This year, we've partnered with Matthew Allen, a vanlife expert also known as VanLifePlus on YouTube, to bring you a special holiday gift guide for vanlifers. We asked Matthew to share his personal vanlife journey and offer insights into the must-have essentials for life on the road. From power stations and portable toilets to diesel heaters and outdoor mats, Matthew's curated gift guide is a must-read for all outdoor enthusiasts and vanlifers out there.
My name is Matthew Allen and I began my vanlife journey on October 18th, 2021 due to a mix of necessity and curiosity. I had often wondered if it was a lifestyle that could work for me and when I finally took that first step I was pleasantly surprised.
This way of living can be challenging but also very rewarding for those willing to alter their expectations and approach it with a willingness to learn.
I spend a lot of time travelling between Alberta and British Columbia which means I get to experience all sorts of crazy weather, which can change your approach to vehicle dwelling on a dime.
While I believe you can make this lifestyle work with the absolute bare minimum, it goes without saying that there a quite a few things that can aid in easing things and making your life on the road more comfortable and these are some of my choices.
- One of the first things I always hear people as about is power when living in a van, and one of the easiest solutions is an all-in-one Power Station that can be recharged while you drive (as well as via solar panels or wall outlet!) and in my experience, EcoFlow has one of the most reliable products on the market.
- Let’s get the awkwardness out of the way…everybody - well, you know. And while I am a big believer in public washrooms and the abundance of them, for lots of us we simply do not want to be caught off guard in the middle of the night so you NEED a place to do your business, if even just for emergencies.
- In my older years I FINALLY realized the importance of water…I know, so silly. When I was building my van out I knew I wanted some sort of on board water storage solution and was able to DIY my own contraption. While it lasted for a while, I was very happy to find something actually designed like this and I haven’t looked back since. The Dometic Water Jug and the water faucet really bring a sense of “home” to the van.
- Another inevitable question when living in a vehicle is heat - how am I going to stay warm? I have found that diesel heaters are the most effective and safe way of doing this so far and while it’s easy enough to just pull the entire home up to the pumps when you need to refill the tank, I have found that a spare jerry can (or 2) is a very nice luxury. The Rotopax also have a small footprint and mount up very nicely.
- Perfect example of something you never want to have to use but will be glad you have it depending on where you go - Garmin inReach Satellite Communicator & GPS. Twice last year I ended up getting my van stuck with no way of rescuing myself. Thankfully I was in reception but I immediately started thinking about all the times I am OUT of reception and what would have happened then. Don’t get stranded, either of these can help depending on the severity of being stuck!
- Once I get to camp and know I am staying for an extended period of time one of the first things I do is set out my camp mat, this provides a nice feeling of home and an exterior extension of the liveable space while also allowing an area free of dirt and debris!
- One of the most go to items I am always reaching for is a trusty blade. I have found that fixed blade is great, especially when out in the woods and dealing with camp fires, meals etc.
- Speaking of camp fires, I have been using Fiskars Ax for quite a while now and have never been let down. I find that a chopping ax is best suited for my lifestyle.
- A great alternative to going through the hassle of installing lights in the van is handheld light sources and these are some of my picks for the best ones:
BONUS - A good headlamp is also very helpful when working under your vehicle when performing maintenance.
- A recent addition to my arsenal has been a heated vest, and for those colder days when outside a bit more often, it has been an absolute game changer!
- Before I had a 12v Fridge installed I rocked a roto molded cooler and I still use my Whiterock cooler for camping trips when I need to stock a bunch of ice for those adult beverages!
In a nutshell, Matthew Allen, aka VanLifePlus, has spilled the beans on the ultimate vanlife essentials for a cozy and hassle-free journey! Whether you're braving wild weather or creating a cozy van haven, his suggestions are spot-on. So, gear up, hit the road, and let these essentials turn your vanlife into a comfy and unforgettable adventure. Happy travels, fellow vanlifers! 🚐✨ And don't forget to check out his YouTube channel, VanLifePlus, for more insights into his incredible vanlife journey!