Dirtbag Dwellings: Van Life with Kyle Moran (and His Dog) of Pasadena, California

Dirtbag Dwellings is a series where we seek to capture the stories of climbers living on the fringe … in their vehicles. This feature was shot in summer 2016 in Cornell, Santa Monica Mountains.


Quick bites

  • Age: 25
  • Occupation: student
  • Van type:  ’81 VW Vanagon
  • Van name: Daisy
  • Miles:  39,000 … broken odometer …
  • Time spent in van:  2 years with some breaks in between
  • Birthplace:  Pasadena, California
  • Relationship status:  single
  • Time since last shower:  2 days ago
  • Average monthly expenses: $400

Dog in Van Vanlife Vanagon-min

I’m living in a van because …

I love the outdoors. Whether I’m climbing, camping, slacklining, hiking … the list goes on.

Van life fits perfectly into my lifestyle. It encourages me to explore the world around me with the people I love. It also doesn’t hurt that having a van setup allows me to spend less on rent, utilities, etc. Also, why not?

Van Outdoors Vanagon Vanlife-min

What has surprised you most about van life?

How many people (and dogs) come up to me and my van just to say hi, talk about their dream of getting a van, or share their stories about their friends or family members that also have a van.

It has also made me realize how much I enjoy moving a little slower when traveling places since Daisy can only get up to 65 mph. But driving at a slower pace helps me enjoy the world around me and really take in the view. It’s a good reminder for life. You miss a lot of things when you’re flying by in a car. We can all use a little extra time to take in our surroundings.

Van Coffee Vanagon Dog

Do you have any nuisances?

I try to keep things as tidy as possible, but it is difficult at times. I have very limited space for gear and tools, and I always have to make sure things have a place so it doesn’t feel cluttered.

Plus there are all my personal belongings. Van life really gives you a perspective on materialism and consumerism. There’s so much “stuff” we have, but don’t really need.

Vanagon Kitchen Vanlife-min

What’s van life like with a dog? Does it get crowded and stinky in there?

I can’t really imagine van life without my dog, Tam. He is my best bud. Anyone who has a dog or loves dogs can relate when I say that a dog’s energy is the best energy to have around. Tam is about twelve times more stoked about everything than we humans are. It can be very contagious and good for the soul. As far as the stink goes, it doesn’t get too stinky since we try to spend the majority of our time outside of Daisy, but the hair does get everywhere.

Tell us about your wildest van party.

The first New Year’s Eve that I had Daisy, my friends and I drove out to Joshua Tree. There were a lot of us but we all managed to fit somehow. I was stoked to be able to provide such sweet accommodations in the desert. There was plenty of space to take our much-needed naps. Well, maybe not plenty, but it worked perfectly for us. All in all, we had a wild and fun time.

Dog in Van Vanagon-min

What’s the best feature about your setup?

My pop-top. It really makes the van feel way bigger than it is. I can invite people into my home without worrying about potential backaches or head bumps! But seriously, being able to stand up inside your own car for a good stretch is soo nice after a long drive. Especially if you’re in bad weather.

Van Life Vanagon Pop Top-min

What’s the most essential item in your vehicle?

Probably my Goal Zero Yeti 400 solar generator. It comes in handy to charge my fridge, which keeps my beer cold … and I guess it keeps food fresh too.

Goal Zero Panels Van Life Vanagon-min
Refrigerator Van Life Vanagon-min

If you had a magic wand and could do anything, how would you improve your vehicle?

4WD Syncro conversion with a diesel engine.

Do you have any favorite artists or podcasts to keep entertained?

Currently, I have a wide range of artists I listen to, but, if I can, I really like to listen to NPR’s Tiny Desk Concerts.

What’s the latest book you’ve been reading?

The Tower by Kelly Cordes.

Dog and Man-min
California Van Dog Lookout-min

When will you move out of Daisy?

I don’t have any plans to move out of Daisy in the near future. For now, I am trying to stay less land-locked and keep exploring the vast open road. Although somewhere down the line, I can imagine Daisy turning into a tiny little cabin on a quiet piece of land. But not before she runs out of steam. Till then, onward!

Any last words for those thinking about van life?

There’s a whole lot to explore in this world. So what better time than now? Also, bacon tastes good no matter what time it is.

Van Life with Dog Vanagon-min


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