Last Update: 5/30/2016

Is Living in Your Van Illegal?

Protesters at the September 15, 2007 anti-war protest in Washington, D.C., including a man holding an American flag with corporate logos substituted for stars

Yes, you can legally live in your car, van, RV, tent, clay pot, or cardboard box. But the reality is that doing van life without hassle is much more fucking complicated. Here's why.

?? #Vanlife question? Contact Vanholio! direct !!

Why Van Life Is Legal

No U.S. federal, state, or local law absolutely requires American citizens or residents to have a physical address, that is, to either own or rent real estate.

Vandwellers have all the rights and obligations as any other American.

We must pay taxes and obey laws. We have the right to vote, get federal and state benefits, own personal property, and generally pursue life, liberty, and happiness.

We can live in a van down by the river if we goddamn well please!

Why Do People Think Vandwelling Is Illegal?

For a good reason. Plenty of laws and regulations make being "homeless," not having and sleeping at a physical address, a pain. These laws make living in your vehicle illegal in effect. Wankers!

What? Am I contradicting myself?

No. We still have the absolute right to live in our cars, vans, RVs, tents, whatever. We're just presented with certain problems that curtail our goddamn freedom. Big fucking time.

Problem 1 – Bureaucrats Require an Address

Try to get a driver's license without an address. Try to get government benefits without an address. Try to register to vote without an address. It's tricky.

Yes, you're entitled to these things without an address. In the case of voting and federal benefits, such as Social Security and SNAP, the government specifically requires the states to find ways to accommodate those without addresses, i.e., the homeless. Usually states do so by allowing the homeless to use the address of a relative, shelter, or social services office.

Nomads with more means – vandwellers, OTR truckers, retired RV lifestylers, traveling salespeople – usually fudge by using the address of a friend or relative. Or we use the address of a private mailbox service, like a UPS store or a mail forwarder, e.g., Traveling Mailbox.

But of course, using a fudge address is technically illegal. There's always the risk some fucking bureaucrat will put your balls in the vice over it. Not likely, they usually don't check, but it's enough to make you nervous.

Problem 2 – Cities Don't Let You Park Overnight

OK, most of us fucking get that we can't park on private land without permission. But shouldn't we be able to park on public land, "the commons"? After all, we're co-owners.

That's where we get fucked over again. Plenty of cities have laws forbidding you to park overnight on particular bits of public land:

  • Can't overnight in parks
  • Can't overnight on busy streets and highways
  • Can't overnight in front of businesses
  • Can't overnight in neighborhoods
  • Can't overnight in government parking lots
  • Can't overnight by rivers and under bridges

So where the fuck are the public lands where you can park overnight? And with this fucked-up patchwork of laws, varying from town to town, how are you supposed to know when and where you can park? You've also got to worry about other laws, like no loitering.

Even when you're parked legally, the cops sometimes fuck with you anyway because ... because they can.

Yes, most national forests and many state forests permit dispersed camping, but that does you no good if you're in town or an urban vandweller. Not a lot of jobs in the forest.

Problem 3 – Parking Lots Are Usually Private

Most big parking lots are owned by stores or landlords. Huge mall and strip mall parking lots might feel like public space, but they're not. End of story.

Some, like Walmart and Cabela's, have van-lifer friendly policies, but that's rare. You can stealth, but you're always chancing getting chased out or worse by security or cops.

What About Our FREEDOM to Live in a Van?

Dictionary definition: "Freedom: the power or right to act, speak, or think as one wants without hindrance or restraint."

So while we have the right to pursue van life, we too often are legally hindered and restrained from doing so. A freedom is no goddamn use if you can't exercise it.

From a practical, everyday perspective, while vandwelling is legal and our right, we have to break a lot of petty laws and regulations to do so. Exercising our freedom is being criminalized. And that's bullshit.

Federal, state, and local governments are unreasonably tramping on our legal right to live in a van down by the river. But the governments' unreasonable constraints on van life won't change without a lot of lobbying and court battles.

Also See ...

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Last Update: 5/25/2016

Shit in Woods Goes Gross to Nightmare

Photo of cathole with shit and pee in it, next to used toilet paper, baby wipes, and handheld mattock/pick. Text says, “The Dark Side of Vandwelling? Shitting in the Woods. Like a Bear.” What’s the dark side of living in a van down by the river? Assault by druggies? Cops? Bears? No, it’s shitting in a hole. Today, it went from gross to nightmare ...

It Starts By Raining

I’m camped in Bridger-Teton National Forest. Beautiful site, right across from Grand Tetons National Park. But it’s dispersed camping, and there’s no toilet.

This morning, it was in the mid-40s and raining. Scattered goddamned thunderstorms all day. So, I was holding my shit, brown dog barking at my back door, waiting for a break in the rain. Then it came. The break, I mean.

Out I went, back into the bushes behind a hill, and dug a cathole. I used my minipick to dig a 6”-deep hole through the rocky soil.

That done, I take off my shorts and undies, hanging them on a bush.

Things Go Bad to Worse

Just as I’m squatting, I feel the sprinkles. Ah, shit, I think to myself, I better fuckin’ hurry this up. Hope the toilet paper doesn’t get soaked.

The loaf starts a-comin’ out of the oven. As the first piece breaks off, I realize I’ve missed the hole. Fuck. But hey, at least it’s not on my shoe, right?! So I skootch forward a bit, and keep on blasting.

Naturally, it’s not coming out in clean, dry rabbit pellets. It’s big, squishy, and sticky. Note to self: Eat less fiber, more cheese.

Fully relieved, I grab a stick and scrape the off-target poop into the hole. A tiny bit somehow gets on my finger. Great.

I chuck the stick away and pull out my roll of TP. Working through the sticky mess, wad after wad, I get to white.

Finishing up, I clean my danglies with a baby wipe and start after my bungholio. As I’ve manifestoed before, keeping a clean ass is a top priority for vandwellers.

The Prison Nightmare Begins

Cleanup done, I’m just coming out of the squat to walk over and grab my undies and shorts off the bush. Then I hear the engine and look up.
Out of 3.4 million goddamned acres in Bridger-Teton, some dude finds his way up into my business! His truck is parked right up the hill from me in my full-moon glory!

What to fucking do? Well, weren't nothin' to do. I put on my clothes, carefully stash the used TP and baby wipes into a trash Ziplock, cover the hole, gather my items, and start walking to camp.

Man steps out of the truck but says nothing. Doesn't look down at me. Don’t know if he even saw me.

Not sure I care. I guess I’m not as weirded out as I’d think I’d be. Not the nightmare I expected.

I figure if he did catch site, it’ll give him the nightmare. Or a home fapping video in his brain. Either way, that’s his fucking problem.

And if he gets any ideas, Vanholio’s got a machete. I’ll be aimin’ low, too … Snickersnack!

But It's Fucking Worth It!!!

Click to Blow Up Bigger
Look at this photo and tell me that my crazy shit in the woods weren't worth it? I mean, how much would you have to pay for real estate like this?

Besides, in the last year of van life, this is only the fourth or fifth time I’ve had to make like a bear in the woods. Vault toilets are in most parks and forests these days. And on the road and in cities, I’ve always found a john in gas stations, coffee shops, and the like.

So, yeah, shitting in a cathole sucks. But it don’t come up that often none.

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Last Update: 5/21/2016

Reflectix Insulation in Vans Done Right

Holy shit, I’m dense. But so are a lot of other vandwellers. Too many of use Reflectix wrong. I did. Big waste of time and money. Know why?

No Air Gap = No Good

What Vanholio did was put closed foam insulation against the metal wall, Reflectix against that, and then plywood paneling against the Reflectix. All touching. Stupid, stupid, stupid!

At least my Reflectix is tape-sealed to the wall. It’s an expensive vapor barrier now. I coulda used cheaper foil or plastic, though.

(Well, supposedly the bubble wrap part has an R-value of 1.1. But I’m skeptical.)

?? #Vanlife question? Contact Vanholio! direct !!

And no, pressing your Reflectix up against fluffy, "airy" fiberglass batting like this guy did doesn’t count. It needs to be air, plain old air. If that foil touches *anything*, it stops being a reflector/non-emitter and becomes a conductor. The heat energy will just pass on through to whatever it’s touching. (See the video at bottom.)

OK, you can read about “The Physics of Foil” if you want to get your egghead on. Bottom line though: No Air Gap = No Good. The Reflectix company themselves says that on their website.

Furring strips put gap between foil and roof
So how do you correctly use Reflectix in your van for living down by the river? Like they do on roofs and walls! Put furring strips (thin slats of wood, about an inch thick) over the Reflectix, then tack your paneling atop the furring strips. This’ll leave a little air gap between the paneling and the Reflectix.

You could also do it the other way round: put the furring strips on the metal, and the Reflectix over that, then paneling. So long as you get your air gap, you're in fucking business.

Another option: Dispense with the furring strips and leave the Reflectix exposed. The van interior becomes the air gap then.

But maybe it’s not even worth it then. Especially if you’re tight on space. You might be better off using straight foam insulation (or wool, or fiberglass batting, or cellulose, or etc.).
Or if you live in a hot, sunny place and just want to reflect solar radiation, cheaper foil insulation would be just as good. Hell, you could glue up Reynold’s Wrap! Just leave it exposed to your interior. Might be ugly, but it'll work!

The one place Reflectix rocks is windows. Yes, you could use plain old foil, like every trashy house and trailer in America. But the bubble wrap interior gives Reflectix some structure to bear taking up and down. I assume you don’t want foil in your windows all the goddamned time!

Still don’t get why Reflectix in your van walls *must* have an air gap? Don’t believe all those van conversions you saw online are wrong? Watch this video below. You’ll wish you coulda had a fucking V-8!

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Last Update: 5/18/2016

What Is Vandwelling?

Martin of Van Life Crisis does an excellent job of defining and describing vandwelling. I couldnta done it better myself.

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What If You Only Had Six Months to Live?

VW bus against the night sky. Quote says, "What Would You Do If You Only Had Six Months to Live?"

Vanholio ain't got much wisdom. But he's learned to ask himself this question: If I only had six months to live, what would I do? Then I plan accordingly.

That power of that question come to me some years ago. I was going through a rough patch, a breakup with my ex. I'd always seen us together, getting old together. I didn't know what the fuck to do. Was totally fucking lost.

Then somehow, that question – What would I do if I only had six months to live? – came to me. The answer? Told myself I'd sell everything up, buy an RV, go sit my ass in Big Bend National Park, and write a novel. That was my guiding star.

After I moved out, I did something close: I stayed in my friend's country deer-hunting trailer for the summer. I wrote a crappy first draft of a novel. (It'll never see press. Trust me.) I was miserable after the breakup, but I was thrilled with how I was living.

That was some years ago. And I went down some wrong paths since then. But that guiding star was always in my vision.

Today, the answer is almost the same: I'd travel and write. So I'm an OTR vandweller doing just that. It's a miracle life, this "living in a van down by the river."

What's *your* vision? What would *you* do if you only had six months to live?

Want to spend more time with family? Find a way to work less or maybe have longer vacations together, like going into teaching to have summers off.

Walk the Appalachian trail? Start backpacking on vacations and set aside money to take on the AP eventually.

Want to make sure your kids and SO have a house owned free and clear?
Prioritize your spending to pay that sucker off.

Want to work in your garden? Maybe look at going into market farming or community garden organizing.

In the real world, you might not exactly hit your dream. There's a whole lot of fucking considerations. But you can get damned close if you're honest about what you want.

What I found about getting into vandwelling and writing is that it wasn't that hard. Yes, I had to plan and make sacrifices. It took time to pull everything together. But the logistics flowed easier than expected once I set myself to reaching that star. It's making the fucking decision that's hard.

So I ask you: What would you do if you only had six months to live?

Also See ... 

Considering Van Life? Take the Goddamn Plunge Already!
4 Steps to Letting Go of Expectations (Cheap RV Living)
6 Ways to Live as If You Have 6 Months Left to Live (mindbodygreen)

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Last Update: 5/12/2016

Finding Free Water When Living in a Van

Statue of little boy pissing. Text says "Know where to get your drinking water when you're living in a van, down by the river?"

Ya gotta fuel your piss pump, Boys and Girls. But where to fill your jugs with free water when you're living in a van down by the river? Vanholio tells you how.

Now, this doesn’t really apply to you fancy pants RV folks with your exclusive fucking Club Med RV parks and dump stations. You’re covered. This is for the rest of us living on the cheap and under the radar – van life. Now, Vanholio doesn’t have a holding tank. He just has some plastic jugs, about 12 gallons worth all told. That’s enough for a week or two, depending. Maybe you’re the same?

Here’s some places Vanholio’s been lucky while driving all over the goddamned country.

?? #Vanlife question? Contact Vanholio! direct !!

Friends, Family, Work

Filling up your jugs when visiting friends or family, or at work, is the obvious option. Don’t leave their homes without water! Ever!

Campgrounds and RV Parks

Obviously, if you’re staying at a campground or RV park that has water, fill ‘er up. But just today, I noticed a city RV park in passing. I drove in, parked in a spot, filled up my jugs from the hookups, and left. Yes, courtesy would be to ask first, but I’d rather apologize later. And fuck paying!

Public Parks

I’ve found water taps in city, county, state, and national parks. Don’t just limit yourself to faucets provided for drinking, though. Three weeks ago, I parked by a city ball field to read a map. Looking around, I noticed that the bathrooms by the ball field had a regular, outside tap, probably there for a garden hose. Got a week's worth of water in 3 minutes!

Rest Stops

In some states, public rest stops have drinking water taps for filling jugs. Wyoming is really good about this.

Commercial Buildings

sillcock key image
Faucet / Sillcock Key
Some gas stations, grocery stores, and other businesses have water via regular outside taps. Take some on the sly or ask, as you seed fit. Now, you'd think commercial buildings have taps outside, just like a house, but you'd be wrong. Most have special taps outside to prevent lowlifes like you and me from getting it. Even when you ask a clerk for permission, they don't know how to work the tap. But Vanholio has the solution, thanks to super redditor Drummygummy: You just need a faucet / sillcock key (see photo at right). Now, Vanholio hasn't used one personally (yet), but the tech looks promising. All the preppers rave about them! (See the how-to video at bottom.)

Grocery Stores / Water Vending Machines

Supermarkets in many parts of the USA have filtered-water vending machines that let you fill your own jugs for about $0.30 a gallon. If you can't get free, that's a better option than bottled water. In some parts of the country, filtered water vending machines are free-standing on corner lots.

Rest Rooms

Almost anywhere, including all the places above, you can walk into a public or store restroom with your jug and fill it up at the bathroom sink if they don't have a drinking water tap. How? Bring a cup or a funnel with hose to get the water from the faucet into the jug.

Private Homes

I'd be careful about getting shot, especially in redneck country. But Vanholio has gone up to folk's houses and asked to fill up at the garden hose. Most folks oblige. You can offer to pay, but they won't usually let you.

Streams, Rivers, Lakes, Ponds

If you'll be camping literally down by the river, or by a creek or lake, why not filter your own water? Then you don't have to go huntin' for it. A decent water filter is a good investment if you're in wet place. Desert-dwellers need not apply.

Potable water is available for free all throughout the great ol' USA. Just get out of the consumer mentality and look around, dammit. Bottled water ain't any healthier than public water (except in Flint), and buying it sucks your wallet dry.

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Last Update: 5/11/2016

Wolf Shit Found on the Keweenaw Peninsula

Large possible wolf scat next to credit card for size. Text says, "Wolf Shit by My Camp on the Keweenaw"

Camping on the Keweenaw Peninsula of Michigan, I found this old scat. Seems to be made up of deer hair. Could it be from a gray wolf?

I think it fucking could be! They got 'em up here, in spades. Whadda you think? Look at this gray wolf chart and tell me.

If it's not from a wolf, it's from one hell of a big coyote. For sure. And that don't give me comfort none.

I got Ms. Barkley and The Gimp keeping their doggy ears open. We don't want no trouble. 8o

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Last Update: 5/10/2016

Are the Pasties All That's Fresh!?

What a weird goddamned way to promote your strip club!? I hope the pasties aren't all that's fresh! Just sayin' ...

Haha! Fooled ya! No, this is a sign for a roadside place selling Cornish pasties (PAAS-teez). Saw it yesterday in Michigan's Upper Peninsula.

Pasties are a meal in a turnover originating in Cornwall, UK. The UP is big mining country, and shitloads of Cornish miners emigrated there a long time ago. Pasty love is their legacy.

In Michigan, they usually fill pasties with chopped beef, potato, carrots, onion, and rutabaga. Kinda like a hash. If you don't want to eat it plain, they'll give you ketchup or gravy.

In Vanholio's experience, most cultures have something like a pasty, lunch you can carry in your pocket. The Latin Americans have empanadas. The Chinese have pork dumplings. The Indians and Pakis have samosas.

I ate that pasty in the photo by the way. And that's why I'm a fatass.

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Last Update: 5/08/2016

Fresh, Fried Trout Cures Fish Phobia!

How did Michigan's Upper Peninsula fishermen undo my lifelong fish hatred? Let me tell you how they learned this vandweller that pan-fried brook trout rocks ...

But first, let me tell you how my fish-eating phobia got started.

When Vanholio was a little boy, the other kids in preschool scared the fucking snot out of him by telling him about "Jaws," the movie. It scared our little hero so much that, according to Mama Vanholio, he refused to eat tuna, go to the shore, or even take a bath ... just in case a shark swam up the drain pipe. He lost his taste for fish along the way.

(Vanholio *is* a fan of eating "fish tacos." Only when fresh.)

Vanholio was so terrorized, even as an adult, he'd freak and get out of the water if he even saw fish swimming too close to him. That's in fresh water. You can imagine at the seashore! Pathetic. Who knew our hero was such a pussy?! How can he brave living in a van, down by the river?

As far as *eating* fish, he'd try it now and then. Long John Silver's deep fried and salted fish was OK at times. He even got back to canned tuna, with lots of mayo and onion. But if it tasted the least bit fishy, forget it. Fuck salmon!

Sad, sad Vanholio was missing out on life's pleasures. ...

Then a few days ago, I pulled into a campsite by a small, black river here in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. I got to know a quad of four retired guys up here trout fishing for the week. They invited me for dinner: Fresh, fried trout. I didn't want to refuse, figured I'd just choke the shit down and smile.
There was fresh beer in the deal, after all!

But what the hell do you know?! That damned fish, fresh from the river and fried up with a salty, spicy cornmeal coating is pretty good! Vanholio ate three bigguns! And let me tell you, the crispy, baconey tails are the best fucking part!

Now, if I can only muster the courage to swim with them trout, I might become a van living man after all ... Or else, they might bite off my penis, thinking it's a worm. But that's a whole other phobia ...

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Last Update: 5/05/2016

Choke Your Chicken in a RoadPro Stove

Cooking a whole chicken in an oven bag within a RoadPro 12 volt Stove

"Stuff it, stuff it in! Take it all, Baby! Cram that fucking chicken into your hole, choke it!" I screamed as I slid the whole bird into my RoadPro Stove.

I'd been surfing the web for 12 volt cooking food porn. Then I found THIS. He had crammed that super-sized chicken into that hot hole ... Mmmm. He'd put the bird into an oven bag and stuffed it into his RoadPro Stove all the way. After slowly working it, getting it hot and greasy for 2.5 hours, that bitch was melting off the bone! My tongue was on the floor!

?? #Vanlife question? Contact Vanholio! direct !!

So when I was in the grocery store, I saw they were pimping whole birds, seasoned, with bread stuffing inside, ready to go. I bought one, about 3 lbs. I put it in a bag (with a little flour and an air hole in top, per instructions.)

I fisted it into my RoadPro Stove. I baked it for ... well, a long time, like 5 or more hours. Don't know why it took so long, probably the stuffing. But damnnnnn!
RoadPro Stove ...
Cooks Anything!

Tender, so tender. It was love at first bite. Las Chihuahas and I ate half the chicken and most of the stuffing right away. Now I've got the rest cold and waiting for sandwiches, eating straight, cooking with rice, whatever. Wow. Just wow.

My only complaint is that you don't get the brown, crispy skin of an oven-roasted chicken. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

But seriously, ya gotta try it. Choke your chicken into your RoadPro Stove. Roast it for 2.5+ hours. Eat like a king – King of the fucking Road!

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