The Live Outside and Play road team has spent two years living and working from a van. We’ve been traveling across the country seeking rutted dirt roads, greasy feasts after summit hikes, and vistas our dog will appreciate (and pose for photos in front of). If you have been following along on our ad-VAN-tures over the years, you’ve heard us talk about how staying organized is a top priority, even over keeping the fridge stocked with chocolate. Keeping our things organized in our tiny mobile living space directly affects our stress levels while we’re on the road, and it ends up keeping our minds organized so we can work and play.
#Vanhack Number 1: Be Hands-Free
This may seem silly to even mention, but having a hands-free device for your cell phone is extremely important. Aside from safety issues that by now we’re all aware of, there are many other benefits of using a hands-free device. We have a strict rule in our van — no non-food items in the cup holders. We need fast access to snacks and drinks at all times. We also drive a lot! Having an easy way to view GPS just makes sense. We use the Nite Ize Steelie Windshield Mount Kit Plus. We chose this hands-free kit for its diversity and ease of use. Once you have the magnet on the back of your phone, you’re able to use it seamlessly with a number of Nite Ize Steelie products. We have a Steelie Magnetic Mount by our bed to keep us from losing our phones while we’re sleeping and use the Steelie Bendable Arm and Ratcheting Clamp to watch movies before bed.
#Vanhack Number 2: Moisture Is Your Enemy
It’s extremely important to have a place to dry wet clothing and towels. We designed our van to be utilitarian. Having a beautiful Instagram-worthy van would be nice, but at the end of the day being Insta-famous isn’t that great if you’re uncomfortable all the time. We installed a track system that allows us to rig all sorts of useful #vanhacks, including a clothesline. In a living space as small as a van, nothing is more important, and in some cases more difficult, than keeping moisture (mold) out of your van and off of your belongings. We use our track system and a KNOTBONE Adjustable Bungee to make our own adjustable clothesline inside the van. If we’re at a campsite or another location where privacy isn’t an issue, we use a Gearline Organization System to rig a clothesline outside the van. Repeat after us: In a van, moisture is your enemy.
#Vanhack Number 3: Gear Tie Everything
Seriously, Gear Tie everything. It’s amazing how something so simple has revolutionized how we organize things in our van. If you’ve never used a Gear Tie, your mind is about to be blown. They come in seemingly endless variations and sizes to fit any organizational need. A Gear Tie is essentially a strong reusable twist tie. As traveling media professionals, we have a million different cables and cords for various charging needs. We use different cables on a daily basis and if we get lazy in organizing these cables, they turn into the knotted cable nightmare of doom. Thank you, Gear Ties! We use Gear Ties to hold our refrigerator door shut, to hold basket organizers to the wall, to hold our back-door shower curtain in place, and for every hanging object in our festival set up. These little Gear Ties are our go-to solution for rigging anything in the van. They are a lifesaver, which really means, a vansaver.
#Vanhack Number 4: Have Multiple Ways to Secure Things In Your Van
Remember how we mentioned that loose items in your vehicle are dangerous while you’re driving? If you’re in a hurry you can use a Dual CamJam Tie Down system to tie down anything you might want to secure. A Dual CamJam works just like any old tie down strap but better. The Dual CamJam buckle uses two locking mechanisms instead of one. This setup allows you to easily place the webbing tensioner where you want it on your exact setup. That means we can use it both inside and outside of the van, for stacked boxes when traveling to festivals, or 100-pound kayaks pulled on the trailer.
#Vanhack Number 5: Embrace the Madness
At the end of the day, part of living in a van is getting comfortable with being uncomfortable. Things will break, come loose, and fly across your van during a sharp curve. You will lose things, a lot of things. You will be too tired to organize your stuff after a few days of having fun. Sometimes, all you have energy to do is slide everything off the bed onto the floor and deal with it in the morning. We use all these organizational hacks to lessen the madness, but it is entwined with this way of life. Living the #vanlife is less yoga poses on top of canyons and more attempting to organize dirty clothes in bins directly next to where you sleep. But the freedom of waking up each day someplace new, and being able to see more places in two years than we ever thought possible, makes all the annoying nuances of living in a van a literal dream come true.