Skip to main content

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

Wanderlust: A Guide to Living the Van Life

Many of us dream of hitting the open road and living a life of wanderlust. In America, there is a growing population of people that are quitting jobs, selling furniture, and canceling leases for the freedom of the open road.

We interviewed several individuals and couples that live the Van Life (#vanlife) and here are their tips for living life on the road.

Related Videos

Get and Stay Organized

Since you will be carrying everything (clothing, toiletries, cooking utensils and other staples) with you while on the road, getting and staying organized is paramount. When designing your build out, plan accordingly to allow for storage bins within the van to accommodate your essentials while organizing personal items as well.

Pack Light

Relegating your life to living in a vehicle can be overwhelming in the beginning. Most start out trying to bring too many items from their previous life (too many clothes, books, extra gear, etc.). Anything extra that you bring along for the ride will also be sharing the space with you in the van. Bring only the bare necessities. Minimalism should be your new mantra.

Yakima Showcase 20

Be Prepared for Anything

The vehicle will be your home and homes require maintenance. Flat tires and breakdowns are just a few of the possibilities that may arise while living the nomadic lifestyle. So, be prepared for something even worse–a radiator malfunction, bad spark plugs, or worn down breaks are all possible. Create a back-up fund to prevent van life-ending problems.

Plan Ahead

Spending multiple days on the road can wreak havoc on your body. Joining a national gym can serve a dual purpose: Getting in a workout and enjoying a shower can rejuvenate (and maintain the health of) even the weariest of travelers.

If you plan to work from the road, you will need to plan around a reliable source of wifi. Coffee shops are a great source, but you will need to plan around your traveling schedule to allow for connectivity. Other options include personal wifi hotspots via your cellular phone company or tethering your computer to your smartphone’s data plan.

While we all cannot leave our lives behind and drive off into the sunset, all of us can hit the road for that ultimate summer road trip or that long awaited weekend getaway. Most of us don’t have a designated vehicle for life on the road, but with a few pieces of careful chosen gear, any vehicle can transport you to your escape destination.

Below are a few items to make your road trip more enjoyable.

Increased Storage (Roof Top Case)

Yakima Showcase 20 – $679 – $779


Shelters (Tents and Tarps)

Kelty Camp Cabin – $226


Tentsile Connect Tree Tent – $450


Big Agnes Van Camp SL3 – $263


Mountainsmith Mountain Shade Dome – $136


Sleeping Pads and Bags (Solo and Dual Options)

Sea to Summit Basecamp 3 Bt3 Thermolite® Sleeping Bag – $337


Brooks Range Snooze 20 Sleeping Bag – $225


Sea to Summit Comfort Deluxe Self Inflating Mat – $150 (regular/wide)


Therm-a-Rest Dorado Duo HD – $290


Therm-a-Rest DreamTime – $150Therm-a-rest-Dreamtime-Pad

Therma-a-Rest Dorado Duo Coupler – $56


Big Agnes King Solomon 15 – $300


Sierra Designs Frontcountry Bed Duo – $200


Kitchen and Dining

RovR RollR 80 Cooler – $449


Camp Chef Sherpa Table and Organizer – $125


Camp Chef Everest Two-Burner Camping Stove – $125


ALPS Mountaineering Regular Dining Table – $50


GCI Outdoor FirePit Rocker – $72


BioLite CampStove 2 Bundle – $200 (Grill, Cook, Boil & Charge)



LifeStraw Go 2-Stage – $38


MSR AutoFlow Gravity Filter 2L or 4L – $110 – $120


PackTowl Luxe Towel – $9


Adventure Medical Kits – $15 – $200


UCO Gear Madrona+ Hang-Out Lantern – $60


Editors' Recommendations

The BioLite FirePit is a Portable Fire Pit That Doubles As a Grill
biolite firepit

“If you can bring ice, you can bring fire.”

The BioLite team want to make your outdoor experiences better. Whether that entails brewing French press coffee on the beach or cooking pizza in the shadow of a mountain, rest assured, they’ve got your back. The latest item to hit their line of sleek camping gear and accessories is the BioLite FirePit, a portable fire pit that doubles as a grill.

Read more
Masculine Style Meets Off-Grid Living In This Unique House That Goes Where You Do



Read more
How to Disconnect From the World at a Secret Cabin in the Woods
slow cabins 1

We’re drowning in technology. It can’t be long before the world goes full Minority Report and electronic billboards start pitching to us directly by name. It’s enough to make any sane man consider packing the apocalypse truck and bugging out to an underground bunker. So, it’s hardly surprising that we’re looking to escape — to digitally detox — to anywhere without Wi-Fi, Facebook, and the ever-present, 24-hour news cycle. Enter “secret cabin” vacations.

The concept is simple: Off-grid cabins are scattered throughout hidden rural locations outside several major cities. Guests book the cabin that’s nearest them without knowing exactly where said cabin is located. All the essentials are provided, of course: running water, a roof over your head, and electricity to cook and light your way with. However, the precise address of each cabin isn’t revealed until after booking. It’s a bit like FreeHouse meets Hotwire with a dash of tiny house living.

Read more