How to plan and buy the perfect gifts for Vanlife friends and family
There are many aspects of Vanlife that make gifts for a campervan owner challenging. With the holidays approaching, you may be at a loss for what on earth to buy them.
This article will demystify gift giving for the campervan people in your life.
Follow these tips to find the perfect gifts while helping them maximize their Vanlife adventures.
Our Campervan owner gift Top Picks
Gifts over $200
Gifts between $100 & $200
Gifts under $100
|Quiet Portable Inverter Generator|
Minimalism: Not optional in a campervan
Whether you’re buying for friends who own campervans, or your travel partner, knowing their specific needs is very important when planning gifts for them.
Perhaps most important is to understand that “stuff” tends to be at the bottom of their list of needs and wants.
This is due to the fact that, compared to houses and apartments, even the biggest vans are quite small.
In fact, the biggest of RVs are small compared to most apartments, so gifts for RV campers also need to be carefully thought out.
While it’s fun to buy frivolous and “just for fun” gifts for most people, van dwellers don’t have room for non-essentials.
Not saying you shouldn’t give fun gifts to Vanlifers, just be certain it’s a needed gift that will actually be useful to them.
Shipping can be a challenge
If you buy gifts for a campervan dweller online, make sure to consider where your van traveling friends will be when the item arrives.
This is the best reason to order right away if you want them to have it at a holiday gathering. If you
know where they’ll be in the future, you may be able to have it shipped to an address near them.
But keep in mind that one of the best reasons for Vanlife is flexibility and adventure. If the item is expensive, this may be the time to spoil the secret and let them know they need to rendezvous with the package.
“You can just exchange it”
For those living a stationary life, returns and exchanges are no big deal.
Your Vanlife friends and family may be on the road for months before getting back to the area where you bought a gift that doesn’t work out.
So gifts that don’t fit or aren’t a good choice in a campervan can go to waste, ending up re-gifted, dropped off at a thrift store or even in the trash.
Uncover their perfect gift without spoiling the secret: 3 tricks
Half the fun of gift giving is the surprise, and it’s no fun when the secret is ruined. It’s even better when you’ve managed to find just the right gift.
If you’re not involved in the world of campervans and RV’s, it can be a challenge to uncover the true needs of those who are.
In the spirit of keeping secret those gifts that you work so hard to get just right, we’ve got three tricks for uncovering the needs of your campervan friends and family without ruining the fun of the surprise.
1. The curiosity method
Talk to your campervan people to assess their biggest challenges, needs and wants.
Here are some questions that can be asked of any Vanlifer without revealing your gift buying intent.
The trick is to ask these questions out of genuine curiosity. Most Vanlifers love to talk about their life on the road and their van and the right questions will reveal their true needs.
- What are the biggest challenges of Vanlife?
- What do you most miss about having a house or apartment?
- What do you wish you had more of, or higher quality versions of?
- What do you run out of/buy the most?
2. The van tour method
Another approach is to ask for a tour of their van and take note of worn out or broken gear, what seems to be missing or a real need…
These are both great opportunities for excellent gift giving.
But be careful not to make assumptions, use your stealthy questioning to determine if what you notice is a real need before you go buy something.
3. The Santa list method
A great way to uncover the best gifts for a campervan family is to ask them to make a list of at least ten things they’d truly love to have for their van.
Growing up in a big family, “Have you made your list?” was the anthem at holiday time and the only way for my parents to manage all the needs and desires of kids and relatives.
Just be sure to follow through and get them something from their list (no fun when Santa promises to show up, but doesn’t).
Not as much of a surprise but still creates an air of excitement, mystery and fun. The list approach is one way to be certain that you get something your van people can actually use.
How much to spend?
Of course we all tend to spend differently for different people in our lives.
The variety of available campervan gear is vast, so once you have a handle on their needs, you can find great items in virtually every price range.
Read on to see many ideas of gifts in virtually ever price range.
Life changing campervan gear
While choosing gifts for a campervan dweller can be a unique challenge, the right gift can have a very substantial impact on their life.
So taking the time to get it right will be very rewarding for you and the recipient.
For example, imagine what it would be like to not have a reliable refrigerator. Some campervan people don’t, whether they haven’t gotten around to getting one, or can’t afford it.
These Vanlifers tend to spend a lot on ice, and might end up eating a lot of fast food.
Read on for more on how the right gifts for campervan dwellers completely revolutionize their lives.
The gift of off-grid power
Perhaps the number one issue that your van friends face is off grid access to electricity.
Even some of the most well equipped campervans can be improved with better power gear.
These are perhaps the most advanced gifts for a campervan person and it’s important to have technical details before making power gear gift purchases to avoid return or poor-fit issues.
Below are some off grid power items that will be highly valuable for nearly all campervan owners.
The gift of refrigeration for fresh, safe food
A quality, portable 12 volt fridge freezer can completely alter the livability and comfort of a campervan.
Many of the available products are technical marvels that have both freezer and fridge sections and will keep food at safe temperatures while using very little energy.
We recommend avoiding thermoelectric cooler/warmers. Stick with a compressor fridge with many positive reviews.
Our top picks for portable 12 volt Campervan Fridge Freezers can be found in this article.
The gift of expanded campervan space
As you can imagine, a van can start to feel claustrophobic. One class of campervan gear that offers some relief in this department are awnings and tents.
A well designed campervan awning can provide a wonderful area outside the van to relax, stretch out and enjoy the fresh air. We wrote at length about this wonderful gear, here.
Campervan awning tents, otherwise known as drive away tents, actually add rooms to the van for more sleeping, dining or other indoor activity.
It’s essentially a tent that attaches to the van and there are some great options available. Please take a minute to read up on them in our article on Campervan awning tents.
Membership gifts for a campervan traveler
REI is considered by outdoor enthusiasts everywhere to be the leader in quality gear for hiking, climbing, skiing, biking and much more.
An REI Co-op membership will provide your Vanlife folks access to special pricing, yearly rebates on purchases, early access to sales and more.
Aside from the obvious workout benefits, fitness club memberships allow for regular showers and a break from campground facilities.
Whether your van friends are full time or just frequent travelers, a fitness club membership can be a great gift. Just make sure they travel where the clubs are located.
24 Hour Fitness is the largest in the US and has clubs in most major cities. May Vanlifers use and swear by them.
Another great membership for campervan friends and family is Amazon Prime. Whether your Vanlife enthusiasts already has a primer account or not, you can gift them more time.
The list of benefits is always expanding and includes such necessities as free 2 day shipping on many items, as well as movie and TV streaming.
And Amazon offers two options for giving the gift of Prime: Three months or one year.
More info on gifting Amazon Prime can be found here.
Campervan gear stocking stuffers
No web access? No problem. The Nat Geo Adventure Atlas
Portable phone charger
Brilliant stocking stuffer from Ainope
Campervan safety gear
See the list, below
Campsite Cooking Equipment
Lots of great options in this post
National and State Park Access
Leveling a site digging out of sand or snow…
Gift cards for campervan travelers
We like gift cards, but keep in mind that a shockingly high percentage of them never get used.
This gets back to our messages that Vanlifers might need help with shipping locations, only want gifts they truly need.
Still a gift car can be a perfect open ended gift. Just make sure it’s for a store or site that works for them. Some examples…
- Amazon Gift Card
- Chain restaurants (best to keep it healthy)
- REI Gift Card for products or membership
- Trader Joe’s or other grocery chain
- Fuel card
Campervan safety gear gift ideas
We all tend to take care of others before ourselves. Campervan folks are no different and often need to be reminded of vital safety issues.
There’s no better way to remind them than by getting them gifts that address safety and security issues unique to Vanlife.
Another option is to give a gift card for a good campervan mechanic or parts supplier. Few things are as important for safe vanlife journeys as quality, consistent van maintenance and inspection.
Every van needs at least one.
|12V Battery booster
A brilliant tool that can get them out of a jam and back on the road.
|Smoke and fire alarm
A must for the van, as in your house.
|First Aid Kit
Often overlooked, great to have when needed.
|LED Emergency road flares
Alert oncoming traffic when broken down
Thanks for reading!
Please comment below with your questions and gift ideas for Vanlife people.