When I first had the notion that I wanted to live out of a van, I was overwhelmed thinking about how to pack an entire life and lifestyle into a van to survive life on the road and all four seasons. What do I need? What items will I have to give up? How many clothes should I bring? Your own packing list will be very dependent on the type of life you plan on leading on the road as well as where you plan on traveling. In this article I’ll break down exactly what I carry with me in Venus.

Clothes

Disclaimer: I carry more clothes than the average Vanlifer. This is because I can, gosh darnit!

I am a solo traveler which means that all my storage can be for whatever I please. I also don’t carry any kind of outdoor gear such as climbing equipment, bikes, or skis, so I have even more storage for whatever I please. Living minimalistically and living in a van means you have to choose what is important to you. For me, expressing myself though my clothes and my style is something that is important. You’ll also have to think about what you will be doing while traveling. I knew that I would be doing everything from hiking and camping to working and going out in the city with my friends. As such I have a variety of clothes that double in their usage. I have:

  • 7 t-shirts, 3 tank-tops, and 5 long-sleeve shirts (a mixture of outdoor shirts and regular shirts)
  • 6 pairs of leggings, 3 pairs of jeans, 3 pairs of shorts, 2 pairs of dress pants, and 2 skirts
  • 3 dressier shirts and two formal dresses (I have 4 weddings I’m attending this year alone)
  • Two pajama sets – one for summer and a heavier set for winter
  • 3 sweaters, 2 sweatshirts, 2 fleeces, 1 vest, 1 athletic zip-up
  • 1 jean jacket, 1 (faux) leather jacket, 1 rain coat
  • 1 puffer jacket and 1 outer jacket shell
  • 2 bathing suits, 4 bras, and enough socks and underwear for 2 weeks
  • Hiking boots, running shoes, 2 pairs of Converse, 3 pairs of dress shoes, shower shoes, snow boots, and slippers

Here’s a shameless homage to my favorite pair of pink pants that have been with me all over the country.

All the clothes I wear for an entire year through all four seasons fit into two storage containers.

Could I cut down more? Sure. But I don’t have to, so I won’t!

Kitchen

What type of food you’ll be cooking will determine how much gear you bring with you. In general I carry the kitchen basics.

  • Silverware set (4 knives, forks, and spoons) and knife set (3 different types of knives)
  • Can opener, bottle opener, scissors
  • Mixing bowls, measuring cups, and Tupperware containers for food storage
  • Spatula, mixing spoons, grill spatula
  • A frying pan, a small pot, and a larger pot with lids
  • Cutting board and cast iron skillet
  • Plate set (4 plates and 4 bowls)
  • 2 coffee mugs and a French press
  • Coleman two-burner stove

Camping

Toiletries

  • Shampoo, conditioner, face wash, body wash, razors
  • Face lotion, body lotion, deodorant, sunscreen
  • Feminine care products and makeup
  • Toothbrush, toothpaste, floss, mouthwash
  • Baby wipes (great for EVERYTHING)
  • Bug spray, aloe vera gel, band-aids, basic first aid kit
  • Cold medicine, Ibuprofen, Emergen-C, Tums, cough drops, and any meds you might need

Automotive Essentials

The last thing you want is to be stranded on the side of the road because you ran out of coolant or DEF. I carry a few basics with me to always be prepared.

  • DEF fluid (this needs to be replaced every 5,000 miles)
  • Coolant
  • Windshield washer fluid (especially in the summer in peak bug season you’ll go through a LOT of this while driving) as well as Windex to clean off your windshield when the fluid just isn’t cutting it
  • Jumper cables and a trickle charger (this is a way to charge your solar batteries if you’re not in sunny weather)
  • Extendable windshield scraper for ice and snow

Tools and Around the House

  • Basic tool kit (hammer, screwdriver, pliers, wrench)
  • Extra fuses and wires for my electrical system
  • Duct tape, batteries, electrical tape, velcro, magnets, rope
  • Worker’s gloves and rubber gloves
  • Cleaning supplies, bleach, laundry detergent
  • Toilet

Electronics

  • Laptop, iPad, and chargers
  • Digital camera, tripod, extra lenses, extra batteries, battery charger
  • Projector (super fun for outdoor movies!)
  • Extra charging cables and a hard drive
  • Bluetooth speakers for dance parties

Safety

Just for Fun

Obviously there are items that are essential for survival on the road – but there are also some things that make life more fun.

  • Ukulele, guitar, and a harmonica
  • Books, notebooks, and art supplies
  • Card games (drinking and otherwise)

You never know when the moment will arise to share your talents with the world!


Anything else I’m missing? Add it in the comments below!