The word camping has come to encompass a variety of ways to create a makeshift home that will take you on the road and experience the outdoors, as you know it. It can be anything you want it to be, such as with any opportunity or experience.
It certainly does not have to cost a lot of money; we are taking about camping after all. Even traveling today in Canada or the USA, there are plenty of ways to not make the experience about money, which definitely helps if you don’t have a lot but still seek the adventure. It can even open the experience more when you are looking for those more ‘off-the-beaten-path’ places to camp.
‘Rustic van camping’ is simplicity with your home-on-wheels, but never lacking charm whilst letting the beauty of the environment find you.
Yes it can be done. With a little bit of research (as there are plenty of resources online to find free camping including http://freecampsites.net ), being open to the road a bit, asking around, and a little bit of adventure (head down those side roads of highways, especially if there is a sign for a lake), you can ‘nose’ your way around and find some divine spots to camp that are free and usually pretty private.
In most provinces and states, you are allowed to camp on forestland freely. Of course always being respectful of the land is the priority, so try to use previous used ‘spots’, and always ‘leave no trace’. It is commonly known as ‘dispersed camping’ or ‘open camping’. Check in with the local ranger station in each area, they will gladly tell you the local regulations and may point you in the right direction. Also, each area in Canada and USA usually has less commonly known sites than the state/provincial parks (and much cheaper or again free, and usually more quiet). They are often known as ‘Forest Sites’ (http://www.sitesandtrailsbc.ca for British Columbia) or ‘BLM sites’ or ‘Recreation Sites’ (https://www.bchydro.com/community/recreation_areas.html also for BC) depending where you are traveling.
My rustic & cheap van camping endeavour began a mere week before I was due to venture off. I bought an older ‘mini-van’ with the intent to make it into a camper. This again does not have to take a lot of money, resources or skill. I bought an old passenger van for $950 (in Vancouver, Canada). Yes you can get fully-working and worthy used vehicles for that price believe it or not; low mileage is something to look for. I spent $60 on wood, made myself a bed frame with 2 folding flaps for access to storage underneath (note: I have very basic carpentry skills, anyone can do this), plopped an old foam mattress on it, added some vintage curtains and presto Ollie, my new campervan was born.
Ollie has been so good to me. We have found some sensational camp spots on this journey. Her capabilities are endless. She is ‘two levels’ with a cozy sleeping loft atop that also folds up into a sitting position, as well as tons of accessible storage underneath. It’s no coincidence that with the creation of my own modest camper, I can honestly say I have never had a more homier and comfortable house on wheels.
Size and price does not matter in van camping. Quality and charm, and ‘making it yours’ does. It is my home. The adventure awaits me, and you.
A few How To’s about making your trip less expensive if you’re on a budget:
Don’t Be Attached to Distance, Take It Slow.
It’s the journey, not the destination. With not much road to cover and more time, you will be more likely to be patient enough and open enough to find that gem of a spot that awaits you that isn’t at a provincial/state park. Plus, it obviously saves you money on gas.
Sleep at The Rest Stops.
If you’ve had a long journey and just need a place to rest and sleep, use the rest stops along the major highways. You are allowed to stay at them for at least 8 hours, with some of them having no limit. And some are really nice actually.
Take Your Road Trip Away From Urban Zones.
Venture well into the rural areas. National Forests or BLM land in the US are great for free dispersed camping
Cook Your Own Fresh Food.
Rustic van camping does not apply that you can’t eat yummy and healthy food on the cheap. Buy more non-perishable foods, but not processed to eliminate the need for so much ice if any, while keeping some fresh vegetables and luxuries in the cooler. Root vegetables like potatoes, yams, carrots, onions, and garlic last great. Some super ‘pantry’ food ideas to have that will last are lentils, quinoa, any nuts or seeds, a granola, canned coconut milk, a nut butter, and honey. And voila from that, you will have yourself some divine meals alongside some nature and a view to match.
Take Advantage of Your Resources When They Appear.
Fill up your water canister when you see a tap, wash your clothes and yourself (with biodegradable soap) when you are beside a beautiful lake or river. You can’t beat nature’s own bath.
“It’s the journey, not the destination.”