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Author Topic: Hello!  (Read 1876 times)

AcornGames

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Hello!
« on: August 27, 2017, 07:20:17 AM »
Hello!
Call me Acorn,
Im 27 from Canada around the Toronto area.
I've been homeless while working full-time due to how unaffordable city life is on your own. I would just shower at gyms and if the weather was bad find some excuse to stay at a friends place.

Living reasonably well in a house with my girlfriend now, but ive really grown to hate the predatory nature of renting, and living just to work while having little to show for it.

Trying to find a way out of the horrible housing systems I was looking into tiny home living, and ended up discovering " Van lifers " and was sold on the idea instantly.

I really like the idea of buying a small u-haul type of vehicle,
and the plan so far is;
-Cut some windows into it
-Insulate the box
-Add some LED lights
-Add a small heater
-Add an extractor fan
-Add solar panel on top
-Add stove/sink combination

If built where enough space in conserved ( Fold up bed? ) I was thinking i could earn some money on the road using it to help people move, otherwise im thinking I could pick up odd jobs online or busk.

I want to be on the road within a year, and figured id need to find a place like this to learn from.

@Camper_Dan
After browsing some of the posts here, i see that you advocate against insulating your home, can I ask why?

-Acorn

Camper_Dan

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Re: Hello!
« Reply #1 on: August 27, 2017, 11:23:54 PM »
Greetings & Welcome!

Very interesting...  Many things to consider here...

I guess I'll start with the idea that somehow living and traveling is somehow cheaper or easier than renting, and somehow it allows you to work less and enjoy life more.  Living a good and enjoyable life, regardless of your living situation requires money, and the more of it you have, the more you can enjoy life.  This translates into the more you work, the more you can enjoy life.

I don't know about where you're from, but here in the USA there are a lot of strict laws, regulations, licensing, permits, and insurance requirements on movers, and they are area independent as well.  I'd be sure to check all this out before you decide on your vehicle and living choices.

I think if I was planning some sort of moving or hauling business, I would prefer to keep my home separate.  I'd either pull my home behind the moving truck, or pull a moving trailer behind my home.  While it might be a little extra hassle and expense, I believe the improved living conditions for your home would more than make up for it.  Fussing with converting your home into a hauler, then back into a home doesn't sound like too much fun, and what happens if you have a load and you're stopping for the night...  I'm envisioning a living space you couldn't even get to, let alone having the space to be comfortable in...

I recommend against adding insulation when I am recommending converting a passenger window van into a camper instead of a cargo van.  A passenger van typically already has a finished interior, and stripping it to supposedly improve upon it, is just a dumb idea and extra work and expense.  I am not totally against insulation, although it's effectiveness is highly questionable.  In our living space, we need pretty much constant ventilation.  Insulation works best on a sealed box with no ventilation.  An improper insulation job can also trap moisture, and moisture is one of the worst problems for full timers.  In a well insulated house, only a small volume of outside air is introduced to the interior when we either enter or exit, in comparison to the huge volume of air in the house.  In a house, the amount of ventilation needed is minimal because of the sheer volume of air inside the house.  In a vehicle, by opening a door you can very quickly lose all of your heated or cooled air, almost instantly.  When you then add the needed ventilation into the mix, the value of insulation becomes highly questionable.

Insulation can have it's uses.  If you're starting with something like a cargo van, they are a very noisy rolling tin can.  A good insulation job can make them drive quieter, but they will never make as good a camper as a window van will to start off with.  Without opening windows, you pretty much need a couple  of expensive roof vents with fans, but they are a very poor replacement for opening windows and a cheap fan.

Another thing to consider is whether you will be spending any amount of time where the temps get below freezing.  Freezing weather and plumbing don't play well together.  That doesn't mean you have to go without anything, it's just important in your planning stages.  I have no plumbing, but I still have a toilet, shower, and double sinks.  Even with any type of RV or trailer, you can winterize your plumbing system, and use alternative methods for everything.

I live great, relatively cheap, and I enjoy my life and travels.  I work full time, and the ability to take my home with me between locations works well for me.  That being said, I could live in a stationary dwelling just as cheap as I live now.  We're just trading one set of expenses for another, and unless we want to diminish our lifestyle, I'm not convinced that it is really that much cheaper or that we can work that much less.  All these supposedly care free people are deadbeats living on other people's money.  That's not the true reality of this lifestyle.  Unless you have a ton of savings, you need to work to support yourself, and all the wonderful things we want in life still costs money.  Working full time also gives me a purpose in life, and keeps me out of trouble...  Working full time doesn't limit my life, it improves upon it, by giving me the money to actually enjoy it.

Once again, welcome to the community, and don't be bashful about asking for any help or advice, and keep us posted on your plans and progress.

Cheers!
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AcornGames

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Re: Hello!
« Reply #2 on: August 28, 2017, 05:02:49 AM »
Hey!
Thanks for taking your time and dishing out some real advice!
The reason I ask about insulation is because it does get cold out here. Winters the last few years haven't been bad. The worst in recent memory was -40, and as they say; " Hope for the best, plan for the worst. "

How much do you think the average bear needs to sustain themselves on the road?
I mean, living in a place now renting for 1300+utilities before food, household supplies etc. ( Toronto Ontario )
Splitting the bills and working full time allows us to save a bit of money, but it feels like were just running in place you know?
Neither of us have ever left Ontario, and were both in our late 20's

I do love my job though. I work full-time. Unless I can find a way to sustain myself on the road i'm thinking ill drive in and out of the city between shifts and opting to just work fewer shifts once I'm stable.

Solid advice on the insulation. I hadn't realized you were talking specifically about passenger vans or vehicles that were already built to deal with condensation in your other posts and it makes a lot more sense now.

I'm goona opt for not having any plumbing as well. Likely just a pump for the sink, and compost toilets seem to be popular with van lifers. The simpler the set up the fewer things that can go wrong id think.

Ill definitely be frequenting this site for advice as things go along!
I do have one question off the bat;
When looking to buy a vehicle how much should I consider the mileage vs asking price vs likely repairs?
I see some for 2k that have 500+km, and I see some for7-10k at 200-250km.
I'm pretty ignorant on vehicles so a good chunk of this next year is going to be spent learning about their parts.

Hope you enjoyed your weekend!
-Acorn

Camper_Dan

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Re: Hello!
« Reply #3 on: August 29, 2017, 07:23:32 AM »
Greetings!

I've spent many winters in -40f temps, and more than one as cold as -60f.  So cold you could toss a glass of water into the air, and it would freeze before it hit the ground.  Originally I had a very well insulated cargo van, a Big Buddy heater, and a double burner propane stove.  All in, the only time I could get warm enough to be comfortable was with both the heated and both stove burners on high, and me in bed under all the covers I had.  I had dripping icicles on the inside of the van, and everything was cold and wet.  Not a pretty picture and no way to live. 

I had followed all the directions of the 'experts', including one who claimed he had spent years in Alaska.  That cargo van cost me nothing but misery, and it was no where near as comfortable as the VW camper I had before that.  I only had my stove for heat in that VW camper, and I'm not sure whether it had any insulation at all, but  it kept me warm, dry, and comfortable, regardless of the weather.  What the VW camper did have was lots of windows that supplied heat when the sun was out, and rain proof ventilation, which I had neither of in the cargo van.  It was a 1961 VW camper, and the ventilation system was different, very  interesting, and very effective.

Because of the rain proof venting, the drier heat from the kerosene camp stove, and the heat generated through the windows on sunny days, it kept me both warm and dry where the cargo van failed.  Funny thing about windows, they can supply heat in the winter, and cooling in the summer...

Good jobs can be hard to find, good jobs you like even harder to find.  I never suggest anybody leave a good job, because even living in a van costs money.  Costs for living in  a van can vary widely...  Parking/camping, gas, insurance, cell phone, internet, laundry fees, food, entertainment, fuel for cooking, heating, and generator, etc.  I hardly ever pay for parking or camping, and mainly cook my own meals.  I don't think it's ever cost me more than $800 in a month, food included.  The couple times a year I travel cross country, it does cost more because of gas...

I think maintenance and pride of ownership mean more than miles.  I have heard that you should never trust any maintenance records offered on commercial vehicles, because they are frequently bogus.  Many private owners aren't necessarily good at keeping maintenance records, so my best advice is to determine the vehicles condition yourself, and if there is any doubt, get a mechanic involved in the assessment.  Price doesn't always accurately reflect condition either.  I drove 500 miles for my van, because it was the exact model I wanted.  It had over 200k miles on it, and to be honest my expectations were low, and I was prepared to put money into it.  It was advertised for $700, which was ridiculously cheap for a running 15 passenger van.  I looked at it, and the body wasn't perfect, but it was acceptable.  No maintenance records, but it seemed to run well, and the owner seemed honest.  He told me it hadn't been driven much in several years, but he felt it was totally reliable, and it would get me 500 miles home without a problem.  The hoses, belts, and fluids all looked good except it was half a quart low on oil.  The owner told me it used one quart of oil between oil changes.  Even the tires were in very good shape.  Not only did it make  it home, it drove like a brand new van.  Everything was tight and ship shape.  Other than typical and pro-active maintenance, it didn't need a single repair in the first 100k miles I owned it.  I've put over 200k miles on it now, and it has had 2 tune-ups, and I had to replace the fuel pump.  That's it.  I sure can't complain.  So there are some really good deals out there if you're patient and act fast.  I helped a friend get a similar deal on a 1979 Dodge Maxi-Van last May, and we converted it into a camper, and it appears to be as solid as mine, and it was pushing 300k miles on it.  I just love these old Dodge vans, and think the gas mileage at 15/18 mpg is acceptable too.

« Last Edit: August 29, 2017, 07:34:15 AM by Camper_Dan »
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AcornGames

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Re: Hello!
« Reply #4 on: August 29, 2017, 08:22:19 AM »
Hello!
Sounds like you really struck gold with your Van!
I wonder if theres a way to install a rain proof vent on the side or inbetween the cockpit and living space?
I know enough to know if I put any holes in the roof itll leak eventually. Im definitely making a note of this as ill definitely want the windows closed in the winter, but ill still need good ventilation.

Embarassingly enough I actually dont know how much insurance or fuel would cost.
I expect to spend about 200-300 a month in food, Kerosene is pretty cheap, and aside from cooking id only need to use it to heat up in the winter.

A thought just occured to me.
I'm pretty set on the idea of building in a u-haul or similar cube box. I know its not the ideal vehicle. Its a lot more attention grabbing than a Van. but I believe id be happiest there having more freedom for the layout. Maybe I can even get it to look more like a vacation camper and draw less negative attention.

Anyways with as much space as would be in it, maybe I could put some sort of dividing wall up in the colder times to section off my bed from the rest of the camper. This way I would have a smaller space to heat and could keep myself warmer more efficiently.

Best of luck!
-Acorn

Camper_Dan

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Re: Hello!
« Reply #5 on: August 30, 2017, 04:57:44 PM »
Greetings!

Yup, I REALLY loved that van, but I really can't complain about my current van either, only paid $700 for it, then about $300 for the interior, and it has kept me happy and breakdown free for over 10 years now! :)

Box trucks can work, although I'm pretty sure I'd want to add some windows.  With a box truck you would probably have to add some insulation too, and another neat trick is to add a roof rack and cover the whole top in plywood so the actual roof is always in the shade.  This can make a huge difference in really hot weather.

There is another rainproof ventilation scheme that some step vans used to use.  You have two floor vents in diagonal corners.  Most used PVC pipe I believe, and the inlet went up to about waist high and topped off with a double elbow so the airflow could be directed up and down as well as side to side.  The outlet pipe went clear to the ceiling, so it would draw the hottest air out.  Both pipes would have inline fans in them.

Some step vans also had rainproof vents in the side walls...  If you had some down low, and some up high, the heat might remove itself without the need of a fan even, just because hot air rises.  Of course you'd want to make sure they were all closable for when appropriate, like closing the top ones in the winter to hold the heat in.

I would check your area, and any area you might plan to be in, to see how feasible it is to park a box truck.  That's one nice thing about vans, is you can pretty much park anywhere.  Different places have different parking rules, some cities don't allow any commercial vehicles to be parked on the street overnight.  They don't seem  to care whether or not it is still a commercial vehicle or not.  I got chased out of a lot of towns because of that when I had a cargo van.

Insurance may or may not be cheaper if you register it as an RV.  There may or may not be certain hoops you must jump through to do it too.  Regardless it might be worth checking into, as well as whether you can even insure a commercial vehicle in your area.  I've heard of some real nightmares in some areas, so I would kind of feel that out before deciding on a vehicle as well.  A smallish shuttle bus may be another idea, and it would already have windows.

Cheers!
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