Vandwelling – Urban Stealth Camping

Even a van set up for camping loses a lot of its stealth. This would be hard to park on the street.

My objection to vandwelling is that it doesn’t look fun. But, for a single person in a largely urban environment, it can work as an ultra low-cost lifestyle. Vans are stealthier than a camper or RV and fit in a standard parking space. We used to have a Class C RV that also fit in a parking space but it looked like a camper.

Size and stealth are mutually exclusive. Although some people have converted small box trucks into temporary living quarters, including this guy at Google, you can’t park a box truck or camper on a side street. If stealth is on top of your list, then a van is the way to go.

Living In 60 Square Feet

For one person a van is basically a bedroom on wheels. Here’s the story of a guy who managed it and was able to get an advanced degree without going into debt. As someone who absolutely hates debt, I respect that accomplishment. In my interviews, the majority of people adopt vandwelling as a cost saving measure. Second on the list are people adopting the lifestyle for convenient travel. Even people who make the lifestyle work find that there are downsides.

Couples Have a Harder Time

If you think 60 square feet of space goes fast by yourself, try adding another person. With two people you start running into problems based simply on the air volume. Van couples, even those comfortable with the lifestyle, will still have to deal with a swampy van in the morning. That doesn’t mean they’re dirty people, that’s just normal body heat, sweat, and breathing in a small space. Air turnover is a thing.

Some Cities Are Cracking Down

Some cities, especially in expensive real estate markets, are getting tough on vandwellers. While dealing with “the knock” is uncomfortable, the majority of police departments get it right. But there are always those few that are trying to make a statement and you don’t want to be the example.

The Camper Alternative

As I stated before, vandwelling works in certain narrow circumstances, particularly in urban

I’m not going to write a book on van living, so here’s one by Chris On.

environments. Campgrounds are frequently outside of town, sometimes a long way. That leaves you with a commute if your school or job is in the city. When staying at a campground or state park, a small camper can sometimes stay at the cheaper sites but the duration may be limited. Many state and county campgrounds will limit your stay to two weeks. That means you need to rotate between different campgrounds and plan ahead. If you live out west, you have more options, including Bureau of Land Management lands, many of which are undeveloped, for free.

When choosing a mobile life, be sure and review all your options. Sometimes van living is the right choice. Just consider that, for around $600 a month, you can upgrade that lifestyle to include bathrooms, laundry facilities, gated security, WiFi, and many other amenities. Personally, I’m at the age where I like a few amenities.

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