Just couple days ago I celebrated my vanniversery. I was stuggling to comprehend the fact that one year has passed and I lived in my van through out the British winter.
I have received a number of questions about how I moved into my van; what to look for and what would I change; etc.
After spending a year in my yellow passion wagon – I feel confident and experienced enough to write up my, for some people, very odd choice to become a van dweller.
Are you sitting comfortably?..
Then I will begin.
Van as a vehicle always seemed to be the ultimate four-wheeled dream. You can have all your gear and friends with you and you can sleep in it comfortably.
After having a car, a small sedan, for a year I was constantly looking at vans, because I knew that my VW Bora is just a stepping stone.
SIZE DOES MATTER
First, you need to answer a question to yourself. Will I live in my van full time?
For those who are not going to give up on paying morgages and leave their beloved houses, and only go on (climbing) trips on weekends and some longer ones on their annual leave from work. I would recommend a vw caddy or citroën berlingo type of van.
- They are small, but big enough to sleep 2 people, fit your gear, let it be crashpads, ropes, etc.;
- Good for their fuel consumption;
- Comfortable to drive like a normal car;
- Cheeper toll if driving on French motorways.
Transporter, Vivaro, Traffic… sized vans are more likely to satisfy somebody who wants to spend most of the year on the road.
- Easy to park and drive around cities;
- Choice of different wheel base lenghts to accomodate those who want more space, but don’t feel like going for a bigger van like MB Sprinter, VW LT, VW Crafter, Fiat Ducato and other similar models.
- Normally still pretty good on their mpg
I know several people who live in a van like mentioned above, but personally I find them too small for full-time living, especially if you are not fortunate enought to have sponsors who pay you to climb.
The bigger, the better, right?
Sprinter vans or their equivalents manufactured by other companies are in my opinion the sweet spot for a person who wants to be a full on van dweller.
Like trasporters, LT vans have a range of heights and lengths.
If I was to upgrade I believe my choice would be medium wheel base high roof van.
Let’s say you ended up with a van size like mine – three seats, and an empty space the size of a small crevasse behind them.
The joy of moving into a van is not buying a kitted out one, but planning and making everything yourself and with the help of your friends.
Steps I had to take to arrive to where I am:
- Rip out the old ply lining, remove bulkhead and clean the surfaces to get them ready for insulation. If there is any rust make sure you get rid of it and treat it right.
- Insulation…It depends how cold/hot it will be wherever you plan to be.
- Ply lining/cladding depends on your personal preference. I ply lined and carpeted walls and the roof, but put vinyl on the floor, for easier cleaning.
- Furniture and the size of it, the arrangement and the size depends on each other.
- Lights, leisure battery.
- Sunroof installation.
At that point I had no lights, nor leisure battery installed. Charging phones out of the cigarette lighter and using head torches to light the van up when it got dark. The best thing about the summer is that sun sets late and after a whole day of climbing you tend to hit the sack and you barely need lights in the van.
Week later I was traveling all over Europe. Nobody likes a smelly person and to stay clean I was taking showers wherever I could, but when climbing I look out for rivers, lakes, hot springs… Just outside Chamonix we were swimming in the lake Passy. Brilliant antagonist training and refreshment after a day of climbing. There were instances when I was stuck and had to clean myself with a wet wipe, more a bunch of them. It works, just looks unusual.
One of the best things in my yellow submarine is the gas cooker. That allows me to cook pretty much whatever I can come up with, and I do love a good bit of cooking. Check out my COOK + CLIMB (I will post them here as well) series launching 9th September and you will see that pretty much anything can be done in the van!
We built a big top loaded storage box. Fits two people, but now that I intend to put anybody there. Storage under the bed is usefull, as you can put stuff you need to access frequently. Kitchen unit stores most of the cooking related items and some food. 25 litre water tank is there for all those trips when fresh drinking water is an issue.Normally I have several plastic bottles which I refill daily if there is a drinking fountain or a spring somewhere. In a city is a lot easier with that. Maybe I will put a roof rack for crashpads when on bouldering trips, because it can get a bit tight inside with 4 boulder pads and one more person.
I came across several different configurations for a sleeping space in a van. Small van benefits from a rock and roll bed as it saves space when upwards and is a fully functioning seat for passengers. Bigger vans with high roof are ideal to have a bed higher up and that way storage underneath fits crash pads easily.
In my case the bed is a bench when folded and needs a bit of clearance to flip it down.
This bed sleeps two and one more person can sleep under the bed as it is half of the bed’s width. One person can sleep at the front on the seats and if you are not over 6 foot tall you will be fine.
Now my van is pretty much at its’ final stage. Honestly, I can find what to add and improve all the time since it was my first can conversion and the next one will be a lot better.
I wanted to say a big thank you to:
The Reach Climbing Wall for allowing me to use their showers and climbing surface to train, and tools to work on my van; Rokas, Kristupas, Mindaugas for being those extra hands when I needed whilst converting my van to what it is now; and everybody else who gave me the advice;