters, the battery that is shipped with the device will die quickly. Best to put in your own 9v battery.
Irwin Electrical Stripping Tool
For any electrical work, both during your van construction and for maintenance, an electrical stripping tool is almost a necessity.
I love this tool because for any wire sizes 12ga and smaller, this Irwin stripping tool easily cuts, strips, and clamps the wires.
So when we had two separate issues with our solar system and our inverter, our Irwin Electrical Stripping Tool was our go-to device.
In our electrical system, we have quite a few larger nuts and bolts that our standard pliers cannot get a good grip to tighten.
That’s where our Adjustable Wrench comes in. These nuts are always loosening as we drive and every once in a while we use this wrench to tightening everything up.
In our first 8 months on the road, we had no idea how important it was to tighten all our electrical nuts and bolts until we noticed a sever drop in our charging capabilities.
Once we tightened everything up, our charging speeds increased back to normal.
Additional Solar Components
Solar power is one of those things that we really take for granted. The panels are out of sight, so they’re mostly out of mind as well.
They just work and always providing us with the power we need.
Until something goes wrong. And when you’re no longer harvesting power from the sun, for whatever reason, you really notice.
That’s why we carry a number of replacement parts for our solar system. These parts aren’t really attainable at your local hardware store, so we stocked up on three major components in advance before our trip.
One of the components we have are generic MC4 Connectors. These are typically the pieces that get clamped onto the ends of the wires to and from the solar panels. Always good to have extras of these.
MC4 Branch Connectors
The second components we carry are the 2-to-1 Branch Connectors. You will also use these if you have multiple solar panels on your roof. One time our solar panels stopped sending power to our batteries and the problem was a bad clamp in one of our branch connectors. We couldn’t really reuse the branch connector so we were happy when I dug up a spare in our tool box.
MC4 10amp In-Line Fuse
The third component I carry an extra of is the 10amp In-Line Fuse. In the case that your first fuse breaks, for whatever reason, it’s good to have a second that you can pop right in to keep the current flowing to your batteries.
MC4 Assembly Tool
Lastly, the 4th thing I carry isn’t a component, but an MC4 Assembly Tool. You might have this already from your van build, but these MC4 Connector Assembly Tools really help tighten the caps onto the connectors to create a real, water-tight seal.
Together, these four groups of components are lightweight and don’t really take up much space in my bag. And when you need them, you’ll be super happy you had them on hand.
Having a non-functioning solar system is not fun. Take it from us!
30A To 15A Adapter
Imagine our surprise when we arrived at an RV campground, paid for an electrical campsite and only a 30amp socket was provided.
Our van is built to plug into a generic 15amp socket only. So we weren’t able to charge our batteries that night.
The next day we purchased a 30amp to 15amp adapter in case we ever run into a campground like the day before.
And throughout Canada and US there were several other instances where that was the case.
Luckily with our adapter, we were still able to charge our batteries without issue.
If you happen to have a 12v Distribution Panel (which you should if you built out your van for your 12v electronics), you should bring a handful of additional fuses.
They’re cheap, lightweight, and easy to store.
When a fuse breaks in your panel, just pop it out and replace it.
Quick and easy.
Miscellaneous Tools For Van Life
Lastly in our list of essential van life tools are all our small miscellaneous items.
Tire Repair Kit
Our Tire Repair Kit is one of those items we hope never to have to use.
While we do have a spare tire under our van, we’ve been told that this repair kit is fairly simple to use and gets the job done.
Being stranded in the boonies or on the side of the road is really no fun. So having an additional option to get our van up and running again is comforting.
If you think repairing your own tires is of interest to you, you would need an air compressor to reinflate the tires after a repair. We use the Viair Air Compressor and this device has worked great for us in the past.
Does something move in your van, but shouldn’t?
We use a combination of super glue and wood glue to ensure things stay tightly fastened together.
On bumpy roads, some of our wood pieces ripped away from the screws holding them together. We just dabbed a little glue in key places and no more problems!
There’s always a use for a ratchet strap.
- We use one to fasten our oversized spare tire under our van.
- These straps are great to tie down oversized items on top and behind your van.
- They make great drying lines to hang your wet laundry.
- We’ve seen them used to hang a tarp in the trees.
Though they are not strong enough to pull your van our of trouble, they’re great for almost every other use.
Epoxy Formula For Metal
With our solar panels and our diesel heater, we did have to drill through the sheet metal of the van.
And for any reason, if we had to remove these items (for repair or replacement), we would be left with holes on our roof and/or floor.
Which is why we bring along this JB Weld Metal Epoxy so we can permanently fill the old holes to prevent leaks.
Good thing we haven’t had to use these items yet. We’ll continue to keep our fingers crossed! 🤞
Propane Regulator Spare (for Coleman Stoves)
From our propane tank to our Coleman stove, the we’ve heard the Propane Regulator is the weakest link and can get damaged under heavy use.
We try not to disassemble the regulator as much as possible, so in our 1+ years on the road, we haven’t had an issue with our regulator yet.
But we bought a spare just in case because they’re not so easy to find when you need them on the road.
During our travels around Canada and the US we would stop at the local gyms and YMCA’s for a workout and shower.
We learned very quickly that locks are not provided in many of these locations so we bought these little locks to keep our clothes and belongings safe.
Final Thoughts: Have Peace Of Mind By Bringing Your Own Essential Van Life Tools
We know that tools often aren’t the most interesting things we pack in our van, but we hoped you enjoyed and learned a little bit about what we carry in our van life tools box for unforeseen events.
As always, if there are some tools you think are critical for van life and that we left out, please don’t hesitate to contact us to let us know.
We’re always on the look out for new tools and we love hearing back from our readers.
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