Through trial and error, we’ve found some gear that makes life on the road and in our van not only easier but more enjoyable. Though we’ve done other gear posts before such as the 9 essential pieces of gear you need for van life, this is the first one where every item on the list is $50 or less.
Gear for Sleeping Better
Keep the sun out (and consequently keep temperatures down) during the day. Keep street and car lights out while parked at night. It offers a little privacy, too, when you’re trying to change. This little silver accordion windshield cover folds down fairly compact and is one of our most often used items.
You might not need a jar of 50 but if you’re like us (okay, Erin) then you lose things often and might need to get a jar of 50. These will help you get a better night’s sleep in your van.
Gear for Staying Clean
Thanks to our friend Lisa Giles, we scored a sweet sun shower! The black exterior heats the water up in hardly no time and helps you rinse the van life grime of ya. It’s one of the ways we manage to stay clean on the road. We no longer have an excuse for showing up to dinner dirty. With this, neither do you.
It’s amazing how fast these towels dry. They’re super thin and pack down small. They’re a huge upgrade from a thick beach towel or a regular bath towel, especially when space is a premium on the road.
We’ve done both laundry and dishes in this bucket. Don’t worry we always rinse it out when we’re done so that our dishes and clothes don’t get gross. When you’re not using it, the whole thing collapses down to about the size of a dinner plate.
Gear for Cooking and Eating
These showed up in our stocking at Christmas. Santa, aka Erin’s Mom, decided we could use a little all in one utensil kit and she was right! This little tool separates, too, so you can use one at a time if you like.
Everything packs down small and fits into the pot, even the spatula. There’s other gear that you can get that’s lighter, but for us, since we’re not trekking miles up a mountain with this kit, it works great.
I’ve used Nalgene’s for years and while they’re awesome, they don’t keep water quite as cold as the Hydro Flask. They come in all sorts of cool colors and their handle works well with carabiners and packs.
If you love a pourover coffee, this little lightweight filter is going to be your new best friend. It makes delicious coffee and attaches to almost any kind of mug. Quite possibly the best feature is that it cleans easily and dries almost instantly.
Does this one need any explaining? These little blue mugs have been a staple in our adventures for many for years. We use them for everything from coffee to soup.
If you love drinking your beer from a glass, pick up one or two of these Klean Canteen pint glasses. They’re great for when you don’t want the bottle or can (stealth mode, anyone?) or you’re in an area where you can’t have glass. Plus they just feel good in your hand.
Gear for Navigation
Your cell phone doesn’t work everywhere, even in 2018. We’ve relied on our adventure edition road atlas to show us the way more than a few times. The front section has some great info on some of the best National Parks and there are even maps in there of the entire country that will help you plot out a REALLY big adventure.
Pair this with the road atlas and you’ll be on your way (in the right direction) in no time. This little compass doesn’t have a battery and therefore never needs a charge. The next time your cell phone dies or you can’t get a signal, there’s no need to stress. It’s also a great way to unplug and make the most of your adventure.
All-purpose Van Life Gear
We bought some of this rope to create three small clotheslines in our van and had enough left over to make a long one which we string up at camp.
For hanging your clothes and maybe pinching your nose when the van starts to stink lol.
We each have a headlamp and use it to get around in the dark at camp, to show up when we run at night, to make our way along a trail at dusk and of course to read before bed.
Gonna need a day pack, why not make it a hydration pack as well. We’ve got two of these, one for each of us for when we go running. It’s got a couple of zipper compartments for keys, IDs and a little cash.
Sun Safety Gear
Keep the sun off your face with this hat and feel good about investing in a company that promotes fair labor practices, safe working conditions and actually cares about the planet.
Protect your eyes, they’re the only ones you’ve got! We like these shades because they’re polarized and if you’re out on the water, will help you see better.
Caroline found this brand when we were in Florida and has been using it ever since. It’s non-greasy and is sensitive enough to use on your face.
Water Sports Gear
Chances are at some point in your van life adventure you’re going to come in contact with water. If you’re anything like us, you’re going to want to see what’s in the water. So grab a mask and snorkel and go check it out!
A mask and snorkel might be all you need but if you want to take your water exploration a little further, pick up some fins. This type of fin requires you to wear booties with them. There are others that don’t but we’re recommending these because we have them and we love them.
These are some booties you can wear with your fins. They’ve got a firm rubber sole which will allow you to walk safely and comfortable from the dock to the boat or along a rocky shoreline without cutting up your feet. They dry fairly quickly too.
Great for being around the water and boats. Because you can’t and don’t always want to wear shoes. Or go barefoot. These flip flops are super comfy and feel like you’re walking on clouds. Don’t worry about getting them wet – they dry pretty quickly. Go from the beach to the brewery without missing a step.
We keep all of our snorkel gear in a mesh bag so that it doesn’t get lost when we get on a boat with other people. It’s also great because we can then easily dunk the whole thing in a fresh water barrel when we’re done. After it dries, we then put it back in our van storage box and it’s ready for the next time we go snorkeling. We also have a second mesh bag for dirty laundry.
Best Van Life Gear Under $50 Recap
The items we’ve listed are things we’re currently using in our Wayfarer Van. How many of these things are pieces of gear that you use as well? Is there anything you think we’ve missed that should be on this list? We’d love to hear your thoughts, please leave them in the comments below!