One of the more popular, and presumably useful posts on this blog is the list of parts and materials I used for my DIY Promaster camper van. So, I figured I’d write another post about the things that go inside.
There isn’t a lot of space in a tiny home on wheels so the things that you take with you must be awesome and useful. Below is my list of things that I think are worth the space they take up in the van and do the job well.
If you have suggestions for this list, I’d love to hear them so feel free to shoot me an email!
It’s much easier to sleep and cook and generally not go insane when the van is reasonably level.
For years I’ve used the (evil) plastic leveling blocks that stack up and pretty much hated them. They were hard to set up, even harder to drive onto and always got smashed up by the weight of the van making them even bulkier to store and harder to use. BOOO!
The Flat-Jack solves all this! It is *flat* so it can be stored away just about anywhere without taking up space and also so much easier to drive onto. Then you just inflate it to the height you want.
Great little step stool that folds up to take almost no space. We use it to get up into the bed loft, in and out of the van near the slider, to stay off the ground when using the outdoor shower, as a sort of chair up against the wet bath wall in the van and so on. Super handy!
Unless you store your bikes inside the van (in the so-called garage area), you’re going to want to have a bike rack because bikes are the best way to get around when you’re van is at camp!
I’ve researched this extensively and used many racks over the last 4 years and I can recommend the two that we sell in our store:
The RockyMounts BackStage is perfect for your hitch. It’s a sturdy rack for two bikes plus a swing away mechanism so that you can open your rear cargo doors with the bikes on the rack. Great system!
If you want something that attached directly to the van and doesn’t take up quite as much space, the Fiamma Carry-Bike is a great option.
You’ll get a lot more juice out of your solar panels if you keep them clean and if you don’t have a permanently mounted ladder this thing will get you up there. It’s extremely small when collapsed (30.75″ x 18.75″) and versatile.
This is a really clever space saving organizer for your silverware. The knives, forks (and so on) slide into the various stacked compartments and there is a little icon next to each one so you know what’s what.
I’ve tried a bunch of things to hold my phone while driving and most of them totally suck. All them that use suction cups to stick to the windshield fall off. They also get in the way when putting up the curtains in those cab windows. This one clips onto any of the heat/AC vents and stays put! I have mine mounted on the vent just the the right of the steering wheel.
The nerd in me likes to monitor stats like engine load and coolant temperature – similar to the way I’m always looking at how much energy the sun is giving me through the solar panels or how much fresh water I have using the tank monitoring system. This gadget plugs into the OBDII port on the van (below the steering wheel) and transmits all kinds of data from the van’s computer to an app for your mobile device. It also allows you to read any “check engine light” codes. And, if you have a Promaster at least, you might notice that the engine temperature gauge in the van is always slightly below the middle. According to this video from an Promaster owner whose engine blew up, that gauge is only there to make you feel good and it’s not at all accurate.
These things are invaluable when you get stuck. They are a bit bulky but worth it when you inevitably go a bit too far into the wild on your adventures!
Most vans don’t have an oven and sometimes an oven is what ya need for making delicious food. Think baked goods, nachos, pizza or garlic bread. Yum! This thing is an oven that work with most cooktops. However, since it’s make of aluminum it does not work with induction cooktops. The link is to the kit that includes the rack and the silicone “insert” which makes it way easier to clean. You can also get the oven by itself for less cash.
This is the perfect camp lamp. You can charge it in the sun with the built-in solar or via USB when on the go (much faster). It collapses into a tiny footprint, is water proof and gives off a good amount of light without being overpowering (120 lumens). You can even have it flicker like a candle!
Super handy little air compressor. Can fill up your van or bike tires or any inflatable things like tubes for riving tubing! Sometimes it’s helpful to let some air out of your tires for enhanced traction and this pump can get you back to full pressure when you need to. Also recommend this digital tire pressure gauge.
Some folks don’t want a toilet of any kind in their van. I think it’s a worthwhile luxury (along with my shower). This is the unit I’ve used and it works great. It has a water tank at the top for flushing and a built-in “black tank” for your evacuations 🙂 You can empty it in a variety of ways and it’s not nearly as bad as you think. I wrote more about it and the wet bath in my van in this post. You should use special RV/dissolving toilet paper. This particular toilet paper is soft but, eh, sturdy enough for the job – highly recommend.
I don’t have this set but if I ever upgrade my cookware this will be the one! They work with all types of cooktops – including induction stoves, they nest into a small footprint and appear to be really well made with non-stick coating. They seem perfect for vanlife.
A high-quality, durable and waterproof speaker really is an essential for vanlife. I have the “last version” of this and it’s awesome. I can only imagine they’ve improved it for the new version!
Many times the source of your “fresh water” is a little less fresh than ideal. This filter connects between the water source and your fresh water tank inlet and to filter the water as you fill up!
Speaking of fresh water – sometimes it’s hard to find. Many gas stations, office buildings and other commercial structures have water connections that are hidden away behind access doors. This handy “key” opens most of those. A great thing to have in a pinch.
If your van has a 30 amp shore power connection (and cable), you’ll probably want this little adapter that allows you to plug into a standard 15 amp outlet. Of course you’ll have to be mindful of how much AC power you’re pulling but in my experience, 15 amps has been plenty – even when running the rooftop AC unit.
This tiny gooseneck light with an LED bulb and power switch can be plugged into any USB jack and provide a little reading light. It takes up no space and has a to of utility. I installed a USB power outlet in the headliner of my van between the two seats in the cab and routinely use this light to read maps/books/whatever while sitting up there.
A headlamp is a true essential for vanlife. Great for camping, fixing things, finding things, lighting up things. I like this particular headlamp because it’s bright, fits well, can run of standard batteries or use it’s built-in rechargeable battery that charges from any USB jack.
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