The holidays are upon us. And as every vanlifer can attest, space in the van is always a premium. So if you’ve got an environmentally conscious vanlifer, road traveler, digital nomad or aspiring minimalist on your Christmas list, let a couple of experienced eco-vanlifers help you find something they’ll actually want taking up space in their rig. Our curated Eco-Vanlife Holiday Gift Guide will help you find the perfect gift to enhance their vanlife while helping reduce their impact on Mama Nature.
COVID Note: We here at Irie to Aurora would normally recommend shopping locally and opting for second-hand and DIY gifting. However, these are unprecedented times, and we cannot advise you to go out in public any more than you have to. We still recommend shopping locally online whenever possible, and DIY gifts are still the bees knees. If you choose to buy from the ethically-questionable, small business killing, online mega retailer (Amazon.com) we’d appreciate it if you do so via our links below. This will allow us to get a tiny commission and it won’t cost you an extra cent. And trust us, Amazon won’t miss it.
For the Van Chef
There’s nothing like cooking in a tiny van kitchen. If you’ve never experienced it, trust me, it’s an art as much as it is a skill. But as with most things, having the right gear can make all the difference. These eco-vanlife kitchen favorites can transform a cluttered tiny kitchen into an efficient space while eliminating a ton of waste.
Stasher Bags Reusable Silicone Storage Bags
Say goodbye to ziplock bags. These silicone alternatives are versatile, reusable and durable. We use them in our van for storing everything from leftovers to toiletries to loose screws and bolts. You can also find lower cost options that may not be as pretty, but they’ll get the job done.
Khala & Co. Beeswax and Vegan Wax Wraps
Speaking of reusable food storage, we can’t talk about eco-friendly kitchen essentials without talking about beeswax wraps. These have completely replaced plastic wrap and aluminum foil in our van. They’re washable, reusable, protect your leftovers and can even be made into a bowl, plate, or handy pouch when you’re taking a snack on an adventure away from the van. Our favorite brand is Khala & Co. Their wraps come in beautiful designs and they even give back to Mama Nature through partnerships with 1 Percent for the Planet.
Reusable “Paper” Towels
Unpaper your van with these durable, reusable cloths. We use these in our van for cleaning up spills, wiping counter tops and so much more. They do everything paper towels can do, only better. They’re machine washable, but we just wash them by hand and hang them up to dry.
Speaking of ditching paper towels. A nice set of linen dinner napkins can not only reduce your carbon footprint, they also add a touch of class to your vanlife dinner parties. These too are easy to hand wash and hang to dry. Switching from paper to cloth is one of the easiest sustainable switches you can make.
Cast Iron Skillet & Dutch Oven
Non-stick cookware has been shown to leach dangerous toxins at high heat. And while stainless steel is a good alternative, nothing cooks like cast iron. Plus, cast iron cookware is virtually indestructible, which is perfect for life on the road. Pair with an inexpensive piece of chainmail to make cleaning your cast iron a breeze.
And while there are plenty of new pre-seasoned options out there. If you really want to show your eco-conscious van chef you care about them and the environment, opt for pre-owned. You can often score used cast iron pots and pans at thrift stores. And with a little TLC, you can bring them right back to life. If you do opt for pre-owned, give it good seasoning before you gift it. You can learn how to season your cast iron here.
Bamboo Cutting & Serving Board
A nice bamboo cutting board can last years in a van kitchen. And considering bamboo is one of the fastest renewing resources, you’ll never have to worry about the footprint of your cutting board.
Hydro Flask Insulated Beer Growler & Wine Flask
I like beer, Noami prefers wine. With a reusable growler, I can fill up on fresh-brewed IPA from a local brewery. And our wine flask allows us to take a bottle with us on our adventures. Some wineries will even fill your growler or wine flask. These are great ways to eliminate the waste of beer cans and wine bottles.
Reusable Grocery Bag & Produce Bags
Good quality reusable bags are always a great gift for the eco-conscious traveller. No more plastic grocery bags. And reusable produce bags help keep your van fridge organized and your veggies fresh.
Refillable Magnetic Spice Jars
There is nothing like a conveniently organized spice rack to take cooking a meal from stressful to enjoyable. And when your kitchen doubles as your living room, dining room, and bedroom, organization and spatial efficiency is key. These reusable magnetic spice jars can transform a van kitchen into an efficient cooking space.
If you’re more of the DIY gifter, then you’ve got our heart ❤️. And we’ve got a great gift idea for you. We made our own magnetic spice jars for our van. It’s simple, inexpensive, and they work great. All you need is baby food jars, neodymium magnets, and heavy duty adhesive. (Use caution when handling the magnets as they are super strong and will easily squish a finger if you’re not careful. Also, if you allow two magnets to slam together it may cause them to break and expose sharp edges).
Here’s what we used:
- Simply empty the baby food jars (what you do with the baby food is entirely up to you)
- Wash the jars and lids and allow them to dry thoroughly
- Carefully attach the magnets to the inside of the lids using a small dab of super glue
The last straw you’ll ever need. Single-use plastic is the biggest villain on our journey to eco-conscious consumerism, and plastic straws are among the most useless of items. A reusable straw is an essential addition to anyone’s plastic-free arsenal. Final Straw is our favorite for many reasons – their design is unique, they take up very little space, easy to toss in your backpack, and the company is just super f’n cool! Grab a Final Straw for the eco-vanlifer in your life, and while you’re at it, grab one for yourself. They also just released these super cool Final Fork and Final Spork.
This is the easiest and most impactful low-waste swap we’ve made in our van. We use mason jars for everything – storing bulk foods, chilling water in the fridge on hot days, fermenting sauerkraut, brewing kombucha and cold-brew coffee. No eco-van should be without a good assortment of mason jars.
These lovely, eco-friendly bowls are an essential in our van. Eat healthy and feel good doing it.
Pour-Over Coffee Carafe
Step up your coffee game with this glass pour-over carafe with reusable filter. Ditch the disposable and brew a delicious pot of coffee in style.
Stainless Steel Tea Strainers
For the tea lover in your life, this set of stainless steel tea strainers will allow them to brew a delicious cup of tea anytime without wasteful tea bags.
For the Outdoor Enthusiast
The number one reason Noami and I got into vanlife was to be closer to nature. We’re avid hikers and backpackers, and we’ve spent much of our time on the road exploring the great outdoors. Though, when we began, we were total amateurs – and that’s ok, we all gotta start somewhere. Having the right gear can go a long way towards creating an enjoyable experience in the outdoors. And quality made, eco-friendly gear can serve you for years of adventures. So get the nomadic adventure lover in your life a gift that will remind them of you everytime they hit the trail.
Cotopaxi Luzon 24L Hiking Backpack
Cotopaxi is a certified B Corp whose manufacturing practices are fully transparent. Their backpacks are fun and colorful, and their innovative designs make excellent use of space with relatively low weight. They also pack down small when not in use.
LifeStraw Go Stainless Steel Water Filter Bottle
LifeStraw is one of our all-around favorite brands, and for good reason. They were founded with a mission to make clean water accessible to all. And with every bottle purchased, a school child receives safe water for an entire school year. We’ve been using LifeStraw water filter bottles for years, both in the van and on the trail, and we’re loving the upgrade to these new lightweight, insulated stainless steel bottles with the same great LifeStraw filter.
To-Go Ware Bamboo Travel Utensils
This complete utensil kit is perfect for throwing in your backpack for the trail or a day out on the town. It comes complete with a bamboo spoon, fork, knife and even a pair of chopsticks. All in a handy little case.
BioLite Rechargeable Headlamp
Ditch the batteries and light up the night with a rechargeable headlamp. BioLite makes great gear and they’re also on a mission to provide solar lighting and self-sufficient cooking gear to villages around the world who lack access to electricity.
BioLite BaseLantern & Power Bank
Speaking of BioLite, this Base Lantern will light up your campsite, comes with fun “party mode” colors, and can charge your devices simultaneously. Pair it with a BioLite solar charger for an endless supply of eco-friendly light and energy. So, again, ditch the batteries and Mama Earth will thank you.
OCOOPA Rechargeable Hand Warmer
Disposable hand warmers are wasteful and inefficient. Opt for a rechargeable hand warmer to keep your hands or your sleeping bag toasty all night long. And if you prefer a fuel-powered option, try this one from UST.
Keen Eco-Friendly Hiking Boots
Keen makes some of the best hiking boots and shoes on the market. And what’s better is their commitment to sustainability. They’re pushing industry standards across the board when it comes to quality eco-friendly materials, ethical manufacturing processes and superior craftsmanship.
Matador FlatPak Toiletry Bottles
These ultralight, compact toiletry bottles are a game changer! Matador is always leading the way with their packable gear. And they’re committed to ethical manufacturing practices and carbon offsetting.
For the Digital Nomad
We’re bringing new meaning to the term “traveling professional.” 2020 was the year of the pandemic, 2021 will be the year of the digital nomad. Get your favorite working traveler a gift that will enhance their productivity and keep them light on their (carbon)feet.
FJALLRAVEN Ulvö Rolltop 23 Rucksack
Fjallraven uses natural and recycled materials in all their products. Even the dye they use is completely non-toxic. This rolltop bag can hold a surprisingly large amount of gear and it packs down small when not in use.
Renogy E.Power Portable Solar Charger
You can never have enough power when you’re on the go. And with a solar power bank, your favorite traveler will never run out of juice. These tough little devices make great stocking stuffers as well.
Wanderings Refillable Travel Journal
These sleek, leather-bound notebooks are not only refillable, they add a touch of class to your everyday carry. Aside from being cost efficient and environmentally friendly, it’s so much more badass than your old high school composition book.
Pela Case Plant-Based Cell Phone Case
Pela Case is the world’s first 100% compostable, eco-friendly phone case. But don’t worry, it won’t biodegrade in your hand, these cases are tough as nails. They protect the phones of your two favorite eco-vanlifers (that’d be Noami and I, if you weren’t sure).
For a more comprehensive list of digital nomad gear, check out our guide to Essential Digital Nomad Gear for the Overland Traveler.
For the Homebody
Whether your inspiration for vanlife is to explore the great outdoors, to chase powder or the perfect wave, explore your artistic side, perfect your craft – or perhaps none or all of the above – finding comfort and convenience when you’re home in your van is a must. Here’s a list of the items that keep these eco-conscious nomads cozy, comfy, organized and happy in our van.
One rule: no shoes in the van. A pair of Birkenstock sandals will keep your feet happy while you’re hanging out at camp, going for a stroll, or running errands in town. And you can slide em on and off with ease at the door of the van. Birkenstocks are made from natural materials like renewable cork. And there are Birkenstock repair facilities all over the country, so a pair of Birks can literally last a lifetime.
Keen Howser Indoor/Outdoor Shoes
When the weather turns cold, rule number one gets broken. Keen’s Howser shoe is the perfect van slipper, allowing you to take the comfort of inside, outside – from the van to the trail and beyond. And Keen is all about sustainability. Your feet and the planet will thank you.
The perfect towel for the beach, yoga, or vanlife. Nomadix towels are made from post-consumer recycled materials, so they’re easy on the environment. They dry fast and shed dirt and dust easily. And their beautiful outdoor inspired designs make this the towel upgrade you didn’t know you needed.
Florious Packing Cubes
These heavy duty packing cubes will transform storage in a small space, like a rolling tiny home. And the best part is, they’re made from recycled water bottles.
Rumpl Down Puffy Blanket
Rumpl was made for vanlife. In fact, Rumpl was made by vanlifers, seriously, the idea for the company was conceived in the back of a van on a cold night. Rumpl uses discarded plastic bottles to make their polyester and synthetic insulation, and they’re committed to environmental advocacy and supporting under-represented communities.
An e-reader is a wonderful alternative to regular books. And I’ve found that having an e-reader at my fingertips inspires me to read more, which is a great way to unwind, stimulate creativity, and improve your overall quality of life. When it comes to e-readers, Amazon has cornered the market. Noami went with the top of the line Kindle Oasis, which hardly leaves her side. I’m perfectly content with my Kindle Paperwhite. Both are waterproof, and small and light enough to take with you anywhere, perfect for nomadic life.
Give the Gift of an Experience
Still not sure what to get the vanlifer who has it all. I get it, space is a premium in vanlife and you don’t want to get them something they may not need or may already have. So give them the gift of an experience instead.
America the Beautiful National Parks Pass
The gift that keeps on inspiring. Gift your favorite traveler an annual pass to all of America’s National Parks.
Mountain Collective Ski Pass
Give your that vanlifer on your list a season of powder. One pass provides access to 23 world-class ski destinations.
Anytime Fitness Membership
Some vanlifers may call this the gift of anytime showers. Anytime fitness has locations all over the country and, like the name suggests, you can use them anytime, 24 hours a day. So give your roaming loved one a year of showers, er uh… fitness.
AllStays Pro Membership
AllStays is a premium app that helps travelers locate campgrounds, RV parks, truck stops, as well as resources like propane fill stations, RV dump stations and much more. And the community reviews help them to know what the place is like and if it’s safe to spend the night.
Give the gift of peace of mind with AAA roadside assistance. Noami and I have definitely made full use of our membership and I would never let a loved one hit the road without the assurance of AAA.
If you’ve made it this far, congratulations, you’re now armed with all the information you need to get your favorite road traveler an eco-friendly gift they’re sure to love. And I’m sure you’ve also noticed that most of the things on this list will make great gifts for anyone. So go wild, stay safe, wear a mask, and protect Mama Earth.
A note about affiliate links, shopping on Amazon, and minimizing packaging:
Many of these items contain affiliate links to Amazon.com (so if you click and make a purchase we get a teeny-tiny commission, and you get our sincere gratitude). If you want to take your eco-conscious shopping game to the next level, check out our guide How to Reduce Amazon Packaging, including the only way to tell Amazon to lay off the plastic fillers. Give it a shot and let us know if you have any comments or concerns.