Categories: CampingGuides & hacks

10 Holiday Gift Ideas for a Vanlifer

When living in a van, keeping your belongings compact and organized is key. When your home-on-wheels is roughly 80 square feet, it becomes crucial to keep your life free of clutter; any unnecessary items can quickly become a source of frustration or get in the way of functionality and overall happiness. Because of these reasons, you may have noticed that your vandwelling friend or family member’s Christmas list is a bit different than most.

Consider this list your cheatsheet if you are unsure what to buy for your roamin’ and ramblin’ loved one. These 10 items are practical, simple to stow away during travel, and make #vanlife all the more fun (if that’s even possible!).

1. Blankets!

This is the perfect gift for vandwellers anytime of the year, but especially great during these cold winter months. Blankets are necessary, but also help create a cute atmosphere in the van!

2. Electric Jump Starter (at least 750 amps)

Our portable jump starter has saved us more than we can count. Living in a van will take you to some remote places, and while this is one of the most fun aspects, it can also be pretty scary when your battery dies and you realize there is no one around for miles. With the electric jump starter, you don’t need another car to give your battery new life! Psst, mom and dad, this is a great gift for your vandwelling flower child (especially if you’re a little bit worried when they’re on the road)!

Tip: Depending on the make of the vehicle, you may need to purchase an electric jumper with higher amps – do a little research on their battery or include a receipt so they can exchange it if the wattage is too low.

3. Stanley Thermos

Giving a Stanley Thermos is telling someone, “I want your coffee to stay warm for as long as possible”, and in my book that’s synonymous with, “I love you”. Stanley makes several different thermoses varying in size and purpose, but we recommend the 1 Liter Classic Bottle to keep drinks warm for up to 24 hours.

4. Cast Iron Skillets

Cast Iron Skillets are a must have when traveling. Vandwellers often cook over a campfire, and this kind of intense heat can ruin some pots and pans as quickly as in one use. On the contrary, cast iron is designed to be used over an open flame and can last years if properly taken care of.

5. Jetboil Cooking System

If your vandweller already has all the cast irons they could ever use, consider gifting a Jetboil. These little cookers are the ideal way to prepare food during a burn ban or when inclement weather prevents making a fire. My husband and I live in our van and this is, by far, our most used tool of the road!

6. Lil’ Buddy Heater

Some vans have heating systems that can run on stored power throughout the night, others do not. For the latter, having an alternative heat source is crucial, especially in winter months. The Lil’ Buddy heats up to 95 square feet, so it’s the perfect way to keep the van warm throughout the day and even into the night.

Tip: It isn’t recommended to use the Lil’ Buddy while sleeping, but keep it close to your bed so you can flip it on and begin warming the space as soon as you wake up.

7. Hammock

Hammocks are very popular among vandwellers. I mean, who doesn’t love lounging in the trees and swaying peacefully to sleep? Hammocks are extremely easy to set up and offer an alternative “couch” option to those living in confined spaces. If your vandweller already has a hammock, consider getting them a hammock bug net so they can nap without disruption – even in the South!

8. Audible Membership

Audiobooks are an amazing resource for vandwellers, especially during the winter months when the sun starts setting earlier. With Audible you can listen to hundreds of thousands of books on your phone, so simply put, it’s never been easier to drive and read at the same time. There are also some really great books on vandwelling, life on the road, and hiking, all available at your fingertips.

9. Gas Gift Card

When my husband and I drove away from our wedding, we drove away in our new home. Our honeymoon consisted of five months on the road, living and working from our van – and because we knew this was our plan, we asked our wedding guests specifically for gas cards. We didn’t need china or dish towels or a mop, we needed a way to drive for longer and see more of the country. Gas cards are easy stocking stuffers, and tell your vandwelling family member how much you care about them and their lifestyle.

10. Hipcamp Gift Card

And last but not least, the best gift ever.. free camping! With thousands of campsites available across the United States, vandwellers can wave goodbye to Walmart parking lots and say hello to some of the most beautiful camping spots in America. A Hipcamp gift card not only ensures that the vandweller in your life never misses an opportunity to explore, it also guarantees they’ll have stories for you when they return.

Kelly Sparks is a portrait and travel photographer based in Denton, Texas. She lives in a van with her husband and desert mutt. You can see more of her work online at, see her adventures on Hipcamp or on Instagram @breafkast.

Hipcamp is an online marketplace where you can list, discover, and book campsites and accommodations on private and public land. Hipcamp is your go-to guide to getting outside. If you’re a landowner, Hipcamp creates new revenue streams for your business, which can help conserve your land and keep it wild. #FindYourselfOutside #LeaveItBetter

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