We had a get-together for Seattle-area folks who are converting their Sprinter vans. Fourteen vans showed up, and several more people who don’t have their van yet. It was great to see the diversity of builds and the ingenuity that went in to making each van custom for the people who’d be using it.
We use our van to camp close to the trails we want to ride. That doesn’t mean we want the contents of those trails in our van. Keeping ourselves, our bikes, and the van clean takes some creativity.
People often refer to parking overnight in an inhabited area as “stealth camping.” Unless your Sprinter has no exterior adornments, no condensation on the window glass, local license plates, and absolutely no light showing through the window covers, it’s unlikely you’ve gone unnoticed. What’s more important is that you are not disturbed.
Traveling with a dog is hassle. Traveling with a dog in a van is considerably less hassle than doing it in a car. Here are some of the things we’ve done to make life easier for ourselves and our dog.
If you’re not careful, the whole van can end up being a dirty laundry basket. And it’ll end up smelling that way too. We don’t live full time in the van, so we needed a way to move our clothes in and out quickly and easily. Packing cubes provided the answer because they make it easy to organize and find clean clothes, and to quarantine the stinky ones.
Normally the places we choose to camp are deserted. Nobody but the wildlife to see us pooping. Sometimes though we have neighbors, so we bought a $40 pop-up toilet/shower tent.
Camping away from organized sites has loads of advantages, but there are very few outhouses in the wilderness. Some areas (like Moab) don’t let you dig holes in the ground to poop in. You need some kind of container. It doesn’t have to be too smelly and gross though.
We decided to go all-electric for the van so we could avoid the hassles of a fixed propane tank. It’s working really well for us but we do still carry a small butane stove for extra capacity.
We love the chairs and table we bought for the van so much that we’ve taken out the bench seat and use the chairs inside instead. Sorry – no more passengers!
We finally got an opportunity to use the van for a biking trip. Maybe we were being overambitious to think we’d have it finished by now. Despite living out of plastic tubs, the trip was loads of fun.
The inside of the van still looks like a spaceship. All reflective aluminum foil with the odd loose wire dangling down. But we do have an insulated floor, an electrical system, a diesel heater, a bench seat in its final (third row) position, and a roof fan.
We loaded the mountain bikes in to the back, a cooler in the front (easier to strap down than the TruckFridge that we will finally be using), the dog crate next to the cooler, and a couple of bags of clothes under the bench seat.
Then we set off for Bend, Oregon. It’s a lovely biking destination and we hit town near the end of the season but with great weather and wonderful trail conditions. Four days of riding wasn’t quite enough, but it was sufficient opportunity to test the van out and also to stock up on some local beer.
On the way down we stopped at Stonehenge. It’s a monument we’ve meant to take a look at several times in the past. Somehow, with the van, taking a detour just felt more appropriate. No need to worry about leaving the bikes on the roof rack because they were locked safely inside. No need to worry about the dog because the roof fan would kick in if the inside temperature got too high. A great opportunity to take in some local sights.