After years of Instagram envy, seeing all these couples and adventurers living out of a sprinter van, exploring all the greatest places in the world, we finally did it! We joined the #Vanlife!
Well, I guess that’s a stretch. We didn’t exactly quit our jobs, move into a van with our dog, and adventure full time. Come to think of it, we’ve done the exact opposite. Instead, we wanted to see if we’d even like the #Vanlife after all these years of fantasizing about it. We’re used to car camping out of the truck for most of our trips, but always have been jealous of the sprinters that roll up to camp or trailheads, and have everything they’ll ever need right there in the van. So to test the waters, we decided to rent a built-out Sprinter Van from Outdoorsy.com. And let me be the first to tell you, it lived up to the hype!
For Thanksgiving each year, Court, Gregor, and I, head west to the left coast in search of the last bit of warm weather and some sunny beaches. It’s not too feasible to fly back east for Thanksgiving, and then again a month later. Last year, we went to LA and spent most of our time in Huntingdon Beach at the dog beach. Well, this year, keeping tradition, we headed to San Diego, California!
We chose San Diego for a couple reasons: one, neither of us had been there, two, it’s the home of Stone Brewery, and three, we found out that we can “camp” in our van in a parking lot in Mission Beach right next to the ocean… for FREE! So after work on Wednesday, we made the long haul west and reached San Diego somewhere around midnight. Not after failing to sleep in a Walmart parking lot that we were duped into thinking we could stay overnight there. All worked out though, because we were, instead, able to wake up walking distance away from the ocean in Mission Beach.
Over the next few days, we explored the most dog-friendly place we’d ever been too. Designated dog beaches in nearly every town, dogs allowed on the beach before 9AM and after 4PM, dogs allowed in breweries in Ocean Beach, you name it, there were dogs there! So needless, to say, Gregor had a blast, and as did we. But the real reason you’re here is to learn about the van and #vanlife that we experienced.
The van was a godsend when it came to the rain storms we experienced the first couple days. Rather than being forced to stay inside in a hotel or AirBnB to wait out the rain, we simply just hung out in the back of the van to get out of the rain. At one point, we pulled into one of the many free, beach parking lots, and took a 2hr nap. It felt great to get out of the rain, and our wet clothes, dry off and just relax. This simply wouldn’t have been possible in the truck.
Plus, since the ceiling was so tall in the van, we could hang up all our wet clothes and towels to dry out over the next day or so. This became more useful than we thought since Gregor was constantly getting wet from the rain or running into the ocean.
The stealth ability. Sure, anyone who see’s a nice sprinter van knows very well that it’s built out on the inside and people probably are living in it. But there’s nothing they really will do about it. If you want to hangout and relax in the back, no one can see you so no one cares. Try doing that in the front seat of your car in a town with a big homeless problem. Chances are, someone is going to care. Not to mention, not having to leave the van as we roll into a parking lot at night and head right to bed. As soon as the lights go off, no one is the wiser.
And also, having all our gear and clothes on the inside of the vehicle, rather than in the bed of the truck made us feel way more secure with our belongings. Not to mention having Gregor inside when we went to dinner as an extra layer of security (and comfort) for him.
The space to be able to cohabitate, was unbelievable. Wether it was just brushing our teeth before going to bed, or changing our clothes for the next day, having the space to move around each other and all while still in the van was something new to us. Plus, the ability to have a full sized, comfortable bed, was a huge game changer for us as well. We’re used to camp pads in tents or on the sleeping platform in the back of my truck. That did not compare to a foam mattress and a great night’s sleep.
Inside the van, there was a sleep platform that allowed us to put all our bags and belongings underneath kept the area nice and spacious. There were overhead bins we could put our clothes in to have easy access to during the trip. And the counter top, with sink, was a great place to temporarily place things and store others to get them off the floor. With a little bit of communication, we rarely got into each other’s way.
We didn’t use the van to cook in, why would you when there’s so many taco places to explore, so I can’t comment on that feasibility or ease. But having access to the Yeti Cooler and snack bags while driving was such a nice change of pace. Not to mention, Gregor was living his best life sleeping in the bed for the entire duration of the 12hr and 16hr drive to and from California. All I know is that I cannot wait for the day to buy a Sprinter Van. It was surprisingly good on gas, had great pickup, and had so much space we didn’t know what to do wit it. Now we’ll just have to find one that is capable of getting to all the remote places we love and then we’ll be set! #Vanlife here we come!
My name is Zachary Kenney and I’m an adventure filmmaker & photographer. My passion is to tell stories that will hopefully motivate you to go live a more adventurous life. Whether that is to experience the view from the summit of a mountain, or wandering through a new town on a road trip. Currently based out of Park City, UT.