Living out of your wheels can get down right messy, and naturally you’d think that with such a small space and a minimum amount of your possessions that you could keep things organized and tidy; but you’d be wrong, oh so very, very wrong. A lot of thought and planning should go into everything that you decide to take with you, and especially if you’re planning on purchasing expensive items to take on your epic road trip or your regular weekend away. The main considerations to take into account should be the item’s weight, size (how compact is it), and its ease of use if they are going to make it into your set up. Since Siu On and I get asked about our set up a lot (especially as we live out of a Rav4 and not an actual van, which means we have even less space to live with), I’ve listed in detail our top 10 Vanlife Essential items. All of these items we love and have been essential to our Vanlife experience, and has made our life on the road so much easier!

Eat well

1.MSR Superfly backpacking stove that screws onto a propane canister. It’s small, light and compact. This is one of Siu’s old camping items that he’s had for years.

2. GSI Outdoors Bugaboo Base Camper Cookset. Another new edition which replaced my crappy old pan that burned everything and wasn’t non stick; this cook set comes with two different sized pots and a pan (with corresponding sized lids that have drainage holes in them), spondonicle and a small cutting board. They are non stick, fast heating, compact, easy to clean and best of all we can even fit our bowls and stove head inside the entire thing. Probably the best thing we’ve bought for our set up.

Cooking with the GSI Bugaboo Cookset

3. Collapsable Sea to Summit X-Bowls and sporks to eat with. Again, all are lightweight and compact, although this is the second set of plastic sporks we’ve owned and expect these to break eventually too; and when they do we’ll replace with titanium one which will last longer.

4. Jetboil Zip Cooking System. A new addition to our set up, the Jetboil attaches to a propane canister and heats water or soups in record time, plus all the parts fit inside itself.

5. Aeropress. Good coffee. ‘Nuff said.

Our Jetboil and Aeropress

Live well

6. Tent. An alternative option to sleeping in the car, and even if my pop-up tent isn’t exactly the greatest tent, since we left Siu’s tent back in the States we figured we’d just use my tent until it died… and it’s just about on it’s last legs too. The best tent option is a lightweight backpacking tent that folds up to fit in your pack and has a rain fly (which is what Siu On’s REI Half Dome 2 Backpacking tent is).

7. A real foam mattress. You can’t compromise on a good night’s sleep especially if you’re doing long driving days.

A real mattress in a tent.

Be organised

8. Tubs. Being organized prevents you from losing things and keeps you sane, and our four tubs holds together grouped items like food staples, climbing gear, out-of-season cloths and kitchen items. We got these cheap from Kmart.

Powered up

9. Goal Zero Solar Panel. Another item we bought for the road to help power our phones and batteries for when we are without power for multiple days such as free camping in the woods. This panel is small and portable, and can attach to just about anything and four hours of sun is enough to fully charge our mobile phones. This is the most expensive item in our set up but it’s been worth it so far.

10. Extension chord and power strip. Handy for those ‘power borrowing’ situations or when there’s only one outlet and you want to charge five items at once, and again these were cheap from Kmart.

Hiking with a Goal Zero Solar Panel

All of these items have ensured that Siu On and I are able to live well, eat well and keep our stuff organised and powered up, which in the end leaves us tearing less of our hair out , me loosing less of our stuff and best of all prevents us losing precious space by filing our home on wheels to the brim with bulky items.

Thinking of hitting the road yourself but don’t own a van? You can check out my DIY Vanlife articles for ideas on how to convert your car into a livable space and some of our road notes. Also, if you have any thoughts on our list, suggestions on better or alternative products that should find its way into a vanlife set up, head over to our Facebook page and leave us some comments – we’re always on the lookout for improving our set up!

Last photograph by Auyeung Photography, all others by Jelena Stipanicev.