Freedom, Independence & Adventure
Spontaneously hitting the road, discovering beautiful places, waking up in the middle of nature and simply being independent - that is probably what most of us really like about traveling with our own van or camper. This is also true for Laura and Gabro from Life in White. The two love to go on a journey of discovery in their camper and explore new places and countries on their own. To make your first trip a complete success, these camping professionals have put together some useful tips to get you started on the open road.
1. The Van/Camper: Tailoring It To Your Needs
There is no one van or camper that is right for everyone. It depends on what you need and what your trip looks like, but also on how much money you want to invest. If you live in your van, you will have different needs than someone who is only on the road for two weeks.
Our tip: Make sure you find the one that fits you and your style of travel the best. It's best to try out several models before buying or upgrading. You don't have to buy a van right away. Renting a van before buying is a great option to figure out what you will want on the road.
In our case, we chose two types of vehicles: a normal van with minimal features inside and a small motor home. And in all honesty, both have their advantages and disadvantages. For example, while the van makes it easier to stop somewhere and sleep because it looks like a normal car, the disadvantage is simply that you have significantly less space (and the comfort that comes with additional space).
Tip: A roof box can be very beneficial to stow bulky equipment. Less gear inside means more space to enjoy van life.
2. Less Is More
The "less is more" mentality will save a lot of space in your van. What you need depends on how long you are in your vehicle. But it generally holds true that you need much less than you think. And don't forget: You can easily wash your clothes on the go. Everything dries very quickly, especially in summer.
Here are some useful tips for when the time comes to make your packing list:
- Dressing in layers: Since you are outside a lot when camping, you should be prepared for any weather condition. Rain jacket, fleece, and functional clothing make your camping trip a lot more pleasant. Remember "There is no such thing as bad weather, just bad gear".
- Flip-flops/sandals: Highly recommended, especially for public showers.
- Electricity: If you have equipped your camper with an additional battery or solar panels, you are quite flexible in terms of electricity, but you should use it sparingly and pack a power bank or two. If you do stop at an official parking space or campsite, be sure to take an adapter with you for the power connection.
- Light: A headlamp or flashlight will help you find your way around in the dark.
- Many people have a built-in kitchen in their van. But if you don't have space for it, just take a camping stove and suitable cookware along with you so you can prepare simple but tasty meals for yourself. With a French press or espresso pot, you are ideally equipped for the morning.
- A fridge will come in handy to help you add more variety to your menu plan. Keep in mind, you should make sure that you have enough power available and that your car battery isn't drained in the end. If power is an issue, a high-quality cooler will hold ice for multiple days.
- Microfiber towels: Not only small and light, but also quick-drying. An absolute must-have when traveling.
- Camping chairs and tables: Of course, you can also make it comfortable on a picnic blanket. But in the long run, investing in chairs and a table is simply better. A hammock also ensures ideal relaxation!
- Tools: Especially when camping, you have to quickly repair a little something in your vehicle or on your bike, or anywhere in your living space. With that, a multitool, cable ties, gaffer tape, and other basic tools will be your best friends.
- Pocketknife: All the small tools in a pocketknife still are simply the best, even if you only use it to uncorking wine bottles. Cheers!
3. Parking: From Campsites to Natural Sites
Van life and camping, in general, have increased tremendously in popularity, so it is usually not always easy to find beautiful parking spaces anymore. Unfortunately, "wild camping" is also prohibited in many countries, so make sure you research suitable parking and camping spaces when mapping out your adventure.
Vacant Camping Spots
If wild camping is allowed, the first thing to do is to find a solid spot. You will quickly find that it is not always that easy - you might find the perfect spot in minutes, but if you don't do your homework, you could be driving around for hours searching for a spot.
Usually, we have a lot of time and can look for nice places without any hurry. To do this, we use Google Maps in satellite mode to look for suitable places where we can spend the night. We recommend that you start your search for a parking space early in the day. We have had the unfortunate experience of having to spend a night at a gas station because we didn't find a space before it got too dark.
If you don't have a lot of time, camping apps can be a great help when looking for a parking space. We like to use Park4night for this. Regardless of what the apps say, you should check for yourself to make sure you are really allowed to stay there. This should help you avoid a knock from the police or land owners.
Private Parking Spaces
In addition to traditional campsites, there are plenty of private property owners who allow campers to stay overnight. Overnight stays on farms are becoming more and more popular, and this way, you also have the opportunity to interact with locals while enjoying nature.
When thinking about "van life", most people dream of spending the night somewhere alone on a cliff with a view of the sea. However, reality does not always look as romantic as it appears on Instagram. Nevertheless, beautiful sites like this are an absolute dream. Since the "perfect location" is not always possible, traditional campsites shouldn't be ignored. Campsites not only offer the advantages like clean showers and running water, but they also offer a little more security. This sense of security can put you at ease if you are traveling with bikes, surfboards, or any other expensive gear. There are also many beautiful campsites, and if you travel in the off-season, these are usually not crowded. If you are on the road for a longer period of time, a laundry day at the campsite can be exactly what you need.
4. Sustainability: Giving Back to Nature
Especially when camping in the wild, it is very important to leave the places we visit cleaner than we found them. Forget excuses like “This isn't my garbage!” or “I'm not responsible for it!” - it's our earth and a problem for all of us! We appreciate that we have the opportunity to travel so much and discover the world. With this appreciation, we see it is important to give something back to nature and to clean up any trash from the places we choose for our camping adventures.
5. Slowing Down: Shifting Down A Gear
Remind yourself that it's not about racing to the finish line, but more so about having a good time. Take a detour or go down a country road - trust us, and you'll find unique places that you might have overlooked. This is also an advantage if you have your accommodations with you and can easily decide for yourself what you want to do next and where and how you want to do it.
Enjoying Your Newfound Freedom
As nature fans, traveling in a camper is simply the best choice for us - van life lets you discover remote places, wake up to the first rays of sunshine, and acts as a friendly reminder to focus on the essentials in life. It's when you are camping that you first realize how little it takes to be happy. Of course, not every trip will always be sunshine and lollipops, but that's to be expected and makes this type of travel a special adventure. With these tips, you will definitely be well prepared. So go ahead - share the love of travel with us!