Surviving Van Life in Queensland: What Items Are Essential?

Van life is a freeing way to explore and discover. Home is where you park it, after all!

Jeremy and I finished up our 60 day adventure through Queensland on April 9th, and it was nothing short of amazing. We went on epic hikes, snorkeled with turtles, swam in gorges, and even saw a Cassowary!

Last post, I talked about the mental side of getting the most out of van life. Now, it’s time to talk about the essential items you need to maintain a comfortable existence on the road.

1.A USB rechargeable fan

We were warned that Queensland, specifically Northern Queensland, would be hot and humid. But we were not  prepared for just how uncomfortable  it would be. Stepping outside felt like entering a  hot  yoga studio; sweaty skin, heavy lungs, and dragging limbs. The sun turned the van into a fiery sweat box, and sleeping was flat out impossible some nights. Splurging on a USB rechargeable fan was a game changer. It got the cross ventilation going between our duct taped fixed fly screens.  While the fan could  only run by itself for 3 hrs, Jeremy hooked it up to his portable charger (another essential!) which would get us through to morning.

Tip: Libraries were our way to get out of the heat while charging up our devices and getting work done.

2.Bug Spray

Think you don’t need to spray your whole body with tropical strength bug spray in Queensland?  Think again! We both got eaten alive more than once. The mozzies (what they call mosquitos here Down Under)  were particularly relentless. When in doubt, spray it out!

3.  Dual Cigarette USB Car  Charger

Our van didn’t have solar, meaning our electrical outlets didn’t work unless we were hooked up to power. A dual cigarettes USB car charger allowed us both to keep our phones and Go Pro charged through the journey.


WikiCamps is a handy app that shows camp grounds, points of interest, public toilets, showers, BBQs, day use areas, and laundry. It’s a one time fee of AUD$5, and it was essential for finding camp sites and public parks that we could stop in to cook, relax, and regroup.

TIP: Before booking a campsite, read the reviews then always give it a Google. Not all the information on the app is up to date, and doing your own research is essential for avoiding disaster.

5.Plenty of Phone Data

In NYC, I usually have a very small data plan because there’s public WiFi everywhere. Australia is another story. Having 50 G of data a month was essential for getting work done because I could  simply hotspot my computer.  My technology prowess is just  a notch above my 75 year old parents, so while hot spotting  a computer  may be  old news to you, it completely blew  my mind.


If you are a caffeine addict like me, say goodbye to your French press and  hello to an aeropress.  This handy dandy device is quick to use and much easier to clean than a French press. Plus, the coffee tastes far better!

Click HERE and scroll to the bottom for the 411 on aeropresses!

7.A Dashboard Phone Holder

We discovered very early on that chaos ensues if I attempt to deliver directions to Jeremy.  For the sake of our relationship, having a safe way for Jeremy to  look at the directions himself was essential.

Other Things to Consider:

  • Backup shoes: Shoes are heavy and take up room, but after 6 hours of  trekking through a muddy jungle path, it sure does feel nice to have dry shoes on hand.
  • A Soda Stream: having a cold fizzy drink with a splash of lime at that 2pm mid-day  heat is a total treat.
  • Plastic bags and Tupperware for easy storage and organization
  • Plenty of socks and underwear
  • Pack light on the clothes. You don’t need a whole wardrobe of trendy fashion items.
  • Battery Powered String of Lights: A string of lights made it possible to see at night and it also added a homey touch.

Things You Probably Should Have That We Didn’t…

  • A Radio: “Hmmm, what would happen if we broke down?” was a question that frequently flitted through my mind while driving along pot hole laden roads in the middle of nowhere with no cars to be seen for hours with no cell service.
  • Ankle Guards: For the rougher, early morning hikes, having snake guard ankle protectors is a smart choice.

Something We Wish We Had…..

Solar panels!

The sneaky hidden cost of our budget van was that we had to plug into a power point to use the electricity to charge our devices and use the microwave. Powered camp sites ranged from $20 to $55 a night. Having a solar panel system negates the need for this. Most rentals will not have solar, but if you are hitting the road for a bit, having solar would be a game changer.

Final Thoughts….

When traveling in any capacity, I like to take on the “less is more” packing approach. Unless you are flying to the middle of nowhere, chances are that the destination will have basic necessities for sale. “Basic necessities” don’t have language barriers and boarders. If a new place doesn’t have something I “need”, it means that the locals don’t need it. Meaning I don’t need it either.

(Of course, Australia isn’t all too different from the US when it comes to stores, brands, and products.)

“Less is more” is particularly applicable to living in a van, and taking a minimalist packing approach with the listed necessities in mind will set you up for success!

2 Comments Add yours

  1. interesting on the data. A lot of places in melbourne offers free wifi but who wants to log in every time so data is just standard here I feel, Maybe the networks in USA dont need passwords etc…

    Hope u got a good plan!


    1. In the US you usually have to log in as well. I guess when I was in the habit of doing it, it seemed easy! I have a decent plan with Telstra that has been getting the job done!


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