Van Life Prep: 5 Crucial Things to Know in Advance

Van Life

I’m not going to provide you with the meaning of van life, nor give you any other life-changing information here. What I am going to provide you is my honest opinion when it comes to van life and 5 things I wish I would have known about van life.

Even with these items, I’m discussing, I have no plans to change my full-time living situation. But, my experiences may help you to shape yours.

5 Things I wish I knew Before Jumping Into Van Life
A composting toilet but not our toilet

#1 – First and foremost, composting toilets (this is a link for those who do not know what a composting toilet is). In a van or an RV, there is no such thing as a composting toilet.

Sure, you fill the container with coconut coir, sawdust, or peat moss as used in composting and turn it about often, but that is where the comparison ends. This is not the complete process of composting.

In a cold composting process such as this, it would take a few months in order for the material to be considered compostable. So if you have a composting toilet and you think you are doing your part, think again, you’re just throwing your poo in the garbage. Oh, and those who say they do not smell, I beg to differ.

We have a composting toilet; however, we no longer use the composting part of this toilet. So, in the end, it is just an overly-priced urine collector. It’s not even good at that job either since the container only holds maybe two days’ worth of urine for two people. I’ll admit though, it sure is nice in an emergency!

For those folks that still wish to pursue the van life toilet, there are some good options out there. Just know that they truly are not composting your waste.

If there is a company out there that would like to partner on an incinerating toilet, I will give you my honest feedback. So, using a public bathroom has been our go-to solution in van life.

van life window without the shade

#2 – Windows. Unless you are going the stealth route in your van conversion, you’ll want windows. Windows are nice to have, but they also cause a lot of frustration, at least for me.

During the summer months, they allow a lot of heat transfer, but this is where window shades come in handy. But this is a double-edged sword, if you do not use them, then the heat from the sun will heat up the interior.

If you use the shades, you are no longer utilizing the window to let in light, so it is darker inside your converted van.

van life window with shade

Now during the winter months, there is an additional problem, moisture. Oh, condensation, my arch enemy. with two adults and two medium size dogs, there is a fair amount of breathing happening inside this tiny space. The easiest way to combat this is ventilation. Creating airflow from one end of the van to the other allows for this excess moisture in the air to escape.

During even colder months, and I’m talking about 0 degrees colder, you do not desire too many vents or fans moving air in and out, sort of making the heating system useless or working too hard. So what is one supposed to do in this situation? Deal with it! Mitigate the best you can and just know you are not alone.

van life sink

#3 – Doing Dishes. Granted, when you moved into a van, you greatly downsized the number of dishes you have. But, you still have to wash them. If you have water stored on board in water tanks, or jerry cans, you do not have unlimited water at your disposal. You really have to rethink your process.

The other side of the coin here is the used water, where is it going to go? Another tank or another jerry can? When I wash, I like to use a good amount of soap and scrubbing, then get rid of all the soap suds. When you are in water-saving mode (a full-time job in van life) you really have to be careful during washing your dishes.

#4 – Laundry. This would be another area, where more than likely, you greatly reduce the number of clothes you used to wear. However, these clothes you’ve held onto still need to be washed. I’m going with you do not have a clothes washer and dryer in your van. We have a big van, but not that big. So, we are always on the hunt for a laundry mat.

There are a lot of laundry mats that have gone digital, so you can either use your credit card or an app to pay for the machine use. There are still however the laundry mats that still require quarters, which requires cash. I don’t know about you, but it has been a while since I’ve carried cash around.

#5 – Storage. You were probably used to a full closet of clothes and dresser drawers. Maybe even spare rooms and a garage. Not anymore. Depending on what climate you’re living in, you may have two to four seasons’ worth of clothing types. Well in a van, you really, really reduce your wardrobe.

There is not a lot of storage in a van, if you are a single van lifer then you may have enough room, but there are two of us, and were storing our dog stuff as well. Other items you’ve collected during your years you will also have to part ways with.

That is unless you store your belongings in a storage unit, for that just in case day or at your parent’s house. Tools have been my biggest issue, as to what to keep, store in the van or just donate.

Van Life Conclusion

These are items I wish I would have known more about before jumping into van life, but I have no plans on changing anything. This is life for us and gives us the freedom to move around and enjoy life to the fullest.

There is no perfect van, everyone is going to have some problems and some are probably going to be a common problem. That should not deter you. If you are just looking for a weekend getaway or road trip van, then many of these issues would not be a problem for you.

I hope some of you will find this information useful, others I hope you were at least entertained.

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