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How Do You Store Books In Your Van?

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Van living is a lifestyle that has been implemented by generations of flower children in the 60s and 70s, and is happening again among young adults looking for a less expensive way to live. Arranging and outfitting a van requires thinking about maximizing a minimal space without giving up on some of the pleasures and comforts of home. 

When you are looking for ways to store books in your van, it requires some serious attention to the number of books you have, as well as where to put them so they will remain in good condition. Van living requires making use of every inch of space.

If you are outfitting a van yourself, you have the opportunity to be creative in the design and layout of the key elements you will need for maintaining your lifestyle. Depending on where the van is parked, you will need the ability to eat and drink, clean the space and yourself, and provide for your entertainment. If your entertainment involves reading, you will need to plan a place where you can place your books when you are reading, or not.

How much space do you have?

Depending on the type of van that you have, you will probably be occupying less than 100 square feet of space. That space needs to hold all of your must haves. You need to determine what type of usage you will be making of the van. You can live full time, on weekends, or on lengthy road trips. The space needs to accommodate the things you consider most important. You might be a loner and depend on your books for entertainment, or your book collection might consist of ‘how to’ volumes that make your solitary existence more comfortable. 

Outfitting a van will make use of the list of your priorities and deciding on the ways that you plan to use the van. Extensive planning usually accompanies getting a van outfitted for your own use and preferences. 

Minimalism is a feature that usually accompanies the decision to move into a van full time. Living in a van helps you to think about the things in life that are of high priority to you and forces you to get rid of the things you don’t want. Becoming a digital nomad doesn’t mean giving up everything. Living the van life doesn’t allow you to be unorganized since everything belongs in a particular place. 

Identifying storage locations

When you consider that storage in a van not  only consists of square feet, but of cubic feet as well, it may help you to identify your storage locations in order to make the best use of the space. Another element which must be taken into consideration is the weight. The water system, if it is included, and the electrical system, are the two most weighty items which you will have in most vans. Considering that books tend to be heavy, that is a factor that needs to enter into your planning.


To maintain the books in their best condition, typically they are stored on shelves with the spines facing out and perpendicular to the shelf. They should not be packed together so closely that they are difficult to remove from the shelf. Conversely, if they are too loosely packed, they will move around on the shelf and this can cause rubbing and wear on the boards and any dust jackets. 

If you are outfitting the van yourself, allow a shelf which is deep enough to hold at least most of your books.  The shelf should be securely affixed to the walls of the camper, but not at the risk of creating holes where moisture and dirt can enter. The weight of the books cannot exceed the support hangers of the shelf. The shelf can include a face plate if desired, to stop books from falling off the front of the shelf.

Storage boxes

If you are not tied to the concept of a bookshelf in your van, there are other ways to carry along a few books for entertainment or necessary how-to repairs. Storage boxes should be sturdy enough to handle rough roads and crowded conditions. Storage boxes typically would be constructed of sturdy materials, preferably with the ability to keep moisture and mold out. Protection against dirt and grime is also helpful. Tote style bins are easy to move and stack if needed. 

Bed platform

It is common to have a raised platform for your bed, with space underneath. This space can be accessed from either the main front living area or the rear door. Books could be placed in the space below the bed, particularly if there is a way to protect them from sliding around. Some nomads choose to place their essential reading material in pockets beside the mattress or cushions and slightly below the height of the cushion. This keeps a few books handy for reference or reading and protected from sliding around.

Bed platform

How Do You Store Books In Your Van

Above the windshield

A shelf or secured bins fastened above the windshield of the van can hold several feet of books. It needs to be placed high enough that it will not interfere with visibility. A face plate of solid material or netting must be placed in position so that the books don’t end up in the driver’s lap in the event of a sudden take off or acceleration. 

Under-van storage

With the right type of materials and protection, storage containers can be built to fit under the side of the van, between the front and rear wheels. Obviously this space needs to be water tight and sealed to prevent a coating of fine dust from covering all of your reading materials. 

Rooftop storage

Some vans are outfitted to place bins on top of the van to hold items that are not easily kept inside. Other vans are designed to have a space on top that almost doubles as a patio area. This type of arrangement could easily be styled to contain secure space for some books, although protection from weather, moisture and dirt would require some special construction. 

Protecting the condition of your books

Whether you live in a high-rise, a rural farm, or a van, protecting the investment which you have in your book collection is important. Some of the same principles apply, no matter where the books are located. Here are some factors which apply to storage of books in any of these locations. 


Moisture and books are an unfortunate combination at best. Moisture leads to ripples in the pages and the boards. It causes pages to discolor and sometimes for the ink to bleed into the surrounding paper. Because moisture does not affect all of the pages and other surfaces at an even rate, bowing and warping is a common occurrence. 

Moisture combined with dirt or other debris can bring bacteria, mold spores and other fungi. Insects arrive to feed on the debris. They leave behind eggs and feces which further deteriorates the paper, bindings and glue in the book. As the insect eggs hatch, the larvae feed on the paper and damage the appearance even further. 

Temperature and light

Unless your van is equipped with climate control, keeping books at their optimum temperature of 68 to 72 degrees may be a challenge. Probably the best you can do is to avoid placing books in direct sunlight, even for a few minutes. The fading and bleaching that occurs from the effects of ultraviolet rays affect the color, as well as the composition of the paper and binding. 

Living a simpler life

When you strive to pare down your essentials to the minimum, natural life can become very appealing. There is a freedom in being able to not worry about taking care of excessive possessions. Being able to feed and clothe yourself, have water to drink and time to enjoy the life you have should always include the enjoyment of sharing the thoughts of others through the books they have written. Taking a selection of books on your next van life excursion can change the way you view the world around you.