Van life is so much more than just sleeping in a vehicle. A converted van is like a tiny home on wheels, with the possibility of endless customizations. That’s probably one reason why 35% of people are drawn to the adventurous van life. Exploring the National Park system, van camping, and trekking on the open road are all activities (and even lifestyles) made possible by van life. 

For some, a bare-bones approach to van life is more than enough. Van life can be hard for some because of the lack of personal storage. For those looking to put the “home” in “mobile home,” all it takes is a bit of creativity and a DIY attitude. What you need for your van dweller lifestyle will look different depending on your van build. If you do a DIY van conversion, you will have a lot more flexibility and opportunity to try out some of these van life ideas and ultimately transform your mobile home into the best van for van life.

From the essentials to some exciting add-ons, we’ll be looking at a handful of van living ideas that will take your campervan from simple to stunning.

Essentials for Van Living

First, let’s look at some of the van dwelling essentials—and ways you can customize them to suit your needs. Every person’s van build is going to look different, so it is important to adapt it to your needs. How much does van life cost? The cost depends on what you want out of van life!


If there’s one thing at the top of every van life essentials list, it’s the bed. At the end of a long day of driving or exploring, there’s nothing better than a comfortable spot to sleep.

One way to elevate your sleeping space is to literally elevate it. If you have high enough ceilings, building a tall frame for your bed opens up extra room for storage space below. Adding drawers below your bed will prove to be extremely valuable and space-efficient. Even in a minivan, raising your bed off the floor creates valuable space.

Alternatively, if you’re van dwelling by yourself, consider a bed that only takes up half of the back. You can still stow things under the bed, but you can also convert the open space into an office or treat the bed as a couch during the day. This approach makes the back of a van look more spacious and opens up the floor plan.


Having a reliable source of power is vital for a van dweller, especially if you’ll be doing remote work on the road. Here are three ideas for power sources:

  • Solar panels – While they may be the most expensive option, solar panels are green and easy to install. They’re suitable for warm, sunny climates, which may encourage you to chase the sun—which is another plus.
  • Power inverter – An inverter plugs into your vehicle’s cigarette lighter and can charge multiple devices. They’re relatively inexpensive, but should only be used when the motor is running. Otherwise, you could drain your van’s battery.
  • Portable generator – These are powered by propane and provide a steady source of electricity when running. You’ll want to run these outside the van due to the exhaust (and noise), but they’re perfect for when you pull up to a campsite for the night.


Curtains are a must for every van lifer, and there are great options outside a single sheet of fabric. A set of thermal blackout curtains can help to regulate heat, keeping your van cool in the summer and warm in the winter. They also block out light, which allows you to sleep in after a long hike.

For a put-together look, try to find (or make) curtains that match the aesthetic of your interior van design.

Portable Toilet

Sure, you could drive around in search of gas station restrooms. However, having an onboard toilet is much more convenient for when nature calls.

With that said, toilets aren’t the most visually pleasing parts of van life. To keep your interior looking clean, you could create a separate space for your “bathroom,” or at least tuck your portable toilet out of sight when it’s idle.

Ideas to Improve Van Life

Apart from the must-haves, there are dozens of other ways to customize and make the most of your van. Here are some van design ideas to help you start.

Stowable Furniture

When space is minimal, it’s crucial to make every inch count. Stowable furniture allows you to take advantage of the small space. 

Try bolting a small table to the side of the interior, and create a hinged system so you can tuck it away when you need more space. A collapsible chair can be hidden beneath your bed when you’re hanging out and put together when it’s time to work. 

Maximizing the floor plan of your tiny home on wheels is key to living comfortably. The more usable space you can create inside your van, the better!

Make Use of the Roof

Don’t forget that you have an additional surface of your van to work with: the roof. There are several ways to use your roof and free up interior space, including:

  • A rooftop tent
  • Bike or kayak storage
  • A sitting area (when stopped!)
  • Solar panels
  • A roof rack or rooftop box

Extend Your Space Beyond the Van

Van life doesn’t have to stay within the confines of the van. When you pull up at a campsite or parking lot for the night, you can open up and spread out. For example, attaching a pull-out canopy above a sliding door lets you create a covered patio area.

Many full-time van lifers place their stove setup and van kitchen area at the back of the van and open the back hatch as a cover. Voilà! An open-air kitchen whenever you need it.


You may not have to put down any roots, but that doesn’t mean you can’t add a few plants to liven up the place. As long as you secure any potted plants when you drive, a touch of green in your living space can make the van feel more like home.

Make More Room with Price Self Storage

Van life is simple, freeing, and affordable. It’s also quite cozy. Storage space is a luxury when living in a van, so you’ll want to store anything you don’t use daily.

For those items that are too important to let go, there’s Price Self Storage. A storage unit allows you to hang on to your stuff without taking up precious space in your van. Price Self Storage has many different storage sizes to fit any need. If your van life will be temporary, you’ll have access to all your furniture when you move back into an apartment. 

Give us a call before you start your van adventure on the open road — we’d love to help make it as simple and uncluttered as possible.


Treehugger. More Americans are Thinking About Van Living.