Sometimes the best way to learn is by doing. While I started my Vanlife in the front yard, I eventually started sleeping at the local Anytime Fitness gym, as I’m a member there. I solved problem after problem, and in this article, I’ll share a few with you.
Problem #1: My laptop is dead AGAIN?!?!
Power is THE #1 problem when living the vanlife. Many rigs have solar power, but when you start your vanlife living in an SUV, that’s not exactly an option. I tried using a solar powered battery from Voltaic, but the 20W solar power system didn’t power my laptop very long. Then it took 2 days to charge the battery, and at that point it wouldn’t even charge my laptop at all. I got a refund of my $300 on that purchase.
My solution was to start working inside the library. I get free access to power outlets for as long as the library is open. On the days and times it’s closed, I just use that for my leisure time.
Problem #2: God, it’s hot out here…
My car’s AC only sometimes works, and it has recently been between 90 and 100 degrees Fahrenheit! It’s especially brutal when there’s zero rain, and all I could do while the library was closed until recently was to sit in the park… on the ground, as the pavillion is closed due to the coronavirus hoax. I eventually bought myself a $6 (yes, $6) portable chair from Walmart, and a $30 laptop desk, and I sat under the tree to keep cool. That way I didn’t need to sit in the boiling hot sun where the picnic tables were at. Sitting in the shade helped, but there were insects biting me or buzzing in my ears…
I’m glad the libraries are open now. At night I still use my personal fan (car powered, and they sell them at Walmart) so I can sleep without being boiled alive. I don’t think I’d have made it long without that fan, or the way I used a fuse tap to make the battery power my rear power outlet in the car. That gave me always-on power, but I can only put smaller devices on it, lest I wind up with a car that won’t start without my car jumpstart kit.
Problem #3: I miss my refrigerator.
The fridge I want is a DC-powered larger fridge that sells for about $500 on Amazon, but my car isn’t set up with the solar power it needs. If I hooked it up to the car battery, I’d be really shocked if the battery was still strong enough in the morning to power the car starter. So, I got myself a cooler from Walmart without ice or cooling stuff, and I just use it to store things that don’t need refrigeration. (Beans, granola bars, instant coffee with non-refrigeratable creamer… You know, the usual.)
Oh, and I still go to Subway on occasion or buy ready-made sandwiches at the grocery store for lunch! 🙂
Problem #4: Coffee… No coffee maker, and no refrigerator for creamer.
This problem took me quite a bit of time to solve. I eventually got Instant Coffee which is the type of coffee that you just dissolve in water instead of boiling in a pot. The problem is that I just didn’t like the taste of coffee without creamer. Luckily instant coffee tastes better than boiled coffee, but I’d still rather have my creamer in it.
The creamer was another difficult task. Powder creamer doesn’t dissolve right when placed in cold, or even warm water. Sure, I could use hot, but serious, who likes hot coffee? Not I says me. If that’s your cup of coffee, mozy on down to the gym and fill your coffee cantine with hot water from the bathroom faucet.
I solved it with non-refrigeratable pump-type coffee creamer from Amazon. No one except for Amazon seems to sell this stuff. (At least not on the East coast, but maybe on the west coast it’ll be different.)
The taste was palatable, but nowhere near as good as a Starbucks frappuccino, or even regular coffee with refrigerated creamer. Just be sure to wash your cup with SOAP AND WATER and not just rinse it out. Holy crap does spoiled creamer taste nasty!
Problem #5: Water anyone? Dishes?
How are you supposed to wash dishes while living in an SUV without a sink or water tank? Simple! Use a sink that has soap and water. 🙂
This one was fairly simple for me to solve. I thought I’d be doing dishes in the shower, but instead the Anytime Fitness I go to has a private bathroom with a shower in it. Before I go to bed, I go in and change into my PJs that look like workout clothes, and do my dishes in the sink with hand soap.
My dishes are 2-3 pieces of silverware and 2 cantines. (One for water, and the other for coffee.) It takes me all of a couple minutes to take care of that. My dirty dishes go in a ziplock freezer bag, then once they’re clean, I place them in another ziplock freezer bag until I go to the car and put them away. I’ve written “dirty” on one bag and “clean” on the other, and that helps me know which is which.
Also, check out how I solved the issues with my window coverings!