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Tips for living in a van...

Does anyone have any advice for living in a van?
I need some advice from experienced van dwellers about general living in a van? What is the best way to store/cook food? Where can I find a shower when I need one? Can I access wireless internet for free?

Any suggestions would be most appreciated. This is pretty new to me, and I'm not quite sure what to expect.

By the way - I'm not some kid running away from home - just sick of paying rent.

tip 08.May.2005 23:14


showers-join the Y if you can
when living in my car I found a shower at a moorage

A folding table 09.May.2005 00:16

And chair will

come in handy. Cooking inside van is unsafe so get a propane stove and cook on table outside, under awning if it is raining. There are a lot of ways to rig a tarp awning from roof to provide cover off the side over your sliding door. If you have a roof rack it's easy. Look for battery powered lights, radio. Your vehicle battery is expensive and vans are a bitch to push start if you even have a manual trans, so keep the run-off-the-cigarette-lighter stuff down to neccessities. I have a very sturdy airmattress which is inflated by a plug in blower. I decided against a battery powered one because what if the batteries go dead? I aint blowing up mattresees every night till I get battery money.
I use my van as camping shelter on road trips to avoid motel fees, and am still learning/refining stuff, but these are some of the things I have figured out so far. Hope it helps, sounds like you are goingot be going at it much more hardcore. Please consider running a blog on vanlife, I will read it for one, bet a lot of folks would get a lot out of it. Good Luck :)

n 09.May.2005 00:43


truck stops are good for showers jubitz is one.

beware of carbine monoxide if your cooking in the van.

personaltelco.org has listing of free wifi spots.

the real cost of living is about the same when you add up the things you have to pay extra for like storage units extra fuel because you cant park one place all the time etc.

although if you live in a winnabago you'l pay around 200$ a month to live in a trailer park.

More tips! 09.May.2005 01:06


Here are some more helpful tips:

1. Get privacy blinds! Much better keeping nosy gawkers from looking in.
2. Go to REI and get some of the useful camping tools, hi-tech compact stoves, storage solutions, mini lights, etc. They have some great stuff to make the going easier.
3. Hang stuff from the ceiling, mount hooks on van interior in convenient places. This helps with organizing things since space in a van is at a premium when you are living in it.
4. Consider buying a porta-potty. It is quite nice if you are parking in a city, it's late at night and you have to take a dump or a wiz. This way you dont have to shlep around in the middle of the night looking for a place to do this, which can be a hassle in a city late at night.
5. Get some 5 gallon water containers from REI, or equivalent. This way you aren't always running out and having to get more.
6. Put a "fraternal order of police" sticker on your van's window's driver side. It is worth the $20 donation! You will be amazed at how much nicer the cops will be to you if you have one of these stickers on your vehicle! Instead of getting a nasty ticket or worse, they soften up and just give you a little lecture and send you on your way!

Good luck.

oh man oh man 09.May.2005 01:14

good luck

I'm not trying to disrespect the question, but I DID live in a truck for a while, and all I can really tell you is don't do it if you can help it. It's not worth it. It's fun if you're traveling, but it gets really old if it's all you've got. People like running water.

Showers 09.May.2005 04:25


You can also shower at most colleges. Some colleges also have microwaves you can heat stuff up in..just don't appear homeless or do it every day. You can also get snacks at gas stations with a snack shop and only one attendant to service both the gas customers and the snack shop. You can come and go as you please in many places by mirroring the people who also come and go in those places....get it.

the world is your livingroom now 09.May.2005 07:06


basically it comes down to cooking, sleeping, and keeping clean.
water is sweet. but you can carry some big storage containers and a dishpan for some dishes and some quick sprucing up of yourself and your place . (in the dish water to conserve water.) it's nice to be able to pack up your bed too

also an emergency bucket for a mid-nite crap in hostile territories. hopefully you can get your body more in tune with your schedule with a little deliberately graceful, healthy living.
just carry sawdust and cover it thouroughly. there will be no smell or buggies if you cover it up. a great book on the subject of poop composting is the humanure handbook
' by i don't remember who- sure someone can find out
ever watch a cat do it?

well anyway so as not to get too graphic. there are toilets everywhere at parks . just be considerate. poop less than 2 yrs. old is bio-active and nobody wants to step in that shit- so please. just bury it in the dirt somewhere if you have to

my advice to you is to cook and wash dishes outside to the greatest extent possible. much more roomy and you can be messier. leave the van for bed and storage to the greatest extent possible.
i have lived in old buses/ homemade rvs quite satisfactorily a couple of times now. except for the mechanical end, there was no real problems. just gotta keep them rollin every 72 hours or so to avoid hassle

i think my next home will be a box truck big enough to build a loft in. a bed on the top- kitchen and kitchen stuffs on the bottom. and what you'all think about a wood burning cook stove? i had a smalll corn cob burner before. i have seen the like on buses before. i it would be sweet. it can get cold living in your home and propane ain't safe in a small place -as we already mentioned here.

If food is hard to find 09.May.2005 09:34

tongue in cheek

It may be necessary to eat the rich.

Get a spray bottle! 09.May.2005 16:56

Spray bottle fan

Van dweller,

Get yourself a large spray bottle or two. Fill them up, and put it on mist, and you can give yourself a semblance of a shower right there in your van. If you can't stand up, perch on your knees and put a towell underneath you, or some kind of large basin that you can dump out later.
It's not a chemicalized hygiene experience (which one doesn't need everyday, in my opinion, barring certain medical conditions) but a spray bottle bath is better than being dependent upon other places.

Spritz spritz!! My housemates laugh when I use my spray bottle, but it's also a good squirtgun when I put it on concentrated stream. I shall win!

sink baths too 19.May.2005 15:09


i used to use public restrooms, the kind you can lock the door behind you
take a hanky or wash cloth with ya, and you can keep all the important areas clean until you come across a shower or lake or river or sumthin

Colleges 25.May.2005 08:17


A college may be a place for showering. Any college with an exercise facility should have showers attached to a locker room.
I don't know for sure though, considering I have no experience living in a van.

not sure but... 26.May.2005 16:46


...I'm not in, around or close to Portland but where I'm from they have a few swimming places that stay open year round. They have a free swimming period from like 6am to 8am. Some have showers, some don't...but it would at least take a layer of phunk off. Also, the Y is a good one 'cause they often will let you do either office work or front desk time in trade for using the facilities.

Jumping to food. There is a product line that caters to truckers. They have everything from coffeemakers to toaster ovens that can run off your van lighter. You got to be careful with these appliances since you don't want to drain your battery. One of the appliances I found kind of useful was a rechargable portable mini food cooler/warmer. I take it into work with me and charge it up...it works pretty well...

Another handy item that you might have to throw down some cash for is an emergancy light/radio. They make them so you can crank up the charge manually and you have a light and a radio. The money you put out up front is quickly recovered when you don't have to by any batteries. Check out the NPR website...they have a really good one for sale...

not sure, again 27.May.2005 06:33


...me, again...

This guy's site is insightful...


as far as the 12v appliances, just google 12v appliances...bunches of them out there. But if you go with the gas stove, might I suggest a good cast iron skillet (sometimes you can land one at a thrift store...you might have to steel wool some rust off...}. You'll need to season it at a friend house but once you do they're great. They conduct heat really well and you just have to wipe them down and their ready to go. You can use them directly on a campfire and as a weapon of self defense. Now that's multitasking at it's finest...

and here's the sight for the radio...see what you think.

 link to shop.npr.org

LIFE AFTER MARRIAGE 13.Sep.2005 08:46

Sick of the BULLSHIT!!! millt9@aol.com

I have never lived in a van, truck, or rv but I have spent alot of time travelling and camping. I'm pretty sure that my marriage is about to be over and I'll be paying child support for three children which will be about 50% of my income which isn't much to begin with. After the child support I won't have much to live on so I'm planning ahead and I'm going to convert my truck into a small motor home. I just hope I can finish it before I have to move out. As far as living in a automobile goes this is the way I see it. If you want to shower go to your local Y. The Y here will let you have a free membership if you work there just 10 hours a month. Or you could get a solar shower at Wal-Mart for about $8.00. As long as you live in a warm climate and can find an out of the way spot to hang it and stand under it you can shower with it. Food: I plan to eat off the dollar menue at the local fast food chains. I think as long as you use moderation you can avoid getting fat. Also I will keep a small store of nuts, friut, water, granola bars, and other such items. I plan to keep a 5 gallon jug of water with me for drinking, brushing my teeth, washing up. Fortunately here in middle Tennessee ther are all kinds of natural springs were you can get good clean spring water for free. And since the area were I live is alot of country there are alot of places you can park without being hassled. If you keep a minimal wardrobe you can do your laundry at the laundry mat for very little money. I also wanted to point out that living in a van would be nice but from my experiance when they break down they are very hard to work on because of how the engine is situated. Another idea I have thought about is to get a small utility trailer and build my own version of a tow behing camper. I myself do not want alot of gear in my vehicle I would rather have space. People talk about 12volt appliances like coffee makers, food warmers, televisions, etc.. You can fill up a thermose of coffee her for about 50 cents. As far as television goes I would rather read. It passes the time and you just might become smarter.

Solar power and storage 17.Oct.2005 18:00


I have lived in a 6 year old conversion van for the last few years.
The first thing you need is a solar "Battery Saver PLus" cost $37.50 lets you charge a second battery.(go to www.4lots.com) The solar panal is placed on the dashboard for charging. I suggest going to a auto salvage yard. Look for a van or truck about the same year an model. It is easy to remove the battery bracket. Then locate a space for your second battery under the hood drill a few holes in the vehicle body attach the bracket an install second battery. wire up the solar panal an never worry about draining your starting battery. I suggest the second battery be a deep cycle marine battery. cost about $60.00... This battery is used to run your 12 volt TV, hot and cold refrig, cell phone, lap top, fans etc If you plan to stay in a specific area, join a health club try for one with 24 hour service. You will have a place to shower, and use the toilet. As well as excercise. cost $30.00 a month. library for reading material an computer. Get a postal box. I find that the cargo nets found in most new vans an cars make excellent storage tools so back to the salvage yard an get several. Attach them to the inside of your vans roof. For bedding I have a wal mart air mat cost $20.00 an inflator $5.00. I keep a good sleeping bag for real cold weather. On the roof I have attached 2 8 foot long 12 inches in diamter PVC pipes with one end sealed and the other a screw cap.. for storage rods and reels folding chairs etc. I attached velcro strips around every window, then I attached the other side of the velcro strips to black window shade material. No light gets in, but I can remove when necessary.

Saving Money To Expatriate From U.S./Ready For Petrocollapse 26.Nov.2005 02:55

judasdisney@yahoo.com judasdisney@yahoo.com

I have lived in a van for 2 years on the U.S. West Coast in a reasonably temperate semi-urban area. Here are tips:

SECURITY: Keys, locks, extra window alarms (can be bought at Radio Shack or Auto Accessories stores, or even Rite Aid) are all useful. Make an extra key. Or two. If you can afford it, a dog is ideal, but paradoxically this can attract unwanted attention as well. If possible, keep a camera (camcorder is ideal, but a $5 disposable WITH flash will suffice) for deterring/documenting intruders or overzealous law-enforcement (I photograph all encounters with police, and so far, the camera makes zealots behave responsibly). Sounds extreme, but it works, believe it or not.

GARBAGE BAGS/PLASTIC BAGS: Extraordinarily useful. A petroleum product, unfortunately, and therefore soon-to-be-extinct. An investment in some Visqueen would be smart for the future. Ziploc bags (gallon size, generic) are useful for everything: storage for all items. Keep your notebooks/important papers/passport in a ziploc bag, eventually you will encounter an orange-juice spill or a rain-leak that will be disasterous. Garbage bags (black giant) are useful for keeping moisture out (leaks, screens, etc.) and multiple other incidental uses. Different garbage bags (thick Hefty vs. thin generic leaf bags) each have their uses and advantages. Put heavy black plastic garbage bags over shades/drapes/windows for security: not only for unwanted peepers looking inside, but to prevent your vehicle from becoming a late-night display of "having the lights on" at night.

SAFETY PINS: Extraordinarily useful. For everything that duct tape does not accomplish.

DUCT TAPE: Extraordinarily useful. If you keep extra rolls, you must rotate. Not all duct tape stays fresh. Keep away from heat.

HANDI-WIPES: Extraordinarily useful. Buy luxury on this item if possible: get Huggies Supreme Care. Although there is alcohol (drying) content in these wipes, they are invaluable for hygiene, spills, water-saving, etc. When Iraq-Invasion Soldiers are asked what commodity they most covet, almost all of them ask for Handi-Wipes.

OTHER HANDY ITEMS include paper towel, toilet paper, extra medium-size boxes, earplugs for urban areas, saving your empty bottles/containers, saving plastic grocery bags. "Penny Wise Is Pound Foolish," however -- don't become obsessed with saving everything unless you're prepared to pay a heavy price for being slowed down. When the Second Great Depression hits, then you can save string and rubber bands and tin-foil.

SUMMER TIPS: Park in the shade whenever possible. Urban/rural areas with more canopy trees can decrease vehicle heat by up to 20 degrees. If you must park in the sun, you must keep the windows/doors open a crack if possible. Store all perishable/valuable possessions in the geographic center of the vehicle, away from doors/walls, or it will melt/damage. Perishable items include medical items, electronic equipment, food supply, water, batteries, etc. My vehicle will start to become uncomfortable at exactly 63 degrees Farenheit in the sun (approx 75 degrees inside the vehicle) for me. Stay out of the sun. If your vehicle is dark-colored, it will absorb more heat. This is an advantage in the winter, a disadvantage in the summer.

WINTER TIPS: Park in the sun whenever possible. Your vehicle will absorb heat during the day, even on overcast days. Winterize the vehicle for leaks/wind, using garbage bags/visqueen, and blankets. Buy extra sleeping bags on the cheap at Goodwill or K-Mart. You will always use them. You almost cannot have too many. Living in a vehicle in the winter is not recommended unless you're in a temperate area. Below 40 degrees you will produce an amazing amount of moisture (from your breath) inside the vehicle. This can damage almost everything. You MUST wrap EVERYTHING in garbage bags and keep them marked (or else you're going to keep opening the garbage bags to find out where you put your CDs, certain books, etc). Don't skimp on this. Paper items/products will also be water-damaged eventually, and mold will grow even on the outside of the garbage bags in unusual areas. If you can, store items around you in the vehicle (opposite of summer) and yourself in the geographic center of the vehicle. The items stored around you will absorb/retain heat, and block cold from the outside. The walls of your vehicle are going to be colder than the center of the vehicle (opposite of summer). Common sense, perhaps, but it's not always evident unless you're used to "survival thinking."

BATTERIES: Recommend Rayovac IC3 rechargeables. These may have been discontinued, but they're still available on the Net. I buy from GoodHumans.com, but they're slightly more expensive from this source. These batteries (AA/AAA) recharge in 15 minutes anywhere. Buy solar if you can afford the expense/investment. Not all solar items "work" reliably. Research on the Net. Solar cooking/"Volcano Stove" is handy during the summer. I do not use my vehicle's battery at all. For any reason.

OTHER EQUIPMENT: I own the crank battery radio, I rarely use it. I use LED-based lights of all sorts. Do not use flashlights or conventional light sources -- trust me. LED lasts 100 times longer. E-Bay and other outlets sell some very nice LED lights that are brighter than conventional light sources -- or less bright, depending on your preference. LED also comes in colors and shades which are useful for different times of day. Do not leave expensive items in your vehicle when you leave. Invest in a good backpack, and carry your laptop/DVD player/vital DVDs-unreplaceable CDs. The only unreplaceable items I leave in my vehicle when I'm not in it are journals and photos -- useless to a thief.

PASSPORT: Always carry your passport on your person. Do not leave your passport anywhere OFF your body except for sleep. Make photocopies. If you do not have a passport by now, I presume you are not serious about survival. I'm not sure if it's too late for you to obtain a passport that does not contain biometrics/REAL ID ACT provisions that are invasive and anti-democratic. You must have a passport. You must not lose it. You must get one before the Second 9/11 (probably a Neocon Military Coup crashing a plane into Congress and wiping out President Hillary and the Dems). Or. You. Will. Be. Fucked. Beyond. Belief.

COMMUNITY RESOURCES: Use your library, post office, local mail rental box. Stay away from homeless people and homeless services: You Must Be Discreet. You can be in danger of losing your "home" at all times. Do not underestimate carelessness. Be 100% discreet if you care about yourself at all.

PROVERB "Small town, big fire": A smart aphorism of Mexican illegal immigrants. If you can accomodate the dangers of an urban area -- only until you have saved enough money to flee the dangerous areas -- you will find some relative safety in a larger urban area than a small town. If you must avoid the city, try a college/university town. They are often more tolerant, although this has changed plenty in the past 25 years. Avoid using university facilities -- even if you think you can "pass" for a student. This used to be a lifesaving feature of university towns, but security concerns have eliminated any possibility of using a university/dorm restroom or cafe. You WILL be asked for ID. You WILL be arrested for trespassing. Depending on the university, this can be a misdemeanor or a serious felony.

MOTELS can be used for emergencies, when you really need a normal existence.

LIVING AND WORKING I have made the mistake of telling one single confidant about my situation. I wasn't discreet enough. You cannot disclose anything about your private living situation. You must keep your own secret. Being discreet when you depart from/return to your vehicle is not enough. Be a shadow and a ghost. Maintain absolute privacy. Be militant about it.

MORALE can be a concern when you're living in a vehicle. Eat well: Food Is Morale. Don't punish yourself to save money in this area. Maintain exercise. Don't skimp on sleep. Living in a vehicle can be "the best of times." Treat yourself as if it's your personal vacation. Keep a logbook/journal. Enjoy the benefits & advantages. It's an adventure. And you are saving a ton of cash on rent.

PASSPORT: Always carry your passport on your person. Do not leave your passport anywhere OFF your body except for sleep. Make photocopies. If you do not have a passport by now, I presume you are not serious about survival. I'm not sure if it's too late for you to obtain a passport that does not contain biometrics/REAL ID ACT provisions that are invasive and anti-democratic. You must have a passport. You must not lose it. You must get one before the Second 9/11 (probably a Neocon Military Coup crashing a plane into Congress and wiping out President Hillary and the Dems). Or. You. Will. Be. Fucked. Beyond. Belief.

INTERNET is a precious resource. Use it while we have it. Look up "Petrocollapse." Read about alternative energy sources and strategic locations for survival. These are the Good Old Days, believe it or not. You will be nostalgic for Bush and Bumbling Fascists. I'm looking forward to mountain living, with a dog and some chickens and a llama or two, and I can live forever on potatoes, eggs, cheese (llama milk) & peppers. Give me a shovel and I won't need the Internet by the time it's regulated or obsolete because of the Second Great Depression. A case of chocolate for rations, I'll live the rest of my life in FREEDOM. And I'm just a few more paychecks away from Paradise right now.

Doing Laundry Without A Laundromat 26.Nov.2005 03:12

lisatruman2 lisatruman2@yahoo.com

This can be done in a locked restroom sink, or inside your vehicle in a 5-gallon bucket.

Place a black-plastic garbage bag (40-gallon size) into the sink or bucket.

Place liquid dish soap into the garbage bag (which is lining the bucket/sink). Use liberally, but not excessively.

Fill the bucket-bag/sink-bag half-full with water.

Place a small amount of clothes into the water, until the water reaches no higher than 2/3 of the bucket/sink.

Using your arm to mimic the action of a washing machine, thrust the clothes up and down in the water, right and left, up and down, for 2-3 minutes.

Pour out the dirty water. Fill the bucket/sink bag with clean rinse water. Repeat the sloshing/thrusting process to get the soapy water out of the clothes.

Pour out the rinse water. Carefully wring the water out of the finished clothing. You may need a second rinse, or a second wash if the clothes are not clean enough.

Repeat the soapy water step again with the same clothes if they did not get clean enough. Usually they're clean after one repetition of this process -- less time than a laundry washing-machine cycle (although you won't get as many clothes done per load).

Wring the water out of the finished clothing and place into a second, clean garbage bag. When you get to a safe place, you can air-dry them on a clothes-line.

Total materials: two large plastic garbage bags and liquid soap. Hand-soap works poorly. Dish soap is cheap, $2 for a generic 10 oz. bottle.

Total cost: cost of materials. Always cheaper than a laundromat.

Winter rule: use a laundromat dryer, or wait for a day of 55 degrees F or above, or your clothes won't airdry. Don't wear wet clothes in the winter. Don't keep wet clothes in a garbage bag for longer than 12 hours in the summer, it'll grow mold/mildew and destroy the clothes.

simmple life 28.Nov.2005 00:17

freedom seeker

my advice is to use baggies alot for storage. use your towels and blankets pilled up for a mattress and cover with a sheet. buy the thin wood vinire to put on van wall to make it more cute and cozy.

Tips for car living or van living / sleeping in a van or car. 01.Apr.2006 16:35


Tips for car living or van living / sleeping in a van or car.

Avoid using glass storage containers. Glass breaks too easily. Plastic is lighter, can also be see through so you see what is in side and generally is cheaper any way. I use large 9 litre storage boxes that I can get for $2-3 here in Australia. Larger storage boxes can also be used as a bed base. Wooden and metal boxes weigh too much. As already mentioned here, zip lock bags are a great way to store things. Get the biggest ones you can get a hold of. Zip lock bags also can be used to store clothing.

Blankets and dunas will keep you warm, so get plenty.

Coleman, the company that makes camping stoves etc also sell a great little gas heater, the black cat and the larger Pro-cat that includes a fan (battery powered). If using a camp stove or heater like this ALWAYS crank open your windows or door a bit. I recommend using the heater to heat up the van / car in the evening or morning as needed then shut it down. NEVER go to sleep with the heater running. I'd also leave two windows open a crack to let air in.

A hot water bottle will keep you nice and warm! And it is as cape as chips! Also, you can get hot water from all sorts of shops and wash rooms. Just wander in with your hot water bottle, fill it up and wander out. Most of the time no purchase is needed, but hey, if you wander in to a store and buy something don't be ashamed to ask for them to fill your hot water bottle. You may get some strange looks, but most people will do it.

If you need to fill your hot water bottle in the middle of nowhere a camp stove and a kettle or pot will boil water for you. Also, if you have a fuel sypon use it to siphon some hot water from your radiator into your hot water bottle.

If you are flat broke, need to keep warm and it's a choice between a hot water bottle and food consider this: Fill a plastic bottle with hot water, cover with a sock and you have the cheapest hot water bottle out. It will keep you warm for hours. Just make sure the water is not too hot or it will melt the plastic and leak.

Try to look clean and respectable. Shave, wash regularly and wear clean cloths. Laundry mats abound. Use them. A large bucket can be used to clean clothing.

The advice on not letting your battery run down is great advice. Flattening a battery will severely shorten its' life. Batteries are expensive and without them your car or van will not be inclined to start. The battery saver / solenoid will save you a lot of heartache. Don't rely on inverters with automatic power cut off to save your battery either. Most will cut out at 11 volt, when you battery is badly flat.

I really recommend a small solar charger for your battery. You can get them on Ebay for $22 -$30 in Australia. If you can, buy one from a hard ware / variety store like K-Mart, The Warehouse or some big chain stores. They plug into your cigarette lighter and charge up the battery. If you know basic electrics though it is best to wire them to your battery (using clamps). If you can figure out what the positive (red) wire is and the negative (black) wire is this will avoid possible issues with reverse polarity via your cigarette lighter. These will maintain your battery, pump it up a little, during the day. It will slowly recharge a flat battery, but won't have enough juice to run electrics.

Of course if you can afford a larger solar panel (say a 14 W - 16 watt one) this will actually charge your battery with a little juice to run some lights and a 12 Volt TV or radio for a few hours a day. Bigger panels cost more and up around the 40 -80 watt size you'll be paying about $8-$12 per watt. 80 Watt panel will cost about $600 - $800. If you have a small radio / mp3 layer with no moving parts it will se a tiny amount of power.

Here in Australia the police are actually nice most of the time. If you don't want to be hassled, pop in and visit them first. Say you're moving trough and can they recommend any quiet place to sleep in your van for a night or two. Even if they don't have a place they can recommend, they will at least recognise you and or your vehicle if they encounter you so they probably will be less concerned and will probably leave you alone.

Mobile phones. Most will allow you to ring emergency numbers even if you don't have the thing connected. In Australia you can ring 000 and 113 from almost any mobile phone. Connected or not. Pre paid mobiles with long connection periods are great.

Hidden compartment. If you don't already have one, make one. Somewhere in your van make a hidden compartment for valuables. Don't put weapons in it, you can get charged for having a concealed weapon. Can you store anything in the base of your seats? Behind lining?

Camping supplies. Even if expensive, some camping supplies stores will give you an idea of what things can help you cam in your car or van. Shop around, buy cheaply but reasonable quality. Avoid rip off brands that charge for the brand name, not the actual product.

Pride, swallow it a bit if you have to. Buy second hand. Learn to ask politely for tings like getting your hot water bottle filled. Don't be shy about wandering in to a laundry mat in winter just to keep warm. Or using hand drier machines in wash rooms to dry clothing ;)

Public barbecues. In Australia we have HEAPS of free barbecues. Push button types. Use al foil over them when cooking. It keeps your food free of others germs and makes it so much easier to clean up afterwards.

National parks. Many charge just a nominal fee to camp in them but have good facilities. I don't know if this is the same in the USA.

I've heard that Walmart in the USA lets RVers camp in their car parks over night. One night only tough.

Oh, and as mentioned, universaties have lots of easily acessible facillities. If you buy a parking permit you can park on campus legally. (well if you don't stand ot too much).

Existing van dweller resources 27.Apr.2006 04:17


Check at the following places for lots of great info on how to van dwell succesfully.


LIVING IN MY VAN 25.Aug.2006 19:33


Don't be scared. You can do it. Planning ahead before moving into a vehicle is the best way. Get a good map and scope out the area. I chose a van. Try to get one that doesn't look to junky. Here are some good tips:

1.Tell no one you live in your van. One person will tell ten others and you will feel like a looser.
2.Walmarts are good hassle free place to park at night.
3.Take the time to make your vehicle look un-lived-in. No sheets for drapes.
4.Pre-paid cell phone. If your looking for a job, they'll need to get ahold of you.
5.P.O. Box or a friends address will work.
6.Gym membership is the best. Shower/shave/bathroom there.
7.Look presentable. No stained t-shirts or 5 day shadow. People will judge you by your appearance - you'll see.
8.Dollar stores are amazing.
10.A spry bottle will take wrinkles out of clothes you are unable to iron.

I do not have a cooking stove. When I park at Wal-mart, I get stuff to make sandwiches. Only buy what you need (Don't worry, they'll be there when you get hungry again).

thinking of puchasing a large step van 04.Apr.2007 16:50

Dwight Taylor

i think its way better than paying rent for my small room. but i want to so it right so im going to get a huge step van. and then im getting a solar panel and plumbing as time goes on. im 26 and ive only been paying rent for about two years i think its going to give me alot of free time and less of that gotta get the rent worring.

Moving out of mums for a life van style.... 12.Apr.2007 14:00


i lived in a stationwagon, (estate car) for six months during my two years in oz, was a challenge as you would expect and occasional sharing with other people i found unbearable but overall oz must be the best place for that kind of life in the world but now im back home in england after traveling the world for two and a half years, now living back with my mother, i hate the lack of independance, not that shes a pain but i enjoy doing everything myself and being as self sufficient as possible, im already planning some (all) say the impossible (i hope i dont live to regret telling people), to live in a van in england, renting is monsterous here, being a mummys boy is not an option and im a control freak. ive started saving up for a van, im planning on getting a plain white builder style van it wont look like a travellers home and put a sunroof in it so no-one can look in and but i can look at the sky get fresh air and natural light. ive scribbled designs to cater for everthing that comes to mind my advice is think out of the box, nothing is impossible you know that so if theres something you want to have in your home/van chances are you wont have to do without with enough thinking for a solution rather than giving in to less and feeling miserable as a result. my tip is CANDLES..... has everyone forgot what people used a century ago, yes i know about carbon monoxide and the whole vehical/naked flames issues and panics people usually jump to but if the space in the back is clean tidy organised and commonsense is applied its super cheap pleasant lighting/heat. I will get a smoke alarm/monoxide detector, open windows everynow and then and not have the hippy style decor consisting of bits and pieces of flamable clothes and stuff hanging around. i could waffle on for hours as im quite passionate about it, good to know other people are in the same boat!

My 2 cents worth 07.Jul.2007 20:10

elnet elnetl35@yahoo.com

Use heat from your engine block to heat food. If you have a V type engine (V-6, V-8), wrap leftovers or you can also place canned food in the recessess near the rocker covers, just make sure to pick a spot that your food does not fall off by going over a bump. We used to place canned food, like ravoli, etc, and drive to work and with the driving time and by lunchtime the heat would warm the food. If you use a heat safe container, might also heat water for winter hot water bottles.

www.mrheater.com/productdetails_extended.asp?catid=41&id=24 has a heater with an oxygen sensor. www.outlawcamping.com/portable-propane-heaters also has some "tent safe" heaters, and other stuff that can be used to facilitate car living. They also have portable propane showers. I have used these camping and also living in a warehouse (where I live right now).

Rent a storage space with 24 hour access and the old bulb style lights if you can find one. Get one of those adapters that have a plug in that you place between the bulb. Now you can power a small refrigerator if you want. Make sure that your landlord does not have access to your unit. Be careful not to blow the breaker by powering too many devices, like a microwave.

Living in a Van in Europe 07.Nov.2007 17:25

Bernardo Vieira bernierao@hotmail.com

I lived in a station wagon in New Zealand for about a year. Prior to that i didn't even camp that much. I'm a city boy to the bone. I was a busker and i got tired of paying hostels so I moved to an old honda 84. I knew absolutly mothing about vanliving so i started from zero. I learned everything about basic survival from where to shower (rugby clubs, golf clubs), how to shower in public WCS (plenty in NEW ZEaland), how to avoid trouble (parking in residential buildings parking lots) and it was a ressurection experience for me. I was reborn in that trip. Later I got back to Europe (I'm portuguese) and i decided to live in Scotland for a while. I lived in a room for a wee bit, but the rent was killing my savings so i moved to a ford transit. no windows. stealth perfect. The van had a bed already so i just put a couple o closets and basic kitchen facilities. I parked near a swiming pool so i had all toilet issues taken care off and even swiming. I bought the best DUVET i could afford (BIG TIP!) and the bigger one has well. As long has you have a good duvet you will sleep like an angel no matter the temperature outside. I saved some money this way (i was working in the SUBWAY store and busking). And all this time I was living with my girlfriend (but for me vandwelling is a solo experience unless you have a big van (like a luton kind of van) or the best of things a proper motorhome. Anyway the point is in europe is very possible to live in a Van but of course take your precautions... there are plenty of vandwelling sites with lots of useful info about van dwelling. I'll be living in a van aqain in one month :) take care. b

start eating raw foods while you are in change mode 12.Mar.2008 14:33


seriously if you have the political social & spiritual will for this kind of change, get into a raw food lifestyle & you will soon be hooked up to a huge community. they will let you park in their driveways probably even sleep on their sofas on cold nites. because i think raw food people are into saving the earth (don't drive around too much)and when you eat raw real food in season you have to share. who eats 10 pounds of ripe peaches for instance or tomatoes or cabbage? you can become a Freegan and or raw foodie and don't worry about working except for gas $$$ which of course you will lose your addiciton to driving when you see how every dime you get goes into the gas tank.
blessings always, my friend.

my vehicle-dwelling tips site 01.Sep.2008 15:24


My experience of van living 10.Nov.2008 11:14

Abe abecambridge@gmail.com

I have been lving in a van for the past five months in Cornwall in England. The first thing I noticed living in a van, was how many people are now living in vans. It is great to think that so many people have seen the light and decided to stop working jobs we hate to pay rent and tax and huge utility bills. Living in a van makes you economical with your resources and money and time. You will have more time to acctually live, and my social life, in fact my whole quality of life and happiness has much improved from a year ago when I had a highly paid job for a credit card firm, dispite the fact I now have no running water. I now have real freedom and am living a wholesome real life, where every day is an adventure and do not have to put up with bullshit dickheads in shit jobs. Where can I get water? Where can I visit, which amazing place can I pull up and sleep tonight? I wonder which facinating people I am going to meet this evening that will be travel buddies for the next few weeks/months/years.

My overall advice is the following:

Get a high-top van. I had a semi-high top LDV Pilot, and had to stoop when cooking and it really gets painful. Found it hard to change clothes etc. Dont have any windows on the sides. It is bad for insulation and privacy. Get a wood burning stove and chimeny. This is great for warmth, cooking on and drying wet clothes. They are also carbon netural (wood grows quickly, soaks up Co2 then is reintrocudec upon combusiton). You can pick up a cheap wood burner from a hardware store for about 50 quid, flue pipe for about 50 quid, make a chiney out of a stainless steel curry dish and seal it through a whole of the roof with fire silicon and a big jubiless clip.

Dont by food that needs refrigeration. Stop using cows milk. For a start if you see the cows that produce this milk, they constantly twitch due to the chemicals pumped into them, they look very unhealthy and their udders are constantyly pussy because of them being over loaded. Buy Soy milk or rice or wheat milk, depending on which country you live in, get the milk from you staple crop (for the UK, wheat, China Rice etc). Stop buying meat regurly, you dont need it. Most supermarket meat is shit anyway. I eat meat only when it is from a local butcher and I cook it that evening. Much better for you and easier on the pocket. Experiment with vegeterain cooking, its amazing what can be acheived with a few spices, ginger, garlic and some cheap veg and lentils! Cheaper than chips. Thanks India!

Get a small solar panel to trickle charge a second battery. Get an inverter from ebay, get a 500W one, cost about 30 quid.

Buy a Diesel engine. RUN IT ON VEGETABLE OIL WHEN POSSIBLE. The diesel engine was designed to run on veg oil, will run on pure un altered veg oil if you live in a warm country. If you live in a country that gets colder in the winter, run a mix of diesel and vegt oil about 50/50 unless you van has a pre heater. Veg oil is cheaper, can be bought from fast food resturants for very litte, i.e. 5 for 20 litres, smells nice, is much better for the environemnt, and is not giving your money to the planets demise, instead it is a fuel source that you cna make yourself. Plenty of info online about filtering used veg oil for use in engines.

Join the VanDwellers Group 25.Nov.2008 09:31


When I started van dwelling I had to figure out everything on my own. I made lots of expensive mistakes. I sure wish I knew about the yahoo group VanDwellers then!



van living 31.Mar.2010 18:40

navil earthryder@hotmail.com

living in a van.. i can only speak from experience. i have a chev van. i have one seat in the middle of the van and took the other one in the back out.
First off let me say that it can be comfortable but you would have to have a mind set to over come the convience of home living.
i have a thick sponge that I lay diagonal to I can sleep full length in the back of the van. I have cardboard boxes at this time in which I organize my clothes in one or two boxes. Another box for food. I bought a 8 by 8 tupper ware in which i put all my shaving, shampoo, soap, toothbrush,etc in for a quick use of my cleaning up.
I have a separate laundry bag for dirty clothes which i take to the laundrymat or if you have a nice friend who will let you wash your clothes thes once a week or so would be great. A bonus if they let you get a shower at the same time. I try real hard not to utilize my friends in that manner if i can at all possible do it myself elsewhere. Certain days of the week you can shower and swim at the rec center for a couple of bucks.
If you are working which I managed to do so this past couple of weeks after not working for 6 weeks living in my van, things started to become easier for me. I was able to buy better food to eat, and travel to wherever as I now had gas money.
I did a thorough cleaning of the van last week and put in air freshner and makes my home much more pleasant.
I buy a case or 2 of bottle water which will last me for 3 weeks at least.
Tim Hortons, McDonalds, Superstore, Costco, etc all have public washrooms, so it is wise to plan wisely where to park. For the emergency situation at night, I have found as a male that a gallon milk jug will do the trick. Also buying a pack of wet ones for cleaning works well.
For the choice of parking at night. Most mall parking lots will not let you stay there overnight. Usually you have until 11 pm. So I use my google earth to soar the city for good locations and drive to them. If I find a good location I mark it with a marker on the google earth map.
The features I look for in a parking location are as follows. Park where other vehicles are parked. Park on a street that has a park or vacant lot on the one side. Also park on a residential street that has tall hedges or trees to give you some privacy from the homes. To further increase my personal privacy I went to Canadian Tire and bought 25 feet of that black frabric that you use to lay under bark mulch. I bought scissers cutting them into lengths of the window with about 8 inches longer to when you tuck them into the vinyl lining above the windows you can overlap the corners of both curtains. I have tinted windows but with that fabric I feel very comfortable changing inside with complete privacy. I also bought some velcro with stick tape on the back if i want to make them more secure but have not bothered at this time.
For cleaning myself or washing my hair, I have located a couple of parks with sink and cold water. wish it was hot but oh well, parks that are not frequented by few people during the day.
I have to give kudos to google earth for making my life so much easier in finding parks, place for night time parking, rec centers, etc.
This comment I am writing in my van on my laptop. I bought it 6 weeks ago, wireless. I also bought a dc ac converter for 60 bucks, which I plug into my cigarette lighter to charge my laptop. One word on charging your laptop, it is not wise to charge it often on your vehicle, it will kill your battery if left on overnight. whenever I can I use the library or similar source to charge my laptop. Access to the internet I have several sources. Some libraries have wireless access which not only works from in the library but usually you can be park across the street, in this case I am, and still be connected.
Also Wired Monk, Starbucks, Safeway, McDonalds, and others will have access in most cases.
Whenever I park I turn on my laptop and scan for any connections that are good signals and will allow me to connect. Bonus if you find a good parking spot with internet. I have been fortunate to have several locations. Depending on where i have to be whether for work or some social reason, I use the location that is convient for me.
Regarding food I buy non perishables, and only perishable food that will be eaten within 2 days. A cooler is a good thing to have for that. I dont eat hot food unless my budget allows a hot meal, once or so a week. Take your pick of where to eat. You are not paying rent so you can afford a hot meal now and then.
I also have a big jar of peanut butter and a box of crackers. My emergency food or i dont want to have a big meal.. never tire of them so far. Be creative in your foods.
On my laptop I can rent a movie from Safeway for 2 bucks with my visa card, or i like to watch old movies on you tube which are free. Whatever you find entertaining.
This is all I have for now. I wish all of you vaneers out there the best of luck.