Jay and I have been on the road for over six months now. We have lived full-time in this van every day. After the immediate adjustment of the limited space and organization we began to realize things that work and things that didn’t work quite so well. I have also included links at the bottom of each review so you can view the item directly. This is what we have found out thus far…
Our essential gear for VanDwelling:
Navigation: Garmin Nuvi 50LM
This item comes with lifetime maps and have found that Garmin is the best for navigation, and organization. Everything is easy to find and the product is easy to use. You can punch in an address or coordinates or if you are at a location you like and want to save it you can save the coordinates for future use. We updated the maps as well and that took a really long time. About 5 to 6 hours. This is probably not an issue though with your own high-speed internet. We were using Barnes and Noble internet which was kind of slow. But besides that this is a great tool especially while we are traveling. Make sure you check the location and route before you head on your way to make sure you like it and always have an atlas just in case. I would suggest getting the life time maps especially since to update it once is quite outrageous so its worth the initial investment.
Bed: GoldBond 8″ Futon Mattress
This mattress is wonderful! We were a bit skeptical about getting a futon mattress but a regular mattress would not properly fit into our space. The futon mattress is able to bend at the ends to fit easily into the space. We knew the mattress would compress which is why we opted for the 8″ mattress versus the 4″ or 6″ mattress. The 8″ compressed to about 4″ or a little more, give or take in some areas. We flip the mattress about every 2 weeks which gives it good loft. Overall, this is the best mattress I’ve ever slept on. Although at times it can get hard and if you lay on it too long in the same position your joints get a bit stiff, but besides that, its awesome. We’ve considered adding a mattress topper or a memory foam topper to give it added cushion but as of yet, had not needed to. With flipping and fluffing this mattress does exactly what we need it to do.
CF 50 AC/DC Fridge Freezer. It is made by Waeco and imported into the United States by Dometic. We have found this item to be crucial especially in eating healthier and to avoid eating out. We store frozen chicken, eggs, lettuce, salad dressing, cheese, milk, or anything else that needs to be refrigerated. We looked good and hard, Jay doing most of the research and review reading before we finally deciding to drop the cash for this item. Be careful though, there are other refrigerators out there with lower prices, but they do not have the guarantee, customer service, and customer satisfaction that Waeco/Dometic has. Be cautious when choosing this item since it is a higher priced item. Read ALL the reviews and good luck!
This is the best price we found, ended up being less than $600 shipped.
Cooking: Coleman Single Burner Stove
This item works great especially in our small space. We initially had a double burner stove but found that to be extremely large and cumbersome while trying to cook inside, although it works great while at camp. This single burner stove stays on our counter top permanently and is not in the way. It has solid rubber legs so that it does not slide off the counter while driving. It is used to boil water in the morning for tea, to cook bacon and eggs in the morning, and anything else we need to cook throughout the day.
Coleman Double Burner, Dual Burner Stove
Initially we thought this would be our full-time stove but since it is quite large, it took up way to much counter space and could easily be bumped over. Instead, this stove stays tucked away in a cubby until we are ready to make camp for a week or so. In that case, the stove stays outside and makes cooking much quicker since we have two burners to cook off of. It can be used with unleaded and white gas, but we use it with Propane and an adapter. Adapter works freakin awesome! No leaks, no issues. Propane Converter (Grey)
Heating: Mr. Heater Heater Buddy
This item is great especially when it gets really cold outside. It is safe for indoor use with slight ventilation. We keep the side windows cracked. It works great, keeps us warm and really is safe. We tested it. If it falls over, it will turn off. If there is no ventilation it will turn off because of decreased oxygen. Our carbon monoxide alarm actually went off once but we had already turned the heater off by then. We were fine, we didn’t die! The only issue can sometimes be when we are trying to start it and the flame won’t catch. The spark won’t light the propane (usually because of its oxygen meter) so in that case we have to open up a door and swing the thing outside and get a good cold breeze in the van before it decides to stop acting up and turn on! But it does keep us from freezing at night!
Hygiene: Dr. Bronners and a Solar Shower
Bath soap and Shampoo has got to be Dr. Bronners. It’s environmentally friendly (it won’t eutrify a water system by adding nutrients) and it leaves you feeling squeaky clean. Literally. I really enjoy it for washing my hair because it rinses out really quick, and I use less water that way. If I feel I need it I can use a little conditioner after just to get rid of the squeaky feeling. It’s also great as a body wash and leaves you feeling clean and refreshed with no excess residue.
Solar shower had to be Stearns 5 Gallon Sun shower. It had the best reviews and the 5 Gallons is perfect for Jay and I to both get a shower. The only tricky part is hanging it up high enough to get a good flow. If we had a tree it wouldn’t be an issue but in the desert there is no real way to hang it up. We managed though. We’ve even just been able to hang it up on a large branch/walking stick type deal. But having two people to fumble with this definitely helps!
Electricity: Solar panels and Charge controller
Fortunately for us, our solar panels where a gift. We have four of these panels adding up to 60 Watts. We would like one more panel but for the moment it keeps the refrigerator running, and allows us to watch a movie every night on the laptop.
The charge controller is a SunSaver Duo with Remote Meter which does a wonderful job controlling the amount of charge going to the batteries from the panels. We have had no issues thus far, works great, and Jay loves monitoring how much energy we get to make from the sun.
Other useful items have been our black out curtains from Target which helps regulate the inside temperature a bit and keeps people from peeking into the van. They work great, gives the illusion of a black hole in our van.http://www.target.com/p/Room-Essentials-Thermal-Window-Panel-Pair/-/A-13546988
Also our fold out stool which we bought at Big Lots for ten dollars. Folds up perfect to fit in a small crack and is great to sit on while cooking breakfast or dinner in the van.
Although we have seen many different set ups in other people’s vehicles, we are very content with our set up. The only issue we have really found is having the food more accessible when we are set up. As in, the food may have been better placed near the door instead of on the far side of the vehicle. It’s not that big of an issue especially since I’m small enough to go in and out without it being a problem. Jay finds it a bit more frustrating.
Hope that helps and if you do decide to purchase anything please follow our links. We are Amazon Affiliates so anything that you decide to purchase sends us a little money our way and it costs you absolutely nothing!
July 25, 2012