21 "vanlife" hacks we've learned after living on the road for one year

It's hard to believe that this time, one year ago, we set off to live on the road for 18 months. The first few months weren't so pretty but we've become a lot more efficient now. I wouldn't call us "vanlife" experts by any means but here are some tips and tricks that will make your life easier if you want to live the nomad lifestyle on the road. It's an amazing life and we highly recommend it. 

21. Pee bottle

I'm serious. I was grossed out at first when I discovered Taz had been doing this. It wasn't long before I jumped on board. Sometimes when you're in an area without restrooms and duty calls, you're going to wish you had one. Ladies, you too. You can even pick up one of these and be one of the boys (sort of). 

20. Baby wipes

These come in handy when you haven’t showered in a while. We like to call it a dirt bag shower.

19. Ear plugs

These come in particularly handy when you’re parked near a highway or an urban area with bars. The loud obnoxious drunks will surely wake you at 1am just as you’re having sweet dreams about free soloing El Cap with Alex.

18. Gym membership

For $21 per month, you can get a gym membership at Planet Fitness and they have around 1500 locations across the country. I’m not saying you’re going to get fat, I’m saying you can’t always rely on baby wipes to wipe that stank away. They have clean showers and I guarantee you’ll get your money’s worth.

17. Freecampsites.net

This site is fantastic. Share your location to find places you can park and camp overnight for free. We found some great spots by the beach when we were in California.

16. ONP Walmart App

This app will show you the Walmart’s across the country that allow over-night camping. We’ve stayed in our fair share of Walmart parking lots.

 15. Bass Pro Shops

No, not for fishing supplies. For a place to stay overnight. If you can’t find a Walmart nearby or an overnight stop from freecampsites.net, if there’s a Bass Pro Shop, they’ll likely let you stay in their parking lot overnight. They’ve been a huge help to us a few times now. Make sure you call ahead and ask the manager.

14. 12V AC Refrigerator

A low-amp drawing 12v refrigerator will help keep your batteries lasting longer. They sell dual ones that allow you to change the temperature in both compartments. Pair this with an insulated cover to keep it even more energy efficient.

 13. A good free mattress

Free? Yeah, I know a lot of people (including myself) that have received free mattresses from those “mattress-in-a-box” companies in exchange for photos and content while you travel. It’s a great way to have a good sleep every night. I recommend ones with the cooling gel top layer that keeps you cool during those hot summer nights. I don’t want to name the brand that gave me a free mattress with the worries that they’ll get bombarded with emails. So go hustle! I will say being a decent photographer and having a larger social media following will help you here.

12. A Onewheel+ XR

This is one of the biggest items that changed our life on the road. It has allowed us to easily commute and explore each city we visit and is much easier than driving around in a big van.  It goes approximately 18 miles per charge which is more than enough to explore all-day. Smaller than a bike, easier to learn than a traditional skateboard, and more versatile than an e-skateboard. It even rides on trails and the beach. Worth every penny.


11. Unlimited Wireless Internet

I’ve got the hookup here. Email this guy and he’ll give you unlimited high-speed internet with zero capping meaning you can stream all the HBO and Netflix you want… or get work done virtually anywhere with a cell signal. This is for use in the United States only. It’s $139 a month with no contract. Compare that price to Verizon’s 100GB plan which costs a whopping $710 per month and you’re getting a really good deal here.


10. Solar Panels

Slap some solar panels on top of your van and trickle charge your batteries. You can also charge your batteries by using your van’s alternator. I won’t get into the nitty-gritty but Google is your friend here.

9. RV sites

This seems like it might contradict living out of a van but RV sites are a great way to charge your batteries, fill up your water tanks, and do your laundry. We only use them once every 2 weeks for one night but it sure comes in handy when you need that refresh. As long as you’re not staying at one near San Francisco or NYC, it'll cost you between $20-$40 per night.

8. Portable camp stove

One of these will boil water, heat your soup, or even cook up a meal in the frying pan. They’re inexpensive and super convenient.

7. Chemex

Now that you’ve got a way to boil water, a Chemex is arguably the tastiest way to brew a drip-style coffee. Their pour-over filters take away the bitterness from the coffee leaving with you a super smooth coffee. It’s super easy to clean too. If you really want to coffee-snob it, buy a scale, a burr hand-grinder, and a thermometer to make the perfect cup every time.

6. DeWalt Inverter

This thing is awesome! It gives us DC power the next awesome thing I’m about to tell you about but also will charge 2 USB devices at the same time.

5. Anker 60W 10-Port USB Wall Charger

You need one of the above inverters to power this from your cigarette lighter but this bad boy will charge your phone, iPad, camera, GoPro, wireless internet router, Nintendo Switch, portable battery back-up charger, drone, friend’s phone all at the same time and at fast charging speeds. This is one of the best purchases we’ve made all trip. We never run out of charging ports and the van battery has never died on us. 

4. Heatshield

This bad boy will keep your van an average of 25 degrees (F) cooler. Get them for all your bare windows. They’ll custom make them for any window size.

3. Sports cooler and a 5-gallon refillable water jug

If you prefer filtered water over random water coming that may be potable coming from a hose, this is a great combo. The 10 gallon sports cooler will hold 2 of these 5 gallon refillable hugs. We will fill up the sports cooler and then have a spare 5 gallon jug in the back. Fresh drinkable water for weeks!

2. Custom Google Maps for Trip Planning

You can save yourself a huge amount of time and keep your trip plan in one place. Go to https://www.google.com/maps/. Select, “Your Places” in drop down menu then select “Maps”, then “Create Map.” Here’s an example of what one looks like.

1. A pair of Boulder Denim jeans

Cheesy, I know. But one pair of Boulder Denim jeans is like having 3 pants in one and requires less laundering due to our stain repelling coating. They stay clean longer without smelling. Cycle in them from the coffee shop to the climbing gym and then still look fresh enough for a night out. It’s the perfect match for van life.

We know there’s so many ways to live out of a van so let’s hear your best tips and tricks below!


  • Guys,

    Rock’n’roll… but how long does it take you to accept comments :)?! That is kind of counter intuitive if you want to spark engagement…

  • Ey Bradley,

    cooler article and the chemex is already ordered :) !! Best take away for me of this article. I am already living the vanlife or camper life as a lifestyle entrepreneur for 4 years (including some smaller breaks with these stationary vans other people call flats :D) and this article is on point!

    My best tips and tricks for europe are:
    1) Use the app park4night (great places to stay.. both for free and payed all over europe).
    2) Pee bottles (especially the one you want to use after waking up) should have a volume > 1 Liter :)! Otherwise it might be painfull to interchange bottles during the “process” :D.
    3) In europe you can have a unlimited mobile internet for europe, US, canada with Deutsche Telekom. It’s 200€ a month but you’ll get 3 sim cards and you can use all at the same time. So find two more partners in crime and everyone gets an unlimited mobile data plan (truely unlimited and super super fast, they give you priority in their network over all other plans because it is the most expensive one and it’s called premium :D).
    4) Put the data plan sim card in a mobile router (netgear for instance) because it truely makes you vanlife amazing if you have a regular wifi @ home :).
    5) Only have your favourite things in your camper. Favorite throuthers (hopefully for me the boulder denim 2.0), favourite shirts, favourite boulder shoes, favourite surfboard and so on… get rid of everything (EVERYTHING) that is not used on a regular basis. Make it a habit to go through all the shelfes and get rid of clutter!!
    6) always park in dead end roads if your are running out of options in towns or cities… it makes a good night of sleep.
    7) Be friendly, polite but also super confident about your way of living when talking to older people, dog walkers, fisher men and so on… normally they find it cool when you explain them how you life and they change their mind about calling the police because of the strange guy in “their” parking lot.

    I could go on but tha’ts it for the moment :) !

    By the way… I have problems about finding out about the perfect size for my indiegogo survery… where can I get help about fitting?


  • (Magnetic Edged) PetScreen for the Windows… Durable, Removable, Useful for Washing Clothes, or Straining, or Fishing, or … well, you can add to the list as you see fit…

  • Excellent Tips…
    My Van will be Cramped, with MountainBikes, RoadBikes, Kayaks, BackPacks & HikingBoots, OneWheel+XR, Hangglider, WingSuit, Parachute, and a few other toys…
    See Ya OUT There…!!!

  • I’ve gotta know more about #11, the wireless internet option. I emailed the link and haven’t heard anything in a few days.


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