Updated: Mar 31
When you are living the buslife, their are certain key essentials that can really help you out in a jam or keep you safe on the road. After driving over 18,000 miles in my bus this past year, I put together a list of 10 buslife essentials that I found kept me safe and the bus running.
This list is in no particular order of importance but is derived based on my life and travel experiences. I do use everything in this list but understand that I am not an expert and cannot be held responsible for your safety.
#1 - Back Up Camera
Get a Backup Camera and Monitor if you are planning on living in a Van, Truck bed camper, Tiny Home, School bus or any custom structure on the road. Putting a backup camera on your vehicle will, hands down, be one of the best things you do. A camera will give you better vision when you’re backing out in tight parking spaces or turning around on a back country road. Also, If you do not always have a spotter to help you get out of tight spaces, a camera will and can be your extra set of eyes. Personally, I have found that having the backup camera in conjunction with all my bus mirrors has virtually eliminated every blind spot on my bus. A back up camera is a great idea, after all you are driving your home around.
Tip: You might want to consider wiring your backup camera into an ignition wire rather than the reverse switch. This gives you the option of leaving the camera on while driving which makes it possible to see drivers behind you and in your blind spots. It is really helpful when passing a vehicle to make sure you cleared them and checking to see if someone is tailgating you.
#2 - Dash Camera
A Dash Camera wont necessarily make you a safer driver on the road but it will help protect you in regards to insurance issues and other drivers. People on the road tend not to care that you are driving a large vehicle down the road nor do they understand what you are dealing with. I have found, they don’t think about the fact that your bus weights as much as a herd of elephants and does not stop quickly nor swerve like a Kawasaki Ninja Motorcycle. I have had people cut me off, pass me illegally (yes even on the shoulder), you name it, it has happened. Incase of an emergency or accident having a dash cam might be what saves and protects you from fault and assists in identifying aggressive drivers. Of course the camera can also point blame so it does in a way force good driving techniques to be used on your part. Just because we live life in the bus lane doesn’t mean everyone else does. Defensive driving is the best driving technique we have.
#3 - Grease Gun
After meeting a lot of fellow buslifers, I have realized that very few own a Grease Gun. Now, it might be that you have never heard of a grease gun or never seen one, but it is a very important tool for the longevity of your bus. Just like your routine oil and fuel filter changes you should be routinely greasing your front end, driveshaft and other various moving parts. (I grease my bus every 10,000 miles) Grease is responsible for lubricating different parts and fittings as well as preventing water and road material from damaging moving metal parts and bearing surfaces on your bus. If you want your bus to last and to save yourself money due to damaged parts consider making greasing your bus apart of your routine maintenance check. Learn the location of all the grease points and do a systematic rotation to make sure you get them all.
Note: If you are not comfortable greasing your own vehicle you can take it to a shop.
#4 - Head Lamp and Gloves
Things never seem to go wrong when it’s a perfect sunny day. If anything does go wrong it will most likely be at midnight in 20 degree weather. This is why a good Headlamp and pair of gloves are essential to have on board your bus. Having a head lamp rather than a flashlight frees up your hands when you are working or checking things on your bus. A great pair of gloves will protect and keep your hands clean also, if you have ever touched freezing cold metal... gloves will keep you from getting frostbite.
#5 - Extra Engine Fluids
It goes without saying that everyone should be regularly checking there engine fluids. A engine without fluids won’t function as an engine very long. Due to this, it is a good idea to have extra fluids just incase you are running low and need to top off something between towns or trips. This one action of having extra oil saved me when I had an issue in the Yukon Territory, Canada and it allowed me to get, not only the bus, but myself and friends safely into a town.
Common Vehicle Fluids: -Engine Oil -Transmission Fluid -Windshield washer fluid -Brake fluid -Coolant -Power Steering Fluid
#6 - Fire Extinguisher
A fire extinguisher may seem like a no brainer but there are a few things you should consider when buying a fire extinguisher for your bus. First off, you should have one in the front of the bus for any engine or front end fires, as well as one in the interior near the kitchen for interior fires. Next, you should consider which fire extinguishers you buy since not every extinguisher is made alike. A typical residential fire extinguisher may work for interior fires but engine fires can be a different story. Chemical extinguisher for instance are known to destroy electronics and wiring inside the engine. So, if you don’t want to do any further damage to your engine in case of a fire, consider buying a extinguisher that will put out the fire but not do increase damage to your engine wiring and electronics.
(These are products I use and have found to work for me. Please do your own research to find out which extinguishers are best suited for you. I cannot be held responsible for your own safety.)
#7 - Smoke, CO & Explosive Gas Monitor
If you have ever lived in a traditional residential structure Smoke, Gas and Carbon Monoxide alarms are installed all over. It is easy to forget these monitors in your school bus, but installing proper monitors in your school bus should be no different then traditional housing. Risk of propane leaks and fires in RV’s and School buses is a real thing and should be taken seriously.
#8 - Road Safety Kit
If you have ever driven down the highway and seen broken down semi-trucks, they will most likely have road flairs or Road Safety Triangles placed behind their vehicle. As a broken down driver, it is not always possible to get off the main road and to a safe spot. Having a proper road side safety kit is important to have onboard and in some, if not all states mandatory. Many US States have laws requiring people to move over a lane for emergency or broken down vehicles but this is not always possible for other drivers on the road. It may also be beneficial to purchase an ANSI class 3 reflective vest or even a Reflective Jacket. These steps to make yourself as visible as possible can save your life and your home.
#9 - CB Radio
A CB Radio can be useful when you are out of cell service range but need to get information from local authorities or contact others for help if you need assistance. They are also can be beneficial to acquire highway information, traffic reports, resturarnts and fuel locations if your cell phone or radio don't work well.
#10 - Satellite Communicator
If you ever plan on heading out on some back country roads or into a remote part of the world a Satellite Communicator might help you out in a situation where a cell phone or CB radio can’t reach help. (These are also useful when hiking. ) There are different options on the market. One of my friends uses the: Garmin Inreach Explorer (Two Way Communicator) I use the: Spot Gen 3 (One Way Communicator)
I have personally used my Satellite Phone twice in the past year to get help when my Turbo in my engine broke in a remote part of Canada and when my bus battery died in a back county boondocking spot. I was only able to get help by making a call with the Satellite communicator.
Pig Mat - Designed for road side and shop fluid spills.
Modify Air Tanks - Consider changing out one of your plugs on your air tanks for an air chuck value. This will allow you to use your air tanks on your bus to fill a flat tire or run basic air tools.
Coolant lines and Clamps - You never know when a coolant line will rupture. It is usually an easy fix. If you have the right tube and clamps.
WorkPlace Hand Cleaner Towels - I always have a bucket of these on the bus. If you ever get grease, gas, oil on your hands these wipes clean them off in no time.
Living on the road and getting to travel around the country can be a freeing experience and an adventure of a lifetime. I hope that sharing some of these items that I use to keep me moving on the road and safe while I travel can benefit you. Keep on traveling friends.
Comment below any tips you might have or anything I didn't list here!!!