Charles is an avid outdoor enthusiast that field tests and reviews the quality and durability of camping, hiking, and backpacking gear.
The Top 5 Vanlife Necessities (IMHO)
There are literally hundreds of products out there to choose from when you are just starting out living the vanlife dream. As a full-time RV'er, I put together the Top 5 products that I feel are necessities when living off the grid in your van or RV.
#1. Safety and Security
When off-gridding, you can’t forget about your personal safety and security. When your adventure takes you into bear country, one of the first things I pack and keep readily accessible is bear spray. This deterrent can be used to protect yourself from an imminent bear attack if necessary. Bear spray is made of red pepper oil (oleoresin of capsaicin). It inflames the eyes and upper respiratory system. If used properly, it can effectively deter an aggressive bear. Keep in mind that bear spray does not work like an insect repellent. If used this way, it may attract a bear because of the residue’s strong odor. When looking to purchase, look for canisters marked “Bear Spray” or “Bear Deterrent” with an EPA registration, 1-2% capsaicin and capsaicinoids, and a 25-foot (8 m) or more range. Keep in mind, you might not be able to purchase this in all 50 states.
2. Personal Hygiene
Van Life can sometimes be a dirty job, whether you’re hiking, walking, fishing or just hanging out, people tend to get dirty. Some vans or campers may not have a dedicated shower. This is where a portable shower comes in handy.
I have tried those “solar shower bags” where the sun is supposed to warm up the water you are using to take a shower with. Well, guess what, the sun doesn’t always shine and most of these are only capable of holding a couple of gallons of water.
I found a portable propane shower from Hike Crew that seems to solve the outdoor shower problem. This shower offers portability, built-in battery, temperature controls, scald-free technology, and much more. This is a definite necessity and belongs in this top 5!
3. Off-Grid Power Source
It seems like everything you need to live comfortably requires electricity. If you’re like me, I like to have a little light at night to read by, I use my cellphone, camera, and laptop for work, and to keep them charged when living off-grid, I like to use my solar generator.
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A few years back I purchased the Jackery Solar Generator 1000, and I couldn’t be happier. This kit comes complete with the Jackery Explorer 1000wh lithium-ion power center, with multiple charging options ranging from USB-C to 115 Volt outlets. It also comes with the Solar Saga 100 which provides 100 watts of portable solar panels to recharge the power center with the power of the sun. This device had no issues powering my laptop for 8 hours before needing a charge, using the solar panel, I can easily achieve much more. This device charges my flashlights, outdoor string lights and runs my USB fairy lights. It has enough power to run my fridge and TV without any trouble. A must-have for your off-grid power needs.
4. Sleeping and Napping
When looking for a solution for your sleeping needs, we will start with a good blanket. When I’m living off-grid, I don’t want a blanket that is too bulky and takes up a lot of space when not in use. Storage space is invaluable when living in a van or RV and every square inch must be used. I needed a blanket that was warm and packable and from a reputable company, I could rely on for support.
I ended up choosing the Rumpl packable blanket. You can find this blanket in person at your local REI or online at Amazon. The Rumpl is synthetic and can be washed with regular clothing. It’s also made from recycled materials and is sustainable. This blanket isn’t scratchy or itchy and kept me warm on chilly fall nights while hanging by the fire or snuggled up inside with a hot cup of coffee and a book. I used the Rumpl on top of my sleeping bag during the colder winter months and everything was just right.
When it’s time to blow off steam, a great game is hard to beat. If you live alone or with your pet as many vanlifers do, then you’ll want something that can be played alone or with friends. I found a board game that can be enjoyed by one person or more. It’s called One Deck Dungeon and can be found on amazon.com for about $20. It is expandable and by purchasing additional sets of the game you can add more players to multiply the fun!
More on Van Life
Thanks for checking out my Top 5. These are just a few of the products that I have personal experience with. Feel free to comment below about your Top 5 products.
Take a look at my other article where I detail my experience along with the Pros and Cons of becoming a full-time RV’er: The Pros and Cons of Full-Time RV and Van Life.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.