We have now lived in our self-converted Sprinter van for almost three years (give or take some months in Austin during COVID or for the holidays), and over time we’ve learned a lot about what items are truly helpful to have while on the road and in our smaller space.
And in this post we are sharing our must-have items for van life, ranging from daily used items in the kitchen to emergency kits for the road. We’re sharing all of these in the kit below, with some explanations for some of the larger items, broken out by category, as well.
To see the items we used in our build, check out our post all about our van conversion!
Looking for more van life resources?
- Check out our Van Tour Video
- Watch our van build series
- Our Van Conversion: Cost, Tour, and Mistakes
- 6 Months of Vanlife: the Highs and Lows
- Van Life FAQs: Logistics, Daily Routine, & More!
- Full Time Van Life with a Dog: Tips for Traveling with a Dog
Note: this guide contains affiliate links, which means that if you use the links provided and make a purchase, we get a small commission at no extra cost to you. We will only ever recommend products we truly love, actually use during our adventures, and think you can benefit from too!
Our must-have items for van life
Van + Driving Items
Portable Air Compressor
We recently bought the Viair 88P portable air compressor to air up the tires after deflating them to go down bumpy gravel roads. It took less than 10 minutes to air up all 4 tires.
Along with the air compressor we bought a Boulder Tools tire deflator. After a few minutes of getting the hang of how it works, Adam really liked how easy it was to use.
Emergency Roadside Kit
This is another one of those items you hope to never have to use, but sooner or later you just might. It’s always a good idea to carry an emergency roadside kit.
When living on the road something is bound to break every now and then and you’ll need a variety of tools to fix a variety of jobs and we recommend this CRAFTSMAN toolkit.
We have tire chains on hand in case we are legally required to carry them or ever need them (we have yet to use them). Be sure to order the right size chains for your tire size, which can be found on the sidewall of your tires. Our tires are the stock size 245/75/R16 and these Peerless Autotrac chains fit. We bought ours from Walmart, but the tire chains linked here are the same thing (with a different model number) and sold on Amazon.
These window covers from VanEssential are a little pricey, but they are worth every penny! They fit perfectly and fold up so they can be stored easily.
Pop Socket Mount
We have pop sockets on our phones and absolutely love them. They make it easy to hold onto your phone and can prop up your phone for easy YouTube and movie watching. We also love it because it fits into the pop socket mount to make navigation in the van super easy. We highly recommend it!
We bought this shovel before we went to Utah in 2021 in case we got stuck anywhere and needed to dig our way out. We haven’t had to use it yet, but it feels sturdy and like it would get the job done.
We bought these Rotopax fuel canisters (we bought yellow for diesel, but red is for gasoline) for our drive to Alaska. They are pretty small at 2 gallons, but very modular so they can be attached to the van in a variety of ways.
To attach it to the van we bought a backplate that was made by Overland Equipped so that we can attach them to the ladder. We also bought the locking mount for each can so they would be more difficult to steal.
Our Capresso Coffee Grinder is a workhorse. We’ve had it for several years now and it is still grinding away! It may take up some space and use power, but it’s worth it for how much we love to drink coffee.
Pour Over Coffee Cone
We used to have a Chemex, but got rid of it (silly Adam) to save room and we got nervous it would break in the van. So we bought this plastic Pour Over Coffee Cone and it works just fine!
To be honest, we don’t use Duxtop Induction Cooktop as much as we thought we would. It takes a lot of power to cook a meal so we can really only use it when we know we will be driving a lot. So if you’re still building your van make sure your battery setup can handle the power draw it can take to cook a meal with this cooktop. But it does work great when we do use it!
Maybe one of the best purchases we made for the van was this trash can and recycling bin combo from simplehuman. It works like a charm, can store a good amount of trash (which means we can stay off the grid longer if needed), and tucks away under our sink like magic!
Funny enough, this kettle from Barista Warrior makes Adam feel like a barista warrior and is a classy addition to any kitchen. It even has a thermometer on top to know how hot your liquid is!
We make so many smoothies and acai bowls with this Ninja Personal Blender that we just might open up a tropical acai truck out of the back of the van! It’s also good for making any sauces for meals.
The Instant Pot Duo is a game changer for van life. We were worried we wouldn’t have the power to handle it, but we have yet to have any issues. We use it all the time and it stows away easily!
For the longest time (over 2 years) Adam thought the WeBoost was a piece of junk that didn’t work. Then he realized the cable that connects the outside antenna to the indoor device wasn’t connected. He then noticed our hotspots immediately jump a couple bars. **face palm** funny how that works
When we bought our van, Mercedes shipped out a bunch without radios and we happened to get one. Thankfully they took off the price of the radio from the sticker price, but we still didn’t have any way to listen to music and podcasts. This Anker Bluetooth Speaker holds a very long charge and gets pretty loud for its size and it has been a great replacement.
Cab power inverter
We use this power inverter to charge our phones, camera batteries, computers, and any other electronics while we drive and it works great!
We use this small fan in addition to our larger MaxxAir fan on those really warm days!
This dustbuster is powerful enough to vacuum what little floor we have and compact enough for easy storage!
This bug zapper is another must have item for van life! Not only is it so much fun to zap the bugs, but it is quick and easy. It gives us more practice for our tennis strokes!
Our Simplisafe setup is a thermometer, glass break sensor, motion detector, and camera. Luckily it’s really only been used as a Kona cam!