My Favorite Vanlife and Travel Apps

These are the apps that I regularly use to find spots to park my van overnight and to find interesting foods to eat, trails to hike, and sights to see. Most have apps for your smartphone and some have websites as well.

Overnight Parking and Camping Apps

  • (iOS | Android) – displays a map of rest areas, Wal-marts, truck stops, and RV parks to park your van. I typically use it only for Wal-mart parking lots.
  • (No smartphone app) – Displays a map of free and low-priced ‘boondocking’ or dry camping spots typically in the Western half of the US.
  • (No smartphone app) – This is a website similar to AirBnB but is directly solely at camping rentals. You can also search for state and national park campsites.
  • (iOS | Android) – You might be surprised to find ‘camping’ spots on AirBnB. I rented a parking space in a guy’s driveway off of AirBnB in Whistler, BC, Canada. Simply filter for low price ranges (less than $35 per night).
  • US Public Lands (iOS | Android) – This app show you all of the FREE areas to camp. If you can find a pulloff or cleared area off of a road in a National forest, BLM land, or National park you can camp on it!

Travel Apps

  • Foodspotting (iOS | Android) – I’m a big fan of Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern and I love to eat weird foods like tripe, tongue, liver, heart, bone marrow, insects, etc. This app shows all of the unique near your location.
  • AllTrails (iOS | Android) – This app shows you hikes that you can filter by short/long, easy/hard, small/large elevation. Highly recommend this if you enjoy hiking even in the slightest.
  • Trover (iOS | Android) – If you want the cool spots to visit while on the road, you can search by photos from locals and find unique places to check out.

Vanlife Apps

What are you favorite apps that you use on the road? Post to the comments.

Picture is my Sprinter van in the freezing cold of beautiful Banff, Alberta, Canada.

How-To Videos of T1N Dodge Sprinter 2003-2006 Model Repairs

These DIY videos are meant ONLY for the Dodge Sprinter 2003-2006 T1N model. I have done all of these repairs myself and most were fairly easy (no more than 30 minutes). The struts took me a few hours since the van needs to jacked up and the wheels removed.

Cabin filter

Air filter

Front Struts / Shocks

Glow Plugs

Fuel Filter

Oil Change (I highly recommend using this part when you change oil)

Rear Differential Service

Brake Pads

I have used a mechanic for the ball joints, transmission fluid change, and coolant change.

Here are some useful documents:
The Sprinter service manual (PDF) that mechanics use.
The Sprinter parts manual (PDF).
The Error Code spreadsheet

If your repair isn’t listed here, check out the Sprinter Source forum and your repair will most likely have been answered there.

I also recommend the Sprinter Conversion Sourcebook for additional help.

Picture is the van in Banff National Park in Alberta, Canada frozen in -10 F weather.

Jan 2017 Monthly Expense Report

The real power of living in a van is lowering your monthly expenses. Being able to live on so little money, gives you freedom! I can live on as little as $850 per month (cooking all of my own meals and not doing any fun activities).

By converting my vehicle (a Sprinter van) into my ‘home’, I was able to put an expensive ‘asset’ that was unused for the majority of each day and was able to cut out my mortgage/rent payment completely. That simple act cut my monthly expenses down considerably – then I took a hard look at my fixed, recurring expenses. After two years of living on the road, this is what my monthly expenses look like:

Monthly, RECURRING Expenses (services that I either have auto-billed or I am in a contract with):

Total Monthly, Recurring Expenses: $595

One-time Expenses (these change from month-to-month)

  • Yoga (I pay the drop-in fees): $40
  • Eating out (Chipotle, Pho, etc – I try to keep it under $10 per meal including tip): $261
  • Food and supplements (Costco, Trader Joe’s, Amazon): $387
  • Fuel for my van (depending on how much I travel): $98
  • Fun activities/Going out with friends: $180
  • Van maintenance: $29

Total One-time Expenses: $995

My total monthly expenses (one-time plus recurring monthly) for January 2017 is only $1590.

Notice that I have do NOT have the following expenses:

  • a car payment
  • a mortgage or rent payment
  • a Netflix/Hulu or Spotify membership
  • debt payments (credit cards, student loans, etc)

A few notes: I value my health hence the majority of my spending on chiropractic and gym memberships.

If I want to watch movies or listen to music, I watch or listen to what is included for FREE with my Amazon Prime membership (Prime movies or music).

I do buy clothes, but no very many each year. I typically buy merino wool clothes (shirts, underwear, socks, etc) that last for a long time (1-2 years of daily use) and are anti-microbial (so they don’t smell bad!).

If you take away only one thing from this post, it is that the real freedom comes from cutting and ultimately minimizing your monthly, recurring expenses.



The First Step Toward Living the VanLife

The first step is not an obvious one – it is not researching vans or build outs or where you will travel.

The first step toward living the VanLife is getting rid of most of your possessions. It sounds easy but it can be a surprisingly long process.

When I began to purge my belongings, I used the Minimalist’s ‘Packing Party’ technique.

It is simple and easy to accomplish. Here are the steps:

  1.  Pack up all of your belongings as if you were moving (clothes, kitchenware, towels, electronics, toiletries, etc)
  2.  Continue to live in your home for 3-4 weeks
  3.  Unpack only the items that you need
  4. Donate or sell everything that is still in boxes

The video is the Minimalists TED Talk about their packing party.

You will find that you don’t need the majority of your possessions. You will also find that you will feel free and unencumbered.

“The question of what you want to own is actually the question of how you want to live your life.” – Marie Kondo

How-To Ski Four Colorado Mountains in One Day

It all started apres ski at Beaver Creek while riding the bus back to Bear Lot. We started talking to a bro on the bus about our plans the next day. He told me about how he skied all four Vail Resorts-owned Colorado mountains (Beaver Creek, Vail, Breckenridge, and Keystone) in one day (Arapahoe Basin is owned by Vail Resorts but they don’t have EpicMix on their slopes – so you can’t track your vertical feet skied). After getting a drunken download on how exactly to accomplish skiing four-in-one-day, we decided to hit it hard the next day. This plan is ideal for a Colorado local living on the Frontrange since you will be starting at the mountain farthest from Denver (Beaver Creek).

What you need:

  • an Epic pass that gives you access to all Vail Resorts
  • a 4WD car or truck to get you to and from each mountain
  • lots of snacks and a camelback and/or drinks
  • a place to stay in or near Avon, Colorado
  • an opportunity to accomplish this during a weekday (or during a late season weekend)

Here is what we did:

700am – Grab a big, delicious and hardy breakfast at Northside Cafe in Avon, CO

800am – Park in Bear Lot (free parking) and shuttle up to base at Beaver Creek

830am – Catch the first chair up and start skiing newly groomed runs

1030am – Shuttle back to the parking lot and start driving to Vail Ski Resort

1045am – Grab a quick snack and drink in the car while driving

1100am – Park in a covered parking garage at Vail (2 hours free parking)

1115am – Walk to the gondola and hit Vail for a quick 3 or 4 runs

1245pm – Head back to the parking garage and start driving towards Breckenridge

130pm – Eat lunch in the car (or stop for a quick bite – we ate all of our food driving from Beaver Creek to Vail)

200pm – Park in the main Breckenridge lot (typically it costs money to park but it should be open and free by 1pm or 2pm)

215pm – Catch the gondola and ski Breckenridge until closing at 4pm

415pm – Head back to the parking lot and start driving to Keystone (eat some more food!)

445pm – Park at the main Keystone Resort lot and walk to the slopes

500pm – Catch the gondola to the top of Keystone and start night skiing

630pm – Get in a good number of runs under the lit-up slopes of Keystone

700pm – Call it a day and a fun challenge completed. Start driving back to the Frontrange

A total of 1.5 hours of driving – 60 miles.

Potential Obstacles:

  • getting stuck in a gondola or ski lift for a long period of time
  • running out of gas, a flat tire, or other car troubles
  • not having enough food or water in the car with you
  • arriving at Breckenridge at 4pm (closing time)

When you complete skiing at four resorts in one day, you will receive the ‘Day Tripper’ pin from EpicMix. In total, we skied 34,464 vertical feet over four resorts. It was a long day but it was a fun challenge to complete.

Vertical Feet Totals:

Beaver Creek – 2 hours skiing – 14,944 vertical feet

Vail – 1.5 hours skiing – 5,328 vertical feet

Breckenridge – 2 hours skiing – 9,873 vertical feet

Keystone – 1.5 hours skiing – 4,319 vertical feet

The Total Number of Feet Skied: 34,464 vertical feet