If you’ve been looking to get out of your normal routine and back to nature, there’s a good chance you’ve considered turning a cargo van into a campervan. While this might seem like a fantastic experience on the surface, there are a lot of aspects that people don’t consider when jumping into this lifestyle.
While there is undoubtedly much joy to be had here, make sure you take the necessary steps to ensure that you and the person you start this journey with don’t loathe each other after the first month. Fortunately, you’ve come across our essential guide for not only surviving van life but making the most of it as well.
Find the Perfect Van
If you’re seriously committed to the van life, you shouldn’t go out and buy the first van you find—you need to determine your wants and needs first. Do you want to buy a prebuilt Class B RV, or would you rather start from scratch with a standard cargo van? Both are viable options, but one is likely to suit your needs better.
Also, be sure to determine a budget beforehand. If money is tight, it’s okay to buy a used van and upgrade it over time. However, for those of you who don’t want to worry about potential issues, you can buy a brand-new vehicle with an extended warranty. Just make sure everyone is on board with your decisions.
Always Have the Essentials Ready
There are three things you will need in your van at all times: food, water, and a place to sleep. Granted, if you want an authentic outdoor experience, there’s a good chance you’ll hunt and forage for a lot of your nutritional needs, but you can’t always rely on that. It’s a good idea to keep certain food essentials in reserve. A small refrigerator for food and a container for water will be crucial additions to your van.
As for sleeping, you have two options. You can set up a tent every night with a cot or air mattress, or build a bed in the back of your van. While the latter option sounds ideal, a big reason why people avoid it is due to the fact that it takes up so much room. While that’s understandable, we’d still recommend making the accommodation in your van. Tents are great but not practical; you have to set them up and tear them down every time you travel, which will be quite often. Plus, depending on the weather, sleeping outside can be dangerous. Luckily, there are plenty of indoor bed options to consider.
Get Some Quality-of-Life Upgrades
Once you’ve set up your van with the essentials, it’s not a bad idea to put in some quality-of-life improvements. Over time, you’ll discover the best ones for you, but we have a few suggestions to get you started. We’re sure you’ll opt for a van with some windows to enjoy the views and let in natural sunlight. However, privacy is always a necessity. Fortunately, there are plenty of window shades available for cargo vans.
Having a constant source of electricity and internet is another struggle of van life. Obviously, you’re out to enjoy nature, but you probably want to hold down some sort of remote job in order to maintain an income. With solar panels and remote hotspots, both are possible—you’ll just need to find locations that are ideal for both.
Whether you’re getting some work done or taking a break from the outdoors, you’ll probably spend a decent chunk of your time inside your van. It will get stuffy quickly, but you likely won’t want to leave your doors open for long unless you like getting eaten up by mosquitoes and other bugs. That’s why we’ve created a line of van mosquito nets—just choose the one we’ve handcrafted to fit your van, install it, and you’ll be good to go.
Plan Your Routes Ahead of Time
On the surface, it might seem like everyone who lives out of a van just goes with the flow, but this is rarely the case. You need to determine how far the next campground or potential campsite is from your current location and figure out if you can make it there by nightfall. If not, you need to find a parking lot that can house you for the night. Also, it’s best to figure out if that campground has any availability beforehand, especially during busy seasons. You can try winging it, but that will rarely work out in your favor.
Prepare for Emergencies
Even if you plan everything down to the letter, you can’t account for every single problem that might arise during the trip. Items such as a fire extinguisher, self-contained jump starter, and dedicated GPS are all necessary, especially if you plan on camping out in the middle of nowhere. While it’s impossible to prepare for every emergency imaginable, we’re sure you’ll know which pieces of equipment will be needed the most.
Find Some New Hobbies
While most of this guide has focused on surviving the van life, we want to make sure you also enjoy it. That’s why it’s vital to find some new hobbies. You’ll spend a good portion of your time behind the wheel, so even if you have some banger playlists for your music, they’ll get old eventually. Consider checking out podcasts and audiobooks to add to the rotation sooner rather than later.
As far as camping activities go, you should try out activities like hiking or hunting. Even something as simple as working out regularly will help pass the time. If you want to go all-in with the fitness idea, there are plenty of country-wide gyms that having a membership will grant you access to. The key is to be willing to try new things when old ones start to get a little stale.
Learn To Handle Disputes
The best piece of advice that we can give you is to know how to handle issues as they arise. There’s a good chance you’re not doing this alone; whether you’re living this new life with a best friend or significant other, spending 24 hours a day with each other will lead to some tension. When problems occur, be sure to talk them out instead of bottling them up. Dealing with difficulties head-on will lead to a better understanding between you two and avoid most forms of resentment.
Also, be sure to give each other some space every so often. You don’t have to do everything together. One of you might want to go hiking when the other wants to relax with a good book—that’s totally okay! Don’t feel like you need to spend every second together. It’ll get old quicker than you think.