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If you are soon to be embarking on a road trip where you will also be living in your vehicle, then there are some things that you need which will make your life a whole lot easier. You most likely won’t have access to electricity and things can quickly get cluttered and messy if you are living in one tiny space. So here I have compiled my top nine van life essentials to ensure your trip goes as smoothly as possible.
If you are buying a vehicle and converting it into a liveable space, make sure to take a look at my New Zealand Van Conversion Guide where I have done a step by step guide for the process!
1. BATTERY PACK
When on the road you will be constantly needing your phone for directions, researching your next destinations and finding campsites in your area. All of this takes its toll on your phone battery level. As it is pretty important to keep your phone charged for these reasons, it is essential to have some way of charging it. We love our EasyAcc 20000mAh Power Bank, it goes everywhere with us… to festivals, trekking in the jungle and on every hike. It’s great! The battery lasts forever and an absolute must if you don’t have instant access to a plug.
2. POWER INVERTOR
Our power invertor has been an absolute life saver for us! We have two laptops and quite a few other devices that need charging, so when we are driving we make sure to get the use out of it. We went for this Bestek 300 Watt Pure Sine Wave Inverter from Amazon which plugs into the cigarette lighter. We only use it when we are driving along so as not to drain the battery, but we were surprised at how quickly it charges our laptops. If you are needing to charge your devices and aren’t driving for long enough to charge them by invertor, then libraries are your best friend. There seems to be one in most towns in New Zealand, all with very friendly staff! But if you can’t get to a library, a power invertor will always come to your rescue.
3. PHONE HOLDER
Unless you are an old school map user, which seem so hard to use, you will need to have Google Maps or something similar on view all the time. It has been super handy to have a phone holder on the dashboard for navigation. If I was to navigate us we would constantly be getting lost! We bought ours from a Spark store in New Zealand, which cost so much more than those on Amazon! Oh I wish Amazon had fast delivery to NZ! I have found this similar one on Amazon for you, which is so much cheaper!
4. USB CHARGER
With all that navigating comes phone battery drainage, so I would highly recommend you charge the phone whenever you are using it whilst driving. For this you will need a USB charger that connects to your cigarette lighter. We use ours whenever we are driving, which luckily came with our van. But I have linked this one for you that I have found on Amazon.
5. FAIRY LIGHTS
Lighting is one of the main things you will need to think about for a road trip. You are going to want a hands-free lighting solution so you can see when it gets dark in the evening. The best solution for us was to get a string of fairy lights that can be powered by USB. This means we don’t have to replace any batteries, instead we just plug it into our battery pack when we want light. We opted for a string of lights much longer than we would need, to get the most amount of light possible. We went for this 66 Foot 200 LEDs Fairy Lights, which give off so much light, that we often keep it at its lowest setting.
6. CAMPING APPS (WIKICAMPS/CAMPERMATE)
We use our camping apps everyday without fail. In New Zealand the two main ones are WikiCamps and CamperMate. We have and use both but always head to WikiCamps first. You do have to pay $2.99 for this app, which I think is why CamperMate seems more popular overall. However we find it so much easier to search with WikiCamps, you can filter and search for campsites, dump facilities, points of interest, public toilets and so much more. You can also download the maps offline, which is a must if you are road tripping NZ. And you can navigate to somewhere on the app, and it links to Google Maps for you! If your road trip is somewhere else in the world, I am sure there are apps that are just as useful in that country too.
WHAT’S IN MY BACKPACK
7. CASH/COINS FOR CAMPSITES
We try and stay in free campsites wherever possible, but sometimes you arrive in an area where there just aren’t any. The only campsites we have paid for are DOC campgrounds, which are always low-cost, or cheap privately-owned ones. We have never forked out for the expensive motor home parks! When you turn up to a DOC campground, you usually have to enter your details on a payment slip and deposit the money into a locked box, with no change given. So you really don’t want to be putting a $20 note in if the campsite is only $15, especially if you are travelling on a budget. For this reason we make sure we always have a range of different notes and coins just for this purpose.
8. SANDFLY NET
This may not be a van life essential if the country you are travelling in doesn’t have a sandfly or mosquito problem, but in New Zealand you are bound to encounter these annoying bugs! Sandflies are tiny flies that bite you whereever possible, and the bites are extremely itchy and irritating! They are more of a problem on the West Coast of the South Island than anywhere else. But if you are camping in a sandfly area, if you open your windows they are bound to enter your van. So a sandfly net is essential on a warm day, otherwise you will be peppered with bites. We actually found one that the previous owners of our van used, which was essentially just a piece of mesh fabric cut into a shape of the sliding door. It looked very much like this fabric I have found on Amazon.
9. DUSTPAN & BRUSH
We bought a brush for the van just to maybe clean out the floor from time to time, but it has actually become a really useful tool. Whenever we get muddy or sandy shoes it has been great to clean them off before getting back in the van. Or to sweep the floor or anything else down if it gets dirt on it. We use this nearly every other day, Jack has become quite the shoe cleaner on this trip! This one is really similar to the one we picked up from Bunnings in New Zealand.
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