Before deciding to convert your own cargo van, you should find out if full-time living in an RV will fit your lifestyle and your budget. Or you may choose for extended RV camping, where you use leave home for a few months, like the Canadian snowbirds each winter.
You can go from a small Class B van, all the way up to a full-size bus or choose to go with a truck/trailer combination, with the latter having a separate vehicle to drive with. Cost varies between a few $1,000’s for a used van with mattress and a few cabinets, up to a $500,000 for your dream bus.
The larger RV’s force you to mainly utilize campgrounds, where the smaller Class B offers you the opportunity to explore boondocking.
The lifestyle without permanent home and just a mailbox has changed a lot during the last few decades:
- Campground fees skyrocketed.
- $1/gal. gas = $4/gal. gas.
- Visiting Mexico is not so safe anymore.
On the other hand, working on the road has become easier, so many Bloggers do it and some travel from job to job. Beautiful scenery awaits you, with night skies, most city dwellers have never seen and all is free of charge.
“Boondocking: Camping in a recreational vehicle in a remote location, without connections to water, power, or sewer services.”
Yet the $5 a day overnight visit to a campground has become a $50 shakedown and even the National and State parks will charge you $20-$30 a day. Private monthly rates will fortunately lower that a bit and some states offer cheaper annual passes that include entry to their State parks. The best way to see and enjoy everything North America has to offer, remains the boondocking way.
- Undeveloped public camping areas.
- Can be on the street (Stealthy camping).
- Famous with RV’ers for overnighters at many Walmarts and alike.
- Specifically in the west on BLM land often with the 14 day rule.
- The latter often offers incredible locations with unimaginable views on public lands.
Is Fulltime Boondocking The Right Choice?
What if you have a partner, does he/she has the same desires. What if you have children or pets? Have you tried camping/RVing before.
The RV lifestyle is cramped with sometimes little comfort, lack of A/C, no washing machines and limited bathroom facilities. Long warm baths or showers may be far in between, but who can jump into his own lake for a refreshing dip in the water. The 1 gallon shower is common as water is always in limited supply. It can be chilly in the morning and at night and it can be hot anywhere. Entertainment is the local movie theater, computer tablets make it easier to carry an unlimited supply of books and your music fits on a USB stick.
To be accepted in some campgrounds, you need a factory made RV – your self-built unit may not be accepted everywhere.
Be handy. Do small repairs yourself, replace a tire, fix what gets broken especially when you’re in the middle of nowhere, 100’s of miles away from the nearest town. Always carry tools and repair items.
Cost Of Living
For some, only a couple of thousand dollars a year is sufficient to live on. Others work on the road for additional income.
Spending is totally different. Lack of storage always limits what you’ll buy. Limited electricity means few gadgets. Bills to pay go to insurance, gas money, repairs and daily food.
What You Need
- Mail forwarding service (for insurance purposes, jury duty, taxes, voting, domicile).
- Good car insurance, including towing service.
- Possibly an RV Club membership or a membership to a nationwide 24/7 gym club for easy access to showers and the occasional big city overnighter.
Buy Or Build
A 4 x 4 van is great for off road camping but expensive to buy, repair and drive. The same applies to a diesel that is more expensive to buy and to maintain and these are not needed if you always stay in a campground.
A van with a limited slip differential may make the difference on icy or sandy roads.
Get lots of needed storage space in the vehicle and choose a relatively small size vehicle if you choose to primarily camp off-road.
If you’re handy, you should consider your own van conversion: you build cheaper, sturdier and with your own customized layout and appliances. A good sized cargo van can accommodate one or two adults and perhaps a pet that accompanies you on your daily hike.
To extends your stays, you can explore solar installations and avoid generators. Much better as the latter are noisy and cheat you out the quiet enjoyment, nature has to offer.