Living and Working in the Van creates Challenges.

Here we discuss those challenges. Did we find a solution? Come and see!

The Principles

Living & Working Comfortably in a Van - Principles

For thousands of years man has been able to survive. By using hard earned principles handed down from generation to generation, he has been able to feed and shelter himself and his siblings in very hostile conditions. He has become adaptable, ingenious and practical.


But, those basic skills are now being lost. Many people have no idea how or where food is produced. When asked, many children think food comes from a supermarket! The basic skills of how to prepare and cook food are disappearing with a reliance on "fast foods" and minimal preparation. Other basic survival skills have also been banished. How many people can light a fire, know how and where to collect clean water and if necessary how to purify it? I do wonder how people will survive in the future; when the lights go out, the supermarkets are empty and the State has forbidden you to have access to your money?

Well that is a subject we can discuss in depth another time. Life over the last 50 years or so has become much easier, but, again, at a cost! Anyone moving from the comfort of an urban existence and attempting to live and work in a van will require knowledge, discipline & organisation. All of this knowledge can be gained. Over the past few months I have enjoyed researching solutions to some of the problems I expect as we completely change our life style.

So, how can we Live, Work (and Play) in a van comfortably? Let`s look at some principals. But before we start, I want to consider the basics of survival.

The basics of survival can be described as:


These basic principles, prioritised for us, were ingrained into me during my Armed Forces career. As civilians, we can simplify this further. We do not need to consider Location; no one is coming to rescue us! But the life style I aim to adopt is more than just survival. We will be living and working in a van and where possible completely "Off The Grid". Our requirements will therefore be more diverse than the individual who is "jus"t surviving.

Here are my current principles for living and working in a van. They may change!:

1. Protection
2. Water
3. Food
4. Energy
5. Hygeine/Laundry
6.Internet access
7. Storage
8. Discipline/Organisation

Living in a house is without doubt easy. Everything you need is readily available; but it comes at a price! Water, Heat, Light, Internet, are all available at the click of a switch. Can we really transfer this style and convenience of life into a small camper van? I think it all comes down to needs. Let`s look at what are the real essentials.

1. Protection

A Human has to keep their body core consistently around 37c. If you allow it to rise or fall too much you are in severe trouble. You could die! To help maintain core temperature we wear clothes, or we take them off. To cool down. We nee to stay dry as possible. Water conducts heat very quickly. So, if you are wet YOU will lose heat rapidly, very rapidly! For thousands of years we have built shelters and we learnt how to use fire to keep us warm. These are the basics of Protection. But, life is short and I for one want to live a comfortable one and to do this we need to go a little further than just survival basics.

Our protection will be the van. We can keep dry, a great start and sheltered from the wind and warmer. But we will need to provide some additional heat. If the outside temperature is -5c we will need to heat the van. Lots of option here. To maintain a comfortable temperature we need to stop the heat from escaping. Not a lot we can do at this stage about insulation, we don`t want to rip out the whole interior, but the van will lose huge amounts of heat from the windscreen etc. And this is an area that we will have to address. Sleep is important and a comfortable bed is essential. When I am working/relaxing it would be good to have a well lit comfortable location.

2. Water

If you don`t drink fluids, you will die within days! Water requirements are huge. Most of us have no idea how much water we use in our houses on a daily basis but it is a lot! The problem for the van dweller is how do we store it, can we store enough, how do we transfer the water from storage to use it and how do we stop it from freezing in the winter? Finally and probably of most importance, where do we get it from?

3. Food

Ok, we know we can live for more than 30 days without food! But that isn`t fun and I love good food! At home I had a cooker, microwave, slow cooker, fridge, freezer and dozens of kitchen utensils. Easy. But, despite all these gadgets, freely available to most, many humans continue to stuff disgusting, nutrion-less "Fast Food" down their throats & more importantly the throats of their children! Despite all the mod cons, man, the animal is ecoming increasingly impotent at providing and preparing good food for themselves! Without good quality food the body`s energy fire burns slower and you become more susceptible to illness. Our problem will be to keep & cook good quality food in the van. Having no freezer will mean cooking everything daily; no bad thing!

4. Energy

At home in our houses we have a seemingly endless supply of energy; at a cost. But, we are now no longer capable of producing enough energy cheaply. Already the State are talking about rationing electricity supplies, we have seen gas supplies drop to very dangerous levels last winter & heating oil is also in short supply. The Chinese and French are building and controlling our nuclear power stations. Need I say more? Energy production in the van will be a combination of self production, semi self production and, like most others I will just buy it!

My thoughts so far are Propane gas for heating/cooking. Leisure batteries to provide 12v DC. They will be charged from Solar Panels, a Generator & occasionally by plugging in on Camp Sites! Whilst we are underway all batteries will be charged. 230v will be provided by an Inverter from the 12v circuit and the Generator. Extra energy for Laptop, Phone etc. can be provided by Battery Packs that are used to charge the device. But obviously, they need to be charged first!


To work I need light (12v), a Laptop (Charged from Inverter, Generator, extra Batteries or by the Van alternator when we are underway). I also need to charge camera batteries and to power my external Hard Drives for digital storage and backups.

I will also consider backups for all supplies, just in case the primary energy source fails.

5. Hygeine/Laundry

Washing, toilet facilities & laundry. What are the options? Well as you will see, we do have some answers, but it will mean major changes and discipline!

6. Internet access

Isn`t it interesting how dependent we have become on the internet? Which is exactly why the State want to control it, how they are able to watch our every move, and why our activities on the net are worth £Millions to companies. To work in a van I need internet access. That is essential. Non essential use of the internet could be almost anything, from downloading Podcasts, receiving the news etc.

Wi-Fi sign

Internet access on the road is going to present challenges, but although we will have to adopt different strategies, I am certain we have cracked it! We will see!

7. Storage

We are all surrounded by clutter. My aim is to limit everything I carry to the minimum. Everything we take will need to have an important function. Small space, organised, no clutter!

8. Discipline/Organisation

I am an organised (to a point) and disciplined individual. They are my strong points! But I am a hoarder of stuff and I can be a little untidy at times. Living and working comfortably in a small van will require me, anyone, to be very organised and evolve a very disciplined approach to living. I will need to declutter everything (including my brain) concentrating predominantly on the essentials. This is an area I see as one of my strengths. Probably!


So for now that`s it. As we continue along the project we will be looking in detail at all these basic principals, enabling Keld and I to live and work in a van; comfortably!

23 November 2013