Travels with Charlie uh, no, Travels wTycho
January 14, 2020 2:37 PM   Subscribe

I'm looking to rent a camper van for about a month to travel from upstate New York to Arizona (maybe via Florida) and back with my dog.

I'm looking to rent a camper van for about a month to travel from upstate New York to Arizona (maybe via Florida) and back with my dog. I'm envisioning a very minimal existance on the road. I'm a hardy sort, and so is my dog, Tycho, who you all helped me name named two months ago.

I don't need a built-in shower or toilet or kitchen. Maybe a hotplate (which I guess I could run off the cigarette lighter?) I do need privacy curtains of some sort.

Everytime I search for this near me (upstate New York or western Mass) all I find are gigantic boat-like things. The other thing I found are these psychedelic vans that I think are a little too flashy and have more amenties than I need. I need somthing a little more key, I think.

I have the funds to rent anything, but I just can't see the joy in renting and driving a boat across the country.

I welcome your suggestions and advice. Thanks.
posted by chocolatepeanutbuttercup to Travel & Transportation (5 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I traveled for several months, crossed the country with my small dog, in a Honda minivan. It was excellent. Decent mileage, easy to park/ camp most anywhere, comfortable. I took out the middle seats and folded down the back seat. Put camping gear in storage containers, my bed was plywood on top of the storage crates.

You can't cook much off the car battery; I used (still use) an immersion coil and electric mug to heat soup, make coffee & oatmeal. A butane burner is a great option,or any camp stove. Immersion coils are hot and need a dedicated coaster.

Keeping things charged is a big pain; you use the phone all day for podcasts and GPS and need to charge it. You need to charge your laptop. Consider a rooftop solar panel and dedicated battery. Or a diverter that will allow you to charge a 2nd battery that will not run down the starting battery.

I just did a small road trip in my Prius. You can leave a Toyota hybrid On, and it will run heat or AC and fan off the storage battery; the gas engine will run from time to time to charge the hybrid battery. I camped in some cold temps, kept the heat on the lowest setting, used a down comforter and a fleece blanket as needed, was warm and cozy.

You could rent a minivan for a month, maybe a Prius or Hybrid RAV4. You'll want screens and window covers. They make liftback tents for minivans; I made one, very useful and added lots of fresh air and welcome space. Here's my camping list, I don't bring everything, but useful to review.
posted by theora55 at 3:00 PM on January 14, 2020

I'd start with Outdoorsy!! Individual owners rent out their RV-type vehicles - basically airbnb for RVs. Here's a preliminary search to get you started in New York for a campervan.
posted by cgg at 3:00 PM on January 14, 2020 [2 favorites]

You may want to use the marketing term vanlife to whittle it down to something more like a Sprinter or Promaster with little to no external bling for stealth camping, or maybe a more vintage camper van but not quite so "please break in and steal every bit of my expensive gear" as those vans you linked. (Though note: you are much less likely to get run off from places in something that looks like a newer work van vs a vintage-looking anything.)

Traveling with a dog, there's something to be said for a good enough rig to have house batteries (probably with solar) and a ventilation fan with thermostat, even if that is otherwise a little too much van. You're going to have to pee or buy groceries sometimes, and you can't obscure the presence of a dog in a Prius. A minivan maybe, depending on window configuration and whether you can reliably keep them covered (you can't just buy window blackouts, they really have to custom fit and look like nothing from outside; when I tried to get some for my Prius it was hundreds of dollars).

There's lots of folks on youtube who are doing sub-vanlife living in cars and small vans, I'd suggest spending some time checking those out to figure out which options are going to be most reasonable for where you want to travel at what time of year. It is a complicated factor in literal car-camping that you are going to be sharing spaces with unhoused people and subject to a lot of prejudicial treatment and possibly some predation, so you should be a mindful participant so that you do not increase risk to yourself or people around you.

You'll want to get familiar with the various apps you can use to find park-ups and use state/national parks. Creativity RV has a great youtube channel, website, and book of resources that include reviews of a lot of those apps and websites. She's a woman traveling alone in a small RV with a cat, so often includes little details that might be overlooked by people traveling in pairs or groups.
posted by Lyn Never at 3:59 PM on January 14, 2020 [3 favorites]

A friend of mine rents a VW Westfalia:
posted by jonathanhughes at 4:22 PM on January 14, 2020

Seconding Creativity RV. Robin Barrett digs deep into aspects of full-time RV life. I also enjoy her "View Q" series where she answers viewer questions. Last year she was on RV number two (and is sending a drum roll for her next adventure in 2020).

Carolyn's RV Life is another series by a full-time RVer. Carolyn's "How to choose an RV, van or camper to live in, part 1" video speaks specifically about selecting her Class C for her dog, Capone. The time stamp at 7:58 discusses his needs, including an older dog's mobility and whether or not to leave a dog inside the RV for a period of time. Capone passed away in autumn 2018.

Documentary filmmaker Casey Roman just sold her Ram Promaster Babe Bus after less than a year and is just getting into life From van conversion to fifth wheel. She had a period living out of her car between rigs, which she discusses at time stamp 29:14. She's funny, she cusses, she tells it like she sees it. She did most of her van build out herself.

Whether travelling for a month or several years, these ladies can give perspective on what it is like on the road, including what to look out for on a purchase or rental. Good luck and have fun.
posted by TrishaU at 6:37 PM on January 16, 2020

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