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This van life FAQ answers some of the most popular questions we’ve received about camper van life and what’s it’s like to live out of a van full time. We hope this information is helpful in your van life research. If you have additional questions about van dwelling that are not covered, please leave a comment at the end of the post.
The FAQ is broken up into three sections:
Living the Van Life
Joe and I have been living a nomadic lifestyle since 2015. In 2017, we downsized from a large motorhome to a small camper van (more about our downsizing journey). We’ve learned a lot about living out of a van since then.
This post contains a collection of all the resources we’ve shared around van dwelling and what it’s like to live out of a camper van.
ProMaster Conversion Van
We started in a 2017 Ram ProMaster 3500 conversion van. You can read more about the camper van or watch the full van tour below.
General Questions About Van Life
In this section, we answer general questions about living in a van. If you prefer to listen or watch videos, you can check out all the van life Q&As we’ve hosted below.
This video answers many questions about the ProMaster conversion van and general questions about van life.
Questions answered in the above video include:
- Does the van have bathroom and shower?
- Do you cook in the van? Is it easy to make meals?
- How do you run electric cooking devices in the van? See how we make healthy meals in the van over at my post on Instant Pot Recipes.
- If you could change anything in the van what would it be?
- Would you tow a vehicle behind the van?
- How do you deal with being off-level?
- Would you go with a shorter or longer van?
- Why not build your own conversion van?
- Is a 24′ van at 24′ too long for National Parks?
- Would a camper van be a good fit for a student?
- How is the ride of the ProMaster van compared to a bigger RV?
- Do you regret downsizing to a camper van?
- How is the clearance on a ProMaster van?
- Do you ever take any alone time, do you even need any?
- Which direction do you sleep in the van?
- Have you experienced any negativity for being van life nomads?
- How do you get drinking water in the van? See Berkey Water Purifier.
- How long do you plan to live the van life?
- How do you decide where to travel?
- Is the cassette toilet easy to use and where do you dump? See Cassette Toilet Review.
- What portable toilet do you recommend? See Best Portable Camping Toilets for Vans, Cars, and RVs.
- What’s the MPG on the Ram ProMaster 3500 van?
Additional Questions About Van Life
- What tools do you carry in the van? See 18 Must Have Tools.
- What is it like to live in a van with a dog? See RVing with Dogs.
- How do van lifers make money? See How to Make Money Traveling.
- What are the downsides about van life? Watch Stressful Side of Van Life.
- How do you do laundry on the road? Watch Laundry Day video.
- Is it easy to street camp or stealth camp in the city? Watch Street Camping in New Orleans.
- How much does it cost to live the van life? See Cost of Van Life Reports.
- How do you get mail? See How to Get Mail and Packages on the Road
- What do you do about health insurance? See RV Health Insurance
In this video, we answer more questions about living out of a van and working on the road.
Solar Setup and Living Off-Grid in a Van
This video covers many of the questions we’ve received about solar and battery. You can watch the entire video or browse the list of questions and jump directly to the answer.
What type of solar setup do you have in the van? timestamp 00:53
Can you run the air conditioner off solar? timestamp 01:45
How do you run the Instant Pot when you’re not plugged in to power? timestamp 02:46
Why didn’t you get a generator for the van? timestamp 03:46
How is the VoltStart system working? timestamp 05:04
How much solar should I get for my RV? timestamp 06:26
How often do you have to plug in to shore power? timestamp 08:08
Does the system charge well on cloudy days? timestamp 09:20
How do we keep your dog cool in the van? timestamp 09:47
How do your panels do during hail storms? timestamp 11:38
Is the RV solar system standard or aftermarket? timestamp 13:00
Where do you get drinking water? timestamp 14:00
How long can you stay off grid? timestamp 14:50
Have you tried off grid cold winter camping? timestamp 16:24
How do you access internet on the road? timestamp 18:25
How is your RV cell phone booster setup? timestamp 20:17
Would you upgrade to an 800 amp hour battery bank? timestamp 22:47
Check out these van life gatherings to meet fellow van dwellers and learn more about the lifestyle.
Looking for a unique overnight RV camping experience? Read our Harvest Hosts Review and discover their camping on farms, winery camping, and museum programs.
56 thoughts on “Van Life FAQ – Answers to Popular Questions About Van Life”
Love seeing your travels for a long time now. I enjoyed the vanlife for 2 yrs by choice in my sprinter. We did 26 states. And discovered a new lifestyle with the help from your videos. We ,me and my wife and our pomeranian tobie. We now have settled 1yr now at a rv park in so.oregon. as we learned a lot of full time folks are doing this to…it’s a cheaper way to live. And still travel. We now have purchased a 42 ft 5th wheel to call home. Van to travel still .get every where in the vanlife rig. 42 footer is to big for expoling. But I really enjoy or info…look up laughing alpaca camp ground and rv park..Best one we stayed in 26 states. We like it so much we’re on our 13th month…it’s in cave junction Oregon. On the Illinois River, look it up its a paradise. Hope to see you guys there. John. Big fan and full timer now.
When will your Instant Pot Cookbook be coming out ?
Do you share any of your recipes at this time ?
Thank you and have a wonderful day.
Hi Paul. The cookbook is in the works. In the meantime, you can find some recipes here.
Hi Joe & Kait,
How do you guys manage and deal with the winter? How is your Class B-RV fair with the harsh winter? I would consider full time RV living but my job is in the North East and eventho remote in is allowed but i do have to attend meetings at the office from time to time. Therefore, living too far from work is not an option. Do you know of any class B rvs that are built for winter living as well?
Hi Shawn. Joe and I try to stay in nice weather all year around so we haven’t been in harsh winters with a Class B RV yet. You do have the option of winterizing your camper for those meetings in the North East and de-winterizing when you get back to warmer temps. One thing to keep in mind is whether all the water lines and fresh water tank are inside the camper. Good luck with your search and if you haven’t already, check out our list of Class B RVs Manufacturers.
We have watched all of your videos and really look forward to them. Because of you two, we have purchased a new Class B Coachmen camper van. Don’t have it yet, but we’re excited to take delivery soon. We have purchased several of the gadgets you’ve recommended, so thanks for that. We are both retired and planning to go South for a couple of months this coming winter to get away from our cold and snowy Minnesota winters.
FYI, one of our local RV dealers still has two Hymer Activ vans on close-out. Once is a new 2.0 19′ for $79,900 and a used 1.0 17′ 2017 with approximately 20,000 miles for $67,900. Let me know if you’re interested and I’ll send you the dealer contact info.
Congrats Bev! Thank you for letting us know about the gadgets and the Aktivs for sale. Wishing you many fun adventures in your camper van.
We just bought a used B+ from a family owned company in Nokomis, Florida called Coach House. They do have a Van Type named Arriva. Have you checked them out? We bought Platinum’s XL 261 RT 2011. We really like it so far.
We have looked at the Coach House Arriva. Enjoying traveling in your Platinum XL!
Hi, I am looking to buy my first Class B! In your opinion for a class B diesel or gas? 2016 Winnebago Gas,,,or 2006 Roadtrek Diesel???? Thanks! Theresa
Theresa – we don’t recommend RVs to people because they are such personal choices. There are quite a few differences between those two vans so pick the one you like the most and works for your lifestyle.
Hi kait and Joe
I seen your live show today you said you watch Netflix I was wondering if you guys have watched cobra kai if you liked karate kid this is a continuation of that movie let me know what you think of it ok Love watching your videos keep up the good work ?
Thanks Ruby! We’ve seen the previews for the show and it looks fun but it’s on the premium version of YouTube and we don’t have that.
Are you still considering a Class B+ or will you limit your van search to a B.
Go North. I’m thinking of Van travel start slow and build up over time ( age 75) so I can’t Waite too long. How is you love life on the road seem like all the time.??
Like your stuff! What gas mileage do you get?
Hi Joe & Kait,
I watched “The Beast” video & I am wondering what happened to your Hymer. I saw somewhere that they were going out of business. Is that why you’re going to build out the Beast? Happy birthday BTW Joe! Congrats on the new bike! Good luck with your continued travels! Love your videos!
Thanks Mary – we answer that question and discuss why we’re shopping for a new van in this video: https://youtu.be/bV2jTwdUY74 Enjoy!
I’ve been enjoying the replay of your: “It’s Time for a Change – Shopping for Our Next Camper” YouTube video. (I don’t miss an episode!) There is a van conversion company called SPORT MOBILE. They utilize the Mercedes Sprinter, Ford Transit, Dodge Promaster, Mercedes Metris and Chevy/Ford e-vans. Check out their website: https://sportmobile.com for more information. Love you guys and continue to enjoy my Ford EAA Oshkosh cap!
Thanks for everything!
Glad you were able to connect with Sports Mobile at the Overland Expo West. I knew you would be impressed. They are located in Fresno, CA, just 80 miles from our mountain home. You guys take care and travel safe in “The Beast.”
Thanks Ted! We’ve visited the Sportsmobile West Factory and really enjoyed checking out their custom builds.
Hi Joe and Kait,
Where, if anywhere, can a single person find a Short Motorhome? All I can find is 24 footers.
I’m not sure if I’ll be moving into a Motorhome soon, but I’m studying the whole aspect of moving into an RV. Is there such a thing as an RV shorter than 24 feet with all the amenities like Solar Power, Shower and Toilet, decent bed and a desk and tv? Thanks to both of you.
Hi Richard – yes if you go through our list, you’ll find many companies that make vans that are 20 and 19 ft. Many use the shorter Mercedes chassis which is 19 feet long.
Waving hello from the Deep South! I enjoy the doodle out of your videos! I’m still catching up though!
It’s been great to help me refine my ideas of what I need to consider if I make the jump to class B full timing.
I think my greatest challenge will be that I still have to work here in the southeast. It’s soooo hot and humid in the summers. Do y’all think the Akitv can accommodate the ecotrek 800? Would I need it? I have a dog and I’ll be out of my van for 4 hours or so at a time for work.
Also, have y’all considered installing a composting toilet?
Hey Ceci! As far as I know, they don’t offer the 800 in the Aktiv. The 400 for us has been more than enough. Also, unless you’re leaving the van parked in the sun with 90 degree heat, you don’t need to run the AC. Close the shades on the windows, crack the windows, turn the exhaust fan on and it will typically stay cooler in the van than outside. Once you get your van, give it a try and see for yourself.
We haven’t considered a composting toilet for the van.
We have seen almost all of your videos and feel like we are traveling with you. In one we saw you had a padded windshield inside cover with matching side window covers. We have a Roadtrk and would like some. Where can they be purchased? Thank you
Hey Maggie. Are you referring to the custom DIY shades we made? If you’re referring to the magnetic ones, those are available through Roadtrek/Hymer.
Hi there. Love your videos.
I am on a quest to identify a class b for solo plein air painting trips across the US and outings with hubby. I am currently considering the Hymer but very interested in reliability and safety of the ProMaster 3500 V6, especially since I will be traveling alone some of the time. Would greatly appreciate any info regarding your experience with this van. Any challenges to expect? Things that need tending or replacement during and after the break in period?
Again love watching your videos. I have learned so much and can’t wait for the tough decision to be done!
The ProMaster has been problem free for us. This is our third vehicle with the Pentastar V6 and we like it. I believe safety is on par with the other modern vans.
Just wondering ,do you grille outside and if you do do you use electricity,gas or charcoal?
We don’t carry a grill with us, but we do enjoy grilling outside when we have access to one either driveway surfing or at a campground like Joshua Tree National Park.
Were about to pull the trigger on a 2018 Aktiv 2.0. One question though, have you had any mechanical/chassis problems with the Promaster/Ducato? Thank you!
Hi Mike – no we haven’t had any issues with the ProMaster.
How do you camp in freezing weather?
We don’t. When it gets that cold, we head south for warmer weather.
Hey might be a little late on the FAQs but my girlfriend is planning to do something similar, living off grid. Trouble is, location. We’re planning to do this here in Canada but would like some advice, we’re also looking at a promaster and suping it up for off-grid living, at least until we can properly afford a better place to live. I researched into the solar panels and battery system- doest seem super efficient to be carefully balancing electricity everyday, especially in an environment like mine. How would you go about starting up in a colder climate? seeing as winter is almost upon us, I thought I should ask. Also, Would you think a wind turbine would do more good in terms of constant electrical production?
In a colder climate, we start moving south. Our van doesn’t have the insulation for serious cold and our water pipes are not inside the van so we run the risk of freezing them. In regards to solar/battery, the more you have the less you have to balance but that comes at a cost. Unless you have constant wind, not just a breeze, solar panels will work better IF there is good sunlight compared to a wind turbine. That said, if you don’t want to worry about power, finding electrical hook-ups or having a generator would be the least expensive option.
Hi Joe: I have a few questions about your Pro Master Van… Is the V6 adequate for climbing steep grades in the mountains.. And has the engine and drivetrain given you any problems.
Yes it’s been fine going up hills and no issues at 24k miles.
In your recent q and a you mentioned about bikes and the van being too long.
What are your thoughts on something like the hymervan
It seems as small as your van but has the garage for bikes etc.
Interested to know why this is or isn’t suitable for you.
Thanks for the videos
We have the same “garage” area but since we live out of the van full time it’s being used for other things (our chairs, cords, and other essential items). Any bikes would have to go outside on a rack if we decided to get any.
Hi Joe and Kait,
Love your website! If I got a van I would want a Hymer and would like to know if my electric bike would fit underneath the bed in case I want to store it inside the van instead of on a bike rack while raining etc. I saw Joe under the space in one of the videos and thought it might be large enough for my bike. I was wondering what the dimensions (length, width, height) are of the space under the bed.
Hello Joe and Kait! If you ever find yourself in the Glenwood Springs, Colorado area, we would love to host you for some driveway surfing. (We also have guest bedrooms you’re welcome to use.) Lots of trails to hike around our home, our hot tub is relaxing, and we’re on a golf course, if you have your sticks. (I don’t actually golf……maybe they’re called clubs? 😀 ) It’s a 20 minute drive to Hanging Lake and 10 minutes to the hot springs. Joe would not be allowed to meet my husband though. He’s already a coffee snob and I don’t need Joe to influence him anymore. 😉
Class B ‘s are nice , they go anywhere your SUV can go , its great for two people and better on Gas than class A or C or pulling a trailer . The downside is they are very expensive . A new class B cost $75,000-$100,000 new . So you have to use it a lot to justify the cost . We settled on our 22 ft travel trailor , brand new at 23k . Thanks and Happy Trails
Hi Joe and Kait, my wife and I have really enjoyed your travel adventures and advise on RVs. We are looking for a class b that allow us a great deal of flexibility when traveling and parking. We are looking at a Hymer Activ and compared it to Travato, Pleasureway and Roadtrek. We keep coming back due to the many more advantages of the Activ.
Would be nice to meet up someday.
James and Martina
Good luck with your Class B search. See you on the road!
Hi Joe and Kait,
I love your videos! I bought your book and thoroughly loved it. After reading your book and watching your videos I can’t find out what happened to your dog Duke. As a dog lover and Leo fan I’m sad that Duke isn’t with you. We traveled last summer in our class B to Alaska with two big dogs. It was an adventure for sure. A trip of a lifetime. Hope to see you on the road.
So happy to hear you enjoyed the book. If you haven’t already, please consider leaving a review. Book two will talk about Duke and what happened but you can watch this video for a bit more info: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gR-Da5BdskE
First, my wife and I really like your videos. You guys do a great job!
One of our concerns about going with a van or motorhome versus a trailer is what to do if the vehicle breaks or is otherwise out of commission for some reason. Particularly when traveling with a dog (we have two). Have you had this happen? Do you have contingencies plans for these scenarios? Thanks guys.
Keep in mind, you could have serious warranty issues/repairs that would be needed on a trailer and require you to be out of it. We’ve never had issues with the vehicle breaking but we have had warranty items that required us to be out of the motorhome for a few nights. When that happens we get a dog friendly hotel or rent something through AirBnB. Something to consider with a trailer, if your truck breaks down, you’ll have to find a way to get your trailer to a RV park and hope they have room for you.
I really enjoy the videos and blog – am learning a lot as we consider downsizing from a 23′ Airstream + SUV to a Class B or small Class C.
You mentioned considering the Leisure Travel Wonder. I was curious what your thoughts were on this motorhome, beyond the fact that its larger size would inhibit some of your travels. (I’m tempted by it because its large storage compartments can fit folding kayaks, and we do like living “inside” the RV. I also like the Transit chassis.)
Thanks Tom! We really liked the Wonder and enjoyed looking through it with Dean from LTV (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vXggPtlzfzo). The battery and solar setup on the Hymer is what won us over. If you’ll be spending more time inside the RV, the Wonder could be a good option. Best of luck with your research and let us know if you end up downsizing from the Airstream.
We are enjoying your posts and the YouTube videos. On a recent video you noted that your car battery died. How did that happen? I thought that there is an automatic shutoff switch when you turn the car off.
Thanks John! We accidentally left the van’s radio on which can be “on” even when the ignition is off.
Joe and Kait,
I’ve noticed that in working your way north you are up to Portland, which is only a day’s trip from my girlfriend’s and my home in Bellingham WA.
We follow your web site closely and would dearly like to meet you and compare notes on RV’s and camping, if it wouldn’t inconvenience you. We currently camp in a Honda Odyssey for which I designed and built removable camping furnature and an equipment suite. We both are interested in upgrading to a full-sized van and would very much like to have a look at your Aktiv 2.0. I have not been able to find one in Washington to look at yet. We’re also up to going out for a beer and/or some music, especially if you make it up to this neck of the woods.
If this sounds agreeable to you, could you let me know your travel plans (if you have plans!) in the next week or so and I will try to make plans to meet at one of your location (hopefully you’ll come up into Washington). If you to plan to come into Washington great places to tour would be Mount Rainier, the Olympic Penninsula, and the North Cascade Highway. All three are very scenic, have National Parks and great camping opportunities. Mount ST Helens is an easy stop coming up I5.
I put my phone number in the web site block under the assumption that this is private and you see it. Feel free to call.
Hope to hear from you soon.
Hey Dick – we’re in Portland now and will be in northern Oregon for a couple of weeks. You can see where we are here: https://patreon.com/weretherussos