Have you been considering hitting the road? You’ve seen the blogs, heard the stories, & now you have the itch. You want to sit there with the back doors open basking in the glow of the sunset over the lake with the snowcapped mountains in the distance. It’s just you, maybe your mate, probably your dog, and a warm cup of coffee or tea steaming as the perfect night breeze begins. Then, you can crawl into your converted van home and sleep soundly until tomorrow’s rockin adventures!
Wait a minute. We all know that these images are seldom close to reality. There’s a heck of a lot more that goes into this than simply buying a van, converting a van, getting a dog, and then hitting the road. What about working on the road or grabbing a part-time gig to make ends meet? What kind of van is best for van life? What’s your budget for van life? Where’s that dog going to sleep? Oh, and is a van really even right for you!?
As with every trend there becomes a certain “image” that everyone conjures up when they dream of being in those shoes. That’s okay. I also dreamed the dream once upon a time. And yes, my images then were much different than they are today. There’s that darn hindsight thing again…doh!
The Best Vans to Live in Might Not Be Vans At All! Whaaaat!?!?
Vans can seem like the only option out there, if you base your ideas off what you’ve seen on magazine covers and social media. Especially if you are looking at a smaller than an RV rig or a custom build rig, you’re going to hear your friends and strangers suggest, “Van Life!” Living in vans can certainly be awesome and the right fit for some, but don’t forget to do your research and consider the myriad options of other road life rigs out there – everything from SUVs to Truck Campers. And you might be surprised which one is truly your best fit!
One thing I would have never imagined is living in my SUV! That’s not one of those dreams most people have. But it turned out to fit my situation perfectly, partly because it was the vehicle I already had, fairly cheap, decent on mpg, and capable of getting most places. And that brings me to my point today. Before you hit the road you should ask yourself: what is the perfect road rig for me?
I’ve heard all too many stories of people who bought the wrong road rig. Those who bought the RV and found it was too expensive or couldn’t get to the places they wished to be. Those who put a lot of money in to a converted van and then realized the van is too top heavy or too expensive to maintain.
Living in Vans: A Perspective from Someone Who’s Been Living in Trucks & SUVs Instead: As I mentioned, we came pretty darn close to living in a van. We did a lot of in-depth research to decide what our best road rig is. We decided to look at a category of vans, trucks, and SUVs. Then, we chose the one that fit our list of priorities. I strongly suggest if you are planning on living on the road and considering living in a converted van or converted SUV or truck camper or bus or RV or one of the many other options out there, make a list of your priorities first! Once you make that list, you can start analyzing which of the options really fits those needs. And don’t forget to include those “little things.”
For example, many people might consider something like MPG on the rig or room and comfort. But what about something like natural lighting? This is something that is very important to me but I almost shrugged it off while rig shopping. Boy am I glad I didn’t! So, to get you started, here’s a list of things that might make a difference in your life (your van life that is)….literally! Pick some things off this list, add to it as you so desire, and rank the ones which are most important. Then, analyze the options and see which one (van, RV, truck camper, or SUV) fits the top needs best.
Choosing the Best Nomad Home: Options to Consider
- MPG (budget)
- Customization Possibilities
- Upfront Cost (budget)
- Natural Lighting (i.e. windows)
- Airflow & Cooling/Heating Efficiency (i.e. windows, screens, customizations, budget)
- Off-road Capability (if you like remote camping)
- Off grid Remote Set-up Capabilities
Why We Chose a Truck Camper After Months of Research!
Okay, so just as an example, this is what happened for us. We did the aforementioned analysis and ranked the following criteria high: budget, space, and off-road capability. The real problem with living in a van was the whole off-road capability. And once we “adjusted” that issue, say by getting a customized off-road capable van, suddenly the budget was blown out of proportion. So, back to the drawing board. For us, the “space” option was actually not a top-ranking item even though I just said it was. What I mean here is that we only really wanted “enough space,” not tons of space! So, once that “enough space to live in” criterion was met, we were all set. Really, all options had that. I mean, we lived in a small SUV for several years, so anything with more space than that was going to seem like luxury! And we really just wanted enough room to stand up, stretch, and cook a meal. Otherwise, we’d be outdoors. So, we weighted the budget versus capabilities much higher. Which option offered the best price per capability? You guessed it: the truck camper! We didn’t have to sacrifice wiggle room nor our desire to find quiet remote camps. And the ability to be at those camps not only provides us with the mental wellness of quietness but also the assurance that our camping budget will stay at zero.