The ultimate van life guide

If you have been toying with the idea of turning your van into a van life travel companion, or you already have a campervan and are just itching to get out there, then this guide is jam-packed with tips that you are going to find useful. 

Let’s go!

VAN TYPE

If you don’t already have a van, then you are going to be inundated with options. And you have to know what is going to be best for you. Here are some considerations:

Windows – Not all vans come with windows, so you will do well to work out if you have the skill or the cash to have some put in for you if you buy a van without. Windows mean the van is less dark and that it doesn’t look like a strange van parked up in a pitch. 

Old or New? – Unless you have spare parts and are a bit of a handy mechanic, then an old van is likely to have a heap more issues much quicker. Think about the replacement parts and the scarcity of them when you are a mid-road trip. 

4WD or 2WD – If you are heading somewhere with a lot of seasonal changes, then 4WD is going to be your best option. If you typically stay where the weather is temperate, then you’ll be fine with 2WD. For more options, AWD or 4WD is better. 

Low top vs. High top – It is better that you think about being more compact here. It is much easier to drive under low branches and park under them when you have a low top. Aside from when you are doing the cooking, you probably won’t be standing upright often. 

And then there is the greatest risk of all – the risk of not spending your life doing what you want on the bet that you can buy yourself the freedom later to do it — Randy Komisar

VAN PREPARATION

When you are on the road for a while, the comfort of your van means everything. So here are a few adjustments that you can make to make sure that your van is cozy. 

Fans – When you are driving with the aircon on, you might not notice the heat. But once you stop for a while, you are going to be very glad that you had a van installed. Vans get stuffy pretty quickly unless you have a fan. Battery operated ones will be fine. 

Protection – You’ll need to have some built-in protection for the floor and the walls of your van. You should consider the durability of a spray-on ute liner to be your best mate here. A ply is a good option for shelving and the walls too. 

Shower – Many campsites don’t come with showers, and eventually, you are going to want to have the option with you at all times. A camping solar shower bag is going to be the best solution here. 

Fridge – When you are getting into the van life, you will notice that they all have a fridge hooked up. You need to make a choice between a chest fridge, a smaller tabletop one, or a traditional one. It will depend a lot on the space that you have available. 

Couch or bed? – You’re going to have to work out how you want your bed to be. Many people choose to have a fold-out couch or a permanent bed. If you aren’t the type of person who is likely to get annoyed at pulling out your bed every night, then that is a great option with more versatility than a stationary bed. Just think about your personal effort levels. 

Stovetop – You might think that a little camping stove will be fine, but they are very limited and just aren’t as good as having a permanent stovetop built-in. You can have ones that are removable if you like, but when you’re hungry and want to cook nice and quickly, those extra ten minute set-up time aren’t going to be your favorite. Think about making it as easy as possible.

Batteries – you are going to be driving very long distances, so something you should think about is having at least two deep cycle batteries with you. The amenities in your van are likely to eat a lot of power, so go with a highly recommended brand like Trojan. 

ROAD TRIPS

You might have the urge to cram as much in your van as possible. But there are weight limits, and not only that – try living with less for the best experience. 

Clothing – If you have already got a good idea of where you will be traveling, then you are already well versed in what the weather is likely to be like. Research the typical weather at the time of year that you are traveling and pack accordingly. In general, you will always be better off if you have a range of light layers with you. 

Minimalism – You don’t need to pack all of your pots and pans, cutlery, books, and so on. What you need to a very minimal amount of items with you. A cup and a plate per person, a book each, and when you have finished reading it, donate it and get a fresh one from the same thrift store. You won’t need, and shouldn’t love the idea of all the extra stuff. 

Maximizing – You need to make the most of the space that you do have. Over the door, organizers are great for storing everything from clothing items to personal care or even dry food packets. Storage bins are also great for putting in your winter clothing and canned and dried food that won’t be used any time soon. Make sure that they are clear, and label the side, so you know what is in there. 

When you are considering heading out on van life or just prepping your van, you should take into consideration the tips above before you make your first long journey. You can find plenty of inspiration and groups online who are dedicated van life enthusiasts just like you. 

Watch this great video to get even more inspiration:


Photo Credit: Johannes Andersson

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