🚐 Van Must Haves

Packing and moving in! It is very important to outfit your van for efficiency and it takes some creativity to live well in the tight space. One thing to consider is to try to have more than one use for everything. Also, think small or compact to save even more space.

Here are my favorite must haves to maximize your one-room cabin and to magnify the enjoyment of your home on the road. All of these items have been tried and tested for over two and a half years traveling part time and also living full time on the trail. Each is linked to the best place to research and/or purchase. Currently, I do not make a commission on anything. I will continue to add to this list! Join our mailing list for current updates.

Camper Van Storage

“A place for everything and everything in its place.” The age-old saying is always great to follow, but in a tiny space, it really is essential if you want to live your best life in a camper van. We opted to not put upper storage cabinet faces on as they take up more packing space, give less maneuverability and lower head room. Bill is 6’2″ making it even more important to have ease of movement. We also went for the open floor plan in this area as well so that we wouldn’t feel as cramped.

Large Soft Bins

I’ve gotten more compliments on the great idea for these storage bins and questions on where I got them. These cotton rope baskets are soft and large. The cylinder shaped bins were just what I was looking for. Believe me when I say that these bins have never fallen over or off the shelf. Even on the bumpiest of roads, or even when I only had one or two up there. The 8020 aluminum rail does have about a 1/2″ lip at the bottom that helps to keep them in place.

They are stiff enough to hold their general shape but malleable enough to nestle in so much stuff and mold into the shape of the back wall. We pack clothes, shoes, a heater, extra blankets and beach towels for all four seasons. They also can fold down to about 1/3 of their size inside each other into threes when not in use.

Packing Cubes

I do use packing cubes in some of the larger bins to organize even further so that we don’t have just a big pile inside. I love the Tom Bihn cubes we purchased a few years ago and they are still like new. I also love the different colors to quickly differentiate what’s inside even with the mesh sides. Many places now offer quality packing cubes in a variety of sizes and colors.

Small Soft Bins

Amazon sellers also offer the half size cotton rope baskets seen in the photos which I stacked on top of a stiff wicker basket. The stiff square baskets are better for toiletries in boxes and bottles and can be found in many stores in their home section.

Camper Van Kitchen

Dometic Fridge/Freezer

I love, love this fridge, freezer. We have the Dometic CFX3 75DZ Dual Zone Powered 12 Volt Cooler, 75L If you’re traveling long distances or full time in your van, being able to go longer without grocery shopping is the best! The way to be the most efficient and have the most time enjoying your travels and less shopping is to have a big freezer and big refrigerator. We built a lot of our floorpan specifically around this. When you can have frozen veggies and foods with a longer shelf life it’s a wonderful time saver and way to eat healthy on the road!

We chose the chest style refrigerator/freezer for a few reasons. One, was to eliminate a floor to ceiling wall. We continued to plan and design for an open concept flow in our floorpan. We’re even more grateful now that we are full time in our camper van to not feel like it’s such a small space. We also love that things don’t fall out and it does seem to retain the coolness inside the drawer.

Portable Induction Stovetop IKEA

We steer clear of propane anything in our van. We don’t like to worry about refilling it, specific ventilation for safety, storing it or having the potential fire propellants in our home.

We love having so much counter space on both sides of the aisle and this one burner, portable, induction, stovetop was one of our first purchases for the van. It is immediately cool enough to touch as soon as it is turned off and easily fits in a drawer for storage. Make sure to use induction specific pot ware for cooking.

As a note, another reason to store it in a drawer instead of in the counters in case we are too unlevel. Most of the time, it doesn’t matter if we’re at some kind of a slant, but if we are parked somewhere too uneven, I can use the silicon hot pads to level up the corners that need raising.

Microwave Walmart

We bought this microwave at Walmart on a whim and chose this one for the size and color to match our interior colors. I thought having a microwave was silly and that we’d never use it, but it has been great for leftovers or frozen foods or things that just take a bit of thawing. We can use 1,000 watts or more with our four lithium batteries. This microwave has been truckin’ with us for two years now.

We have discovered we love the microwave we and use it often.

Camper Van Cleaning

Be a clean freak! You will feel much better in a small space to clean as you go. More on this coming soon!

Camper Van Home

My favorite touches of home give us the added atmosphere to live on the road.

Silicon Hot Pads

Silicon hot pads can be found in most stores in the home section. There are so many uses for them especially when in an RV. I use them for … hot pads, leveling pads for the induction stove top, spoon rest, drink coaster, fly swatter, dish dryer mat, picnic table mat and the list goes on.

Shower Curtain

I use this similar shower curtain for all but one of the curtains in the van. Any waterproof shower curtain will work the same. With our Goodnight trail theme and a special gift given to go, I use the pattern curtain to make the potty box area have the width (and airflow) it needs for privacy.

Insulated Window Covers

I love my insulated window covers that I made with Thinsulate for our van with our Goodnight Trail pattern. They worked great at insulating from heat and cold and stayed with magnets. In my initial project, I used the thicker Thinsulate which works great but takes up a lot of space.

So, for our full time van excursion, we spent the extra money and bought these window covers for the front and side windows. They work great! The trick is to get covers that set inside the window frame and lay right against the window for the best insulation. These do and they are thin and pack away nicely. We just ordered one for our slider door too. Some day I may add our custom fabric to fit the theme!

Camper Van Bathroom

We tried a floor plan with a fixed bathroom and decided it was too cramped and we didn’t want to compromise that much living space and we didn’t want a wet bath. We wanted an open floor plan. We came up with our own version of portable. We partitioned off the potty space and we created a separate shower curtain area on the ceiling as well.

Shower Curtain

We do think we have an awesome portable shower in our camper van! This is the one and only “portable” shower system or “pack away” shower method I have seen anyone try that is truly anti mildew and anti mold. This is because we don’t actually pack away the curtain since it has multiple uses such as for privacy and shade as well.

Curtain Ceiling Rail

It neatly hangs on the rail to cover all of the slider door and behind the passenger seat like drapery or slides over to the corner out of the way. It is consistently getting airflow and does not develop unwanted mildew growth. I sewed two water proof shower curtains together to get the full wrap around enclosure for the shower. Velcro tape would work as well.

We integrated the curtain on the ceiling rail that we think works the best. Incidentally, I also used these shower curtains at the back of the van to match after cutting one panel in half to create two panels and sewed a beige lace trim. The waterproof side acts to protect the inside of the van from the weather elements outside when the back doors are open.

The double wide, sewn shower curtain neatly tucks beside the passenger seat.

In a small camper van, it is essential to do everything possible to eliminate moisture inside. After showering, it hangs to dry in the tub (a waterproof storage bin like a Rubbermaid tub) or over the van entrance step until it no longer drips.

To speed up the process, it can be quick dried with a towel and we also have one of our portable fans that is mounted to face the curtain and within an hour it is dry enough to gather to the side or it remains pulled across as we are usually using it for shade or privacy anyway.

Our method creates constant airflow with no moisture retention, and no mildew or mold build up. The “tub” is dried and put back in the garage box at the back of the van. Two laundry bags are stored inside. While we shower in our van a lot, we also utilize showers at the gym we have a membership at and also use campground showers if they are up to my criteria of being worth using.

This is our “tub” being fitted with a quick connect adapter to the gray tank.

Porta Potti

We have been using a cassette toilet that fits great behind the driver seat in what we call the potty box. We have often thought about trying out a different kind, but waste is waste and you got to deal with it one way or another anyway. I’ll go over some tips and tricks in the future that have been helpful for making the best of what we gotta doo!

This seperate curtain rail gives a privacy partition for the potty.
The potty box doubles as a seat.


Brita Water Bottle

These water bottles are a must have for sure! They come with a charcoal filter to help ensure that you are drinking the best water. We fill up our fresh water tank with potable water spigots all across the country that goes through our own filter system . We clean and disinfect the tank regularly too so I love that my filtered water in my personal drinking bottle can take any more chemicals and such out.

It’s important to drink the recommended amount of water and knowing it’s the cleanest and freshest helps! In the hot temperatures, we keep a bottle of water in the refrigerator from the van tap and refill our Brita water bottles as needed for cold drinking. So refreshing! 💦

These bottles come in multiple sizes, and colors, BPA free or insulated stainless steel and can be purchased along with the filters at Walmart and Amazon. When you’re on the road, on the trail, camping, backpacking or just on a day trip, you can have great, clean, fresh tasting water. We have three of these and incidentally, your travel stickers work great on the BPA free plastic bottles too!

Sunday Afternoons Hat

My favorite breathable, uncrushable, shapable, USPF 50 protection hat is a Sunday Afternoon in the western style. The best hat out there. Form the brim in the style you want! I also love that it has a discreet chin strap for those windy days.

Stay tuned for updates on more essentials for van living! Join the email list for notifications when the website is updated.

Until then, have a good night on the trail, wherever you are on your journey