Finding the perfect gift for your friend or family member can be difficult, in general. It can be even more difficult when that person lives in a tiny RV or Van and every inch of space counts.
We’ve been living in our R-Pod 192 RV travel trailer for almost six months now, so I think we’re at a good point to know what we need and want, and what we should have left in storage.
Also, my links below are Amazon affiliate links (because it’s easy, and I do earn a small commission), but during this holiday season I urge you to shop local or support independent small business where you can. Many Ace Hardware stores are locally owned, and Etsy is a great platform to find local creators. Powell’s Books in Portland is one of my favorite bookstores in the world (they ship), and we loved local pet store A Place for Fido in Duluth, Minnesota (they ship), and our local outdoor chain in Raleigh/Triangle, Great Provisions (also ships) has a knowledgeable staff and great service.
With that, I’ve compiled a gift guide of ten gifts ideas that every full-time RVer would be excited to receive, but do not take up much space:
Whether you’re drinking a cocktail at the campsite, or coffee in the car when driving to the next spot — a good insulated cup can make all the difference. We love BrüMate drinkwear because it keeps our drinks cold, carbonated, has a non-slip base, and comes in so many fun color combinations. BrüMate has many different products, including drink koozies for cans, slim cans (Truly, White Claw), and even wine bottles. The 20 ounce pint glass is our go to – but the slim can koozie also comes in handy when we’re kicking back with a spiked seltzer.
I’m one of those people that mosquitos love so much that my husband jokes I’m his mosquito repellent. Thankfully, I found the Thermacell Portable Mosquito Repeller works really well. Seriously, it works. It’s battery operated, has a butane cartridge that warms up a mosquito repellent pad. We have the portable version (you can get a belt holster for it) and the table top version. But there are other versions, like a lantern and a backpacker version that runs on camp fuel canisters.
And your gift recipient will appreciate extra butane and repellent refills, too.
You can never have enough lighters. Besides lighting the campfire, we use them to light our propane burners and stove and we need one for the outdoor kitchen, indoor kitchen, in the car, in our packs, etc. We like refillable lighters ourselves, and especially like long neck lighters like this one. We also have a rechargeable battery operated lighter which works well for campfires, and no butane refills are needed.
For a more economical option, grab a pack of non-refillable lighters. On top of lighters, waterproof matches are always a good idea, too.
When lighting the fire, sometimes your lighter is just not enough — especially in the wet Pacific Northwest where we’ve been spending a lot of our time. Firestarters are a great trick to get your fire started, and keep it going until your (maybe damp) sticks catch. We like this style because it’s all natural, the bricks are small but each burns for about ten minutes, and it’s affordable. While a little more expensive, these fire starters that strike like matches are pretty cool, too.
Before we started RVing, we thought one headlamp each was fine — and we’d have flashlights when we needed more light. However, once we had our first maintenance issue at night (in the rain, of course) we realized that headlamps are a necessity – always. They especially come in handy when walking our dog at night.
We started buying Energizer headlamps. This headlamp is water resistant, super bright, has high, low, red light, direct and flood light modes, and won’t break the bank. We have headlamps stuffed everywhere — in the truck, in the RV, in our emergency go-bags. We’ve even attached one to Frankie Dog.
And don’t forget to include extra batteries.
Even when it’s not damp outside, traditional towels take forever to dry when you’re living in an RV or Van. There’s rarely extra room to hang towels to dry and towels that don’t dry quickly tend to get that stinky laundry scent. On top of that, traditional towels are bulky and difficult to store.
I love Aquis towels. We have the waffle body towel and we each have a smaller waffle hair towel. The towels are super absorbent which allows for quicker dryer (it also reduces frizzy hair!). The towels also dry quickly and we can put them away vs. leaving them out on hooks to fall off when driving.
Our national parks are a national treasure, with each one holding beauty and stories different from the next. Because there is so much to do and see, navigating each park can feel overwhelming. I love this guidebook from National Geographic, featuring 100 parks and 5,000 ideas of what to do at the parks. You’ll learn new tips, tricks, and facts about each park. It gets in depth enough where you’ll find new adventure, but can also stay top level with its 10 best lists. We have given this book as a gift over and over and it’s never disappointed.
We received a Glacier National Park wool Pendleton blanket from my husband’s parents a few years back, and I’m so grateful for it in the RV. When the temp dips below about 55 degrees, we take that blanket out of storage and throw it on our bed. The wool is breathable but it keeps us nice and warm (allowing us to keep the furnace temp lower, so we don’t use as much propane). Plus, the blanket is iconic and so Instagram worthy. We have the Glacier National Park blanket, but it comes in many colors representing different National Parks. Check out the Crater Lake blue or the Olympic National Park grey.
Making an RV homey was really important to us, and one easy way to do that was to add kitchen towels, pillows, and wall decor. We picked up a few signs from Well Hung on Etsy — they are inexpensive, lightweight, and super cute. Amazon carries a lot of pillow covers and tea towels that are kitsch but cute. Another more personalized idea is a custom outdoor camp sign.
I was gifted this tool at a conference and didn’t think much of it — and we threw it in the RV before we left. Turns out, it’s been our most used tool. For some reason every screw is a different size in the RV, and some are very tiny. This tool also has a light so you can see what you’re doing when using it. And since it’s so small, we keep it in a handy place rather than down below with our other tools.
When you’re boondocking (camping without water/electric), sometimes you just need emergency backup power. I love this charger because it can give my laptop a full charge – twice. It also has USB ports and a flood light. It’s even powerful enough to jumpstart a car! We just find a spot to charge it (it does take about 4 hours to charge) and we’re already to go for a few more days. It comes in multiple colors and finishes, too, making it even more unique and tailored to your recipient.
12. Instant Pot
We use our Instant Pot a lot. It’s one pot to cook a three-course meal, and it’s so versatile. From cooking a whole chicken in an hour to making the most delicious soups, it’s one of our go-to cooking “utensils” in our camper. The three quart size is perfect for the two of us (and honestly, would be fine if there were four of us)
One thing to note — even the three liter Instant Pot takes up a fair amount of space and it has some weight to it. You may want to causally check with the recipient before pulling the trigger on this one.
13. Cast Iron Pan
We have three cast iron pans with us, and the 10.5″ grill pan probably gets more use than any other. I love the resilience of the pan and how it can go from gas burner to over the firepit and back. Bonus, cast iron is super easy to clean. Lodge is our favorite brand, and it’s made in the USA. Besides the grill pan, the 10.25″ skillet is our second go-to pan. I also like the scraper accessories to clean, and the silicon handles are a must.
We joke that we should never pass up the opportunity to buy ice. We keep it in our cooler, and a little in our freezer for cocktails. But sometimes we find ourselves at an out of the way campground and a bag of ice is a 20 minute drive. One way to solve this is a countertop icemaker. This particular ice maker from Igloo is compact, self-cleaning, and makes 26lbs of ice in 24 hours. Just like the Instant Pot, you may need to feel out if the your gift recipient has the room to store it.
15. Gift Cards
If you’re struggling on what to get your friend or family member, or how to send them a gift, maybe a gift card is the way to go. Receiving packages on the road is sometimes difficult. Many campgrounds don’t allow campers to receive mail. If they do, sometimes packages don’t arrive in a timely manner. E-gift cards are a great way to make sure your loved one receives their gift, and you can be assured they can get exactly what they want or need.
Most cities have an Ace Hardware, and it has plenty of goodies that every RVer would love and need. Amazon has hubs and lockers across the country making it very easy to receive Amazon packages. A gift card to REI is always appreciated (REI also sells National Parks Passes – and donates 10% of purchases back to the Parks). And lastly, if you know your RVer is going to be in a certain city for a minute, find out if local restaurants offer gift cards (then you’re supporting a local business, too!).