If you are considering living in a vehicle or just hitting the road, HERE’S 11 VANLIFE TIPS to get you started.
(Ok, to be fair it’s not VANlife, it’s RVlife). Either way, here’s what we’ve learned during our first month on the road in our 1964 Clark Cortez.
1. Wash the dishes immediately
…it’s just easier. Stuck-on food takes more scrubbing and more water to clean.
other kitchen tips
- Consider your sink placement! Our two-basin sink is located *right* next to the bed, which puts us at risk of splashing dishwater on our bed, yuck! So, we do all the washing and rinsing in the basin furthest from the mattress.
- If you have a sink, get a stopper so you can wash all your dishes without running the water constantly or turning the water on and off.
- Soap/scrub all of your dishes first, then rinse everything.
- If you don’t have a sink, buy a cheap rubbermaid-type wash basin. Store your cleaning supplies in it.
- A dish drying mat (like this or this, or even a cute patterned one!) is a great investment. Put wet dishes on it to prevent excess water from getting all over the place – it’s also a great base to keep cutting boards from sliding around on countertops.
- Finally, if you use cast-iron like us, invest in a chainmail scrubber – it’s a game changer!
2. Ventilation is exceptionally important
You’ll be surprised how quickly your vehicle heats up in the sun. Our Maxxair fan was a later purchase and it is literally
indispensable in warmer weather. We also use it while cooking to help circulate air.
other ways to stay cool
- Park in an East/West orientation. It exposes less surface area of your vehicle to the sun and theoretically can keep you cooler.
- …Or park in the shade (unless you have solar panels and need to charge that day).
- Go high – for every 1000 ft of elevation gain the temperature usually drops by approximately 5 degrees F.
- A swamp cooler uses minimal electricity & could help keep temperatures more bearable. Build one yourself!
- Use a spray bottle to mist yourself down – its simple but effective. Add a drop of peppermint or lavender oil (you can also get a sampler kit like this) for a more refreshing experience!
3. It’s almost impossible to insulate too much (against heat or cold)
Make or buy window shades to help keep temperatures more comfortable. ‘Reflectix’ is a great material for this purpose – velcro works well to secure it.
- Look closely at ‘R values’ to determine the best materials to use.
- There are a LOT of different types of insulation:
- Polystyrene (rigid foam)
- Spray foam (‘great stuff’)
4. Get up early rather than staying up late
Unless you have blackout curtains, the sun will wake you up early – and as soon as the sun hits your vehicle, the temperature starts to climb. We find that by getting up with the sun, we enjoy full days, and we are usually tired and ready for bed not long after dark.
5. Have your bathroom/pooping strategy figured out ahead of time!
’nuff said…especially in urban areas.
more about pooping…
- We REALLY like unscented baby wipes to help us feel a little cleaner since we usually shower only once a week (don’t bury, pack them out).
- Keep something robust handy for digging a hole (8 inches or deeper please). Shovels work great but so do ice axes!
- Dig your hole the night before so it’s ready for you in the morning! (We don’t always do this but it sure does make it easier).
6. You’re going to bring more than you need
Even if you spend months downsizing like we did, you’ll still learn a *lot* along the way about what you need to live comfortably. Be prepared to ditch the excess at thrift stores, consignment shops, or by gifting to fellow travelers (we’ve even gotten some useful stuff this way!).
7. Everything needs a place
Seems simple enough, but it takes discipline to accomplish. Always put things back where they came from, and don’t worry it may take you a while to figure out that perfect place. Even in a small space like a van or RV little things can go ‘missing’ easily.
- Ikea is the king of cheap storage solutions – they have fabric, cardboard, plastic, and wood options to match your decor.
- label the outside of opaque containers so you know at-a-glance what is contained within.
8. If something is easily replaceable on the road, don’t bring a duplicate.
It’s rare to be more than a day away from modern conveniences in the US.
9. Bring a small tool kit and consider a small ratchet/wrench set.
Save yourself some money by fixing small things yourself instead of paying a mechanic. Obviously this takes some know-how – bring and consult your vehicle manual often.
On-board our vehicle…
- This socket & wrench set from Husky is large but has proven VERY useful.
- We also use these adjustable wrenches from Irwin all the time
10. Spend 20 minutes securing everything before driving.
Avoid the dreaded crashing of pots and pans or other belongings falling off your bed or counter.