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 early spring 2017 in Bishop, California.
- Age(s): Kim is 28, Graham is 29
- Occupation: Graham was working most recently in customer service, and Kim picks up seasonal field work contracts
- Van type: GMC Savana. Our van is named the “Millennium FalcVan,” inspired by the airbrushed Stormtrooper on the back
- Miles: 265,000 km … we’re from Canada! But that’s about 165,000 miles
- Time spent in van: About 20 months over the past two and a half years
- Birthplace: Victoria, BC, Canada
- Relationship status: Married
- Time since last shower: One week since a real shower, but we did visit the hot springs last night
- Average monthly expenses: ~$800 USD
We’re living in a van because …
Living in the Millennium FalcVan allows us to pursue a lifestyle that we both love. We are both avid rock climbers and van dwelling helps us to keep our costs down while accommodating our desire to travel and explore new areas. The van enables a great balance between affordability, convenience, and comfort.
What surprised you most about van life?
We were pleasantly surprised by how few possessions we actually need to be happy and comfortable. In a tiny home the space really matters and any non-essential items become unnecessary.
A close second has been realizing how many other people are living out of vans and vehicles as well. While it was certainly popular three years ago, it seems as though the number of van dwellers has skyrocketed even since then.
Do you have any nuisances?
If we get stuck in rain for a few days, keeping things dry and/or drying wet things out is a real challenge.
Do you have any tricks for organization?
All of our food is stored in specific places. We have a separate breakfast cupboard, lunch/dinner cupboard, and snack cupboard. We store our fridge between the seats up front for easy access to food while driving, and it doubles at as a table. We have a bin that neatly fits all our clean dishes and we store our dirty dishes on the dash to keep them out of our living space. We cook out the back of the van, which also helps to keep the van food-smell-free.
We’ve added dividers and edges to our shelves and counters so that stuff doesn’t go flying when we drive on bumpy roads. Because we live in a metal box, every exposed metal surface is magnetic. We use magnets to hold up our curtains, adhere things to the walls, and just as decoration.
As there are two of us, we added a divider to our clothes drawer so if one of us doesn’t fold our laundry and the other does, one person’s messiness won’t contaminate the other person’s space.
Tell us about your wildest van party.
We once had seven people crammed into the van to watch a Lost marathon. Four on the bed and three on the ground with a laptop perched on crash pads made for lovely stadium seating in our “theater.” We know … we are wild 😉
What’s the best feature about your setup?
Our solar panel and deep cycle battery. We power our fridge, indoor lights, fan, and propane detector off this set-up, and we can charge our electronics.
What is the most essential item in your vehicle?
Graham mounted a 6” computer fan that we got from Kim’s brother near our vent. It’s not super powerful but even a small amount of air movement on warm nights makes a big difference. It’s very quiet and as a bonus, it was free!
We also have matching giant down puffies and camp booties, which make all the difference on those cold mornings and evenings.
If you had a magic wand and could do anything, how would you improve your vehicle?
It would be amazing if we could stand up inside. Thankfully we tend to chase areas with good weather so most of our time is spent outside of the van, but when we are hit with rainy days we wish we had the space to stand and stretch out.
What books have you been reading?
- Void Moon by Michael Connelly
- Alone on the Wall by Alex Honnold and David Roberts
- The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss
- The Best Kind of People by Zoe Whittall
- The Rock Warrior’s Way by Arno Ilgner
Any last words for those living in a van? What about people not living in a van?
To those living in a van, good for you! We love meeting other van dwellers and checking out the rad things people do with their space.
For those not living in a van, don’t knock it ‘til you try it. If you’ve been dreaming of the lifestyle, seize the moment and go for it! From our experience, it is well worth it.
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