Looking for cheap camper van hacks and van life tips? You’ve come to the right place.
“Is there a better way of doing this??”
It’s a question all van lifers ask themselves.
Sometimes the simplest tweaks can be gamechangers in your day-to-day life.
We are constantly discovering new camper van hacks and better ways of doing things in our van…
And today, we’re revealing them all.
If you’re looking for simple dummy-proof solutions (rather than the boojie van life stuff you see on social media), this is for you.
Let’s dive in.
Table of Contents
- 10 Camper Van Hacks & Instant Upgrades
- 1. The Movie Theatre Hack
- 2. The “Indian” Shoe Organizer Hack
- 3. The Shower Hack
- 4. The Wet Clothes Hack
- 5. The Bungee + Hook Thingamajigger Campervan Storage Hack
- 6. The Skeeter + Heat Solution
- 7. The fridge space-saver hack
- 8. The clothes organization hack
- 9. The Water Bottle Station
- 10. The “Van Life SUCKS” Solution
- BONUS: Talk to locals
10 Camper Van Hacks & Instant Upgrades
Before we dive in, a quick disclaimer.
While these tips for van life are awfully clever, they are NOT your fancy pants ideas that require building stuff, tools, or expensive equipment.
We SUCK at handyman stuff. So these van life hacks are literally the cheapest and easiest solutions you could possibly imagine. Things that anyone can do with minimal materials.
(P.S. – Want a sneak peek on how we adventure on a tight budget? Check out our complete van life costs breakdown for a detailed look at our monthly spending. And for even more ways to save money, see our guide on creative ways to live cheaply.)
1. The Movie Theatre Hack
I created our movie theatre for less than $1 in five minutes.
All you need is four small screws, two mini bungee cords, and a ceiling. (If your ceiling isn’t wood, you may need to substitute the screws for other materials).
Screw in the screws above your bed far enough apart to make the bungee taught. Slip in your tablet or phone under the bungees, and viola!
Instant entertainment system.
And in case you’re wondering, no, our tablet hasn’t fallen on our faces yet.
Living in a van is awesome. But if you’re ever bored, you can now enjoy a nice Netflix sesh (van life is also better if you have some fun travel hobbies, btw).
2. The “Indian” Shoe Organizer Hack
Installing a shoe organizer like this on the inside of your door is clutch, but I wouldn’t consider it a genius campervan storage hack or anything. I mean…kinda obvious.
But it doesn’t end there.
Just as Indians never waste a part of the animals they hunt, my wife doesn’t waste shoe organizers.
The shoe organizer you buy will be way too big for your door. (How many pairs of shoes can you fit in a van anyways?). You have to cut it to size.
But what about all the extra?
Don’t throw it away! (unless you want Dayan to hunt you down).
Instead, you can create several other organizers throughout your van.
Day created two for the inside of our closet…
One to hold our plastic bags…
One to hold our sponge…
And one to hold all her crafting supplies.
She created SIX organizers all from one cheap shoe organizer. Yeehaw!
To do this, you may need a travel sewing kit. They’re super cheap on Amazon and you don’t need to be a seamstress to use it. Don’t be intimidated. Just thread the needle in and out of things to connect them. Easy peasy.
3. The Shower Hack
We’ve tried LOADS of shower solutions. From cheap tree-hanging camp showers, to collapsible bucket sponge baths, to frigid lake plunges, to baby wipe wipe-downs.
Our favorite solution?
Create a privacy area by using two strong magnets (or four if it’s windy) to connect your towel to either your back or side doors.
From there, use one of those big orange juice bottles from Walmart filled with water to apply the exact amount you need, without wasting any.
This has been game-changing for us!
4. The Wet Clothes Hack
Ain’t nobody got space inside a cramped van to hang wet (and “semi-dirty” clothes). The solution?
Take those same strong magnets you used for your shower, and stick all your damp and semi-dirty clothes outside the van.
Not only does it keep the inside of your van looking (and smelling) fresh, but the sun acts as a super dryer.
Sure, it’s not the prettiest setup in the world. But just hang ’em on the side of your van that nobody sees.
5. The Bungee + Hook Thingamajigger Campervan Storage Hack
I use three cheap materials to secure and organize 90% of our stuff:
Here are just a few of the ways we’ve used them…
The cooking bottle holder:
The spice rack:
The “big stuff” closet compressor:
The fridge security system for sharp curves:
The indoor clothesline:
The hat organizer:
There are tons of ways you can use these three materials, so make sure to stock up.
6. The Skeeter + Heat Solution
This will not only save you skeeter bites, but it’s one of the best ways to stay cool during the summer heat.
And that is….(drum roll).
The easy DIY bug net!
Here’s how to make it in less than 30 minutes, step-by-step:
Best of all, you can use these same materials to make screens for all your windows, so you have constant airflow with zero bugs.
We spend loads of time inside our van working as digital nomads, and this screen has been a lifesaver. To learn how to earn money while traveling, check out these easy van life jobs anyone can do.
7. The fridge space-saver hack
This camper van tip may seem obvious to some, but you’d be surprised.
Instead of using big, clunky Tupperware to store leftovers in your small fridge, use ziplock bags.
Ziplock bags allow you to use the exact amount of space you need, and no more.
You may be tempted to buy those fancy collapsible containers supposedly made for camping. But don’t do it.
Sure, they may be compact when you’re storing them empty. But when you put food in them, you have to expand them to their full size, wasting precious fridge real estate.
Unless they’re really nasty, I recommend washing and reusing your ziplock bags. Planet Earth thanks you for it.
8. The clothes organization hack
If you’re still folding your clothes, you’re doing it wrong.
Van lifers are constantly on the move. Ain’t nobody got time to fold clothes when you’re running out the door to do an epic hike.
Folded clothes might stay organized for a day or two, but unless you’re superhuman, that won’t last.
The solution is simple…
Yup, the same cubes you use when packing your suitcase to travel. Pretend each cube is a dresser drawer, and organize clothes into each one.
I’m a big fan of the ol’ clothes roll. It’s faster than folding, takes up less space, and is keep its shape better.
Instead of jamming your clothes in random places before running out the door, spend the extra 10 seconds to roll them into your cubes. It’s 10 seconds well spent.
The cubes we use are technically over the $10 camper van hacks limit, but you can find cheaper ones as well (although they are smaller).
9. The Water Bottle Station
In our van, there’s no good place to store our big water bottles. They don’t fit in cup holders, they’re too tall for the fridge or cupboards, and if before we found this solution, they were always rolling all over the place.
We solved our problem with a simple clothespin. Actually, half a clothespin.
Our cupholder, which we ordered off Amazon and screwed into the front of our van (Salsamobile didn’t come with original cupholders), has two little slots in it.
A half clothes pin fits precisely into these slots, and works as the perfect “hanger” for the handles on our water bottles.
For van life storage hacks like these (which are specific to our setup), you may have to get creative. But just think:
How can you use a similar idea to keep your van organized?
10. The “Van Life SUCKS” Solution
When you live in a van, every now and then you just have one of those days…
Everything seems to go wrong.
It’s 100 degrees.
The A/C broke.
You’re out of water.
You need to poop.
And the fridge door just flew open, splattering food on the floor while driving a curve. (Read more about van life reality here).
In times like these, you wonder why the eff you chose to live this life.
When that happens, there’s just one solution. And it’s a solution that works EVERY time…
Just drink a beer.
Ideally, a nice COLD beer.
Drink it, savor it, take a deep breath, then drink another one.
It will make all your van life problems fade away. And if you dragged your wife along on your van life adventure like I did, it’ll make her not replace you for a guy with a real house.
Trust me. Crack one open and take a sip. (Not while driving though!)
BONUS: Talk to locals
Nowadays we think we can find all the info we need online or in our fancy van life apps.
Locals are still the best source of knowledge for any location.
Case in point:
One time we were trapped in a heatwave. I had no idea where we could escape while it passed.
Nothing on iOverlander. Nothing on Campendium. Nothing on Dyrt.
Then I saw a group of dirt bikers hanging out near our campsite.
My heat desperation overcame my antisocial-ness, and I walked over to chat with them.
Long story short, they were experts in the area. They gave me precise directions to a free camp spot higher up in the mountains, right next to a river to cool off, with blazing fast cell service. Score!
I’d never have found this secret spot without them.
So, whenever you’re in a new town, make an effort to chat up the locals. Whether that be a gas station clerk, a grocery store checker-outer, or any random person you cross paths with.
Don’t be a hermit!
Well, there you have it, folks. I shared my van camping hacks, now you share yours. Leave a comment below with your #1 hack for living on the road 🚐.
Read more: 6 Best RV Covers for Winter 2022
Mitch is your typical nomadic backpacker. Or at least, he was. But after stopping in Colombia to take “one week” of salsa lessons, his life took a sharp left turn. He met a cute Colombian girl in dance class, fell in love, and got married. Over half a decade has passed since he left his career to travel the world as a digital nomad, and he’s never looked back.
Nowadays, he’s the blogger behind Project Untethered — where he runs an awesome email newsletter and Youtube channel teaching adventure-craved wanderlusters how to escape the rat race, earn money from anywhere, and build an “untethered life”.
His advice has been featured in Forbes, USA Today, Yahoo, MSN, Reader’s Digest, Condé Nast Traveler, and more.
Mitch's Travel Recommendations:
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Going Cheap Flights Newsletter - Get flight deals from your airport up to 90% off sent straight to your inbox.
Safetywing Insurance - This cheap travel insurance has saved me over $15,000 in medical bills.
Booking.com - Book accommodation without adding your credit card (in case you need to cancel).
Trusted House Sitters - Take care of pets in exchange for free (sometimes luxury) accommodation.
Flexjobs - Find remote jobs without having to sift through crappy ones.
Skillshare - Free trial to take unlimited classes that teach digital nomad skills.
Wise - Send and receive money abroad cheaply (great for freelancers).