So the entire idea around vanlife is to be as self sufficient as possible, you don’t want to have to go into a store or plug into a campsite every single day.
That would make it not only more expensive but also take away the element of freedom we enjoy.
Every person has some basic needs.
2. Somewhere warm to sleep
So when you break that down, the van is home, it’s your shelter and your bed will obviously be part of that.
We think sleep is very important and so we invested in a good mattress. This makes life a lot more comfortable and ensures you wake up feeling refreshed.
Life doesn’t feel so rough if you can sink into your memory foam bed at the end of the day.
We also have two big 25 litre water containers we paid £2 each for these from a farmer in Dorset who had food grade vinegar in them. From camping stores, similar containers go for £10-30, so it pays to keep an eye on your local buy and sell sites as well as apps like Gumtree or eBay. We happened to be spending Christmas less then a five minute drive away from this person, so it was easy to go and collect.
One water tank is drinking water, one is “grey water” which basically means I’ve washed my dishes with it. Our sink is hooked up to both.
We also have an additional 10 litre container that has a nozzle we got before we had the bigger ones. This one came from Halfords and was around £15. This is the one we primarily use for drinking water. The other large tank tends to get used for dishes, washing face etc.
We find water is very accessible. There are plenty of camping apps that show locations where you can fill up, and where you can dump grey and black water (black water refers to toilet waste – generally from a chemical toilet)
Water can be found for free, or at gas stations. Sometimes there is a small fee between €1-3 depending where you go.
For dumping grey water and black water I’ve always found in Europe it’s free. In the UK that’s not the case, you pretty much have to find a campsite to dump and they do tend to charge £1-3
Food is a personal preference. When we first moved into our van we had only installed the bed, our kitchen came later as we invested in materials. Needless to say, we ate lots of sandwiches, takeaways and snack foods!
Currently we have a kitchen counter with a sink and a syphon hand pump until we install the tap and electric pump. The sink also has a burner which will be used in future, but currently is not hooked up to the gas supply.
We also have a butane oven, which is really nice! We’ve used it to make tons of roast veggies, pizza, grilled cheese sandwiches and tons of other goodies. We also have a single burner camp stove that uses single canisters of butane.
The single burner has been our lifeline since we started. Life just seems so much nicer when you can make yourself a hot chocolate or tea. So we have food and water covered and it’s always being improved.
A big part of van life that doesn’t always get talked about is bathrooms!
Showering, cleaning yourself, using the toilet.
In our old van we had in Australia, we didn’t have any facilities, which meant if I needed to use the toilet we would need to go find a bathroom! This meant we chose a lot of the places we stayed, based on the fact they had a bathroom.
We didn’t want that stress this time around, (and Europe and UK have far fewer public bathrooms than Australia) so we invested in a 22L Thetford porta potty.
This is basically a common chemical toilet. It was under £50 on amazon.uk and the chemicals came with it.
Basically when you set it up, you put some water in it (it has a flushing tank and the main waste tank) you add the chemicals as per directions and you’re done. It’s super simple, the chemicals break down waste – it says not to use toilet paper but everyone I’ve met does anyways it’s fine, it’s more of a marketing ploy to get you to buy their very specific over priced branded toilet paper.
You empty at specific dump sites, now you can also buy eco friendly chemicals that are okay for you to dump in the wild (but I’ve never really thought that seemed like a good idea) it’s super easy, and I would never go without one of these now that I’ve had one.
As for cleaning yourself or showering.
Most people opt for gym memberships if they are in specific countries that have a chain like planet fitness or anytime fitness.
We haven’t done this, in Australia we found it was cheaper and easier to find free showers or to pay $1-3 to use a local pool, go for a relaxing swim and then use showers there.
A lot of vanners take that approach.
So far on this trip, we’ve used mostly truck stops, any major highway tends to have gas stations that have shower facilities, cost depends – some are free if you buy food or get gas, some cost £1-3 I’ve never paid more then £3
We’re going to invest in a solar shower (like €10) for warmer months when we can comfortably shower outside.
There are also ample outdoor showers on beaches all over Europe but they tend to be cold water only.
We have come up with another budget solution for inside the van (because I really don’t like being dirty) We went to a discount store and got a big rubber outdoor gardening bucket, it cost €5 and we also picked up some cheap shower curtains for €4 and now I can take a bucket and have a sponge bath/shower if I’m somewhere more secluded or don’t want to spend money on a shower. You just boil a kettle of hot water, add it to a half full bucket of cold water and you have a comfortable tempature to wash down with.
Works like a charm.
I also have no water body wash, baby wipes and hand Sanitizer as backups.
Being in a van doesn’t mean you have to feel unclean!
So that’s how we cover our basics for now.
It’s amazing when you realize how little you actually need to be comfortable.
This trip teaches a lot about comfort zone and your ability to adapt to situations.