These Innovations in RV/Van Living Make Vanlife More Comfortable
By Quinn He
In the past few years, there has been a blossoming of young people forgoing the prospect of living in a house and directing their money to van rebuilds in pursuit of what’s been coined, van life.
Van life is not an old trend or way of life, but in recent years, innovations in technology have made calling a van home easier, more comfortable, and cheaper.
Here are some of the coolest innovations for modifying your RV we’ve seen.
Get a Better Cell Signal with Wilson Electronics Drive X RV Booster
Wilson Electronics offers a great solution to keep your RV well-connected.
Drive X RV is a standard multi-user, in-vehicle cell signal booster for all classes of RV. It’s designed to reach cell towers at distances up to 33% farther than other boosters.
With its powerful Omni-directional RV antenna, Drive X RV stops dropped calls while improving voice quality, data speeds, video streaming, and more whether at a campsite or on the road.
Drive X RV works on all US carrier networks and is compatible with all phones and cellular devices as it simultaneously supports multiple users.
5G Ready– weBoost boosters will work for the next decade and beyond.
Wilson Electronics Drive XRV $499.00
Sinks for your RV Kitchen
A sink and faucet are now easier than ever to install into a van. There are two kinds of sinks someone can opt for, but they, like most items in this article, depending on budget, how much electricity they use, and convenience are factors to consider.
Electric sink pumps are great if you don’t mind using extra electricity. They require no manual labor and are easy to use.
A foot-powered water pump is one of the cheaper options and requires no electricity, you simply pump the water by pressing on the foot pump. It’s an attractive option for those looking to keep electricity use down so it can be diverted to other appliances. Foot pumps are also quite efficient with water because a single pump only expels a handful of water.
The foot pump pulls water out of a clean water jug that feeds into the faucet. That water then drains into another water jug for disposal.
Solar Power in your RV
Renewable energy is one of a van goer’s greatest assets, especially if they plan on using electronic devices in their van.
The ability to use solar power is arguably the most important innovation in van life because it allows people to keep up with their lives no matter where they find themselves traveling.
A fully loaded solar power set up may look daunting to the inexperienced, but there are hundreds of resources that make learning and installing yourself much easier. Components such as solar panels, fuse boxes, batteries, and inverters need to be extensively researched when approaching a solar build.
Solar panels can be installed on top of the vehicle for maximum power, or portable solar panels can be utilized when you set up camp, think of “The Martian” when Matt Damon’s character must stop to charge his vehicle as he makes his way to the rendevous point.
If you want a full kitchen set up with a microwave, refrigerator, coffee maker, etc. as well as the ability to charge a multitude of other electric devices, a high watt solar panel set up may be needed. A single 100-watt solar panels starts around $100 depending on where you look and only go up from there.
If you’re on a very tight budget and only plan on charging a phone or laptop, small, portable solar panels can be purchased online for a much lower cost. There’s always an option to upgrade further down the line.
With solar panels comes batteries to store excess energy. Not every day on the road is going to be blanketed with sun rays.
During the days when the sun doesn’t make an appearance, it’s going to be important to have back up power. Excess energy from solar panels can be directed to car batteries and used on other appliances or stored for a rainy day.
Moon Fab RV Awning
Moon makes a heavy-duty canvas awning that extends out from the side of your RV if your rig doesn’t come with this already built in.
The Moonshade RV Awning folds up to a 3-foot size, but extends out to cover a lot of real estate, a 9 foot by 7-foot shade patch.
MoonShade’s versatile attachment hardware makes it easy to set up and pack down. Included heavy-duty suction cups, magnets, or carabiners anchor to almost any surface, and the flexible strut pole expands to fit almost any size structure.
This shade also works as deck awning, we rigged it up using the supplied guy wires from above and its a neat little shady spot on a previously too-sunny deck.
Mini Generator/ Power Station for RVs
A generator is a handy piece of equipment to have on hand if your power source from solar energy and batteries fails. This isn’t necessary to enjoy van life.
It’s a great option for those who cannot afford or do not want to go through the labor of having solar energy installed and all that comes with it. With a generator or power station, you just have to be able to find a place to charge your generator and keep an eye on that battery indicator.
As advancements in technology continue, generators become smaller, more powerful, and cheaper for the average consumer.
Whether a backup energy source or your primary, a mini power station would work great in any van build.
Jackery Portable Power Station Explorer 240, 240Wh Backup Lithium Battery, 110V/200W Pure Sine Wave AC Outlet, Solar Generator (Solar Panel Optional) for Outdoors Camping Travel Hunting Emergency $249.99
Portable RV Toilets
While many may still opt for the traditional method of using an empty bottle as a urinal, portable toilets can be seamlessly installed into a van life way of living, providing an important comfort of home.
People are choosing to install small, portable toilets into their van system, and innovations are making them more accessible for everyday van users.
This part of a van build is not necessary and many may choose to not utilize it, but for those who can afford the space and budget, this is one aspect of van life that should not be tossed aside.
Showers are another part of van life people don’t always focus on, but good hygiene should not be overlooked just because you’re living in a van.
There’s a diverse range of shower options for van goers, one in almost every budget range.
While public showers are the cheapest option, a shower outside the van is so feasible I would ask why wouldn’t you opt for it? From camping shower bags to foot pumped showers, there have been so many innovations in portable showers that the variety to choose from is endless.
One must only consider factors such as budget, how long they’d like to shower if they want to shower with warm water, and how much water they want to use. Once these considerations are taken into account, you have a variety of choices at your disposal.
RV Heating systems
In almost every aspect of van life, there are innovations continuously being made that make living in a van more comfortable.
The options for heating your vehicle are endless. Electrical, propane, diesel, and space heaters are all good options that have only gotten cheaper and smaller in recent years. An option many might skip over are wood-burning stoves.
While a wood stove isn’t as convenient as a propane camp stove, wood stoves are quite small and light enough to not add too much weight to the vehicle. They have the benefit of doubling as a cooking surface, as well as a source of heat in the winter.
With electrical outlets from power inverters and power stations, someone has the ability to plug in a space heater for their vans during the cold months. It’s a cheap alternative and provides enough heat for the van to be comfortable in the winter.
Guide Gear Outdoor Wood Stove $119.99
Power inverters allow people to charge other electronic devices after their solar panels have gotten energy and diverted excess energy to batteries. It converts DC power from the battery to AC power that can be used to power electronic devices.
This terrific design opens up a range of devices people can have and use while living in their van.
With innovations in power supplies such as power converters, van goers have utilized toasters, coffee makers, fans, blenders, and anything else that can plug into an outlet.
Power inverters, along with innovations in solar power and car batteries, are making it easier for those venturing into van life to bring everyday appliances that make living in a van even more attractive. It also enables easy charging for smartphones and laptops.
Like most aspects of a van build there are many questions to consider with every purchase. With a power inverter you want to ask yourself how much power you intend to use and what your energy set up will look like.
Refrigeration is sometimes an aspect of van life people toss aside and do without, but if you have a power source available, why wouldn’t you want refrigerated food? People practically give these things away on every college campus.
12V fridges are great for people living off the grid because they don’t use a lot of energy to keep food cold.
Mini fridges are probably the best option even though they can run about $100 plus, but as I mentioned, used mini-fridges are everywhere and it wouldn’t be hard to find a good deal.
Even if a fridge is out of budget or you don’t want to go through carving out precious cargo space for one, coolers have been used by those in van life for years and they provide enough refrigeration for those on weekend trips with their van.
Many companies nowadays have extremely efficient coolers for sale that require no electrical power, you’ll just need to be aware of refilling ice.
Uber Chill XL MiniFridge
This mini personal fridge holds up to twelve 12-oz. cans or nine 500-mL. bottles
Solid-state thermoelectric cooler fridge that functions as a mini warmer & cooler that keeps food and drinks at optimal drinking temperature; Cooling Capacity: 40ºF-45ºF below ambient temperature / Warming Capacity: 150ºF. Plugs into 12V car cigarette lighter or Home outlet (Built-in AC/DC transformer) Both cords included, it is a 12v DC/ 110v AC portable cooler. functions as a car mini cooler when needed!
Roof vent fans look like a great option because many vans already have some sort of ventilation system in the roof. Companies have created efficient and powerful fans that fit snuggly as a replacement to a stock roof fan.
Many of these higher-quality fans can pull air out of the cabin, as well as ventilate cool air from outside. These roof vents are a great option because they are quiet and don’t take up any space in the van since they are installed into the pre-existing roof hatch.
Window AC units work well because it’s just a smaller AC unit you’d find in a house that does a great job at cooling the van while you are parked somewhere. This option may be for those with a higher budget and wish to do lots of traveling in warmer climates.
For many, a simple fan would do the job, but with innovations in this area of comfort, consumers have plenty of options to choose from, it all depends on how they wish to use the van. Companies are finding better ways to make more efficient air cooling units for these small spaces and companies like Dometic are highly reputable.
There are really two main stove cooking options available, but one has been improved upon drastically over the years. Propane camping stoves have been used for many years and they are still a pretty reliable way to cook food. They are simple to use and have a good track record by thousands of campers and van dwellers, many choose to still use them.
Thanks to constantly evolving technology, a cheap and arguably easier way to cook food is with an induction stove cooktop, which is essentially the same kind of electric stove cooktop you see in a lot of homes.
This appliance will end up using power from the battery so keep that in mind. Such stoves do not cost that much money on Amazon and can be installed on a countertop pretty seamlessly. In the long run, this method can also save money on propane that would need a constant refill over time.
These are cheap alternatives to camping stoves with no worry of a propane leak or open flame inside the van.
Different types of insulation have changed van life camping for the better. People will use insulation on the interior of the van then line the interior of the van with wood paneling.
Insulation has seen many innovations in the past and currently, there’s a wide range of products to choose from.
Insulation is almost a necessity nowadays because of its efficiency in keeping the cabin cool during the warmer months, as well as keeping the heat in during the colder ones. Aside from the other benefits of insulation, it also provides noise isolation from outside.
There are many types of insulation within all budget ranges. Many people may choose fiberglass insulation as it’s one of the cheaper options compared to alternatives.
Quality insulation isn’t something you want to save money on as it’s one of the aspects of the van that will be nearly impossible to replace once it’s installed. Thinsulate has been recommended as a high-quality insulator.
It’s Up to You
A van build is a challenging, but rewarding experience for anyone who chooses to embark on such a journey. All the aspects of the build mentioned are key parts that are always being improved upon.
Every part of a van build has materials for every budget range and should be chosen based on your wants and needs within a van build.