I really like the idea of the vanlife lifestyle, but I can’t really afford it. I want to talk to people who have been living in a tent full time car camping. Is it do-able? What are the major pros and cons?
Just like anything, its doable as long as you can tolerate it. If you live for a few months out of your car and in a tent, you might really start to miss a bed haha
I lived in a tent/out of my car for about 3.5 years when I was a park guide in California because we were always traveling and we weren’t in one spot long enough to need a permanent house. The way that made it doable was that I always had sites for before and after the trip that were reliable where I could leave my car (and all my worldly possessions) safely when out in the backcountry and we had a home base building where we could go to shower or do laundry when needed in between trips. Once you get down the schedule of re-packing food, ice, gear needed the most, and getting rid of the excess it is quite relaxing. It is also nice now to have a place to unpack gear and clean it out but I do miss being able to just have a car and that’s it. Living like this for that long made it really easy now to not worry about finding a camp spot or worrying about where i’m off to next when I do travel. The traveling in the moment and unknown part is the best form of living.
I live for long spurts in my car and tent. I take off for my blog and might be gone a month or 3 and with that I usually am very limited on amenities. I thought at first this would be super hard but the more you adapt to your needs and how to really focus on what you need vs want it becomes more and more easy. Larger cities can be a challenge but there are lots of options out there if you are able to be flexible. I found that many states are very accommodating and have options for car camping when you cannot find tent camping locations. The cons are going to be the adjustment process such as finding locations when in populated areas to sleep and how to shower (I suggest an inexpensive gym membership if you are located next to cities often and investing in a solar shower if you are more remote and off grid) also the ability to work from wherever you are can be tricky. Traveling like I do I take one day out of the week to make sure I am near wifi to download and upload, this is easy to find at libraries and coffee shops, even some Walmarts. Safety is another thing to consider when you carry your world around with you. Make sure you don’t make yourself a target by allowing people to see all your possessions are in your car…The pros of course will outweigh this adjustment process as you have your world open to so many new views and opportunities.
I lived in a van tent camp for a 2 month. We used some of these tents. It’s another life. A little bit different. If you can find good place to stop (it will be good if you have a motorhome) and if your job didn’t depend on location, it worth to try.
I would check out the Cheap RV Living videos on the subject…
Bob Wells does a LOT of good for the nomad community…
It IS possible, but not going to be an easy transition compared to vanlife. Most notably working / urban boondocking in a tent can be a lot more difficult, if not outright impossible… Particularly in the south, and east…
Having said that, if you are out west, and able to easily find boondocking spots within easy access of employment opportunities, your options REALLY open up…
Camping Necessities: Beyond the Basics
- Satellite Phone – A satellite phone while camping is key for safety. Below we’ll go in depth for why it’s so important that you never go on a camping trip without one.
- Batteries – So you have your flashlights and other electronics ready to roll right? Make sure you bring spare batteries for whatever it is you plan to bring. We also recommend looking into a portable charger that you can rely on when you need to charge up devices as well.
- First Aid Kit – Maybe this is a no brainer, but I think for a lot of families, it’s not. Or at least, they consider it and then think “Nah, we won’t need that.” But getting scrapes, bruises and burns is really not that uncommon when you’re out in the wilderness – especially since you’ll likely be going for hikes and swims, as well. You DO NOT want to end up a in a situation where you’re wishing you had a first aid kit, but don’t. There are lots of options perfect for all of your outdoor adventures.
- Portable Jump Starter – If you’re noticing an “emergency” pattern here, you’d be correct. So often people don’t account for situations like this, when it really should be forefront in their mind. A portable jump starter will ensure you don’t end up in the middle of a nowhere with a car that won’t start. Can you imagine how much this happening could throw a wrench in your plans or become a dangerous situation? Take the jump starter so you’ll avoid a very sticky situation.
- Trash Bags – Campers go through A LOT of trash. And it’s likely you’ll be in a spot where there aren’t trash cans close by. Though you can always burn any paper trash that you might have in your campfire, you won’t be able to do this with everything. Trash can then be driven to nearby trashcans, stored in bear-resistant containers, or stored temporarily in your locked vehicle.
- Paper Towels – People new to camping often forget little things like this because they are likely used to staying in hotels. Paper towels come in incredibly handy and you will definitely be kicking yourself if you leave them behind.
- Duct Tape – This is likely one that you’d forget if we weren’t telling you to bring it. Duct take has an array of uses, in fact, Reserve America lists From covering that hiking blister to marking a trail so you don’t get lost (be sure to peel them off on your way back), there are more uses than you’d imagine.
- Firewood – Depending on the campsite you’re headed to, you may be able to purchase firewood when you arrive. However, you don’t want to assume this is the case. Be sure to visit the website of the campground you’re off to in order to find out if it’s available on-site. If it’s not, you can easily get some from a local hardware store or gas station. You will need to purchase several bundles to ensure you can build all the fires you’ll need for the duration of your trip.
- Fire Starting Kit – You may think you’re good to go with firewood and a book of matches, but you may be without fire if this is all you have. Starting campfires is tougher than you might think and a good way to avoid the challenges you might face is to bring along a Firestarter kit (you’ll need a new kit for each fire
- Multi-tool with Pocket-Knife – This will come in handy more than you can imagine. You don’t want to be stuck on a camping trip without one of these helpful gadgets. Multi-tool pocket knives offer a range of blades and accessories – we recommend deluxe models that ensure you have access to anything you may need. Leatherman is a great brand to check out.
Lastly, we know water is an obvious one, but often people don’t bring enough of it. You don’t ever want to find yourself in a situation where you don’t have enough water for the length of your stay and you always need extra in case of an emergency as well. On top of that, you need to account for any water you may use to clean yourself off or clean up dirty dish Suggests bringing 1 gallon of water per person per day for drinking and an ADDITIONAL gallon of water per person per day for other water needs (or if an emergency arises). And if you’re bringing along Fido – make sure you account for your faithful friend, as well.
thanks for sharing the checklist and I endorse your point 10, campers must have pocket knives as its the most handy tool used while camping
I think camping is incomplete without knife .
Camping it’s not easy, but it’s normal! There is a different tents so if you want full-time living in a tent, you just allowed yourself anything and do everything to live in.
At first it’s fascinating, but then it’s like a routine
It becomes cramped a lot of work. I have lived in my wall tent for a month at a time running tree planting crews. If I didn’t have to work a couple of months would be okay. After while taking a shower becomes a high priority, a comfortable bed, some furniture. those things are not that easy to travel with.