epiphanies while living the van life
June 10, 2014 10:44 PM   Subscribe

You've lived/camped/traveled extensively in your caravan/camper-van/class b RV...

What are your greatest epiphanies/words-of-wisdom/must-haves/don't overlook its for a small family (plus mid-sized dog) excited to embark soon on their maiden voyage in a humble but mechanically-sound 1984 Vanagon Westfalia campmoblie.
posted by RockyChrysler to Travel & Transportation (12 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
I had a set of solar lights that I quite liked. And a white noise program so that nights weren't too quiet and lonely, but I doubt that will be a problem for you.
posted by The otter lady at 11:11 PM on June 10, 2014 [2 favorites]

Ah, I'm jealous! You get to sleep in some of the most beautiful places ever at extremely low cost. Probably you've thought of all this, but some of it just can't be emphasized enough.

Make sure everything you care about has A Place. Especially head lamps.

Figure out how you'll deal with showers. You might assemble everyone a mesh bag with Dr. Bronners, toothbrush and paste, and one of those quick dry towels.

Have rituals and little things of beauty that make it feel like a home. E.g. make bedtime a time when everyone goes inside and you tell a story under the dome light, then all go to sleep (or keep reading by flashlight). When I spent too much time outside in places of varying friendliness and only used the van to fall asleep in after my time outside was over, I started to feel exposed and without refuge. When we had a little painting and had pleasant time inside the van every day, that was nice.

It is essential to keep the van tidy. We had Sunday clean out day.

You really don't want a lot of stuff. You'll find yourself giving stuff away or mailing it home if you bring too much.

Primarily bring clothes that you can wash out in the sink and that will dry quickly.

We had bikes on a rack on the back. A+++++ would explore by bike again.
posted by salvia at 11:56 PM on June 10, 2014 [4 favorites]

Always have extra blankets/sleeping bags handy like you expect it's going to be very cold.

I've had sleepless nights, after taking off on a spur of the moment trip in my campervan from sunny warm weather, and underestimating how cold it would be at my destination.

Embrace the freedom that a RV/camper offers. You don't always have to stick to made plans. I really like 'sneakily' camping in spots that were not designated camper spots.
posted by Burgatron at 11:57 PM on June 10, 2014

Have a log book. Hard copy is better IMO. Write in it everyday (even if it's only the date and a "Everything is well" entry). More specifically though note absences and extras: "lost the can opener" "Need to sharpen the axe, buy file" "out of coffee" "Accidentally bought double supply of TP" "Dog ate air pump". Doing this and referencing it everyday gives you a reminder when you are near civilization to get the things you need.

We also use our log to record campsites we visit and notes for return trips should we ever make one like which site is most private or has the best beach access.

Everyone is encouraged to contribute to the log.

I also use the log to record maintenance items so I don't forget year to year.

Have some sort of activity planned for days where it is pouring rain.
posted by Mitheral at 12:40 AM on June 11, 2014 [6 favorites]

Make sure you have money set aside so that a moderately priced hotel is not an issue when your mechanically sound van has a severe problem involving the distributor cap and you need to stay in a small but expensive town for two days because the auto parts store has to order the part in.

Also, get the extra plus premium of AAA or other roadside service and double check the towing policy.
posted by sio42 at 4:03 AM on June 11, 2014 [3 favorites]

Take a vacation from your vacation. Stay in a hotel every once in a while with washer/dryers, a big pool, etc. Wash bedding, air out the van, soak in the hot tub, etc. Reorganize and check supplies and restock (or get rid of whats not working). Go to a bookstore for a new book. It'll feel nice to start over fresh.
If it's a new vehicle, I'd have the dog have HIS place. A nice bed out of the way that is secured. This way when he jumps in the van sandy, wet or muddy (or sprayed by a skunk) he's not all over the interior. I'm not nit-picky but always being in a sandy/dirty while camping can wear on you a bit.
posted by beccaj at 4:48 AM on June 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

cheaprvliving.com I took a Road Trip in a minivan. On a practical level, you want to minimize water use. Wet wipes and hand sanitizer are invaluable. You get good at washing dishes without much water. If there's a bathroom or shower nearby, use it. I have several strings of LED battery operated lights that were enough to read by. I had a 1st aid kit for people, and one for the van (oil, trans. fluid, brake fluid, jumper cables, tools, lots of bungee cords). Otherwise, pack light, then take stuff out. Harbor Freight sells a ready-to-go solar panel/ regulator system that is probably not super quality, but it's plug-n-play with added inverter and 2nd battery. People I know who had solar were able to keep laptop, tablet, phone charged painlessly, as well as use a hotpot for cooking, and run a small tv without the noise of a generator. Figure out a plan for data. I used my phone for email, to assure family I was fine, and to make travel plans, and used libraries and fast food places for broadband, since my data plan is pretty meager. Just using GPS so much used a chunk of my data plan. Have fun!
posted by theora55 at 7:47 AM on June 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

I lived full time in an RV for 9 months. (Granted, it was much bigger than yours.)

Pare your belongings down to the essentials. Now get rid of half of that. Now get rid of half of that. If you're traveling in warm climates, you really only need 2 pair of pants, 1 pair shorts, t-shirt, sweatshirt, socks, sandals, shoes. Get quick drying fabric. Get a welcome mat so you're not tracking in dirt/mud.

Camping World has a lot of ideas for space saving gadgets but you can often find this stuff cheaper at Target. I'd only keep one plate/bowl/glass for each person.

Do your dishes and take out your garbage after every single meal. You don't want anything vaguely stinky, the space is too small and enclosed. Wash the dog on a regular basis.

Get solar powered flashlights and keep 'em on your dashboard while you drive. You'll probably be camping somewhere where you can't buy batteries. Make sure you always keep flashlights and bug spray in the same place so you can find them in a hurry.

Plan ahead for buying food, etc, because when you're at a campground it's often a big PITA to go get that one thing you forgot (and I'm sure the gas mileage is abysmal on that thing). You'll never be able to buy in bulk again so increase your budget to reflect that.

If you have a smartphone or tablet, this app is really helpful to find rv parks, repair shops, rest areas etc.
posted by desjardins at 7:56 AM on June 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

One more thing - do not count on having consistent Internet access. RV park wifi is often shitty and 3G/4G coverage is terrible to non-existent in many rural areas. ALWAYS BRING PAPER MAPS.
posted by desjardins at 8:01 AM on June 11, 2014

If you drive at 50mph and just let everybody else go past, bugs that would spatter on your windscreen at 60mph blow around you instead.
posted by flabdablet at 8:07 AM on June 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

Also, Kombi owners must wave when they see another Kombi coming the other way. This is in the rules.

posted by flabdablet at 8:12 AM on June 11, 2014

I'm surprised there are so few answers. There are questions about car camping (almost the same thing) with dozens of answers. Here's one.
posted by salvia at 10:36 PM on June 11, 2014

« Older Help us not get scammed!   |   Podcasts exploring how a topic interesects other... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.