Paper towel wrangler
Project cost: less than $10
roll of paper towels
Paper towels are hugely convenient in the van. They're quickly dispensed when there's a mess, they're backup for when all the dishtowels are wet/dirty, they can serve as napkins, and they're contained pretty well.
Ok, not so well when you're flying down I-70 with all the windows down because it's 8,001 degrees in Nevada and Humboldt has no AC of any variety. Le sigh.
Anyway, our first hack here was to run a little bungee through a roll of paper towels and then hook it through some handy holes in the metal tray running down the driver's side (one pre-existing, one new).
It was great! It held them out of the way, it kept them above most of the dog hair, and they rolled right off when you needed one. But then the windows went down and it was like a giant invisible cat was playing with a roll of toilet paper. They were unrolled everywhere! They were obscuring vision, getting dirty, and breaking off and then taking off all over the inside of the van while we were driving. Not ideal.
Brandon got smart and got another bungee that looks like an enormous version of hair ties I used to have as a kid, and wrapped it around the roll. Problem solved! When we're stationary, we just take the second bungee off and store it in the tray, putting it back before we take off. It does smoosh the paper towels a little bit, but they were about to be destroyed by use anyway, so who cares? Super sweet solution if you ask me.
The little bungee needs replaced every now and then. They get pretty stretched out with a brand new roll and let nearly empty ones sag quite a bit. They also seem to feel the heat since we just leave it like this all the time.