Reply
 
Thread Tools Display Modes
  #1  
Old 09-15-2019, 10:28 PM
StarvingButStrong's Avatar
StarvingButStrong is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Dec 2002
Posts: 5,789

"Stealth" type van living


For some reason Youtube suggested a video about living out of a van to me, and I found myself watching several of them in fascination.

To be clear, the vans I'm talking about look like ordinary panel vans, like what a plumber or electrician might show up driving. (I hear serial killers prefer them in white...) Not those gigantic RVs or trailer. Ordinary vans. That are supposed to still look like ordinary vans from the outside, so you can just park it on a street and sleep wherever without being 'hassled' by cops or the residents in areas where sleeping in your car is illegal.

Basically they start with an empty box, and then customize it with whatever they consider to be the necessities for living. The ones I saw ranged from just plopping a mattress on the floor and hanging a cargo net to hold all your belongings, up to ones with built in furniture, propane heaters, air conditioners, satellite hookups for TVs and internet, and even full (tiny) kitchens.

The idea was that their owners lived out of these vans full time, not just using them for short trips with a regular house/apartment to return to.

Is this honest to god practical? I mean, none of them gave dimensions, but to my eye they look *maybe* the size of a prison cell. At least two of the vids showed the inhabitants as couples PLUS a pet dog. And these people are not just sleeping in them, but were working remotely out of them! 24 hours a day? In a space that small? With a medium sized dog lounging on your bed all day and night? (Because where else could he be, if he was on the floor no one could move about at all.) I don't want to think what the inside of the van must smell like after a few days. And I bet the funk gets into all the clothes and such, and the people walk around smelling like wet dog though their own noses are probably blind to it.

Oh, but not quite 24 hours a day, because of the need to find plumbing. One guy had a five gallon bucket with lid and lots of plastic bags as his solution, another couple had this short little portapotty type thing but lots seemed to basically mooch off businesses/libraries/restaurants and the like. Several mentioned having memberships to gym chains for showering purposes.

Actually, there seemed to be a lot of mooching built in their way of life. Parking in the lots of stores and hotels -- one couple in particular mentioned how they liked to park in the lots of 'three star type' hotels because then they could take advantage of the free breakfast buffets most had for their guests.

I dunno. I guess I can see it for people whose other choice was homelessness or couch surfing or the like, but these people looked healthy, young, educated, middle class folks in their 20s and 30s.

So ... what do you all think? Actually, has anyone here ever lived out of a van, full time or even just for a week vacation or something? Did it work for you?
  #2  
Old 09-15-2019, 10:44 PM
DPRK is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: May 2016
Posts: 3,851
I met a dude who installed a refrigerator and shower in the back of a Volkswagen Kombi, so apparently it can be done. This was for multiple weeks of touring and bicycling around Europe. No "stealth" involved, though, and this was one single guy, not a family of six. I never tried it myself, so cannot comment how it was after a while on the road, but it was no five-star hotel suite, of course. Recommended for adventurous types, not for city living.
  #3  
Old 09-15-2019, 11:04 PM
DPRK is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: May 2016
Posts: 3,851
There was a sink and a little stove. I don't remember about the toilet, heating, etc
  #4  
Old 09-15-2019, 11:08 PM
Aspenglow's Avatar
Aspenglow is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Jul 2014
Location: Oregon
Posts: 4,143
I have a single female friend, aged 57, who just purchased a van for this express purpose. From the pics I saw, it is kitted out nicely with cabinets, even a wee drop-down table.

She owns a little house outright but simply can't settle, feels like the experiences of life are passing her by. There are places and things she wants to see before she is too old and infirm to see them. She also likes the freedom to visit her family members more often but without living on top of them.

She is currently sussing out communities of caravans made up of older folks who travel like this in packs, moving around the country at their whim and according to their weather/locale preferences. I am glad she plans not to travel on her own except when necessary.

She works remotely now and when she outfits her van, it will have solar power for her laptop/mobile phone/lighting, etc. She already uses a Hot Logic Mini to cook meals while traveling. She is quite comfortable "bathing" in half a gallon of water.

She'll embark on her maiden voyage in a couple of weeks. If it works out, she plans to sell her little house and live full time in this fashion. I'll give you updates in this thread of her experiences, if you like. I don't think her plans are especially "stealthy," but they sound an awful lot like what you're interested in learning.

Oh, and she will soon have a dog along. Her old doggie companion recently died and a new one is settled upon, but she has to make a longish voyage to go collect him. So we'll learn about that part of it, too.
  #5  
Old 09-15-2019, 11:30 PM
sjankis630 is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jun 2011
Posts: 132
These are popular videos on youtube. I got recommended them too because I had started looking at some RV review videos when I was bored. Like the OP mentions these are small panel vans of the sorts you see sitting in the parking lots of businesses in industrial parks.
I personally see these as falling into two camps. The first camp - and the smallest - seems to be about those people who are doing some activity and need a self-sufficient way of living on the go.
They are kind of like the adventurer going on an extended trip for hiking, fishing or some sort of extreme sport.
The second kind of videos are more disturbing. They are honest to god people living out of vans and they are excited to tell you how to do it too. These videos show them doing all sorts of neat things and being all adventurous showing us how they find their ideal places to park for the night.
They also warn to get up early and move on so you don't attract too much attention.
I am not judging anyone but these videos make me think that these people are essentially homeless no matter how fancy their portable toilets/sinks are or how efficient their solar panels seem to be.
My own opinion is that certain areas of the country are too expensive for these sorts of people to actually live and that this is a compromise that allows them to stay in a city like a San Francisco etc and just occasionally pay for the odd shower.
I find the second kind of videos kind of disturbing. I can't believe that these people ever actually thought in life that they wanted to live in a van hoping to stay out of sight and off grid in order to survive.
The weird part is there seems to be some sort of market cropping up around supplying these people with the means to continue.
I may be wrong but these types of videos give me that Amazon.com "mechanical Turk" vibe where businesses contract out small difficult for computers to do tasks for humans to fill in at pennies on the dollar. It seems like a life with a bleak future.
I could be wrong though.
  #6  
Old 09-15-2019, 11:56 PM
Paul in Qatar is online now
Guest
 
Join Date: Jul 2002
Location: Dammam, Saudi Arabia
Posts: 12,960
This sort of thing somehow frightens me.


I see all these discussions of tiny homes, of living in a van and so on. It sort of appeals to me as I have lived most of my life in small furnished rooms. But surely the underlying cause of all this is that Americans are less and less able to afford real homes. What exactly is the difference between a hip adult co-living hostel and a flophouse?
__________________
800-237-5055
Shrine Hospitals for Children (North America)
Never any fee
Do you know a child in need?
  #7  
Old 09-15-2019, 11:59 PM
Gatopescado is online now
Guest
 
Join Date: Aug 2001
Location: on your last raw nerve
Posts: 22,431
Down by the river, under a bridge....
  #8  
Old 09-16-2019, 01:10 AM
nightshadea is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: May 2001
Location: a condo in hell 10th lvl
Posts: 5,688
its called "vanning" and it started out as the hippie version of rv'ing...now it's mainly a way to bum around off-grid snd has a seedy element to it now ....
  #9  
Old 09-16-2019, 01:29 AM
cochrane is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jun 2006
Location: The Nekkid Pueblo
Posts: 22,217
Quote:
Originally Posted by DPRK View Post
I met a dude who installed a refrigerator and shower in the back of a Volkswagen Kombi, so apparently it can be done. This was for multiple weeks of touring and bicycling around Europe. No "stealth" involved, though, and this was one single guy, not a family of six. I never tried it myself, so cannot comment how it was after a while on the road, but it was no five-star hotel suite, of course. Recommended for adventurous types, not for city living.
Traveling in a fried out Kombi, on a hippie trail, head full of zombie?
  #10  
Old 09-16-2019, 01:58 AM
Little Nemo is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Dec 1999
Location: Western New York
Posts: 82,461
A lot of truck stops offer showers and laundry facilities (in addition to toilets) so if I was living out of a van those are what I would base my travels around.

Which would be the attraction for me. I don't see why anyone would rather live in a van than in an apartment if you're staying in one place. But I think I would enjoy being able to travel around the country without having to check into hotels every night.
  #11  
Old 09-16-2019, 03:46 AM
kitap is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: May 2019
Posts: 149
I think for folks who prefer this to hotels, or anyone who likes to go camping they're fine. But I personally would start screaming at the tinyness of it.

We get these - and RVs - trying to stay at our hotel sometimes. They're all plugged into our electrical sockets and get all indignant when we say "no hotel reservation, no parking overnight" and tell us they're not doing anything. Well, except for using our electricity and trying to sneak into our fitness center to shower. Guests only, buddy! They caught an RV trying to dump its sewage once, too. Ewww. Just no.

Plus, you're not exactly being honest about living off the grid when you're sponging off of someone else who has power.
  #12  
Old 09-16-2019, 04:17 AM
AK84 is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Apr 2008
Posts: 16,450
I saw a video a few months ago. This video..
Its getting traction cause she is hot.

I can imagine doing something for a few months, God knows as a poor student I did a lot of penny pinching. But chicks got a six day a week job. An apartment won't be a bettwr option? She can keeo the van for road trips.
  #13  
Old 09-16-2019, 05:40 AM
pullin is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Dec 2003
Location: N Texas
Posts: 3,103
I've gotten curious about these as well, and ended up watching several videos. I was planning a lengthy dry-camping* trip in our RV and was searching for off the grid tips. Youtube linked me to several of these van-life videos. There's also a group that do this out of small cargo trailers, which sort of makes sense. Assuming you can secure it, you're able to take short trips with your tow vehicle without rearranging everything for travel. Many of them use national parks out west and stay (legally) 2 weeks at a time between moves. It's touted as an alternative for those without sufficient retirement funds to keep a house (assumes a small SS check).

Without Bound is a video by the (apparent) guru of this movement. It's pretty interesting.

*RV camping, but with no electricity or water hookups. Just self contained.

Last edited by pullin; 09-16-2019 at 05:41 AM.
  #14  
Old 09-16-2019, 06:43 AM
Manda JO is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Jul 1999
Posts: 11,436
My parents have a small RV and they have considered getting one of these when it comes time to replace it. They don't want to live in the thing, but they like to travel and stay state and national parks. The converted van has the advantage of being so much easier to drive and deal with than even a small RV. The downside, obviously, is less space. But as long as the two of them each have a place for a seat and a place to put a laptop/tablet, they are pretty content with cozy. They also tend to be outside a lot: they like to set up camp chairs and watch the sunset. I have noticed in some camps, the people in the big RVs never come out. We were in Yellowstone this summer and we mostly never saw out neighbors.
  #15  
Old 09-16-2019, 06:43 AM
hogarth is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Apr 2009
Location: Toronto
Posts: 7,400
Quote:
Originally Posted by Paul in Qatar View Post
I see all these discussions of tiny homes, of living in a van and so on. It sort of appeals to me as I have lived most of my life in small furnished rooms. But surely the underlying cause of all this is that Americans are less and less able to afford real homes.
Not necessarily. Living ultra-cheaply is also appealing to people who want to work less or "retire" at age 30, say.
  #16  
Old 09-16-2019, 08:08 AM
Telemark's Avatar
Telemark is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Apr 2000
Location: Just outside of Titletown
Posts: 22,988
I have many friends who have conversion vans, although not the stealth kind. They are clearly camper vans from the outside if you know what you're looking at. To make a comfortable one involves some key features that distinguish the van from a cargo van. But all of my friends' vans are for camping/hiking/biking, no one lives in theirs full time. It's an easy, comfortable, portable escape pod.
  #17  
Old 09-16-2019, 10:42 AM
StarvingButStrong's Avatar
StarvingButStrong is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Dec 2002
Posts: 5,789
Quote:
Originally Posted by Little Nemo View Post
Which would be the attraction for me. I don't see why anyone would rather live in a van than in an apartment if you're staying in one place. But I think I would enjoy being able to travel around the country without having to check into hotels every night.
Yeah, I can see that ... as a vacation option.

But it seems to me that living that way full-time would leave you really isolated, totally disconnected from, well, call them the 'casual level' of knowing people. Yes, you can keep in touch with family and old friends via skype or whatever, but the whole level of 'acquaintances' would seem to vanish. You wouldn't ever be a regular at the local sandwich shop or beauty salon, you wouldn't know the clerks at 'your' grocery or hardware or drug store, you wouldn't belong to a church or a slot-car racing club or have neighbors you nod to on your daily walks.

There'd be you, and maybe the companion you share your van with, and...then who? I'm not saying I love all my neighbors or hang out with them or anything, but they're there. When my husband was laid up with sciatica, the neighbor snowblowed our driveway. When a different neighbor traveled to attend her son's wedding, I fed her pets and brought in the mail and such. You know? The small interactions that keep us meshed into a society larget than just our immediate family.

These travelling van dwellers seem more like permanent tourists, just passing through, with no ties or commitment to the people around them.
  #18  
Old 09-16-2019, 11:19 AM
pullin is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Dec 2003
Location: N Texas
Posts: 3,103
Quote:
Originally Posted by Manda JO View Post
I have noticed in some camps, the people in the big RVs never come out.
True story: While summertime camping in a Texas State Park, we walked past a big motorhome after sunset. As you said, we'd not seen the occupants outside at all. When I looked in their big window, I could see then both sitting on the couch. They were watching a video of a fire on their flat screen TV.

For some reason this cracked me up.

Last edited by pullin; 09-16-2019 at 11:20 AM.
  #19  
Old 09-16-2019, 12:08 PM
Little Nemo is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Dec 1999
Location: Western New York
Posts: 82,461
Quote:
Originally Posted by AK84 View Post
I saw a video a few months ago. This video..
Its getting traction cause she is hot.
Okay, I was guessing you were linking to this woman. Apparently 'attractive women living in vans' is a genre.
  #20  
Old 09-16-2019, 12:13 PM
Little Nemo is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Dec 1999
Location: Western New York
Posts: 82,461
Quote:
Originally Posted by Paul in Qatar View Post
But surely the underlying cause of all this is that Americans are less and less able to afford real homes.
I haven't run the numbers but I have my doubts. I feel that anyone who can afford to own a van and make it livable can probably afford to rent an apartment.

So I see this more as a lifestyle choice rather than an economic necessity being forced on people.
  #21  
Old 09-16-2019, 01:02 PM
Urbanredneck is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Mar 2014
Posts: 7,798
If this was 10 years ago when Walmart let you set up in their parking lots - ok.

If this was 10 years ago when people first started making videos of stealth vans before they became commonplace- ok.

But now Walmart and other places dont allow this and they became so common they are now easy for police and security to spot so I dont think there are as many places to "hide" so to speak. You would have to stay in just commercial or public camping areas (which isnt a bad idea). But then no need for stealth anymore and you can just have a normal commercial small RV.
  #22  
Old 09-16-2019, 03:12 PM
iamthewalrus(:3= is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jul 2000
Location: Santa Barbara, CA
Posts: 12,029
I expect it's a lot harder to live in a van stealthily in most places than people are suggesting.

You really want to have solar panels on the top of your van so you aren't constantly having to plug in somewhere or running the motor. But electrician's vans don't have solar panels, so that will immediately out you.

It's reasonably hard to seal a van against light and noise. It's not impossible by any means, but unless you have tightly sealing blackout curtains, people will notice that the van that's parked in their neighborhood obviously has someone inside of it. You pretty much want to drive it somewhere that you're planning to sleep then go to sleep. And some fraction of the time someone is going to notice the van that pulled up, parked, and had no one get out, so expect to get woken up by the cops telling you to move along every once in a while.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Little Nemo
I feel that anyone who can afford to own a van and make it livable can probably afford to rent an apartment.
Living in a van is vastly cheaper than living in an apartment, especially if you want to live in a temperate beachside locale where rents are very high.

I can imagine being young and single and childless and choosing this life. Join a gym so you have some place to shower. Spend your time away from the van and enjoying various interests. Come back to sleep. "Livable" really can just mean a mattress to sleep on and some place to keep your stuff. A years rent will pay for the van and then it's all profit.
  #23  
Old 09-16-2019, 04:55 PM
Ruken is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: May 2003
Location: DC
Posts: 7,565
The only person I know who did this was working for and parking at . . . a very large tech firm in Mountain View. He had access to bathrooms inside.
  #24  
Old 09-16-2019, 05:54 PM
SamuelA is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Feb 2017
Posts: 3,709
I'm interviewing for a position in Santa Clara. This has occurred to me as an option as the average price of rent is $2900. I would likely choose a 2-3 bedroom apartment with roommates, making the rate I personally have to pay only ~$1500, so I probably won't be actually doing this. (mostly because I like being able to sleep in a place I feel is safe and I have a pet cat)

Still, it's worth a thought. I buy some van somewhere, spend $10k outfitting it. Assuming I was avoiding the average price of rent, that means I break even on the outfitting cost in 3 months.

The van itself doesn't gain much mileage so when I sell it somewhere, if the improvements don't raise the price it goes for, I sell it for about what I paid for it.

There are obviously no utility costs living in a van powered by solar panels. I would have a monthly gym membership - about $30-$50 a month - so I can work out and shower every day.

Note you can hide the solar panels by using a van/box truck with a high roof, and then using the flexible kind that are flush with the roof. Passerbys of normal human height (under 7 feet tall) are not going to be able to see the panels.

Now, yes, people will still know what you are doing, but if it isn't obvious, and you park somewhere you have tacit permission, you might not be bothered.

Santa Clara is kind of a sausage fest anyways, so I wouldn't be deferring much dating life.

So in 2 years, I have $60,000 more than if I didn't do this. More, even, since I also save on utilities and gain interest on the money.

It honestly depends. At some of these California employers, you can eat and even play video games or watch movies in the office after hours. Or post to straightdope. Some of them have showers and on-site laundry. So every waking hour, you'd either be working or messing around on a computer in the office anyways.

You just go back to your van once you're tired and beat off and go to sleep. Same as you'd be doing if you had an apartment, just cheaper. (there's a serious shortage of women in Silicon Valley, from what I have read, so this is going to be true for most people. Gender ratios are 1.5:1, aka sausage party)

Last edited by SamuelA; 09-16-2019 at 05:57 PM.
  #25  
Old 09-16-2019, 06:00 PM
SamuelA is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Feb 2017
Posts: 3,709
So the only amenities your van actually needs is some power to keep your laptop charged and a few lights, somewhere to piss, somewhere to sleep, maybe you use some of the power for an electric blanket when it's cold, and you store 1-2 weeks of clothes.

Every couple weeks you bring your laundry to a laundromat.

A more extreme version of this is I just live in my Prius. Prius has the advantage of heating and A/C without using more than a trickle of gas, and since it doesn't look like a van, it's even more "stealth". With tinted windows and those inner window curtains it's possible to make it where it's very difficult to see inside the car from the outside. Then I just need a few bottles to piss in, some tubs to store 1-2 weeks of clothes, and place to sleep. Also the Prius would be more efficient when you need to drive it to the gym or laundromat (if the employer doesn't have showers)

In the super unlikely event that you get a romantic engagement, you rent a place to hook up at through airbnb. So you only pay for an actual bedroom when you actually have a use for it.

Last edited by SamuelA; 09-16-2019 at 06:03 PM.
  #26  
Old 09-16-2019, 06:20 PM
aruvqan is offline
Embracing the Suck
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Feb 2004
Location: Eastern Connecticut
Posts: 16,841
Quote:
Originally Posted by Little Nemo View Post
I haven't run the numbers but I have my doubts. I feel that anyone who can afford to own a van and make it livable can probably afford to rent an apartment.

So I see this more as a lifestyle choice rather than an economic necessity being forced on people.
Going back a number of years now - a person I 'know' from a different board I also hang out upon was so stressed trying to make enough money working full time at his job that he bought a retired extra long white cargo van and fitted it out inside for living. He has some sort of battery arrangement to provide lighting, keep his cell and laptop charged, has a gym membership for showering and working out, does his laundry in laundromats and is perfectly happy making more than enough for that lifestyle. He disliked working a full time job and not being able to live alone, and apparently had several bad roommate situations. He parks overnight in business areas so he is just another of many generic white business vehicles parked for the night.
  #27  
Old 09-17-2019, 06:10 AM
Filbert is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Dec 2010
Posts: 5,649
I know quite a few people who've lived in these, mainly fairly short term. In an area that tolerates it it is a viable option.

In the street I use to live on in Bristol (UK), it was pretty common to have people living in this sort of van, often for 6 months+ at a time. Some were pretty nice, neighbours tended to just leave them be, some were arseholes who came back drunk all the time, littered and made excessive noise, so got reported. They just got moved on and found somewhere else, for the most part, so long as the van was street legal.

Friends who did it mostly had arranged to stay close to friends' houses or flats; I think some chipped in for bills so they could use the kitchen and bathroom, and maybe watch TV with their buddies in the evening. Basically using the van just as a kind of extra street bedroom most of the time, though they often had minimal kitchen facilities and suchlike in there as well for trips and festivals. There was a guy clearly doing this in a converted... well... I'm English so I'm gonna call it a lorry, for the whole 5 years I lived in that house in Bristol (though looking at Google streetview, it looks like he went shortly after I did). It was insured, street legal, but never moved. You could see the TV on in there at night sometimes, and the guy was running a cable from an upstairs window in the house it was parked outside. More room than a van, admittedly.

My Dad actually kitted a stealth camper out as a retirement project; he doesn't live in it, but my parents do go for extended trips in it (they're driving round, I think, Scotland in it right now). It's got a bed that folds up into a sofa, a shower, toilet in its own little closet, kitchen with sink, fridge (which was tripping out if you turned the lights on as well last I heard, but he's working on it). It does have solar panels, but they only work as supplementary power, you can't run more than the lights just on them, at least not over here.

I borrowed it for 10 days this summer for a festival, fine if you're planning on spending a fair bit of the day outside, especially for one person. It wouldn't be ideal, but I'd rather live in something like that than in an apartment with some of the housemates I've had, if I could get a good spot to keep it.
  #28  
Old 09-17-2019, 06:28 AM
Urbanredneck is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Mar 2014
Posts: 7,798
At the GM plant you have some guys who lived more than 50 miles away so they had a camper in the parking lot and only went home on weekends.
  #29  
Old 09-17-2019, 06:30 AM
Urbanredneck is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Mar 2014
Posts: 7,798
Quote:
Originally Posted by SamuelA View Post
I'm interviewing for a position in Santa Clara. This has occurred to me as an option as the average price of rent is $2900. I would likely choose a 2-3 bedroom apartment with roommates, making the rate I personally have to pay only ~$1500, so I probably won't be actually doing this. (mostly because I like being able to sleep in a place I feel is safe and I have a pet cat)
Couldnt your employer allow you to park/leave/campout with one of these in their parking lot? If anything they would know your not going to be late for work because of traffic issues.
  #30  
Old 09-17-2019, 06:43 AM
Balthisar is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Nov 2000
Location: Southeast Michigan, USA
Posts: 11,335
Quote:
Originally Posted by Urbanredneck View Post
At the GM plant you have some guys who lived more than 50 miles away so they had a camper in the parking lot and only went home on weekends.
I personally know a handful of tooling integrators who do this on new model launches. Their companies pay them IRS per diem rates, which they pocket while living inexpensively in their RV's.
  #31  
Old 09-17-2019, 07:05 AM
AK84 is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Apr 2008
Posts: 16,450
Quote:
Originally Posted by Little Nemo View Post
Okay, I was guessing you were linking to this woman. Apparently 'attractive women living in vans' is a genre.
"Attractive women<anything>" is a gene. Surprised there is no "attractive women executioners", genre.
  #32  
Old 09-17-2019, 07:18 AM
DPRK is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: May 2016
Posts: 3,851
Quote:
Originally Posted by AK84 View Post
"Attractive women<anything>" is a gene. Surprised there is no "attractive women executioners", genre.
Executioners wear hoods and black robes
  #33  
Old 09-17-2019, 07:31 AM
RTFirefly is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Apr 1999
Location: Maryland
Posts: 39,658
Quote:
Originally Posted by Urbanredneck View Post
If this was 10 years ago when Walmart let you set up in their parking lots - ok.

If this was 10 years ago when people first started making videos of stealth vans before they became commonplace- ok.

But now Walmart and other places dont allow this and they became so common they are now easy for police and security to spot so I dont think there are as many places to "hide" so to speak.
Which is a shame, because at night, pretty much anyplace in America outside of urban centers has this huge surplus of empty parking spaces in outdoor lots.
  #34  
Old 09-17-2019, 07:52 AM
Sigene is online now
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Aug 2000
Posts: 2,373

I did this a while ago


Just graduated college, had my Dodge orange van. Tooled around the Western half of the country for 6 weeks never paying for a place to stay.

I'd bathe as best I could in rivers, or where I could find water, slept near river accesses, wildlife areas, 'hidden' pullouts on country roads.
If I couldn't find a place I'd sleep for a few hours in a rest area, or I'd find a park in a city neighborhood and spend the evening and night there....moving on the next morning to not arouse too much suspicion.

I liked Long View Washington so much and hung out with some people that I decided to stay a second night. That night the cops came to check me out, then after talking, led me to a nearby baseball park that had better facilities and (I'm sure) made the locals more comfortable.

One of the best experiences of my life, I think of that trip every month or so....second time I've thought of it in 3 days...Highly recommend.
  #35  
Old 09-17-2019, 08:49 AM
ZipperJJ's Avatar
ZipperJJ is offline
Just Lovely and Delicious
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Aug 2001
Location: Northeast Ohio
Posts: 25,497
These van conversions are pretty popular on Reddit, on r/DIY. I feel like I read one once a week or so. This is the one I read this week, an extremely nice converted ambulance. He mentions in comments somewhere that he used to live (or hang out) in a converted bus, but he liked the ambulance better because it was much easier to drive. He also said he's already eyeing another ambulance to convert and will sell this one.

I get the impression that the people who do these aren't trying to live in these things permanently. They're like Signe and are off on a long trip, or use it for excursions on the weekends. For the most part they have access to quite a good stable of power tools.
  #36  
Old 09-17-2019, 09:02 AM
kanicbird is online now
Guest
 
Join Date: May 1999
Posts: 19,632
Some long distance hikers live in a similar manner for years. I have met several AT thru hikers and Camino de Santiago pilgrims who have been pretty much on trail since they did their thru hike. Some will get a place for the winter, others will find other ways of weathering it. They are pretty much self sufficient on trail while their supplies last, but will come into town for resupply and also shower/laundry. They will usually at times 'stealth camp' in or near towns. As for mooching, I guess one can say that, though with the AT most of the times that is freely given to thru hikers out of kindness and perhaps in exchange for one's story, but this may go beyond the line as they are not so much thru hiking anymore but living on trail. The thru hikes are seen by many as a doorway to a better life, or a pilgrimage, and one is not suppose to get stuck on it.

Last edited by kanicbird; 09-17-2019 at 09:02 AM.
  #37  
Old 09-17-2019, 10:16 AM
DesertDog is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Oct 2002
Location: Mesa, Ariz.
Posts: 5,782
Quote:
Originally Posted by pullin View Post
True story: While summertime camping in a Texas State Park, we walked past a big motorhome after sunset. As you said, we'd not seen the occupants outside at all. When I looked in their big window, I could see then both sitting on the couch. They were watching a video of a fire on their flat screen TV.

For some reason this cracked me up.
Decades ago I saw a cartoon with this very theme. It was a beautifully rendered pic of a class-A parked in the dark on a lake shore with a full moon making a path in the water and silhouetted pine trees. The caption was And he-e-ere's Johnny!
  #38  
Old 09-17-2019, 11:18 AM
Little Nemo is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Dec 1999
Location: Western New York
Posts: 82,461
Quote:
Originally Posted by Urbanredneck View Post
At the GM plant you have some guys who lived more than 50 miles away so they had a camper in the parking lot and only went home on weekends.
I saw that in my job. In the NY prison system, new employees started out working at prisons in downstate New York. They'd typically be down there for a year or two before they had enough seniority to transfer back to their upstate hometown.

Some guys brought RV's down and parked them in the prison parking lot. A group of them would live in the RV during the week and then drive their cars home on their days off. The RV would stay in the parking lot.
  #39  
Old 09-17-2019, 11:28 AM
bobot's Avatar
bobot is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Jan 2009
Location: Chicago-ish
Posts: 9,127
I could envision living like that being fun for a while, but using Chicago winters as my guide, I could also see it being very cold. Like, cold enough to kill you cold.
  #40  
Old 09-17-2019, 11:35 AM
Urbanredneck is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Mar 2014
Posts: 7,798
Quote:
Originally Posted by Little Nemo View Post
I saw that in my job. In the NY prison system, new employees started out working at prisons in downstate New York. They'd typically be down there for a year or two before they had enough seniority to transfer back to their upstate hometown.

Some guys brought RV's down and parked them in the prison parking lot. A group of them would live in the RV during the week and then drive their cars home on their days off. The RV would stay in the parking lot.
I dont know how they would keep an RV winterized though. Pipes can freeze and break. I guess you do normal winterization and just not use the plumbing in the winter?
  #41  
Old 09-17-2019, 11:37 AM
Urbanredneck is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Mar 2014
Posts: 7,798
Quote:
Originally Posted by bobot View Post
I could envision living like that being fun for a while, but using Chicago winters as my guide, I could also see it being very cold. Like, cold enough to kill you cold.
I've seen videos on little heating stoves and all but they need ventilation. As I mentioned above, having your plumbing freeze would cause problems.

I would also worry about being in a parking lot and here comes a snow plow.
  #42  
Old 09-17-2019, 11:57 AM
Telemark's Avatar
Telemark is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Apr 2000
Location: Just outside of Titletown
Posts: 22,988
Quote:
Originally Posted by Little Nemo View Post
I saw that in my job. In the NY prison system, new employees started out working at prisons in downstate New York. They'd typically be down there for a year or two before they had enough seniority to transfer back to their upstate hometown.
My BIL works in the NY prison system, and he's from upstate. When he was assigned to Rykers he lived in the dorms provided for the year or so until he was able to move back upstate. His description of the employee dorms wasn't that bad, but I could understand the appeal of a comfortable RV. Winter would still be an issue.
  #43  
Old 09-17-2019, 12:04 PM
aceplace57 is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Oct 2009
Location: CentralArkansas
Posts: 26,301
It's scary that everything a person owns is in a van. A car jacking could leave someone homeless with no resources.

That's not a risk I want to take.

Maybe an occasional overnight in a roadside park would be ok. It's still risky because armed robbery is still a concern.

Last edited by aceplace57; 09-17-2019 at 12:06 PM.
  #44  
Old 09-17-2019, 12:25 PM
iamthewalrus(:3= is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jul 2000
Location: Santa Barbara, CA
Posts: 12,029
Quote:
Originally Posted by Urbanredneck View Post
Couldnt your employer allow you to park/leave/campout with one of these in their parking lot? If anything they would know your not going to be late for work because of traffic issues.
Probably not explicitly legally. Like, I doubt that the employer's parking lot is zoned as an RV park for overnight stays.

Tacitly, as long as not too many people do it, I bet many won't care.
  #45  
Old 09-17-2019, 12:29 PM
SamuelA is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Feb 2017
Posts: 3,709
Quote:
Originally Posted by aceplace57 View Post
It's scary that everything a person owns is in a van. A car jacking could leave someone homeless with no resources.

That's not a risk I want to take.

Maybe an occasional overnight in a roadside park would be ok. It's still risky because armed robbery is still a concern.
You wouldn't load a van up with expensive possessions. A laptop or 4k TV or the solar system would be the most expensive part.

And insurance is a thing. Just get it insured for the price of the stuff in it.

People doing this are often doing it so the most expensive thing they own is the shares of stock in their investment account. Which cannot be taken from someone very easily.
  #46  
Old 09-17-2019, 12:31 PM
SamuelA is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Feb 2017
Posts: 3,709
Quote:
Originally Posted by iamthewalrus(:3= View Post
Probably not explicitly legally. Like, I doubt that the employer's parking lot is zoned as an RV park for overnight stays.

Tacitly, as long as not too many people do it, I bet many won't care.
Right. The company can't officially condone it but their parking lot security staff will pretend to not know about it at many of these companies. I have heard that Google decided to disallow it and told employees not to do it in a memo, but many other companies still don't have a policy against it.
  #47  
Old 09-17-2019, 03:33 PM
Corry El is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jan 2013
Posts: 3,892
Quote:
Originally Posted by StarvingButStrong View Post
For some reason Youtube suggested a video about living out of a van to me, and I found myself watching several of them in fascination.

Ordinary vans. That are supposed to still look like ordinary vans from the outside, so you can just park it on a street and sleep wherever without being 'hassled' by cops or the residents in areas where sleeping in your car is illegal.
The video's may cover that, at least for some areas, but where I live (in NJ right across from Manhattan) finding places to park overnight as non-resident, for free, would be a serious issue. Most store parking lots are posted as not legal to park overnight, street spaces generally require a resident sticker to park more than a few hours for free, the limited number of offices with parking lots you'd probably be checked out by security being there overnight. Around here is probably a relative extreme, but I imagine that would be a challenge in more than a few places. Even if it's legal, doesn't necessarily mean the cops won't knock on your window or some resident call it in, I mean it's not *that* clever that it's a 'normal' van, they can figure out people are living there.

Last edited by Corry El; 09-17-2019 at 03:36 PM.
  #48  
Old 09-17-2019, 04:17 PM
Filbert is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Dec 2010
Posts: 5,649
In the UK, there's apparently a whole organisation of rural pubs which actively encourage people to stay in self contained vans/campervans in their parking area for one or two nights. They publish guides. It's basically on the thought that people who do it will buy food and probably a few drinks from the pub in the evening, and it doesn't cost much to allow use of the toilets in the morning if the pub opens early anyway, which many do (and if they're open for breakfasts as well, that's likely another meal sold). That's what my parents usually do when they go away.

Zoning isn't really a thing here in the same way it apparently is in the US, so as long as they're not charging people, in which case they might need a campsite permit, proper showers and 24hr bathroom access, there's no rules against it.
  #49  
Old 09-17-2019, 05:20 PM
steatopygia's Avatar
steatopygia is offline
Experimental FOC Test Pilot
 
Join Date: Mar 2013
Location: North Idaho mostly
Posts: 1,830
I have one and use it as an RV.

I've thought about starting a thread about it but you know...

I bought a used (7900 miles) 2017 Ford 15 passenger van last year. Pulled all of the seats from the rear and put a queen bed and some storage in. I haven't done the kitchen area yet. That will probably have to wait till next summer.
My wife's family had a VW camper when she was growing up and she was wanting something similar. I'm not a great mechanic and didn't want to mess with something old with a lot of miles. This van still has the original warranty.

It is actually great to travel in. I have been pleasantly surprised.
  #50  
Old 09-17-2019, 05:41 PM
aceplace57 is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Oct 2009
Location: CentralArkansas
Posts: 26,301
Stealth use of an office is also done.

I did it occasionally when I was on call in Computing Services. I kept a cot and sheets in my office. It was very convenient when my beeper went off. I could walk over to Operations and look at print outs and the console log. Fix the problem and get back to my cot very quickly.

Housekeeping was a minor problem. They were in there by 4:30 AM and were very noisy. Fortunately the SU cafeteria started serving breakfast by 6. I'd enjoy my coffee & eggs, clean up in the restroom, and get back to the office by 7:30. Other employees had arrived by then starting the days work.

Last edited by aceplace57; 09-17-2019 at 05:45 PM.
Reply

Bookmarks

Thread Tools
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is Off
HTML code is Off

Forum Jump


All times are GMT -5. The time now is 08:14 PM.

Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.7
Copyright ©2000 - 2019, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.

Send questions for Cecil Adams to: cecil@straightdope.com

Send comments about this website to: webmaster@straightdope.com

Terms of Use / Privacy Policy

Advertise on the Straight Dope!
(Your direct line to thousands of the smartest, hippest people on the planet, plus a few total dipsticks.)

Copyright 2019 STM Reader, LLC.

 
Copyright © 2017