Choosing the gear that you take with you on the road is one of the most import steps in planning for vanlife.

You want to be sure that you have everything you need to lead a comfortable and normal life, but having too much can encroach on your precious living space and add up to a lot of unnecessary weight that will add extra strain to your vehicle. When living life on the road every piece of gear counts so we rounded up eight essentials for vanlife with weight and functionality in mind!

Compact Camp Chairs & Table

Our favorite way to enjoy our ever-changing surroundings is to have our coffee and meals outside the van. For that, we carry compact camp chairs and a table that can also be handy for hanging around a fire with new friends!

Recommended Gear:

Alite Monarch Chairs – They’re incredibly light, pack very small, and the unique two-leg design (your own legs create the other two legs of the chair) allows the chair to sit level on any surface!

Trekology Folding Table Size Large – This table weighs an impressive 3.2lb (1.5 kg) and folds up so it can be stashed just about anywhere. This table is great and it’s the perfect height to accompany the Alite Monarch chairs and many other low profile camping chairs.

Cast Iron Skillet

Cast iron skillets are one of the most versatile and low maintenance pieces of kitchen equipment on the market since… forever! We love using cast iron in our kitchen because you can cook just about anything in them, they require very little water to clean, they add iron into your diet if you’re not eating meat, and they can go from stove to open flame cooking without batting an eye.

Recommended Gear:

Lodge 12” Cast Iron Skillet and Silicone Handle Cover – This is a tried and true brand that is inexpensive but will last you a lifetime. We also love the handle cover because it allows us to pick up and move the skillet around.

Portable Shower

We never know where our next shower is coming from, so by carrying a small portable shower with us on the road, we’re able to take some of the guesswork out of the process. It’s also nice to have the option for a quick rinse after a long hike or surf session. We’ve also found the shower bag to be good for washing off our gear!

Recommended Gear:

Nemo Shower Bag – We’ve tried a lot of portable shower bags and this one is our favorite by a landslide! It packs incredibly small (are you seeing a theme here?!) and the pressurizing foot pump allows you to get a better shower with less water than a gravity feed shower bag. We can get two showers out of a single fill of the 11-liter bag.

Daypack with Hydration Bladder

The greatest part of life on the road is being able to explore new places. We like to head out on foot with a small day pack to carry snacks, a camera, and plenty of water! A day pack and water bladder give you the ability to explore longer and go further. A bonus is that daypacks are small and easy to stash in your van when they’re not being used.

Recommended Gear:

Osprey Manta AG 36 Hydration Pack – 2.5 Liters  – Spacious with plenty of room for all your gear for a day away from the van. We love this type of hydration bladder because the whole top end opens up to allow it to completely dry out after every use without worrying about mold over time.

Basic Tool Kit

Vanlife is about as unpredictable as it gets. Never get caught off guard! We HIGHLY recommend a small tool bag packed with the basics.

Recommended Gear:

Husky 20” Tool Bag – This is a great compact tool bag that opens up wide making it easy to find the things that fall to the bottom.

Tool Roll – Tool rolls are the key to keeping your tool bag organized and your wrenches neat and in order of size. This is great in the event you ever find yourself on the side of the road in a driving rain trying to reattach a fuel line! Go ahead, ask me how I know!

Kindle

We love reading books in our downtime on the road but were always concerned about the added weight that carrying a collection of books would add to our van. Our solution was to add a kindle to our collection of gear, and it has quickly become one of our favorite pieces of gear! Something else that people don’t think about is that you can buy trail and travel guides and keep them on your kindle as well without having to worry about the space to have them onboard your van!

Recommended Gear:

Kindle Paperwhite – Lightweight, long-lasting battery, and it can hold hundreds of books! It’s a never ending source of entertainment that is easy to use at camp or even during a backcountry hike!

DSLR Camera

A good quality DSLR is hands down the best way to capture your travels and share your memories with friends, family and good ‘ole Instagram. There are so many different options on the market that it’s easy to find one that fits your needs.

Recommended Gear:

Sony A6300 – We love this camera because of its versatility, compact size, and its amazing image and video quality. The A6300 isn’t the most recent version of this camera but it’s very reasonably priced!

Quick Drying Towels

Right off the bat, you might think that this is a silly thing to have on this list, but hear me out. There is nothing worse than having a day at the beach and then having a wet towel hanging around your van for the next few days. Microfiber towels allow you to get an incredibly absorbent towel that will dry in a matter of hours and it takes up a fraction of the storage space of a standard bath towel. We are huge advocates for the microfiber towel!

Recommended Gear:

Nomadix Ultralight Towels – These towels are an impressive 54″ x 30″ but pack down to less than 5″ x 5″. The whole thing only weighs 8 oz and will dry out long before your wet hair!

We hope that this list is helpful to you if you’re packing up to hit the road or even for helping you refine your gear collection from out on the road! We’d love to hear what some of your favorite gear items are because we’re big fans of perfecting our life and processes!