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Friday, June 22, 2012

Fall back position



Did you ever think about having to live out of your car? Thousands of people end up doing just that, but how many had a plan to do it successfully?

For quite a few years, my lovely wife and I spent our winters tent camping. Before we headed out, I did a lot of reading up on people who lived in their cars. We had no intention to live in the car; we had a a couple tents with us. Our plan was to stay at campgrounds and that’s pretty much what we did.

However, learning about how people live in their cars was useful. It helped us decide what to pack, how to cook on the road, bathroom breaks, staying clean, doing laundry, and how to save money. On the few occasions that we ended up sleeping in our car, we knew how to do it a bit more comfortably and a bit more safely.

When you don’t have to live in your car is a good time to prepare for the possibility. Space is limited, so having the right gear is important. It’s not a bad idea to have basic camping gear in your car; backpacking stove, sleeping bags, tarps, food, cookware, soap, water filter, clothes for your climate. It’s similar to having a bug out vehicle ready to go. The main difference is a bug out vehicle is outfitted for a few days, or at most a week or two. Car living could stretch on for months or even years. There is no bug out destination.

I’m not going to get into much detail as there are books and other sources of information if a person is truly interested in the subject.

When people think of living in a vehicle, they think of a big RV. Nice, but not necessary. One guy I met was living in Toyota sedan. He was a disabled vet with limited resources. He removed the passenger seat to make room for an inflatable mattress. A sun shade provided privacy. Every inch of space was put to good use. It was the most organized and well equipped small car I’d ever seen. He even found room for a full sized guitar.

Of course, my ambulance to motorhome conversion would make a fine vehicle for long term living. There’s an awful lot of comfort that can be squeezed into a one ton van. I bought it for camping and to pull my sailboat, but I should equip it for bug out/car living possibilities too. Being able to run it on waste vegetable oil doesn’t hurt either.

Strangers living in cars come under suspicion. One hint that really works is having a canoe on your vehicle. It gives you a reason for being out in the country. You aren’t just some random person in a car, you are a sportsman. Often people will check out the boat and talk canoing. Ask them what they fish for in these parts and they’ll open right up.

It’s not a bad idea to actually have some basic fishing gear with you. That canoe can take you to fishing spots the guy on shore can’t reach. It’s also a good platform for gathering edible plants. When you come to the end of the road, you can load your gear into that canoe and head out on the water. It’s a nice option.

-Sixbears

13 comments:

  1. I love the canoe idea!

    I actually had a friend in college who was homeless for a while. He did know this was coming, so to prepare he got:

    1. A private mail box with a suite address;
    2. A gym membership so he could shower;
    3. A voice mail account (this was when cell phones were the size and weight of bricks).

    Myself, I have gone for camping in a station wagon for weeks at a time. Usually I would only set up a tent when I was going to be in the same place for at least 2 nights. About once a week I would stay in a hotel, checking in as soon as I could and out as late as possible, mainly to use the swimming pool and charge up my batteries. The rest of the time I slept in the car.

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    1. I had a couple station wagons and put them to good use.

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  2. I've checked out several van living website for ideas, that to me seems like a real option for living on a small footprint.

    I've never lived out of a vehicle, but when I had my '86 Suburban, I used to camp out of the back of it for several days. Loved it - much more spacious than a tent, rain and cold weather really had little effect in a sealed car. I slept like a baby on a 2" foam pad in a sleeping pad, best nights of sleep I've had in the boonies. I hung a tarp off the side of it for cooking outside in the rain - no issues at all.

    My present truck is a standard GMC pickup. I've slept in the front passenger seat, reclined. Its not that comfortable (inability to roll over) but it is what it is. It is VERY EASY to answer 'Call of Nature' during the night.

    I used to read a blog where the writer stated he had lived out of his vehicle before, and would never be without one that he could re-live the experience. A van or station wagon being definite options.

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    1. There are worse things than living in a van down by the river.

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  3. I have camped in a car, but that was when I was younger and could wake up feeling great no matter what position I slept in or what I slept on. My old Jeep Liberty has seats that lay down, but they are not all that comfortable.

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    1. Stick to your RV, Dizzy. It's bigger than many apartments.

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  4. I've been fascinated by the idea of van dwelling ever since I came across the concept. If I had only found that when I was young... My good "blog friend" Tony, who passed away a couple years ago now, lived in his RV conversion van. I ate up my friend Freyja's van conversion. I would love to have a 4x4 van with my own interior conversion, but alas, the wife and kids wouldn't think too much of it. Though they might wish we had one six months to a year from now...

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  5. It's a comfort to know I own my vehicle, sailboat, and canoe outright. Used to follow Tony too. Miss him.

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  6. In my late 20's I had a Ford E150 van, a full bed that came in a new mobile home fit in the back box springs and mattress. The bed legs were high enough to clear the wheel wells and created lots of space underneath to store stuff. I would stay in it for a week or so at the time (I was racing motorcycles)only getting a motel room when I could not find a campsite with water. Some of the track owners would let us camp for free in the parking lots. I'm much older with spine problems so if I had to live on the road I would have to have something with a decent place to sleep like my long gone van. I covet your ambulance....

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    1. Surprised more people don't convert them.

      A friend of mine had a bed set up in a F150 pickup much like yours.

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  7. Remember the Blue Beast? The back seats folded into a bed & I attached a screen to the open front windows using magnets. (fresh air & no bugs) That was a comfy night's sleep!
    Still, glad I'm not driving that anymore. Can't afford the gas!

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  8. tenting in winter. Not here in Canada. I have a minivan that I just started to live in. Great adventure.

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