10 Van Items I Can't Live Without

I’m in the middle of writing an article titled ‘What I wish I had known before travelling to Europe.’ It started out as a practical list to help others who were considering long-term travel abroad.

Then it morphed into charting a journey of the all things I have learnt from the the practicalities of living in a van, to my life-changing perspective on money, work and success.

The essay is far too vast so I’m breaking it down into short handy chunks.

Apart from the obvious - iPhone, Laptop, and Dougie the dog - this list is about all the things I use every day in the van and can’t live without.

I hope you find it helpful!

The Amazon links in this blog are affiliate links, which means I earn some much needed money for the research I’m doing for men’s mental health, at no extra cost to you. But don’t you worry, I genuinely bought all these products off Amazon myself before I left for my travels, so it makes sense to point you in the same direction to the stuff I use in real life!

  1. Beach Travel Towel

I hate travel towels. They are small, ugly, and feel weird. But their quick-drying magic formula is a life saver in a van. On my first ever trips in the campervan I used a normal bathroom towel. Big mistake.

Even in the summer it never dried and by the end of my long weekend away, it stank of damp and mould.

So the hunt for a decent sized travel towel that wasn’t boring army green began. When I stumbled upon Dock & Bay trendy Beach Travel Towels I gave myself an imaginary fist pump.

The extra large beach towel is colourful, stylish, large enough to wrap around me after a shower, and small enough to roll up in a bag to take to the beach. It dries quick, doesn’t smell, and cleans up well without any colour fade. I love it.

I have the blue and white stripped one, because my obsession with nautical fashion knows no bounds.

Dougie posing with the Dock & Bay Beach Travel Towel in Scotland!

Dougie posing with the Dock & Bay Beach Travel Towel in Scotland!

2. Hiking Boots

I practically live in my hiking boots. Not only because I’m walking Dougie a lot, but because they are sturdy and give your feet a bit of toughness when working in and around the van.

Thing is they are bloody expensive.

I can’t afford the fancy big outdoor brands and I worried that a cheaper pair would be poorer quality, especially if I ordered them from Amazon of all places. But I didn’t have much of a choice. Budget means budget, and Amazon was where the cheapest brands were at.

After doing lots of research and reading reviews I took a risk with Northwest Territory ladies hiking boots for £42.99.

You can’t buy decent hiking boots for 40 quid can you?

You can.

I have taken these bad boys through the Scottish bogs, to the deserts of Spain, and the rocks of Portugal’s jurassic coastal paths, and they are still rockin’. Comfortable, no rub, waterproof and stylish. Done.

3. Whistling Kettle

Confession. I am a caffeine addict. I drink between 4-6 cups of tea and at least 2 coffees a day. This kettle is my life.

It was leaving present from my office team, so whenever I make a cuppa I think of them and their wicked support of my decision to do this journey. I have the kettle in purple. You can see my beloved kettle peaking out on the right in the photo below…

4. Mattress Topper

When I bought Peggy, my campervan, it had the original foam and upholstery from 1990. Replacing the roller bed is a pricey project so I thought I could get away with not doing it, but vanlife isn’t comfortable at the best of times, so having a bed that you can sink into at night is essential.

Even after the new bed was installed, I still ordered this mattress topper, just for a little bit of added comfort.

Again, I didn’t have much of budget and I needed something that could easily roll up every single day and not take up too much space. This meant heavy memory foam mattress toppers were out.

Instead, I got a quilted mattress topper that simply rolls up into the back behind the roller bed and magically transforms into a soft bench for Dougie to sit on while he watches the world go by out of the back window.

Whenever the weather is nice I air out the mattress topper to stop it getting damp or gross, as you can see from the snap below!

5. Long-handled sweeping brush

This isn’t the sexiest vanlife item, but when you are camping with a dog it is a constant war between mud, sand, dirt and dust. I use this brush in grey every single day. I didn’t bring the ‘pan’ bit of the brush with me as it took up too much space, I simply brush the dirt outside!

6. Microfibre Cloths

Another unsexy, but essential vanlife item.

When I first started living in the van I used the usual kitchen cloths to wash, clean and dry everything, but they would get filthy quickly and would NEVER EVER dry. It wasn’t long before they began to stink and attract lots of germs.

So I bought a big pack of microfibre cloths as they dry quickly and are easy to clean as I just stick them in the washing machine along with my clothes every now and then.

They are also handy mini-dog paw wipes after a muddy walk, without the price tag of a dog towel!

Carrie in the campervan

7. Leisure Battery and Inverter

A little quirk in a T25 is that the space for the car battery is behind the driver seat. There is also space for a leisure battery behind the passenger seat, but this is only big enough for a normal car battery, not a proper leisure battery.

I thought I could get away with it, but when you are working and living on the road, you can’t. You really can’t.

I decided losing some precious storage space was worth getting a larger leisure battery that could power my needs. For me, this is charging my phone and laptop, powering my heating for short bursts and occasionally, powering my fridge when I’m desperate. I don’t use the battery for kitchen gadgets or hairdryers so I didn’t need to go crazy big with my battery and my inverters. This meant I could keep costs low.

I have this leisure battery and I have two different types of power inverters.

  1. 200W dual power inverter for car charger

  2. 300W D12V to AC 230V Car Inverter

To be perfectly honest, I use the 200W power inverter while I’m driving the most to charge all my gadgets. I find it has a faster charge!

8. Shower Flip Flops

Public showers and sometimes, campsite showers, leave a lot to be desired. I don’t set foot in one without my cheap, rubber flip flops. I picked up mine from Primark, but they are a bit like these ones.

9. Frying Pan with removable handle

At first I was using the frying pan from my kitchen, every time I went to open the sliding cupboard in the campervan the handle would catch on the door. I would be cursing on my hands and knees prying it open with a knife or coat hanger.

After a close call with a knife and my thumb, I decided it was worth buying this cheap camping cooking set. The saucepan is the perfect size for one person, but the frying pan was tiny and things would stick really quickly. The frying pan is now one of Dougie’s dog bowls and I bought myself this non-stick frying pan with a removable handle. I haven’t looked back.

10. Portable Flushing Toilet

When I was travelling in Scotland I had a glorified bucket. It was alright, but it stank and I hated using it. Finding toilets and emptying the bucket every day was a constant source of tension for me.

I upgraded to a Freedom Trail Portable Flush Toilet just before Christmas and without exaggeration it has transformed my vanlife.

I feel….cleaner.

It doesn’t have to break the bank either. I got mine from Go Outdoors for about £50.

10. Post Poo drops

My Mum bought me Post-Poo drops as a joke Christmas present, but it is surprisingly wonderful!

I have a real thing about the van smelling, especially when your bathroom is in the same place as your kitchen, lounge and bedroom.

A few drops in the portable toilet after I’ve done my business makes the toilet and the van smell rosey again.

Thanks Mum!

Poo Drops!

What are your van essentials?


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