In my quest towards minimalism, I started thinking about how I could reduce the number of things I own. What is really necessary? What is actually just extra junk? What things do I really use a lot?
I figured the best person to ask would be Carey Fuller, an independant journalist whom writes a lot to cover issues relating to the homeless(and also lives in her own van).
Her blog is http://careyfuller.com and you can find her on twitter as @careyfuller.
While she was unable to tell me all the things I would need, for myself, she shared her own tips and advice with me which I will try to translate into a workable guide of sorts. This is good for the college student away from home, the people with shaky housing situations, the travelers, and the nomadic sort of people.
The more space, the more options.
Carey Fuller notes that is you have a car you have a LOT more space than people whom backpack. Motorcycles and scooters(and perhaps bicycles) have a bit more space but not terribly much.
You need to assess how much space you have to decide what you need. Obviously, if you're without a home, it might be prudent to carry things like an extra tire lock and a small tent if you're on a two-wheeled contraption to protect your ride from theft and keep you dry in foul weather.
An Example of Space
Carey Fuller lives out of her own van, which is a lot more than many homeless have, but she also lives in it with two other people, which is rather crowded. The each have 2 bags they keep in the van, one for toiletries and personal items and one for clothes, but they also have a small storage unit. If you're lucky enough to be living out of a van by yourself, you might not need that storage unit.
There's a small list of things you really need when you're living out of your vehicle, she mentions soap, camp dishes, paper plates, and heating tools. If you're a raw foodist, you likely won't need the latter but instead want a good cutting board and knife(keep the plastic guard it comes with!). Fresh produce, in my book, is one of the ultimate convenience foods. You can eat it as is, or you can spice it up. I would think it is rather easy to lose your health in a high stress situation like that. Carey Fuller and I both forage for wild edibles in the warmer months, although for her, it is a bit more of a necessity.
She also noted that the military sells dining sets, which I imagine are compact and small. I've a brand of plastic re-usable tools by Sistema(made in New Zealand) and I love it.
You will want to leave enough room in your four wheeled vehicle(if applicable) to sleep, don't try to overload your car or van with things. The heavier it is, the more gas(or diesel) it uses. Also, Carey recommends to go for the sleeping bags. They're designed to not be all the things blankets are, and blankets are bulky, moist, and mildew prone in a camping type environment.
What Things Will You Need?
Fuller noted, when I asked her directly, that everybody's needs are different; the only real way to know what you'll need is to live out of your car for a week. You can compile the list of things you find you need to use a LOT and voila, that's what you need!