In most discussions where my traveling in a van is brought up, a few common questions arise. Where do you shower, go to the bathroom? Isn’t it claustrophobic, small, cramped? Where do you put everything? Must suck being stuck inside when it rains?
It’s understandable, as it is very deceiving on the outside vs whats contained on the inside. So I’ll answer these…
Isn’t it claustrophobic, small, cramped? Yes and no. With one person on board, it’s very roomy and comfortable, but with two it starts to feel cramped after a while. To overcome that, once you have a ‘system’ on how to move around without getting in each others way, and keep organized, it works quite well. But one of the key points is to live ‘out of the van’ and not try to live ‘in the van’.
Using the outdoors as your living space, and the van as your support vehicle, makes a huge difference. When camping in a tent, very few spend any time in the tent other than for sleeping and changing clothing. The same works for the van. A couch potato would go nuts in a van, yet a backpacker would appreciate the luxury it affords.
Where do you shower, go to the bathroom? Generally there is a bathroom in most Class B RVs, in a sense. To maximize space, they minimized the bathroom to just the essentials and tucked it away in a side closet. The rationale is since its only used for such as small fraction of the day, the minor inconvenience is an acceptable tradeoff. In exchange, there is more interior and storage space which is far more useful. I have to agree.
When using the bathroom, the bathroom door opens and separates the isle from the front portion of the van. The closet door next to the bathroom does the same to separate it from the rear bed area. Thus, you have a toilet and shower area in the middle of the van which is separate from the front sitting area, and the rear bed area. The toilet is connected to a black water tank as in a traditional RV, and handled the same way.
The shower utilizes the isle as the shower floor and drain. If you have carpet in the center isle (some prefer not to for easier cleaning), you roll that up and store it temporarily. I put mine between the two front seats. A shower curtain then pulls out and creates a full surround of you standing in the isle. The shower head mounts and swings to where it is accessible inside the shower curtain area. And again the doors provide the privacy. The floor drain goes directly to the gray water holding tank.
After a shower, I towel dry the curtain and floor, and retract it back into the bathroom, close the two doors, and replace the carpet. Slightly inconvenient, but much better than dedicating twice that space to an enclosed bathroom.
It actually works very well, and I appreciate not having all the wasted space of a larger bath when I only use it 15 minutes during the day. I’d much rather use it for living space for increased comfort, or increased storage which seems to be shorter in supply.
Which brings us to,
Where do you put everything? Being a backpacker in my younger days gives me a leg up in the storage and organization department. I had to justify everything I brought with me, get as many purposes out of each item as possible (heard of sporks? Fork and spoon in one), and weight and size was always an issue. Why did I cut my toothbrush in half, it saved an ounce didn’t change the function or convenience.
I don’t go that far with the van, but the though process is the same. Do I really need three skillets? Four pots? Silverware service for 8? Can I get by with less? Can I get them to pack such they require the least amount of space? Are lighter weight options available? Can they serve multiple purposes? Is the item really essential? These are questions I ask myself when purchasing, packing, or using items for the van. There were a lot of items I was sure I needed, only to find them unused months later, then stored in the garage or returned to the house.
I also use every square inch of storage space. Even though a closet or drawer may look full, its amazing how much more you can fit in the with a little creative thought. Nesting and compacting is key. It’s also amazing how many nooks and crannies you can find in a vehicle or RV to use as storage. I seek them out and find something to store there.
I approach the van as a large backpack to support my lifestyle. I pack it tight, keep it well organized, and only the essentials and priority comfort items. That leaves me with plenty of space for the fluff that seems to find its way into the van. Fully loaded with two weeks of food, clothing, essentials, and the comfort items I value, I still have some extra space.
What about winter cold and summer heat?
Most all Class B RVs have a furnace for heat and air conditioners. The furnace runs off propane, which in my case is provided by a 30lb propane tank mounted underneath. This is enough to provide weeks of heating during the winter. The air conditioning generally requires 120V from shore power, or an on-board generator, both of which are on my van.
The furnace is more than adequate to heat the van even in extreme cold temperatures, which I tested one winter. I was very warm inside at 70F while the van was covered with show and outside temperatures where in the -10F range. I do need to run a fan inside otherwise near the ceiling is warm and near the floor is cold. With the fan running it keeps the separate temperatures even throughout.
To help the furnace cope with the cold, I add some insulated window covers over many of the windows, and close the curtains over those, effectively giving me double insulation. I leave a few key windows uncovered for the view, and to avoid feeling like I am living in a dark cave. They also bring in sunlight which helps in heating the van.
Keeping cool in the summer is more problematic. The AC barely keeps up when the outside temperatures are in the 100F+ range and the van is sitting in direct sun. Granted, thats an extreme case, but common out west or down south. With the generator humming, the AC on full, I can get the inside temperatures into the mid 70’s, but it does struggle and takes a few hours to get there. If I know its going to get that hot, I start it up early to get a jump start. I also use the same insulated covers to block the direct sun light helping the overall cooling.
But for modest climates, both hot or cold, the furnace and AC are definitely up to the task keeping it comfortable inside.
Must suck being stuck inside when it rains? There is no reason to be stuck inside a van because it is raining outside. When traveling to an area, I save many activities for rainy days if forecasted. Visiting museums, shopping, dinning out, doing laundry, visiting indoor attractions, or just doing inside projects or errands. There is no reason to waste a nice sunny day doing laundry or errands when the next day is forecasting bad weather. I just swap the two in my scheduling.
Moving on to you next destination is also a good way to spend a rainy day. Why spend a gorgeous day driving when it should be used for outside activities. Unless the rain is heavy, it makes a great day to move on to the next destination.
Just thinking ahead can eliminate the rainy day blues sitting in a small van. With that said, I also enjoy a day here or there listening to the rain on the roof, relaxing, reading, working on a fun project, or just taking it easy inside.
The key is to think of ‘living OUT of the van’, vs ‘living IN the van’, creative planning for inclement weather days, and use it for traveling vs camping. Most campers will hate a Class B van, but travel and outdoor adventurers tend to love them.
It’s more like a huge backpack or big steel tent!