Are You Ready for #VanLife?
Why You Should Choose #VanLife
- You get better gas mileage with a van.
- It’s quick and you get great mobility so you can get up and go.
- it’s great for stealth camping. You can park vans anywhere you park cars. You can do this without anyone knowing you are inside.
- Unlike bigger RVs, you can engage in “Driveway or Mooch Surfing/Parking, where you stay at family members and/or friends’ homes — sometimes called “CouchSurfing.com.” Many youtube.com supporters will also offer up their places for you to stay also.
- Vans can go into the back country and woods and stay there for weeks.
You can strip out a van yourself or have a professional do a #ProfessionalVanBuild for you for around $5000 to $8000. The biggest fees will probably be the batteries, inverters, and refrigerators. Many use the smaller Dometic or Whynter refrigerators from Amazon.com or they just buy a small refrigerator at Walmart, Lowe’s or Home Depot.
There is a demand for a smaller type of RV that can go to more places. The Class B Van and/or RV is one of the most expensive RVs starting at prices of $70,000 for used to $150,000 for new. So in many cases, it will be better to buy a good used van and have someone build it out with a #VanBuild or you can build it out yourself.
- Regular vans are more affordable than a Class B Van, Class B plus (also called ‘Class C’), Class A, Travel Trailer or Fifth Wheels.
- You can get a used van for $3000 to $5000 on facebook marketplace, eBay, or craigslist or even cheaper from a personal seller.
Top Mistakes of #VanDwellers
#VanLife is trending. You’ve seen the Instagram photos and features in Outside magazine. But life on the road isn’t all epic adventures and Pinterest-worthy decor.
And while most of the stories in the New York Times or ESPN focus on the freedom and glamour of living on the road, it’s time to get real.
There are things to know to make van life sustainable. Anyone can live on camp food for a week or go a few days without showering, but if you’re really considering making a two-ton rolling heap of metal your house, here’s what you should consider before it becomes your permanent hiking base camp.
Just some of the mistakes that #VanLifers are regretting include:
- Van: Invest in a good van from the very beginning. Have someone or a good mechanic look over the van. It doesn’t make sense to invest in a van that is going to break down especially after you pay for a #ProfessionalVanBuild.
- Roof Height: The roof height does matter so go with a van with a higher roof height. No one wants to continuously have to bend down all the time. After a while, it can get pretty uncomfortable.
- Weight: Make sure you balance the weight on both sides or it can cause your van to lean to one side.
- Insulation: Don’t skip putting in insulation even if you don’t plan on being in cold weather. Without good insulation, your van will get ‘too hot’ or ‘too cold.’
- Wood/Gas Mileage: If you plan on putting wood in the ceilings, walls or any part of your van, make sure the wood is not too heavy, which can cut down on gas mileage. Also, use the correct wood for your flooring.
- Solar Panels: Don’t skip solar panels. Get at least 400 watts to charge your ‘battery bank’ and run everything.
- Mobile Grid: Try to invest in a ‘mobile grid’ (batteries, inverters, etc.) big enough to handle your van and lifestyle. Many never think about how many amps or watts an electronic device used. To put it simply — you’ll want as much power as possible to try and maintain the lifestyle you had before.
- Controls: It’s easier to put all the controls in one place.
- Light Switches: Make sure light switches don’t automatically come on when the door is opened. Put LED lights in van especially over the stove for cooking.
- Storage: Put drawers in instead of having to throw pillows off to reach storage. The more drawers or storage space sometimes the better. When it’s cold and you’re looking for that pair of long-underwear, you’ll be glad you threw in a few extra compartments. Leave room for sporting gear – kayak, bike, etc.
- Sinks: Get a bigger sink and countertop if you like to cook. For others don’t make your sink too big. You can use a water jug instead of a faucet so you don’t really need a faucet in your van. Get a system where it’s easy to fill the fresh water tank and you can automatically drain the gray tank when sitting in a good spot.
- Oven/Microwave: Put in an oven or microwave if you want these items. However, many will choose more foods that don’t need to be prepared with heat. Having juicers and steamers work even better.
- Propane: Many #VanLifers take this advantage not to use propane at all in their new home. You can use the Mr. Buddy heater in the winter months or the Olympian Wave 3 heater instead or just become a Snowbird and follow 70-degree weather around the country.
- Shower/Bathroom: Put a shower in if you want this item. Whether a bucket, bag, or bottle, you need somewhere to take care of business when nature calls at 3 a.m. Figure out which option is most comfortable for you, but make sure you have at least one ‘go-to’ for any emergency.
- Fan: Your van is going to get hot so invest in a good Fantastic Fan or Maxx Air Fan. Also, get a topper for the fan so that it doesn’t blow off when you drive. Many Van Dwellers choose to put in two fans.
- Windows: Make sure you have windows or being in the van all the time and not being able to see out –can be depressing. There are different types of van windows. Some go out and some slide open. Get the ones that slide open so they won’t blow out, especially when you drive. This way you will have more ventilation with your fan.
- Table: Invest in more expensive table mounts. Make your mounts big enough to hold tables and other items and don’t make these items too big.
- Cabinets: Try not to put sharp edge handles that stick out that will injure you, especially at your head level. Make cabinets easy to open with hinges and easy to close with magnets during travel.
- Hooks: Get plenty of hooks. You will use them. Put them especially closer to the door to air and dry out big coats.
- Walkways: Try not to have narrow walkways. It’s best to put the refrigerator toward the front of the van or closer to the kitchen cabinets.
- Be Stealthy: Many get into this life just so they can stealth camp and park anywhere where cars can park. Put a partition wall instead of curtains for stealth camping when separating the front part of the van from the back part. Or cover the windshield and front windows with blackout curtains or some other material. There is a company with blackout curtains — just for van windows.
- Bed: Try to replicate your home when making your bed or you might end up uncomfortable.
Estimated Cost of a Van Build
Most #ProfessionalVanBuilds can cost anywhere from $5000 to $10,000. However, you or a family can do this yourself at a much cheaper price. Watch the van build shows on youtube.com and find out how.
Here is just one estimate of a #VanBuild:
- Window – $290
- Fantastic Fan – $150
- Insulation – spray foam – reflectix – $575
- LED ceiling lights – $45
- Color changing led light strips – $35
- Pine for ceiling – $56
- Shellac on walls – $122
- Laminated wood flooring at Costco – $104
- Subboard – $69
- Roof rack $500 (Some cost $3,000)
- Solar panels – Two 100 watt Solar Panels with wiring and controller – $494
- Two 100 AGM batteries – $200 each
- Renogy 200 watts Inverter – $678
- Control panel – $112
- Cabinet plywood – $132
- Steel studs to frame out benches – $76
- Swivel for table – $189
- Ikea walnut countertop – $209
- Sink – $227
- Faucet – $224
- Water pump – $60
- 2 burner stove top – $256
- Propane tank – 5 lbs – $50
- Two 60 gallon fresh water tank – $45
- 5 gallon grey water tank – $25
- Grey water value – $35
- Dometic refrigerator – $619
- Natures head composting toilet – $950
- Nuts, bolts, drawer slides, adhesive – $304
- = Estimated Cost Around – 5,000 to 8000
Odds are this won’t be your life for the rest of your life. At some point, you’ll probably tire of the life and decide to inhabit a more immobile dwelling — maybe.
So enjoy your time as a nomad—even when you wake up in a pool of your own sweat. Or hear people fighting close to your walls. Or when you bump your knee on some protruding feature in your small living space.
Because ultimately, the things you’ll experience as a result of making this jump are the type most people work a lifetime to do in two weeks of an annual vacation.