So after living in the van for awhile there’s just a few things/tricks we’ve learned to think about for when designing you van!!
Everyone knows about the obvious things you need for van life – fridge, electricity, water, bathroom situation etc. but here’s our personal top 10 list of things you might not have thought about for van life or that have deemed absolutely necessary in ours!!
- Spin around chair
Being as we are two people in a small space it’s nice to have the option to make your living space a bit larger or to accommodate another person on top of just us two!! We don’t have a large sprinter van so we use all the space we can get! We use the spin around chair every day even when its just us two! Sometimes one of us works in there when our “desk” space is occupied or we prep dinner in that chair too. Or its a good chair to turn around and enjoy the view out the side. If one of our butts isn’t sitting in it, its also a great landing spot for things as well! We don’t have a dog, but when we take Pearl – John’s family dog – that’s her chair when theres no more room in the back and then she still feels part of the group verses stuck in the front of the van! We found ours at an old junk yard and pulled it out of an old beat up van and put a slip cover on it! Costs us $40. $40 well spent.
2. Reflectics / Curtains
Right now we live in the desert. This is an absolute necessity. These make the inside of our van 10 – 20 degrees cooler when the sun is beating down on us. I never wanted them because I liked all the windows in our van but boy do they make a difference. We have a reflector for every single window in the van – even the windshield and the driver/passenger seat. We keep them in the windows and just pull them back when we want light let in! Something we didn’t think about though was where to store them when we didn’t want use them – so they are tucked away in random places throughout our van! On top of that we have curtains as well! This allows for privacy and still helps keep some sun out if we didn’t want to put up the reflectics! I hand made these out of fabric and found the rods at big lots. Super cheap and work great!
3. Laundry Basket
Missed this one too. I thought we would just put a laundry basket in the bottom of the closet.. Wrong. Needed all the closet space. So no we have one underneath our bed. It works ok! Just don’t forget about this when laying out your van design! You use a laundry basket a lot!
4. Outdoor Rug
This might be the thing that has made the biggest difference in van cleanliness. I would sweep out the van almost everyday from just dust or dirt or something. Daily sweep no longer! We just got a rug to lay outside of our side door where we leave our shoes every time we step into the van. We actually have two to make our outdoor space a bit larger and I made sure to get super thin rugs that roll up and store on our side door step! Functional and cute! Found these at World Market – they were a little pricier then I wanted to spend but worth it – $50 each.
5. Laptop tray!
If you’re Netflix bingers like us…. don’t forget this one!!! This is one of the newest things we added to our van. Again being two people in our van our bed isn’t super large. We would lay in bed with the laptop between us or propped up on a pillow at the end of our bed and if someone would move to much… laptop would topple over. Not a good situation. So we build a little tray table over one of our bench seats off of the bed. Folds up and out of sight. We use this a ton!!! Let the binge watching continue!!
If you have a van that you can’t stand up in.. this makes all the difference. With an awning you expand your “living space” a ton! You now have a whole outdoor room with so much space for activities! This is great for getting out of the heat as well as not feeling cooped up inside on rainy days!! We love our awning and got it off amazon for $150!
7. Magnetic knife holder
I didn’t realize how convenient this made our lives. Theres nothing like digging in the silverware basket and grabbing hold of the end of the knife!! Think about your knife situation!!! Found this on amazon – practical and cheap!!!
When evening hits theres nothing like sitting in your van with the lights on full blast and a cloud of bugs making their way into your home becoming disco balls on the ceiling. Yummmmm! We turn on battery operated twinkle lights at night! Having the option to have twinkle lights in the van makes it so you still have light but not so bright to attract every bug within a 100 mile radius! We also are big night readers and they work perfect for a soft light before bed! These are also great for winter mornings when one of us needs to get up early in the dark and get ready for work – we aren’t blinding the other person with the full van lights. We hung photos on our lights as well! 🙂
9. Screen Door
While on the topic of bugs.. depending where you live this is super necessary. We like to sleep with the doors and windows open and really enjoy not being eaten alive by mosquitos. Our side door has a screen from the as seen on TV screen called Magic Mesh – the magnetic screen door. We altered it a bit to fit our large opening and then sewed velcro strips on so we can easily take it on and off. Our back door just have a regular old screen with magnetic strips sewn on so it magnetizes to our back door!
10. Fruit/Veggie Holder
So after you build your cabinets and decide where all your dry goods, pots, pans, dishes etc are going… don’t forget about your fruit and veggies!! We have a basket that goes in our sink when we are driving that holds are veggies and bread! And then we have a fruit hammock (that is on the brink of dying) hanging underneath our cabinet! Tip – don’t mount your hammock to close to the window.. we learned the hard way with bananas smashed in our window!!
And that’s it!! Before, during and after your van build tag us in your photos!! We love meeting other van lifers on the road and would love to see your smiling faces out there!!
-Nic & John