On Packing and Living in Small Places

On Packing and Living in Small Places

I’ve been banging away in small places having lived in and built vans for almost four years and dealt with all kinds of fun. Whether its safety or pleasure, figuring out what you need to make you tick can be a baffling and entertaining adventure. I’ve Ipos, a favorite pillow, and one of my old partners has their favorite blankie and its funny how those little things can make a huge difference when things go south and you’ve got to shuffle through. For folks who keep an eye on creatures that may live below ground you’ll recognize that Ipos is a demon who is omniscient, so I apologize to Ipos for some of the terrible crimes that I could have committed that they may have seen first hand, allegedly. I’m packing for what I believe is my fourth or fifth firefly and instead of actually packing I’m going to talk about how I pack. For the folks that know me well, they’ve either just smashed their screen in frustration or are real curious to see how I approach building out something.

The core or let’s try not to die

Often when folks think of vanlife they think of all kinds of fancy views and life seems just right. Alas, that’s not usually the case but also notable is that means its even easier to get started. I’d describe the core as safety, food, water, shelter, and sanity in that order. Note I’m not trying to survive the wilderness because I got lost but instead I’m trying to make a little home or a safe place somewhere where I can hang for awhile.


This one seems odd for the first priority but whether I’m in a van, at a friends house, or off farting in the trees I’ll move if I feel unsafe. Yes, you can stay somewhere you feel unsafe but then you’re just wasting brain power on something you could be using for something cooler. It’s a balancing act of a lot of things but remember we’re probably not lost in the woods and have decent resources.


I like grub. I know water is more important from a survival standpoint but we’re not needing to survive we’ve that box ticked so flesh out some grub and always plan at least one cooked meal. I know some folks don’t enjoy cooking as much as me but even something simple and warm that you put some effort into tastes miles better than a soulless creation. Outside of that look realistically at your diet and figure out what makes sense for your adventures. Have at least two fuck up meals aka easy meals for surprise guests to impress so you can make the most of your time or to get you out of a funk. Also, I’m a hedonist so I always have something I will crave on board for fun. Also, milk but that should be another blog post.


This one is both easy and hard to plan. I hate waste so sure I could buy the gallon plastic jugs as required but you can find it easily most anywhere. Where it gets fun is the usage and weight tradeoffs. For folks who have houses with less wheels you use 20 gallons of water per the internet for washing dishes ( I may measure my water consumption next time I wash at a house .) which comes out to about 160 pounds of water to carry. That’s a crap ton of weight if you fill stuff by hand or have to haul it around in your vehicle. Fun fact, the tankers which snag water to help put out fires are the most dangerous vehicles to drive for firefighters as half empty tankers can have their water weight slosh and cause them to lose control. The moral here is water is valuable and heavy so be thoughtful how you use it.


A place to keep the elements out that makes you feel safe. Maybe a place to hang an actual hat and your favorite painting if you plan to stay awhile. I’d love to hear other folks’ thoughts on this as I feel like this does the job for me.


I thought about putting this one before Shelter but decided against it as, as much as I love my creature comforts they won’t do much good if things go sideways. Sanity may seem like a funny one but often you can’t control all of the above perfectly and having something both within your control and an anchor can help keep your little spark of madness alive. Also this one doesn’t have to be physical, whether it be hobby like searching out your favorite ant or creating your next story; the big thing here is that you do something to support your spark.

Actually Packing

The reason I’m writing this is to avoid doing this but I guess I have to at least talk about it. The first huge thing is unobtainium. You may see folks with really fancy vans or gold bars and you may not have the resources right now to have the same things. If I were to tally out the hours of my van conversions I’ve spent north of 400 hours just building out vans, let alone maintaining them. The point here is your money and your time will probably be better spent on enjoying whatever you’re packing for so keep that in mind. Also weight if you’re schlepping somewhere. Also always carry some cash, cigarettes, and some tradable keepsakes.

Actually Using

For folks who packed for whatever adventure, a huge thing I always forget is to have a system to note if I used it or if it caused a bad time. I note this as I was proud that I was the only van I knew of that had a record player but never used it so the why have it all in the first place? You might find that in other stuff too and its helpful to have a log.

When Things Go Wrong

This is a rough one to think about as it falls back on the core survival stuff which I’ve been avoiding. The advice I would provide is to prepare for twelve hours of hanging without support of any kind and what tools you need to keep yourself in a “not dead yet” status. Medicine, water and comms would be what I would plan for. You might be thinking why only twelve, shouldn’t it be thirty-six hours or longer? In my opinion, no as I’ve not written this post for survival for when you decide to snowshoe in the next polar vortex but instead probably have transport and people for support.

Well if you’d like to see my list or have questions about my idea of how to pack I’m all ears. Catch you on the flipside.

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