Park Out Of The Way And Know What Permits You Need
The first question every car sleeper must answer: Where to park? With apps like AllStays and Hipcamp, you can figure out where you can stay legally and not be bothered. They offer a variety of free and paid locations to set up for the night. U.S. Forest Service roads are generally open to overnight parking and camping. Be sure to follow any local or temporary exceptions, display any required passes or permits as indicated, and don’t block the way for others. And dispersed camping is widely available in national forests and Bureau of Land Management areas.
Plan Your Cooking Setup
If youre going to be living in a car, its important to know what youll do for cooking. When I hung out with my cousin recently, he had a microwave hooked up to a Goal Zero 1400, which he charged through the cigarette lighter when driving around.
Id never seen anything like it!
Microwaves to take tons of power, so if you dont have the option to buy a portable power station, Id recommend using a simple camping stove.
We use a single burnerJetBoil Camping Stove and also cant live without our GCI Folding Camping Table, both of which you see in the above photo.
This equipment allows us to cook both inside and outside our van, depending on the circumstances and the weather.
For camping stove options check this out: The Best Camping Stoves for Van Life.
Other people prefer using an induction stove system, but you need access to a power supply to run an induction cooktop.
In David Swansons Prius camper, you can see in the photo below how he uses a one-burner induction cooktop. He took out his passenger seat and added a piece of oak for a table and cooking surface.
David does have solar panels on top of his Prius that allow him to run this type of stove.
You also dont absolutely need a camping stove to start living out of your car. A backpacking stove like this JetBoil Flash Cooking Systemalso works for simple things like heating up water for coffee, freeze-friend meals or ramen.
Need a way to keep food cold? Here are some options for you:
Are You Ready To Get To Your Next Adventure
With all these options, its impossible not to get excited about hitting the road and having nothing but you and your car to get you to the next adventure, so let us leave you with some final thoughts:
- Variety! All of these options are good options, and it is a great idea to mix them up. The more places you have in your back pocket, the more flexible you are. Variety also keeps you safe, if people dont know your pattern, they cant catch you off guard.
- COURTEOUS AND CONSCIENTIOUS! I can not stress this enough, if you want people to leave you be, be liveable! Dont leave a mess, dont blast the radio or whip out the old BBQ in the middle of someones street or place of business, and be discreet. Most people arent bothered by a parked car, but someone in a parked car can make some people nervous. Cover your windows and limit the times you come in and out of the car. Weve said it before, but this doubles as safety precautions for you.
Want more advice before committing? Then check out ourUltimate Guide to Sleeping in your Car.
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Tips For Cooking On The Road
Your camp kitchen is the one area that can quickly get out of control if you let it. Its tempting to pack every conceivable pan, dish, utensil, opener, tool, and appliance that you might need. But its best to keep it simple. Take only one of everything, focusing on items that can pull double- or triple-duty. A decent mug, for example, can be used for soup, cereal, and coffee without the need to pack a separate vessel for each. Sporks are versatile and can replace a handful of utensils and other plasticware. The Titanium Spork from Light My Fire is lightweight, indestructible, and non-corrosive.
For camping cookware, we recommend two all-in-one sets. GSI Outdoors entire line of camp gear is ultra-portable and well-made. The Gourmet Kitchen Set 11 includes all the cookware spoon, spatula, cutting board, scraper, whisk, and condiment containers you need to cook almost any basic meal. The two-person Pinnacle Backpacker Cookset includes just about everything else. The compact nesting set features a two-liter pot, a Teflon-coated frypan, a strainer lid, insulated mugs with sip-through lids, bowls, and a folding pot handle.
Folding Table And Chairs For Outdoor Relaxation
Living in a car means youre going to be spending most of your time outside the car. Think of your car as the place youll sleep at night.
During the day, especially if youre boondocking, youll need somewhere to sit and hang out.
We bought this small folding portable table from REI which is just amazing, along with these two Moonlence camping chairs, which are perfect for a car or a small van.
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Start By Choosing The Right Vehicle
The biggest variable in this whole process is the type of car that you choose to live in. If youre living in a car because you have to, then you probably dont have much choice here, but if youre doing this by choice then making an educated decision here will make the biggest difference in the results you get when living in your car.
Larger vehicles are the obvious winners when choosing a car. SUVs, vans, crossovers, station wagons, and large sedans are going to be the best vehicles to live in. Pickup trucks can also work if you have a large cab or you make some kind of living space in the bed of the truck.
Large vans have a lot of room that can be modified to make a pretty comfortable living space, if its done well, they can rival some small RVs! A pickup with a topper or a pop-up camper of some kind in the bed is also a great idea.
SUVs and things like a Subaru hatchback are probably next in order of preference. They should give you enough room to lay down pretty comfortably, and they normally offer things like power inverters and other extras that make living in them a little bit easier than common cars.
Crossovers and sedans fall a distant 3rd in the list of vehicle types that Id go for if I was going to live in a car. Theyre just too cramped to offer a good sleeping area other than reclining in the seat and the extras that are common in more outdoorsy vehicles normally arent there.
Planning Your Van Build Layout
Before you jump into electrical, purchasing refrigerators, or installing a fan, you should get an idea of what you want your layout to look like. A lot of this is going to depend on your circumstances or travel style. Consider the following:
- What type of van do you own?
- Is it a high-top or standard?
- Do you need to be stealth?
- Do you plan to travel off-grid?
- Are there windows?
- Do you need a toilet, shower, sink?
- How much storage space is needed?
- Will you be working in the van?
- What do you plan to cook on?
- How will you store food?
- How do you intend to power electronics?
- Can you pack items with multiple functions?
- How will you evenly distribute weight?
- What is your budget?
To start, our best advice is to look at other vans first. Take your time to browse through , , or websites like ours. Keep in mind no van is perfect, and its very common for people to change their layouts after trying the lifestyle for a while.
To give an example: when we first built our van, our bed was close enough to the roof that we were unable to sit up straight. As it turns out, that was a major pain. About a year into our trip, we re-built the bed to lower it about 4-inches. That small change made all the difference and we were a lot more comfortable moving forward.
Seek examples of other van builds and make it your own. There are only so many ways to re-arrange a camper, and no reason to re-invent the wheel. Check out some of the posts below to see examples of our favorite van builds.
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The Roadwarrior: Living The Nomadic Boondocking Lifestyle
Boondocking can be a rewarding off the grid experience when done with a well-built RV, camping van, or even a tent trailer. It can be a full-time lifestyle that allows you to wander the country, and live free of the limits of traditional living.
It can also be a survival tool for those who aresuffering from financial hardship andhave no other way to live.
I have variously lived in my car, and severalRVs, both on and off the grid. It is surprisingly easy to be comfortable andlive a quiet, hassle-free and rewardinglife. It can also be pure misery in the dead of winter when the inadequacies ofyour preps hit you like a ton of bricks.
Many boondocking guides are focused on the RVliving aspect, and disregard the other elements of people forced into it, orwho choose to live a more nomadic life. It is impossible to do more than abroad survey in an article like this, but you should come away with a solidgrounding in how to approach different elements of boondocking, and moreimportantly an idea of the mindset needed.Boondocking is simply anevolution of the old urge to travel and be free, or conversely to make do withwhat you have and try to better yourself in the process. No matter where youare on the boondocking spectrum, it doesnt have to be hard, and it can even bepretty darn nice.
Preparing For Winter Conditions
Winter often brings with it a slew of unfavorable conditions such as snow, ice, and wind. If you live in a climate that already experiences harsh winters then youre definitely going to want to have some tools at your disposal to help deal with the elements.
Items such as shovels, tire chains, windshield scrapers and the like can be real life savers when living in your car. If theres any chance at all of getting your vehicle stuck, youre going to want to have these items on hand. Kitty litter, believe it or not, can also help your tires gain a bit of traction on the ice.
Another condition to be aware of when living in your car is humidity. Excess humidity inside your vehicle locks in moisture and can keep you or your wet clothes from drying out. It can also prevent you from retaining precious heat. This is a huge issue especially if youre trying to fall asleep and cant because your cold and wet.
A good way to fight excess moisture inside your vehicle is with a portable dehumidifier/moisture absorber like . These are great for keeping small spaces dry and free from mildew odor. Keeping one of these in your vehicle next to your wet clothes can go a long way towards preventing moisture from building up in your car. Be sure to always remove wet clothes as soon as possible and keep them separate until they dry.
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If You Still Have A Banking Account Make Sure You Can Access It From Any Bank
Some transactions take a while to clear. Generic ATMs hold out more money than you requested when you use them if you have a high yield checking account.
How much will you be using that card and how much is your minimum? Try and get enough money out at the ATM to cover you for about a week at a time. Then go into the bank and get quarters, ones, small change for laundry or coffee at gas stations.
Consider going without a bank, although that can backfire real quick. Unfortunately, savings accounts are not accessible at a generic ATM.
Keep a copy of every receipt that you produce. When you travel out of a car consider a small file container, then label accordingly. Ive found a 13-slot file container that was the size slightly bigger than an 8 x 12 look for one around the tax filing in a retail store.
Find A Few Reliable Sleeping Spots
What about when you want to live in your car in one specific area? This is interesting and challenging because you can establish more creature comforts, but you have to stay on your toes. As far as sleeping goes, put effort into finding a few spots where you can sleep overnight legally. National forest or BLM land is ideal. Bonus points if any of the locations have bathrooms.
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Chevy Astro Our Favorite Budget Vehicle You Can Live In
You dont have to break the bank to buy a brand new car to live in. I found this 1994 Chevy Astro conversion van on Craigslist for just $6,000 with only 57,000 miles.
Ive barely done anything to convert it into a traditional camper. We just fold down the back bench seat and prop our feet on a couple of stools I found at TJ Maxx, and its become our camper!
However, I do have a few vital items in here for camping and traveling full-time, including a portable 37-quart ARB fridge I cant live without. And two 50-watt flexible solar panels connected to an inverter that runs my fridge and powers my devices.
There are several types of Astro vans you can choose from. There are Chevy Astro cargo vans, passenger vans and conversion vans, which are roomier with a fiberglass roof. There are normal back hatches or Dutch Style back hatches.
You can find really affordable Chevy Astro vans on the market sometimes just $3,000 or less. Some people say their old Astro vans have gotten over 300,000 miles!
Check out this tour of my Chevy Astro van:
Places You Can Legally Sleep In Your Car And Park Overnight
Sometimes on a long car ride, you need to get some well-earned rest. In this article, I will be outlining 19 of the best places to sleep in your car on a road trip. Ideally, you want to stop somewhere that is safe, quiet, and free of charge. Its also important to have access to facilities such as using the bathroom or taking a shower in the morning.
I will be discussing how to find overnight parking nearby for you to stop and spend the night. There will be options that involve sleeping in your vehicle and others that involve pitching a tent or taking advantage of cheap accommodation. There are often many easy places you can park overnight and have at least a few hours sleep before continuing your journey.
All of the locations discussed below are places where you can sleep in your car legally, so read on for full information on each one. You should always check the law in the state you are in before following the advice in this article. I will also be discussingsleeping at rest stops, Walmart, and other safe spots.
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Open A Window Enough To Ventilate
Breathing all night in a vehicle will fog up windows and collect moisture where you dont want it. Ventilation is key. Open your sunroof or a window just wide enough so that an animal or person cant get in. Get some cheap mesh and cut it 23 inches wider than the opening. Stuff the edges around the space to keep out the bugs and voilà, no moisture. Try to dry out wet clothes as much as possible before turning in for the night. As a just-in-case, keep a squeegee in your car to wipe down windows in the morning.
Honda Element Best Suv You Can Live In
The roomy Honda Element is our top pick for the best SUV to live in. These vehicles are a cult classic among people living in cars, even though they are no longer manufactured. However, you can find some great deals on a used Honda Element.
This SUV camper is one of the best vehicles you can live in for several reasons.
Some models come with four-wheel drive, so you can explore more rugged destinations. Its easy to convert into a camper thanks to its boxy, open design and all-weather rubber floors. Plus, it has a reliable engine and bi-parting side doors for easy access.
The cab is big and can be expanded with an add-on pop-top if you have some extra funds.
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Tip #3 Keep A Stash Of Hot Drinks & Water
Eating a hot meal or drinking a hot drink can help keep your body warm. If possible, keep a few insulated thermoses full of hot coffee or tea inside your vehicle. Having a few of these on hand can be helpful when you need that little extra boost in body heat. Hot water will do the same it just wont taste as good.
Invest In The Right Car For You
Each individuals needs, budget, and situation are unique some people are choosing to live in their car and some are having the choice made for them. If you can upgrade to a vehicle that has the right amount of space and amenities for what you need it to do. If you are stuck with what you got, downsize as much as possible and invest in some creature comforts.
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