Sure, #vanlife has become an Instagram cliché, but there’s no denying the feeling you get when driving down an empty road, windows down, blasting tunes. My husband, Brad, and I have owned our 1990 Ford E-350 for almost a year now, and while we don’t currently live in it full-time, we do use it as a base camp nearly every weekend, whether we’re backcountry skiing up at Mount Hood or climbing at Smith Rock with our two Siberian huskies.
With two dogs and a lot of gear, we’ve learned a lot about what it takes to live comfortably in a 25-square-foot space. After months of testing, these are the products we’ve found that best keep our gear organized. Get them now for at least 20 percent off at REI’s Anniversary Sale, which runs until May 28.
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REI Co-op Camp X Chair ($28; 30 percent off)
Relaxing with friends around a campfire or sitting and watching the sunset is always a rewarding end to a long drive. The Camp X is a no-frills camp chair that’s comfortable, stores relatively small, and has three pockets to hold beer and accessories.
Yakima SkyBox 21 Carbonite Cargo Roof Box ($503; 20 percent off)
One of the biggest challenges when adventuring in a van is having a place to store everything. We take advantage of space on the roof with this cargo roof box, which is large enough to hold all of our climbing gear and skis and snowboards. If your van isn’t already equipped with crossbars, pick up some 1A Raingutter Towers and 60-inch CoreBars—also on sale.
Patagonia Black Hole 120L Duffel ($127; 25 percent off)
A good duffel is a necessary investment if you have a lot of gear. The 120-liter Black Hole is big enough to fit just about everything. It’s super durable and water-resistant, and it easily converts to a backpack for travel. Don’t need a duffel that big? The 45-liter, 60-liter, and 90-liter duffels are also on sale.
REI Co-op Camp Roll Table ($45; 30 percent off)
If your van is not outfitted with an outdoor cooking option, then a packable table is a must for those warm summer evenings. We like the Camp Roll table, which packs up small but has enough surface room for a two-burner stove and cooking tools.
Rumpl Down Puffy Blanket ($111; 25 percent off)
The van can be cold, especially in winter. When crashing in the parking lot after a day of skiing, we always appreciate our Rumpl blanket. Stuffed with 800-fill down, the blanket features a ripstop nylon shell that has held up well against dog claws.
Goal Zero Lighthouse 400 Lantern and USB Power Hub ($55; 20 percent off)
The lighting in our van runs off our car battery, but when we’re cooking outside and need extra light, this lantern comes in super handy. It’s dimmable and has a rechargeable battery and a USB port, which we use to charge our phones, headlamps, and other electronics.
REI Co-op Multi Towel Deluxe ($16; 30 percent off)
Regular cotton towels dry slowly and can get mildewy. The Multi Towel Deluxe packs small, dries quickly, and comes in three sizes.
Thule 10-Foot Locking Straps, Pack of 2 ($56; 20 percent off)
Our surfboards are too big for the cargo box, so we lash them on the roof with these ten-foot straps. They lock and feature hidden cables in the webbing, so we don’t have to worry about anyone stealing our boards when we’re in the grocery store.
Mountain Series Explorer Medical Kit ($44; 25 percent off)
When adventuring in the middle of nowhere, always keep a fully stocked first-aid kit nearby. This kit is nicely organized and contains medical supplies for up to four people for multiple days.
REI Co-op Ditty Sack, Pack of 3 ($15; 25 percent off)
When storage space is limited, extra stuff sacks always come in handy. The large ones are great for dirty clothes, while the smaller ones store our electronic chargers, cables, and other miscellaneous items.