The RV and vanlife have always been endearing to people. Living on the road, answering to no one, being free and seeing the country. It’s a dream for many.
It doesn’t have to remain a dream, though.
My husband and I had been talking about the RV lifestyle since we first got together. We’ve always had adventurous spirits and have wanted to travel.
We got married and had kids and thought we’d have to put our RV life on hold until our kids were older, or out of high school. That’s what society told us, anyway.
One day, when my oldest was 2, I started looking into the RV life again. I discovered tons of families who were traveling in a tiny RV and making it work. I read stories of women who had newborn babies traveling around in an RV. Not only was I surprised, but also extremely encouraged. If they could do it, so could we!
Some time passed and we talked a lot about how we could make it all come together. We weren’t retired (still aren’t), have two kids (at the time of this research, I was pregnant with my second) and we had quite a bit of debt. So there were a few hurdles to get over first.
Here are some hurdles to get over:
- We got over the idea that our kids had to be out of the house. In fact, I was ecstatic that our kids would be coming with us. For them to be traveling the country and learning and seeing things that most kids never got the chance. I certainly never got that opportunity. Was it going to be easy? No, but I knew that from the beginning so it wasn’t a shock when things were difficult. I also had to get over the idea that my kids had to generally be ‘old enough’ for this type of adventure. We hit the road when my second born was 6 months old.
- Get out of debt. We worked extremely hard to get out of debt so that we’d only have to focus on a few bills, then the rest could go towards gas, adventures and food. We don’t even have payments on our RV, we paid for that outright. Whatever you can buy with cash is better than getting into debt.
- Downsizing is hard, but it’s also a huge relief. When you’ve made the decision to go full time, it can be difficult to let go of our stuff. You may want to put some of it in storage or keep at a relatives home. If your van is for camping or bug out purposes, then coming to terms with leaving your stuff is important. We downsized a ton and stored sentimental items at a relatives home.
- Have a savings. We really needed a good savings. Things can go wrong with the RV, maybe one of us gets sick, etc. Luckily, our savings came from the sell of our home. If you don’t have an asset like that, consider how much money will be coming in from the sale of your stuff and/or start saving money now and learning how to be frugal.
- Financing this lifestyle. We both have remote jobs that can be done anywhere as long as we have internet. There are a ton of remote positions available. Or if you’re not interested in remote positions, there are plenty of part-time jobs that can be acquired in cities that you stop at. If you need some money, get a job for a bit, make it, then move on. It’s up to you.
- Schooling kids. This was a huge hurdle for me to get over. My oldest daughter absolutely loved going to her preschool and it tore me up to think she wouldn’t continue going to school. I was on the fence, though, about whether I should homeschool her and had been since she was born. She’s very sociable, but there are tons of ways to make friends. However, with everything that happened because of the pandemic, we would have gone the homeschooling route anyway. It worked out and she quite enjoys homeschooling.
Those were our main hurdles. Everyone will experience different hurdles to get over. One of the biggest hurdle for most people is the simple act of change.
However, you don’t have to take the leap to actually live in your van or RV full time, you could simply purchase one for emergencies, camping trips, traveling, etc.
What type of vehicle should you purchase?
We purchased an older, used model. Many people told us that we would never get what we wanted based on our budget; we were literally laughed at. But we found what we wanted and within budget. Don’t let anyone discourage you when it comes to getting what you want. I would highly recommend buying used, though. You can always modify whatever you get, but most new vehicles, whether RVs or vans, might have issues right out the door. We knew someone who had a brand new 5th wheel and there was always something going wrong with it. Every week they had a repairman out there fixing something. Of course, all used vehicles will need consistent maintenance, just like new ones.
In general, you should have some basic understanding on how to maintain an RV or vehicle so you can keep costs down and if anything goes wrong in the field, you’d be able to fix it quickly or be able to find the answer.
You could get:
- 5th wheel
- Motor home
Lots of options to choose from!
There are always deals out there. You may have to compromise on things here and there and it may take a bit to find something within your budget that also fits most of your needs. Overall, as long as everyone has a place to sleep, it should be a great option.
We bought an RV that has one bedroom and while the couch and dining table converted into beds, it was a nightmare to do that every single night and multiple times during the day for my baby to nap.
We took the couch out and installed bunk beds. Best thing we ever did. Now everyone had a solid place to sleep.
Like I said, you can always alter. Some have even installed wood stoves into their RV. See the potential in the vehicle you’re thinking about purchasing. It’s a lot like a house where you can change and upgrade whatever at any time.
Do take your time to shop around the used and new market. Even though I discourage buying a new RV, if you find something that you just love, maybe look for something similar in a used model. Or get a brand new vehicle, it’s obviously completely up to you.
I’ve seen families of 6 or more in an RV half the size of ours. So don’t let size deter you. The RV or van won’t be big and most of your time will be spent outdoors when not in motion.
Set your budget, make a checklist of what you want, do a lot of searching and be willing to compromise.
Here’s how preppers can be prepared to live an off-grid RV or vanlife:
Even if you’re only planning to live in your RV or van for short periods of time, such as in bug out or camping situations, you’ll still want to be ready and well prepared to live as off-grid as possible.
- Keep it stocked and maintained. If you’re planning to use your van or RV to bug out or simply for camping trips, try to keep it as stocked as you can. Don’t keep food inside of it, but most things can be placed inside, even if you have a popup. You will also want to keep it well maintained by covering the wheels when not in use, keeping it clean before locking it up and running it occasionally to keep the battery good. Considering keeping things like:
- Flashlights (without the batteries, keep those stored in a cool place)
- Any type of items that will deter or catch insects or critters
- Bowls, plates, cups, etc. (collapsable items are the absolute best)
- Pots and pans
- Extra clothes
- Cleaning supplies
- Reference books
- Folding solar panel(s)
- Physical paper maps, an atlas is a good idea
- Toilet paper
- Bedding and blankets
- Entertainment items such as board games, crafts, toys, etc.
- Tools for the vehicle, including gorilla tape
- First aid kit
- Collapsible water bottles
- Sillcock key
- Fire extinguisher
- Carbon monoxide detector
- Smoke detector
- Keep a few bins stocked and ready to go that are inside your home. These bins would be easily transported into the RV/Van when you’re leaving. These bins would be in addition to your bug out bag(s). This might have items like:
- Emergency food
- Water (additional water can be stored outside of bins, but shouldn’t be forgotten)
- Water purification
- Fire starters
- Baby wipes
- Any clothing, blankets or diapers for children
- Food and other needs for pets
- Toiletry items such as toothpaste, toothbrush, shampoo, soap, etc.
- Copy of emergency disaster plan and emergency documents.
- Sleeping bags
- Checklist of items to not forget outside of the bins, plus a checklist of what to do to the house before leaving. Check out my free preparedness checklists here
- Radios, such as ham, CB or GMRS
- Get a compost toilet. We absolutely love our compost toilet. There’s no worrying about finding a dump station. There’s nothing illegal about throwing your feces away in the garbage. You could also bury it if you’re able to do that. If you are going to bury it, bury it far away from any water source and at least 6 feet under, if not more.
- Invest in solar. There are plenty of solar options that can be affordable for any budget or need. Many vanlife people will have panels that they take out every time they need it. Others have panels that are permanent to the roof. It’s up to you. However, not having to rely on being plugged in will extend your options as far as where you can park. Of course, if you want to live by candle light, that’s up to you, of course.
- Invest in security. Of course, locking doors are a good place to start. You will also want to consider what other self-defense option is best for you, such as a bat, firearm, etc. There are also plenty of additional security options such as:
- Learn self-sufficient skills. Living the vanlife or RV life means that you’re going to be storing a lot less stuff, especially if you’re moving around a lot. As a prepper, that might make you feel a little anxious. Vans or RVs can only hold so much weight. Learning how to be self-sufficient will be a great asset to creating confidence outside of stuff. Learn to find water on the road, small game hunting, growing microgreens and sprouting inside your vehicle, learning primitive skills, in-depth first aid and medical knowledge is also extremely important as you may be in situations where you can’t reach medical help.
- Will you be pulling anything? If you have a van, will you have bikes attached to it? What about solar on the top or a roof rack with other items on top? If you have an motor home, will you be pulling a vehicle behind it or anything else? What else would you attach to the outside, bikes? A canoe? These are all optional, of course. Keep these ideas in mind when you’re thinking about the type of vehicle you want. If you’re already going to be towing a popup or camper, that may limit what else you could tow or add onto it. But that may not be an issue at all, just depends on your needs/wants.
Creating a comfortable atmosphere for your whole family is extremely important. They need to feel safe and comfortable with this whole lifestyle, even if it’s only for camping or bugging out purposes. Make sure they’re involved with the decision making processes and ask them what sort of items they’d like inside of the van or RV. What’s most important for the whole family?
More and more people are choosing the vanlife or RV life because of the freedom it offers. When your home is on wheels, you can go and do anything, especially if you’re off-grid and can boondock anywhere. For preppers, this is obviously appealing because it’s so much more than just pitching a tent. You can get extremely creative about where you decide to park, even with a big 35 foot RV like we have can get to places you never would have thought it could go. One of our main goals was to be as off the map as possible and away from people, which often meant dirt and gravel roads.
Take it slow, enjoy the ride and be prepared.
If you’re not planning to live in it full time, take it out occasionally on a camping trip or mock bug out and get the whole family used to it. Learn the ins-and-outs of what is needed during each trip. Don’t take it out for the first time when you’re evacuating during a natural disaster; that’s not the best time to ‘get to know’ everything.
Are you planning to join the vanlife?