Dirtbag Dwellings is a mini-series in collaboration with LA-based photographer Jack Strutz, where we seek to capture the stories of climbers living on the fringe … in their vehicles.

Riley - Overview

Quick bites

  • Age: 21
  • Occupation: dirtbag
  • Vehicle: 2013 Toyota Tacoma
  • Miles: about 70k
  • Time spent in camper: a few months
  • Birthplace: San Francisco, California
  • Relationship status: single
  • Time since last shower: 12 days
  • Go-to meal: veggies and quinoa
  • Average monthly expenses: $500
Van Life Toyota Tacoma Pop Up
Toyota Tacoma Pop Up Camper

I’m living in a vehicle because …

I don’t want to pay rent.

If I weren’t living in a vehicle I’d be …

Posted up down by the riverside.

Tell us about your camper’s travels.

I picked up the rig last fall in Portland from Foster Huntington, a surf photographer. It had been down in Baja and all up and down the coast in search of the dreamiest remote breaks. Upon moving into my new tiny home on wheels, I instantly headed for the southwestern desert. In search of dry rock, motivated to belay partners, and positive vibes, I started out in Bishop.

I then headed out to St. George, Utah for the first time for some of the best desert limestone in America. Projecting at the VRG and exploring the Utah Hills got me stoked on sport climbing and brought plenty of motivation to keep crushing!

Throughout the winter I also spent time in Red RockJoshua Tree and Arizona.

I generally camp with friends in dispersed camping areas on BLM or National Forest Land; I have minimal impact on my surroundings without ever really paying for camping.

Internal Camper Van

What has surprised you most about living in a camper?

The community associated with it and the ease of meeting other van dwellers; being able to instantly relate with something that we share in common and can bond over. You create friendships everywhere.

Do you have any nuisances?

It can be tricky living in urban areas, especially having a pop-up camper. Some cargo vans that are more stealth may be better for that. So, there are pros and cons to everybody’s setup.

Related: Dirtbag Dwellings: Alexis Beaudet-Roy of Quebec


Do you have any tricks for organization?

Everything has to have a home, especially in a pop-up camper because stuff will rattle around and fall out if it doesn’t have a proper spot that’s secured while you’re driving.

Van Life Organization Under Cabinet Pop Up

Tell us about your wildest party in the camper.

I haven’t had any wild parties yet, but I did have eight people in here in Red Rock making dinner, having beers, hanging out.

What’s the best feature about your setup?

I can remove the camper from the flatbed and have a stationary tiny home anywhere. I then have a fully capable 4×4 flatbed work truck. This gives me the ability to live completely off the grid for extended periods of time and still have electricity via solar power.

Related: Van Life: Essential Gear for Dirtbagging on the Road


What is the most essential item in your vehicle?

Having a fridge is really nice, along with a solar setup.

Van Fridge Setup
Chouinard Equipment Rock Climbing Sling

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

I would wave my wand at the engine and turn it into an electric engine so I could drive anywhere without using gas—zero carbon footprint.

What books have you been reading?

I’ve been reading Ishmael, by Daniel Quinn, and Joshua Tree Rock Climbs.

How do you fund life on the road?

Seasonal work in the hills on the northern California coast.

Do you recommend living in a vehicle?

If you’re looking to live an alternative lifestyle and don’t mind being shunned a little bit by our society, then yeah, definitely. If you don’t want to pay rent and don’t care about the standard societal ways, then it’s the best way to go.

Riley Polvorosa Van Life


Further reading

All photos: Jack Strutz

Additional contributions have been made to this article by: Sander DiAngelis

We send a huge thank you to Riley for welcoming us into his dwelling and taking the time to speak with us! We look forward to crossing paths again.