Van builds require a lot of attention, work, and patience – as I’ve learned the hard way. But what about once the build is complete and it’s time to finally hit the road?
The amenities inside the van can make or break the experience just as much as the van itself. Comfort on the road comes from more than just having the right electrical system or water heater (although these considerations can be quite important).
As was the case with my Subaru Outback, outfitting my Sprinter van with the right gear has been a learning exercise and is likely one I will continue indefinitely. For now, here are the top things I would recommend equipping your van with to make your adventures and life on the road more manageable.
Vanmade Gear Window Shades
There’s an entire industry built around window shades for vans and they don’t come cheap. That is if you want window shades that are going to block out all light and keep your van cool(er) in the sun. After a lot of research, I went with the Vanmade Gear window shades for my Sprinter. I have the front windshield shade, the side window shades, and the vent fan cover. There are additional window covers available (if you have more windows), but I have a cargo van so I just need the front taken care of. Have a Transit or Promaster? They have you covered, too.
Klean Kanteen Tumblers & Mugs
One thing I love about my van is all the cupholders – eight in total at the front of the cab. The Klean Kanteen Rise Collection is made from certified 90% post-consumer recycled 18/8 stainless steel. I have a set of 16 oz Rise Tumblers and 14 oz Rise Mugs. They don’t leak and they’re virtually indestructible (although I haven’t tried running them over yet). Awesome to have drinks on the road or for sharing at the trailhead.
Pit Command Commander Fire Pit Tool
The Pit Command Commander Fire Pit Tool is something I didn’t realize I needed in my van until I got one. It’s great for managing campfires and will transform the game of “find a log that isn’t too on fire and attempt to harness it as a tool to move the other logs” into a much more enjoyable task. You can also use the head to split smaller pieces of wood pre-burning. As a bonus, it can double as a weapon against zombies or chupacabra. If you’re looking for something a little shorter, check out the Pit Command Ranger.
Rhino-Rack Maxtrax MKII Traction Boards
A pair of Rhino-Rack Maxtrax MKII Traction Boards may seem like an expensive purchase when you see how much they are, but you’re weighing this against the cost of a potential tow – from a potentially remote location. These are made to give your vehicle traction in snow, mud, sand, or otherwise treacherous terrain where you would otherwise be stuck with your wheels spinning. They can be stored inside or outside your van and are just 3 in / 8 cm when stacked together.
SoloStove Bonfire 2.0
For a while, I had decided against having a fixed bed in my van, but then I got thinking about where I would store large items – like the SoloStove Bonfire 2.0. It turns out that having items like an awesome portable fire pit warrants command of your van’s design. The Bonfire 2.0 is easy to use, easy to clean, and burns wood efficiently without creating plumes of smoke that will send you playing musical chairs to avoid it blowing into your eyes.
MA1 Wireless Android Auto Car Adapter
We’ll get there one day, but for now, very few vehicles come with wireless Android Auto or Apple CarPlay from the factory. Fortunately, the MA1 Wireless Android Auto Car Adapter solves this problem (for Android). Presumably, you’ll be spending a lot of time in your van, and if you want your phone to seamlessly and automatically connect whenever you turn it on, this piece of gear is one you shouldn’t be without. Have an iPhone? Check out the Teeran CarPlay Wireless Adapter instead.
My Medic MyFAK
Maybe not the sexiest piece of gear and hopefully not something you’ll ever have to use, but absolutely something you should have – especially if you’re going to be traveling to remote areas – is a first aid kit. My Medic makes pre-packaged kits of all sizes that can treat and/or assist with a wide range of injuries – from burns to spinal injuries. Devoting a small amount of space in your van to a first aid kit will be well worth the effort should you ever need it.
Agawa Gear BOREAL21 Folding Bow Saw
As soon as I saw the Agawa Gear BOREAL21 Folding Bow Saw I knew it was something I needed for my van. The Agawa comes in three sizes, is lightweight, and has a stainless steel blade. Best of all, it’s cleverly designed in a way that allows the entire saw to fold up compactly without any exposed teeth (you should just check it out if you want to see what I’m talking about). It takes up virtually no storage space and is a no-brainer when putting together a van kit.
Dometic GO Compact Camp Table
The Dometic GO Compact Camp Table is an awesome piece of camping gear that deploys easily and stows just as well. Yes, hanging out inside your van is awesome, but when it’s nice out, you want the option to sit and enjoy yourself outside somewhere that’s not the ground. This table adjusts to three different heights and provides enough room for four people to eat comfortably (or even more to play cards and/or enjoy beverages).
MAXXAIR Maxxfan Deluxe
This list is the entirety of things that go inside your van and/or do not require any installation, but if you’re going to have a van to travel with and especially sleep in, then you’re going to want a MAXXAIR Maxxfan Deluxe. Rooftop fans prevent condensation buildup, maintain airflow, and can help regulate temperature (in addition to providing excellent white noise) and are a surefire way to distinguish a van that’s been built out from one that’s simply carrying cargo.
Gerber E-Tool Folding Spade
All great vans should have a great shovel and the Gerber E-Tool Folding Spade is up to the task. It folds in half so you won’t have to sacrifice too much of your precious storage space and it opens up to nearly two-feet long (610 cm) when deployed. Why a shovel? Obviously, for digging amazing catholes, but beyond that, a shovel is useful for putting in stakes for campsite tents and awnings, putting out campfires, or digging out parking spaces when caught out in the snow.
Cleanwaste GO Anywhere Toilet Kit Waste Bag
I know it’s not sexy, but as far as I’m concerned a stash of Cleanwaste GO Anywhere Toilet Kit Waste Bags (aka wag bags) is a must for life on the road in a van. I don’t plan on having a toilet in my van (as I will be mostly in the forest/mountains/non-urban environments) but sometimes there isn’t a privy or ample cathole-digging terrain around which is where the wag bag comes into play. Honestly, you should probably have one of these in your possession at all times. You never know.
S.O.L. XL Emergency Fire Blanket
Like a first-aid kit, an S.O.L. XL Emergency Fire Blanket is something that every van spending time outdoors should have – particularly if you’re a fan of campfires. Campfires are great (particularly when you’re using the SoloStove Bonfire 2.0) but burning down the forest is not great, so this is a great insurance policy to have. It should be noted that this fire blanket is not designed to be used in case of an electrical fire, so if your van’s electrical system is fried, you’ll need to find another solution (and likely have bigger problems).
Counter Assault Bear Deterrent Spray
Bears – particularly grizzly bears – live in some of the world’s most stunning landscapes and probably places you’ll want to be bringing your van. Beyond having a can of Counter Assault Bear Deterrent Spray (aka bear spray) ready for when you go hiking in these areas, it’s also nice to have around in case of aggressive dogs (yes, I would spray your dog if it charged me) or maybe an unhinged moose. Just remember that this is to be used when being charged by an animal; it’s not a repellant that you put on yourself before heading out into the backcountry.
Something you may not immediately think of when outfitting your vehicle but something great to have is a blanket or mat. I have a Voited Recycled Ripstop Outdoor Camping Blanket that I use to lay down either at my trunk or side door as a changing mat, a sitting area, or a place to stage gear without getting it filthy in the dirt or parking lot. Just be sure to consistently put the same side down.
A roll of Gorilla Tape can do wonders for your immediate repair needs (or impromptu arts and crafts) on the road. I carry some of this stuff everywhere I go (backpacking, driving, biking, etc.) and I’ve never regretted including it as part of my kit. The glorious thing about having a van is that you can (and should) bring an entire roll without hesitation.
weBoost Drive Reach RV Cell Signal Booster
The weBoost Drive Reach RV Cell Signal Booster does exactly what the name suggests – boosts your cell signal when you’re on the road. It can’t create a cell signal where there is none, but it can solve the frustrating issue when your phone tells you there is a signal but you can’t perform basic tasks like loading your email or sending and receiving messages.
Lastly, I also suggest that you look into getting your windows tinted. Sure, window screens and shades can provide privacy, but window tint can also help a lot.
Note: Window tint (particularly on the front two windows) is not legal in every state and different states have different limits on the allowable level of tint. Check local laws before paying to have your windows tinted. Remember, it’s not illegal for a shop to tint your windows darker than allowed, but it can be illegal for you to drive with windows tinted too dark.
What do you think? Have anything that you think needs to be added to this list? What are some must-have accessories for your adventure mobile? Leave a comment below and let me know!
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