For my roadtrip I’ll be driving a 2006 Chrysler Town & Country. It’s a good compromise between price, mileage, space, and durability, all of which are important to me. I want to be able to pull over, even where there aren’t any campgrounds, and be able to sleep. This can rapidly save money, when you consider that a hotel in the middle of nowhere can cost $60+ per night. Not the mention the convenience of pulling into a campground late at night and not having to set up a tent.
The van itself
Vans aren’t naturally comfortable to sleep in, but if you pull the seats out of the back and somehow mitigate the weird bolts and lumps on the floor, they’re ideal. When I traveled as a kid, this is what we did and it worked great. Because the ceilings are high, you can build storage underneath the bed area, no compromises necessary.
After roughly a day of work with my father, we had everything set up. Stow-and-go seats were removed, providing 3 large storage areas underneath the main floor, in addition to the natural storage provided by the bed. The two extra storage areas from the middle row of seating are covered by folding doors built into the car, and are not very accessible. The back storage area is for food and cooking – it’s easy to pull over and rummage inside for a snack without climbing around in the van, and with the tail open there’s a natural rain-covered cooking area.
A view from the rear gate; the bed is in the “lounge” position.
There are five compartments, two narrow ones on the side, and three that form the main sleeping area. In addition to the compartments there’s a sliding open-topped section in the rear for cooler and backpack. The compartments are simply a framework of 2x8s. The top cover is a sheet of 15/32″ thick plywood, cut so that the joints lie on the 2x8s. To keep the plywood in place, small pieces of scrap wood are nailed to each corner, which then brace it against the frame. There’s a little bit of wiggle room so it’s easy to drop the plywood in place, and each board has a hole drilled through it to make lifting easier.
The food storage container, mostly empty.
One of the compartments has some small pieces of wood to prop it at an angle to form a reading chair. When positioned like this I can have the rear gate open and look out the back of the van. It’s very comfortable.
I have a lot more storage space than things to bring with me. Here’s a short list of my supplies:
- Clothing (about a week’s worth). Mostly wool/polyester. A pair of hiking boots & sneakers. Also a rain/wind shell & ultralight down jacket.
- Assorted toiletries
- Bedding (sleeping bag, two pads, two pillows
- Electronics: phone, laptop, camera, mp3 player, kindle, GPS (car and handheld), charging gear
- Keyboard & mouse for laptop when staying in hotels
- Backpacking stuff, for overnights: one-man tent, ultralight pack, compass, nalgenes, water purifiers, hiking poles, etc
- Full-size tent
- Folding chair & table
- Emergency gear: first aid kit, flat-fixing material, duct tape
- Spices, hot sauce, food, protein powder, vitamins, water jugs
- Cookware: pot, pan, plate, bowl, spoon, fork, can opener, tupperware
- Large container of mid-brew Kombucha
- Maps/guides from AAA
- Random junk: pens, flashlights, lantern, frisbee, tarps, etc etc
The bed, ready for sleeping.
It sounds like a lot but I ended up using only about half the storage space, which was a surprise for me.
Tomorrow is my first day on the road, I’m hoping to make it to Ohio – about 7 hours of driving total. I want to make it out to my first stop in South Dakota in 3 days, which I think is ambitious but not overly so. I have four stops planned in South Dakota, which I think should take me about about a week. Then it’s on to northern Wyoming.