I’m a total list kind of guy. Whether it is a simple to-do-list, a packing list, or a van life essentials list.
I think lists tell you a lot about an individual. They represent someone who relies on structure, who has an organized thought process and is a visual thinker. For me, if something is written down on a list it will get done.
So, whether you’re someone who functions by making lists or if you are someone that keeps everything in your head, it’s important to remember we must do whatever works best for us. Because finding the tool that helps us grow is essentially one of the most important things in life.
After some thought, I’ve decided to put together a van life essentials list for anyone interested in taking on the van life or maybe you’re just generally curious about what goes into a van conversion.
The five essentials to van life are:
1. Time and Patience
First off, if you ain’t got this, you ain’t goin’ nowhere. This is the most important lesson I’ve learned so far in my van life journey. From the initial purchase of the van to the conversion and to the time spent on each adventure, the need for time and patience will always be in your shadow.
I originally thought this was all going to be quick and easy. I thought I’d buy the van, strip it down, throw on the paneling, toss a screw there and a screw here, and boom all complete. Ehhh not really the case. So, as I painted this beautiful and simple picture in my head, it only led me to become more frustrated along the way.
I wasn’t completing it as I had hoped.
However, the battle of overcoming this frustration was the catalyst to learning that this isn’t supposed to be done quickly. From measuring 3 times before cutting to the 5 Home-Depot trips in one day, it all adds up to be a lot.
This is something that takes a heavy dose time and patience.
2. Proper Workbench (trust me)
First and foremost, get the proper tools when prepping to convert a van, or even for any sort of building for that matter. Learn from my half-assed workbench and the route I took in getting a rather sore back.
You see, when I first started building my van, I was going down the road of trying to spend the least amount of money as possible. Because it sounded nice on the bank account.
I bought the bare minimum amount of power tools because before this project I didn’t own a single one. In addition to that, I completely challenged myself to build this without a workbench for the sole purpose of spending less money.
Yet, I highly regret this.
But, now with the majority of the intense labor behind me, and the build just on the brink of being fully completed, I’m not really in the need for a workbench anymore.
3. Bed and Table Setup
It’s all about the setup. Any great idea for a van conversion has to be focused solely on functionality. Everything must serve a purpose; space is very limited. But, while focusing on functionality, it’s also important to build something that revolves around your necessities.
For me, I’m big on having a desk of some sort for my creative work, but also being able to accommodate others is a priority of mine. I found that the best bed and table set up for my van was an RV dinette. And, if you’re not familiar with what that is, look no further.
This is what I found that worked best for me. Gives me a nice space to eat, have a coffee, write, or go for a round of cards with a small group of friends. Not to mention, it provides an above average spot to sleep in the middle of my next favorite national park.
But, what really is important about this is that you build what works for you. Sure there are tons and tons of van conversions out there. Everyone has amazing builds. But the best build for your van is the one that promotes your current lifestyle.
4. Storage – lots of it
When I took the van on its first trip, it was just the walls and carpet. No bed, no table, nothin’. We slept on the floor and woke up with creaks in our backs. It was going to be a one-time thing.
The beauty of the dinette setup is the versatility it provides with the seats doubling as storage units. Without these storage units in the van before, the only place for gear was in the same place we were sleeping and eating.
A recipe for disaster if you have an ounce of OCD in you.
Here’s a look at the storage units underneath:
And, that’s just the start to the storage in my van. You can never be too organized.
I’m currently in the midst of building cabinets and shelving units to add a bit more of a touch aesthetically and, of course, functionality. I’ll update ya when those are complete.
5. Shower System
Although it’s pretty common to come across a shower at your average state park campground, I can assure you there will be many times where that’s not the case. Especially if you’re doing much more exploring than your well-kept state parks.
That’s where some sort of shower system comes in handy. And again, it’s important to find what works best for your van or camper. For me, after doing lots of searching, I found a DIY road shower that acts as a solar shower on your roof.
Yet, just like my cabinets, I’m also in the midst of putting this piece together and rigging it on to the roof of my van.
Well, there you have it. Short and sweet.
The beauty of this van life essentials list is that it will continue to grow. There are many unknown challenges that await my van life journey, and I want to be able to share those lessons with you.
I will continue to collect and put together more van life essentials to share with you.
If ya got something to share, feel free to leave a comment below!
Lookin’ for a bit more van life talk? Follow the van adventures on Instagram here @thestoryonwheels