Skip to main content

The Manual may earn a commission when you buy through links on our site.

The 9 Best Gifts Van-Lifers Will Actually Use

A van parked by the sea during a sunny day.

Choosing the best gifts is never an easy task, but the challenge is compounded when your recipient resides — or at least travels frequently — in a van. Your storage budget is small when you’re living the van life, and every square inch spent must be done so with a good purpose. A useless gift simply won’t make the cut and will end up collecting dust in a closet somewhere rather than being put to use on the road.

To that end, here is a smattering of gift recommendations for van-lifers. They’ve been chosen to select a range of budgets, but also to ensure that it’s something that your overlander will actually bring along.

UCO Rechargeable Arc Lighter and LED Flashlight

A black UCO Rechargeable Arc Lighter and LED Flashlight on white background.

If you’re looking for something to add to your survival or emergency kit, this arch lighter-flashlight hybrid is a great little tool. One side features a powerful flashlight that can be set on a steady beam or strobe; snap open the other end, and you’ve got an electric-powered, dual-arch plasma lighter. To sweeten the deal, it’s also recharged via USB, eliminating the need for batteries.

Marmot WarmCube Novus Hoody

A black Marmot WarmCube Novus Hoody on white background.

This fancy jacket is a great addition to a van-lifer’s wardrobe for a number of reasons. First, its WarmCube design traps warm air and keeps the down from settling into the bottom, and it looks sleek while it’s at it. It also packs down super tight, making it easy to stow without taking up virtually any space at all. A little more windproof and warming than a typical hoody, yet not as bulky as a heavier coat, it’s a versatile lightweight jacket for a range of weather conditions.

VSSL Flask

A green VSSL Flask on white background.

This is a fun one for any van-lifer who likes to venture from their rig for a hike and enjoy a few shots of booze along the way. VSSL makes tube-shaped flasks for a variety of purposes, with each version containing a number of useful, disc-shaped tools. This particular version comes with two collapsible shot glasses, and the rest of its capacity can be filled with whatever drink one desires. It also has a compass on one end and a flashlight on the other, just for good measure. If you’re looking for personalization, the brand’s website allows you to pick and choose which elements go into your VSSL.

Wacaco Minipresso

A Wacaco Minipresso beside a coffee powder and a cup of coffee.

For van-lifers who wish they could lug around their home espresso maker on the road but can’t justify the space it would eat up, there is a solution. With the Minipresso you simply put coffee grounds and hot water in one end, pump a few times, and voila, coffee is served. It’s small and super-packable and requires zero electricity.

Tarpestry Rugged Boho Blanket

A blanket with a Boho-inspired print.

Soft, beautifully patterned blanket on one side, durable waterproof tarp on the other, this unique, offbeat item is outstanding for life on the road. It’s great for throwing down for a picnic or place to kick back, and resilient enough to endure over the course of roughing it on the road. Tarpestry has… tarpestries available in a range of designs, but we’ve included the Boho option here as an ode to your Vandweller’s bohemian lifestyle.

Morakniv Mora 2000 Anniversary Edition Knife

An unsheathed Morakniv Mora 2000 Anniversary Edition Knife displayed on white background.

Morakniv has been making outstanding knives for well over a century, and to commemorate their recent 130th anniversary, they released the Mora 2000. A versatile knife that is well-balanced, lightweight, made to last, and sharp, it makes a great addition to any van-lifer’s tool kit or kitchen.

NEMO Moonlander Dual Height Table

A green NEMO Moonlander Dual Height Table on white background.

Highly-packable camp tables are hard to come by, and the Moonlander is the best. Not only does its clever design allow it to fold down smaller than the size of a board game box, but its dual height option makes it perfect for either standing up beside a camping chair or providing a flat surface within the confines of a van or on the back of a tailgate. It’s also easy to clean and durable enough to last for many years and even more miles.

Big Agnes Big House 6-Person Tent

A Big Agnes tent for six occupants.

A tent might seem antithetical to the whole van life thing, but sometimes when you’ve been shacked up in your van for weeks on end, it’s nice to take a little “staycation” in the “spare bedroom.” The Big House from Big Agnes is durable, easy to set up, and roomy enough to feel spacious after the confines of the van. It can also be equipped with an optional vestibule that provides plenty of room for gear, or a pleasant place to sit out of the rain.

Jackery Explorer 1000 Portable Power Station

A Jackery Explorer 1000 Portable Power Station displayed on white background.

There are few things more useful — or downright essential — on the road than a reliable source of electricity. The Jackery Explorer series operates reliably, and paired with solar panels, it sucks up and stores sun juice rapidly wherever daylight happens to be. There are larger and smaller models in the series, but the 1000 hits the sweet spot in terms of capacity, space efficiency, and cost. It’s not the cheapest model available, but it’s also not the priciest.

Editors' Recommendations

Nick Hilden
Nick Hilden is a lifestyle and culture writer whose work has appeared in the Washington Post, Esquire, Rolling Stone, Afar…
The Best Overlanding Gear to Start Exploring in 2022
Man relaxing alone under a MoonShade Portable Vehicle Awning while overlanding.

For rugged outdoor adventurers, overlanding is the new black or the new, new black, depending on who you talk to. It’s fun, it’s wild, and it’s the antidote for anyone who loves to camp but wants to up the ante by exploring the world far, far off-grid. But, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed when trying to outfit your own rig.

Our advice is to start small. Skip the expensive gear you think you need, like a rooftop tent, a portable fridge, and pricey oversized all-terrain tires. Those are great, and someday you might want them. But, for now, focus on getting out there with some basic gear, experience living off-grid for days or weeks at a time, and zero in on the equipment you personally need as you go.

Read more
The 6 Best Gifts For Hiking Enthusiasts
A hiker walking up toward a mountain.

Hikers are a tough group to shop for, especially if you're not a hiker yourself. The amount of hiking gear on the market has exploded in the last few years, and it can be especially difficult to identify the good stuff that a hiker will actually use and enjoy amidst all of the advertising and marketing hype. But fear not, because we've put together some of the best gifts for hikers we could find, no matter their skill level. Every gift on this list was selected by an outdoor enthusiast on our team, so you won't find anything in the list below we wouldn't use (or don't already own) ourselves.

Read more
The 6 Best Day Hikes in U.S. National Parks
A majestic view of Zion National Park Angels Landing in Utah.

It’s time to dust off your best hiking boots and get them ready for new dirt.

Across rainforests, mountain ranges, sprawling plateaus, rivers, and valleys, the North American continent offers some of the most stunning natural geography in the world. To take in these amazing natural experiences, you can set out on weeks- or months-long journeys, but most of us don’t have the time. No need to worry because The Manual has got your back with six of the best day hikes in U.S. national parks.

Read more