“You’re a gadget girl, you know that?” my mom informed me as packages piled up at her house. Most of them were emblazoned with the Amazon logo, and all of them were van-related.
Yes, although I had started out trying to become a minimalist, as I slowly built my house on wheels, I ended up becoming a gluttonous consumer. I spent hours and hours researching products that would make living in a van as comfortable as living in a house. I’ve looked at beds, toasters, solar ovens—you name it, I’ve probably looked into it.
So this page is for all you budding van dwellers, van conversion enthusiasts, camper van DIYers, etc. This is an exhaustive list of all of the gear I have bought (so far) for my van dwelling journey, and I’m sharing it with you so that you can get a leg up on the best mobile living products as well. Looking for solar gear? Gotcha covered. Camp shower? Yup. USB rechargeable flashlight? Dutch oven? Check and check. Plumbing? Got that too!
Every single item mentioned on this page has been personally purchased by yours truly, and within the past 2 years. Lordy, it’s been an expensive 2 years. You’ll notice that almost every item listed in an Amazon section has a rating of 4 stars or higher, and that’s because I try hard to only buy quality stuff. I do a lot of research before I buy products, because I want my stuff to work, work well, and work for a long time. So yeah, all of the products listed on this page really are good products. And if there’s something a little, well, not so great about a product, I noted it for you.
Note: Many of the links on this page are affiliate links. I may earn a small commission if you buy using my link, but don’t worry—this does not cost you extra!
Solar Power Gear
Everyone wants to install solar these days, and most people have a hard time figuring out where to start. Well, if you start by buying one of everything featured here, you’ll be halfway done. Just kidding. No wait, not really. I did an unbelievable amount of research before buying these products, and here they all are in a neat little list for you. On top of that, I can personally vouch for every single one of these products, as I used them in my installation. So yeah, this list is gold—in my humble opinion, of course.
- Electricity Usage Monitor: Kill-a-Watt
- Solar panels: Renogy 100 Watt Monocrystalline Photovoltaic Solar Panels (Qty. 6)
- Combiner box: hacked together from a Pelican 1170 case
- Charge controller: Morningstar Tristar MPPT 60
- Battery monitor: Bogart Engineering Trimetric 2025-RV, with shunt
- Inverter 1: Xantrex PROWatt SW 2000
- Fuse for 2000 watt inverter: Blue Sea Systems 5118 250A Class T Fuse
- Fuse holder for 2000 watt inverter: Blue Sea Systems Class T Fuse Holder
- Inverter 2: Samlex 600 Watt Pure Sine Wave Inverter
- Mini-ANL fuse: Raptor Mini-ANL Fuse 80 amp
- Mini-ANL fuse holder: XScorpion Mini ANL Fuse Holder
- Distribution bar: Blue Sea 2104 PowerBar 600A
- Disconnect switch: Marinco 701
- Lug crimper: Forney 57637 Hammer Crimper (use for wire size 6 to 3/0 AWG)
- Lugs: Tinned copper lugs in a variety of stud sizes and wire gauges
- Thick cable: 2 AWG, 4/0 AWG welding cable
- 12 volt fuse block: Blue Sea 5026 ST Fuse Block
- Fuses for 12 volt fuse block: ATD Tools 364 120-piece Car Fuse Kit
- Thin cable: Coleman Primary Wire 12 AWG
- Terminals: West Marine Wiring Connector Kit
- Terminal crimper: S&G Tool Aid 18900 Ratcheting Terminal Crimper (for wires 10-20 AWG)
- 12 volt socket: Blue Sea 12 Volt Socket
- USB socket: Blue Sea USB Socket
Everyone has a different list of appliances for their van/RV/trailer/camper. I listed mine so that you get an idea of what’s possible with a 600 watt solar array paired with 440 AH of battery capacity. Many internet naysayers have cautioned against using induction cooktops, bucket heaters, and refrigerators, but I’ve used them all without any problems—just not all at the same time. Make sure your cables are thick enough to withstand the amperage and you should be fine (I used 4/0).
- Refrigerator: Edgestar 43 Quart Refrigerator/Freezer
- Freezer: Edgestar 43 Quart Refrigerator/Freezer
- Cooking: Duxtop Induction Cooktop 7100
- Heating bath water: Allied Precision 742G Bucket Heater
- Heating a mug of water: Norpro Beverage Warmer
- 12V DC electric blanket: Trademark Tools 12 volt Electric Blanket
- 120V AC electric mattress pad: Sunbeam Electric Mattress Pad
Camping Gear / Van Life
Boy, this is a hard list to organize. I actually had to look up the definition of “appliance” in my efforts to categorize things properly. The items on this list make camping easier. Some of them might fit under appliances … or maybe gadgets … or maybe plumbing … but I put them here because, well, I didn’t know where else to put them.
- Space heater (propane): Camco Olympian Wave 3 heater
- Propane tank: Worthington 1-Gallon tank
- Propane regulator: Camco 57703 Low Pressure Regulator with Hose
- Shower Option 1: Ring Automotive 12 volt Portable Shower (my favorite option; had to buy a rubber washer to keep the handle from leaking at the hose connection point)
- Shower Option 2: Ivation Battery Powered Portable Shower (USB Rechargeable is good; the on/off button is inconveniently located on the end that is immersed in water)
- Shower Option 3: Advanced Elements 3 Gallon Camp Shower (Solar shower)
- Female urinal: pStyle (every female camper needs one of these!)
- Table/stool: Alps Mountaineering Sidekick Table/Stool
- Water filter: Sawyer 3-way Water Filter
- Stuff sacks: Sea to Summit Ultra Mesh Stuff Sacks
Gadgets and Gizmos
Like my mom said, I’m a gadget girl. I know about all the most functional stuff, the most portable stuff, the buy-it-for-life stuff—the best stuff. All the stuff on this list is Chris-approved stuff.
- USB rechargeable flashlight/extra phone battery: Kmashi KMAX-807
- Headlamp: Energizer Pro 3 LED Headlamp
- String LED lights (USB): Luminoodle
- USB LED light: Goal Zero 14101 Luna
- Bluetooth speaker: Ultimate Ears Mini Boom
- Micro projector: Aaxa P300 Projector
- Carbon Monoxide Detector: Kidde Battery Operated Carbon Monoxide Alarm
- Humidity/Temperature Monitor: AcuRite 00613A1 Indoor Humidity Monitor
- Portable USB-powered monitor: AOC E1649FWU 16” Monitor
- DIY monitor stand: Ultra Thin Mount VESA Bracket, Ram Mount 1” ball base, Ram Mount Double Socket Arm
- Towel holder: Zack 40121 Self-Adhesive Towel Clip
I really tried to only buy the essentials with my van build. I avoided buying a table saw for months, and then I finally caved. Now that I’m almost done building the van, I can say from personal experience: The right tool makes all the difference!
So here are the tools that I bought and used for my van conversion. I can’t really say that one brand is better than another, but I can say that certain features are more helpful than others, and that is why I bought these specific tools. For example, my Makita drill has an LED light to help light the work area (which does help, but it’s aimed a little low), my Rigid table saw came with its own rolling stand, and my Dewalt circular saw has an electric brake. If you’re not familiar with tools, I encourage you to read the reviews on Amazon before plunking down your hard-earned cash so you can find the right tool for your needs.
- Table saw: Rigid ZRR4510 Portable Table Saw with Stand
- Table saw accessories: Tool Designs 10230 Push Stick
- Circular saw: Dewalt 7 1/4 in. Lightweight Circular Saw with Electric Brake
- Circular saw blade: Dewalt 7 1/4 in. 60T Precision Finishing Blade
- Circular saw accessories: Kreg KMA2600 Square Cut
- Jig saw: Makita 4350FCT with LED Light
- Jig saw blade set: Bosch T5002
- Drill: Makita LCT200W 18-Volt Compact Cordless Combo
- Drill accessories: Porter-Cable PC1014 Forstner Bit Set
- Miter saw: Harbor Freight 10 in. Compound Miter Saw
- Miter saw blade: Oshlun SBNF-100100 10 in. 100 Tooth Blade
- Multitool: Leatherman Wave
I feel like I had to mention this category because if you’re living in a van, you really do have to put a lot of thought into how to how to store eggs effectively. Anyone who’s ever had a smooshed carton of eggs in their cramped little van fridge can vouch for that statement.
- Egg container: Lock & Lock Egg Container
- Frying pan/dutch oven combo: Lodge LCC3 Cast Iron Combo Cooker
- Pot holder: Lodge Silicone Handle Holder
- Cooking utensils: Dexter-Russell 4” x 2.5” Pancake Turner, Tovolo Silicone Slotted Turner
OMG plumbing is boring, that’s why it’s almost last. But this is nonetheless useful information for anyone who might be planning their own plumbing systems. No one at any hardware store will tell you this, but that’s because they don’t know any better: Flair-It fittings are hands down the best way to connect PEX pipe. They don’t require any special tools (except for maybe a cheapo heat gun to make the pipe more pliable), they’re inexpensive, and they don’t leak. For a reason unbeknownst to me, Flair-It fittings are not widely available at big box hardware stores, but you can usually find them at RV supply stores, or you can order them online.
- Fresh water tank: Class A Customs 30 gallon tank, sides supported by 1/2” plywood
- Grey water tank: Plastic-Mart 8 gallon tank, with Relocation Kit
- Water Pump:
Shurflo Aqua King 1.0(no longer recommend – this one conked out on me)
- Water Pump #2: Flowjet 03526-144A (this one is working well)
- Accumulator tank: Shurflo Accumulator Tank
- Strainer: Shurflo 1/2” Twist-On Pipe Strainer
- Faucet: CleanFLO 8810 Hi Arc Pull Out Faucet (plastic parts, pull out function is stiff)
- Pipe: 1/2” PEX pipe
- Fittings: Flair-It fittings
Attaching a Roof Rack to a High Top
Few people will need this information, so I put it way down here at the bottom of the list. But I’m convinced that someone will need this sometime in the future, so here it is. If you have a fiberglass high top, it is possible to mount a roof rack to it! You just have to get a little creative. First, mount artificial rain gutters to the side of the high top. This provides a base for the feet to hook in to. Then, attach the gutter mount feet to the artificial rain gutters, attach the cross bars, and you’re on your way! Make sure you buy the right size gutter mount feet—I had to use the Super High size, which has 11” of clearance under the bar.
By the way, I recommend Thule over Yakima for one reason: square load bars. If you’ll be drilling through the load bars for any reason—say, to attach additional supports for solar panels—the Thule square load bars will be much easier to drill through than the round Yakima ones.
- Artificial rain gutter: Thule Artificial Rain Gutter 542
- Roof rack feet: Thule Super High Gutter Foot 953
- Load bars: Thule 50 Inch Load Bar LB50
Wow, we’re finally at the end of the list. If you have any questions about any of the products mentioned here, feel free to leave it in the comments section and I will answer as best I can. Have a good day!