15 Camper Van Living Ideas (All Under $100)

These Van Life Essentials are Ultra Affordable!

Van life fever is sweeping the country. Like you, everybody wants to minimize their lives and live on the road. These 15 camper van living ideas under $100 will help you do it affordably.

Whether you live out a van full-time, or just like the occasional road trip, there are a few low cost things you can do to make van living easier. We’ve got some great van life ideas that you can implement in your vehicle. They’re affordable, easy to install, and will make a world of difference!

Install Privacy Screens

It’s no secret that living in a van gives you a limited floor plan. If you live with someone else, or just want some separation of space, privacy screens are a great way to go. These are cheap, easy to install, and you can use a variety of different methods to make them. 

I like to install command hooks along the top of the van, then hang shower curtains/blankets from them. This is a super cheap and easy solution that can make your bedroom feel more private compared to the rest of the vehicle. 

camper van tarp canopy idea
Create a tarp patio for outdoor living.

Create a Tarp Canopy

One of the best parts about van life is the combination of outdoor and indoor living. You probably chose this method of travel because you love connecting with nature and the open road. So when it’s time to park and set up for the day, you might want a way to open up your van and enjoy the outdoors. 

When you want to create an outdoor space, canopies are one of the best camper van ideas. You can buy most pop-up models for less than $100, or create your own setup with PVC pipes, tarps, and other lightweight materials. A canopy is a great way to enjoy some fresh air, while still staying in the shade. 

Use Battery-Powered Lights and Electronics

Traveling in a van is a low-impact way to live. You can greatly reduce your waste and carbon footprint. But most people still enjoy having access to some comforts and amenities, so it’s necessary to use electricity on the road. While some appliances (such as a mini-fridge) need to be running 24/7, you can reduce the strain on your battery by using independently powered electronics. 

You can use small battery packs to charge your phone, laptop, and other electronics on the road. They can even charge while you’re sleeping and your van is powered off! Lots of portable battery packs are available for $20-$40. You might also want to use battery-powered fairy lights or lightbulbs when it starts getting dark outside. You don’t want to drain your van’s battery, so use these cheap alternatives to save energy

Organize with Shoe Rack Storage

Storage is in short supply when you’re living in a van. You have to make every inch count! That’s why one of my favorite camper van ideas involves using shoe racks for storage. 

You can buy hanging shoe racks for less than $10 in most stores and online shops. They are flexible, lightweight, and have lots of pockets. You can either hang them up along a wall, cut along the rows and hang them along the edge of your bed, line the walls, or place them behind cabinet doors.

They’re very versatile and are perfect for holding kitchen items, small electronics, and toiletries. Or you could always use them to store your shoes!

Stash Collapsible Garbage Cans

collapsible trash can van camping

Even though you can cut back on a lot of waste when you live in a van, you’ll still create trash over time. As long as you keep your van tidy, this shouldn’t be a big problem when you travel. But once you set up a campsite for the night, trash can pile up more quickly than you expect! 

Sometimes it’s inconvenient to travel back and forth to the nearest dumpster, so a campsite garbage can is very helpful. To save on space, try bringing a collapsible garbage can! These are usually flexible bins that can be compressed into small bags when they’re not being used. They can also double as laundry hampers, so consider bringing a few of them along to keep everything separate. 

A good example of a collapsible camping garbage can is this model from Coghlan. It’s cheap (around $20) and all you need to do is unfold it, add a garbage liner, and you’re ready to go! 

Install Blackout Curtains

Vans and other vehicles in general have lots of windows. This is great as a driver and passenger because you can enjoy the scenery and fresh air as you go. But if you’re trying to sleep in, all those windows can quickly turn into a pain in the neck. I know I love it to be as dark as possible when I’m sleeping, so I needed to install curtains to block the light. Thus, blackout curtains became one of my top camper van ideas to share with others!

There are a couple of different ways you can do this. You could install blinds/shutters over your windows, although this might be a bit more expensive. You could also hang blankets, curtains, cardboard panels, and other things over the glass. Or you could buy adhesive window blockers, which are designed to create a blackout environment. As an extra bonus, it also helps to keep your van cooler because it blocks some of the incoming heat. This last option could also be quite expensive though, so if you’re shooting for a solution under $100, I’d go with something simpler. 

Personally, I like to hang blankets over my windows. This creates a softer interior design, plus it filters out the majority of light without making it pitch black. You can use adhesive strips, command hooks, or tacks to secure them. 

van living organization ideas
A little van living storage creativity.

Hang Shower Caddies/Hooks For Extra Storage

Once again, storage space is key when it comes to van living. There can’t be any wasted space if you’re trying to fit all the comforts of home into the limited footprint of a van. That’s why I love hanging storage! 

Command hooks and tension rods are wonderful ways to add overhead storage to your van. You can hang clothes, cooking utensils, laundry bags, and anything else from these spaces. If you want a cheap alternative to a shelf, try hanging up some shower caddies or wire baskets. These are easy to install (either through drilling holds or hanging from hooks) and they’re both quite cheap to buy. 

Insulate With Bubble Wrap Or Styrofoam

Although vans are popular in warm and temperate areas, they often have difficulty in colder places. This is because, while they offer more space than other vehicles, they also have less insulation. It can get quite chilly in a van, especially once the engine is turned off and you’re saving the battery charge.

That’s why adding some insulation is one of the most helpful camper van ideas. It might not look pretty at the end of the day, but it will keep you warm and enable you to travel in colder regions. While there are top-notch insulations on the market, these can end up being quite expensive. There are lots of DIY options that are much cheaper and easier to install on your own. 

Bubble wrap and styrofoam are two popular choices among van-dwellers. These materials are incredibly easy to gather, and all you need to do is line the interior of your van with them! Simple adhesives work well. Once a layer has been set down, you can cover it up with plywood, blankets, or just leave it exposed. Any extra protection helps, and this is a very cost-effective way to keep your van warm. 

Add Non-Slip Liners To Flat Surfaces

Living out of a van implies that you’re going to be driving a fair amount. Everything in your living space has to be capable of dealing with movement. Loose items or anything with wheels is in danger of slipping and falling. That’s where non-slip liners come to the rescue!

Liners are widely available and quite cheap. You can usually get a pack for about $10, and I recommend checking out this Smart Design Shelf Liner. These mats can be installed on shelves, under the legs of furniture, or anywhere else that has an issue of sliding. You may even want to consider lining the whole floor with these non-slip mats.

Camper van living means sometimes dealing with things falling or breaking. This is not fun, especially when your supplies are limited. When you have to minimize your belongings, you become attached to the little things. You can save your possessions and create more stable storage spaces by using non-slip liners. 

Accent With Glow-In-The-Dark Tape

RVers and other travelers have been adding glow-in-the-dark tape to their rigs for years. This is a tried and true method that has made many lives easier. When you’re dealing with stairs, sharp edges, and other hazards, it’s important to be able to see them. This is one of the most effective (and fun) camper van ideas. You can stay safer at night, plus add a bit of style to your van. 

Glow-in-the-dark tape can also help you find small items in the darkness. Consider wrapping a small strip around your charging cords, outlets, and other important objects. If you want to really tie the look together though, you could even add glowing stars to the ceiling! That way you can sleep under the stars, even if you’re inside a van. 

Glow-in-the-dark tape is quite cheap and you can buy a roll for $10 or less. I’d recommend checking out this model from Amazon.

Use Silica Gel Packets To Reduce Dampness

One of the biggest enemies of van campers is humidity. Mold, mildew, and damp surfaces are no fun for anyone, and. a dehumidifier can be expensive and bulky. Small enclosed spaces might be particularly vulnerable to moisture buildup, so you need a way to keep drawers, cabinets, and other nooks and crannies safe. 

I recommend silica packets for this issue! They’re designed to keep shipped products clean and dry, so they can do the same for your van. Just place a few of them in damp, enclosed spaces. These are incredibly cheap, and you might even find some lying around in your clothes or old shipping boxes. It’s an easy solution that many people might overlook. Feel free to apply these camper van ideas next time you travel to a humid area. 

Make a DIY Shower With Watering Can Spout

Staying clean on the road can be a bit tricky for van-dwellers. There isn’t much room for a shower inside the van, and outdoor shower setups can be expensive. Luckily, there are DIY options that can help you stay fresh and clean on the road. 

One great option is to make a water tank shower with just a water jug, spigot, and watering can attachment. Plastic water jugs are quite cheap and you can buy them at most stores. A water dispenser like this SlimLine will work the best because it has a built-in spigot. You can also buy a cheap watering can or a sprinkler attachment and affix it to the tap.

When you’re ready to shower, just fill up the jug, attach it to the roof of the van (or a nearby tree) and open up the spigot! The watering can attachment will ensure that you enjoy a steady, dispersed flow. 

two people underneath a van with a canopy in font of a tent.

Bring a 1-Person Tent

Sleeping in a van is great, but sometimes it might feel a bit cramped. After all, you’re carrying a lot of equipment on the road with you, and there are only so many places to store it. If you’re craving a bit more elbow room, or just enjoy sleeping outdoors, consider adding a 1-person tent to your gear. 

A lot of single tents are available for around $50, which makes them quite affordable. It’s also nice to have this option handy if you want to travel with a couple of friends. You could all squeeze into the back, but sometimes it’s nice to spread out a bit, too. 

Use Inflatable Furniture/Mattresses

Another way to preserve space is by using inflatable furniture. You can always blow them up when it’s time to relax, and collapse them when you want to open up more living space. Air mattresses may not be the most comfortable, but lots of campers enjoy them because of their versatile nature. 

To save time and energy, you can also buy a small electrical pump, which will inflate your gear within minutes. These are also great for rafts and inner tubes, so you can apply them to anything you need. This electric air pump is only $20, and it’s easy to hook up. 

Bring Bug Protection

Last, but certainly not least, one of my most important camper van living ideas means carrying good protection against bugs. If you’re camping in warm, humid areas, you know that bugs can ruin a good trip. That’s why some of the most important camper van ideas revolve around pest control! There are lots of eco-friendly methods you can use to keep insects at bay, including scented oils, hanging bug screens, or potent add-ins that can be burned in campfires. 

You also shouldn’t underestimate the power of a good mosquito net. These enable you to open up your van to the outdoors, but still stay safe from pesky bugs. Most of these solutions are low effort and low cost as well, so make sure you try a few out next time you go camping. 

See also: 4 Ways to Make Your Campervan Feel Like Home

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