Essential Gear to Get Started in Vanlife

Essential Gear to Get Started in Vanlife

Are you getting ready to take delivery of your van and don’t know what items you should purchase first?

In this blog post we will go over some of the essential gear that I recommend purchasing prior to your first trip to enhance your experience and make the most out of your time on the road. These recommendations are based on my personal experiences and what I wish I would have had in the early stages of vanlife. 


A lot of careful planning and preparation is required when it comes to living or traveling in a van, especially with the limited amount of space available. Whether you’re planning on living full-time or taking extended weekend trips, having the right gear can be crucial to your comfort and safety. 


Comfortable Bedding:

A good night’s sleep is key to a successful vanlife adventure. Unfortunately, the mattresses that come with most stock vans are hard and uncomfortable, leaving you feeling tired and sore the next morning. You will never regret investing in a quality mattress or foam topper that fits your van’s dimensions, ensuring a comfortable and restful night’s sleep. Pair that with cozy bedding, including these soft sheets custom made for the Storyteller Overland Mode or these custom made for the Revel, Terrain, or Entegra.  


Efficient Storage Solutions:

You’re going to want to maximize the use of space in your van with clever storage solutions. Soft storage bins like these work well in most van cabinets as well as the headliner shelf above the cab. The CAVans GLSS, GSS, and GSS-R are great solutions for adding additional storage and keeping it organized and easily accessible. In addition to the extra storage, you also get another livable space in your van with flip up seats for working, eating or relaxing. Under Bed Nets or Under Bed Zippered Covers add a surprising amount of storage for those smaller items like socks, flashlights, or charging cords. I found it incredibly beneficial to add a shelf to every cabinet possible to nearly doubling the storage inside – I stack the soft sided Target bins for clothes and soft goods. Personally I’ve tried almost every adjustable kitchen shelf available on Amazon and have never been satisfied with their stability. They are always sliding around, getting caught on bins, scratching the shelf, or cabinet door. Another solution that has increased my storage greatly in the Storyteller or any Sprinter without a shelf, is a headliner shelf. It’s amazing how much can fit up there! Remember, every inch counts. Plan out your storage beforehand and get creative with your space! Utilize under-bed storage, overhead compartments, and hanging organizers to make the most of every inch.


Clean Drinking Water

We all know how important clean and uncontaminated drinking water is to stay hydrated and prevent waterborne illnesses. Unfortunately, water can be one of the harder resources to find while on the road and you may be left with filling up your tank with water from a few questionable sources when in a pinch. However, there are several ways you can help ensure a clean water supply. While I personally choose not to drink directly from my water tank, there are many people that do and it’s up to you to do the research to make an educated decision on whether or not this is a safe option for you. The most basic option to start with is an easy to use in-line filter.  In-line filters are relatively cheap and do a decent job at removing larger sediment. They are a great baseline for your water prior to putting it through a filter for drinking and they also ensure the water you are brushing your teeth and doing the dishes with is clean and uncontaminated. For cleaner water, you may look into investing in a high-quality water filtration system or portable water purifier. These canister water filters are popular in the RV world and I personally use the Travel Berkey water filter. Additionally, doing your research to find clean public water sources like rest areas, gas stations, parks, or campgrounds can provide access to potable water. Another option is to refill water jugs at water refill stations located around most cities and as a last resort, stock up on water bottles (only if absolutely necessary as this is the least environmentally friendly option).


Portable Camping Chairs and Table:

Nothing beats getting out in the middle of the woods and sitting around a nice campfire with fellow nomads. Having a nice, compact camping chair and table helps create an outdoor living space and is an absolute must for vanlife excursions. Choose lightweight, durable chairs (like this one from Dometic) that are comfortable to sit in for extended periods. Opt for a foldable table that is easy to set up and can accommodate meals, workspaces, or leisure activities while packing away easily when not in use.


Basic Recovery Gear and Essential Tools:

My biggest mistake when first going out on the road was not bringing any sort of recovery gear with me, not even a shovel. Before heading out on your first trip, make sure to pick up some sort of traction board (we recommend these by MaxTrax) and a shovel at the very least. Don’t go cheap on recovery gear, you’ll thank us when you get stuck 😉 We will go more in depth on recovery gear in a future article, but this is a great starting point! Grab a basic toolkit and repair kit specific to your vehicle that includes a tire repair kit, jumper cables, extra fuses, and a jack if your van doesn’t already include one. Also plan to purchase a tow strap, tire chains, a tire pressure gauge, winch, and onboard air or air compressor. Familiarize yourself with basic vehicle maintenance tasks and learn how to troubleshoot common issues.


Other items to consider: Portable solar power bank, head lamp, satellite communicator/GPS, mobile hotspot, compact cooking essentials, and, of course, your morning beverage setup.  



Planning and equipping yourself with the right gear is crucial for a successful and enjoyable first vanlife outing. From comfortable bedding and efficient storage solutions to essential recovery gear and clean water resources, the items mentioned above will enhance your comfort, convenience, and overall well-being on the road. Choose gear that suits your needs, aligns with your lifestyle, and enhances your vanlife adventure. So, gear up, hit the road, and create unforgettable memories as you embrace the freedom and beauty of vanlife.

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