What’s vanlife like with a dog?

If you follow us on Instagram, or if you know Dan and I in real life, chances are that you know Nala, the real queen of our van (and hearts). Before we left, we got a lot of questions like, “but what will you do with your dog?”, which reminded me why I like my dog better than a lot of people. In all seriousness though, there was no way we could ever hit the road without her (look at that face!).

Nala is an amazing travel dog; she loves adventure, the outdoors, and car rides, which makes her the perfect companion for our journey.

Having a dog on the road comes with a huge list of both pros and cons, but for us we wouldn’t have it any other way! I’d like to share a few of our favorite things about traveling with a dog, and some of the challenges that comes with it as well.

Favorites

Companionship! One of my favorite things about traveling with our pup is that she’s a great snuggler. She is always ready to curl up with me for a nap on a rainy day, or to keep us warm at night when it’s cold out. She is also perfectly content to sleep in in the mornings, which is great for me since I’m not usually an early riser.

Safety! Having a dog is like having a built-in security system while we travel. When we’re in the woods, she keeps most wild animals away, and also can alert us if something isn’t quite right (check out this post about us listening to Nala’s intuition). While in towns or stealth camping, most people tend to be cautious around large dogs, and are less likely to attempt a break in if there is a dog barking. I’d also like to file this under challenges too! For some reason, Nala hates bikes. She goes nuts and freaks out like her tail is on fire if someone rides by on a bicycle, or God forbid, a motorcycle 😳. She’s definitely blown our cover a few times when we would rather not be noticed.

Motivation! We love our girl, and want to make sure she gets enough exercise and doesn’t spend too much time cooped up in the van. This means we need to get outside too! When we visit a new place, we typically like to check out new restaurants and bars when we can afford it, but having a dog means that we’ve needed to adjust our priorities – more time outside being active and less money spent is best for all of us.

When we do go out to eat or go somewhere that dogs aren’t allowed, we never leave her for a long period of time and always make sure that she’s safe and comfortable no matter what. A good rule of thumb is that if it’s too hot or cold in your vehicle for you, it’s that way for your pet too. Whenever she stays behind, even if only for 5 minutes, we make sure to put up the window insulation to regulate the temperature inside, and also to keep her calm if people (or bikers!) go by. If you’re going to a longer event like a concert, it’s a good idea to look into dog-sitting services like Wag or Rover so you know your pet is safe.

Challenges:

Space. Sharing a tiny space with another human can be a huge challenge, but add in another 70 pound body, and you’re sometimes super crammed. Combined with the fact that Nala often confuses herself with a lap-dog, we are often literally all on top of each other. Most dogs I know don’t know a thing about personal space, and ours is no exception. Not a day goes by that I don’t get stepped on or get a tail-wag to the face, or have to dodge a slobbery tongue. But, oh so worth it. No sooner do I push her drooly face away from mine than she puts her head on my shoulder giving me an actual hug and I melt.

Stealth. As I mentioned, bikes, motorcycles and sometimes other dogs are a big “no” for Nala. When she loses her cool because of someone on a bike, she draws attention to us, which we try to avoid as much as possible. Most of the time we keep our window insulation up if we’re getting ready to sleep, but we’re definitely cautious and try to distract her if anything on two wheels goes by. Another aspect of staying stealthy is letting her out before bed. It’s kind of obvious that we’re sleeping in the van if we get out to walk the dog and then all or both pile back in. Most of the time we don’t sleep in neighborhoods, but this is something to consider if we do any stealth camping and we’ll often try to walk her before we park for the night.

Safety (for pup)! Most National Parks have restrictions on where you can bring your dog, and pets always need to be on a leash. This is for good reason – as one park ranger told us, “No matter how big she is, she’s prey”(…yikes.). Specifically in western states, bears, coyotes and mountain lions can see your pup as a meal, which definitely kept us on high alert. Nala is almost always on a leash anyways, but especially after hearing that we made sure to be extra careful.

Just like everything else, everyone’s experience is different, and each pet is different! Some things that work for us might not work for other travelers, and vice versa. Either way, we wanted to share our experience so you can decide for yourself! In our humble opinion, traveling with a dog is the best way to do it! Nala makes our days brighter, not to mention much more entertaining.

We would love to hear about your experiences traveling with pets! As always, thanks so much for reading. 😊

Vannin’ on a budget… How we’ve made vanlife work without solar power

One of the decisions that we had to make early on in our build was whether or not we wanted to invest in solar power for our van. Before we left, our focus was more geared towards saving up as much gas money as possible, and doing our best to take care of as many credit card payments as we could. At the end of the day, we needed to compromise on certain things such as our power system in order to make sure we could travel where (and as much as) we wanted to.

I’ve compiled a list and a few options if you’re in the same boat (or van!) and want some alternatives to paying for an entire solar power system. Here are a few of the biggest obstacles we’ve had to work around:

1. Keeping food without a fridge

This is probably the most important piece of the puzzle – if your goal is to save money, you have to have food on hand to cook rather than eating out for every meal (check out this post on cooking in a van) – you’ll also be way more healthy! The simple answer here is: use a cooler. There are a ton of options when it comes to which to choose so I’ll break it down by cost.

Our first cooler was a Coleman that we purchased for about $30. You really do get what you pay for, and we ended up needing to purchase ice almost every day. We have since upgraded, and now the cooler we have is a 52-quart Ozark Trail cooler; we spent about $120 purchasing it, and I would say it’s done us well so far. Driving across the country in the blazing sun in 100 degree heat, without AC, our ice melted FAST. Now that we’re in cooler weather though (40’s-50’s at night, 70-80 during the day), we can keep ice for 4-7 days without needing more.

**Helpful hint: we have found that it makes a HUGE difference to place your ice into ziploc bags rather than letting it melt inside the cooler – this makes the cooler so much easier to empty and organize, and greatly reduces soggy food situations. You can also reuse the ziplocs so you don’t waste 🙂

Ozark Pros: relatively cheap, keeps ice for several days, sturdy but easy to maneuver inside the van

Cons: how long ice is kept is easily impacted by the outside temperature, frequent-ish purchase of ice depending on your location

From our research, the best (but more expensive) option is a Yeti cooler. These run from $300-500 depending on what size you get, but will keep ice for more than a week, which is a huge deal if you’re taking long camping trips and won’t have access to somewhere you can purchase more.

Yeti pros: keeps ice longest out of most cooler options, sturdy material

Cons: highest price point as far as coolers go

Finally, our favorite pick is an Acopower battery-powered cooler, which costs between $450 and $600, again depending on size. This is on our wish list big time for a few reasons. First of all, you don’t have to worry about buying ice frequently (or at all), which also means you can avoid emptying water from your cooler, as well as dealing with soggy food if you don’t seal something correctly. The cooler battery can be charged via a wall outlet, a solar panel, or the cigarette lighter in your van. Charging via dashboard outlet takes approximately 4-5 hours, and the battery will last 10-12 hours. This cooler also has a freezer as well, which allows for ice cream, so definitely a win 🙂 The downside, however, is that if you choose to charge the battery with a solar panel, that’s an additional purchase.

Acopower pros: no need to purchase ice, freezer included, rechargeable battery

Cons: higher price point, plus the additional need to purchase a solar panel if you don’t have access to an outlet or are not driving and can’t charge using your car battery

2. Lights at nighttime

If you don’t know too much about electricity (like us), chances are you’re not interested in figuring out how to wire your van for lighting. Thankfully there are several ways around this. In our setup, we have a combination of a few different battery powered options, which have worked great for us so far, and were super easy to install. First, we purchased battery powered puck lights that turn on when you press them and are powered by AAA’s. They come with adhesive pads, so you can stick them anywhere – we have six; one above the sink, one on the ceiling of the cab, two across from one another as you enter the van, one under the bed in our storage space, and one under the shelf above our bed as a reading light. Several of the reviews on Amazon state that the batteries die quickly in these particular lights, but we haven’t found this to be the case – in six months on the road, we’ve changed the batteries once.

Another recent addition for us was these Milwaukee Flood Lights, which I highly recommend! They have a magnet on one end, as well as along the back of the light so you can attach them either parallel or perpendicular to the side of your van. Between our van and the high top inside, we have a portion of exposed metal, so this is absolutely perfect for our set up! These lights are amazing outdoor lights as well because they can attach directly to the side of the van while you’re parked. The only downside of these particular lights is that if you use rechargeable batteries, they don’t last very long, so you’ll likely need to recharge the batteries daily (you can also use regular AA’s and they work fine).

Another simple solution I’ve seen in several builds is string lights, which not only illuminate the space, but also create a fun atmosphere. You can purchase these battery powered as well, and easily attach them to the ceiling of your van.

3. Charging our devices

This was something that was a pretty big consideration for us, specifically thinking about how we would charge our laptop. For our phones, it was pretty simple – we purchased a USB port that could plug into the cigarette lighter in our dashboard, but a laptop requires more power, and a 12v outlet to plug into. We ended up choosing a 400w Ever Start Plus, which is a power inverter that also plugs into the dashboard, and has two 12v outlets and two USB ports. Larger options are available, but you need to wire them directly to the battery for them to operate and we felt that 400w was enough for our needs. Plus, it cost about $30 so it made sense to do it this way with our budget.

The biggest obstacle with this option is that the engine needs to be running in order for it to work at full capacity. The Ever Start can operate while the van is off, but not indefinitely because it will drain the battery and you might need a jump-start in the middle of the woods (guess how we know?)!

Ever Start pros: inexpensive, can fully charge phones and laptop while driving, phones can be charged while engine is off

Cons: pulls power from car battery when engine is off, larger wattage options need to be wired directly to car battery

If you need power while your engine is off, I recommend thinking about getting a power bank such as a Goal Zero, which can be charged via solar panel or while you drive. This 400w option runs about $400, so the price point is significantly higher. There are larger options available, but if cost is a factor for you it’s best to have a power bank you can charge while you drive rather than purchasing the additional solar panel, and the 400w makes the most sense without a panel in our opinion. The great thing about this brand is that it’s as simple as it gets as far as solar power – if you do choose to upgrade to solar, you can simply plug a solar panel into the power bank to charge it, no electrical knowledge required.

Goal Zero pros: power while your engine is off, can charge via cigarette lighter

Cons: more expensive than an inverter, vehicle must be on to charge unless you want to purchase a solar panel

Deciding whether or not to invest in solar power is an on-going discussion for us, but so far we’ve found that it’s not necessary in order to hit the road, and there are a ton of options aside from attaching solar panels to the roof of the van. By choosing other cost-effective options, we’ve been able to travel a lot more with the money we’ve saved, so for us the compromise has been totally worth it! As always, everything we’ve mentioned here is a product of our own research and experience, and won’t necessarily be the best options for everyone, so please ask questions and explore your options, because there are plenty! Thank you for reading! 🙂

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Van upgrades

Before we hit the road this time we had big plans for making our space a little more live-able and homey, and we thought we would share some of the upgrades we made!

First of all, one of the most simple but most impactful changes for us was adjusting our ceiling. If you read our post, Overcoming our Ceiling Challenge, you already know that we were waking up staring up at blank silver insulation every day, which felt very unfinished, and a little creepy. After much trial and error, we found the miracle that is Peel and stick wallpaper. This was a game-changer, and now our ceiling is finished, and gives us something interesting to look at.

The next thing we did was add an additional cabinet on the side of the van opposite the sliding door. We already had one that we picked up on the road, and we decided to add another and also create some counter space. The cabinet we found in my parent’s basement (thanks mom and dad!), and we purchased a piece of plywood to use as the countertop. I spray painted the new cabinet, and when we took a look at the plywood, it seemed unfinished so we decided to add some final touches.

At first I was planning to use the remaining wallpaper from the ceiling to cover the countertop, but we wanted something waterproof; our cheapest and best option turned out to be vinyl floor tile (the one we got came from Home Depot, but we found this one on Amazon that is very similar if you’re looking for an affordable option). The one we chose gives our countertop a granite-esque feel, and makes a lot of sense for our space. The two cabinets didn’t line up perfectly, so we made a diagonal cut and then cut each individual tile to fit against the edge of the plywood counter.

Underneath the counter, we installed our Banana hammock, aka hanging fruit basket. If you have a van, or even if you don’t, I highly recommend one of these! It keeps our fruit from getting smashed against the side of the van while we drive, and makes it easily accessible all the time. We knew we would place it in between the two cabinets, so when we installed the second one, we measured them so that the hammock would fit against each one. We then put in a small screw on either side through each cabinet so that it would stay put.

Speaking of cabinets, our friend Pat hooked us up with an amazing cabinet/extra storage space above the cab of the van. With a few 2×4’s and some plywood, Pat created a ton of extra storage for us in a few hours, which would have taken us a few days to figure out. He even included a small switch in the middle of the two doors to keep them closed while we drive. We now use the cabinet for extra blankets and cold weather clothes.

We also updated our sink drainage system by eliminating our waste water tank. While on this trip, we’ve tried to make a lot of changes as far as using products that are environmentally friendly, and want to be sure that we leave as small a footprint as possible. By switching to soap and even toothpaste that is biodegradable, we were able to safely eliminate our waste water tank and let our sink drain outside the van. Even so, we try to do dishes in a parking lot rather than while we’re camping.

It was a little tricky to configure this system because we purchased our sink on Craigslist and didn’t have specific parts for the drain, but we found creative solution by using a Rinse-roo hose, which is actually a hose made for washing your dog. The end is flexible, so we could simply wrap it around the drainage piece under the sink and allow the hose to run out the sliding door. Eventually, we’ll drill a hole in the floor where the hose can sit permanently, but for now it drains out the door when the door is open.

It’s not perfect, but now we can carry an extra 7 gallons of water along with us everywhere we go!

Finally, another one of the most crucial updates we made was a new stereo system (if you know us, this is a big deal)! When we purchased our van, the speakers were blown and we were using a Bose speaker as our sound system, but Dan found a cheap-but-nice Bluetooth system on Amazon, which has completely changed our music situation. The unit comes with a backup camera, which is huge for us in such a large vehicle. This was a great option for us, because it was affordable and not a name brand, and it does everything we need. We also got some new Speakers, which were easy to install and replaced the blown ones we had.

There will be more coming in the future, but for now, these updates have made our home on wheels so much more comfortable! If you want to start a conversation about vanlife, or have any questions about anything we’ve done, please reach out! Also please note that we’re newbies not experts, so everything we share with you is what has worked for us, not necessarily what is the best for everyone 🙂 Thanks for reading!

*This post includes affiliate links – as an Amazon Affiliate site we earn on qualifying purchases at no additional cost to you.

Loving our planet while on the road

The most important thing to remember when camping is to pack it out if you pack it in. Even though we haven’t been on the road for very long, we unfortunately have come across several campsites already with trash left behind from previous campers. Even though it is sad to see, it serves as a great reminder that we are responsible for our actions, and that it is our job to do what we can to care for the planet.

Something that was really important to me as we decided to live on the road was caring for the environment. I want to be sure that we use products that are sustainable and that we leave the smallest footprint that we can. Because we sometimes run into situations where we need to empty our gray water tank while camping, it’s super important that we use biodegradable soap that isn’t harmful to the environment. We use Dr. Bronner’s soap, which is great because you can use it for anything, from washing dishes to washing vegetables, and washing your hands to washing your laundry.

Something else campers don’t often consider is things like toothpaste! Many people I know casually spit toothpaste on the ground without considering the impact it can have on the environment. For this, we’ve begun to use Young Living products, such as toothpaste and mouthwash that are made from essential oils and are sustainable! It feels great to know that these things don’t leave a big footprint.

I’m working towards making as many as I can of the products I use myself, and am going to start with lotion since it’s something I’ve done before. The wise words of one of my yoga teachers has stuck with me – “if you wouldn’t eat it, don’t put it on your skin!”. Makes you think, right? Along those same lines you could also say, “if you wouldn’t put it on your skin, don’t place it on the earth!”. Food for thought, and reminders to care for the planet and ourselves ❤️ thanks for reading!

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How Does Our Sink Work?

We’ve tried pretty hard to have as many homey comforts in our van as possible to make life easier. One of these that is essential is running water, which we have made happen through a water system that we constructed. Our water system consists of two seven gallon tanks, a foot pump, tubing, a faucet, and a stainless steel sink. At first, our plan was to build all of our cabinets, etc. ourselves, but as we ran out of time and recognized the limits of our handiness, we decided the best move was to purchase something that was already put together.

Before we could move forward with a cabinet to house the system, we had to build the system itself. The most important part is the foot pump – we purchased a Diaphragm Foot Galley Pump from Amazon, which moves water from the fresh water tank through the tubing, to the faucet. It was important to me that we get a foot-operated pump rather than a hand pump so that we have both hands free while using the sink, and it has been worth it so far!

The pump pulls water through the tubing, out of our fresh water tank, through the pump, and up to the faucet. The used water comes through the drain and into a gray water holding tank which we empty periodically as needed.

As far as the cabinet goes, we purchased a bathroom sink cabinet from Home Depot that was already put together. We removed the porcelain sink from the top of the cabinet, and installed our own stainless steel sink along with a plywood counter top which we cut to fit the outline of the sink. I then stained the plywood to prevent water damage, and to make it look nicer 🙂 .

We needed to cut out a place for the foot pump to come through the bottom, and installed the pump underneath the cabinet so that the lever is accessible, but not in the way. The pump itself is screwed directly to the floor, and the cabinet is attached to the floor and to our bed frame on the side.

The double-cabinet doors open up to house both 7-gallon water tanks (we also have a spare fresh water tank that we store under the bed so we can bring more water with us when camping). It’s a little bit of a tight squeeze, but they ended up fitting perfectly!

Overall, this system has worked really well for us so far. Looking ahead, I’d love to add in some additional counter space – this means we may need to move the sink cabinet and water system to the opposite side of the van away from the sliding door, so we’ll see! We’re learning that this project will continue to be a work in progress as we go. I’ll add more pictures soon – thanks for reading! 🙂

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Where are we now?

Wow, it’s been almost three weeks since our blown tire! A lot has changed for us since then, and we’re already planning the next stretch of our journey. Since our time in New Hampshire, we have landed pretty close to home in Bethany Beach, DE. Our original plan was to arrive at my parent’s beach house here a few days before July 4th to spend the weekend, head to Baltimore for a few weeks to work, and hit the road again after my cousin’s wedding at the end of July. As we have very quickly learned, things don’t always go exactly as you plan!

After our time in New Hampshire, we found ourselves spending most nights “camping” in parking lots, since free camping is few and far between in the North East, and our gas money was dwindling quickly. It’s great to have a safe and well-lit place to stay, but we began to feel frustrated, and as if we were killing time until heading home in a few weeks.

The decision to accelerate our trip down the East coast came in two parts – first, I had fond memories of a trip with my family to Cape Cod, Massachusetts when I was very young, and had a vision of re-creating the trip with my husband. Unfortunately, we didn’t do our research (is this becoming a theme?), and found out once we arrived in the area that almost all beaches in Massachusetts are pay to park, pay to enter, and non-dog-friendly. I was craving some beach time, but three strikes and we were out.

Wondering where to go next, I had a feeling in the back of my mind that we would head towards Bethany, but didn’t say anything to Dan because I almost felt like we were giving up by heading home earlier than we anticipated.

The second part of our decision came on Father’s Day when I called my dad in the morning. I told him how our trip was going and how I was feeling, and the first thing he said was, “why don’t you head to the beach house?”.

At first I said no, we couldn’t. It was two weeks earlier than we planned to come home, there were still things to see, and we weren’t ready to call time-out on our adventure just yet. But, as I said, plans change. My dad said some things about showers, air conditioning, and us being welcome anytime, and even though I didn’t let on quite yet, he convinced me before we hung up. It took a little convincing from me, but Dan was on board soon after, and we arrived in Delaware late that same night.

We didn’t arrive home in Baltimore, but pulling up to my parent’s house felt like a huge sigh of relief that I didn’t know I needed. I had been feeling homesick and this was just what I had been missing. We showered immediately (it had been a while), and woke up the next day in vacation mode.

So, here we are! Or, here I am really. After two months of being together almost 24/7, Dan left yesterday to head home to Baltimore to work for a few weeks like we planned. The goodbye was way more difficult than I anticipated, but I made the decision to stay here and work at the beach instead of going back home. I cried like a baby when Dan pulled off in the van, but we both know that we need this time to build up some money so we can continue our adventure.

This is only a small piece of the next part of our journey, and we can’t wait to get started! We’ll be heading West and starting a whole new chapter, so stay tuned! In the meantime, come see me at the beach, or visit Dan at Superpawn! The journey continues soon. Thanks for reading 🙂

A crazy day

Yesterday was interesting to say the least. Since leaving Michigan, we’ve headed East and have spent some time in upstate New York, Vermont, and Maine. Yesterday we decided to check out New Hampshire and head into the White Mountain National Forest to camp. On our way into the forest, we blew a tire (the first, and hopefully the last). It wasn’t flat, but most of the tread came off and was hitting the underneath of the van until we stopped, which made it sound like something much worse had happened.

Super scary, but definitely could have been worse – we were on a paved road, and I am SO grateful we still had cell phone service so we could call AAA. The first tire place we called said they couldn’t get a new tire for us today, but they could tell us if they had a used one that would fit once everyone in the shop came back from lunch in an hour.

Fortunately, our tow truck driver called his shop and they happened to have exactly what we needed, and had us on our way in less than 30 minutes.

From there, we drove out to the campsite, grateful to be back out in the woods. Our troubles weren’t quite over though – the second we stepped out of the van, we were SWARMED with mosquitoes, so bad that our bug spray didn’t even make a dent. Covered in bites and bugs, we begrudgingly hopped back in the van and decided to move on.

Driving down the bumpy road back down the mountain, all of a sudden we hear a BANG from the back, and fear the worst. First it sounded like we blew another tire, but the van was driving fine; my next thought was that a propane tank blew (but no fire, thank God).

It turns out that a half-empty wine bottle had blown its cork and wine was dripping everywhere. We immediately hopped out and started mopping up what we could, but the van still smells a little like wine. I guess that’s what we get for buying cheap!

Feeling drained by the day, and trying to stay positive, we retreated to a safe parking lot close by to sleep for the night and give it another try in the morning. We were due for some good Karma, and we absolutely got it during our hike today.

We found a perfect spot to hike and hang out for the day at Mount Morgan in New Hampshire, and laughed off our series of unfortunate events from the day before. Sometimes when it rains it pours, but while on an adventure, it doesn’t make sense to sweat the small stuff. Laughter is the best medicine! Thanks for reading!

Camping friends

It’s been a long time since my last post! Lots to catch up on, but we’ve had much happier adventures since we left our strange night in Boney Falls, MI. Our next stop was much closer to civilization – we traveled south from the Upper Peninsula into the Manistee-Huron National Forest, then to the National Lakeshore nearby where we could hike to the beach. Our campsite was about a 5 minute drive from the trailhead, and the hike was a mile and a half to get to the dunes.

We spent three beautiful days on the beach – on the second day, two guys stumbled out of the dunes to ask us if we live in our van, and if we wanted to hang out for the day. We were super ready to socialize so we all pulled up chairs and became instant friends. We exchanged numbers in case they wanted to come back to our campsite (definitely didn’t make it), but didn’t expect to run into them again.

We headed out the next day without a set plan, and ended up about an hour away in a town called Manistee. Just as we were figuring out where to stay that night, our new friends texted us the coordinates of another campsite close by and we decided to head into the woods to meet them.

We camped with them for two nights, and on the second night we all went into “town” to play pool at a bar nearby (town consisted of this bar and a gas station).

You know how in movies when strangers walk into a bar, the music abruptly cuts off and everyone in the place turns to stare? I’d never seen that in real life until we walked in and found a spot by the pool tables. One family actually asked their server to move away from us to a quieter table. I guess Dan’s beard, my tie-dye shirt, and our two new friends from Chicago were a little too wild for such a tiny town. Needless to say, we had fun anyways – one thing I’m learning on this trip is to worry less about what other people think, and to do my own thing.

We had a great few days in the woods with new friends – these three had me dying laughing all weekend, and I have a feeling we’ll all meet again on the road some day.

Thanks for reading!

What’s it like cooking in a van?

“What’s your food situation?”, is probably one of the most common questions I get when I connect with people from home. Long story short, it’s pretty awesome.

The longer story is that it turns out we can make almost anything we would eat at home while we’re camping. When we first hit the road, we took the camping thing to heart and mostly ate burgers and hot dogs, but now we’re actually eating really well.

We decided to get a two-burner camping stove, which seems to be the best option for our set up. We don’t really need more than this, and having two burners allows us to cook everything we need for a meal at one time. Ours runs on propane, which is easy to get at most stores (we’ve been using the mini Coleman tanks, but are considering getting a bigger tank to be more cost-effective).

Something else that’s been useful is one of our prizes that we won in the Midwest Vanlife Gathering raffle. It’s called a Grub Stick, and it lets you toast sandwiches, bagels, etc. over the campfire (it also has a marshmallow attachment). I can see this being a great option for backpacking trips if we want to have a hot meal while hiking.

Our van currently doesn’t have a vent fan, so all of our cooking has to be done outside for now (because safety) which has been great so far, and not really an obstacle. A few campsites we’ve been to have had picnic tables, but for the ones that don’t, we have a folding table we set up to put the stove on. When we’re at a campsite we usually have our easy-up set up, so even if it’s raining we can still make food. This also means we get a great view while cooking! We’ve only been in a few situations where inside cooking would have been the best option, and in that case it’s been cereal for breakfast. If there’s anything I miss, it’s definitely a dishwasher, but otherwise we’ve got a great set up! Thanks for reading 🙂

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Better safe than sorry

It feels like it’s been a while since our last post, and a lot has happened! Since we left the Upper Peninsula, we’ve traveled south down along Lake Michigan. We have stopped in a few places and have just landed at a spot in the Manistee National Forest along the Manistee River.

Along the way, one of our more eventful stops was a campsite we didn’t even call home for one night. A little outside of the Hiawatha National Forest we found a place called Boney Falls that had free camping and we stopped to set up. As we were getting our campsite set up and making dinner, we noticed that a few cars drove into the campgrounds, but nobody stayed. We were the only ones camping there, so this felt odd. As we cooked dinner both of us could hear the faint sound of an engine trying to start in the distance (I should also mention that we lost cell phone service about 30 minutes away from the campsite). Meanwhile, Nala refused to get out of the van. We took a few short walks to gather firewood, but then she hopped right back in and stared intently at us, making us feel uneasy. As the sun began to go down, the feeling of uneasiness became more intense and I could tell that the dog was feeling more uncomfortable. We could still hear the engine sputtering in the distance, and the darker it got, the more I began to feel that it sounded much more like a chainsaw than anything else, especially since we had just walked past a sign riddled with bullet holes.

Even though we were trying to stay busy, we caught each other’s eye and each knew immediately it was time to go. Trusting Nala’s instincts (and our own), we put away all of our things as fast as we could and hauled out of there while we still had a few minutes of daylight left. The first five minutes of our drive away from Boney Falls was dead silent as we tried to shake off the feeling that something sinister might have been about to happen to us. The farther away we got, the lighter I began to feel, and we tried to laugh off what had just happened.

Now, I have no idea if we were just being paranoid, but I have absolutely no regrets about leaving that place – always trust your gut! Better safe than sorry 👍🏼

Stay tuned – we’ve had much happier adventures since then! Thanks for reading 🙂