Top 5 Essential Items for Living in a Van with a Visual Impairment

There are many, many items in our van that I could not live without. Our coffee pot, my nice shampoo, a comfy bed, good outdoor chairs – I could go on and on! All of these items make life a bit comfier, but don’t necessarily help with managing my visual impairment. So below are the top 5 (ok maybe 7) items that I’m so glad I packed for our trip.

1. Prescription sunglasses

There is only one word for these – essential. I’d be stuck indoors all day every day if I didn’t have them. They go a long way towards protecting my eyes from the glaring sun and in doing so also reduce eye strain and headaches. I have two pairs and will shortly be purchasing a polarised pair.

I don’t wear them all the time when out and about, especially not when walking around cities or towns. There are two reasons for this;

  • Wearing them in the shade makes my vision even more impaired. There tends to be a lot of chopping and changing between light and shade in a city or town so I’d be too afraid that I’d walk into someone or trip over something
  • I generally don’t wear them if I am walking around our campsite. I do this as I like to give my eyes some exposure to the sun, for short periods so they don’t get too sensitive. This is not something I was told to do or recommended to do by a medical professional, it’s of my own volition.

My sunglasses work best for me when I am sitting outdoors or in a bright area and when I am out on a hike or walk with The Driver by my side. I also wear them on driving days when I’m in the cab.

Two pairs of sunglasses are sitting on top of their cases on a grey stool. The top pair of sunglasses are black and brown plastic sitting on a navy blue case. The second pair are black wire framed small glasses sitting on an orange case.
My two current pairs of sunglasses

3. A cap

I think I’m a bit addicted to wearing a cap. Not only does it keep the sun off my face, it protects the top of my head from getting burnt. As well as that, it hides my hair when its in need of a wash!

I don’t have any special caps, one is from Penneys and the other is from H&M. I’m considering investing in one of those wide brimmed straw summer hats too but I haven’t found one I like yet.

2. SPF

If there was a word that was more emphatic than essential, I would use it for SPF. It’s a necessary piece of kit for me, at home and abroad. I use factor 30 or 50 (depending on what is available) and try to buy one that is water resistant and for sensitive skin. I nearly always have two bottles in the van at any one time.

I have a few brands that I go to as a first instance. I use La Roche Posay or Ambre Solaire for my body and Skingredients Skin Shield for my face. I put SPF on my face every day, regardless of the weather or what my plans are. I use SPF on the rest of me if I know I’ll be out in direct sun for more than 20minutes.

An image of two bottles of SPF lying on green grass. The bottle on the left is orange and cylindrical. It has the word Skingredients Skin Shield written on it in black and silver writing. The bottle on the right is a squeezy triangular tube with an orange flip lid at the bottom. The bottle is brown and white and says Ambre Solaire on it.
The two SPF’s that I am currently using

4. My phone

My phone is like having a second set of eyes, with 20 / 20 vision. I use it every day to get around, read signs, menus or small print, get the bus and to scroll mindlessly (trying to stop). I also use it when I’m meeting someone to share locations and to get them to direct me to where they are so I don’t miss them or walk past them.

Before this trip I upgraded my phone to a Samsung Galaxy A52s which is great. The battery on my old phone was slowly dying and the screen and camera were not great. One of my next posts will be about the technology and settings I use so I’ll do a deeper dive into my phone then.

5. An Eye Mask

I have a pink fluffy eye mask that I sometimes use at night or during the day to give my eyes a good break. I think its a combination of the darkness and the pressure that just slowly takes the strain away and helps my eyes relax. I also love a hot water bottle on the head and even an eye pillow for extra comfort and headache relief. I have this eye pillow from Rituals which I didn’t bring on the trip – this was a mistake!

Additional extras!

We live quite an outdoorsy life here and spend much of our time up mountains or in lakes. So there are some other items that have become just as important as those above. These are only recent additions (in the last 6months or so) but I don’t know why I wasn’t using them before now;

  • A UV long sleeved swimsuit – in anticipation of our European trip, I bought a long sleeved swimsuit with UV protection built in. The main reason for this was to give my upper body more protection during and after swimming. I decided to go for a shorter version rather than a full wetsuit as it is more practical, takes up less space and is more than likely allowed in all swimming pools (some have very strict rules about what can / cannot be worn). I find normal swimsuits to be quite skimpy and I wanted more coverage when swimming outdoors. I wear one from Planet Warrior.
  • Hiking poles – I’ve been hiking for years and I don’t know why I didn’t get these sooner! Not only do they take the pressure off your knees when going downhill (yes I am a bit of a granny), they act as a great balancing aid when going up. I use them primarily for descents, when the ground is further away and therefore the detail is more difficult to see. I just use one, so I have a hand free to clamber on rocks or grab onto a nearby tree/rail/rock/person. We have two types of poles – one set is from Lidl, which are super lightweight and I bought one while we were walking the Camino di Santiago due to an Achilles injury!

So there you have it! The top 5-7 items in my van that help with my visual impairment. I’ve no doubt this list will change and grow the longer we are away and find some other interesting and useful bits of kit!

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