Every year, my Mom asks me what I want for Christmas and for my birthday. I’m really glad she asks, because there isn’t anything worse than getting a pile of gifts I have to then spend time donating. There’s only so much room in a small campervan!
Choosing van life gifts for someone who’s basically sworn off earthly possessions is no easy task.
However, there is some great stuff out there that a van lifer will truly love and use.
I put together this list of gifts for camper owners to give you some ideas what to give someone who lives full-time on the road.
If none of this stuff floats your boat – you can never go wrong with a gift card! Later on, I’ll give you a list of cool gift card ideas for that footloose and fancy free van lifer in your life.
1) National Parks Annual Pass ($80)
The America the Beautiful Parks Pass is something Tom and I buy every single year. It saves so much money given that the typical entry into a national park is $30! This is one of our favorite van life gifts because it’s something that will truly be appreciated and used.
Plus, it barely takes up any space.
I know I’d be thankful for it!
I’m totally obsessed with packing cubes in both my campervan and on my sailboat. I have at least 8 of these Compass Rose packing cubes for all my different types of clothes.
This is a great van life gift idea for someone who needs a little help organizing their van – and don’t we all?
We use these tiny Moonlence camping chairs constantly when traveling in our Chevy Astro van. They fold down to almost nothing and are comfortable when set up.
Their small size and foldable status make them one of the best gifts for van life.
These Moonlence compact camping chairs only weight a few pounds and are small enough to fit in a backpack. Perfect for a van lifer to take down to a lake or a river to sit and read a book.
Tom and I have been gifting each other Darn Tough socks for years because they are seriously the best sock ever!
This best gift idea for van life is perfect for lounging, camping, hiking and sleeping in cold weather.
I have to admit I’ve worn these socks for several days, without any type of smell of funkiness. They’re also easy to wash and hang dry.
Darn Tough socks are made in Vermont from fine gauge Merino wool, which is naturally antimicrobial and antibacterial. Socks make such a perfect gift for camper owners because few people buy them for themselves!
Back in the day, I used to think microfiber towels were the best thing for van life. But now I’ve found Turkish towels!
These wonderful, quick-drying cotton towels feel way better on your skin than microfiber, and soak up more water, too!
This would be a great van life gift as these Turkish towels also fold down to a really small size.
I used to think microfiber towels were a van life essential but I’ve totally changed my mind after using these Turkish towels.
I haven’t personally used these Luci solar string lights yet, but I’ve heard great things from other van lifers. Who doesn’t like some festive lights hanging up while camping deep in the forest or in the desert?
These lights last up to 20 hours on a single charge, and include four modes depending on your mood. A perfect van life gift idea.
We own a car battery self jumper, and think they’re a necessity for someone who’s traveling on backcountry roads where another car might not be seen for days.
This powerful battery jumper is one of the best van life gifts for someone who likes to go off-roading and deep into nature in their campervan.
A portable power station like this Jackery 500 is a great gift for a camper owner who uses a lot of power while out in the middle of nowhere. It’s powerful enough to charge a portable fridge, laptop computer (many times), a small fan and a little blender.
The Jackery 500 charges easily either using a solar panel, the cigarette lighter when driving around, or a wall outlet. Also, if the 500 is too big, there are smaller Jackeries available, too.
If a van lifer doesn’t have solar panels already mounted on their van, the Jackery 500 is a wonderful and thoughtful van life gift idea.
Living in a campervan means you don’t have a lot of space, and no space to lug around a bunch of books. I’m addicted to my Kindle Paperwhite for ease of use and portability, plus, I’ll never be without a book!
A Kindle can be connected to a hotspot signal to download a new book on the go. Plus, the Kindle Paperwhite, which I own, is backlit and can be read in a van without disturbing a sleeping partner.
Stash Silicone Storage bags make one of the best gifts for van life because van lifers are usually looking for ways to go “green.”
These storage bags are the answer to those throwaway Ziploc bags. I own two Stash silicone bags so far, and they are leakproof, waterproof and made of non-toxic materials.
A great way to cut down on plastics!
The Garmin InReach Mini is one of the best gifts for camper owners who love going off-grid.
We own one of these, and use it to track our progress in places where we have no cell service and to use backcountry maps. I feel more comfortable being in the middle of nowhere knowing help is just an SOS button away.
Plus, the Garmin InReach Mini is tiny, making it one of the best van life gifts for an overlander.
12) Omnia Oven
The Omnia oven is a great van life gift for the van lifer who misses baking! This extraordinary little oven goes right on top of a camping stove.
It can be used to bake pizza, brownies, breads casseroles and more.
While I haven’t tested the Omnia Oven, reviewers who travel in campervans say this oven cooks just like a conventional oven. They’ve made roasted broccoli, cakes and breakfast breads.
This Wise Owl lightweight camping hammock packs down to the size of a grapefruit, yet 9′ long by 4.5′ wide when fully open.
It’s small, portable size makes it a great van life gift idea.
The Wise Owl camping hammock comes with tree straps and carabiners included, making it incredibly easy to set up and enjoy.
I just bought these Ethique shampoo and conditioner bars because I’m trying to cut out plastics in my life and be more environmentally-friendly.
Shampoo bars make great van life gifts as they are super easy to store and last forever. Plus, van lifers like making a difference in the environment.
It can be hard finding a good instant coffee, but this Alpine Start brand gets great reviews.
The packets are super small and light, a wonderful van life gift for someone who loves coffee. It’s easy to pack and take hiking, or use on a morning when moving camp.
You can choose a lot of different flavors and types of coffee with Alpine Start Instant Coffee.
16) Silk Sleep Mask and Earplugs
Have you ever gone camping in summer and woken up to blinding light at 530am? Yup, I have, and I often don a sleep mask so I can snooze even longer.
These Jersey Slumber sleep masks get great reviews on Amazon and are made out of silk for a luxurious feel. This van life gift idea will be appreciated by almost any camper.
Want to add good earplugs to the mix? These Howard Leight earplugs are amazing – both me and my mom use them!
17) Gift cards!
No van lifer will ever be upset to get a gift card as a present. Not only do they not contribute to “stuff”, they are invaluable for someone living on the road.
Here are ideas for the best gift cards to buy van lifers:
- Fuel gift card
- Amazon gift card
- REI gift card
- Trader Joe’s gift card (have to buy in-store)
- WalMart gift card
- Flying J/Pilot truck stop gift card
18) The lifestraw
The lifestraw makes one of the more unique van life gifts. This “in-case-of-emergency” straw filters up to 1,000 liters of contaminated water. This could be a lifesaver for a camper who’s found themselves in the middle of nowhere with no safe water source.
The lifestraw fits in the palm of your hand, and is easy to carry on backpacking and hiking adventures. A wonderful camping gift for anyone who loves being out in nature.
19) A 12-volt air compressor
We love to take our Chevy Astro overlanding, so a 12-volt air compressor is a must. And yes, we did pop two tires in the middle of nowhere!
This EPAuto 12-volt portable air compressor plugs directly into a cigarette lighter or portable power station. Also great for pumping up bike tires or an inflatable kayak.
One of the best van life gifts for an overlander.
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Kristin Hanes is a journalist who founded The Wayward Home as a place to learn about alternative living. She currently lives on a sailboat and in a Chevy Astro van, and has written articles about alternative living published in Good Housekeeping, Business Insider, Marie Claire and SF Gate. Read more about Kristin here.