Camping in a van is a cool thing to do. It is a unique way to experience the outdoors and the nature that we have here in America. There are many ways to camp in a van, from sleeping in the back of it like a tent, putting up a tent inside of it, or sleeping inside of it like a sleepover.
Sleeping in the back of the van like a tent is one of the most traditional ways to camp in a van. This is done by laying down some blankets and camping pads on the floor of the van and then sleeping there.
Putting up a tent inside of the van is another way to camp in it. This can be tricky, but if you have enough space, then you can do it! You would just need to have an extra strong frame for your tent.
Sleeping inside of the van like at a sleepover is probably the least typical way to camp in a van, but it is still pretty cool.
Invest in a good van
Choosing the right van is a big part of camping out of a van. You want to make sure it’s built well, has enough space for you and your gear, and that it’s comfortable.
There are a number of places to find vans, both online and in-person. Online sources include eBay, Cars.com, and Amazon Vehicles. In-person sources include car dealerships and communities such as churches or universities where people may be leaving with a vehicle.
Since most vans are used vehicles, do some research on the history and worth of the van you are looking to buy. You do not want to spend a large amount of money on a junker that will not last!
Once you have found a good-quality van, have it checked out by a mechanic to make sure there are no underlying problems that will later cost you money.
Buy a good bed
While sleeping in a van is possible without a mattress or sleeping bag, it is not comfortable. You can get away with using a blanket as insulation, but you will feel the hard floor underneath.
A good way to invest some money into your camping van is to buy a nice mattress and sleeping bag. Depending on the season you will use either one or both, but having quality ones makes a difference.
Other helpful tips are to get rid of the back seats in order to create more floor space and get high-quality covers for the windows to keep out moisture and heat.
Buy a enough blankets
If you are going to be sleeping in your vehicle, you will want to have enough blankets to be warm. You will also want a few extra just in case.
Depending on the season you camp, you will need different warmth levels. If you camp in the winter, you will most likely need a heavy duty sleeping bag and several heavy blankets or quilts to keep warm.
If it is summer, a light sleeping bag and light weight blankets will do the trick. Of course, if you have an RV then your camping set up is complete! You have your shelter and warmth already established.
Sleeping in a vehicle is enjoyable for some people, but for others it is not enough room. If you are not a fan of tight spaces, then try camping out of a van to give you more space and entertainment options.
Purchase a heat source
If you plan to camp in colder weather, you will need a way to warm yourself and your van. A good way to do this is by purchasing a portable heat source.
Portable heaters come in tripod form, where you place them on the ground or a surface and they emit heat upwards, or in wall form, where they are installed in the van walls.
Both have advantages and disadvantages- tripod ones may have trouble heating the whole van, but can be moved around to targeted areas, while wall ones will heat up the entire space but cannot be moved around easily.
Some weigh more than others, so look into the weight before buying! For the best comfort, try pairing a portable heater with extra blankets and/or a sleeping bag.
Check out some reviews before purchasing to make sure you are getting the best quality for your money.
Plan your bathroom situation
Even if you are going to a campground with toilets and showers, it is still important to think about your bathroom situation.
If you are camping in a tent, you have more privacy than if you are camping in a van. In a van, you have to consider where to put your toilet and how to hide it.
You can buy special vans with built-in toilets, or you can buy portable toilets that fit into the van. For water, you can use water bottles or tap into the campground’s source.
Another thing to think about is how to clean yourself. If you are camping in a tent, then it is easy—just go down to the lake and take a swim! If you are camping in a van, then you will need to plan for some sort of shower. You could bring spray bottles and towels to dry off, or go to the campground showers.
Plan your cooking situation
If you plan to do a lot of cooking in your van, consider investing in a camping stove. These can be both portable and non-portable depending on your needs.
If you want to have the ability to cook inside the van, then get a gas camping stove. They are fairly inexpensive and work well for cooking meals. If you are looking to save money, get a portable charcoal grill!
If you are not planning to cook inside the van, then a portable gas stove or charcoal grill is sufficient. Just make sure they are in good working condition!
To save some space, pack tupperware or Ziploc bags to store food in. This also helps keep food fresh longer since they are waterproof. Invest in some heavy-duty bags too just in case there is flooding at the camp site or water spills into the van.
What about rain?
If you are planning to camp in wet weather, you will need a water-proof shelter. If you have a van, awning can be attached to the side or rear windows to create a covered area.
You can also get a waterproof mattress that can be used instead of the floor, and put your sleeping bag in a waterproof cover. This way, you can sleep comfortably even if it rains.
If it is just occasional rain, then you are okay to stay in your van. You can put down plastic covers on the ground for protection against water. Just make sure they are tight fitting so water cannot get inside!
Another tip is to keep all your belongings in waterproof bags or containers. That way any water that gets in your van does not affect your things.
Will I have street power?
A critical thing to have while camping in a van is access to power. You will want a way to charge your phone, take showers, and wash your dishes.
Depending on where you camp, these things may be hard to come by. Many public parks do not have showers or toilets, so you have to find ones that do.
Street parking can be hard to find in cities, making it difficult to get plugged in. And if you do find a spot, it may not have a strong enough A/C adapter to charge your van via the adapter port.
The best way to avoid all of this is to buy a portable solar panel. These work by collecting sunlight and transferring that energy into electricity which then charges devices or runs appliances.