When you buy through our links, we may earn fees from our affiliate partners. Learn more.
For more than six years, our beloved second-hand Volkswagen van has been there for us as we travelled through drought-ridden agricultural regions, escaped to serene coastal towns, road-tripped Australia’s east coast, and spent many days sleeping under its solid steel frame as we attempted to save money whilst enjoying a weekend getaway (we’ve saved thousands in hotel and resort accomodation costs as a result).
Van life has become a travel trend since we bought our van in 2014 and while we haven’t decked out our van like many others (since we use our van mostly for #farmlife) my partner and I are still seasoned #vanlife folks compared to most and so together, we have put together this guide for other conscious nomads needing eco-friendly van life gear, gadgets and other essentials that will help you live your best van life.
This sustainable van life essentials guide is broken up into various categories to make your list-browsing much easier such as kitchen, tech and electronics, clothing and laundry, bathroom and toiletries, bedding, bags storage, safety and miscellaneous.
It has to be said that van life isn’t for everyone; it takes a willing spirit, some preparation and the desire to live out of one’s comfort zone to really make the most of this unique travel experience. And if this is you, get ready for the open road with an open heart and open mind. This is the only van life motto to live by.
To Go Ware bamboo utensil set – Reusable and super lightweight and includes chopsticks, fork, knife and spoon, these utensils are perfect for taking on the road. The utensil holder is also made from recycled PET upcycled from a plastic water bottle.
GSI Outdoors cookware – If you’re looking to build campfires and cook in the great outdoors, this stainless steel cookware set is specifically designed for outdoor cooking. Easy to wash and store, and can durable enough to be placed over coals, you’ll have enjoy a hearty meal – if you have the patience to cook it! GSI Outdoors also has a range of powder-coated stainless steel camp stoves should you need this on your #vanlife adventure too.
Patagonia Provisions – If you’re in need of some responsibly sourced food and snacks to pack on your #vanlife adventures, Patagonia Provisions has you covered. The brand that pioneered sustainable outdoor apparel and outdoor gear is now bringing travellers good, nutritious, responsibly sourced foods in convenient, sustainable packaging. The range includes Smoked Mackerel and Spicy Buffalo Jerky. For plant-based foodies (like me), there’s a range of soups such as Organic Green Lentil Soup and snack bars such as Organic Inca Berry + Almond Bars.
Food containers – You’ll need to bring a heap of food containers on your #vanlife trip to store nuts, seeds, muesli and other snacks. Australia’s leading eco-store Biome stocks a wide range of stainless steel and glass food containers from popular brands such as Ever Eco and Green Essentials (we take both of these brands on the road). If you’re in the US, check out ECOlunchbox.
Tech Kit – Getting yourself organised is crucial to a headache-free van life experience and if you’re a photographer, digital creator or a freelance creative, it’s important to store your gadgets in a way that’s easily accessible and requires minimal time untangling them all. That’s why Bellroy’s Tech Kit is ideal; you can store your tech accessories such as your power bank, phone charger, cables and earbuds neatly in a compact case that’s well-designed, is made responsibly and built to last. We love our Bellroy kit, it’s super handy, keeps our tech items organised, is made of recycled materials and the brand is Aussie and a B-Corp too, big ticks on all fronts.
Clothing and footwear
prAna – This outdoor apparel label offers high-quality earth-friendly clothing made for the active customer who enjoys running, practicing yoga or hiking without compromising ethical values, style and comfort. Most of the collections are made from sustainable materials such as organic cotton, hemp and recycled fibres, and they are responsibly-made too, so you can rest assured this is a sweatshop-free label.
Tentree – If you’re looking for comfortable clothing during your van travels, check out Tentree. This eco-conscious Canadian apparel company responsibly manufactures casual wear and outdoor clothing for men and women which are ideal for van life. The clothing is made from sustainable fabrics such as hemp, organic cotton and recycled materials. Tentree also plants 10 trees for every product sold.
Patagonia – For extreme outdoor enthusiasts, you can’t go past pioneering sustainable outdoor apparel company Patagonia. A clothing brand born from a love of nature by mountain climbers who have deep respect for the natural environment, you’ll find durable clothing and equipment made for even the toughest terrains and coldest climates. Patagonia sources eco-friendly materials for their collections including organic cotton, industrial hemp or recycled polyester and also invests heavily in research and development of innovative fabrics that are heavy-duty whilst having lower environmental impact.
Vivobarefoot footwear – This sustainable outdoor shoe company manufactures ergonomic barefoot-style shoes for men and women that provide maximum comfort and performance. Vivobarefoot’s footwear features innovative materials such as algae biomass and recycled plastic from bottles. They have a range of footwear to suit any outdoor activity you have in mind: hiking, trail running and even footwear especially built for wet adventures (like Crocs, only better-looking and more sustainable). I wear my Primus Lite II (below) when I’m travelling as they are comfy AF and practical enough to use when I’m at the beach or sightseeing on foot.
Bathroom and toiletries
Biome bamboo toothbrush – There are many toothbrushes now on the market but we use Biome’s bamboo toothbrush as the brand is Australian (as are we!), is of dentist-quality, is durable, the bristles have rounded ends and because it is made of bamboo, is popped into our compost bins at the end of life (after removing the nylon bristles of course).
Shampoo With a Purpose Shampoo bar – For zero waste shampoo, Australian brand Shampoo With a Purpose works a treat – the brand I’ve been using for years and does wonders for my coarse, thick Asian hair. It comes in recyclable cardboard packaging instead of a plastic bottle. Alternatively, you can always choose to go the ‘no poo’ (no shampoo) route if you feel you’re up to it.
Asuvi zero waste deodorant – The Asuvi range of all-natural, vegan deodorants are super effective and have subtle scents that leave you smelling wonderful and are refillable eliminating the need to use more single-use plastics. The refillable deodorant stick is 100% plastic-free, made from biodegradable cardboard packaging. This is the deodorant we use daily and so of course, we take with us on our road travels.
Dr. Bronner’s bar soap – This bar soap brand has been committed to making socially and environmentally personal care and household products since 1858. The brand uses certified fair-trade ingredients and organic oils and is vegan-friendly. My favourite scent is the hemp rose as well as the unscented.
Beekeeper Parade Makeup & Toiletries Pouch – These fun and bright pouches are made from upcycled scrap and leftover fabrics into cool and each purchase provides much-needed funding into education-based projects in Cambodia.
Ethique Zero Waste Face Cleanser – This popular zero waste beauty brand has just released its first ever solid face cleanser so you can now wash your face with a plastic-free cleanser. Made in New Zealand, use this vegan-friendly zero waste facial cleanser to remove dirt and grime off of your face and store dry in a container between uses.
ettitude – For comfy, eco-friendly bed sheets, ettitude‘s silky bamboo sheets will make you feel like you’re in a five star hotel instead of sleeping in a van. If you’re keen to bring a little luxury into your van life and don’t want to feel like you’re “roughing it” too much, these are the sheets for you.
Coyuchi Honeycomb Organic Blanket – Keep warm in your van with this soft and chunky blanket made in a fair-trade factory using 100% organic cotton grown and woven in India. Comes in a variety of classic colours.
WAYKS Travel Backpack – The versatile WAYKS ONE travel backpack is designed to be both minimalist and functional – no matter where you go on your #vanlife adventure. This weatherproof bag features lots of compartments for easy storage of laptop, water bottles, tech equipment and more. It can also be separated so that you can use the sub-parts as a day pack, a bum bag or a camera bag. Made from eco-friendly fabric derived from recycled PET bottles and responsibly-made in a Vietnamese factory that adheres to fair labor standards, these backpacks will help you travel in organised, sustainable style. It comes in two classic colours (pictured below).
VANLUV STASH IT! Van organizer – “A place for everything and everything in its place”. This vehicle storage organizer is designed to hang in the back of your seat and is the ideal solution for the tiny spaces in campers, vans and caravans These practical storage bags are ethically-made in Germany from various materials. Different colours are made using different materials such as heavy-duty 100% polypropylene, cotton and polyester.
Safety and miscellaneous
LED Lantern – You’ll need one of an LED lantern or headlamp if you’re needing to go for a number 1 (or dig a hole and squat for a number 2) in the dark or love night hikes. Lighting EVER Store stocks high quality, rechargeable, and portable solar lamps and lanterns that are water-resistant and multi-functional too as you can recharge your phone with them too.
Filtering Face Mask – There are different mask-wearing policies in different cities and states and if you want to minimise COVID-19 transmission and avoid a fine, make sure to follow social distancing and face mask protocols. A rule of thumb is to carry a face mask with you at all times and wear it when you are in public or crowded places such as retail stores or popular tourist spots. Ecomask produces high-quality face masks with ECONYL®, a 100% regenerated nylon fiber made from pre and post-consumer waste such as nylon scraps and fishing nets. It responsibly manufactures its masks in Germany in a facility with 100% renewable energy and fair labor practices.
Hand sanitizer – With the arrival of COVID-19 it’s crucial that you follow health and hygiene protocols at all times to minimise spread of the coronavirus. Using an effective hand sanitiser spray such as Dr. Bronner’s Hand Sanitizer (comes in peppermint and lavender) and Goat Antibacterial Hand & Surface Sanitiser Spray (this is the one I carry in my handbag as it’s made in Australia) which kills 99.9% of germs helps to reduce coronavirus transmission on your adventures.
Patch Strips – As a precaution you’ll need to bring a basic first aid kit on your travels and when you do, make sure to pack eco-friendly and vegan-friendly Patch strips featuring ingredients such as aloe vera and coconut oil. These natural bamboo adhesive bandages are ideal for cuts, abrasions, blisters and splinters.
Loved this post? Save on Pinterest or share with your networks!
- 10 Eco Travel Destinations in the Philippines for Conscious Tourists
- Where To Find Vegan, Ethical and Eco-Friendly Hiking Boots
- Greening Up Your Road Trip: 11 Tips to Make Road Travel More Sustainable
- Meet The Aussie Climate Activists Embarking on a 2-Year Journey in a Solar-Powered 100% Electric Campervan
- 10 Best Ethical and Sustainable Brands for Men’s Joggers and Sweatpants
- 11 Ethical and Sustainable Outdoor Clothing Brands for the Adventurer
- 7 Unique Places to Stay in Europe Where You Can Reconnect with Nature
Cover image by Caleb George.