Living in a Box Van
Today we have another guest post from my very good friends Beth and Forrest. They have a great blog (http://3upadventures.com/) that I really enjoy and this was a recent post to it. I thought we would all benefit from it and Beth generously agreed to let me repost it here. Thanks Beth!!
No, don’t worry, we haven’t switched vehicles again! Instead, we’ve been talking about the many different versions of vehicle dwelling we’ve tried in the last couple of years and remembered F’s old box truck. This is what he was driving when I met him, filled with toys! I suppose I should have known what I was getting into…
Way back in 2008, F bought a partially converted UHaul truck and turned it into a total bachelor pad box truck, complete with roof top driving range and a shifter cart on the wall.
When he purchased the box truck, the garage/living space wall and bathroom were already installed. The walls were also insulated and wired. F purchased the cabinets at a thrift store. (The trophy was earned by F at a motorcycle trials event.)
Prior to the Mom’s Attic days, this UHaul’s cabover only had room for a twin bed; perfect for a confirmed bachelor. Ottomans formed the seats for the “dinette.” Not pictured is the couch that was opposite the dinette.
The garage had enough space for his adventure bike, trials bike, shifter cart, and a mountain bike. I wish he still had the Easy Rider poster.
Immediately behind the curtain is an RV toilet. To the right of the toilet is a 3×3 shower stall. This kept the toilet segregated from the living space to cut down on any possible smells from the black water tank. On top of the shower is a small “under sink” propane hot water heater.
And of course, the roof top driving range:
A question for Bob and others who camp despersed. About how long is your average stay at any given camp?
CAE, that’s a good question. On my last year in review posts I will put a summary of my camps for the year and how long I stayed. I have a poor sense of time so some of it will be guesses.
I don’t think there is an answer to that because we are all so different. Beyond that it changes with the seasons and even more so year to year. When I am on a trip I usually stay 2-3 nights in one place and move on. But I may come to a place I especially like and stay for 2-3 weeks. In the winter it is usually for at least a month at a time, but there are many exceptions. A lot has to do with the enforcement in that area. If place is working and there is no enforcement I will stay as long as weather will let me. Mainly because of my gas budget–moving is expensive in gas.
Why did you 2 get out of the truck was it the gas mileage, up keep or what, looks like a nice rig and just wondering about how much you had in the build most of the time i’ve learned it’s cheaper to buy anything all ready build than to do it yourself if you can find what you are looking for a lot of people have big plains till they get into something and get tired of it and will sale it for a lot less than half what they have in it,
Jim, hopefully Beth will answer that.
Forrest had this truck five years ago. He sold it partially because of the gas mileage, partially because he had other motorcycle based travel goals, and partially because he met a girl who was in graduate school and couldn’t travel all the time. 🙂
Any idea what kind of mileage a rig like that would get? Was this a diesel or gas-powered truck? Regardless, looks like a nice set up that could give some Class A and C motorhomes a run for their money.
Walt, Forrest answered that in an earlier response. He said it got 6-8 mpg.
Sorry, I missed or forgot that. Based on that mileage figure, I’m guessing the truck is a gas model.
Walt, yes, it was a Chevy 366
That is a nice set up. But my question is: “How could you let the Easy Rider Poster slip through your fingers?”
about bust my gut open laughing at the “driving range”. Too bad they don’t make photovoltaic astro turf….
I would like to know how many people are living this life stile because they want to and how many are living the life stile because they have to not that i’m knocking it i wish i was out there wright now, but i’m sure like me there is a lot of people that would like to know things like what do you do in a van when the weather is bad and you can’t get out,what do you do when you are in the middle of nowhere and the battery is dead and no one is around,what about being out there and a pickup load of drunks drive up the list could just go on would like to see a post on this plus any other points others might have and again i’m not in anyway knocking this way of life wish i was there now
Jim, I’ll give you a quick answer to those questions:
1) How many choose it? I don’t have any statistics, but in my experience the great majority choose it although there is an element of necessity as well. In other words they still had other options, but this was by far the most appealing one.
2) Entertain yourself in bad weather? Just like you did at home. Read, write, journal, work on crafts, surf the net work on crafts and hobbies, listen to the radio, watch TV, watch DVDs. Sit an ponder life and nature!
3) Broke down in the middle of nowhere? I’m prepared! I have 1) solar with plenty of battery power 2) honda generator with battery charger 3) Motorcycle to ride for help 4) Bicycle to ride for help 4) A friend nearby who will help. Problem solved!!
4) Truck load of drunks drives up. It’s never happened to me, to anybody I know, neither have I ever heard of it happening. I’m not going to live my life in fear of virtually impossible possibilities. I do have a CCW, a .357 and a M4 “assault rifle” (the most ridiculous phrase ever!). If I can’t drive away or talk and reason myself out of a situation I can fight if I absolutely have to as a last resort to save my life or the lives of the people around me. But, that is exactly the same if I lived n a house except in a van I probably can drive away from the problem.
Very good points there. I’d say the most scary part of the life style for me isn’t the maybe’s of drunk rednecks so much as the breaking down somewhere that I can’t get help. I only have a push pedal bike!
I agree Myddy. I think breakdowns are the greatest fear of all vandwllers. When your van is your home, you can’t afford to have it broke down. I wrote a post about that here:
The key thing is when you go into the backcountry is to be prepared for as many worst-case situations as you can.
I paid $2200 for the truck in 2008. Put about $500 into it, mostly used stuff. And sold it a year later for $3500. UHaul trucks are cheap. The big ones like this get 6-8mpg!!! Crazy I drove it around the US. But if you can park it for long time periods they are among the cheapest ways to have a “big” live in rig.
Hmm, as many RV blogs as I read I’m sure I’ve seen this posted somewhere, but I’ll ask anyway: what kind of lands do you find that would be long term camping? BLM lands have a two week limit, is that correct? Or perhaps each state has its own rules?
Thanks, Bob, as always, for the amazing information you post for us on your blog. I’ve been a longtime reader.
–Jool in N. Texas
Jool, there is BLM land called LTVAs (Long Term Visitor Areas) that are designed for just what you want. You can camp on them for up to 7 months (if you can endure the heat). They cost $180 and are all located in Arizona and California. Get more inf here:
1. I for one have adopted this by choice, as the only affordable conventional alternates were in the “awful” category.
2. I’m in an old, highly affordable TT, so bad weather is not an issue. I’d go nutzoid in a simple converted cargo van, probably even in good weather. Need a window.
3. Dead battery: swap in one of the rig’s deep-cycles, or rewire the 45A solar charger over to the tow vehicle’s battery for half a day.
4. Drunks head for town to annoy people, not deserted trails. Still, openly admire their truck. Ask them what they’re drinking and, if applicable, ask to swap for some of what you have on hand. Then, if you’re on a completely deserted remote trail, ask them if they hit the drinking party trailer 5 miles further down yet, “the big Airstream with big Party Hearty sign and all the lonely foreign women tourists sitting outside. They were going to leave because nobody was coming by, but they might still be there. 5 miles, turn right on a small side-trail, 2.1 miles, sharp left.” When they take off, start breaking camp. 🙂
As always Doug, great advice!
A slight finesse of the question 4 tactic that might reduce the need to pack up and go. Ask them if they’re looking for the party TOO. Because there was a Tahoe loaded with girls that came through about an hour earlier looking for some party. You don’t know anything about a party, but they headed off that way. Then about fifteen minutes later they came back through and headed off the other way.
An awesome improvement! Perhaps a Tahoe loaded with girls…and cold beer! The only trouble is, if it starts to get too good a story, I might fall for it myself and insist on climbing in with the drunks to start looking for the party. Potential negative outcome, not to mention my own eventual disappointment.
Thinks to you all for taking the time to answering my questions
Mr doug b i see you on here a lot, how long have you been living your free life what type of rig do you live and travel in how do you have it set up for boondocking
That’s my kind of box truck. Having raced karts myself on dirt tracks and the sprint tracks nearby, I know the adrenaline rush that can be associated. Kind of another reason why I decided to convert the 20 foot trailer that my dad and used for racing.
If you are worried about breakdowns, get a AAA PLUS RV policy. For 175 a year, they will tow you anywhere up to 100 miles away. Most RV road service clubs only will tow you to the nearest help.
The other thing is…if you are living on the road, you have to be reasonable to start with. Loving a VW microbus, does not make it a good vehicle to take off in. Be scientific about your situation. If you cannot afford the breakdowns a big class A RV or a truck like the one pictured, get a cargo van with a travel trailer behind it or even just a cargo van.
(Be careful about the Ford OD transmission though. They cost like hell when they pop…and they WILL pop, usually by 120,000 or so…)
Being afraid of stumbling is normal, but it also keeps us from doing what we really want to do.
You cannot be worried about the drunks in a pickup truck…you look at them as a possible source of weed!!!
Jerry, that is all good advice, thanks!
I agree about AAA, but the question was what do you do when you break down in the middle of nowhere and AAA does not work in National Forests, they won’t come and get you there. That’s why I try to have a back-up plan in place.
I have a friend who, while travelling in a VW van, was approached by a truckload of intimidating rednecks in eastern OR. Turned out they were totally friendly, not drunk, just looking for weed!
Most people are good, we just tend to think the worst!! I’m glad that went so well for you!
Hi, My name is V . I am planing to joint the van life after my lease is over this June.. of 2018. I am searching and planing to buy either a van or enclosed trailer , I am a woman that never drag anything behind my car before . i was looking at runaway camper and weeroll camper trailer. I would be more comfortable with a van but I also have 3 dogs , I am getting out of apartment due to i don’t have to deal with hassle with the dogs deposit, weight and breed restriction . i am currently pay $1300 a month with $400 non refundable per each dog . I am limit to the apartment that will takes my dogs . I am tried of that . Can anyone recommend between a small camper and a van ? Other thing is that i have an old 1998 Honda Civic EX . I don’t think it can drag anything .