There’s Nothing Like Traveling In A Camper Van
For the most part, I’m thrilled to see vanlife becoming increasingly popular. There is nothing like traveling in a camper van! There is real magic in the alchemy of adventure, discovery, freedom and challenge that you experience living on the road and deep in the wilderness. With a van you can go just about anywhere – from culturally rich cities to wonderfully desolate deserts enjoying the excitement and novelty of travel right along side the the secure comforts of home.
However, I’m one of many people who are deeply concerned about how some vanlifers are behaving and the consequences of that for all of us.
We all need places to camp. That is the most fundamental requirement of vanlife – even more so than the vehicle itself! If we are not respectful of where and how we choose to camp we will no longer be welcome. The potential combination of increasing numbers of vanlifers with a reduction in available places to camp is a catastrophe in the making for all of us.
So, this post is going to dive into some things to consider when camping. These are just my thoughts which are centered around respect. Ultimately, how you live and your decisions are entirely yours.
The storyteller makes no choice
soon you will not hear his voice
his job is to shed light
and not to master
– Robert Hunter, Terrapin Station
Advocating for Vanlifers
We hope to help galvanize the vanlife community around these issues and also advocate for more places to camp with Together We Van, the non-profit we’re starting up. For instance, we think it’s time to make public lands public again – even after dusk! There are tens of thousands of public spaces that “close” at night despite being paid for and maintained by public funds. These range from beach parking lots to recreational areas to hiking trailheads to marinas and more. In many cases these “closed hours” are established specifically to prohibit overnight camping in what would otherwise be a perfect place to overnight. However, it’s essential that, as a community, we don’t trash the places we’re asking to be welcomed into. By the way, if you’re interested in helping to get this effort off the ground, we’d love to hear from you.
Don’t Camp Where You’re Not Welcome So, We’re Welcome More Places
There are great apps like the Vanlife App and iOverlander that can help you find places to camp just about anywhere – from paid campgrounds to reliable boondocking spots. I wrote another post about these apps and others. And, the longer you live vanlife, the better you will become at spotting potential campsites. The key is to only camp in places where you’re welcome. I certainly struggle with this as you can see my earlier “rant” about making public spaces public again. But, the bottom line is that we have a better chance of advocating for being welcomed into more places if we only camp in places we’re already welcome.
Be A Good Neighbor
The Golden Rule applies here. Wherever you camp treat it as if it was your town, your lake, your driveway, your parking lot or your anything. Also, try to fit in. Don’t be loud when everyone else is quiet. Don’t put out an awning and camp chairs in the Walmart parking lot. Definitely don’t leave any trash or, eh, fluids of any kind (grey water or worse). If you have a generator, only run it when it seems appropriate. Be kind!
Support Businesses That Support Vanlife
It’s well known that many businesses are welcoming to RV’ers and, by extension, vanlifers. Unfortunately, many of us have sort of taken this for granted and some of these stores are being forced to put up “no camping” signs because of people leaving trash and being disrespectful. Others are overstaying their welcome. A Walmart or a Crackle Barrel is a great place to camp overnight but it’s not a place to stay for many days for you or the store. If you do find yourself overnighting at these businesses please consider going into the store and purchasing some things.
Leave It Better and Leave No Trace
Whenever possible and ALWAYS when I camp in the wilderness, I try to leave the camp spot in better shape than when I arrived. It’s easy to pick up any garbage that is laying around or to address any damage any previous campers have done. When I’m doing this I often imagine what an impact we could have as a group if every vanlifer did this simple thing. I encourage you to learn about the seven principals of Leave No Trace which provide guidance to enjoy our natural world in a sustainable way that avoids human-created impacts. The principles have been adapted so they can be applied in your backyard or your backcountry.