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People Living on the Road Shared the Items I Should Pack Before a 2-Week Van Road Trip

by Staff

Business Insider’s author spoke to nomads who suggested packing a portable jump starter and a reusable pee cloth on her road trip.
Monica Humphries/Business Insider

  • I embarked on a two-week van trip and turned to the experts for packing advice.
  • People living out of vans, RVs, and travel trailers gave me some tips.
  • They suggested I pack a way to jumpstart the van, and do my best to avoid overpacking. 

Packing for my first van trip didn’t start the night before, or even two days ahead of time — it was closer to two weeks before my van adventure.

That’s because I wanted to make sure I’d be prepared for all that I would encounter along the road. And part of that preparation involved asking people living out of vans what I should be packing.

They delivered with their advice, so I’m passing on their packing tips for anyone else planning a similar trip.

While Casey Hogan said it might seem obvious to travel with a first-aid kit, she said she often sees people without one.

A first aid kit in the author’s suitcase.
Monica Humphries/Business Insider

Casey Hogan, a 31-year-old living in a 2019 Ford Transit, reminded me that van life can feel similar to camping. Plus, I’d be doing activities like hiking and climbing, where things could go wrong.

Hogan said she always packs with emergencies in mind. “I always travel with and hike with the first aid kit,” Hogan said.

That way, she’s prepared if something goes awry out in the wilderness.

Others said emergency items like a portable jump starter and an external battery are essential.

A person jumpstarts their car.
Witthaya Prasongsin/Getty Images

Navod McNeil told BI that he also considers safety when it comes to packing for a van trip in his Ford Transit.

The 30-year-old said that there have been plenty of times when something went wrong with his van, and one common problem was a dead battery.

So he started packing a portable jump starter for his van trips. This way, he doesn’t need to rely on AAA or a stranger with jumper cables to save the day.

I have a portable jump starter in my everyday car, which I bought on Amazon for $60. I might have forgotten to pack it if McNeil didn’t remind me.

Beyond that, McNeil said he always has an external battery, so he can still access electricity if his van’s power were to fail.

One traveler suggested that I download movies and music to my laptop, phone, or iPad.

Business Insider’s author watches a downloaded movie in her van.
Monica Humphries/Business Insider

Often in remote destinations, there isn’t cell service, and depending on your van and WiFi setup, you might be without service for days on end, Maddy Garrett, 25, told BI.

With that in mind, Garrett always has a few playlists, podcasts, and movies downloaded on her devices.

While Garrett said disconnecting from the outside world is a major perk of van life, there are still times when you’ll want a solo movie night or music for those long, service-less drives.

Don’t forget to pack whatever you want to use to document your trip.

Business Insider’s author’s camera bag in her van.
Monica Humphries/Business Insider

Zach Nelson, a 23-year-old living in a Sprinter van, recommends packing items that will make it easy to document the adventure, whether you prefer to write in a journal or snap pictures on a film camera.

“You definitely need a way to document it, whether it’s a Polaroid film camera or even just your phone,” Nelson said.

A 25-year-old living in her van swears by her reusable pee cloth.

A Kula cloth, which is an antimicrobial, reusable pee cloth.
Monica Humphries/Business Insider

Garrett said her Kula cloth has been a game changer when it comes to using the restroom with van life. The $20 item is an antimicrobial, reusable pee cloth that’s easy to carry on trips.

I’m a frequent hiker and backpacker, and I’ve had my eye on a Kula cloth for a long time. And since my van wasn’t going to have a bathroom, Garrett said it was the ideal time to buy one.

“It just makes your life easier because you could stop and pee on the side of the road at any time,” she said.

Plus, a pee cloth would mean that I wouldn’t have to worry for two weeks about throwing away used toilet paper, she said, adding that “it’s literally the best thing in the whole world.”

Most people encouraged me to prepare for the weather.

Business Insider’s author wears warm clothes outside her van.
Monica Humphries/Business Insider

Multiple people said that traveling in a van would mean needing to adapt to the weather.

“You have to understand whatever is going on outside will probably affect you on the inside,” Brittany Newson, a 36-year-old living in a travel trailer, told BI.

Whether it’s rain, snow, or heat, everyone agreed I should pack with that in mind.

Sierra Fernald, 23, said I shouldn’t only consider the weather, but how I handle it. Fernald said she hates the cold and there were times in her Ram ProMaster van when it felt impossible to get out of her warm bed in the morning. So she invested in warmer clothes and a heater to make those chilly mornings easier.

“Definitely prepare for the weather, and maybe over-prepare a little bit,” she said.

And while it might be tempting to overpack, multiple people encouraged me to keep things light.

The van all packed up.
Monica Humphries/Business Insider

Multiple people said I wouldn’t want to live and travel in a crowded van, so they encouraged me to evaluate if and how I was going to use every item I packed.

“Come in with the bare minimums and see how you like to live in the space,” Newson said. “Then you will see what it is that you would need in order to be happy.”

Worst-case scenario, I could always stop at a store along the way to pick up anything I’d forgotten.

Their tips worked, and I embarked on my two-week trip without leaving anything major behind.

Business Insider’s author in her rental van.
Monica Humphries/Business Insider

While I did overpack, the people I spoke with shared helpful suggestions that made a drastic difference throughout my trip.

For example, grabbing a first-aid kit and portable jump starter gave me confidence and reassurance throughout the two weeks. And not worrying about used toilet paper thanks to Garrett’s Kula cloth suggestion was a major luxury.

While I’d add a few more items to my packing list for a regular road trip, these nomad-approved items will always be tucked into my suitcase for my future van adventures.

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