How Rock Climbers are Adopting the Van Life

When famous climber Alex Honnold steps off of a tough wall he’s probably looking forward to kicking his feet up back home. Maybe taking a nap or reading a book in a soft pile of cushions before it’s time for the next big climb. Except Honnold’s home isn’t a medium-sized building with four walls and a roof. Like many climbers who are seriously invested in the sport and want to climb year-round, Honnold is living and climbing out of a van, enjoying all of the freedom that van life grants to climb whenever and wherever they want.

It’s not just for climbers. Photographers, adventurers, and pretty much anyone who doesn’t want to be tied down in life are looking at van life. If the open road is calling you as well, here’s everything that you need to know to get started with your own van home.

How Rock Climbers are Adopting the Van Life: old Campervan
Thought you might want to see our new campervan: Photo on Flickr by eleda 1 / CC BY-NC 2.0

How Rock Climbers are Adopting the Van Life

The Van in Van Life

The first question that anyone who is thinking about van life will have is “how much is this gonna cost me?” The answer to this question is not as straightforward as the desire to ask it. Just as it is with living in an apartment or house, how much van living will cost you depends largely on how much space and what level of luxury you want.

A brand new full-size van can cost anywhere from $30,000-$50,000. And that’s before you modify it to make it into a cozy living space. A much cheaper van can be purchased used, if you’re looking to save money. One Climbing Magazine writer tried van life out for herself and managed to find a used van for $5,000. All told she ended up spending about $9,305 for a complete van abode. Not too bad when you consider how much a house or condo can cost these days.

How Rock Climbers are Adopting the Van Life: Somewhere between California and Oregon USA
Somewhere between California and Oregon: Photo on Flickr by Markus Spiering / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Creature Comforts

A van alone isn’t a home. Unless you’ve bought a van from someone who’s already used it for living in, you’ll definitely need to make the necessary modifications to turn a van into a comfortable living space. In general there’s a lot to be learned from tiny houses here, as we streamline our small living spaces.

Starting a Van Life: Solar panels
Solar panels not unlike these can be great for powering your van. Photo credit:

Fold-out appliances are great, as well as multi-purpose areas such as a bed with storage underneath. Don’t let your desire for accessories get out of hand, though. Your van is still your only private chunk of space, so you’ll want to leave room for relaxing. This is not a place for you to put your stuff and then yourself while you sleep; it’s a home and good homes feel spacious, even if they aren’t.

Travelling in a Van

OK, you’ve got your van and it’s livable. What now? If you’re a climber or any sort of adventurer, then the world just became your oyster. You just need to figure out where you want to go and how you’re going to get there.

Although this van is technically your home now, it’s important to remember that it’s still a vehicle. And the fact that it contains some of your most prized material possessions should serve as extra incentive to stay safe on the road and prepare your van for any driving that you’ll be doing.

These are my suggestions for getting your own campervan adventure started. Let me know what your van plans are in the comments!

About Nick Cesare

Nick is a writer and violist. After finding a penpal from Latvia he was struck with passion for the country and decided to study abroad there in 2010. You can reach Nick with questions or comments @cesare_nick.

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3 Responses

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