Christina Applegate once said “I want to live in a van down by the river.” Don’t we all? Well, maybe not the river—maybe by the crag or the trailhead, on a beach with perfect swells—regardless of where you park it, vanlife is a nearly universal desire. The rad thing? It’s a totally attainable dream. Here’s how to make it happen.
Buy a Van
It seems obvious because it is. This is your starting point. The beginning of your dream life—climbing all day, partying all night, sleeping in until a park ranger knocks on the window.
Any van will do the job but the kind you choose can say a lot about you. A minivan says “I live with my mom in the off-season.” A Sprinter says “I’m in this for the long haul. I’m invested.” A windowless Econoline says “I’m a real dirtbag” (or “I have candy” if you park too close to a school).
Rims and chrome are for the urbane set. Vanlife requires stickers to show you’re legit and curtains to keep prying eyes off your gear. The essential stickers are as follows:
(1) Sticker from your local outfitter
(1) Sticker from your favorite national park
(3) Stickers from “sponsors” (brands giving you or a buddy pro deals)
(1) Sticker from Outdoor Tech
You can add to these, but never drop below the minimum.
If you can land a guide or instructor job, pick up a few solar panels and a second battery for your van. This will let you charge up during the day and keep the party going all night. How can you drop that sick edit to your social media channels without power?
Van speakers are alright, I guess, but sometimes you need more. Sometimes you need less. Pull on a pair of Tuis when you need to focus or spread the sound around your campsite/parking lot with a Bluetooth speaker to really get things started.
Fold the seats down and sleep on that mess? I don’t think so. Pull the seats out and sell them online. There’s a family somewhere who needs them. You need the space in back for a bed, or at least a foam pad.
I’ve always been a big fan of the sleeping platform because it lets me store gear underneath and sleep on top, adding insulation and cargo space while still letting me spread out in my jams.
Now that your van’s looking (and sounding) good, it’s time to head out. Start with a roadtrip—just a couple days away from the grind—to see how it feels. Go somewhere close to home and relax. Invite friends or don’t—that’s up to you.
It’s custom. It’s comfortable. You’ve got power and tunes. It’s even road tested. Now it’s time. Go—live the vanlife like it was meant to be lived. Head to Yosemite or Yellowstone, Seven Sisters, Grand Canyon, or Vail. Regardless of where you go, you’ll always be home because “Home is where you park it.” Just don’t forget to pack your government cheese.