Except for occasional naps at the side of the road, I had zero previous experience living in a vehicle. So I read, researched and prepared. Here I am, eight years later, living happily and comfortably in my standard size cargo van—with less stuff than when I started. Some items I thought were essential turned out not to be. For me. As they say, your mileage may vary.
TWO 7-GALLON WATER CONTAINERS
Everyone on the CRVL forums said we needed lots of water. So I bought two big Aqua-Tainers. By the time I finished building out the van and loading all my other essentials, there wasn’t room for two containers, so I left one behind. Then, after a few months on the road, I realized 58 pounds of water was too awkward to deal with. So I left the remaining Aqua-Tainer on the RTR free pile. I’ve used ordinary gallon jugs ever since.
CHEST OF DRAWERS
I had removed the passenger seat (which I knew from the beginning I wouldn’t need) and mounted a chest in its place. Then I spent about a year rigging ways to keep the drawers closed when making right turns. I decided I could redistribute the contents of the chest to other spots in the van, and that I would prefer to locate the fridge in its place. I donated the chest to an animal shelter thrift store.
MR. HEATER PORTABLE BUDDY
The heater spent nine months a year just taking up space. The other three months I’d use it a few minutes in the morning and in the evening. Then it began to resist lighting, even with the filter on the hose, even after replacing parts. So I tossed it in a dumpster and just used my one-burner stove for heat instead.
20-POUND PROPANE TANK
Gotta have plenty of propane for the heater and stove, right? Not so much in my case. I never used more than one tank a year. Meanwhile, it was another thing taking up space, and there was the hose to wrestle with. The 1-pound green bottles cost more per gallon than bulk, but with the small quantity I use it’s no big deal. And I could stash them in small spaces scattered around the van. I gave the tank to another vandweller.
A TOP TIER SMART PHONE
I started vandwelling with the iPhone I already had. It was with AT&T and cell service was spotty in the areas of the West where I spent most of my time. When the contract expired I switched to Verizon and got the latest iPhone, because that’s what we’re supposed to do as good consumers, right? I also got a hot spot because I use a lot of data. The monthly bill hurt a little, so when the iPhone was paid off I dropped it from my contract and replaced it with a $45 on-special LG phone and a pre-paid SmartTalk plan. It suits my needs just fine. I sold the iPhone on eBay.
These are just the major things. There have been dozens of small items I learned I didn’t need. Getting rid of them makes me feel good. I like to travel light. And with more room.
Do you have 5 Things about the nomadic life you want to share? Experiences? Wisdom? Tips? Stupid jokes? And do you want to make a couple of bucks? Write it up, include any relevant pictures, and email it to firstname.lastname@example.org
I love this type of list! So much wisdom.
Thanks for the tip.
I was pleased to see I did away with 4 of the 5 things you listed! I won’t divulge which one I kept, but I’m a retired Verizon employee which probably gives it away anyway! =) Thanks, Al!
Good to know I am not the only one who needed to get rid of “essentials”! Saving money by buying the larger quantities (for example, large size laundry detergent) turned out to be not a good idea. Space is priceless!
I spent most of my adult life living in areas with large populations of singles and empty-nesters, so the markets usually stocked small sizes of products in addition to the large and super-jumbo sizes. But now that I’m out in “normal” America those small sizes are rare. So there are some things I just do without because I don’t have the room. I was thrilled the other day to find a 4-pack of chicken thighs instead of the usual 12-pack.
Thanks for sharing. I just got back from my stint on the road and went there with your poem on divesting….”one less thing feeling guilty for it’s neglect”. I’m spring cleaning at my brick and mortar place with that in mind. I also hope to be aware of and feel good about the stuff I’m not buying, not just the release of stuff I don’t need. This list helps.
Boy…I too was overloaded….guess I’m a clothing, shoes and blanket hoarder….had to narrow things down…didn’t need my huge pots and pans either….why did I bring tons of cosmetics and toiletries?….. well, thanks to you all and everyone I’ve met….I’m now living a simpler life…with fewer things..what did I expect?..A 150 square foot bathroom?….
I agree. I am part time and have learned through trial and error. I got tired of taking things I didn’t need like too much water. So each time I went on the road I started sorting. Over time I came to realize that too much stuff was just as bad as not having what you needed. One side result of too much was that I was constantly sorting and found it hard to stay organized.
Been watching you for years and you still come up with great ideas. Always a pleasure hearing from you. Much love brother…
I actually do use my buddy heater a lot. Every morning in fact when I’m in the desert. I also love my larger propane tank, but I’ve built a kitchen into the back of my Sienna, so it has a home. I also use my iPhone to connect with internet when on my laptop. I do agree about the water and chest of drawers, though.
This is such an interesting post. After 9 years on the road, I now carry 3 7-gallon water tanks, plus a new 4 gallon tank I found abandoned at an RV water station. I’m now on my 2nd 20-pound propane bottle hooked up to my 1 burner Coleman stove. I did give up my Little Buddy heater about 5 years ago, to another nomad. The other day, I gave away its smaller cousin. Over the last 2 days, I’ve been purging so much stuff as I’ve been absolutely stuffed to the gills. It feels so great to get rid of stuff.
Have no idea how you survive with 1 lb propane bottles.. those are expensive and don’t last long.. Tool chest makes sense… The water is something based on personal experience.. rather have more water storage.
Those buddy heaters must be a PIA.. everyone complains about them
I use an 11 lb propane tank. It’s much easier to move around and fits under my bed when not in use.
Through the years of living in a van I’ve learned some lessons about space saving and the practical use of certain things such as the five items listed in the post. Having large containers of water was something I quit doing years ago. I only carry gallon jugs of water. I also thought the buddy heater was the way to go, so to cut down on stuff in my van I now only use the single burner Coleman power pack for cooking and heating. Less really is better.
> I realized 58 pounds of water was too awkward to deal with
A potable hose will let you fill the jug in place instead of heaving it around. “If you have water you have 1000 problems. If you don’t have water you have 1 problem.” 🙂
I also use my propane stove as a heater rather than the Buddy. I follow the weather so usually just cooking inside is enough to warm the place.
Filling it wasn’t the real issue. Using it was.
I agree that we continue to minimize as time passes on the road. It does sadden my heart to hear that you choose disposable propane bottles. What a waste. Use it once and throw it in the trash, not to mention how many I have seen littering our public lands. What a shame. . .
Why am I NOT SURPRISED TO SEE MY PAST COMMENT DELETED!!!!! I didn’t even mention that you’re a prick, and an arrogant cocksucker!
I searched all the deleted comments, trash and spam and only found a whole lot of comments from years ago.