Van Life: DIY Storage Pockets

When you’re living and or traveling in a van, you’re going to need storage. If you’re like us, you’ve cut down on almost everything but the essentials. And yet you still want a little extra storage for van life. While visiting my parents, the three of us put our heads together to create a cool Van Life DIY Storage Pocket! It’ll increase your storage without impacting how you use your van.


Upholstery Fabric
25-30 Dritz 350-Piece Ball Point Pins, 1-1/16-Inch
Singer Sewing Machine
All Purpose Thread 
Westcott Wood Yardstick
Singer 8-1/2-Inch Fabric Scissors with Comfort Grip
Singer Assorted Safety Pins, Multisize, 50-Count
60 inches 9/64-Inch Solid Braid Nylon Rope 50-Feet Spool
2 Command Designer Hooks
2 Closed S Hooks
Flat Elastic

Instructions on how to make a DIY Storage Pocket

  1. Choose your material.

    We chose upholstery material which is a little more heavy duty than normal cotton. It’s more durable and you’re going to need that if you’re living and traveling in your van.

  2. Decide what size you want your pocket to be.

    We wanted our finished pocket to be 26″ long x 7″ deep. We based this on the size of the door in our Dodge Ram Promaster City. To learn more about our van’s conversion kit go HERE.

    Add three inches to however deep you want your pocket to be. So for example, if you want your bag to be 7 inches deep, then you want to cut 10 inches of fabric. No matter the depth, add 3 inches. Add 4″ to the length of the fabric to take into account the side seams. You will need two pieces of fabric, each 30″ x 10″.

  3. Measure, mark and cut your fabric.

    Turn the fabric front side down and mark on the fabric with a marker to get 10 inches. Do the same for your length at 30″. Cut along the marks to get the two rectangles of fabric.

    measuring fabric for a storage bag
    Be careful not to mark up what’s below your fabric!
  4. Sew your fabric together.

    Place the two pieces of fabric, top sides together, so they match. Sew the bottom seam with a double stitch for added durability.

    Sew the two side seams, a double stitch, keeping the pocket turned inside out.

  5. Iron and pin.

    Now with the raw top edge turn the fabric down 3/4 inch and iron to create a neat edge.  Lay the 3/4″ elastic on top of this turn down and pin it in place. Place straight pins every inch or two to hold the elastic in place.

    pins for a sewing project
    Pins keep everything in place.
  6. Sew both sides of the elastic onto the fabric.

    Sewing both edges of the elastic also sews the seam together at the same time.

    DIY Van Life Storage Bag
    Sew at both the top and the bottom.
  7. Turn down again.

    Turn the elastic down another turn so that the inside seam of the pocket shows the fabric rather than the elastic.  Sew a single stitch on the bottom edge.

  8. Turn the pocket right side out.

  9. Divide into four pockets.

    We divided the large pocket into 4 separate pouches. We wanted them big enough to store a contact lens bottle of solution, a cell phone and charger, and other random stuff.

    Measure the length of the finished pocket and divide by 4. Measure and mark on the pocket. At each mark, sew a single stitch vertically from the bottom of the pouch up to the bottom edge of the elastic.

    measuring pockets for your bag
    Measure out the pockets for your bag!
  10. Cut slits for rope.

    Lay the pocket flat on your work surface. At the top two corners you will cut a small slit through the fabric. The slit should be just longer then the width of the rope you will feed through. Be careful to cut through only the outer piece of fabric and not the elastic strip inside.

  11. Thread your rope.

    Cut two pieces of rope, each 24″ longer than the length of the pocket. Feed each piece of rope through either side of the pocket by hooking the rope onto a safety pin and and working it from one slit to the other. Pull the rope so there is 12″ extra on each end.

  12. Install the hooks on the door of your van.

    We used Command Designer Hooks (plastic hooks with adhesive tape on the back that hold up to three pounds) because we didn’t want to drill holes into our metal doors. You can also try using velcro or sewing magnets into the corners of your pouch.

    DIY Van Life Storage BAg
    They’re super sticky so make sure you know where you want them.
  13. Tie knots in the rope pulls.

    Hold up your pocket by the rope pulls to see where you need to tie knots in order to attach to the hooks. We tied our rope onto Closed S Hooks 1 1/8 inches, and then slipped this ring onto the plastic hook. Viola!

    DIY Van Life Storage Bag 10
    You can still open and close your door!

DIY Van Life Storage Pocket Recap

If you’re looking for a do-it-yourself way to improve your van life storage, give this storage pocket a shot. If you don’t have a sewing machine, no worries, this could be done by hand, it would just take a bit longer.

Have you seen our DIY hack on Van Life Window Screens? We’ve also got a few other hacks for camping.

Like this idea? Pin and save for later or share with a friend. Also, we’d love to hear from you if you make this!

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Published by Erin McGrady

Erin McGrady is a filmmaker, photographer, and writer exploring Asheville and beyond. My work focuses on sharing about LGBTQ safe spaces, camper van life, and the outdoors.

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