Getting Started

Hello friends! This is the final part of the essential tools series.

This article will list the core set of tools and equipment for fellow van dwellers.

While this article is primarily focussed on full-time van dwellers, we also recommend keeping these tools in your van if possible even if you’re a weekend warrior.

We get lots of questions from people asking us what sort of tools we used to build our van, our off-grid electrical system, and what we recommend to carry with us at all times.

So instead of always writing out a big list each time as a message reply, we figured it was about time we wrote out a list and put it here in an article to share! The following articles will detail all the tools we used to:

  1. Convert our Sprinter van into a stealthy home on wheels
  2. Install and connect the off-grid electrical system including the lithium battery and solar panels; and
  3. The tools that we recommend to keep in the van for repairs and upgrades.

I have provided an eBay Partner Network link for most item so you can see what they look like and how much they cost. See your local hardware store to see what they have available before buying online.

Ready to go?

Essential Tools for Life on the Road

Before rushing out and buying every item on the below list, please keep in mind that every van has different space restraints. While our Sprinter van has a fairly cavernous storage area in the ‘garage’ under the bed, other smaller vehicles won’t have as much room.

Nevertheless, having these essential tools stashed away will help you solve any repairs, mods or upgrades for yourself. Or maybe ever friends you meet on the road? Who knows. For that reason see how you go, and try and get what you can.

Safety Gear

The most important of anything in this list.

  • LED Head Lamp: Very useful when working under the van or just around the camp site at night.  Link:
  • Gloves: A good quality pair of work or rigging gloves is useful when refuelling, changing tyres and using power tools. Link:
  • Safety Glasses/Goggles: Absolutely essential. You can use polycarbonate (plastic) sunglasses in an absolute pinch. DO NOT use GLASS eye wear while using power tools. Link:
  • Ear Muffs/Plugs: We prefer ear muffs, but ear plugs are good for infrequent use and are more portable. Link:
  • Dust Mast / Respirator: For use on the road you don’t need a large array of masks. We recommend having a couple of P2 rated masks in your box of equipments at the minimum. If you plan to ever use spray paint, solvents or other chemicals then a half/full-face respirator mask would be useful. Link:

Hand Tools:

  • Screwdriver Set: A good set of screwdrivers with both Philips and flat heads is essential to have on hand in various sizes and lengths. Link:
  • Pliers Set or Multi-tool with Pliers: You will want to have long nose pliers, square nose (linesman) pliers, and diagonal cutting pliers in your kit. Locking pliers (aka Vice Grips) are also a great tool and highly recommended to have a couple of different sizes in your kit. If you are very limited for space, a good multi-tool with pliers included will solve most issues. Link:
  • Insulated Crimping Pliers: For crimping insulated (coated) cable lugs. Find one with a ratcheting mechanism and a good ergonomic grip so it’s easier to get a good crimp on your lugs. Link:
  • Heavy Duty Scissors: Full size, durable utility or kitchen scissors. Link:
  • Box Knife / Utility Knife: A box knife or a sturdy pocket knife should be in every essential kit. Link:
  • Hammer and Rubber Mallet: We recommend a claw hammer with a removable rubber mallet head. Link:
  • Wrench/Spanner Set: Ideally you should have a basic set of ratcheting spanners as they are easier to use in tight spaces. Link:
  • Socket Set: A full socket set is important. Ensure you have socket heads that are compatible with imperial, metric and E/Torx style bolts. Link:

Power Tools:

Cordless option is recommended where and when possible, if the budget allows. Especially for the drills.

  • Impact Drill: Great for quickly and easily installing self-tapping screws and other fasteners such as bolts. Cordless is a must. The beauty of a impact drill is its versatility. Link:
  • Drill Driver:  The trusty drill drivers is what you will use to drill pilot holes, holes for bolts or rivnuts, and also attach smaller screws. Most quality drills have a clutch and multiple speed/power settings to switch between different uses. You will want to buy a good set of drill bits, hole saw bits for the drill. Link:
  • Jig Saw: Very versatile tool. The jig saw is perfect for neat small cuts, curved cuts, larger pieces of steel or aluminium, cutting out the holes in the roof to install roof vents/fans and windows, and safely trimming off small sections. There’s different blades for different jobs. We recommend buying a mixed pack of fine and course blades, as well as longer length blades and blades suited to cut metal. Link:
  • Dremel / Rotary Tool: Rotary tools can spin at very high RPM and have a huge assortment of different attachments and accessories to do all sorts of odd jobs – cut, polish, grind, engrave, sharpen and more. Link: 
  • Oscillating Multi-Tool: Like a rotary tool, the oscillating multitool is a very versatile power tool. It can do lots of different jobs in all sorts of tight or difficult access spaces. You may find that the oscillating tool is a good alternative to the jig-saw. Link:
  • Cordless Vacuum: We only recently bought a cordless vacuum and our first thought was “why didn’t we get one of these years ago”. Having a cordless vacuum that uses the same batteries as you power tools means cleaning up is a breeze. Link:
  • DC Vehicle Charger for Tool Batteries: Keep your power tool batteries charged wherever you are. Link:

Electrical Tools:

  • Compact Multimeter: This is useful to quickly test for errors and check voltage from your solar panels or battery. Link:
  • Multi Stage Battery Charger: We use the charger to keep our van’s starter battery topped up while in long term storage. It’s strongly recommend a high quality, multi-stage smart charger with multiple output options to suit different battery types. They cost more, but it’s worth it. Link:


  • Ladder(s): We have a 2m telescopic ladder inside our van. It’s compact, light-weight and is just long enough to let us access the roof to inspect and clean the solar panels. Link:
  • Glues/Tapes/Cable-Ties: Keep a collection of various different glues, double sided heavy duty tape, and various size cable ties on hand. You will used them all the time. Keep in a small tub somewhere easy to access.

Prefer to watch instead? Check out our video on this topic below:

What did we miss? What is your favourite tool for life on the road?

Let us know in the comments below. Thanks for reading!