Camping

National and State Parks.  They'll run you about $15 - $25/night.  They're generally awesome, have flushing toilets and hot showers, and aren't busy during the fall climbing season.  State parks are especially great for getting off the beaten path and exploring on rest days.

Van life camping
State park in Utah with gigantic campsites

Campgrounds.  There's typically campgrounds near climbing destinations, usually privately owned.  Ask for "dry camping" (no hookups), or they'll run you 1.5-2x the cost.

Van life camping AAC campground
AAC Campground
Van life camping
Huge field to ourselves at a campground in Chattanooga

BLM land and National Wilderness.  It's the Bureau of Land Management, and you can camp anywhere.  The trick is finding the access points.  Nevada's almost entirely BLM.  Do a Google search.

Van life camping BLM land
Finding a cozy pullout on BLM

Wal-Mart.  Yes, they welcome overnighters.  Check out walmartlocator.com for etiquette and the no-park list (some county/city laws prohibit overnighters), which we can vouch is accurate.  They're awesome for quick stays for multi-day drives, but can be noisy with trucks all night.  Obey a few rules like not not setting up camp with awnings and lawn chairs, and stop by in the morning for your coffee as a thank you.

Van life camping walmart
Not the greatest, but awesome when you're passing through:

Truck stops.  Similar to Wal-Marts.  They have very clean bathrooms for truckers, cleaner than Wal-Mart and gas stations!

The RV Parks and Campground app [Android, iPhone] is invaluable.  It's much more accurate than any web or Maps search.  We've heard good things about the iOverlander app and freecampsites.net but haven't tried them ourselves.

Friends and family. All you need is a driveway.

Van life camping
Lucked out with a natural gas heated 10,000 sq ft barn at my uncle's!
  • We stayed away from RV parks except in the rare occasion we wanted to stay close to a city downtown.  They're expensive and you'll be very intimate with your neighbors.
  • We had a few occasions parking on city streets.  You'll want full blackout curtains.  It's not terrible, but parking on the shoulder isn't usually level and you have delivery, garbage, and street cleaning truck noise.

Showering

We comfortably took showers at least every other day.  If you're in a campground or park, they'll have showers, albeit often with varying water temps, and ambient air only slightly heated compared to outside temps.  Truck stop showers (~$12) are very clean too! Many gyms will offer special shower rates, and at the worst case, you pay for a day pass.

Going to the Bathroom

Never a problem.  Wherever you're camping, unless it's BLM or National Wilderness, will have toilets.  BLM or NWPS: go anywhere.  Walmart or truck stop: usually open 24hrs.  Truck stops bathrooms are incredibly clean, cleaner than Wal-Marts, and we'll always stop at one instead of a regular gas station.

If you have a van, a port-a-potty for #1 is a must (see my post on port-a-potties).  If you're driving, the Rest Stops app [Android, iPhone] takes the guesswork out of whether your bladder can make it to the next stop.

Van life camping port-a-potty

Doing Laundry

We did laundry about every 2 weeks, either at friends and family or (gasp) a laundromat.  Every city has one.

Cooking

Check out this post.

Putting up with the Other Person

Honestly wasn't a big issue for us.  We were out climbing with others or visiting family and friends most days.  Other days when Jeremy had to work, I'd hang out and read.  It's nice to plan a day doing separate activities if possible. We of course had better and worse days, but we're both pretty easy going.

Van life camping

Tips and Tricks (especially for ladies)

  • Use quick-dry camp towels. We've had the best luck with PackTowls.
  • All the bathrooms we stayed at had outlets for electric shavers and hair dryers.
  • Keep a roll of quarters handy.  Some campsites have quarter-operated showers.
  • Target's Up & Up exfoliating wipes are great for their price for the non-showering days to feel normal.  Huggies work ok too.
  • Using dry shampoo is also great for non-showering days.  Bumble & Bumble's shake-on lasts forever, but if you want a more convenient aerosol spray, I've really liked Batiste.
  • Conditioner sounds like a good idea, but the temps in fall aren't conducive to more than a 5min shower.  Use a leave-in moisturizer like Pantene's BB Creme instead.
  • Have a special clean change of clothes for inside your vehicle for those days you're out adventuring and climbing. It gives a mental separation of your home from the outside, and keeps the inside clean.