Tag Archives: Mr. Heater

The Rubber Tramp Artist’s 10 Essential Items for Vandwelling

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I’ve been vandwelling since 2010. During most of those years, I lived in my van at least half the time. Even now that I have a home base for the winter, I still live in my van for at least six months in the spring, summer, and into the fall.

During my time as a vandweller, I’ve found some items I don’t want to live without. Today I’ll share my essentials for vandwelling. Please realize these are my essentials. Other van dwellers may find these items frivolous or useless. That’s ok! To each his/her own. I’m simply sharing what works for me in hopes that my ideas will help my readers find what works for them.

#1 The Rubber Tramp Artist’s first rule of van life is “Always know where your keys are.” I follow this rule by keeping my keys on a lanyard I wear around my neck. I made the lanyard myself with pretty glass beads and Stretch Magic. While you may not want to carry your keys around your neck, you should find a system that works for you so you can put your hands on your keys the moment you need them.

Dr. Bronner s Pure Castile Soap - Fair Trade and Organic - Liquid - 18 in 1 Hemp - Peppermint - 8 oz - 70%+ Organic -
#2 Dr. Bronner’s soap is biodegradable and gentle on the environment and is made by a company that does right by their employees and is fair to their suppliers. What more could I ask? Oh yeah. The peppermint (my favorite of the many varieties available) smells and feels amazing. I buy it in the big bottle (or better yet, receive the big bottle as a gift) and refill smaller bottles I put in bags and pockets throughout my van for quick and easy access. Not only is the soap good for washing hands, face, and body, I’ve used it to wash dishes and to hand-wash clothes. I’ve heard of people using it to brush their teeth, but I’ve never gone that far!

#3 Wipes are not just for the butts of babies. They work pretty well on my adult butt and on my armpits too. When I’m working in the woods, I have my privacy tent where I can take a jug shower, but early and late in the season, it’s too cold for me to bear being naked and wet. Other times when I’m on the road, I’m nowhere near a shower, or I want to freshen up between showers. During all those times, I use wipes. I discovered Pure ‘n Gentle at Wal-Mart. Not only were they the least expensive wipes on the shelf, they are fragrance free, hypoallergenic, and alcohol-free. Score!

#4 While I don’t worry too much about how I look (I’ve had one manicure in my whole life, never had a pedicure, and haven’t worn makeup  consistently since the 90s), I am vain about my hair. What can I say? I like some fluff, and when I’ve gone too long between washes, dry shampoo ups my hair’s fluff factor. I’ve written an entire blog post about how I love dry shampoo, but I’ll say here it too: dry shampoo can really perk up hair that hasn’t had a washing in a while. Some folks whip up their own dry shampoo, which I’ve never tried, but I do like the DIY aspect of homemade beauty products. You can find recipes for dry shampoo suitable for light or dark hair at the Wellness Mama website.

VolksRose Portable 12 Eggs Slots Holder Shockproof Storage Box for Camping Hiking - Green
#5 I got tired of eggs breaking in my ice chest, so I picked up an egg suitcase from the camping department at Wal-Mart. It turned out to be a great investment. I hardly ever have to deal with an egg that breaks in the suitcase. Eggs in the suitcase only break if I drop the suitcase really hard while I’m rummaging around in the cooler. I save money and have fewer messes by keeping eggs in their special container.

#6 I deliberated for quite a while before I bought my stainless steel camping cup, but I’ve never regretted the purchase. My cup cost around $5 from the camping department of Wal-Mart, but there are many different brands and designs available from a variety of manufacturers.

I like being able to put the cup directly on the open flame of my stove. No longer do I have to drag out a cooking pot to heat water for tea or instant soup. I keep the cup hanging in the food area of my van for quick access, but the folding handles allow me to put it in my backpack more easily if I need to carry it with me. I can eat cereal or soup out of it and drink tea, coffee, or Emergen-C from it. It’s versatile, easy to clean, and truly makes my life easier. If I were living simply, without a bowl or a pot, I would make room in my life for this cup.

MPOWERD Luci Outdoor 2.0 - Inflatable Solar Light, Clear Finish, Adjustable Strap
#7 I’ve never put solar panels on my van, but I do love my solar powered Luci lights. They require no expensive, quickly drained disposable batteries, and I never have to plug them in. All they need is the power of the sun. I have a couple that are still providing me with light despite the fact they no longer inflate. (The plastic of one was chewed up by a forest rodent, and a hole developed at the plastic’s seam of another one.) A few hours in the sun gives me several hours of light. They provide enough light to read or write by, which is crucial to me. I don’t know what I’d do at night without a Luci light.

#8 I bought my Mr. Buddy heater (more accurately called the Mr. Heater Portable Buddy) on a whim at my first Rubber Tramp Rendezvous (RTR) A guy had a brand new one he wanted to sell because he’d found something he liked better. I paid his asking price, not even sure I would ever use the thing. I’ll tell you what, in the last 3+ years that heater has kept me warm on many occasions. It heats my van fast and is ideal when I want to warm up before I crawl into bed at night or before I get out of bed to get dressed in the morning. I never sleep with the heater on, and I always crack a window when I’m using it, so I feel perfectly safe.

#9 Since my welcome-to-2018 tire disaster, I keep a large can of Fix-a-Flat in my van. I’ve not had to use my emergency can, but I did give one away to some folks on the side of the road having tire problems of their own.

For about ten bucks, I at least have the chance of pumping up a flat tire and getting myself to a tire repair shop, thus saving myself the ordeal of a tow.

EPAuto 4 Gauge x 20 Ft 500A Heavy Duty Booster Jumper Cables with Travel Bag and Safety Gloves (4 AWG x 20 Feet)
#10 Another way I stay prepared to handle my own emergencies is by keeping a pair of jumper cables in my van. It seems like every time I go through a daytime headlight area, I forget to turn my headlights off when I come out the other side, and my battery drains while the van is sitting in a parking lot. I’d be a fool to count on finding another jumper cable-owning driver willing to give my battery a jump, so I provide my own tools for the job. Also, as the owner of jumper cables, I get to be the hero when someone with a dead battery and no tools asks me for help. No matter who has the dead battery, with jumper cables in my van, I’m the winner!

Don’t know how to jump start a car? The Dummies website can help you out.

Of course, you don’t need any products in order to live in a van. To start your vanlife, all you need is a van and yourself! I started my vanlife in an old G-20 with no bed of any kind. They guy who was my boyfriend and I slept on blankets on the floor. We started out with nothing. In my next van, I placed my sleeping bag (a gift from a kind fellow I’d just met) on the back seat that folded out into a bed and called it good. You don’t have to wait until you can afford a bunch of things to start living in your van. If you want to be a vandweller, move into your van today! However, perhaps getting some of my essentials for vandwelling can help you live a little more comfortably.

Note: I’m endorsing these products because I like them. No one asked me to endorse them. No one paid me to endorse them or gave them to me for free to review. The pictures you see in this post are Amazon affiliate links. If you click on any of those links, you will zip over to Amazon. Anything you put in your cart and buy after clicking on my affiliate link will earn me a small advertising fee at no cost to you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Staying Warm

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My #1 way of staying warm while living in my van is to go somewhere warmer when the weather gets colder. For example, in 2014, I left Northern New Mexico at the end of October and went to Southern New Mexico, where I stayed for November and December. In January 2015, I went to Arizona and stayed in various places in that state until I went to the California mountains at the end of April.

People often ask me if I stay warm enough in the van at night. Staying warm at night is not a problem. My bed is raised about two feet, so my body heat isn’t lost to the floor, and I have storage space. I sleep on two layers of memory foam, which is notorious for making people hot. I wear long underwear and socks to sleep when I need to, as well as a hat if it’s particularly cold. I have plenty of blankets, including two sleeping bags and a knitted (crocheted?) blanket stored flat under the memory foam and on hand for any really cold situation.

My bed lies across the back of the van, up against the back doors. On the side opposite the back doors, I have a curtain (a sheet I paid $1 for at a thrift store strung on a bungee cord) that I can pull for privacy. I found out early on that the curtain holds in quite a bit of my body heat. In hot weather, I often have to leave the curtain open at night so I don’t get warmly uncomfortable. When it’s cold out, I’m glad the curtain holds in the warmth.

Once I’m in bed, I’m warm. Sometimes I even get too warm and have to push the covers down for a while so I can cool off in the chilly air.

The problem in cold weather is getting out of the bed, either to get dressed and get out of the van or to move around inside the van (to tidy up or to cook, for example). Sometimes it’s too cold inside even to sit up in bed to read or write.

While I was in Southern New Mexico, temperatures were getting down in the low 30s at night. I researched how other rubber tramps stay warm in their vehicles.

One idea I found on a couple of websites was burning a candle. Candles (supposedly) raise interior temperature in a vehicle by 10 degrees. Of course, one must be careful with the open flame. (I have a lot of fabric in my van—curtains, rugs, blankets, clothing strewn about—so I have to be particularly careful not to catch everything I own on fire.) One must also be careful not to let the candle use up all the oxygen in one’s enclosed space, which can lead to death. This means one must leave a window open at least a crack when using a candle inside a vehicle.

I wondered if leaving the window open—even just a crack—negated any heat produced by a lit candle. However, I was willing to give it a try, so I walked down to one of the locally owned gift shops and bought a small (overpriced, artificially scented) candle. I tried burning the candle a couple of mornings. I (thankfully) did not catch anything on fire, but I didn’t notice feeling any warmer when the candle was burning. I decided the candle experiment was a failure.

At the time, I was staying in an RV park with electrical hookups. I considered going to Stuff-Mart and buying a small electric heater. (I think they run $15-$20.) I decided not to do that because I very seldom stay in my van in places with electrical hookups. Even a small heater would take up precious storage space when not in use, and I wouldn’t use it enough to justify having it.

The last week I was in Southern New Mexico (the week between Christmas and New Year’s Eve), the temperature dropped to 28 degrees. I was lucky because I had gotten a house and pet sitting job. I stayed in a lovely warm house with a nice cat and a nice dog, and I didn’t have to think about heating the van.

During my internet research, I’d read a bit about portable propane heaters. Several van dwellers I read about swore by them. I didn’t rush out to buy one because #1 they’re a little pricey and #2 burning propane in the van causes the same concerns as burning candles.

At the Rubber Tramp Rendezvous (RTR), I talked to people who used propane heaters in their vehicles.

The Divine Miss M had a Mr. Heater brand Portable Buddy heater, which was a popular choice among folks at the RTR. (I don’t know why exactly, maybe I heard someone else refer to the heaters this way, but I call this type of heater Mr. Buddy.) Miss M loved hers, said it got her station wagon plenty warm, but did stress the absolute necessity of leaving a window open a crack when using the heater inside. She assured me that the heater produced enough heat to overcome the cold let in through the partially open window.

I stored the info in my brain file for future reference. I wasn’t in the market for a heater, although on some chilly mornings in the Arizona desert, I would have welcomed a few minutes of concentrated warmth.

At one of the very last group gatherings at the RTR, during announcements, a man said he had a brand new Mr. Buddy heater for sale. He said he’d just bought it from Amazon.com for $69 ($20 less than normal price, I was told) but had found a heater he liked better at the Big Tent. He wanted to sell the heater for $69, plus another $20 or $30 for the supplies to hook it up to a large propane tank. When I went to talk to the guy selling the heater and told  him I was interested in the heater but not the accessories because I didn’t have a large propane tank, there was a grumpy old man already looking at the items. The old man snapped at me that I needed a larger propane tank because it was cheaper to buy propane that way. Rather than snap back at the old coot elder, I just told the guy with the items for sale that the old guy could buy it since he was there first.

Before I could get back to my van, the seller had come after me to say the old guy didn’t want the heater and I could have it for the $69 he’d spend on it. I bought it.

I tried it out a couple of times before I left the RTR (thanks to the bottle of propane Miss M gave me to use with it). It worked great, warmed the van quickly. It was just enough heat to get me motivated to get out of bed and get dressed. I told Miss M that Mr. Buddy was my new boyfriend!

Then I went back to the City and didn’t stay in my van for upwards of three months. Mr. Buddy was packed in a plastic storage tub, and I didn’t think much about him. Until…

It’s cold in the California mountains, even in May. Seems like the temperature starts dropping around 4:30 in the afternoon (16:30, military time) and doesn’t warm up again until the next day around noon. Sleeping is fine. Actually, I sleep better when it’s chilly and I can snuggle under piles of blankets, so sleeping is excellent. It’s the between times that are trying.

I get up early to do a check of the campground, sweep the restrooms, make sure there’s enough toilet paper. I decided I needed the warm motivation only Mr. Buddy can provide, so I’d already planned to unpack him when I heard the high the next day was expected to be only 41 degrees, and there was a possibility of snow. I pulled Mr. Buddy and his propane bottle out of the plastic crate and fired him up before I crawled into bed. In about ten minutes, the van was toasty.

When I got up in the morning to pee, I fired him up again until I warmed up. Oh yes, Mr. Buddy and I are sure to have a long and happy relationship.

I took this photo of my boyfriend Mr. Buddy in my van.

I took this photo of my boyfriend, Mr. Buddy, in my van. The propane bottle fits right in on the side.

Safety Precautions I Follow with Mr. Buddy

#1 I open at least one window at least a crack before igniting Mr. Buddy’s flame.

#2 Because there is an actual flame, I make sure no fabric is near Mr. Buddy’s front.

#3 I never leave him unattended. I DO NOT exit the van or go to sleep while Mr. Buddy is on.

#4 When I turn off Mr. Buddy, I unscrew and remove the propane bottle. Some people don’t do this, but I take this precaution so I know no propane is leaking.

While writing this post, I remembered another idea for getting/staying warm. I learned this one years ago from a New Englander in New Orleans. Drinking or eating something hot is a good way to warm up from the inside. However, when I’m cold first thing in the morning, I don’t necessarily want to crawl out of my warm bed to heat water for tea.

img_2813For my birthday, my host family gave me a Stanley thermos. It keeps water hot for a long time. I used it while working the essay scoring job so I’d have hot water for my lunch. I’d heat the water in the morning, put it in the thermos, and the water would still be hot enough at lunchtime to prepare noodle soup (ramen noodles and the like). One day I didn’t use the water for lunch, and the next morning (24 hours later) when I opened the bottle, the water was still very warm.

So this is my idea: Before I go to bed, I’ll boil water and put it in my Stanley bottle. I’ll put it next to my bed, along with my mug and a teabag. When I wake up in the morning, I’ll pour myself a cup of hot tea before I even get out of bed. Sounds lovely.

 

I did not receive any compensation for the endorsements of the products in this post. I wrote this post after I already owned the products. I just like ’em, and I think my readers might like them too.

If you click on either of the photos below, you can shop on Amazon through my affiliate link. If you do your normal Amazon shopping through my affiliate link, I receive a commission from your purchases at no cost to you!

Stanley Classic Bottle 1.1qt

Mr. Heater F232000 MH9BX Buddy 4,000-9,000-BTU Indoor-Safe Portable Propane Radiant Heater