Vanlife Gear That We Can’t Live Without: Essentials for Living on the Road
When we purchased our bus and began to build it into a tiny home on wheels we were overwhelmed with the options of accessories and parts that were available and being shoved down our throats every time we opened Instagram. We sifted through the BS and did our own research and have built a bus that fits our needs very well. Below are the gadgets and modifications that we added to our bus that have genuinely enhanced our experience traveling the country in our skoolie.
There were a few items that we bought in the beginning of our build that I thought would get stuffed into a cubby in the back of the bus and reappear when we cleaned it out months later. The solar shower was one of those items. It seemed to good to be true that one could harness the sun into a warm shower after a mountain bike ride. Boy was I wrong!
The Advanced Elements Solar Shower has been used and abused during our travels and is still holding up great! The bag is tough, puncture resistant, and holds 5 gallons of water. We have found that we can both take a shower and still have water left over after we are done. The built in mirror is a little cheezy and the nozzle is a little hard to operate if you have soap on your hands, but for the price it is EXCELLENT! Couple this product with a cheap pop-up shelter, INSTANT PRIVATE SHOWER!
Our first addition and maybe the most practical for traveling in the summer time has been our Fantastic Fan. We have the 1250 model which is the most basic and uncomplicated model that Fan-Tastic Vent makes. It has 3 speeds, ranging from “Is this thing even on” to “blow your cheeks off of your teeth”. We use our fan almost every night while sleeping as the gentle hum tends to drown out passing cars when urban camping and it blocks out most rowdy street-youths when we are on public land with others.
A cool feature of the Fan-Tastic Fan is the reverse mode which allows you to run the fan in “exhaust” mode and hypothetically you could suck out all of the smoke from when you over cooked the bacon.
One thing to consider when purchasing a roof vent fan is to purchase a cover/shield for the lid so that you can operate the fan in the rain as well. It also adds an element of protection to your fan lid in case of a stray limb or a stumbling significant other while on the rooftop deck. We installed our Fan-Tastic Vent Ultra Breeze Vent Cover after we had a slight leak due to installer error. You can see that whole story here where I installed a vent cover in the middle of the Moab, UT desert with great success:
The backbone of our entire electrical system is our pure-sine inverter. We use the inverter to charge our cameras and laptops as well as operate some of our more “luxurious” items like a food processor and our super trendy rope lights. We have found that 1500 watts has been more than enough and we bought this big of a unit to grow into it in case we wanted to add some extra power hungry appliances later. The pure-sine wave protects our computers and cameras and was well worth the investment over the modified wave.
A really cool feature of this particular inverter is the 50-amp battery charger and transfer switch that allows you to charge your house batteries and run a “shore” line if you ever need to plug in for any reason. We have only used these extra features a few times during our travels, but we suspect that when we settle in for the winter, we will utilize the shore line quite a bit.
Is it a lot of money? Yes. Is it worth it to protect your electronics and batteries of your rig? Also yes!
Talk about a game changer! The Clenna USB Charging Port was a fantastic addition to how we charge our devices. We added one outlet to the driver’s area of the bus and have been blown away by how much we use it. We have yet to permanently install it as I haven’t found the perfect place for it, but I will update photos when I get it secured to the dash. This port would be perfect for those that run a full-time GPS or phone on the dash for navigation.
The wiring is a simple 2-wire hot and cold setup that we ran back to our AUX fuse box and grounded to the dash area. The outlet has a rubber plug that fits into the USB ports perfectly and blocks the light from the outlets as well. The USB ports emit a blue light that can be extremely bright, so I would suggest wiring a switch to your port so that you can turn it off and on. Ours is installed in the dash, so the light simply shines behind our curtains and hopefully eludes to would-be criminals that we have a stellar alarm system installed.
Finally, the best enhancement that we have made to our skoolie has been the addition of our Whynter 65-quart refrigerator. The FM-65G 12 volt compressor refrigerator has been a god-send while traveling through the remote public lands of Southern Utah and Central Washington where temps can be quite high and ice can be very scarce. Our Whynter can hold enough food for Rachael and I for around seven days and even more if we ate less fresh fruit and vegetables.
The Whynter FM-65G is extremely efficient, only drawing 3-5 amps while connected to 12V. This draw is only present when the compressor is on and I was pleasantly surprised by how quiet the compressor is and when comparing it to $1000+ units from ARB, I find that this unit is only slightly louder.
The fit and finish of the 65G is exceptional and the latches/seal work perfectly for when we buy just a little too much food and need to cram it in there. We have used the handles to secure the fridge to the cabinet below it and have been really happy with it not moving around. The black feet on the bottom are very sturdy and almost suction cup to the cabinet. The fridge can also operate at up to a 30 degree angle, much steeper than anything our bus has seen or will see.
As we always strive for transparency when displaying aspects of our nomadic lifestyle you should know that all of the links included in this article are affiliate links through Amazon.com. For every purchase that you make from one of these links, we receive a small amount and you don’t pay any extra. These links are one way that stay on the road longer, so thank you for your support of our adventures!