5 TIPS & TRICKS FOR BEGINNER VAN ADVENTURERS By, Riana Nelson

5 TIPS & TRICKS FOR BEGINNER VAN ADVENTURERS By, Riana Nelson
Does “van life” wanderlust intrigue you, but you don’t know where to begin? Perhaps you’re dreaming of an ocean sunrise, while your fresh coffee brews? RENT AN ADVENTURE VAN!!

The feeling of wanderlust“a strong desire to travel and experience the new and unknown”— has soared in the hearts of many during the last few decades, and especially since 2020.

Wanderlust captured my heart, so I booked a 3-night van rental with Route Line (Seattle, WA) to satisfy my own curiosity about van adventuring.

Here’s my 5 top tips!

  1. RENT THE 2-PERSON VAN FOR YOUR FIRST TRIP

With Route Line’s membership program, you can have unlimited access to their fleet of outfitted vans and truck campers of varying sizes for up to 10 nights at a time. Kind of like renting books at a library, when the adventure you booked becomes realized, and you complete a trip, you’ll gain that number of nights back into your account to book into the future.

Renting their 2-person Mercedes Sprinter van for your first weekend van-camping will make your adventure effortless.

Their vans are custom designed by Overland Van Project. With a custom new interior, heated seats, comfy memory foam queen mattress, built-in induction stove (so easy to use!), a mini-fridge, kitchen sink, gorgeous custom cabinetry, and dimmable LED recessed lighting, your van will have everything you need for your ultimate 2-person getaway.

  1. WHAT’S INCLUDED & WHAT TO BRING:

Prior to the pandemic, my full time career was a professional touring singer. I traveled to 200+ cities across the USA and worked internationally, too. However, I’d never stayed overnight in an adventure van.

I had no idea it would be so spacious!

The Mercedes Sprinter interior is 7’ high, so most people can comfortably stand with plenty of room overhead, tons of dedicated storage space (the size of a massive trunk!), and an elevated bed you can sit up in (without hitting your head.)

Thoughtful and modern electrical features throughout include

  • bedside reading lights
  • dimmable switches
  • USB + standard outlet charge ports
  • Recessed LED lighting

With the sliding side door wide open, you can fold out an additional table and light, which gives you extra prep space for evening campfires and morning breakfast assembly.

Latching interior drawers and cabinets secure your goods, a fold-away dining table assembles in seconds, and tons of creature comforts are included with your rental, like:

  • Clean sheets, pillows, and blankets
  • Toilet paper, trash bags
  • Kitchen essentials: plates, bowls, tumblers, etc.
  • Built-in USB outlets
  • Porta-potty
  • Emergency supplies: road flares, headlamp, first aid kit, tire chains, etc. ● …and more!

Helpful things I packed, and would recommend to others:

  • pillow and additional blankets (especially if you get cold at night) slip-on “van shoes”
  • firewood + kindling
  • drinking water
  • marshmallows + roasting sticks
  • folding camp chairs
  • sealable ziploc or silicone bags
  • your fav coffee grinds + pour-over
  • favorite music saved offline (to prep for out-of-service adventuring)
  1. LEARN THE ESSENTIALS BEFORE YOU HIT THE ROAD

The van recharges as you drive, and depending on your van, you may have solar power. A Route Line staff member will answer all of your questions and show you all the features before you leave the lot, so you’ll feel comfortable with all things electric, water, and power!

For a 3 night adventure, we never needed to hook up to external power anywhere or add fresh water! We did, however, turn off the van power completely on the last two nights.

The power indicator screen displays how many hours of power remain. Gray water, fresh water, diesel fuel, and porta-potty inside– all super easy.

Don’t forget to bring a few gallon jugs of drinking water with you. (The van’s fresh water isn’t potable.) 5 liter easy-to-carry water cubes are a terrific option.

In terms of maneuverability, the 2-person van is only 19 feet long. Anywhere a large SUV or car is able to park or drive, so can you! However, you’ll probably want to seek out campgrounds that provide RV accommodation for extra ease (i.e. electrical hook ups, gray water dumping stations, and fresh water fill-up just in case.)

We loved being high up off the ground in this van. You’ll be able to see the wilderness around you clearly, and seats were comfy bucket seats.

It felt easy and safe to drive on narrow roads and highways alike. Our van’s turning radius was impressively compact, and the cruise control was awesome on the interstate.

The vehicle’s back-up camera and overhead drone-angle view worked perfectly. If you can drive a minivan, you can drive this rig! (we backed into our camp spot at the exact angle on the first try!)

  1. BOOK YOUR CAMPSITE IN ADVANCE

Some campsites require advance registration— sometimes months out! It’s a great idea to research (as early as possible) what’s available in the area you’re planning to go to.

We camped at Kalaloch Campground for $24 per night, and the views from our bluff site in Loop D overlooking the Pacific Ocean were so mind-blowing, we didn’t want to leave!

One of the benefits of van camping is you don’t necessarily need much besides what’s in your van. This enables you to park in creative places for a few minutes, hours…

…or a few days!

If you’re exploring the Washington coast, be sure to stop at Ruby Beach for a low-tide walk, Sol Duc Hot Springs for a 100+ degree mineral soak, and the Hoh Rainforest trailhead parking lot for magical mosses and ferns.

One of the best perks of day-trips in the van: your hiking boots, snacks, backpack, phone charger, nap location, kitchen, and swimsuit will all be at your fingertips no matter where you go.

For our next trip we’ll be researching more about how to park inside National Forests. Those roads have different guidelines than National Parks, so it’s worth some research to your specific area– but we hear there’s places you can simply safely pull off the road and park overnight in National Forests, which definitely entices the imagination for more experiences off-grid.

  1. PACK YOUR FAVORITE FOODS

The compact fridge and induction stovetop are game changers for cooking! The fridge even has a spot to tuck wine bottles.

A few of the food items we prepared and loved:

  • Cooked garlic shrimp, re-heated on our roasting sticks over the campfire! ● Chopped salad
  • S’mores
  • Campfire chicken apple sausages
  • Fresh rolls, pressed salads, & microgreens
  • Fresh berries
  • Juice shots
  • Instant oatmeal
  • Hard-boiled eggs
  • Coffee!

The food was simple overall, but it felt like a five-star dining experience with the sun dipping behind the Pacific Ocean directly in front of us, an easy kitchen at our disposal, and our warm cozy bed for the night just steps away!

Waking up to the sound of the ocean roar and moonset just before dawn from the comfort of my own pillow is a memory I’ll treasure forever.

If you crave a morning cup of coffee, don’t forget to pack your favorite coffee grinds, and your favorite mechanical portable or pour-over system. (Aeropress, Hario, and Melitta are great brand options).

No matter where you decide to take your Route Line van, I promise it will feel adventurous and easy.

Honestly, I was pretty anxious before my first van trip, but once on the open road and in nature, I realized a lot of my intimidation was needless. I felt like a camping VIP in Route Line’s luxurious van. It was so much easier than expected (and, we certainly packed too much!)

My appreciation of the simple moments in nature deepened, and my gratitude for the essentials in life increased, too. It was a true exhale, and a chance to create peace.

Get creative, have fun, don’t stress… adventure awaits!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Riana Nelson is a writer, coach, chef, and artist from Olympia, Washington. She recently moved to northwest Montana, and coaches others to create their own calm in business and life. When she’s not exploring Glacier National Park with her boyfriend, writing weekly inspirational public loveletters, or finding feathers on her path— you can find Riana cooking delicious breakfast and pastries for guests at Good Medicine Lodge in Whitefish, MT.

Connect with her on instagram @riananelson / www.riananelson.com

 


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