It’s been a few months since Hitting the Road with Stan the Tan Van so we wanted introduce everyone to our tiny rolling home. If you’re considering or just curious about vanlife this van tour will help paint a picture of what vanlife is like for us and give you some organization ideas.
Living long term in a van is getting more popular by the day. There are people with vans of all shapes and sizes tooling around the world and enjoying a simpler life. While pictures may depict a carefree life, vanlife takes a lot of planning and organization to ensure a comfortable experience.
When we purchased Stan from a Craigslist ad last year he looked like any other 20+ year old Ford Econoline conversion van. In fact, my parents had a similar van when I was growing up. They drove us across the country in it on our classic family vacations. Wood paneling, mood lighting, captain’s chairs, and a TV/VCR combo. These luxury family cruisers of the 90’s were built for comfort, and burned gas like it was only $1.25 a gallon (oh yeah it was)! When riding in the back you can relate the experience to riding business class on an Airbus (except more leg room).
To make Stan into our tiny home some changes were necessary. We need to store everything, sleep, and still have enough room to move around without going crazy. We thought about gutting Stan and starting from scratch on the interior. This would entail tearing out the bench seat, putting in new flooring, and removing a number of large bolts that could only be accessed from under the van. However, After much discussion we decided to utilize the features Stan already had. We decided to keep the bench seat that folds to a bed and utilize the space underneath for storage. We took out the back captain chairs and (to my dismay) the TV/VCR. There’s not enough room for all 7 seasons of my Star Trek: The Next Generation on VHS collection.
Minimizing life can be tricky. With very limited space we need to bring only necessities and only some things that give us the comforts of home. Everything has a use and everything has a place (even if they don’t make it back to their place right away—sorry, Liana). After 1 month on the road we realized that there were shoes, clothes, utensils and some other things that we never used. Those things had to go! If you’re on the road, make note of the things you don’t or rarely use. Are they nice to have? Are they a necessity? Are they worth the space they take up?
Now that we’ve been on the road for a while, we’re getting used to our smaller lifestyle and becoming more comfortable in a smaller space. Here is a short video van tour of Stan so you can get a firsthand look at our rolling home on the road.
Here are some key features of Stan that have been very useful and keep us comfortable and organized.
I did a lot of research for the power box build. We utilize it constantly and are very happy with its performance so far. The box contains two 12 volt deep cycle batteries. It’s wired to the alternator and the batteries charge while driving. To ensure the starting battery doesn’t get drained while we’re using power, I added an isolator switch. This separates the power box from the rest of the van electrical system when the van is turned off. We use it to charge our electronics and run our refrigerator.
In June, after the southern leg of our adventure, we decided it would be best to get an alternate source of power to charge the batteries. This will be needed when we’re parked for an extended period of time. We see (and hear) a lot of RV’s using gas generators, but didn’t want to burn any more gas than we have to. Thus, we went with the green option, and installed a 100 Watt solar panel on Stan’s roof. The control panel on the outside of the power box tells us the current charge of the batteries and how much power is coming in. After a few weeks on the road we’re doing great on power!
The main thing the power box runs is our refrigerator. We researched a number of 12 volt refrigerators and found a 28 liter Dometic fridge. This isn’t a thermoelectric cooler, it’s a true, high efficiency fridge/freezer. I’ve seen this model range from $400 to $600, but I found a smoking deal on Amazon for a refurbished one for $300. This has been such a great addition to Stan. Not having to purchase ice for a cooler and deal with cleaning and draining water every other day is key.
Figuring out storage wasn’t easy. Because we decided not to gut Stan completely and start from scratch we had to work with his original layout. First, was clothes storage. Stan had a metal rod in the back where we hung 4 closet organizers. They fit all our clothes and have a few drawers for toiletries.
We had a small cabinet in our apartment and after some measurements found it would work well in Stan. Liana repainted it. I bolted it to the wall so it won’t tip over around a sharp corner. This cabinet is now our food pantry and where we store our pots, pans, and utensils.
Our other storage is under the bed. We purchased some plastic bins to slide underneath. On the doors we added mesh pockets to store items we want to grab easily. For equipment we don’t use everyday, such as backpacking gear and emergency supplies we have our roof cargo rack.
Home Sweet Van
Stan the Tan Van is our home on the road. He keeps us dry in the rain and warm on cold nights (sometimes too warm on hot nights ;). He takes us where we want to go and enables us to see the things we’ve always wanted to see. Of course, living out of a van isn’t perfect. It’s not a vacation, it’s how we live and we’re working to get better at it every day. Learning to live with less has given us the opportunity to experience more and to appreciate what we have.
Have you ever considered vanlife or a tiny home? Have you considered extended travel? What couldn’t you live without?