Get busy livin’.
Here’s the fun part – determining what is not critical to your everyday vanlife. And getting rid of it. Or, in my case, figuring out all the camper van accessories I’d need for an awesome, comfortable road trip adventure with my wife, while still keeping everything organized. Living in a camper van like this (especially with two people) requires forethought and cleanliness, because clutter can build up quick.
Here’s a list of things that I have found either worked for me, or were highly suggested by other vandwellers in my research. (Have something that you think should be on here? Shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org)
Your options for camper van lighting are wiring it directly to your 12v battery (simple tutorial), using re-chargeable USB lights, or simply opting for battery-powered lights. Each has its merits, but we chose to install this awesome LED RGBW light strip some trim moulding at the top of one wall.
I’m really glad we went with the RGBW instead of RGB, as the white offers a nice normal white glow when we want it, as opposed to one that looks a little purple. Installation is easy – since it runs on 12V, simply cut the power cord in between the lights and the AC/DC adapter box, separate and strip the ends of wires, and hook it right up into your 12V battery via your fuse panel. Included is an infared remote, too, so you can change the color to whatever suits your mood. It added some fun flair to our camper van, and is great accent lighting at night.
To take advantage of our 12V USB Charging port w/ voltmeter that we installed into our battery box, we also picked up the Suaoki LED Camping Lantern, which is a great little item. It’s charged via solar or USB, collapses really small, and give off a nice amount of soft light.
Lastly, if you are looking to install lights directly to your 12V system for overhead lighting, these recessed 12V LED lights are not difficult to install (a jigsaw is probably your friend at this point). The 6-pack featured below will light your van pretty evenly and draws a very low amount of power.
Even with all that insulation work, your little metal home might still get pretty chilly, especially if you’re in climates below freezing. Look into picking up a Mr. Buddy Heater, which is not only efficient, but runs on the camping propane tanks, so it won’t eat up your battery bank (electric heaters guzzle power). The larger of the two Mr. Heater “Buddy”s is supposed to be more than enough to heat the interior, so if you’re trying to save some space (and cash), maybe opt for the Little Buddy. If you’re sketched out by red-hot heat sources, you can’t beat a simple sleeping bag. This Teton Sports Celsius is a good budget bag, or upgrade to this Mountain Hardware Bozeman Torch.
To keep cool and maintain adequate air flow, the Fan-Tastic 3-Speed fan is definitely the go-to choice. With the reverse function, you have the option of either pulling cool air in, or pulling hot air out of your van. Here’s a great tutorial on installation. Not loving the price tag or the idea of wiring it to your 12V system? You can instead opt for just the roof vent, which will still let in some air and light for about 1/3 of the price.
We also picked up a small USB rechargeable fan which has been terrific for clipping to the shelf and directing it toward us when we’re sleeping. It draws so little power, that we don’t really mind recharging it’s battery in the mornings by plugging it into our little USB port.
Safety & Repair
A carbon monoxide detector is a must in any camper van, and we also picked up the larger can of fix-a-flat (Our van doesn’t have a spare tire, so if we’re in a pinch away from civilization, this will have to do). AAA memberships offer real peace of mind, knowing that if you break down, you can be towed up to hundreds of miles with service 24/7. Kind of a no-brainer for us.
The van we bought had some slight engine issues arise, and being greeted by the Check engine light in your van dashboard is very unnerving. An OBDII reader (below) works on most modern vehicles by connecting to a plug usually found near your feet below the steering wheel. If your check engine light is on, an OBD reader tells you what the exact error code is, meaning you can quickly look up what needs to be fixed/checked, and how soon you need to do it.
Adventuring out in the wilderness? Your van becomes a lot less useful if it gets stuck in mud/sand/snow. Below are a couple of compact options to get yourself out of a rut, or you can do it yourself.
Lastly, even if you’re not very handy, be sure to keep a small set of tools onboard. I keep a small box with channel-locks, screwdrivers, extra fuses, duct tape, hose clamps, etc. If you don’t know how to use them, someone walking by might.