Friday, January 10, 2014

Living in a Van During the Winter Part 2: The Necessities

Whenever people find out that I live in a van I am pretty consistently asked three questions that might vary in construction but have the same gist. 1. Where do you shower? 2. Where do you go to the bathroom? 3. Where do you park? In the winter often a 'Doesn't it get cold?' gets thrown in there pretty regularly also.

#8 Showering is one of the easier questions to field particularly during the winter. Basically, the way I see it is during the winter either you're super hardcore (read: not me) and you have to options: snow baths or no showers, pretty burly either way. Or you shower at friends houses and community centers with a few sink spritz ups to see you through longer shower less periods which is fairly normal van dwelling protocol.

#9 or is it #2...Unless you're living in a real RV chances are you don't have a full blown bathroom in your vehicle unless you've retro fitted your Outback's passenger seat with an after market hole or something of that ilk. And so you are faced with a dilemma, a where and when to do. This van life issue is magnified and really only becomes an issue during the winter, as during the summer in a pinch one can always dig a little cat hole somewhere, step outside at night to relieve that pressure etc. Getting out of one's sleeping bag in the middle of the night is unappealing, forget getting out of your home into knee deep snow to go pee. And so the simple solution that truckers have been using for decades is a simple pee bottle. There has been an ongoing discussion between myself and one of my cousins about the potentially harmful effects of human urine on grass (basing this on the observations of dogs) and I think that if you are emptying your pee bottles on lawns or areas that might be an eye sore it might be worthwhile using grass saver to minimize your impact. Stay tuned in the spring for more on how bottle dumping in a regular location can alter the local ecology.

When the situation in the winter is more dire, particularly after a morning coffee, the best solution I can offer is a real bathroom, whether at a workplace, library, your coffee shop (they started it...) or if you're really hardcore you could invest in wag bags or a poop tube, which is perfect for practicing for climbing your next big wall, El Cap? Baffin? Zion? The poop tube could be a perfect way to transport you to your dream climbing destination while taking care of business.

#10 Heating is a tricky subject. Before the last post I was steadfast in my belief that heaters were for sissys and all you really need is a bit of insulation in the walls, a warm sleeping situation and a "if you're gonna be dumb you gotta be tough" attitude. Now...I'm not so sure as I got kind of sick just before the new year and the more I think about it, the more I've come to realize that it is probably a result of sleeping in -25F and forcing my body to keep itself warm rather than keeping my immune system in tip top shape. So, this past week I have begun using a rather rudimentary heating system while I am sleeping. To be clear this system doesn't keep the van a sweltering 75F. It mostly serves to simply take the sharp edge off the air and I find myself remaining in my down jacket. I've definitely found myself sleeping without waking to a frozen nose in the night and found that I have been slowly getting over this sickness, that's now just a lingering cough rather than pneumonia that my mom thinks it would be otherwise. Don't worry I'll remain a slightly compromised van purist with this heating system, at least until a cold snap like the one on the east coast at the moment, then I'll follow the Weldin Way and get one of these things.

My Improvised heater, terracotta pots are hard to come by but empty paint cans are not and seem to work well.

#11 Hot beverages are one thing that I fully endorse. I'm not bothered if it's tea, coffee, hot chocolate or hot water (believe me, all have been consumed in large quantities in the van) all are equally awesome when it's cold out and your hands are frozen from scraping the inside of your windshield, handling cold clothes etc. And they're good for you even if you don't live in a van, so I encourage you all do take a beverage break, if you're of age I encourage a drop of whiskey or schnapps to spice things up (kids you get to wait until your parents leave their drink unattended for a responsibly sized sip).

On that note I think I'm going to prolong this series (yes, it's a series now) as a result of the number of cups of coffee I've consumed this morning and the fact that my shaking hands are severely compromising my ability to type.

So in the next post I'll cover van life entertainment, how nifty brooms are, reiterate why planning ahead might be helpful (I'm still working on this one myself) and then as per some external inspiration I'll saving food for a grand finale post.

If you're impressed by my use of hyperlinks (a recent discovery) or all the labels, that are like the # things (also a recent discovery) feel free to share my blog with anyone that might like it. If you're unimpressed with any of these things or have feedback/suggestions for me give me a shout!

'Nuff said.


  1. Terra cotta would retain the heat better. Are there no garden stores open this time of the year? Hehehehe

  2. Hope you got the imbeula "brazier" back. Be well man.