5 Essential Vanlife Items Under $20

By: Scott Adamson
/ April 7, 2020
Grabbing some last-minute items before you hit the road? These are some of my most-used items in the van.

A million things run through your mind when you head to the store before hitting the road. Food, clothes, camping gear, batteries, dry shampoo… The list feels endless.

There are 5 (very affordable) items that I’m always sure to pack before I start a big journey. So if you’re popping into the store or doing your last-minute Amazon shop, be sure to grab these items.

1. Headlamp

The first item on the list is just a simple headlamp. ($10 on Amazon)

I just use a cheap one that takes AAA Batteries, but once this one kicks the bucket I will probably upgrade to a rechargeable lamp. ($15 on Amazon)

Having a headlamp comes in very handy when working on stuff in and around the van without a second set of hands to shine a light for you.

The nice thing about the battery version is that if it dies, I can immediately replace it with new batteries and continue with what I was doing. But for the sake of lowering my consumption, I’d opt for the rechargeable one next time.


2. Wet Wipes

Wet Wipes / Cleansing Towels can be a real game-changer when it comes to vanlife. ($19 for a 3 pack on Amazon)

Depending on how your van is set up and what amenities you have access to, I’m sure the time between showers is longer than you’d like to admit. Having wet wipes around can give you a quick freshening up on a daily basis.

And friends, please don’t let this replace showering altogether…


3. Earplugs

Depending on where you find yourself parked for the night, you might find it hard to get used to the general noise outside of the van. If you’re a light sleeper, I’d highly recommend grabbing a few pairs of earplugs to help get you through the night. ($19 on Amazon)


4. Squirt Bottle

This one may have been a little unexpected… Why do I carry a squirt bottle? Well, in my quest to conserve water in the van, I experimented with using a squirt bottle for doing dishes.

I simply boil some water in my kettle, then I fill the bottle about 2/3 with boiling water and 1/3 with tap water along with a squirt of soap. I use the squirt bottle to do the dishes and a small amount of tap water to rinse them off. This method uses way less water, giving me an extra couple of days between required water refills.


5. Compressed Air

I work remotely from my van, so I always carry compressed air to clean my laptop keyboard. But I actually found another use the compressed air; something you may not be expecting…

I use compressed air to unclog my drain. You see, sometimes when doing dishes, even small pieces of food can get stuck in the tight drain pipe. Spraying a couple quick shots of compressed air will free the block and get your sink flowing again. ($10 on Amazon)

*Funny story before I thought of using compressed air and the squirt bottle to do dishes…*
I was washing dishes and the sink was almost full. When I unplugged the drain, the water just sat there. After trying to use sticks, forks, and anything else I could find to stick down there, I finally got under the sink to fix the problem. I carefully got ready to unhook the drain and had a bucket ready for the sink to drain into it… But as the water started gushing out the bottom of the sink, the bucket tipped over and spilt ALL OVER ME, the van, and even Ellie. It was one of the biggest messes I had ever made in the van. 


Bonus Tip: Spare Key

This one obviously doesn’t fall in the “under $20” category but is an absolute essential, so I thought I’d add it to the list.

I’m always surprised when people don’t carry a spare key to their van / home.

I suggest getting yourself a realtor-style lockbox and putting it either under your vehicle or up somewhere, hidden on your rack. If you happen to lose your key or lock it in your van, you won’t be left stuck trying to figure out how you’re going to break in.


That’s a wrap on 5 essential vanlife items under $20. I’m sure there are many more but I can tell you from experience that the items on this list have come in extremely handy to me over the years.


Scott Adamson
Wanderful Idea Guy
Coffee drinker, adventure seeker, below average photographer.
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