how to live, travel and explore the world from your van

What is the best camping vehicle

travel camping questions and answers help forum

QUESTION: You recommend a short wheel-based vs. extended wheel-base van for ease of parking in cities. Would you feel the same way if you were 6'1? tall and thus couldn't align the bed across the van as you did but would need to align it lengthwise? I'm thinking that because of that the longer wheelbase would be especially desirable. How would you view the trade-off in my situation?

MY ANSWER: If I were your height I would purchase or rent the longer wheelbase vehicle and turn the bed front to back. Yes the added room is extremely valuable. Be aware that longer vehicles will have additional difficulties in SOME places, mainly parking garages, big cities, most major cities in Canada, along California's beaches, and most crowded areas of the East coast. If you don't plan on spending that much time in those kinds of places the longer vehicle will not hurt you except for a microscopic loss in fuel economy. The extra room is worth it.

QUESTION: When you say buy a van exactly like yours, do you mean a Chevy Express?

MY ANSWER: The van I show in the book, and use, and recommend, is the best for long term, full on, stealth mode, big city and outdoor off the grid camping. Period. Every deviation from it will result in losing some value somewhere. Every deviation from it COULD also result in gaining an advantage that is worth it to you in particular.

See above question and answer for more on this. I chose the Chevy because Ford did not offer an equivalent van that had the LARGE sliding door on the side rather than the hinged ones.

If you do not care about that issue then a Ford van of similar amenities would work fine. See Vanabode book for more.

QUESTION: Why did you rule out other vans that are used mostly as commercial vehicles, such as the Dodge Sprinter? With its higher ceiling, I know it is popular among some van campers.

MY ANSWER: The Dodge Sprinter is an absolutely fantastic choice. . .
1) If you can afford it,
2) If you don't mind NOT being able to park in many parking garages due to the increased height. I stay in Vegas for months at a time for free so a high top Sprinter style van would be of less value to me.
3) If you are NOT going to be stealth camping in big cities much. The van I use draws absolutely no attention at all whereas the Sprinter is more of a "camper" looking vehicle.
4) If you don't mind the fact that it is not as wide as the van I recommend
5) If you don't mind the fact that it is more top heavy and therefore more tippy and shakes more in winds
6) Nearly all Sprinter vans are vastly inferior to my setup in terms of suspension and tire size for OFFROAD use. We go to some extraordinary places out West like Spencer hot springs, Joshua Tree, Ventana Wilderness in California, Kings Canyon, and Bryce Canyon. When I get ready to drive off road over milk jug sized rocks and ruts in the forest I don't want any more trouble than I already have. The bigger and wider tires of my Vanabode are much better in this regard.

YOUR QUESTION: You say a short wheelbase van is the preferred way to visit cities, and mention New York City as an example. But seriously, how would you use a van as an abode in NYC? Driving in Manhattan is crazy enough, but parking is really hard to find and expensive. How do you do it? Seems to me the only practical way would be to park in New Jersey or something and then take a ferry or train. In that case, I would think you could use a longer wheelbase van. But maybe you really do park in NYC. Have you ever parked in a multistory parking garage in NYC and slept in your van there?

MY ANSWER: I have not spent that much time in New York City but we are planning a heavy long 5 month East Coast run next year. I have slept in parking garages because in big cities it is most often cheaper to do that with a 24 hour pass and be close to the action than it is to park on the street and be limited to 4 hours at a time. It is noisy with all the echoes and can be fumy. I do not recommend it nor do I do much of this. With so many other options available for living as described in the book I don't think many do long term.

YOUR QUESTION: You recommend a van with a rubber floor because carpet collects allergens etc. But your van shows a carpeted floor. Are you recommending to add carpet on top of a rubber floor, or were you unable to get rubber flooring for your van so were stuck with carpet?

MY ANSWER: We used the carpet over the rubber floor for 3 months as a test when we were in an area where we were hiking on wet muddy ground alot. We took it out once it became filthy and would never use carpet in there again. Carpet is NOT a solution to much of anything.

YOUR QUESTION: My husband owns a 2007 Honda Ridgeline truck that he loves… we have been considering buying a smaller hybrid camper trailer to head south with but never having been RVers so to speak we are concerned about the cost. He already has a topper on his truck which has a short box and it cannot pull more than 5000 pounds. Not sure how much more we would have to spend per day with a rig like that compared to picking up a used work van and outfitting it as a vanabode.

MY ANSWER: Once you get into the strategies outlined in the book the budget will make more sense. If you do not drive many miles per week then having a vehicle that is SMALL but gets great gas mileage causes unnecessary discomfort and saves you very little money. If you camp in thousands of FREE places shown in the book and are NOT worried that they KNOW you are camping there then use the biggest vehicle you can afford. However if you want to do EVERYTHING from camping in a national park or remote off the grid homestead to living right on the Las Vegas strip or on the beach in California then you will need to follow the specific strategies outlined in Vanabode in order to do it on $20 a day. There is no other way to do it all when you want to do it cheap.

YOUR QUESTION: Thank you for your great book...I would love to travel this great country and was wondering if i could do it in my tacoma v6 4 door with a fiberglass cap and a bedliner or do you thing i should trade it for a chevy express....I may be traveling alone if my girlfriend decides not to go.

MY ANSWER: You CAN but you may not want to. Most of what I describe in the book can be done with your existing vehicle. I would NOT recommend it if you are traveling with a reluctant girlfriend....with that scenario I would HIGHLY recommend trading for the exact kind of van setup exactly as I describe in the book.

Here are some other resources that may help those investigating various platforms for travel.
RV for Sale Guide offers a near complete discussion of everything big motorhome related
Sample Class A travel vacation covers over 7,000 miles of 31 day vacation (NOT Vanaboding)
Bus for Sale Guide covers using buses for business transportation and as conversions for live aboard
Used Bus List allows you to buy and sell used buses for free, pictures and sortable lists of buses for sale

This is a question from a list of camping questions those on my email list have asked my help with.
Please email me anytime if you need help with anything related to Vanabode, camping, travel, road trips, equipment, or living off the grid in the United States.

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