A forum for van conversions, van living and travel

The vanlife => Van Conversion => Topic started by: Cheap Travel Project on November 20, 2017, 09:49:38 PM

Title: Starting a travel/van life blog - Feedback on our first post
Post by: Cheap Travel Project on November 20, 2017, 09:49:38 PM

Links below


let us know your thoughts
Title: Re: Starting a travel/van life blog - Feedback on our first post
Post by: Camper_Dan on November 22, 2017, 05:41:08 AM
Greetings & Welcome!

I am in the USA, so your area may vary on some topics...

A) Converted or not?  Here in the USA, an older factory converted camper van can frequently be found cheaper than a beat up work van.  Work vans, or cargo vans as we call them make horrible camper vans, and cost a fortune to convert.  Passenger vans are much easier & cheaper to convert, and make much better camper vans.  The views and the ventilation from windows are what make the whole adventure worthwhile.  Very few people seem  to last very long in a cargo van, and if they continue, they almost always upgrade to a window van, usually losing a fortune on their cargo van  builds because nobody wants them.

Since many van dwellers live and work in the city, it is also worth mentioning that cargo vans are the opposite of stealth in the cities.  They stick out like a sore thumb at night, and attract negative attention from every direction.  Stealth isn't about hiding, the more you try to hide the more suspicious you become.

B) Summer & Winter Travel Plans:  It doesn't really matter whether you're traveling, or staying in one location, the weather and the temperature, and how you choose to deal with them make all the difference in the world.  I always see lots of recommendations online for insulation, and your money would really be better spent for better heating and cooling equipment.  I live in an uninsulated window van, and even in Alaska last winter, running my heat all the time I was in my van, it cost me under $10 a month for heat.  (That's with kerosene heat, propane was costing me $35 every 4 days and was a pain to get refilled.)  As far as condensation goes, plenty of heat and good ventilation seems to be what works best for most people.

Roof vents are not only expensive, they're a horrible choice, and sooner or later they always leak.  Opening windows all the way around, and a $12 fan from Walmart are a much better and cheaper option.

Re: Batteries...  While your figures may be correct, as long as you're charging your batteries with a more reliable source than solar, it shouldn't make much difference.  I quit buying expensive batteries and started buying junkyard batteries, never been happier.

C) Tall or short van?  Drop the part about insulation, it's basically incorrect.  Ventilation and possibly shade will do a much better job at keeping you cool than insulation.  If that isn't enough, add a 12 volt fan, or maybe even a 12 volt air cooler, and you're good to go no matter how hot it gets.  You can buy a great heater, a great fan or two, and a 12 volt air cooler for  a fraction of the cost of insulation, and they will keep you more comfortable than the insulation.

It should also be noted that you can have all of the desired ammenities even in a low top van.  We _SIT_ on a toilet, we can also _SIT_ while cooking or showering.  Almost everything else is done while seated or laying down anyway.  There's the whole outside world to stand up in if we so desire.  High top vans might be desirable to some people, but I just wanted to point out that a low top can still have everything a high top can.

D) Leisure power or Alternator?  The three most popular methods of charging batteries are via alternator while driving, via a generator, or via shore power.  Solar power is the worst, most expensive, and most inefficient way of charging batteries, and frequently also causes premature battery death.

Inverters waste a lot of power, and almost everything is available in 12 volt models these days.  If you really need to run something that requires an inverter,, your best bet is to go with an inverter generator rather than over taxing your batteries.

E) Fridge or 'Esky' (Cool box):  12 volt compressor fridges/freezers suck.  They suck too much power, they suck in price, they suck in efficiency, they suck in reliability, and their life span sucks as well.  Peltier/Thermo-Electric fridges are inefficient, and will only cool down to 40f degrees below surrounding temperatures.  Absorption fridges/freezers powered by either propane or kerosene are clearly the winners if you want a reliable powered unit.  Ice chests are the cheapest and most popular option for people without shore power.  There's basically nothing to go wrong with them, and most people go shopping at least once a week anyway, so picking up a dollar or two worth of ice is no extra hassle.  Finding a couple of bucks a week for ice is usually much easier than finding $600+ for a powered fridge.

F) Indoor or Outdoor Cooking:  Battery power doesn't work well for space heaters, cooking, compressor fridges, or compressor air conditioners.  Most of us seem to prefer portable camping stoves that can be used either indoors or outdoors, powered by the fuel of your choice, and no electricity needed.  There are also multiple options for non electric ovens.


Don't get me wrong, I don't dislike your page...  I'm very pleased that you're not trying to sell people on a bunch of over priced and incredibly stupid products.  Objectively outlining all known choices, and their good and/or bad qualities, gives people the ability to make educated choices.  Way too many of us have been suckered by bad advice given by people looking to profit from that bad advice.  The worst advice is frequently the loudest advice, because it pays the best.

Good luck with your blog, and I'll try to check on it occasionally.  Don't be a stranger here either!
Title: Re: Starting a travel/van life blog - Feedback on our first post
Post by: Cheap Travel Project on November 22, 2017, 08:46:10 PM
Hey Camper_Dan,

Thanks a lot for your feedback,

I received some similar advice about the kerosene heating and cooking. Funny enough from a guy named Camper_bob (see below the comments on the blog).

I'm also starting to think we paid too much for or Ford Transit - it was converted (very poorly).

There was a few things about the post that i have left out because i only wan't to include things that I have personally experience. I will likely rewrite it once buy a new one or renovate ours again.

Again thanks a lot for you feedback, it means a lot.
Title: Re: Starting a travel/van life blog - Feedback on our first post
Post by: Camper_Dan on November 24, 2017, 06:52:03 AM
Camper Bob is a pretty well known expert on some of the camping and off grid forums I've visited occassionally... (If it's the same Camper Bob)

I first learned to really appreciate kerosene on a live aboard boat.  Later, when I started attending gatherings, I learned that most of the more experienced full timers preferred kerosene over propane as well.  This was in the days before the internet even existed and propane was not allowed on boats in those days.  After experiencing both propane and kerosene in actual use, kerosene was the clear winner for me.

Even if you overpaid for your transit, it still may be cheaper to keep it, than to replace it.  Weigh the pro's and con's of each direction, that should help you make a good decision.  I have heard the saying "Better the devil you know, than the devil you don't".  Definitely something to ponder.

Personal experiences, good or bad, are always good.  Too many people seem to report only on the good, when we can learn even more from the bad.  Please report on your difficulties and mistakes too.  It can be a huge help for others.  I also try to include a timeline when relevant.  A favorable review when someone receives a new product is helpful, but an honest review after it has been in use for 5 years is priceless.