If you’re planning to spend a lot of time traveling in a campervan, it’s so important to make life as simple as possible when living in such a small compact space. Just a few little hacks and adjustments can make a huge difference in comfort and your van life experience.
In this post, we cover 17 simple van life hacks that will make your daily life more practical on the road!
Get 12 Volt Chargers For Electronics
One of the first things that we got after moving into our campervan are 12-volt chargers for all of our electronics. This will save you a ton of money and make life way easier in the long run.
Most people get inverters and use the wall chargers that they already have. But good inverters are expensive, are very inefficient, and often damage electronics. We have an inverter in our van but I don’t like using it because it’s very bulky and makes a loud noise when it’s turned on. I only get it out of the storage bin when I want to use things like my hair straightener which only work with 120V wall outlets.
For all other devices, we got chargers that plug into a regular car outlet. We use the universal car charger for our laptops that is compatible with most computers like HP or Dell.
It is not compatible with MacBooks but for that, you can get the equivalent charger by PWR+.
Set Up A Mosquito Net
Dealing with bugs in a van can get tiresome quickly. Once bugs get in, there is nothing much that you can do except to try to fight them off individually which can easily take up your entire night.
To keep bugs out of our van we put up a magnetic mosquito net on our main door. Whenever we stop at a campsite and plan to keep the door open to circulate air or hang out, we always pop in the mosquito net.
To keep it up we attached Velcro strips all along the door. The more coverage you can create, the fewer bugs will get in.
This mesh net works great for bigger bugs like mosquitos, flies, bees, and spiders. However, it doesn’t completely protect against the tiny No-See-Ums that we encountered in southern Baja California. No-See-Ums are only 0.03 inches long and can get through the net. We keep a bottle of itch-relief gel in our van just in case we run into these little suckers again on our trips.
Read More: 50 Van Life Tips For Living On The Road
Get Storage Bins For Clothing
Campervans come with very little storage space so it’s important to stay organized and efficient when it comes to packing. In our van, we use clear bins to store everything from clothing to shoes, personal things, electronics, and pet items.
I keep a couple of bins towards the front with items that I frequently wear like simple t-shirts, leggings, socks, underwear, and bras. I keep other items, like seasonal clothing, jackets, and cute outfits (that let’s be clear, you rarely end up wearing in a van) towards the back of the storage area.
Tip: Army roll your clothes to save space and get them out easier without making a mess.
If bins are too big to fit in your storage space, consider getting a set of packing cubes. These are more compact and can fit in tighter places. Plus, you can also use them when flying with a carry-on suitcase!
Use Shoe Hangers For Organizing Toiletries
Using shoe hangers to store toiletries is one of the best hacks that we discovered to stay organized in our van.
We got a shoe organizer on Amazon and then cut it up to fit behind storage doors. Then we used screws to permanently secure these hangers on the doors and filled them up with various toiletries that we use every day like toothpaste, toothbrush, deodorant, baby wipes, etc.
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Make An Outdoor Shower Curtain
If you plan to take showers outdoors while traveling and living in your van, a shower curtain can certainly add more privacy. For our outdoor showers, we use a grey solid shower curtain that fits in between our van’s back doors when they’re open.
To keep the curtain up we added Velcro strips along the sides of the shower curtain and the sides of our van’s doors. Whenever we’re ready to take a shower we can simply attach the curtain along the Velcro strips that will keep it up.
I do want to note that in windy places it’s more difficult to keep the shower curtain up and it can often fly around leading you to be unexpectedly exposed to people passing by. It’s best to take outdoor van showers on sunny, windless days.
Read More: Van Life Tips – How To Shower Outdoors
Install Hooks To Hang Wet Clothing
One thing that has come in super handy in our van more than we expected are little hooks that we put up for hanging wet clothes and towels.
During our build, we added a few small hooks in the area above the door. We use these hooks for hanging wet clothes from rain, bathing suits, board shorts, and towels. This way we don’t need to hang our wet clothes outside and fear that they will get stolen or forgotten.
We also have a travel clothesline for hanging wet laundry but we don’t use it as much as these little hooks because it’s much bigger and more obvious.
Use A Sticker Backsplash Instead Of Tile
This is something useful to keep in mind for your build. A backsplash can add design to your campervan’s interior but a regular ceramic tile is heavy and can easily break when driving.
For our kitchen, we used a sticker backsplash that we found on Amazon. Unlike tile, a sticker backsplash is cheap, very light, and easy to attach.
Stenciling is another great alternative to using a traditional tile backsplash. With a stencil, you just need to paint the background in one color and then stencil on the pattern in another color for a beautiful decorative pattern.
Read More: Our DIY Promaster Camper Conversion Guide
Hang Your Fruit And Veggies In A Hammock
Storing fruit and veggies in a campervan can be quite the challenge. If you store fruit in a drawer, they can easily bruise and rot. If you put them in the fridge, they can turn cold and tasteless.
Adding a hanging fruit and veggie hammock in your van can save space, keep your veggies and fruit from going bad and add a cute look to your van. Instead of rolling around or getting stuffed in a drawer, your fruit and veggies will gently rock in the hammock and ripe naturally.
Get A Magnetic Spice Rack
Another item that I absolutely love in our kitchen is the magnetic spice rack. It adds a perfect touch of color and style while also being very practical.
We got our spice rack on Amazon and it already came with a magnetic background to attach the spices on. There was open space next to the fridge so we covered it up with a piece from the countertop and screwed on the magnetic spice rack. Then I filled up the jars with colorful spices that we often use for cooking.
Now our favorite spices area is easily accessible and we don’t have to dig through our drawers looking for them when cooking our van life meals.
Use Collapsible Food Containers
Our van has a built-in Dometic fridge, but no matter how much we plan our grocery runs and meals, it’s always a struggle to fit all the food inside the fridge. To help keep your fridge organized we recommend using these awesome collapsible storage containers.
They’re not as stiff as the typical Tupperware containers so they fit into the fridge much easier and take up less space. When you’re done using them, they collapse to a compact size.
Get Things With Multiple Uses
Living a minimalist lifestyle is so important to save space when living in a campervan. To do so, we always look for items that can serve multiple purposes. Some of my favorite multi-purpose products are:
- Hydroflask travel mug. Hydroflask can be used for drinking all types of beverages from water to coffee, tea, juice, and even wine at night. Hydroflask mugs are very durable and will last you a long time. Plus they’re made with double wall insulation that will keep the hot drinks hot up to 6 hours.
- Dr. Bronner’s Soap. This is a great cleaning product that can be used for many different purposes from showering to cleaning dishes, and floors, or even doing laundry. Plus it smells amazing and is biodegradable!
- Spork. Spork is a camping utensil that can be used as a spoon or a fork. This saves space so you don’t need to bring multiple utensils along.
- Cutting board. We have one cutting board in our van that we use to cut veggies and other produce. After we’re done with it, we clean it and use it as a drying rack for stacking and drying our dishes so they don’t warp the kitchen countertop.
- Cast Iron Skillet. I love cooking with a cast-iron skillet. Everything always turns out tasting so much better on a cast iron skillet and it’s also very versatile. We use ours to cook anything from breakfast to potatoes, stir fry, chili, curry, nachos and so much more.
Sign Up For Project Fi Cell Service
If you’ve read some of my other van life posts before, you’ll notice that I’ve mentioned using Project Fi cell service quite a bit. I’ve been a big fan of this cell provider for many years because it makes traveling so easy, especially if you need to cross many borders as we did on our Pan-American road trip.
With Project Fi, your phone will automatically connect to the local cell service as soon as you cross any border worldwide. You won’t have to deal with interruptions in service or buy chip cards ever again. Project Fi is still pretty new so not many people know about it, but those who have it (like me) find it super useful especially for traveling.
Get A WiFi Booster
If you plan to work while traveling or living in a campervan you might want to invest in a WiFi Booster. A WiFi Booster can amplify and extend existing WiFi signals so you can work from the comfort of your van instead of sitting in a coffee shop all day.
We used a WiFi booster to enhance signals from nearby cafes and other businesses while traveling down the Pan-American Highway. It was very helpful for checking emails on the go, preparing social media posts, uploading blog posts, and other simple things. Occasionally it was even strong enough to stream Netflix!
Keep It Clean With A Small Vacuum
Keeping your campervan clean can be difficult especially if you have pets. We usually try to tidy up our van twice a day – once after breakfast and again after dinner.
Most van lifers that we know have a small handheld vacuum for cleaning up messes, dust, and hair. This vacuum by Black + Decker is cordless and provides strong suction so you can get the dirt out of every corner of your van. Plus, it’s small and doesn’t take up very much space.
Use A Pee Funnel For Emergency Bathroom Needs
One of the most frequently asked questions I get is “Where do you go to the bathroom when traveling in a van?”. We don’t have a toilet in our campervan for a couple of reasons – they take up a lot of space and can be smelly. Plus, we rarely have issues finding restrooms when there are so many gas stations, coffee shops, and grocery stores available in every town.
For times when I DO have emergency bathroom needs and there are NO restrooms around (like at night), I use a pee funnel. A pee funnel is specifically designed for females and helps pee discreetly as a guy would.
I found out about pee funnels during our Pan-American road trip when I realized that almost every female on this trip had one. Until then I resorted to using a pee bottle but those can be a bit messy. A funnel helps with the aim whether you want to go outside or in a bottle.
For #2 we keep a small backpacking trowel in our van, but we’ve only used it a couple of times.
Get A Leveler For Sleeping
Using a leveler to find the flattest parking spot is a handy little hack if you want to get the best night’s sleep possible. Without a leveler, we often move our van multiple times and even then sometimes we are not too happy with the placement or incline.
This round leveler can be used to find the flattest part and determine how to adjust the van so it’s perfectly leveled. This leveler doesn’t come with anything to mount it on so you can store it in a drawer or attach it to a flat surface by using double-sided tape or strong glue.
Bring Camping Chairs And A Foldable Table
Besides our bed and driver’s front seats, we don’t have a seating area in our van so frequently we get asked where we eat our meals.
For eating, we got a couple of REI foldable chairs and a camping table that are super light, take up little room, and can easily be stored in the back of our van. This set-up is great for eating, camping, and hanging out with other overlanders. If you don’t have the space for a couch, using foldable chairs and a camping table is an excellent alternative!
Looking for more van life inspiration? Here are a few other resources and blog posts that you may like:
- 15 Things We Learned From Traveling In A Campervan
- How To Make Money While Living In A Van
- 8 Best Van Life Fridges To Get For Your Campervan Build
- 20 Tips For Heading On A Road Trip With Your Dog
- 16 Sprinter Van Conversions To Get You Excited For Van Life
Interested in stepping up your photography game? Here is the camera gear that I carry everywhere I go to create amazing travel photos:
- Main camera: Sony a7c Camera. The Sony a7c is tiny, light, full-frame, and durable – in other words, amazing!
- Polarizer Filter: Hoya 40.5 mm Filter. Polarizing filters reduce glare in water, protect the lens from getting scratched and bring out the best colors when it’s bright outside. Having a polarizing filter is a must-have if you plan to photograph lakes, oceans, rivers, and waterfalls.
- Wide Lens: Sony 16-35 mm F4. Great for capturing wide panoramas, nature landscapes, and cramped city streets. Mounts to any Sony mirrorless camera and features autofocus, image stabilization, and incredibly sharp images.
- Lightweight Travel Tripod: Manfrotto Carbon Fiber Tripod. A good tripod is essential for capturing images in low light conditions, such as during sunset and sunrise, or creating smooth water effects when shooting waterfalls. The Manfrotto Carbon Fiber Travel Tripod is very sturdy, light, and folds small so you can take it on all of your adventures!
- Memory Cards: SanDisk Extreme 256 GB. It’s always good to bring a few extra memory cards on trips. SanDisk Extreme is ultra-fast for capturing high-quality images, bursts, long exposure night shots, and 4k videos. This memory card is also durable and reliable yet very affordable.
- Camera Batteries: Wasabi Power Battery Set. I’ve made the mistake of getting to a location to realize my camera is out of battery. Always keep your batteries charged with this camera charger set.
- Camera Bag: Lowepro adventure shoulder bag. A camera bag is something you should definitely invest in! Without having a proper place to store it I would get my camera scratched, sandy, or even occasionally drop it.
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