Living in an Airstream Van

We’ve had a fair amount of curiosity about how things are going with van living. Like really going. Not the fluffy report on how awesome our van is, but what its really been like to go from a spacious Airstream trailer to a tight quartered Airstream van.  Since we’ve been at it for a while, I thought I’d put out a report.

But first, the required backstory for our unacquainted readers: Doug, Redd and I went full time fall of 2015. We planned for over a year and carefully chose a 2010 Airstream International 27fb trailer as our house towed by a high roof Nissan NV. A year later, we changed to a van. Why? Read this:

I think the van life community would argue we aren’t true van dwellers. We live in a newer luxury van converted by Airstream for pete’s sake. So this post isn’t about what its like to live in a DIY late model VW van conversion (don’t misread me- there are amazing livable DIY vans out there).  Its about the change from a fully functional trailer to a like-equipped van, what’s better and what’s worse.

Do we feel cramped? Only when we are both moving around at the same time. We can’t pass each other in the galley without some serious bodily contact, which is sometimes fun and sometimes really annoying. We’ve become good at staying out of each other’s way. One of us takes the dog for a walk while the other gets the bed ready at night, or when cooking or cleaning, or making coffee, or whatever. Otherwise, it feels almost spacious at times.

Where do we hang out? Our front seats swivel around to function as lounge chairs, and they are really plush and comfy.  We can also lay or sit on one of the twin beds. Or, more often, we are outside or bumming around whatever town we are in. 🙂

Does the wet bath suck? Kind of. Its small and a bit of a challenge to shower in. But, the handheld shower nozzle is great, and once you get the hang of showering sitting down with your head forward, its pretty breezy. And, hot water….you are clean afterwards…. what more do you need? Beats some of the nasty campground showers we have seen.

How is cooking/meal prep in a tiny van? One of the main reasons we chose this van is the kitchen layout. We have a surprising amount of counter space and drawer storage which makes cooking easy. We have 6cuft of refrigerator/freezer. We do miss having an oven and don’t use our microwave much. We grill more than we used to.

Are we really more mobile than we were with the trailer? We are! This is our favorite aspect of van life. We don’t have to plan nearly as much, we can usually park on the street somewhere in a pinch and nobody bothers us, and we don’t worry about our routes. We don’t have to satellite image parking lots, we don’t worry much about wrong turns. We unhook our toad when we need to be even more mobile. It rocks!

Do we miss our Airstream trailer? Of course, we loved that thing. We think we will have another Airstream trailer in the future. But for now, our van is allowing us to live the travel life that we covet, and it works well for us.

Do we really need to tow a big SUV?  We do, only because we still travel with 5 bicycles, a paddle board, and all our fly fishing gear, as well as tools and bulky gear. We have a back up 26 gallon water tank inside, and plan to add a roof-top water containment system for outside showers. Plus we love having a daily driver that has 4 wheel drive. Its simple and takes about 3 minutes to hook up and unhook.

What’s our favorite feature of the van? Aside from  the above, we love the screen doors. We leave the sliding and rear doors open all the time without getting eaten alive by mosquitos. The interior stays cool for the most part. And for some reason Redd respects the barriers and hasn’t busted through one yet.

What do we dislike about our van? Probably our number 1 beef has been power consumption by the refrigerator. Due to ventilation issues, most vans use only AC/DC powered units which means you drag 3-6 amps of power per hour from your batteries around the clock. We just upgraded and moved our batteries which has greatly extended our time off grid, and we have 300 watts of solar to recharge. We just went 10 days without plugging in but had cloud-free days the entire time. We also have a generator for back up power but my god its loud. We miss having a propane refrigerator.

One thought on “Living in an Airstream Van

  1. Awesome post. I have been curious about how it was going and what the real differences were. We fulltime in a luxurious 30ft. Airstream. I had wondered about the increased mobility and how that played out. Theory vs. Reality as it were. This is all good information…You never know what the future holds. Thanks for putting it out there!

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