10 Vanlife Challenges You Didn't Know These Organizations Are Solving

10 vanlife challenges

you didn't know these organizations are solving

Taking the leap to life on the road can be intimidating. From building the right vehicle to navigating a lifestyle which, by design, is full of unknowns, the journey before and during is often a daunting one. As vanlifers ourselves, we know this too well. But we also know that in the end, it’s all worth it — and you’ll most likely hear all of us nomads praising the community for it.

Why? Because the vanlife movement is supported by outstanding people, many of whom have spent years on the road, navigating through all the downsides you may be experiencing for the first time. Some have decided to help address those pain points — leading to innovative solutions, dedicated organizations and rich blogs full of tips and tricks for everyone to read about.

In that spirit, we present to you this list of 10 challenges you probably didn’t know the organizations below are working on solving. Enjoy the read!

Community Camps For Vanlifers

This post is presented by Van Life Campgrounds, the first of their kind communities created specifically for nomads on wheels

1. Finding and building a rolling home… where do I even start?

This first one is pretty obvious, but it’s such a massive undertaking for anyone who wants to go the DIY route. What vehicle should you choose? And how will you build it? There are so many things to consider… We wanted to share one of our favorite resources out there to get started. Jayme and John (aka Gnomad Home) moved into their van in 2016, and have put together one of the most complete guides out there for newbies who don’t know where to start. 

What insulation should I put in? Bathroom or not? How do I choose and install my solar equipment? What tools should I get? When I built my own van back in 2018, I spent hours on reading through their Ultimate Guide to Your DIY Camper Van Conversion, looking for answers to questions I never thought I’d ever be asking myself.

2. Home is where you park it... how cool. But where exactly can I park?

Another obvious, but nonetheless important one: once you hit the road, how will you know where you can stay, or plan your trip ahead? You may have heard you can stay legally for free in National Forests and BLM (Bureau of Land Management), but where exactly? And what about all those States where there’s little to no options? What about campgrounds? Are all Walmart parking lots opened to campers throughout North America (hint: it’s not)?

Well, worry no more, you’ve got Apps to the rescue! The two apps most used by our community are Sēkr (previously the Vanlife App) and iOverlander. Both apps are free and offer an extensive database of user-generated camp spots, organized in many categories, conveniently map-based for easier planification. 

Now, sometimes you might want to allow yourself extra comfort — trust us, you will. A great alternative is to stay at people’s places. Sēkr has a CampShare feature that allows hosts to list their property. Otherwise, Hipcamp and Tentrr list campsites on private properties, while Harvest Hosts lists spots at Wineries, Breweries or Farms across North America!

3. Fighting loneliness: I’m doing solo vanlife, but don’t want to be alone

A lot of us took the leap to live on the road full time on our own — and so did I. One day, I decided to just go for it… While it’s still one of the best decisions I have ever made, it can be challenging at times. One of the most recurring themes amongst us is when solitude turns into loneliness, which inevitably happens. Mental health is of primary importance, and having such a vibrant community at your fingertips is a real asset! We’ve mentioned Sēkr, which is on a mission to gather this community together, through social profiles on the app and connecting everyone through events throughout the year and across the country.

Another initiative worth your attention is Van Life Campgrounds, a community-owned and run project making it easy to get all of the amenities & resources needed while also being able to tap into a community of fellow travelers on the road. Think campground meets hostel!

The camp network spans across five locations on the West Coast (and counting!):

  • Joshua Tree, California
  • Molalla River Ranch (near Portland), Oregon
  • Splitrock Retreat (near San Diego), California
  • Bahia Concepción (Baha), Mexico
  • Cedar Creek (near Mt Hood), Oregon
  • Redwoods (near Santa Cruz), California

4. Reliable infrastructure for your work life on the road

One question we get a lot is how we afford a life on the road. While we’re obviously saving quite a chunk of money not spending it on rent, nothing comes for free, and most of us have jobs, whether seasonal, part-time or full-time. Here’s a list of jobs commonly done on the road published by Kirsten on her widely acclaimed blog Bearfoot Theory. A lot of these jobs will most likely require a reliable service if not wifi, not to mention a steady routine being primordial in anyone’s productivity.

Here again, Van Life Campgrounds addressed these points to provide its visitors with reliable infrastructure you could dream of, while still living in your van! From amenities like hot showers, co-working spaces and shared kitchens to community events like movie nights, communal dinners & bonfires VLCs are created specifically to meet the needs of the new generation of road folk.

Picture © VLC

5. Life on the road as a solo female traveler

Having been a solo female on the road for 5 years, this one’s close to my heart. It is not nearly as scary as people tend to think — actually it’s very empowering and freeing… but it can be challenging at times, and it requires some preparation. Kirsten put together a list of safety tips for solo female vanlife on Bearfoot Theory, which I’ve found to be very helpful and accurate. 

From an indoor peeing solution like the GoGirl, to better privacy curtains to pepper or bear spray to defend yourself… Kirsten provides an extensive list of things you may have not thought about and which will help you better prepare yourself to live your dream! Last, do not underestimate the power of the female vanlife community… I always recommend new fellow women on the road to check out the Women’s Vanlife Collective Facebook group which is a great resource.

6. Barriers to entry for BIPOC

Let’s face it, the outdoors industry has historically been (and still is) dominated by white males, and is culturally defined by Eurocentric history — starting with the stolen lands we’re roaming on. The vanlife movement is no different, having been portrayed as a lifestyle only accessible to those with privilege, or the able-bodied. Underrepresentation, inaccessibility and exclusion in the outdoors creates threatening spaces for minorities.

This is where Diversify Vanlife comes in. On a mission to create a safe space for BIPOC and underrepresented individuals in the nomadic community, this minority-led and operated organization is hard at work redefining the notion of community in the outdoors by celebrating diversity and intersectionality.

To do so, they’ve put together great resources such as  the BIPOC Guide to vanlife and the outdoors which gathers useful information to get you started on your journey or the Rainbow Pages, a database of BIPOC and underrepresented creators, entrepreneurs, artists, nomads, leaders, and activists on the road and beyond. Last but not least, they host a Podcast, Nomads at the Intersections, which is another great practical resource. Stay updated on their upcoming events and resources.

Picture @irietoaurora

7. The more the crappier: keeping our lands clean and wild

If you’ve been on the road for a few years, you must have experienced the upsetting sight of trashed camp spots. The pandemic increased our population considerably, and so did our impact. It sometimes feels like it’s irreversible.

Leave No Trace, the center for outdoors ethics, has been on a mission to address this very issue since 1994. Based on the belief that we are all the solution to conservation, it’s leading the way with pioneering science, hands-on training and simple guidelines, which all of us can learn, and teach — starting with these 7 principles.

Simpler Ways has been a proud partner of Leave No Trace since we started as a business. Beyond our donations, being a Community Partner allows us to spread vital information to help people enjoy the outdoors more responsibly. Learn more about why we care, and what we do about it as a business.

Picture © Leave No Trace

8. How am I supposed to fit my entire house in a van?

Well, I’m glad you asked — you’re not, because it won’t. Moving into a vehicle means downsizing, which isn’t as simple as choosing what you’ll leave behind. You’ll need to optimize for your new space, and opt for better adapted solutions for your everyday needs.

We started Simpler Ways to bring together all the brands and makers designing things you will need, and that will actually fit in your home on wheels. The products are there, every person living on the road knows it from the hours they spent looking for ideas. We decided it was time someone brought all of these in one place.

Space-optimized design is an art, and there are more solutions you’d think to each of the problems you may haven’t even thought about yet. From collapsible bins to optimizing storage in the kitchen or in the cockpit to making the best possible coffee on the road… we’re building a catalog to address each and every aspect of life on the road.

9. How can I limit waste on the road?

Another thing we get asked a lot, is how to optimize waste management on the road. Our best answer is that the less waste you create, the easier it’ll be to manage it. We have been partnering with some of our favorite brands to help us define a collection of reusable products to help you limit single-use as much as possible.

One of our favorite sellers, Marley’s monsters, is on a mission to create everyday products to transition to zero-waste. We’ve worked with them to create a selection of products optimized for life on the road. Washable cloths and pail liner, reusable “unpaper” towers, bento bags… everything is handmade in Oregon, and designed to help you reduce your waste.

Not all vanlifers travel all the time. When you do, planning your travels ahead can help optimize your waste. Our partner Leave No Trace published a 2020 research study on waste generation and found that more than 100 million pounds of waste are generated inside of America’s national parks every year, despite visitors being thought to be predisposed to environmentally responsible behavior. They conclude that in National Parks (or, we believe, anywhere else when on the road), your advanced planning is key to waste reduction.

Picture © Leave No Trace

10. Is there such a thing as toilets on the road?

Last but not least, the million-dollar question: what about #2 on the go… let alone #1? It’s on top of everyone’s mind when they’re building their home-on-wheels, as it should be. There is not one answer to this question as everyone’s different and very much particular one this topic. Katie and Ben wrote a very helpful article on this topic on their great blog Two Wandering Soles, which goes through all the various solutions that exist, as well as the pros and cons for each:

  1. No Toilet
  2. “Emergency” Toilet
  3. Bucket Toilet
  4. Portable Cassette Toilet
  5. Composting Toilet
We have created a Peepoo on the road collection on Simpler Ways, which lists various products we think you’ll find useful, such as the GoGirl, which we women on the road find extremely helpful to pee when stealth camping for example, or washable toilet paper for your #1 in or outside the van.

"Taking the leap to life on the road can be intimidating but in the end, it’s all worth it — and you’ll most likely hear all of us nomads praising the community for it."

There are many more challenges we haven’t discussed here… let us know more downsides you’ve experienced, and the solutions you’ve found in the comments below  — we'd love  to know.

See you on the road!

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1 comment

  • John

    Great article….thank you for mentioning GoGirl! I will be sharing this with our customers on FB as well. Please let me know if we can donate a few GoGirl’s to your readership when the timing is right.
    Best regards,

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