Jace, Giddi, little Juniper, and Lotus the Dog live in a van – and it’s a nice one. After selling their first van in March of 2016, they purchased another and did a complete new build. They put a ton of work into it, but its floors and cabinets don’t define their Home on Wheels. “For us, its not what you put inside, or how you decorate,” says Jace. “Sure, these things help create a more ‘at home’ feel as you travel around, but what really makes it a home is the experiences you have in it.”
Ready for the van life? Read below and snag some tips from these seasoned pros.
Space is tight, so Giddi and Jace try to keep things to a minimum. “Toys and gear over clothes and junk – prioritize what you bring with you,” says Jace. Jace and Giddi also perform periodic purges where they’ll pull everything out of the van and shed the things they haven’t used.
Packing smart is also essential. “We like to keep the inside feeling as open as possible because it really helps you relax,” says Giddi. “Our Yakima rooftop box holds most of our outdoor gear, and we have a bike rack on the back.” Climbing, slacklining, SUP – that’s a lot to carry. “Even with the box, Tetris skills go a long way here,” says Jace. “But it’s worth it to get it out of the living space and up onto the roof.”
Living in a van requires sacrifices, but you don’t have to totally rough it. Jace and Giddi put in a power system that can handle a freezer and blender for smoothies. They also have a little electric oven that they pull out to bake fresh chocolate chip cookies when they’re camping with friends. There are some advantages to the van’s close quarters. “Everything is so close and quickly accessible. Your sink and bed are right next to one another, so getting out of bed to grab a drink of water is not as miserable as it is in a house. You don’t stumble into the walls on your way there,’” says Jace. “Plus, when Giddi was pregnant she had to use the toilet a lot, ours was right below our bed, not super far away.”
Build your own
Looking to build your own rig? First, look for a van with a solid motor. “Even if the van doesn’t look cute and Instagrammable, you will be grateful down the road when you talk to everyone having breakdowns in their gorgeous rigs,” says Jace.
As far as the build out goes, Jace says most people can hack out how to do it on their own as long as they have the time to invest. “We figured out how to do it all from YouTube videos, Internet forums, and a lot of trial and error.” To help make it easier for others, Jace and Giddi are compiling a Build Book – a DIY resource that will be available on their website soon. Another option is hiring a pro. Based in Utah, Jace is the guy.
A weekender van can be done for a lot less time, money, and headache. It just requires some sort of bed, a five-gallon jug of water, camp stove, and an ice chest. “You can do without a shower and toilet and electric fridge, and you wouldn’t need batteries and solar either,” says Jace. “Your van is really just a way to get outside and stay outside longer. Nobody wants to be spending the whole day in there if they don’t have to.”
Five home on wheels tips:
BE PREPARED: Get a van with a good motor, and make sure you have a good spare tire. When your tire blows, and then your spare, you will be stranded – probably in the middle of nowhere.
KNOW BEFORE YOU GO: Van life, although awesome in so many ways, isn’t always pretty Instagram photo ops. It is still real life…and you’re in a vehicle
ENJOY THE RIDE: It’s not about how you build your van, it’s about where you plan on taking it – or where you allow it to take you.
PACK SMART: Keep the inside livable. We put our bikes on a rack on the back, and outdoor gear goes up top in a Yakima SkyBox.
KEEP IT CLEAN: Gyms are all over the place and have hot showers – get yourself a membership so you’re not the stinky van dweller everyone expects when they meet you.