Summer Vanlife Essentials

Jess Jess
April 16, 2020

Van Essentials

Van Essentials

If you don’t have a mosquito net for your van yet it is a game changer! This net is magnetic and attaches to your van with velcro that you can easily place so it isn’t visible when you have your net down. It allowed us to have the doors open last summer on our way to Alaska and not get eaten alive! We have the 60x80 for our slider and just needed to trim the bottom.

Van Window Covers

Window shades were one of the first things we bought for our van! Over time the suction cups just became a pain in the ass, so we attached these magnets to the driver and passenger window covers with duct tape and are able to get a much better seal without the frustration.

Promasters don’t usually come with cruise control but for all the miles we knew we would be driving, especially the long haul to Alaska, we figured we would appreciate having one. We found this cruise control kit and it was simple to install only requiring one soldered connection and connecting some wire harnesses.

These fan insulators are amazing and so cheap. You may need your fans on depending on the weather, but if not, they are clutch for blocking sun, especially if you are in Alaska with 20+ hours of sunlight! We also like having them in place while we are driving because they significantly cut down on road noise. We use these velcro strips to keep them in place!

Van Ladder

Our favorite part about this ladder we found is that it can be removed and doesn’t require any drilling. We purchased it from It is the safest way to access the roof of our van to clear off our solar to get those rays! ...Or so we can get a drone pic of us on top of the van.

Most of the summer while en route to Alaska we were in places without any Planet Fitness locations, which is most vanlifers go-to for showers. We found this gravity shower at an REI garage sale and decided to try it out. It ended up being one of our favorite purchases. We would fill it in the morning, often just with river water, and plop it on the roof to bake in the sun while were off adventuring for the day. The water would be nice and warm by the time we got back to the van. Don’t forget it on your roof and drive off down the Sea-to-Sky Highway though. It will fly off and get run over...

These microfiber towels are the only towels we use in the van! They are very absorbent, dry really quick, and pack up super small. We like the XL size for our shower towel. It doesn’t take up much more room and is nice to have the extra surface area!

Packing cubes are the BEST way to organize your clothing for vanlife!

Recovery traction tracks are very helpful should you get stuck in a more remote area and there aren’t any other vehicles around to help you out. We bought them for snow in the winter, but they can also rescue you from mud and sand. We also watched multiple videos about the name brand Maxtraxx vs a knock off and we opted for a knock off that is rated for 10,000 lbs. It is a quarter of the price of the Maxtraxx.

Always a good idea to have a tow strap on hand. If you get stuck all you have to do is flag someone to stop and give you a little pull.

We keep a back-up 7 gallon water jug in our garage. We like the jugs because they are easy to switch out and don’t require a hose so you can fill them anywhere! It’s a nice reminder when we switch over to our back-up water supply to start looking for a dump station!

Most vanlifers we know that have toilets in their vans only use them for emergencies so we decided we didn’t want to deal with the hassle and upkeep of a toilet. Instead we have a luggable loo for emergencies. It’s essentially a bucket with a toilet seat that we put a trash bag in should an emergent #2 need arise. And then we dispose of it appropriately! 99% of the time there is a convenient gas station or National Park facilities at your disposal!

For #1 emergencies you can use a container of your choice! I’ve heard of vanlifers using laundry detergent jugs, nalgenes, etc. We picked milk jugs though I do think it would be nice to have something that isn’t see-through for emptying purposes. A female urinal definitely allows easier pottying and works really well!

The van always needs a good sweep and a small dustpan is easy to tuck away for quick access.

We bought our DEWALT Vacuum mostly for the winter because it is essentially a shop vac and can suck up both dirt and water/snow. We really like using it on our rug and up in the cab area of the van. It uses the same battery as our Dewalt drill and is pretty compact in size.

We have magnet hooks and clips and use them for so many miscellaneous reasons. Most commonly, we use them to hang our wet swimsuits or towels to dry. They are super handy to have available!

We love collecting stickers from places we visit and showing them off on the back of our van. But we came up with the idea of turning our stickers into magnets with this magnet roll so we can easily remove and rearrange them! Highly recommend!

Kitchen Necessities

Kitchen Necessities

We absolutely love our Dometic CFX28 Refrigerator! It is very energy efficient and we’re able to hold about a week’s supply of fresh food. The cooler style helps

We also keep a 45 quart RTIC cooler in our garage to keep our Lacroix and beer cold as well as some of our large condiments. We typically only have to buy ice once a week because the RTICs are really well insulated and cheaper than Yetis!

We installed this built-in cooktop in our van after our first three months in the van and we’re obsessed with it. It’s so nice not to have to set up the portable or break-it down.

We still like having our Coleman Camping Stove for when we want to cook outside though.

One thing we really missed having is a grill. This portable Coleman Grill is easy to pop up and we love using it.

If you don’t have room for a grill, we’ve also used this grill grate that you can put over the fire!

We decided to continue using the 1 lb propane tanks. We cook most of our meals and one tank usually lasts us close to 2 weeks. We can usually find tanks in sets of three for around $3-4 per tank.

Nonstick pans are everything! We recently upgraded ours and it makes cleanup so much easier. We have two 8 inch skillets because they fit on our cooktop together better at this size.

Literally the first thing we do every morning is get the kettle going.

We’ve tried various ways of making coffee on the road but this pour over is our favorite!

We love using our small 2 quart crock pot on travel days while we’re driving. We stick it in the sink and by the time we arrive at our destination, dinner is ready!

Nonbreakable dinnerware is where it’s at. Also try to find a set with bowls that stack really well as that will save you space!

Silipints are the best vanlife cups!

YETI Colsters to keep the beer and Lacroix cold!

Silverware organizer so your shit’s not everywhere!

Our favorite spatula! The size is perfect!

Sharp knives with covers.

We often make coffee and hit the road before the kettle cools so we set it on one of these trivets. They protect your van from your hot pots and pans.

Collapsible strainer to take up the least amount of space possible!

Nonbreakable, lightweight, and stackable tupperware! This set has way more than you need in the van but best price and variety of sizes.

We have a ridiculous sweet tooth and personal sized (half baked) cookies on a mini cast iron skillet are one of our favorite sweet treats and a birthday tradition.

You can literally do everything with Dr. Bronner's Soap. It can be dish soap or handwashing soap. It can even be laundry detergent. You need it!

Fire extinguisher just in case. We have almost set the van on fire. It was absolutely terrifying.

These bins are our pantry. We have two of them in our overhead cabinets and they fit perfectly! Check the measurements to see if they fit yours as well!



The perfect place to chill after a long day of adventuring is in a hammock in the shade! We have Eno’s from 5+ years ago but there are similar more affordable brands on amazon that I linked to. These portable hammocks are quick and easy to set up. There are also fun accessories you can get like a mosquito net or rain fly especially if you are interested in backpacking with your hammock.

My brother got us these for Christmas a few years ago and we are obsessed with them. They are very comfortable and pack down pretty tiny so they don’t take up much room!

This camp table fits the height of our chairs and has cup holders!

One of our favorite ways to spend an evening is sitting around a campfire. We use these fire starters to help get the fire started quick!

Is it really a campfire unless you make s’mores? We like to use these roasting sticks to toast our marshmallows.

These luci lights are my favorite! They are inflatable and have various settings including very bright! They are also solar powered so you can just throw them up on the dash when you drive or attach them to your backpack while you’re hiking.

This citronella candle might seem a little excessive but I cannot stand mosquitos!

On that note, this is my favorite bug spray. It actually smells good, works well, and doesn’t leave your skin super sticky like you need a shower before you get into bed like most bug sprays!

Sun protection is so, so important especially with how much time vanlifers spend outdoors! Supergoop is our favorite brand for sun protection! We use Supergoop SPF 50 Sunscreen.

We also love their chapstick and keep it with us daily.

Playing games is one of our favorite things to do when we're chilling at the campspot in the evenings. Our favorites are Aggravation, Catan, Sequence, and Sorry!

We like playing Rummy! And Spades when we have company! These playing cards are also waterproof.

Frisbees take up hardly any space and are dog friendly! This is a disc golf set too so you could check out different disc golf courses along your travels.

A football takes up a little more space but it’s nice to switch it up if you have extra space.

We highly recommend vanlifers get TRX bands if you are interested in doing body weight exercises in addition to the exercise you get while adventuring. They take up hardly any space and easily attach to our back doors. You can work SO many muscles with them!

Resistance bands are also a great addition to body weight exercises!

Yoga mats don't take up much space in the van! We’re not a huge yogis, but a nice stretch is a good opportunity to take care of your body after long hikes, backpacking trips, multiple days of skiing, or whatever adventure activities you are into. Also many yoga studios offer free drop-in classes. And they usually have showers! ;)

Parks and Wils YouTube

Some of our free time we spend creating videos to remember our adventures by! We use various kinds of cameras to get our footy! Check out our YouTube page! If you enjoy our videos, hit that subscribe button!! Our electronics guide is coming soon!

Adventure Gear

We love exploring new places on foot, but we also have a ton of adventure gear to allow us to more deeply experience some of the places we visit! Check out our adventure gear guide here!

Backpacking in Alaska

It’s hard to beat spending the night in our cozy van, but we also love disconnecting even more and going farther into nature than the van can sometimes take us. Our backpacking essentials guide is coming soon!

National Parks Pass

Having a National Parks Pass is super vital! For $80 you can access ANY US National Park for a whole year. It's an epic deal.



We absolutely love our Insta360 ONE X 360 Action Camera! The camera is super compact and shoots 360 degrees. The software has built-in stabilization so your footage is never shaky.

The Insta360 Invisible Selfie Stick somehow removes the selfie stick in your pictures and videos giving the illusion of drone shots.

Summertime means we're getting in the water as much as we can. The Insta360 is water resistant but not waterproof so this Insta360 Venture Housing Case allows us protect our camera while still enjoying all of our water sports.

We still love our GoPro and use it frequently. The battery life and storage lasts longer than our Insta360.

The GoPro Karma Grip gimbal really enhanced our action videos making them 10x as smooth.

We've had a ton of fun playing with the GoPro Dome accessory. It can shoot footage over and under the water and you can get some really cool shots.

We LOVE our drone. We use the DJI Mavic Air Drone. Parker has so much fun flying the drone and getting sweet shots of the van and our campspots. My favorite aspect of the drone is its size. It folds up nice and small so we can easily bring it along with us on our adventures.

If any of your drone propellers get damaged it isn't safe to fly so it's always good to have a backup. Like for when you accidently fly your drone into a tree in Tahoe...

We are very amateur photographers so we are still learning how to use our DSLR. We have the Canon EOS 80D. It is very user friendly for beginners, but also has room for me to practice using manual settings and growing my photography skills. It is also probably the only electronic device that you won't need a backup battery for. The battery life is awesome.

Frequently we are the only ones around in our campspot and we're trying to get better at taking photos with both of us present. Our tripod is very light and we've enjoyed having it! It is also necessary for night and waterfall photography.

We always carry extra Insta 360, GoPro, and DJI Mavic Air batteries with us!

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