Why living the van life?
Vans absolutely do not have the homey comforts of an RV, such as a bathroom or a kitchen. However, it’s cheaper compared to an RV, it’s easier to park, and you can go places a big rig can’t. Below are some tips to make life as a van dweller more comfortable.
Van dwellers absolutely need a system to keep things organized, in order to keep the living space inside the van useable. Make your van something that’s liveable and useable for you. This is especially true if it’s going to be your home for weeks or months at a time. You need space to move around.
Really evaluate what is important, and what is not. Minimalism is the key to successful van life. Keep as much space open as you can, by using stackable, plastic storage tubs, and make sure to use the space under the bed, and behind the seats. Storage nets on the ceiling can be helpful, as well as a bumper rack, or roof rack.
Van dwelling can be cold, even in the deserts of Arizona during the winter. Many van dwellers and RVers use Buddy Heaters, which are small, portable, and use the small canisters of propane from the camping department at Walmart. Of course, you need to use extreme caution, ensuring the heater will not tip over, or touch anything flammable. Also, it’s necessary to crack a window open.
Cooking a meal on a propane camp stove will also heat up the van. So when it gets too cold, make breakfast, dinner, or a cup of coffee or tea. Often, a quick warm up is all you need to get dressed, or to crawl under the blankets at night. Dress warmly, and have more blankets than you think you need.
The heat of the summer can be even more of a concern for the full time van dweller; temperatures inside a closed van can quickly become deadly, when the outside temperatures climb to 80, 90 or above. DC operated car fans can help, but the best solution is to migrate to cooler climates during the summer, such as the far north, the mountains, or the Northwest Coast. If you find yourself in uncomfortably warm weather, park in the shade, or in a parking garage if you can. Drink plenty of water, and keep a water misting bottle handy. But once again, the smart thing to do is to drive to a cooler climate.
Van living is obviously cheaper than RV living; bought used, the initial cost of a van is a lot less. The cost of driving a van is much less; some vans can average 18 mpg, compared to 8 mpg for a larger motorhome. Also, any mechanic will work on a van, whereas a motorhome may require a specialized mechanic. Oil changes on a van are a lot less complicated than on a Class A motorhome, and tires are cheaper.
One of the best things about vans is that you can park them anywhere. As long as the windows are covered, and lights are concealed, you can sleep in nearly any parking lot, thanks to the inconspicuousness of a van. You can get the best spots at free boondocking areas, because a van is small enough to fit anywhere, unlike the larger RVs. You can drive a van nearly anywhere, such as dirt roads a larger RV could not handle. Freedom and flexibility is what most people like about van dwelling.
But do not delude yourself, the van life has it’s downsides; it can be cramped and uncomfortable. Also, you will have to either bathe outside or in public restrooms, and will have to “poop in a bucket”. Many people also look down on van dwellers, as “homeless” or “shifty characters”. But if the advantages outweigh the downside, van life could be for you!