Kerri and Tim had both been full-time traveling since 2011, Tim in his ‘89 Dodge self-built camper van and Kerri in her Airstream. They met in early 2015 (in large part, thanks to the founders of Campendium!) and have been traveling together ever since — in Airstream, van, and most recently, sailboat. Having driven as far north as Fairbanks, Alaska and as far south as Cabo San Lucas, Baja California Sur, they’ve honed in on some of their essentials for a satisfying life on the road.
Our ideal morning coffee is from a French Press, but the cleanup wastes too much precious water for our small tank. We found the perfect compromise of a quality brew and a fuss-free process in the Clever Coffee Maker, which unlike a standard pour-over, has a plug that lets your coffee steep for a few minutes (like a French Press) before placing it over your mug to drip. After brewing, we just toss the grounds in the paper filter, and we’re done!
Space is at a premium in our van, but we still do love the taste of a meal cooked over hot coals. This little barbecue is the perfect size for two, and folds up flat to practically nothing. It can also double as a little fire pit.
One of our favorite pastimes is to explore beyond the sights we find online and on social media. The best research tools in our arsenal are these state-by-state recreation maps by Benchmark, that detail public lands, road types, and points of interest. All we need to start our own adventure is one of these maps detailing the state we’re currently exploring.
We only just recently discovered the joy of packing cubes while trying to find a solution to the extremely deep and short shelving for clothing in our boat’s birth. We liked the organization, tidiness, and space saving these cubes provided so much that we’re also now using them in the van. This set comes with an assortment of sizes that are perfect for organizing everything from socks and undies to T-Shirts.
When we lived in the Airstream, Kerri insisted on using glass dishware (and never had an issue with it breaking during travel!), but in the van, conserving every bit of weight, space, and ease-of-use must become an art form. We traded in our “real” dishes for this light and durable dishware made from renewable bamboo scraps. It holds up well, has great color options, and has a much more pleasing look and texture than other non-glass options.
Vehicles get broken into a lot. And since our vehicle is our home, we like the added security of keeping the most essential of our belongings locked away. This safe fits our laptops and has a keypad (with backup keys) that make it easy to quickly access what we need when we need it.
Nothing’s worse than round or irregularly sized containers when you’re trying to maximize space. So we store our spices in these holders that are each about twice the size of a tic-tac box, and we’re able to keep and easily find more than we could otherwise.
Sometimes you’re out exploring nature, or just relaxing in your Campendium-recommended campsite, and see some fascinating plant or animal that you’ve never seen before. Sometime the internet is no help, and sometimes (gasp) you’re even out of range of the internet. That’s why we carry along a set of field guides focusing on a variety of topics. The Audubon guides are compact, well-organized and crammed with info, so we never have to leave a plant or bug unidentified.
We have a strict rule (since Kerri’s a book hoarder) that the only books we carry in our traveling homes are field guides and reference books. All other reading is done on our Kindles. We much prefer the e-ink readers to a standard tablet, especially while reading at night — there’s no irritating glare from the screen, no other apps to distract, and it’s capable of holding thousands of books. Paper is still the best way to read, but e-ink is the next-best thing.
The best water-saving decision we made while building out the van was opting for a manual foot pump instead of a powered water pump. Pumping each ounce of water by the power of just our foot allows us to have complete control of exactly how much we use, and leaves our hands free to not waste any water that’s pumped.
Though we once lived the van life in luxury with a Camp Chef stove/oven combo (it was great to have the option to bake, and it made a good bread box when — most of the time — the oven was not in use), we ultimately opted for this sleek, lightweight and powerful Primus Tupike stove. The 2 x 7,000 BTU burners bring water to a quick boil but also maintain a perfect simmer. And (though no portable stove manufacturer will recommend indoor use) it goes effortlessly from indoor to outdoor use.
TMI Time! If you’re going to do this thing in a van, there’s a good chance you’re going to do this thing without a black tank. And if you’re going to do this thing without a blank tank, you better know how to responsibly poop in the woods. When digging a six inch cat-hole is not an option, we’re big fans of the “wag bag.” Our chosen tools of choice are compostable 3-gallon BioBags made from corn starch treated with “Poo Powder,” which solidifies liquids and speeds up the process of breaking down solid waste. The manufacturers claim that their treatment makes your waste bags legal to throw in a standard dumpster. And, by the way… please, please, please pack your toilet paper out!
We love the convenience, energy, and fuel savings of our Shuttle Chef thermal cooker. It’s basically a slow cooker that doesn’t use electricity. Instead, it’s an inner pot nested inside a well-insulated outer “thermos.” We heat up our meal on the stove, seal up the pot in the cooker, and have a cooked hot meal waiting for us anywhere from a half hour to 5-6 hours later. Bonus: it makes perfectly cooked rice every time in less than thirty minutes but only a couple minutes on top of the stove.
We love to spend our time as far outside of civilization as possible. But since we work from the road, we need to be within range of a cell signal for data and phone service. Even though we’ve spent upwards of $500 on high-power boosters and antennas on telescoping poles, we’ve found that this compact and inexpensive MIMO antenna often outperforms our bulky, power-consuming, expensive boosting gear in providing us with the data speeds we need.
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