Dry Camping Gear Checklist

Dry camping aka boondocking or wild camping is one of the best ways to experience nature and enjoy some solitude and peace.  Camping without the amenity of electricity or hook-ups needs some preparation as it is important to be equipped and self-sufficient. No matter if you travel in your RV, Travel Trailer, Van, Truck or Tent, this dry camping gear checklist will equip you with the right tools so you can enjoy the outdoor adventure with comfort and ease. And since the leave-no trace practice and taking care of nature is an important part of dry camping, this list includes gear that is eco-friendly as possible as well.

 

Goal Zero Yeti 400 Solar Generator Kit with Nomad 20 Solar Panel

Solar Power Battery Goal Zero Yeti
Photo provided by Goal Zero

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This is a power house of a portable battery with built-in AC inverter, continuous 300W, 600W surge pure-sine wave inverter, 2.1A USB ports and 120W 12V ports. Charge it at home via wall-outlet and while camping in the wild use the foldable solar panel to recharge the generator battery for endless power. A great off-grid solution to charge your laptop, campera, gopro, phone, lighter, fan, portable gaming devices, kitchen gadgets etc

 

 

weBoost Drive Sleek Cell Phone Signal Booster

Drive Sleek Cellphone Booster WeBoost
Photo provided by WeBoost

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This is a great way to improve the signal on your cell phone when dry-camping in remote areas where the cell signal is weak. It can raise the bars significantly and help to keep you connected out in the wild. Now, it can’t turn a zero-signal into a 4G of course, but if there is a faint signal it will boost it up to a usable connection.

 

 

Solar Charger for Phone/Gadgets with Flashlight

Solar Charger Phone
Photo provided by RAVPower

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A great solution for using the sun to charge a phone, ipod or other USB-powered gadget on the go while backpacking, hiking, kayaking, festival camping or exploring with your bike. This power bank is small and handy, waterproof, shockproof and dustproof and comes with 2 USB slots to charge 2 phones or gadgets at the same time. It is made of eco-friendly material and comes with an integrated flashlight and emergency light and a hook to attach it to a backpack or bag so it can charge wherever you go.

 

 

Brightech Waterproof LED Outdoor Solar String Lights

Solar String Lights Brightech
Photo provided by Brightech

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Use the power of the sun to light up your campsite. These string lights are versatile and beautiful to look at. Hang the string on your vehicle when setting up camp, lay it out on the floor for a romantic evening picnic or use them inside your tent or vehicle.

 

 

Luci Solar Lights

Luci-Lux-Solar-Lantern-Mpowerd
Photo provided by Mpowerd

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This little light is the perfect companion for your camping or backpacking trip and can be used as a flashlight, indoor or outdoor light. This versatile light is inflatable and easy to store, shatterproof, waterproof and comes in different light variations from warm eggshell to bright white or in different colors. It is powered by the sun and charge takes about 8h of direct sunlight, it also can be charged under cloudy skies or incandescent light if needed. Once charged fully, it will stay lit for about 6-12h.

 

 

BioLite Wood Burning and USB Charging Camping Stove

Camp Stove USB Charger Biolite
Photo provided by Biolite

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This little wonder-machine turns fire into electricity while cooking your food! Such a great invention. The stove boils 1 liter of water in 4,5 minutes and generates 3 watts of electricity that’s stored
in it’s internal powerbank and comes with a USB port for charging your USB devices. It is lightweight and small enough to bring on your backpacking trips.

 

 

LifeStraw Personal Water Filter

Water Filter Life Straw
Photo provided by Life Straw

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This small device is a life-saver!  It removes
99.999999% of waterborne bacteria and parasites (including E. coli and salmonella, giardia and cryptosporidium as well as microplastics. It has a long lifetime and can filter up to 1,000 gallons of water to make it clean and safe for drinking.

And while it’s a great purchase for yourself of your loved ones, with every LifeStraw product purchased, a donation is made for school children in need to receive safe drinking water.

 

 

Solar Shower

Sportneer Solar Camping Shower Bag
Photo provided by Sportneer

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Having the convenience of a hot shower in the middle of nowhere is just a wonderful experience! This simple shower bag by Sprtneer can be filled with water from the river, creek, lake or any other water source (use a water filter if needed), lay it to rest in the sun and a few hours later a hot shower awaits! This bag holds 5 gallons, which is more than enough for 2 people. Using the power of the sun is a great way to save on propane or electricity and allows to use it off-grid which is great for the adventurer, Vanlifer and camping addict alike.

 

 

Katadyn Base Camp Pro Water Filter, 10-Liter

Katadyn Base Camp Water Filter
Photo provided by Katadyn

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We love this water filter because it’s a simple setup, easy to fill from any water source and fills up our hydration packs pretty quick via gravity filtration. No need to hand pump. It packs into a small pouch and is lightweight to bring for any adventure.

 

 

Sea to Summit Big River Dry Bag

Sea To Summit River Dry Bag
Photo provided by Sea to Summit

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A great bag for any outdoor adventurer! It comes in different sizes and colors, is very lightweight yet sturdy and allows for easy storage of items and gadgets to keep them safe and sealed from water in any wet situation. We use it when kayaking, backpacking and even bicycling to store our cameras, cell phones and other gear to keep them safe from moisture and water.

 

 

Double & Single Portable Camping Hammock – Parachute Lightweight Nylon

Double Camping Hammock MalloMe
Photo provided by MalloMe

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This super strong and ultra light hammock is easy to set-up and a great companion for any outdoor adventure. Great for festival camping, vanlife, truck-camping, cross-country biking, trekking, multi-day kayak adventuring, backpacking, relaxing in the woods or chilling at the beach. 

 

 

Fatwood Firestarter Burlap Bag

Fire Starter Fatwood
Photo provided by Fatwood

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Fire starters are a great way to get your fire going, especially when it’s damp or wet outside. These fire starters are
harvested from the stumps of pine trees that contain a high concentration of natural resin and are 100 percent natural, with no chemical or additives. They are user friendly, clean and non-toxic and SCS Green Cross certified.

 

 

Survival Spark Magnesium Survival Fire Starter with Compass and Whistle

Fire Starter Survival Spark
Photo provided by Survival Spark

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This little tool is a great way to start a fire in emergencies or when you are out of matches or lighters. It is small and handy while being powerful and s
trikes up to 15,000 times to make a fire. It even includes an emergency compass and whistle.

 

 

Rechargeable Flameless Plasma Beam Lighter Saberlight Sparq

Rechargable Plasma Beam Lighter Saberlight
Photo provided by Saberlight

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A great way to light a flame or using lighter-fluid. This invention uses plasma wave technology to light a fire instead of butane or other gases. It can be recharged via USB charger and is windproof, splashproof and waterproof.

 

 

Stainless Steel Folding Shovel w/Case Ultimate Survival Technologies

Foldable Shovel Ultimate Survival Technologies
Photo provided by Ultimate Survival Technologies

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This little shovel is a must have for campers and backpackers alike. This is a handy little tool for using the backcountry as your toilet. Follow the leave no trace policy, use the shovel to dig a hole, do your business, then use the shovel to cover your waste with dirt. Easy as pie.

 

 

GoGirl Female Urination Device

GoGirl Female Urination Device
Photo provided by GoGirl

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This handy tool allows a female to easily pee while standing up. It’s great for adventuring out in the wild or even to pee into a designated bottle inside your vehicle or tent during those cold or rainy nights. This practical little funnel is super elastic which makes it comfortable to use while the designed splash-guard makes it easy to pee without splashes or spills. It is reusable, made of silicone and is 100% latex free, moisture resistant, antimicrobial and made in the USA. It folds into a small tube or bag and is a great companion for any camping or backpacking trip.

 

 

Thetford Portable Toilet with Biodegradable Eco Smart Holding Tank Solution

Portable Toilet Thetford
Photo provided by Thetford

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If you are camping with a car, truck, van or RV and want to bring a portable toilet that is small and handy, then this Porta Potti solution is a great way to go. It is small enough to store but big enough for about a week depending on how often you use it. The seat feels just like a regular toilet while the waste is being collected in the lower compartment that is closed-off when not in use. Use the EcoSmart holding tank solution for a greener alternative to deodorize and liquify the waste inside the tank. It’s easy to empty and clean too.

 

 

Nature’s Head Self Contained Composting Toilet

Composting Toilet Natures Head
Photo provided by Natures Head

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If you are travelling in an RV, travel trailer or van and want to be out in the wild for weeks in a row while having your own toilet, then this is the way to go. This toilet separates urine from feces (aka solid and liquid waste) which allows for the solid waste to slowly turn into dirt by ways of composting via a ventilation system. The solid compartment needs emptying only about every 3-4 weeks depending on use while the liquid waste container needs emptying about every 2 days. It’s an eco-friendly toilet system made for RVs, boats and off-grid living.

 

 

Dr. Bronner’s Pure-Castile Liquid Soap

Dr Bronner's Biodegradable Soap
Photo provided by Dr. Bronner’s

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Using 100% biodegradable soap is important when camping. This brand has been around for many years. This pure castile soap is gentle on the skin and can be used for showering, shaving, dishwashing, laundry and general cleaning. It comes in different fragrances with natural essential oils: Peppermint helps clear the mind, lavender is relaxing, citrus is refreshing and rose is soothing. The soap is made from certified fare trade organic and vegan ingredients, free of synthetics or preservatives, it’s certified cruelty-free and produced without animal testing, 100% biodegradable.

 

 

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Disclaimer: To support our cause, we use affiliate links and may receive a commission for purchases made through these links at no cost to you. We are not sponsored by anyone and list only gear that we are personally use and love. We selected the items we recommend purely based on personal satisfaction and because we like their quality.

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20 Eco-Friendly Van Life Gift Ideas

Thoughtful gifts from the heart are the best! Even better, if they are good for the environment as well! This is our top 20 gift list for the environmentally conscious and nature loving Vanlifer, who travels and/or lives in their Van! These are all items that we use on our travel in our Van, or that we wish we had when starting Van Life.  We are not sponsored by any brands but chose these items entirely because of their quality and positive ratings and reviews.

Harvest Hosts Membership

Harvest Hosts
Photo provided by Harvest Hosts

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This is a one of a kind camping experience! For only $49/year this Harvest Hosts membership allows for unforgettable and unique camping experiences at over 600 participating farms, breweries, wineries, museums etc. With this membership, the hosts allow for an overnight stay on their land  at no additional cost while members are encouraged to drink, eat or shop at the host’s establishment before going to sleep on their property. It’s a win-win situation that provides for unique experiences, learning opportunities and social exchange that make for wonderful memories.
Please know that tents are not allowed and the members must stay in a self-contained Van, RV or Bus with an integrated toilet solution and dirt-water collection. The leave-no-trace principle is mandatory and Vans, Buses and RVs need to be pre-approved (via online-communication) for membership. We had some amazing camping experiences thanks to this wonderful program and highly recommend it!

Eco Wool Blanket

Pendleton Eco Wool Blanket
Photo provided by Pendleton

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Keeping cozy and warm can be challenging when living in a Van, especially since spending time in the great outdoors is a big part of Van Life. These naturally warming wool blankets by Pendleton are made of virgin wool, sustainably manufactured and pass strict standards of sustainability, leaving the smallest possible impact on our earth. They are soft while providing warmth and come in different colors and patterns.

 

 

Suaoki 444Wh/120,000mAh Portable Solar Generator DC/AC Inverter, 12V Car, DC/AC/USB Outputs, Charged by Solar Panel/AC Outlet/Cars

Photo provided by: Suaoki

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There are a few rechargeable generators out there on the market and the  Goal Zero Yeti has been discussed widely in the Vanlife community. We decided to get the Suaoki 444Wh portable generator because it is small and lightweight but equally powerful and is chargeable via solar panels, as well as via AC or 12V outlets. If using solar panel to charge, one has the choice of using any make or brand as long as the output voltage for the solar panel is 14-40V and the maximum input current is 10A and the maximum watts 120W. We love this power generator as it’s the perfect companion for any digital nomad off-grid situation to power laptops, charging multiple phones and cameras etc. We even bring it when working at cafes that have no outlets.

 

Stainless Steel Plates

Stainless Steel Plates
Photo provided by Immokaz

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Living in a vehicle where the whole interior is subject to earthquake-like conditions on a daily basis, it is wise to eliminate breakable items as possible. These quality grade stainless steel plates by Immokaz are the perfect dishes for any adventurer. They are functional, easy to clean, super durable while being light weight, and visually pleasing. We have used them for many years and have slapped them around quite a bit and they do not have any dents whatsoever. We love their quality and that they can be recycled at the end of their life. We also recommend to add some stainless steel cups  and mugs.

 

Stainless Steel Mixing Bowl Set

Cuisinart Stainless Steel Bowls
Photo provided by Cuisinart

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These nesting bowls by Cuisinart are made of stainless steel, which makes them durable and easily recyclable at the end of their lifetime. We love these bowls as they are unbreakable and we use them for pretty much anything, we even eat directly out of them when we make one pot dinners, soups, salads, stews and saucy meals. They are also great to hold our snacks during drives or at the campfire and for storage of leftover food. Since space is limited in a Van these bowls are great as they store neatly while being stacked and nested.

 

Stainless Steel Travel Mug

Tervis Stainless Steel Travel Mug
Photo provided by Tervis

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Reusable travel mugs are always great gift ideas! There are plenty on the market. This one is our favorite for several reasons, but mainly because of the functionality of the lid. This lid is spill-proof, splash-proof, shatter-proof  and easy to close and open. It is a great design and unlike many other travel mugs it is very easy to clean as the lid does not have any nooks and crannies like the lids of other brands. It’s made by Tervis and
holds 20 oz while it fits in a standard sized cupholder, is sturdy and ideal for travel. It holds drinks cold for 24 hours and hot for 8 hours. It comes in many different colors and patterns from plain silver to crazy hippie looks, so there’s one for every taste for sure. We love this mug and bring it wherever we go, even when we grab a cup of coffee or tea at Starbucks or other chains where we even get a discount for bringing our own cup! Reducing single-use paper cups and plastic trash is a good thing and helps the environment for sure!

 

Organic Cotton Flannel Sheets

Whisper Organics Organic Cotton Flannel Sheets
Photo provided by Whisper Organics

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These sheets by Whisper Organics are the coziest sheets and pillow cases I have ever slept in! Even better, they are manufactured with 100% organic cotton that is fully GOTS Certified (Global Organic Textile Standard), non-toxic and chemical-free. They are made of great quality, don’t shrink in the wash. and are durable and soft all at the same time. They come in different earth-tone colors, we love the grey version as it is visually a bit less sensitive to dust and dirt in comparison to white since van life and dirt go together like apples and piecrust!

 

Natural Straw Hand Brush

Sorghum Rice Straw Hand Brush
Photo provided by Redecker

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Living in a Van includes bringing a lot of dust and dirt into the Van and living space just from getting in- and out so often, especially when spending time out in nature. This little handy broom will help to keep the Van clean. Since floorspace and storage space in a Van is usually very limited, this little broom is the perfect size, it’s small enough to be easily stored while big enough to get the job done. It can be used indoors and outdoors and easily reaches small corners and tight spaces. This brush is made by Redecker from Sorghum Rice Straw which does not absorb water and can be used for sweeping dust, dirt, wet leaves, snow or moist surface areas as well. A great handy tool for sure!

Sportneer Solar Camping Shower Bag, 5-gallon

Sportneer Solar Camping Shower Bag
Photo provided by Sprtneer

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This is one of our favorite Eco-Friendly Van Life and Camping items. The system is super easy, just fill the bag with water, lay it out in the sun and wait a couple of hours for a beautiful hot shower! Nothing better than getting a nice cleansing open-air shower after a long hike, adventure or workout outdoors!

 

Luci Solar Light

Luci-Lux-Solar-Lantern-Mpowerd
Photo provided by Mpowerd

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We love these little lights, they are perfect for Vanlife and great for outdoor and indoor use. These solar powered lights are a simple solution with great design. The light made by Mpowerd is inflatable and easy to store, shatterproof, waterproof and comes in different light variations from warm eggshell to bright white as well as in different colors. It is powered by the sun and charge takes about 8h of direct sunlight, it also can be charged under cloudy skies or incandescent light if needed. Once charged fully, it will stay lit for about 6-12h. We put it on our dashboard during the day and use it at night. A must have for any adventure traveler, camper or Vanlifer.

 

Biodegradable Soap

Dr Bronner's Biodegradable Soap
Photo provided by Dr. Bronner’s

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This pure-castille soap by Dr. Bronner’s is a great gift for anyone. It is made with organic ingredients and essential oils  and is 100% biodegradable. It is versatile and can be used for showering, washing hair, dishes, clothes, surfaces and pretty much anything else. This one is made with organic orange, lemon and lime oils and the aroma is soothing, refreshing and invigorating all at the same time. This soap is certified organic by the USDA National Organic Program and certified Vegan by Vegan Action. The packaging is  made from 100% post-consumer recycled (PCR) plastic bottles.

 

Scrubba Clothing Wash Bag

Scrubba Clothing Wash Bag
Photo provided by Scrubba

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A great alternative to the public laundromat for those days when you need to wash a small load of clothes while traveling. This bag is lightweight and has a special inner surface that works like a washboard while using only little water.  Simply fill with clothes, water and a dash of biodegradable soap, close, and deflate the bag, then rub clothes against the washboard for 30 seconds to 3 minutes. A great way to wash your clothes on the go without the use of electricity while saving water!

 

Lunchskins Reusable Snack and Sandwich Bags

Lunchkins Reusable Food Storage Bags
Photo provided by Lunchkins

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Super light, easy to store and versatile in use. These little reusable food-storage bags are a great alternative to single-use plastic ziplocs or other plastic bags. They are durable, easily washable and perfectly cut for a standard-sized sandwich. We use them almost every day to bring food on our adventures and fill them with fruit, nuts, trailmix, veggie sticks, bread, cookies and other snacks.

 

 

Tree Tribe Reusable Water Bottle

Tree Tribe Reusable Water Bottle
Photo provided by Tree Tribe

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Reusable water bottles are a must have in any household, but especially in the Eco-Friendly Van-Home. There are plenty of different brands out there of course, however, we have come to love this 20 oz bottle in particular due to its great quality. It holds beverages cold for 12h and hot liquids stay hot for up to 10 hours. We especially love this eco-friendly brand for their philosophy and sustainability and because for every item sold, Tree Tribe is planting 10 new trees. Yes that’s right, not just 1 tree, but 10 trees! What a wonderful concept! Of course the bottles are made of high quality food-grade stainless steel with a silicone/bamboo lid which is a leak-proof construction. The bottle  comes with a lifetime warranty, if it ever would break it will be replaced by Tree Tribe at no cost! Check out their site for more colors and designs and other eco-friendly gear.

 

Biodegradable Wipes

Dude Wipes
Photo provided by Dude Products

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These Dude Wipes are definitely not just for dudes! These wipes are awesome, 100% biodegradable, unscented, gentle with naturally soothing aloe vera and vitamin E to protect sensitive skin. Great to stay clean during travel, when using public toilets or even when using a portable camping toilet. These wipes are septic and sewer safe, flushable or even better to be disposed in a biodegradable garbage bag.

 

 

Female Urination Device

GoGirl Female Urination Device
Photo provided by GoGirl

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This is a fantastic way for any female adventurer to pee out in the wild with more comfort. It is also a handy tool that allows the female person to easily pee into a bottle during those desperate nights when parking somewhere in a city without having a bathroom available. This practical little funnel made by GoGirl is super elastic and soft to the touch which makes it comfortable to use for any body shape and form and is designed with a splash-guard that makes it easy to prevent splashes or spills. It is reusable, made of silicone and is 100% latex free, moisture resistant, antimicrobial and made in the USA. It folds into a small tube or bag and is a great companion for any trip or adventure!

 

Environmentally and Skin Friendly Sunscreen

Alba Botanica Eco-Friendly Sunscreen
Photo provided by Alba Botanica

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Van Life includes spending a lot of time outdoors and sun protection is a must to keep our skin healthy!
This mineral sunscreen by Alba Botanica is made with botanical ingredients like ginkgo biloba leaf extract and aloe leaf juice, is coral reef friendly and biodegradable, 100% vegetarian ingredients without any oxybenzone, octinoxate or synthetic fragrances, made without animal testing. It provides broad spectrum sun protection, is water resistant for up to 80 minutes and is recommended by the Skin Cancer Foundation. We love that it does not leave any trace on the face, is non-greasy, moisturizing and fragrance free. 

 

Recycled Floor Yoga Meditation Mat

Recycled Floor Yoga Meditation Mat
Photo provided by SUGA

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Such a great concept: out of old wetsuits make new yoga mats! This one is the smaller form and can be used as a floor mat, meditation mat, door mat, changing floor mat or just to sit on the beach or in the grass and enjoy the views! The company SUGA makes these beautiful yoga and floor mats in the USA entirely from recycled material. They come in standard yoga mat size and thickness, and also in travel size and floor mat size. Several recycling centers are spread across California and British Columbia where you can bring your old wetsuits.  A great idea that we like to support!

 

National Geographic Adventure Road Atlas

National Geographic Adventure Road Atlas
Photo provided by National Geographic

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This Atlas includes updated road maps of all 50 US States, Canada, and Mexico. But wait, there is more!
This road atlas includes details for America’s 24 most favorite National Parks and 100 top adventure destinations. A great road atlas for the adventure seeker, off-roader and Vanlifer alike.
Although printed paper is not the most eco-friendly option, we did include this item on our list because of its great value, plus it supports the National Geographic organization which in itself is helping the environment through education and financial support of different environmental projects.

 

America The Beautiful Pass

America The Beautiful Pass
Photo provided by nps.gov

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This pass is the annual ticket for access to more than 2,000 federal recreation sites including our beautiful National Parks, National Monuments, National Recreation Areas, Bureau of Land Management, National Forests etc. The pass also gives discounted access to participating campgrounds including US Army Corps of Engineers etc. A must have for any National Park and National Monument Lover! The annual pass costs $80 and will provide access for everyone driving/riding in the same vehicle.

 

Other Great Van Life Gift Ideas

  • A Membership for Pilot Travel Center aka Flying J. This is a great gift as this membership gives access to savings on gas and travel center purchases, as well as clean hot showers, laundry, refillable and discounted coffee and even urgent care on the road
  • A Membership to a nationwide Gym which gives access to unlimited hot showers as well as a place to workout. Most Vandwellers use Planet Fitness, Anytime Fitness, Snap Fitness, 24 Hour Fitness or YMCA depending on the area of travel
  • A Membership to Boondockers Welcome, a worldwide program that allows Vanlifers and RVers to sleep overnight on private property of participating hosts which is especially great for those Cities and States where living in a vehicle is not quite legal or where overnight parking options are limited
  • Audible, Pandora Premium or Spotify Premium membership
  • An Amazon Kindle is a great gift for the avid reader, eliminates paperbacks and paper waste and is easy to store in the van and to bring during along other travel as well

 

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Stealth Camping in the Florida Keys

Enjoying the Florida Keys can be a costly endeavor since tourism is the main income source for businesses located in the Keys. There are still ways however to enjoy the beauty of the islands without the big price tag. Although it is widely published that stealth camping is not allowed in the Florida Keys, we learned that there are still many options for free overnight parking. See the difference in wording: Stealth camping versus overnight parking? The trick is making yourself invisible when sleeping inside your parked vehicle.

Instead of staying at a nice hotel in Kew West we decided to give it a try and we turned our Chevy Tahoe into a super stealth truck camper and left for a great adventure filled with sun, fun and island vibes. Stealth camping in a car or truck definitely has its pros and cons. Cons: lack of privacy, space, air flow and luxury. Pros: low cost, more freedom and spontaneity. We love to be able to park pretty much anywhere and to be spontaneous during our travel, changing the route without having to plan ahead. Having the freedom to live in the moment and to decide to stay somewhere or move on at your heart’s desire is definitely a great feeling!

For this trip, we made a simple construction of a bed platform with underneath storage, black window covers for the inside and a black curtain behind the driver and passenger seats, so no one could see inside the vehicle at night, even when using a flash-light. We put a bike-rack on the hitch-receiver and off we went in our little adventure-mobil. 

The temperatures had been between the low 70’s during nights and high 80’s during the days, perfect  weather for outdoor living. Since being invisible in your car means that windows can’t stay open except for a small gap which is not quite sufficient for good airflow, we decided to bring a small rechargeable USB-fan that made it more comfortable to sleep inside the truck. This and a few other items we brought made it a successful adventure despite the minimal space that we had available. We brought our full-sized mattress which fitted perfectly in on the platform and it was super comfy. Where did we shower you may ask? We used solely free outdoor showers that we found at various beaches and parks. And on a couple days we just freshened up at a rest stop. Bathrooms are easy to find all over, and then there’s always the “peeing into a bottle option” for urgent matters. 

Here’s our gear list, tips and tricks and places we visited and parked at overnight:

Wander Green Stealth Camping Florida Keys
Truck camping bed and storage, copyright: wander.green

Recommended Truck Camping Gear:

Our Travel Route and Recommended Places:

Day 1: Ocala – Dunedin

We started our journey in Ocala, FL where we left our travel trailer and from there had 7 days to travel to Key West and back. We made our way to downtown Dunedin where we  found plenty of free parking, and after a stroll through town enjoyed a couple pizza slices at Tony’s Pizza. We found a quiet parking lot for our free overnight stay: See GPS coordinates here..

Dunedin is a cute town with many dining options. Since we eat mostly vegetarian and vegan, it can be challenging in some locations to find good options. Depending on your budget, we recommend the following restaurants in Dunedin for some yummy vegetarian and vegan meals:

Sweet Peas Cafe

Ohana Cafe

The Living Room

Casa Tina Mexican and Vegetarian Cuisine

 

Day 2: Dunedin – Clearwater – Sunshine Skyway Bridge Manatee County Rest Area

We got up early and after a refueling breakfast at Serendipity Cafe then parked at the downtown parking lot, grabbed our bikes and enjoyed a great day bicycling the beautiful Fred Marquis Pinellas Trail. The 49.8 mile long urban multi-use trail reaches from St. Petersburg to Tarpon Springs and is built on former railroad tracks.

We were super excited to have come across this awesome trail and truly enjoyed our ride. At some point however I got a flat tire and Damian’s gears broke pretty much at the same time. It was the weirdest thing. Several friendly bikers stopped and were so kind to help with the tire-repair. I was in awe about the kindness of those strangers that just stopped on their way and helped out!!

Wander Green Florida Dunedin Pinellas Trail
Pinellas Trail friendly bikers helping to fix a flat tire, copyright: wander.green

The joined effort made my tire work at least for a few miles and we rode back into town, excited to find a great bike shop called Kafe Racer and the staff were able to fix our bikes within only 30 min!

Happily we made our way along the Pinellas Trail again and then headed over the bridge to Honeymoon Beach at Honeymoon Island State Park for a great swim at the beautiful beach. After biking back to the downtown area where we left the truck, we decided to drive to Clearwater where we knew to find free outdoor showers and restrooms at the beach with parking available only a couple blocks from the beach. After a stroll and a simple vegan falafel dinner at King’s Pizza and Grill we brought our hammock to the white sandy beach where tall palm trees invited us to hang our hammock for a few hours of romantic relaxation. We were unable to find overnight parking in Clearwater (except for a couple overpriced parking garages that we did not want to stay at). So we made our way late at night to the most beautiful rest stop I have ever seen: The Manatee County Rest Area located at the The Sunshine Skyway Bridge at the Tampa Bay with added features of armed security, clean restrooms and picnic pavilions. We parked, got a good night sleep and woke up to a gorgeous view onto the water.

Wander Green Florida Skyway-Bridge Manatee Rest Area
Florida Skyway Bridge Manatee County Rest Area, copyright: wander.green

While there, we realized that another overnight parking option next to this rest stop would be the beautiful Sunshine Skyway Fishing Pier which is a Florida State Park that is open 24h. It is a fishing pier, but one can also just park and enjoy the lookout. We saw a few vans that stayed there overnight. Note: Recreational vehicles, large trucks and trailers are not allowed on the fishing piers.

 

Day 3: Sunshine Skyway Bridge Manatee County Rest Area – Clearwater – Big Cypress National Preserve

After cooking a hearty breakfast at the picnic pavilion at the rest stop, we packed up and drove into Clearwater to visit the great Dali Museum. From there we made our way South, stopped near Sarasota where we found Tandoor Fine Indian Cuisine, a great Indian restaurant with many delicious vegetarian and vegan dishes. After continuing on our route for another few hours we parked for the night in the Big Cypress National Preserve at Collier County Rest Area. It was pretty quiet at night and we had a good night sleep.

 

Day 4: Big Cypress National Preserve – Islamorada – Tavernier Key

After cooking a filling breakfast at the picnic table at the rest stop, we continued our journey towards the South-East and grabbed a few fresh items at a supermarket and enjoyed our lunch in their parking lot. Since we needed to catch up with some work, we drove to Florida City which is the gateway to the Florida Keys, found a Starbucks with plenty of open seating and fast wifi and bunkered down for a few hours of work on our laptops.

Finally it was time for some island fun and we made our way to Islamorada where we found a lovely small beach at Founders Park. There is a $8 entry fee for the park with beach access, cold showers, bathrooms, picnic tables, a playground, and for an additional fee one can use the pool as well. We went for a swim at the beach and had a long awaited refreshing shower, then cooked a yummy dinner at one of the picnic tables and enjoyed the beautiful sunset before the park closed and we had to move on.

Wander Green Florida Keys Founders Park Beach
Founders Park, copyright: wander.green

We decided to work for another few hours and found free wifi at McDonalds on Tavernier Key. Winn Dixie was located just across the plaza and we asked the manager if we would be able to stay in their parking lot overnight and he instantly said “sure, no problem, what does your vehicle look like?”. Wow, that was easy! We used their restrooms and bought a late night snack and off we went to our sleeping quarters aka our Chevy Tahoe. Another quiet night sound asleep and all for free!

 

Day 5: Tavernier Key – Marathon Key – Key West

We made our way South through the Keys and enjoyed the beautiful view of the turquoise water. Sadly, there was still quite a bit devastation from the big hurricane Irma that hit last year. Especially around Marathon Key the cleanup and build-up was still in process. For us, it was time for some more computer work and we found free wifi at McDonalds on Marathon Key. 

In the afternoon it was time for ocean swimming and we found a gem of a beach on Marathon Key called Sombrero Beach. Free access, free parking, toilets, picnic pavilion, playground. Gorgeous Ocean water and palm trees to hang a hammock! Perfect!

Wander Green Sombrero Beach Swimming Florida Keys
Sombrero Beach, copyright: wander.green

We spent our afternoon swimming and relaxing at the beach and then finally made our way to Key West! After driving into town, we found lots of empty parking space (it was a weekday) with plenty of space available for free street parking along Flagler Avenue, Casa Marina Ct and side streets like Grinnell St, Walton St etc. We decided to park on Reynolds Street, just a few feet from Higgs Beach, located next to the parking lot of the Casa Maria Waldorf Astoria Resort. We parked our truck there for 2 days without being bothered by anyone. It was super quiet at night and only a few steps to the beach!

Wander Green Florida Keys Stealth Camping
Key West stealth camping, copyright: wander.green

Higgs beach has restrooms (closed during night time), free cold outdoor showers, a historic fort and lots of recreational space and there’s a restaurant next to the beach as well. What else could you wish for! We arrived just in time for sunset and enjoyed the beautiful evening sky at Higgs beach. Then after a refreshing shower at the beach we went for a walk through town and had a fantastic vegan dinner at The CafeAfter another walk through town and a visit to zero mile point we headed back to Higgs beach and listened to the waves before going to sleep in our truck. 

Other great vegetarian/vegan friendly restaurants we found in Key West, Marathon Key:

Date and Thyme Organic Cafe and Market

Food For Thought

Sugar Apple Cafe

For those who do prefer to stay at a hotel room in Key West, we can recommend the following hotels:

Hotel Ocean Key Resort & Spa, Florida Keys – FL


Hotel Key Lime Inn, Florida Keys – FL


Hotel Doubletree Grand Key Resort , Florida Keys – FL

Day 6: Key West – Marathon Key

We got up early to watch the sunrise at Higgs beach, then took our bikes and rode around town, and went for breakfast at the lovely Key Coffee CoAfter we filled our tummies we biked to Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park and spent a few hours in the clear water at  the beautiful beach. Tip: bring water-shoes as the rocky pebbles at the beach are hurting your feet for sure. After another refreshing shower we went back into town and had lunch again at Le Cafe (yes, it was just that delicious), biked back to our truck and off we drove back to Sombrero beach on Marathon Key where we cooked dinner at the picnic table and relaxed in a hammock at the lonely beach after sunset. We didn’t want to spend much money, so back to McDonald’s it was for a cup of coffee and free wifi. We checked-in with the manager at Publix across the mall-parking lot and got his approval for overnight parking in the Publix parking lot. The night was pretty quiet and we slept until the morning hours without interruption.

Wander Green Florida Keys Sunset Sombrero Beach
Sombrero Beach, copyright: wander.green

 

Day 7: Marathon Key – Key Largo – Silver Springs

After a super early rise to watch the sunrise at Sombrero Beach (tip: bring bug spray and watch out for super aggressive Mosquitos during dusk and dawn) we had a quick breakfast at the parking lot and made our way to Key Largo where we found a small park with public boat launch at Sunset Point Park. It was the perfect place to launch our kayak and we had a great couple of hours on the beautiful clear water along Key Largo.

Wander Green Florida Keys-Sunset Point Park Kayaking
Boat Launch at Sunset Point Park, copyright: wander.green

During our paddle we discovered a small empty hidden beach only a short walk from Sunset Point Park and after we finished our kayak trip we walked over and enjoyed a nice dip in the shallow refreshing water at the beach. After the mandatory Key Lime Pie on Tavernier Key it was sadly time to say goodbye to the Florida Keys.

Wander Green Hidden Beach Florida Keys
Hidden beach near Sunset Point, copyright: wander.green

We headed up north back to Ocala and are looking forward to return some day for more great adventures for sure.

Other free overnight parking options that we found along the way:

Long Key parking for Florida Keys Overseas Heritage Trail

Marathon Key parking around boat ramp

Crawl Key across Banana Blvd

Duck Key parking for Florida Keys Overseas Heritage Trail and here

Conch Key North end parking

There are a multitude of options throughout the keys and along Overseas Highway, just look for public space that does not have a sign for “no camping” or “no overnight parking”.

Wander Green Truck Camping Florida Keys
Team wander green truck camping: copyright: wander.green


Tips on stealth Camping in the Keys:

The Blue Paper article

Not a Guidebook article

Other Great Info:

Free beaches in the Florida Keys

Boat Ramp Finder by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission

Florida Keys Overseas Heritage Trail

Hiking Trails in the Florida Keys


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