Finding the right products for life on the road is crucial.
The following companies and products make vanlife possible for me. These product recommendations are based on my own first-hand experience with them.
Solar power Set-up
In order to store the power generated from my solar panel, I use a Goal Zero Yeti 400 portable generator. It weighs only 29 pounds and runs silently. Huge win. In order to convert the MC4 cables from panel so that they could work with the Goal Zero, I needed to use this adapter cable. I use this set-up every day to power my lights, computer, iPhone, heater, DSLR camera, GoPro... etc.
Though these were the last items to go in, having satisfying decor in my van was of the utmost importance to me. I knew I wouldn't be satisfied with the conversion if I felt like I was living in a metal box. As a graphic designer and artist, I cannot say enough good things about Society6. I ordered several tapestries and throw blankets off the site to give my living area "the vibe."
I wanted to keep my conversion simple. Avoiding the extra power draw and potential complications that come with fridges was very attractive to me. There is only one product on the market capable of doing this: Yeti Coolers. I decided to go with the Tundra 35 - it fits perfectly into the space beneath my bed. UPDATE: After months of use and travel, I've found that the Yeti is great for cooler climates, but a bit of a headache in warmer ones. I am currently in search of a more practical, low power draw refrigeration solution.
NOISE REDUCTION / Radiant barrier
Even though I will be sticking to mostly warmer climates, I felt that I needed a bit more insulation in some areas. I added an extra layer or Reflectix in many locations around the cabin. While the R-value on Reflectix is still low, I found that it worked quite well with reducing radiant heat transfer. It keeps the van much cooler in the heat and warmer in the cold.
Shower / pressure hose
Nomad Goods makes power supplies for the 21st century nomad. They've created a line of minimalist, practical tools to keep us powered on the go. I use their Roadtrip Charger on a daily basis. You just plug it into your vehicle's 12-volt while driving to charge your phone. Unlike generic chargers, however, this unit simultaneously charges itself and stores a full iPhone charge for later. Brilliant. I also keep their tiny Key Cable on my ring at all times just in case I find myself in need of one somewhere. Click HERE and use coupon code TINY10 to get 10% off your order at hellonomad.com. For more information on how I use my Nomad gear, click HERE.
Karma WiFi allows users to take their internet connection on the road by turning a cellular connection into your own personal WiFi signal through the sleek little Karma Go device. It's entirely wireless - you can connect to anything within 100 feet from the device. With a variety of plans from 5GB/mo to 20GB/mo as well as pay-as-you-go options, there's something for every kind of traveler.
Since I didn't want to drain my battery too much with my lighting, I did a ton of searching for an energy efficient strand. These 100-bulb round LED string lights were perfect. They use only 9.6 watts of power and provide plenty of light. Unlike most LEDs, they also cast a warm glow. You can read more about the installation HERE.
I did a TON of research on personal cook systems and decided to go with a few different things. Many of Jet Boil's products fit my needs quite well. For bigger meals, I use the Genesis Base Camp System. It comes with two burners, a ceramic pan, and a large pot with a lid. This system runs off the standard green propane tank and is extremely efficient. Everything packs together making it easy to store and transport. For smaller meals, I use their MiniMo cook system. I love this little thing. It runs on the Jetboil Jetpower Fuel canisters and is super convenient to both to boil and simmer food with.
When I'm camping in forests, I almost always use the Biolite CampStove Bundle. This system creates smokeless flames from plain wood AND generates electricity from them.
Toilet (emergency only!)
Having to "go" at inopportune times is an unfortunate yet inevitable part of van life. So, expect it, and be prepared for it. I chose to go with Reliance Product's due to their wide array of eco-friendly sanitation products. For the main "seat" (if-you-will) I purchased the Hassock Toilet. It's entirely self-contained and is compatible with Reliance Double Dootie Waste Bags. I recommend also picking up their Bio Gel which solidifies and deodorizes waste so you can wait until morning to dispose of it. Again, let me stress that I use this for emergencies only! 99.5% of the time I use it as a stool (pun intended).
Since my space is so small, I don't require much to heat it. I run a small, 200 watt Lasko Ceramic Heater off my Goal Zero Yeti 400 to heat the van when I'm parked if needed. Surprisingly, it heats the entire van in about 5 minutes. It's one of very few heaters with low enough wattage to use with the Goal Zero power system. It gives off more than enough heat for for a tiny space like this, though.
For a fan, I wanted something small and portable, preferably with a rechargeable battery so I could move it around. I found this little Efluky 3-Speed Rechargeable table fan and it fits my needs perfectly. It provides an impressive breeze for such a small fan! In order to keep it running all night, I plug it into my Nomad Goods PowerPlant battery pack while I'm sleeping.
I wasn't going to share this one, but since many of you have been asking, here it is: Having privacy inside the van is, obviously, extremely important to me. I decided to use Eclipse Fresno Blackout Window Curtains to divide my cab from my living area while sleeping. These are awesome, they block out 100% of the light and provide a thermal insulation layer as well. I can actually keep the cabin about 10-15 degrees cooler than the cab during the day with these down. When not in use, I simply tuck them off to the side so I can see out the back windows while driving.
I also use 1 Cubic Foot Sentry Electronic Keypad Safe to store my valuables inside the van. This was one of few safes large enough to fit a computer but not so huge that it was unmanageable. Read about my full security system HERE.
I made my mattress pad by purchasing this firm, 2 inch queen size memory foam mattress topper. Since the width of a queen mattress is roughly the same length as my bed, I just cut the mattress topper into rectangles and stacked them on top of each other. This put 4 inches of foam between me and the sheet-metal layered over the unistrut bed frame. (Originally I was going to stack three layers for a 6 inch mattress pad, but after testing it out I realized that 6 inches would be too bulky and 4 was plenty comfortable.) I also use this Gorilla Grip non-slip area rug pad underneath my mattress to prevent it from sliding around when I roll over.