It’s hard to buy for someone with limited space, where everything they have needs to have a purpose or just someone who’s very specific about what they take with them. We know this because we’re one of those people! Our van is tiny and so we can’t afford to take with us too much which isn’t useful which is why we must be a nightmare to buy for when it comes to Christmas. This is the reason we have put together our van life gift guide, a list of awesome gifts for people in campervans; hopefully to take some of the guess work out of what’s actually important and wanted by people actually living in small spaces.
Gifts under £20
The Camper Van Cookbook
We cover cooking without an oven a lot on this site, most of us get by just fine with just a hob and so a recipe book written specifically for cooking with only 2 hobs is a perfect addition to our kitchen library. It’s a book we recommend in our favourite UK vanlife books so feels like a perfect first recommendation for our Christmas gift guide.
Mini Pocket Blanket
We actually have 2 of these tiny blankets, one that lives in our van and one that lives in one of our backpacks. They’re insanely useful for those impromptu picnics, hiking stop offs or sandy beach lounging. They are thin and light but strong enough and water resistant enough to mean you don’t get wet when sitting and pack away so small that you can easily carry one in your pocket just in case.
Laundreez Portable Clothes Washer
We use launderettes for the vast majority of our washing, they are easy and relatively cheap. Despite this it’s important to try and eek out times between having to pay for laundry as much as possible and that’s why we use a Laundreez Portable Clothes Washer. It’s the perfect size to wash some basics in to tide us over until we have to go to the launderette, is super simple and effortless to use and rolls away to be tiny. We actually use it to store our dirty underwear in as a laundry bag and so when it comes time to wash we just add water and biodegradable liquid and we’re ready to wash.
Bamboo Travel Mug
Whether it’s for your morning coffee while you drive or your night time hot chocolate while star gazing, a travel mug is an essential van life item. The amount of spills that have been saved thanks to the fact I was using one of these rather than a usual mug can’t be understated. I don’t know what we did without a pair of these in our van, probably drank a lot more cold coffee I guess…
Personal Water Filter
One for the outdoors enthusiast but also a potential life saver, this life straw means you can safely drink from most water supplies. Great for when you’re in a pinch mid hike, when you run out of drinking water after dark or are if you’re just a fan of survivalism. You may never know when you might need something like this and you won’t regret having it stashed away in your van.
Collapsible Measuring Cups
A van life kitchen is still very much a kitchen and we do far more cooking now than we did when we lived in a house and so having all of the same utensils we had in a house is both necessary and a challenge. Thankfully collapsible kitchen wear is available and so when we received these collapsible measuring cups as a gift ourselves last year we were delighted. Pairing these with the Omnia Oven means we can now bake up a cake storm in the van.
Gifts under £50
It will come as no surprise that a lot of our gift recommendations are for cooking; when you’re trying to cook in your van you have to think creatively and utilise some pretty specialist items to carry on cooking the meals you love. One of our most used items in the Ridgemonkey; a toastie maker/frying pan/mini oven which sits atop our hob and cooks 75% of all of the meals we make in the van. The fact it’s double sided means you can flip over your items easily and also when closing the lid create a sort of stove top oven, hot enough to melt the cheese on top of your pizza at least!
Biolite Solar Lantern
We have a number of Biolite lanterns, some cheaper than this one and others more expensive; they can all chain together to make a lighting system for both indoors and outdoors and have some really great features. The Biolite Solar Lantern is a great entry point for the system and is a fantastic light that charges via the built in solar panel in the back. It has the ability to be set to a red light to avoid attracting bugs when you’re sitting outside, can be set to any colour and produces a tonne of soft defused light from a small size.
Thermacell Midge and Mosquito Repellent
While not as glamorous this gift will probably be one of the most welcome ones that people will receive. For months on end opening your sliding door will invite in a host of bugs and so using this Thermacell repellent will save you having to chase mosquitos round the van at night. They’re great for using indoors and outdoors and are a really easy solution to a definite problem with van living.
Portable Electric Shower
For years we used a solar shower in our van (you can read about that and other shower options we’ve used here) and they worked great. However by using one of these portable electric showers we have simply massively upped our shower game to the point where they’re not just a quick necessity but can start to get closer to home showers. Charge the pump up, put it in a bucket of warm water and enjoy a shower with actual water pressure. While they may think a solar shower works just fine, it’s just because they haven’t tried one of these yet.
As we wrote about in cooking without an oven the Wonderbag is a really neat little no electricity slow cooker which works amazingly well. It’s essentially an insulated bag you put in your hot pot of stew and leave it to slowly cook for a long time. The fact that it requires no electricity is a really godsend for a van and the reason why a normal slow cooker just isn’t feasible. We use it when we go to work, setting it in the morning and coming home to a slow cooked stew as well as using it during walks so we have dinner waiting for us on our return.
Raptor Board Game
Board games are a staple of UK camping and are something we play loads in our van. We recommend a bunch of board and card games which are perfectly sized and a load of fun here however one specific one we have been loving recently is a 2 player game called Raptor. One of you plays as a velociraptor with her babies and the other as scientists trying to capture them, compete trying to capture babies or escape in a game that’s easy to pick up but a tonne of fun. It’s small boxed, doesn’t take up too much table space and is one you can’t help to just play one more time. Who doesn’t like Jurassic Park as a board game right?!
Gifts under £100
The same way most vans run on diesel, most van dwellers run on coffee and so being able to make a quality coffee in a van is important. Using standard coffee machines takes up both too much space and draws too much electricity from the limited supply in a van which is where this portable espresso maker comes in. It requires no electricity to make delicious espressos, lattes or all manner of coffees all made manually. It’s small and portable and is a great addition to a van for anyone who has a taste for coffee. Many a morning has been saved thanks to this little device.
One of the major recommendations we make in our cooking without an oven article is the Omnia Oven (plus it’s accessories which takes it above the £50 threshold for this section). It gives you the chance to make oven cooked meals inside your van when all you have is a hob. The accessories allow for cake and bread baking as well as giving you the chance to make crispy and delicious food without an oven. This device is a mainstay of so many van lifers at this point it is a shock to find a van that isn’t both using an loving an Omnia Oven.
This one fits more on the fun rather than functional gift recommendations but is no less good a gift. I bought this for my parents who recently got their first van and they loved making it on their weekends away and now proudly display it in their camper for all to see. What can you say about LEGO other than it’s great and gave them hours of entertainment with a little work of art at the end to enjoy.
Gifts over £100
If you’re looking for a larger gift then you really should look no further than a mini projector. We talk a lot about these in our article on campervan cinemas with good reason. The flexibility of being able to have a movie night inside your cosy van or outside for the ultimate cinema experience means that even a night watching Netflix in your van can be an experience. We’ve used ours for 4 years now and are still amazed at the joy it brings to both us and anyone else who happens upon us watching movies outside our van. While we do provide recommendations for getting a complete cinema set up for under £100 here the Yaufey Mini Projector is by far and away the best we’ve used and is worth the extra cost for the features it affords you.
Definitely one for the creative camper van user who loves to document their travels through photos and videos. I’ve been a fan of drones and the shots they can capture that you wouldn’t normally be able to with your standard camera and this is especially true when trying to capture all of the amazing adventures you have in your van. The DJI Mini 2 is absolutely tiny for a full featured drone, it packs away into a small package but still has the range of camera and flight features you get from a drone 4 times the price.
We’ve spoken about console gaming in a van before and have talked you through the power set up and requirements you need for the computer gamer to be able to get their fix while on the road. By far the simplest and best suited to living in a van is the Nintendo Switch. They’ve proved so popular worldwide that there has been a shortage throughout the year however they are back available and have a wealth of games of all genres to keep even the most avid gamer playing through the winter. The fact it comes with it’s own screen, charges by USB C, is both portable or available to set up via a projector (see above!) means that it is the perfect van life games console and one I thoroughly recommend.