"Do you have one of those black bag solar showers?"
"You should take some black PVC pipe and mount it on your roof so you can have a solar shower."
"How do you shower?"
"How do you shower?"
I’ve been living in my Sprinter Van for a little over a year now, and during that time I continue to be surprised by the little joys of living in a van, the ones I didn’t expect when I moved in. I expected the freedom and the flexibility and the beautiful scenery, but I didn’t expect the pure joy of a nice parking space or the giddy feeling I get when the wind blows through the curtains on my open door.
I think the term 'hiking' is used loosely in this context, at least for the actual canyoneering section of the hike. I like sliding better. Sliding down the Subway was more accurate.
But! On May 6th 2017 in the early morning light, I did The Subway with my dear friend Amanda (@Scatter_Cusion). This is how it happened.
I was driving up a hill on Highway 1 just outside of the tiny town of Rockport California when I completely lost power.
I heard no sound, no change in the handling of the car, I just couldn't accelerate any more. I had just gotten into the passing lane to pass this really slow Prius, and got some weird looks from the driver as well as the cars behind me when I suddenly slowed down to 50mph, and then 45, and then 40...
I've never worked on my car before.
But after googling some mechanical issues for 10 minutes I'm confident I can do most of it myself.
It forces you to give an elevator pitch of your entire life, and often when you can squash your occupation or passion down into 1 or 2 sentences it doesn't sound that great.
My answer to this question, Freelance Social Media Marketing, is usually met with blank stares and the follow-up question, "So, what does that mean?"
This blog post/video is dedicated to answering that question. Let me break it down for you.
Each day in the van is different. Like drastically different.
Some days I wake up at 6 am, knock on a friend's door, shower, slap on some makeup and drive to the nearest coffee shop for a work meeting. Then I spend all day on my computer getting shit done and finish up the day with a climb and sauna at my local (or sometimes local) climbing gym.
*Note* Something to consider is where you will dump your water tanks! As much as I can I dump mine in RV dump stations, camp bathrooms, or down the gutters. However, this isn't always possible and sometimes I dump my water in remote areas. It's important to note I only have 5 gallons of water so my impact is very low. However, if you have really big tanks I would not recommend dumping them on the ground. Do your best to deal with your greywater ethically!
I wake up every morning in a memory foam queen sized mattress, my down comforters wrapped around my legs to the sight of my small but tidy kitchen. My counter top is a beautiful slab of madrone with a live edge and gold paint inlaid into the knots in the wood. My coffee is ground by hand (by me) and typically from a local coffee roasting company. I cook my breakfast of organic (if I can get em!) hardboiled eggs and a grapefruit to the sound of my favorite music playing out of my iphone or laptop. Today it was 'Love Love Love' by the Mountain Goats.
Bringing the bike in the van was always a priority for me, but until recently I was just putting it on the ground inside the van. It would rattle around and I eventually broke my derailer when the bike fell over, so I decided it was time for a new bike rack solution.
My beer is cold at the end of the day because of the power of the sun.
I love that. I love that so much. Having a solar panel and running a battery bank off it is amazing. It saves a lot of money, it's quiet, and it's renewable! Getting the electrical set up in the van was the most expensive and difficult part about building out a van, but 100% worth it. I wouldn't recommend skimping on expenses during this stage. Having a system that is expensive and works is way better than having a system that is cheaper, but could break down/explode during your travels.
The wood paneling we did in the van is one of my favorite visual components of the van. It makes the van look and feel like a cabin in the woods. The color was really important to us when we were building it out, we had seen a lot of build outs that had dark wood and it really shrank the space. With the light wood it seems much more roomy and light, which is key for a small space like this! Another bonus is that when people first enter your van they can smell the cedar. My nose has long since adjusted to the scent, but I still get people who comment on it when they walk in.
Building out the bed frame and cabinets is so rewarding because you finally feel like it's starting to come together as a home. The bed frame especially makes it feel homey since you can start to imagine where you'll be sleeping! This step is also surprisingly expensive unless you have a lot of spare wood lying around. We were able to reuse some old wood, but needed to buy a lot of sturdy stuff for the cabinets.
This was one of the first 'mods' that we did on the van that didn't have anything to do with the 'house' part of the build out. We had been driving it around for a while and realized that the stereo sucked a lot. It didn't have an audio jack, didn't take Bluetooth and only played CD's, which I haven't bought since 7th grade. So we replaced the stereo!
I didn't realize until a few months after having a fan in the van how important it is. With a fan in the van you can drastically reduce the moisture that gathers on the windows, it helps air out a tiny space that you cook in, sleep in and bathe in, and it really helps keep the van a comfortable temperature. I use the fan all the time when I'm cooking to keep steam from condensing in the van, to keep the onion and garlic smell from lingering and to air out the burning propane. Fantastic fans are awesome, 100% would recommend.
One of the most frequent questions I get from people looking to build out a Sprinter Van is, "Does the insulation actually work?" and I would say "Yes*". Yes, it does, but with a footnote.
The very first thing we did on the Sprinter van (after tearing out the shelving left over from the other guy) was install the van floors. The floors are a really important part of the install. I've seen a lot of build outs that recommend doing the floors last, but that seems counter-intuitive to me. We also went with the 'hardwood' floors instead of the roll out linoleum flooring that some installs have. If I was to do it again, I would totally do the hardwood floors!
Having new speakers in the van is really great. As of the writing of this post I have had them for about 2 months and they are still working just fine. The standard speakers that came with the van aren't very good so if you have yet to change them, get on it!
The first time you sweep your floors in a new place, you see all the old dust from the old place being wiped away, like a clean slate. For me, the memories of all the boots that tracked mud into my van go through my mind. I remember all the feet that walked here and all the people attached to those feet. I'm sweeping the memory of them away and making room for new feet, new boots and new dust.
nstalling swivel chairs was possibly the best add on to the van that I've done yet. It completely opens up the space and makes it way more comfortable to hang out in. I often do my work from the passengers seat turned sideways with my feet up on the other chair. And in a pinch you could probably turn the chairs into a bed for a shorter person.