Are you looking to live a simpler, more fulfilling life? If you'd like to strip down to the bare necessities and hit the road in search of adventure, there's just one vehicle for you: the Volkswagen Vanagon. A VW Vanagon is a cult classic. Popular in the 1980's, these cozy recreational vans are not only collectible, but entirely relevant in today's mobile world.
Now, I'm not going to lie to you: living on the road full-time takes a particular type of person. Not only must these travelers crave adventure and new locales, but to RV in a Vanagon, you have to be able to live with only essential items.
So how did a little RV become a cult classic? According to VW, the Vanagon was the North American version of their Transporter camper van, which was available years before in Europe. Today, official Vanagons are no longer produced by Volkswagen, but aftermarket van conversions are readily available. If you're considering making the change to this lifestyle, here's a peek at what you can expect:
Inside. These vehicles come with a mini sink, stove and fridge. The back seats offer storage, and fold down to make a full-size bed. Some vehicles come with a propane tank that can be used as a power source, while other units may include solar panels. The vehicles also offer a few small drawers, a locker for hanging clothes and a 10-gallon fresh water tank.
What's NOT inside.
There are only so much these little machines can hold, so they only come with the essential items listed above. There is no toilet or shower, which means if you are living full-time in one, you may have to use rest areas, campgrounds, or the great outdoors!
Note: Many RV parks won't allow campers that aren't self-contained overnight.
Pros Of Owning a Vanagon. Mechanical parts are relatively easy to find. Compared to larger RVs, the Vanagon can also function as an everyday car. It can handle traffic, parking, and tight turns. There are even four-wheel drive versions that allow you to trek off the beaten path.
Cons Of Owning a Vanagon. The Vanagon lacks power. Some engines like the air, cooled, and diesel models, were unreliable. It pays to find a model with a cooled original or newly rebuilt engine. Vanagons are also prone to breaking down, so it's important to have an inspection.
Packing For Full-Time Living
If you haven't picked up on the common theme, the Vanagon is VERY small. If you plan to travel full time, you should have space for everything you need, but not everything you want. Be prepared to spend a lot of time outdoors, where you will spend time dining and relaxing.
While traveling in a Vanagon, you will need:
Camping supplies- a tent, sleeping bags, small grill, and folding chairs.
Bedding and linens - towels, blankets, pillows and an inflatable mattress.
Food Prep- utensils, pots, pans, cups, bowls, plates, etc. Collapsible items are best.
First Aid Kit - an instant ice pack, heat pack, bandages and other first aid items.
Tools- scissors, hammer, and shovel. Consider adding a rack on the back for extra space.
Emergency Items - Flares, triangles, bungee cords, batteries, and lanterns.
Personal items - a tablet, cell phone, laptop, clothes, or anything else you can fit. Remember, space is limited, so choose items that serve more than one purpose.
This isn't everything you need, but gives you a starting point. After you've packed essentials, you can decide what else you want. You won't have everything, but will have what you need.
Where To Stay
Thanks to the Vanagon's versatility, you can park just about anywhere. From "stealth" camping to boondocking, you can feel safe taking this RV just about anywhere. Once you've found your spot, your van will then serve as the center of your camp. Vanagons come equipped with an awning that you can prop up with posts, then simply set up chairs, a tent, grill and fire and you can ensure an exciting outdoor adventure.
If you'd rather opt for a more civilized camping experience, pull your Vanagon into a campsite in a state or national park. Though you can't hook up to electricity, you can enjoy amenities like bathrooms and showers. The Vanagon was designed for camping situations where you drive to your destination, then get out and explore. Some nights you may choose to sleep inside, others under the stars.
Looking for a bit of city life? Try stealth camping, where you park somewhere overnight without drawing attention to yourself. In many locations, you can close your shades and stay quietly till morning. Be certain you are parked in an area that allows overnight stays, which may include retail stores, churches, and rest areas. Avoid areas that clearly say "No Camping or No Overnight stays." If you aren't sure, ask around.
Vanagon owners are a tight-knit group who will happily take you into the fold. Don't be surprised if you get open advice and waves from behind the wheel. If you like the idea of van camping, but aren't sure about owning a Vanagon, you might consider the following conversions:
- Winnebago Rialta (this was a larger Class B)
- Sprinter Van
Many people choose to customize cargo vans. For more ideas, check out Van Dwellers.
If you'd like to know more about "Van Dwelling," consider the book "Vanabode," which explains how to live on $20 a day. The author has been living in his converted van for over 20 years, and his camping pictures are out of this world. For more information, check out Vanabode.com.
Whether you choose to buy a Vanagon or another type, remember that these units are built strictly for getting to your destination, then exploring outside once you arrive. Unlike larger RVs, the van was never meant to hang out in and relax. If you are OK with the small size and love the idea of going low maintenance, then owning a converted van may just be right for you.