The Van Project: Our Van Life Essentials
The Van Project: Our Van Life Essentials

When the folks at Leatherman asked to see our adventure camper van kit and we said, “sure that sounds like fun!"

We didn’t realize just how much van life gear we’ve packed into less than 300 square feet. We’ve never seen it all laid out like this before!

To give you some background: we’re digital nomads, which means we do most of our work remotely over the interwebs while traveling and living in a van full-time. You can also check out our previous blogs that cover how to live the van life. We spend our non-working hours outside: camping, backpacking, climbing, photographing, fishing, and biking. Here’s the adventure gear that keeps us comfortable, safe and ready for any adventure on a moment’s notice.

inside van project

We had so much gear we had to number things! Each group of stuff in this photo is numbered and described below.

1. Relaxin’ All Cool

Living in a van, RV, or campervan allows you (some of) the luxury of the comforts of home. We love these Helinox chairs, which allow us to set up an outdoor space to hang out and work. Nothing feels better than reclining in an actual chair after a long day of hiking. They pack down super small and are the most comfortable camping chairs we’ve ever owned. Bonus: they make tables too.

2. Vertical Playground

Rock climbing is one of our primary activities, so we carry an extensive collection of gear that somehow fits mostly into one large plastic bin underneath our bed. We have a triple set of cams, double set of chocks, slings, carabiners, quickdraws, belay devices, helmets, harnesses, a pair of alpine ropes, a 50-meter single rope, a 70-meter single rope, helmets, and far too many shoes. But can you really ever have too many shoes?

3. When a Van is Just Too Glampy

We love ultralight backpacking and base camping (for climbing objectives). To make sure we’re prepared to hop on the trail all year long we always have a down sleeping bag and quilt, ultralight flat-tarp, 3-season tent, 4-season tent, sleeping pads, hydration bladders, trekking poles, white-gas and canister stoves, compass, and headlamps in the van.

4. Make Ansel Around

We love documenting and sharing our adventures and life on the road. Matt also earns a substantial chunk of his income through photography so our photography equipment is one of our van life must haves. We carry a full-frame Canon DSLR and a Fujifilm APS-C mirrorless camera depending on the adventure or job. We also have various tripods, a Glidecam XR-pro, a 42" two-sided reflector, a collapsible softbox, a speedlight, a couple camera bags, a variable neutral density filter, a circular polarizer, and a graduated neutral density filter kit.

5. Catch of the Day

Sometimes we catch and release, sometimes we keep our catch and make dinner! For fishing, we carry a Temple Fork 5-weight 4-piece rod with G Loomis reel, an 11-foot tenkara rod, a compact 4-piece spin rod, and an oversized aluminum net.

6. We’ve got Baggage

There’s no single backpack that does everything perfectly, and because of this, we carry a few. Our Hyperlight Mountain Gear Windriders are perfect for backpacking and thru-hiking. For shorter hikes, we use our compact daypacks. We’re also both interested in getting more into trail-running, and our Patagonia running vests are our go-to for that.

7. Freedom of the Road

When we find a really great place to park or when we’re in a more urban setting we can hop on our touring bikes to get around. We’re in love with our Surly Long Haul Truckers.

8. Solar-Powered

We designed and installed a solar-powered electrical system in our RV but we carry some extra pieces of solar gear that come in handy depending on the situation. We have lots of solar-powered Mpowerd Luci lights and LuminAid lights for lighting our campsites. We carry a Kodiak battery and inverter from Inergy. On bright days we charge up the Kodiak for extra electrical capacity. This is the best transportable solar kit out there. It allows us to charge up any of our AC appliances such as laptops or camera gear. We can even run a blender!

9. The Adventure Mobile

Our adventure mobile of choice is a 1964 Clark Cortez. It’s 18.5 feet long, which is about the same size as a long wheelbase sprinter van and perfect for two people. We spent six months renovating the interior to fit our lifestyle. We’ve got all of the amenities you’d find in a “normal" home in here: a toilet, queen-sized bed, sink with running water, outdoor shower, an on-demand hot water heater to keep our sink and outdoor shower hot, LED lights, power (thanks to the sun!), and even a tiny bookshelf.

10. The Essential Tool for the Job

We carry a few different Leatherman multi-tools depending on the job or adventure. For base camping and general outdoor activities, we love the Signal, with its hammer and combo knife. For all RV and van quick fixes and repairs the Charge + TTI is awesome with its pliers, electrical crimpers, and screwdrivers (including the bit kit). And when it comes to thru-hiking and ultralight backpacking the Style CS has everything you need and nothing you don’t.

What You Don’t See

A few of our other essential van items include:

Weboost RV Connect 65—Working remotely requires connectivity and our Weboost cell phone booster can be the difference between meeting deadlines or missing them. It’s not THE solution to keeping a permanent connection to the outside world, but it certainly increases your range, speed, and ability to work from those ‘out there’ locations.

ARB 50 quart AC/DC refrigerator—For us, fresh food is a necessity and we rely on our ARB refrigerator to keep things cool. It’s super efficient and we run it 24/7 on our solar system (3×100 watt panels, 200 amp/hour battery bank).