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“Pack as if you're going out for only a week during the summer. Then add what you'd need if you were going out for only a week in winter. That should pretty much cover everything.” –MrNoodly1)
“I can't be prepared for everything I can possibly imagine, so I prepare for things that are most likely to happen.” – MrNoodly2)

Hitting the road: a checklist


  1. what is my main drive for full-timing in a van, car, or RV?
    1. travel?
    2. live frugally? (often incompatible with extensive travel)
    3. solitude?
    4. independence?
    5. necessity? (would otherwise be homeless
  2. will I pay to camp in sites with amenties like shore power and water, or will I be boondocking off solar or a generator?
  3. how long do I expect to full-time?
  4. what is my present and future financial situation?
  5. how is my physical and mental health? Will I require ongoing medication?
  6. am I easily bored?
  7. can I recognize danger when I see it?
  8. how much reading and research am I willing to do?
  9. can I use my existing vehicle, at least for now?
  10. can I cook for myself?
  11. do the foods I like require refrigeration?
  12. am I squeamish about bodily functions? How will I use the toilet?
  13. will I require air conditioning or can I follow mild weather?

laying the groundwork

This section includes items that take a long time to do and/or that are beneficial to you whether or not you choose to live in a van.

one year out

This section assumes you are planning to hit the road sooner rather than later. Starting a year out means you can test out your van in all four seasons with your “home base” resources at hand. It also means you can get up to speed on core skills like cooking, laundry, grocery shopping, etc.

  • decide if you are going to buy a camper, build one out of a cargo van, or use something you already own.
  • if you are buying/building a camper: do the research, find a good one, buy it, and start your build (if required).
  • stress-test your camper with short outings: an overnight in your driveway. A weekend in your driveway. Overnight away from home. Several days away from home. A week away from home, etc.
  • choose a domicile state. If you already live in a nomad-friendly state like Texas, South Dakota, or Florida, consider keeping it. Establish residency if you pick another state.
  • decide on an address of your legal residence.
  • research mail forwarders to find one that meets your criteria. It may be simpler to choose one in your domicile state.
  • make general plans on where you would like to travel (or stay) in the first year of your RV life.
  • practice “camp cooking” (making simple one-pot meals, etc) while still at home.8)
  • practice cooking on the actual stove you will be cooking on, if any.
  • practice cleaning pots and utensils without running water
  • start noticing all the places you can source drinking water. Pour all your water from gallon jugs or similar to assess how much water you consume.
  • start practicing quick navy showers, sponge baths, etc. If you plan on using a portable shower bag or sprayer take it into the bathtub with you and try it out.
  • consider downsizing the number of clothes you own, focusing on clothes that are comfortable and easy to launder in a laundromat. Start wearing your new wardrobe.
  • start paying more attention to weather on the news and what it looks like outside. Think about how you would react to that weather in the van.9)
  • practice setting up and using a bucket toilet or whatever you plan to use, including separation of liquids and solids. You may want to set the bucket in the bathtub or use a urine bottle there to make beginners accidents easier to clean up.
  • get a library card from a library near your residence. This can help with residency and you can check out ebooks and other digital media on the road.

On cooking, jimheim says:

Spend the [time before departure] at home practicing. Only cook meals that you'll be able to cook on the road. Limit yourself to the cookware you'll have. If you have to ask, I suspect cooking with these limitations is new to you. Best to learn at home so you're prepared. It'll also help you identify cookware essentials. See how much you can do with limited pots/pans/utensils and no appliances. Get used to living without a fridge and microwave for leftovers. It's a steep learning curve. You can make great food on the road with those limitations, but if you're not prepared, you'll come to dread dinnertime.

one month out

This section includes items that are best done while you still are in a physical residence.

  • set up the account with your chosen mail forwarder
  • start giving everyone our mailing address, letting them know you do not receive mail at your residence.
  • If you want a P.O. Box get it before you move into your camper. USPS requires a mailing address to get a P.O. Box10)
  • refill any prescriptions, get copies of medical records
  • test-run your generator, if so equipped
  • set termination dates for utilities, cable, etc.
  • make specific plans about your first route or destination. Many new nomads travel widely11) in their first year, then move more methodically after that. Remember to limit driving to safe and relaxed intervals. The 3-30 rule is a common one: travel no more than 330 miles or after 3:30pm on any given day.

one week out

  • fill out a change of address form for the post office, pointing to your mail forwarder. Note: if you call it a permanent change of address the USPS will sell your new address to junk mailers. If you mark it a temporary change the USPS will not sell the address, and you can renew the temporary change for another 6 months.12)
  • change oil
  • check automatic transmission fluid, if applicable
  • check tire pressure, etc as needed for your camper and/or tow vehicle. Remember to check air pressure in the spare, and ensure all the parts of your jack kit are present.
  • while you still have broadband, update your phones/tablets/PCs. Update google offline maps, etc.

one day out

  • prepare the camper so all you have to do is leave the next day. Top off water supply, charge house batteries and all devices.
  • move refrigerated foods to the camper's fridge

launch date

  • take a long shower that morning! Showers are a rare luxury on the road.
  • do a final walkthrough of your sticks & bricks home: stove off, refrigerator emptied and powered off with door[s] cracked.
  • disconnect shore power, water lines, etc. from the camper
  • do a walk-around of your camper. Anything out of place? On top? Underneath?
  • check your mailbox for anything that missed forwarding
  • pull away and start your new adventure
lifestyle/hitting_the_road.txt · Last modified: 2023/06/03 13:58 by frater_secessus