After spending years living in a van full time, we’ve discovered a bunch of campervan hacks that not only make our life easier and more comfortable, they save us money!
And when you’re living in a tiny space, every little trick and tip helps.
In our latest expert guide, we share with you our favourite van life hacks, products and secrets that we can’t live without.
Our Best Campervan Hacks
Let’s dive into our exciting list of van life hacks!
Get a Gym Membership for Hot Showers (and a Workout?)
Perhaps the ultimate campervan hack has very little to do with the van itself. Instead it’s to do with keeping clean (and fit).
Before you start your campervan trip, buy yourself a nationwide gym membership!
Whether you want to work out or just want free and unlimited hot showers, a membership to any number of gyms will provide both.
Planet Fitness (USA), Anytime Fitness (AUS) or Fitness First (AUS) are the most popular among van lifers in multiple countries because they are affordable, starting from just $25 per month, allows multiple people to access the gym facilities and have hundreds of locations all around the country.
Even if you’re planning on car camping, having a gym membership makes indefinite road trips so much nicer.
Don’t forget to follow us on social media, where we share the real story of what it’s like travelling and living in a van full-time!
Use Collapsible Containers as Often as Possible
When you live in a van, space is everything. And when I finally discovered collapsible containers my van life storage debacles completely changed!
Imagine a normal container, but it collapses into itself to save space when not being used! Incredible, right?
From wash bins to bowls and food storage, collapsible storage containers are crucial to optimising the limited space you have.
Have a read of our detailed post to see what else makes it onto our list of the best camper van accessories.
Organise Everything Into Smaller Boxes or Containers
Don’t just jam everything into a drawer or cupboard. Store everything in boxes, packing cells or containers so that it’s easier to access and organise.
We store all of our clothes into small soft felt boxes, separated by items. Shirts in one, underwear and socks in another, you get the idea.
We do the same with our food, tools, electronics and accessories.
That way when we need something we know exactly where it is and we don’t need to shuffle through dozens of random items to get the one thing we want.
Use Wall Space for Storing and Organising
Here’s another little van life hack all about saving space – Any spare wall inside the van can be used for storage and organising.
Install some hooks to hang your hats or cooking utensils. Mount a shelf to put things in. Get a whiteboard to keep notes (and draw funny pictures). The options are endless!
Tie Items Down with Bungy Cord
The best van life hacks don’t only save you space, they save your items from breaking too. Enter bungy cord, your new best friend!
This elastic rope comes in handy for so many things, so get some and you will be surprised how much you use it.
We have a few open shelves in our van and knew things would fly off when we were driving, so we put bungy cords across to hold our items in. No more items falling off the shelves now!
Give Everything a Home
Everything in your camper van should have a home. If it doesn’t, then find somewhere for it.
Motorhome life feels a lot more spacious and organised when each item you own has a place to be stored.
When you use something, put it back in its ‘home’ straight away. Then you won’t end up with clutter taking up every spare space you have, and you’ll always know where things are.
Maximise Your Bench Space
If you’re still in the early stages of your van conversion, make sure you build in lots of bench space.
This really helps with just about everything. Food prep, creating a work space, opening up the van to feel more spacious, etc. Even a few inches really makes a huge difference.
If your campervan conversion doesn’t have a lot of bench space, consider installing a fold-away table off of the side of a flat wall. That way you can just lift up the table when you need it, and fold it away when you don’t.
Add Shelves Where Possible to Maximise Storage
Wasted space is frustrating in any van build, so to get around this one of our van life hacks is to add shelves to every spot you can.
If you can’t make your campervan bigger, make it more practical with the space you have, right?
Use shelves to store clothes, a spice rack or other kitchen items. If you have cupboards, add shelves in there too so you don’t end up with dead space.
Get a Van You Can Stand Up Iin
Honestly, you don’t realise how much you like being able to stand up fully until you live in a van where you are always hunched over!
If you’re still in the shopping stage, choose the right van model that has a high ceiling so you can stand up straight. Whether it’s a pop top roof, high roof model or fibreglass extension, your life on the road will be so much more pleasant.
We used to own two vans that we couldn’t stand in – a 1986 GMC Vandura and a 2004 Mitsubishi Express. Only way we could stretch out was in bed.
Now with our Mercedes Sprinter van, most people that come inside comment on how nice it is having a high roof. And we completely agree.
Just trust us on this. Only look at campervan conversions you can stand up in!
Use the Doors for Storage
By now you’ve probably figured out I love campervan storage hacks. Here’s another one!
Van interior doors don’t need to be wasted space. The back of the bathroom door, the kitchen sink doors, the back door of the vehicle. Anywhere you can fit a storage hanger, do it.
Being on the back of the doors hides your items and keeps things organised and tidy.
Hide Your Dirty Shoes
If you’re like us, you love being out in nature hiking, mountain biking, climbing, etc. That might mean you also have dirty shoes 90% of the time!
Unless you’re lucky enough to have a wet room in your camper van conversion, you’ll need to find somewhere to store your shoes so they don’t dirty your home and make it a bit messy.
We recommend you get a little box, bag or cupboard that you can throw them in to hide them.
Create a Cleaning Schedule
Who loves cleaning? Anyone? Bueller?
This is the last thing I want to do when I am on a campervan trip. But I also hate living in a dirty space, so clean I must.
Other than keeping the van tidy by putting things away, sweeping the floor, etc, I also have a regular cleaning schedule so the dirt build up doesn’t get too crazy.
This includes emptying the cupboards and giving everything a wipe down, cleaning the windows and walls, pulling apart our roof vent and getting that spotless, etc.
I do this every two weeks. It might take me an hour or two, but it’s completely worth it. And by doing it regularly and keeping on top of the chores, it doesn’t turn into a massive job.
Life on the road is so much better when everything is clean!
Drawers Instead of Cupboards Where Possible
If you’re still building, or looking to modify your campervan conversion, consider putting in more drawers instead of cupboards.
We have found slide out drawers are amazing for storage in our Sprinter van. You can pull the whole drawer out and get to every item easily.
So much easier than having to dig things out from the back of a cupboard!
Shoe and Magazine Racks to Organise Your Cupboards
But you can’t just only have drawers – you’ll naturally have cupboards too. So make sure you organise them properly with these storage ideas.
Use magazine racks and shoe racks to stack dry foods. It will maximise your cupboard space and keep everything organised.
Hidden or Stow-Away Tables
If you’re pretty nifty when working with timber, consider installing a slide-out or stow-away table that can be hidden when not in use.
That way your van can be nice and open during the day, and be turned into a dining area when it’s meal time.
Van Life Hacks – Use 12v Chargers
Unless you’re going a full dual battery set-up and running a power inverter (we really recommend this for full-time camper van life), the best way you can keep your items charged are by running through a standard 12-volt system.
You know those push-in cigarette lighters most cars have? That runs on 12v, and you can get chargers to run most things through them.
USB devices, camera batteries, even some laptops can be run off of 12v chargers, so look into these.
Get Baby Wipes
Even if you’re running a complete campervan shower like we are, chances are you won’t be bathing every single day like you would at home (unless you’re always staying in campgrounds and not really stealth camping).
So what do you do if you’re feeling a little bit sweaty or stinky in between those much-revered showers? Use baby wipes!
We recommend getting the eco-friendly ones, and just using a few wipes at a time.
Use Hooks, Anchor Points and Carabiners Everywhere.
Once you’re deep into campervan life, you’ll realise how much you love things you can attach other things too. That’s why we love hooks and carabiners!
Whether you’re hanging up jackets, your keys or a fruit hammock, hooks are absolute lifesavers. They also allow you to accessorise your van as you see fit.
Learn to Love Using Rope
Grab yourself a long stretch of thin rope and use it as a makeshift clothesline, to tie down an awning, wrap your bikes in a tarp when driving in the rain (that’s what we do), or quickly fix things on the go.
Hang Fruits and Veggies in a Hammock
Fruit and vegetables can get bruised easily, and when we first started van life we were constantly finding our bananas and other food getting squashed. We had no idea where to store them safely.
Then we got a little macrame bag and hung the fruit off our wall. It fixed our little dilemma. No more squashed bananas.
We recommend making a little ‘hammock’ for your fruit and veg to hang from as one of our own camper van life hacks for food storage.
Get USB-Rechargeable Devices
Another one of our top tips and life hacks to make van living easier is to use USB-rechargeable devices so you can ditch the endless supply of batteries.
Fans, flashlights, head torches, speakers – there’s no shortage of electronics you use every day that often can be rechargable.
Benefits of this (other than saving money on batteries) is that USB devices draw very little power, so you don’t have to worry so much about draining your battery or solar panels.
Install a PVC Solar Shower or Outdoor Shower
If you don’t have a shower on the inside of your van or hot water system, consider mounting a 4-6” PVC pipe on the roof of your van as a simple and cost-effective way to ensure you can grab a quick warm shower from time to time.
Paint the pipe black to absorb heat from the sun and you’ll have hot water.
You can also make an outdoor shower using a hose connected to your water tanks and water pump so you can rinse off after the beach, exercise, etc. Much nicer than using dirty gas stations to clean up.
Screw Spices and Containers to Your Ceiling
Woohoo, more useful tips for organization hacks! This one is a favourite amongst van lifers.
Have containers filled with spices, nuts, cereal, etc and don’t know where to put them? Screw the lid straight to the ceiling for hanging containers and spice rack!
Then all you need to do is twist the containers on and off, and they’ll be permanently mounted out of the way (and it looks cool).
Just make sure you use strong metal lids and heavy-duty screws so they don’t fall off while you’re driving.
Invest in a Cellular Booster
These days there are not many places and camping spots you can go where you are truly away from phone service. But having a cellular booster will give you the extra oompf to get a signal when you need it, whether for safety or for work.
These are particularly useful if you are a digital nomad or plan to make money on the road and need phone service to hot spot for internet.
Install a Mosquito Net on Your Doorway
Half of the joy of van life is living inside your awesome tiny home. The other half is enjoying the great outdoors just outside your van door.
Combine the two with a mosquito net that allows you to turn your van into an open-air hang out without worrying about mosquitoes, gnats and other annoying insects.
Then on those breezy nights you can crawl into bed with your sleeping bags and still have the doors to listen to the sound of waves crashing or birds chirping
You can get cheap mosquito nets from hardware stores and stick them over the door using velcro.
Levelling Blocks for Parking
The chances of finding somewhere perfectly flat to park every single night is pretty slim. And trust us, sleeping and cooking on an angle isn’t much fun.
Get yourself a pair of levelling blocks so you can lift up your wheels and get rid of those annoying angles.
Special van life hack – We use ours to jack the front of our van up higher when we’re showering inside the van. That way the water always drains straight down the pipe rather than pooling up in the wrong corner.
Check out guide to the top campervan levellers to figure out which one is best for you.
Make a Budget and REcord All Your Spendings
Ok, this isn’t necessarily one of those van life hacks that makes life a lot easier, but it’s so essential that we couldn’t leave it off this list.
Seriously, make a budget and keep track of everything you spend. Living in a van can be very affordable, or very expensive, depending on your style.
And if you’re not tracking what you spend, it’s easy to burn through your money very quickly.
We use a spreadsheet to track every dollar we spend in our daily life. We have set amounts for essential items like food, campgrounds, fuel and vehicle maintenance, then give ourselves a little bit extra for the fun stuff like activities, attractions, alcohol, etc.
So why is this one of our tips? Because if you’re in control of your money, you can really stretch your travels out for as long as possible.
Read our monthly budget posts here to see exactly what we spend on the road.
Download Campervan Apps
Thanks to smartphone apps, being on the road has never been easier! We use apps to find the cheapest fuel, find free and cheap camps, find public toilets, connect with other travellers and a lot more.
Crazy thing is that most of them are free!
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