Easy Ways to Make Vandwelling Easier

Ree Ree Stair StepsLiving in the van in the country means changing how things are done.  Tasks often can be combined, storage and organization methods changed, housework performed more frequently, etc.  It’s challenging but fun!

It’s surprising how many people email with vandwelling questions such as how you pee, do laundry, bathe, etc.  I’m not embarrassed to discuss any of these topics or share how this stuff happens out here in the boonies.

So what about the bathroom stuff?  I keep a large mouth cat litter jug (thank you Serena!) with a couple caps of liquid laundry detergent in it.  It makes a great urinal and the laundry soap curbs the smell.  What about #2?  I have to drive 2 miles into a small town… or do it in the woods.  No biggie!  As for Serena … she uses a tiny litter box which is scooped once or twice daily.

My sister asked about disposing of garbage.  That’s easy.  In this rural county we just burn the refuse.  It beats spending $1.50 / bag for garbage stickers like residents have to in Cedar Rapids!

Taking care of Serena is simple.  I just leave food and water for her.  There are some coolers stacked up like stair steps to allow the kitty to walk in and out of the passenger window of the van when I’m not home.  She loves it and can come and go at will – often sleeping in the deep grass under the van.  I plan to add a plastic sheet and powerful magnets to shield the van from rain while still allowing her entry access.  She takes care of herself pretty well… and enjoys the farm life.

One of the biggest issues has been bathing.  Normally I wouldn’t worry so much about smelling well but working at a restaurant makes it imperative.  (They frown on the “Duck Dynasty” look.)  It’s pretty easy to keep clean though… Just using baby wipes for a bath is not enough.  But you can do this with a little planning ahead.

Hot Water HeaterI carry toiletries and clean work clothes in the Chevy Cobalt.  Twice a week the clothes are washed at the laundromat – where I discreetly clean up with a rag and towel.  While in the bigger cities, Anytime Fitness provides a nice hot shower.  Eventually, the plan is to bring the Mr. Heater Aquacube on-demand hot water heater out of storage and use it for showering and washing dishes.  Out in the country there’s nobody around so a privacy tent is not needed most of the time.  Right now, the worst case scenario is having to use cold well water to clean up.  It works though!

ReducedThere are other good options that have proven convenient for van-dining on-the-cheap.  Two of the neighboring towns have grocery stores with deli counters.  Rather than discarding the leftovers, the deli employees discount them to about half price.  I’ve been loading up on egg salad (which is almost always orphaned and discounted!).  The meat counter often has discounted meats, too.  Yum!

Getting internet cheaply has been a breeze.  Out in the boonies there are no wi-fi signals and I’m not going to pay $40+ a month for a wi-fi hotspot.  It’s easy to make sure the Netbook is in the car and ready to check email before and after work.  That’s one nice thing about working at McDonalds!

These are just a few of the conveniences that make this flavor of vandwelling easier.  Any little trip to town for gas, laundry, food, etc. is another opportunity to squeeze in a shower, stock the cooler, buy ice, check email, etc.  For those thinking about trying this lifestyle – vandwelling in the country and working in the city – it’s not all that difficult.  It teaches you some great habits and organizational skills, too!

Take care and thanks for riding along.  It’s starting out to be a busy holiday weekend but hopefully there will be some time next week to visit a nearby campground along the Wapsipinicon River.

Bradford and Serena in rural eastern Iowa







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About VanTrekker

I am a former vandweller in Eastern Iowa who, for several years (off and on), lived in a 2007 Chevy cargo van. I still travel around Iowa with my tortoise shell cat, Jennifer Stefanie. Our favorite place to explore is the Country Heritage Community, the four far northeastern counties of Iowa (Clayton, Winneshiek, Allamakee, and Fayette). Ride along as we fish in pristine trout streams, enjoy fine home cooked camping meals, and meet new people. It's all possible on a shoestring budget. Happy travels always! --- Brad, the "Van Trekker"

10 Responses to Easy Ways to Make Vandwelling Easier

  1. Jerry says:

    Yea Brad

    You have the simple lifestyle I’m looking for. Don’t be surprised one day soon “hopefully” i will show up at your doorstep for simple life & fishing lessons. The problem right now I’m making money, i go out a buy junk & more junk, it piles up & piles up – just like everyone, your on a consumption treadmill that can’t be stopped. Your sucked into all these wants & desires, no regards for needs. Then one gets stressed out – eats more food, blood pressure goes up – more reason to eat more food & consume sugar , yada yada !! VISIOUS CYCLE ! Higher blood pressure.

    No time to finish trailer – which is 90-95% done.

    Brad – maybe we can make videos for $1-5 and sell or rent those to folks who want a simple lifestyle – a getaway from chasing the impossible dream. You just really need a little Internet biz makes $1k a month to live like a king. Have you ever tried GoPro cameras ? I’m trying out the GoPro white right now – works great, just need to figure out software & upload movies. On Vemio for $200 per year – you can sell or rent your produced movies?

    Well I gotta run back to my $3.8 mill flea market house this morning – hope we can get in ok 🙂 this time.

    P.s. if its like sunny 70+ you can use a gallon plastic water bottle – paint black helps but not necessary to heat your bath water, then I use a smaller plastic bottle – put holes in the top, you can do nice shower with a gallon. For #2 you can use 2.5 – 5 gal plastic bucket & peidmoss for cover material.

    Cheers Jerry

    • VanTrekker says:

      Hi Jerry. I’ve got the nifty hot water heater for dishes… it’s stuck in the garage with all the other trinkets! I saw a neat black 5 gallon bucket at the farm store. All I’d need to do is add a tap to it and a shower hose… It would work great. Just taking a break right now during the switchover to the lunch menu. I work with a younger crowd and they make it fun. They are accepting of the vandwelling lifestyle. All you have to do is say “I am living in my camper” instead of “van” and people envision a palace… not pissing in cat littler bottles, etc. LOL

      That reminds me… I need to get out the Luggable Loo for #2. I could put some dirt in a garbage bag, doo doo in it, and throw it in the garbage fire. 🙂

      I agree… A $1000/ month Internet business would be nice! I’m getting very close to putting my little cookbook on the Internet to sell for a few bucks in PDF format. The problem is finding the time to work quietly on it. Take care! — VT

  2. Jerry says:

    Hey Brad

    The 4700′ was cherry -;) finely a little easy money. I’ll send you a few pic’s to your e mail latter. I just found it again.

    Will get that little internet business going one day.

    The 20’s slackers are GREAT & easy going, I rent a few rooms to them below market rates – they pay every paycheck – then spent the rest on 420, booze & video games but they don’t give me any jazz – these guys are all no license, no insurance, no registration, no whatever – NO WORRIES !! as long as the 420 & football / basketball, direct TV don’t run out. Then Panic would set in. Before I had some young chicks – but they were mega drama queens 24/7

    Check out this pocket shower from REI…you could make one cheaper…


    Cheery jerry

    • VanTrekker says:

      That’s a pretty cool little hot water heater. It would work in a pinch!

      I hear ya about the 20 somethings. It’s not much better on 40 somethings. I almost wish that I’d taken advice years ago and could live on next to nothing… instead of working my a** off and living on less than that! I know people who work two and three jobs, barely can afford someone else’s roof over their heads, have a flock of kids, and can’t afford their weed. *shaking my head*. Even vandwelling, it’s difficult to make a living with the minimum wage jobs. Stuff is getting so expensive!

  3. Jo says:

    I bought a bug, weed sprayer container and painted it black. I used it to shower on my last camping trip it was great. You may have to alter the stem or in my case I bought a cheap kitchen sprayer to attach. I bought the 2 gl. size but I’m sure the 1 gl. would work just fine.

    • VanTrekker says:

      Awesome idea, Jo! I might have to try that. I could even microwave a little water to mix in with cold water and provide a nice warm spray shower.

  4. One of the Peasants says:

    In about 20 weeks from now I will graduate from university. After several weeks of looking at various YouTube videos, blogs and forums, I have decided to give van dwelling a try. I went to Home Depot today to start making a cost estimate of the items I might buy to revamp my wheels. Which reminds me, I need to buy a set, is there anyone who has a particular preference, Chevy, Ford, etc. I have been looking at the reviews on the Chevy Express 1500s and they seem to be good work horses. Any suggestions, any help in this matter is highly appreciated. 

    • VanTrekker says:

      Hello and welcome! I think you’ll enjoy many aspects of vandwelling. I just woke up in the country after an all night thunderstorm – talk about a pleasant night’s sleep! Once you get used to it, I’m sure you will really enjoy the rest.

      I think all of the big three have made some good vans. You might pick up a Dodge a little cheaper. At one point Dodge vehicles had some reliability issues… but I drive two General Motors’ products so that’s like living in a “glass house” there. LOL. I had it down to a Ford or a Chevy but did not like the way the Ford was set up inside the cargo area. The Chevy looked a lot easier to build into a dwelling using boards, etc. It was almost like a giant model car kit.

      Please keep us posted on how it is all going. You will also find a fantastic group of expert vandwellers at cheaprvliving.com (Bob’s site). Their forum has a large following of people who will give you terrific advice. Take care! — V.T.

  5. One of the Peasants says:

    Thank you for replying so quickly. I am really excited, I am retired military, and I lived in what amounted to a semi tracker trailer with six others out of a battle box and a wall locker you could barely put a basketball in. So space issue isn’t a problem, I can organize to within an inch of my life. Mostly I am now just antsy. I have Craigslist, vehicle search as one of my most prominent favorites. Can you hear the pride 🙂 I should be on the road by Thanksgiving. I have seen some really excellent deals on Chevy Express 1500s and one Ford that looks promising. I have to admit, one thing, a lot of people do not understand why anyone would want to do this, the lady at Home Depot looked at me like I was a loon. 🙂 Oh well, it takes all kinds and I have definitely decided on my next role. Van Dweller.

    • VanTrekker says:

      Awesome! It sounds like it would be a good fit for you! There are a few people who will be excited for you. Of those who are not, many are envious of you not having to pay rent. I have found that many of the single folks I speak with think it’s cool; many of the married folks say vandwelling is bad. I’ve learned not to give a rat’s rump. As long as I can fish, work, and enjoy life, it’s all good!

      Keep in touch! Take care! V.T.