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15 Van Build Must-Haves for Living Your Best Van Life

If you’re about to take on your own D.I.Y. van build – are you crazy? Just kidding! Congratulations are in order, because it takes a certain kind of awesome-crazy to go down this road. Yes there will be frustration, set backs (a lot of them!), daily Amazon orders and trips to the hardware store, and some bumps and bruises along the way. But in the end, you’ll have created your own little custom home on wheels, and the frustrations will be replaced by a sense of pride and accomplishment. And to be able to travel around *in* your house – like, pulling over in rando spots to take a nap – priceless.

There’s a lot to consider when planning your van build. Our advice is to know what your priorities are for the lifestyle you lead, what items you want in your van to live that lifestyle comfortably, and then figure out how to make it happen within your budget. There are tons of resources and solutions out there, and tbh, we couldn’t have done it ourselves without YouTube! So whether you’re starting from scratch or you’re well on your way and just need some fresh ideas, read on for our 15 Van Build Must-Haves!

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Separett Tiny compost toilet

Separett Tiny® Compost Toilet

Usually, the first thing people want to know about when it comes to van life is the toilet, so we’re putting this at the top of the list. There are many options out there, including no toilet, bucket toilet, composting toilet vs. compost toilet (there’s a difference between the two!), cassette toilet, or a fully-flushing, plumbed toilet. We’re not going to delve into all of the options here as that would make for a long post, just on the topic of toilets alone! There’s a lot to consider, but if you pair your budget with your lifestyle and what you envision your version of #vanlife looking like, that should narrow things down quite a bit.

For us, the Separett Tiny was an easy choice. It’s a waterless, urine diverting compost toilet with separate sections: one for #1s and one for #2s. The liquids container has two caps and a handle for clean, easy removal when it’s time to empty. The “other” section utilizes a compostable bag, in which you can add layers of something like natural pet bedding as needed (like, every time) for absorption. This compost toilet has a built-in fan that runs constantly, and when ventilated properly (typically run through the van floor) is virtually odorless. It’s the least glamorous side of van life, but all grossness considered, we couldn’t be happier with our choice. Especially since we don’t have black water to contend with.

Breville Smart Oven Air Fryer Pro

Breville Smart Oven Air Fryer Pro

We’re absolutely in love with this thing. It does everything we need and more. Cookies and brownies? Yep! Pizza? Heck yeah! Air fry? Go for it! Now, in full disclosure we should note that we’re running a very robust, custom built 24-volt electrical system in our van, by design. Therefore, we’re not beholden to your usual 12-volt appliances – or the surprisingly higher price tags that come with anything “made for RVs” of the 12-volt variety. We also installed a 20-amp electrical outlet in our “kitchen” galley countertop, which allows us to safely run this beauty as well as our induction cooktop, and even a blowdryer if we want!

True Induction 2-Burner Portable Induction Cooktop

True Induction 2-Burner Portable Induction Cooktop

Speaking of cooktops, we knew 100% from the jump that we did not want propane in our van. Which is another reason for our beefy electrical system mentioned above – we’re all-electric! We love this cooktop as much as our smart oven. And it’s so light and portable that we’re able to easily stash it away in a cheeky little shelf we designed, hidden inside the drawer that holds our pots and pans. So when we’re not using it, we’ve got full countertop space. Induction technology is incredible. It’s more energy efficient than conventional electric stoves, and even more so compared to gas cooking. Not to mention much better indoor air quality than with gas, which is key in a tiny home like a camper van. Another safety benefit is that an induction burner won’t get hot without a pot on it, even if turned on by mistake.

Frigidaire Compact Refrigerator in Silver Mist. 3 cubic feet, dorm-style

Frigidaire Compact Refrigerator in Silver Mist

Not only are 12-volt RV fridges crazy expensive (like all 12-volt appliances), but they’re way too small for our taste – especially the freezers. This was another driving factor in our decision to install an electric system that could handle household AC appliances. We like a separate, good-sized freezer that we could fill so we don’t have to race with as many expiration dates on the foods in the fridge. We might also love ice cream just a little bit. Seriously though, we really love to stock up on all of our favorite Trader Joe’s items, many of which are frozen. And we just couldn’t find a 12-volt RV fridge with a suitable freezer, let alone one within our budget. This 3.1 cubic foot dorm-sized fridge has been killing it for us on the daily and we love it!

Maxxair Maxxfan, a roof mounted exhaust/intake fan for RVs and camper vans.
Maxxair Maxxfan

Pretty much an industry standard in RV and camper van ceiling ventilation. There are a few variations you can choose from, such as remote control or button control operation, a rain sensor option, etc. Fortunately, ours came with the van when we purchased it and is still fully operational, so we didn’t see the need to replace it. Ours is the basic push button (no remote) operation, manual open/close, and with no rain sensor. We’re perfectly happy with it, but realize most people would at least prefer the remote operation, so we’re linking to that one here.

Hot Tip: We’ve heard that theMaxxfan rain sensors are not always reliable and can be somewhat problematic, so we suggest doing your research first if that option is speaking to you.

Skylight for RVs and camper vans.

We’ve been absolutely LOVING stargazing from our bed with this! And along with our MaxxAFan running on exhaust mode up in the front, the breeze coming through this thing has been amazing. This was the perfect and most affordable (for our budget) solution for adding a second source of ventilation in rear of our van. It’s got both a blackout shade and a screen, or just leave it wide open if you like – but not while driving! You may notice we’ve not included the “brand name” on this one. That’s because it’s made in China and there are many of this exact same skylight listed online, but with different brand names and slightly varying prices. It also doesn’t come with any installation instructions. Crazy. We did manage to find some very, very basic (and comical) installation instructions, buried way down in the product listing details. We also watched a ton of Youtube videos on installing Maxxfans and skylights in general to try to get a consensus on best practices. Without getting into the dirty details of our D.I.Y. installation, you might want to consider consulting a professional, if not have them install it for you all together. Like we ended up doing… the second time around. Heh – keep an eye out for the vlog on our YouTube channel. Seriously though, the skylight itself is wonderful, and we couldn’t be happier with it. It’s less expensive than ading a second Maxxfan, and way less expensive than adding an A/C unit. Neither of which you can see stars through.

Nap Queen mattress. Queen size, 8-inches deep.
NapQueen 8-inch Queen Size Mattress

Who says you need to compromise your bed size for #vanlife? Design around it, like we did! This one has temperature controlling features, like bamboo and charcoal infused materials, ventilated airflow design, and is hypoallergenic. Our only minor regret is not not seeking it out in firm, instead of this medium-firm. Lucky for us our old Ikea adjustable bed slats from our former home in Los Angeles – that we’d already intended to use with this platform bed – solved the firmness concern perfectly, and we couldn’t be happier, or more comfortable in our bed.

Torva 18 x 9-inch Drop-in Sink. This is actually a bar sink, but the poster is using it as their camper van sink, instead of an RV sink.

Torva 18 x 9-inch Drop-in Sink

This is larger than your average RV sink, and also deeper. That’s because it’s actually a bar sink! After using the small sink that came with our van for a few months, we knew the depth was just as, if not more important to us than width and legnth. It actually took some serious searching to find just the right one while planning our new build, but we finally found it, and we love it. It’s a two-hole design, and we mounted the faucet in one and the spout for our 3-stage water filtration system in the other, instead of a soap dispenser. Both were purchased separately, and the water filtration system is mounted in the cabinet under the sink. Links to both are in our full D.I.Y. Van Build kit on

Class A Customs 25 Gallon Fresh Water Tank25 gallon water tank for RVs and camper vans, made by Class A Customs.

Class A Customs is a go-to brand for your water tank needs. They have several size options, depending what you prefer. We have this 25 gallon tank for our fresh water, and a 10 gallon for our gray water. We find this combination to be a decent middle ground for us. Some folks go bigger, like 40-50 gallons of fresh and 25 or more for gray. Obviously, the more you have, the longer you can go without refilling/emptying tanks. But that also means you’re driving around that much more weight, which is always a consideration in a van build. We knew our battery system was going to weigh around 250 pounds, and that was something we didn’t want to compromise on. As digital nomads, a worry-free electrical system was top priority, so we were prepared to make compromises in other areas of the build as needed. The only limitation to our tank sizes is how many days straight we can boondock for. Yes, we’d love to be able to go for more than just a few days, but we’re learning how to conserve and make it work for us, and that’s been quite refreshing, actually.

Gravity Water Inlet Fill Dish with locking cap, made for RVs and camper vans.
Gravity Water Inlet Fill Dish (with locking cap!)

You’re going to need a way to fill up your water tank. If your van doesn’t already have an inlet, get ready to cut a big ol’ hole in her to add one of these! We highly recommend getting one with a key lock like this one, so no one can mess with your water supply when you’re not looking.


Camco TastePURE 25-Foot Premium Drinking Water Hose, used for RVs and camper vans. Camco TastePURE 25-Foot Premium Drinking Water Hose

You need a drinking water hose, specifically, for filling your fresh water tank. They come in various lengths. We currently have one 25-foot hose, but plan to add a second as an “extra.” Here’s why we opt for two shorter ones rather than one long one: In most cases, 25 feet has been plenty of reach, but occasionally we need more. So, rather than having to pull out and put back away one longer hose – for every single fill up – we’d rather keep an extra shorter one on hand for the rare occasions we need it, and simply daisy chain the two together.

Outdoor Shower for RVs and camper vans, made by Awelife. Awelife RV Outdoor Shower

After some deliberation, we opted to go with a dry bathroom – a.k.a., no shower, no running water, just a waterless toilet and a door. But we wanted to have an option for times when we can’t get to a nearby gym to shower – like when we’re boondocking for a few days. We chose this outdoor shower and mounted it around back in the “garage,” on the outer wall of our plumbing system encasement. Just open the back doors of the van, hang some shower curtains, a tarp, or pop-up a shower tent (or not, if you’re a naturist ;)) – and you’re ready to shower!


NOTE: Be sure to use biodegradable, non-toxic, organic soaps, and it’s important to use them at least 200 feet away from water sources. Even biodegradable products can contaminate water supplies.

Furrion 30 Amp RV Shore Power Inlet for RVs and camper vans.
Furrion 30 Amp RV Shore Power Inlet

For when you need to plug into the grid to power up. Our favorite feature of this model is the LED light that indicates you’re actually charging once plugged in. Our old one didn’t have that, and we never knew for sure if it was working. With this, there’s never a doubt.





Camco PowerGrip 50-Foot Camper/RV Extension Cord

Camco PowerGrip 50-Foot Camper/RV Extension Cord

You can’t get your shore power without one of these. We have the 25-foot version, but have found that to be a little short on a couple of occasions. If you can swing the extra $35 or so, it might do you good to have 50 feet. The 90 degree locking heads help reduce stress on the cord and ensure you’ve got a solid connection.





Noico 80 mil. Sound deadening for autos. Noico Solutions 80 Mil. Sound Deadening

When it comes to sound deadening, KillMat is probably the first name brand that comes to mind, with Noico as a close second. We’d always heard they’re both equal in quality, and for reasons I no longer recall, we had originally planned on using KillMat. But at the time of purchase we couldn’t get our hands on it anywhere. Noico was readily available so we purchased that with no hesitation and have been perfectly happy with it. We purchased six boxes in total and used five. We applied it to the usual areas at about 20% coverage per area – floors, walls, ceiling, rear wheel wells, and just the headliner in the cab. As a point of reference for what quantities you might need, we have a 170” wheelbase high top Sprinter.

BONUS: Havelock Wool Insulation

This amazing product isn’t available on Amazon, and we have no affiliation with the company other than being loyal customers ourselves, but we stand by it so much that we’re willing to give this recco away “for free.” There are many solutions out there for insulating your van, some being more environmentally-friendly and sustainable than others, but you won’t do better than Havelock Wool. It is superior at moisture management, insulation, sound absorption, and air filtration, and best of all, it’s renewable, sustainable, biodegradable, and compostable – meaning it’s overall carbon footprint is extremely low. For us, this was worth every penny, and we couldn’t help but want to cuddle and smell it during installation (lolz!).

These are just the highlights of what we’ve built into our Sprinter. For a more complete list of the many items our girl “Ace” is currently driving around the states, check out our full D.I.Y. Van Built Essentials kit on And be sure to drop us a comment below on what your favorite item on the list is, or one of your own that you plan to include in your van build!

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