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Vans make great self-contained adventure rigs. In this episode of the 101, we learn the essential items that longtime van owner and Outside content marketing manager Brian Smith keeps in his vehicle to make life on the road more comfortable. Check out the full tour of Brian’s 2015 Ram ProMaster van.
BRYAN ROGALA: What's up, guys? Bryan Rogala here for Outside. This is The 101.
So in the last episode, we met Brian, who has the amazing van that you see right behind me. One of the things I want to talk to you about is accessories for weekend van life, or whatever you're doing. But obviously, there are going to be some things that you can have with you besides the van itself that make things a little easier. I know you've got a couple things that you guys always have with you. What are some of those things?
BRIAN SMITH: Yeah, leveling blocks are really cheap, and a nice thing to have. It takes the pain out of leveling the van. When you're camping in a place like this, it's almost never level. So these things are just literally plastic blocks that kind of LEGO together.
BRYAN ROGALA: Oh, nice.
BRIAN SMITH: You can stack them however high you need to and make a little ramp, and bring one corner of the van up, and then you have a nice level platform to sleep on.
BRYAN ROGALA: A lot easier than rocks, probably.
BRIAN SMITH: Yeah. Yeah, definitely. I did the rock thing for a long time and then realized it was probably worth the $10 to get some leveling blocks.
BRYAN ROGALA: Absolutely
BRIAN SMITH: Keeping dirt out of the van is a constant battle, just like it is with your car. So having just a little all-season or all-weather weather mat to throw down, and a dirt-catching doormat is huge.
BRYAN ROGALA: Underrated.
BRIAN SMITH: Underrated, yep. Another accessory, I guess, would just be centered around cooking. We decided not to install a permanent cooktop in our galley because, again, the whole point of having this thing is to be outside. So we don't want to be stuck inside cooking. So we cook outside on this Primus Grill. And then we've got a little Camp Chef Butane Burner, a single burner like you'd see at an omelet station at a hotel lobby. And it works great. The butane burns super clean, so if we have to use it inside, it's not producing a ton of humidity and off gases and stuff like that.
BRYAN ROGALA: Nice.
BRIAN SMITH: And that's another big one. I also carry a recovery strap underneath the driver's seat, and then jumper cables. This is actually the first automatic vehicle I've ever owned, so the fear of not being able to push-start my way out of a situation was real. The good news is I could actually jump myself off my auxiliary batteries.
BRYAN ROGALA: Ah, nice.
BRIAN SMITH: Yeah. And this thing is pretty capable off-road, but you never know when you're going to hit some mud that you can't get through or you're going to get far up a road, and then it's going to start raining. So having a recovery strap is a must, especially with a two-wheel drive vehicle if you're getting off-road.
Another thing that's really great to have on the road, and it sounds super bougie and posh, but we often bring our Sodastream from home, which is a portable carbonated water maker. And while that sounds silly, it's nice too not amass a huge pile of cans every time we go camping.
BRYAN ROGALA: OK, there you go, some accessories for your van. You've got leveling blocks, recovery kit, Sodastream, a mat to wipe your feet so you don't get a bunch of dust and dirt inside, and a portable grill so you can cook outside and actually enjoy camping, which is what we're supposed to be doing with this whole thing. Yeah.
BRIAN SMITH: Great. Well, thanks for checking out the van, Bryan.
BRYAN ROGALA: Absolutely. Guys like this video and want to see more, subscribe to the YouTube channel. Otherwise, we'll see you next time.