In recent years, a growing trend has emerged that combines the spirit of adventure with the practicality of self-reliance – van life. Van life refers to the lifestyle of living and traveling in a converted camper, van, truck, or bus. While it has gained popularity among travel enthusiasts and nomads, van life also offers unique advantages for survivalists. Learn how van life doubles as a survivalist lifestyle.

In a world filled with excess, minimalism offers a refreshing perspective. Van life, the embodiment of minimalism, is an ideal lifestyle for preppers and those with a preparedness mindset.

Van Life is Key for Resource Conservation

Minimalism teaches us to consume less and live more sustainably. This eco-friendly approach resonates with preppers who are concerned about resource conservation in an uncertain future. Using fewer resources and generating less waste not only benefits the environment but also ensures that essential resources are available when they are needed most.

Streamlined Preparedness is Crucial for Nomadic Living

In a van, you can't afford to be disorganized. Every item has its place, and you can locate your essentials in seconds. This level of organization is highly beneficial for preppers. Being able to quickly access crucial supplies, from first aid kits to emergency rations, is invaluable during a crisis.

Van Life can Offer Financial Freedom

Van life often offers financial freedom. With fewer expenses and lower overhead, preppers who embrace minimalism have more resources available for emergency preparations. This financial flexibility allows for investing in high-quality gear and long-term supplies.

Living on the Road is a Training Ground for Survival Skills

Van life can serve as a training ground for essential survival skills. Living on the road often means learning to fix things, adapt to different environments, and be resourceful. These skills can directly translate to preparedness situations, where the ability to think on your feet and adapt is invaluable.

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The History and Resurgence of Van Living

Van life has come a long way from its nomadic roots in Central Asia to the counterculture movements of the 1960s and the modern resurgence fueled by the internet. What was once seen as a radical lifestyle choice has evolved into a practical and sustainable way of living for many.

In the United States, the history of mobile homes can be traced back to the 1920s when car manufacturers began converting automobiles into living spaces. However, it was during the 1960s and 1970s that the van life movement truly gained mainstream popularity, propelled by a counterculture wave and the iconic Volkswagen Type 2, also known as the "hippie van."

As the 2020’s have begun, the van life movement has experienced a resurgence in the United States, driven by various factors such as a desire for adventure, a simpler lifestyle, the flexibility to work remotely, and global or domestic concerns about safety and infrastructure.

~The Origins: Nomads of Central Asia

~To understand the roots of living on the road, we need to go back to Central Asia, where nomadic tribes roamed the vast steppes. These people lived in yurts, portable and sturdy dwellings that could be assembled and disassembled with ease. This way of life allowed them to follow the seasons, find fresh pastures for their livestock, and adapt to the changing landscape.

~1920s America: The Birth of Mobile Homes

~In the United States, the concept of mobile homes began to take shape in the 1920s. Car manufacturers saw an opportunity to transform automobiles into more than just vehicles for transportation. These early mobile homes were often homemade, with individuals and families converting their cars into makeshift living spaces for road trips.

~The 1960s and 1970s: Van Life Goes Mainstream

~It was the 1960s and 1970s that saw the van life movement gain true mainstream popularity in the United States. This era witnessed a counterculture movement, where many young people rejected traditional societal norms and values. The hippie movement, in particular, played a significant role in popularizing the idea of living in a van as a means to lead a simpler and more connected life.

~~The Hippie Icon: Volkswagen Type 2

~~At the heart of this movement was the iconic Volkswagen Type 2, often affectionately called the "hippie van" or "microbus." This vehicle quickly became a favorite among those who sought a life on the road. Why? It was affordable, easy to maintain, and had just enough space to create a cozy living area. The van was more than just a mode of transportation; it was a symbol of the counterculture movement.

~~These vans were more than just practical; they were expressions of freedom and individuality. Often painted in bright colors and adorned with psychedelic designs and peace signs, they carried the spirit of the times.

~The 1980s and 1990s: A Decline in Popularity

~However, like all trends, the popularity of mobile homes and van living saw a decline in the 1980s and 1990s. Many people began to associate these lifestyles with poverty and homelessness. The economic climate and societal perceptions led to a decreased interest in living on the road. Still, the concept of van life never vanished entirely.

~The Modern Resurgence

~Fast forward to the early 2000s, and we witness the resurgence of the van life movement. This time, it gained momentum thanks to the internet and social media. An entirely new generation of individuals began to embrace this lifestyle, but with a twist. The internet allowed them to share their experiences, tips, and stories, creating a robust online community of van lifers.

~Van Life Today

~Today, van life isn't just for counterculture rebels or free spirits. It's for adventurers, digital nomads, and people seeking a more sustainable, minimalist way of living – as well as for those looking to get off the grid.

  • Popularity Growth: Van life has been steadily growing in popularity in recent years. The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated this trend, as more people sought alternative ways to travel and work.
  • Social Media and Influencers: Platforms like Instagram, Tik Tok, and YouTube have played a significant role in popularizing van life. Influential van life content creators have amassed large followings, showcasing their adventures and DIY van conversions.
  • Rise of Remote Work: The ability to work remotely has enabled many individuals to take up van life as they can travel and work simultaneously. This trend is especially significant among millennials and digital nomads.
  • Economic Considerations: The cost of living in some major cities, along with the affordability of van life compared to traditional homeownership, has attracted people to this lifestyle. Some find it a more cost-effective way to live.
  • DIY Van Conversions: Many van lifers are opting for do-it-yourself (DIY) van conversions, customizing their vans to suit their needs and style. This has created a subculture of van conversion enthusiasts.
  • Eco-Friendly and Sustainable Living: Van life often aligns with sustainability and eco-friendly living principles. Many van lifers are conscious of their environmental impact and seek to minimize it.
  • Community and Gatherings: Van life communities have formed, both online and offline. There are gatherings and events where like-minded van lifers come together to share experiences and knowledge.
  • Diverse Demographics: The van life community is not limited to a specific age group or demographic. People from various backgrounds and ages are embracing this lifestyle.
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Why Van Life Doubles as a Survivalist Lifestyle

As individuals sought safer ways to explore, maintain their careers, and adapt to uncertain times, the van life movement experienced a resurgence like never before.

~Mobility and Adaptability

~Van life provides survivalists with the ultimate mobility and adaptability. In times of crisis or emergency, being able to quickly relocate is crucial. A well-equipped camper van allows you to escape dangerous areas, natural disasters, or societal unrest. Its compact size makes it easier to navigate both urban and wilderness environments, ensuring you can find safety and resources more effectively.


~One of the core principles of survivalism is self-sufficiency. Living in a camper van encourages you to minimize your reliance on external systems. With careful planning and the right equipment, you can generate your own power through solar panels, collect and filter water, and even grow your own food. Van life promotes resourcefulness, as you learn to maximize limited space and find creative solutions to everyday challenges.

~Off-the-Grid Living

~Van life enables survivalists to embrace off-the-grid living. By utilizing renewable energy sources, conserving water, and reducing waste, you can reduce your environmental impact and become less reliant on traditional infrastructure. Additionally, you can equip your van with communication devices, such as satellite phones or ham radios, to maintain contact with the outside world even in remote areas.

How to Create Your Own Camper Van

~Choosing the Right Van

~Start by selecting a suitable van based on your needs, budget, and desired features. Popular options include the Mercedes Sprinter, Ford Transit, and Dodge Ram Promaster. Consider factors such as size, fuel efficiency, reliability, and availability of spare parts. If a van is “thinking too small” for your prepping mentality, try a modified RV or old school bus!

~Layout and Design

~Design the interior layout of your camper van to optimize space and functionality. Create a floor plan that includes a sleeping area, kitchenette, storage compartments, and a small living space. Modular furniture, foldable beds, and collapsible tables can maximize flexibility. Use lightweight materials to keep the van's weight manageable.

~Electrical and Power Systems

~Install a reliable electrical system that includes solar panels, deep-cycle batteries, and an inverter. This setup will provide you with a renewable energy source to power appliances, charge devices, and run lights and fans. Ensure the system is correctly wired and consider including a backup generator for emergencies.

~Water and Plumbing

~Include a water storage system with a freshwater tank, a gray water tank, and a pump. Install a small sink with a faucet and a drainage system. Consider incorporating a composting toilet or a portable camping toilet to handle waste disposal efficiently.

~Insulation and Climate Control

~Insulate the walls, ceiling, and floor of your van to regulate temperature and minimize heat loss. Use materials like foam insulation or sheep's wool for effective insulation. Install ventilation fans, windows, and shades to manage airflow and prevent condensation.

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Places You Can Live in a Camper Van

~National Parks and Forests

~National parks and forests offer breathtaking landscapes and the freedom to explore nature. Many provide designated camping areas with amenities such as restrooms, showers, and potable water. Some parks require permits or have restrictions, so research the specific guidelines beforehand.

~Bureau of LandManagement (BLM) Lands

~BLM lands in the United States offer vast stretches of public land where dispersed camping is allowed. These lands often provide opportunities for boondocking, where you can park your camper van in remote locations and enjoy solitude. Check BLM regulations and obtain any necessary permits or passes.

~State and Provincial Parks

~State and provincial parks are excellent options for camper van living. They offer a range of amenities, including camping facilities, hiking trails, and recreational activities. Research the specific parks in your area, as some may have restrictions on vehicle size or length of stay.

~RV Parks and Campgrounds

~RV parks and campgrounds provide convenient facilities and services for camper van dwellers. They typically offer electrical hookups, dump stations, and access to amenities like showers and laundry facilities. While these options may have a cost associated with them, they provide a sense of community and additional security.

~Public Rest Areas and Overnight Parking

~In certain areas, public rest areas and overnight parking spots allow limited stays for campers. These locations are usually intended for short-term stays and provide basic amenities such as restrooms and picnic tables. Be sure to check local regulations and respect any posted time limits.