The 3 Easiest Van Life Upgrades

van life upgrades

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  • Upgrading the things in your van is an activity that shouldn’t be taken lightly.

    After all, space is at a premium and you will need to be sure that the new item you’re bringing in will be worth the space it will take up.

    Luckily, the three items listed below will give you a lot of benefits per cubic inch.

    Outdoor Shower

    An outdoor shower can be easily built out of a black plastic bag. However, DIY outdoor showers tend to fail just after you put shampoo in your hair. The addition of a hose to any bag, combined with a spray nozzle, can be a recipe for disaster.

    Instead, treat yourself to an outdoor shower that’s actually designed to withstand the rigors of being hung from the back of the van, set out on the hard pack of the desert, or dangled in a tree.

    Once you find a shower bag with the durability you need, consider investing in a collapsible shower tent. You can use the space to serve as your private spot to shower and use it for outdoor storage the rest of the day.

    New Mattress

    Whether you’re living mobile or just going on a camping trip, there is nothing worse than not being able to sleep well. Investing in a quality bed is imperative to a comfortable long-term setup.

    Perhaps one of the best options for a bed is one that is intended for mobile settings. Namely, an RV memory foam mattress offers all the advantages of memory foam while being adaptable to smaller spaces.

    You can also get one with a cool memory foam top or snuggle down into a mattress with an egg crate top. The best feature for Vanlifers is that this kind of mattress is lightweight and can be trimmed to fit in virtually any awkward spot or shape.

    An RV mattress can be anywhere from 4 to 10 inches thick. If your current mattress offers little comfort, replace it with a memory foam mattress and allow you a great night of rest.

    Be aware that these mattresses are not the standard, couch cushion foam that will slip and slide all night, leaving you tired and disappointed. A quality memory foam mattress will be

    • cool to the touch
    • supportive and springy as you rollover
    • heavy

    The thicker the mattress, the heavier it will be. Make sure that your bed has a firm support system because once you get the mattress in place, you’ll want to leave it there. Also be aware that memory foam can be stiff when it’s cold, though it will flex as it warms up beneath the weight of your body.

    If you’re a cold-weather camper, you can build a bit more flex into your mattress with an electric blanket on a low setting, or by laying in bed to read a bit before getting under the blankets.

    Waterproof Bag

    You would think a waterproof bag would protect the things inside of it, but actually there are waterproof bags that you can use to transport water. These useful tools can also be used to as a small washing machine if you’re a long way from town.

    Simply toss in your dirty clothes, some biodegradable laundry soap, enough water to make a good mix and go for a hike or a jog. The agitation of moving through space will give you the chance to raise your heart rate, burn off some energy, and clean your clothes. When you get back to the van, drain the bag and add clean water for rinsing. You can let your camping partner handle the final rinse, or get in another walk.

    other valuable tips:

    Of course, this bag will also protect the items inside of it from getting soaked if you get caught in the rain or have a hard day kayaking. Just pull the clothes and turn the bag inside out to dry completely.

    You can also use this bag as an easily portable cooler, or use it as a water bladder directly. Make sure to either rinse it thoroughly after doing laundry in it, or invest in two so you have one for washing up and one for a cool glass of water while hiking.


    A great deal of the joy of van life comes from figuring out new ways to do very ordinary things. By washing your clothes while jogging or custom cutting a mattress to give you blissful sleep, you’re building a space made to fit exactly with your long-term goals.

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