Some of us have reached a crossroads in our life where we have to move into our vehicle. It may be because we lost our home or apartment due to a loved one dying or a natural disaster. Some may be finding living out of their vehicle as a means to expand their life to be more than what it is currently.
I want to help you take that first step into a new lifestyle.
Below you will find four essential needs of survival and how it translates into a car, van, or truck. I will also offer you resources along the way.
Before I get started I want to tell you how I got into the vehicle dwelling lifestyle. At 22 years old I decided, after watching a beautiful video, that I would take a solo trip around the country in a van. I had been planning trips with friends that all fell through so I decided this was going to be my next adventure. Two years later I am sitting here in my van writing this blog. I am still 100% into lifestyle, the “Vanlife” as they say. I have had more beautiful sunrises, sunsets, and amazing stories than I could have ever imagined. For me travel is life.
If you are survivor of a natural disaster and feel you have nowhere to turn please look into this lifestyle even if you only need it for a short while. It has provided thousands of people with escape and freedom in every way. I also love the community that comes along with it. I always will recommend Bob Wells of Cheap RV Living as a resource for beginners. He has a wealth of information on his website and YouTube channel. He also holds an annual event in January in Arizona. There are tons of gatherings and events all across the United States to offer you friendship and support.
1. Make Your Bed
You need a place to sleep in or by your vehicle. I know of many car dwellers who put all their back seats down and push the front seats forward to create space to sleep. The bed of a truck with a shell and an airmattress is another way. If your vehicle is just too small you can carry a tent and set it up next to your car. I have a wooden platform made out of plywood and 2 x 4’s with a kids bunk bed as a mattress. There are many different ways to figure out how to sleep in or near your vehicle but having a safe zone to rest has gotten me through many stormy, sleepless nights.
2. Food and Cooking
I don’t have a refrigerator or ice in my van. Instead I have a very simple system. One food bin and two coolers. I eat canned food, ramen, instant mashed potatoes, eggs, cabbage, bananas, apples, oranges, onion, bread, and other things that don’t need refrigeration. I do try to keep my containers as cool as possible though by opening my coolers at night when it is chilly and keeping them out of the sun during the day. I also try to crack a window during the day so my van doesn’t heat up so much.
Cooking in my rig is pretty easy because I have a counter space with a two burner camp stove on it. Other people pack tables or open the back of their cars to set up for cooking. There are smaller one burner camp stoves and also camp ovens. Usually everything runs off of propane or butane which you can get at your local stores. Jet Boil has a small cooker to boil up to 2 cups of water.
To clean your dishes you can use disinfecting wipes or water with vinegar in a spray bottle. If you have food stuck on your pots try boiling a little water in them to soften up the left over food. I have a lodge skillet that I just wipe out with paper towel when I am done because it ruins the cast iron to use soap.
Having around 5 gallons of water is a good amount to go camping with. I personally have 6 one gallon jugs that I refill at Wal-Mart and gas stations for anywhere between $0.20 and $0.50 a gallon. I also have a Primo hand pump and a 3 gallon Primo jug to act as my faucet. I need water for cooking, cleaning, and drinking so having enough is very important. Especially when I like to be in the desert. I keep my water under my bed which keeps it cool.
4. How to Compensate for the Weather
Everyone needs to think about where they are going to be living out of their vehicle. If you are in the desert in the middle of summer I would just suggest that you move or find a friend’s house to crash in during the day. For extreme heat having the windows open, creating a cross breeze, putting up shade tents or tarps, and buying battery powered fans would be my suggestion. For the extreme cold I would buy some Hot Hands, warm socks, winter cap, good thermal clothes, a 0 degree sleeping bag, and keep your tank full of gas so you can start up the heater if you need, but never in an enclosed area.
If you are able going to an area that has better weather is always a good idea. Lots of people head south for the winter and find areas where the temperatures stay between the 40s and the 80s. During the summer the whole of America you can find decent weather.
I hope this tips give you some ideas on how to survive in a vehicle. This is just the tip of the iceberg but its worth a shot!