The van life movement has gained popularity in recent years, thanks van lifers who showcase their travels and minimalist lifestyles on social media. This has inspiring lots of others, including women, to follow in their van life footsteps and simplify their lifestyles to enjoy more freedom and flexibility.
But van life is not without its challenges, especially when starting out. There are issue with safety, hygiene, comfort, and finances that are all important to be aware of. And many of these factors can affect women more profoundly, especially solo female van lifers.
So is solo female van life a good idea?
As much as I want to say “YES, IT IS!” the answer depends on how you prepare yourself and your van before you actually start van life. In this post, we share 13 tips for women to enjoy the freedom and adventure of van life while minimizing risks and hardships.
1. Don’t Drive At Night
I can’t stress enough about this, DO NOT DRIVE AT NIGHT!
This is especially true for solo female van lifers. Safety is a top priority. Nothing good happens when driving after sunset as the limited visibility makes it difficult to spot pedestrians, wildlife, or other hazards on the road. Doing so increases your chances of getting into an accident, getting hurt, and damaging your vehicle.
Driving after sunset also means you’ll arrive at your chosen camp spot at night. This can be a substantial safety issue, especially for women, because you never know who is hanging around your park spot in the darkness. And when you arrive tired, with limited visibility, and less parking options, this increases the risk of a dangerous encounter. And sadly, solo women are often the target.
In our case, we almost always stop to camp well before sunset, ideally before 4pm. This gives us time to pick out the best spot, unpack, and relax before darkness arrives.
For More, Check Out: Van Life Safety Tips For Women
2. Find Safe Places To Camp
Finding safe places to camp is also important for solo female van lifers. The biggest benefit of van life is having the freedom to choose where to sleep, include paid campgrounds, national parks, dispersed camping, or at informal places like trucks stops and Walmarts.
But not all camp spots are good. Some places aren’t safe, others don’t allow camping, others are dirty.
Before choosing your camp spot for the night, make sure to check apps such as iOverlander and Campendium and read the reviews from other travelers about the spot before you arrive. A listing with more positive reviews usually means it’s safer and provides a better experience.
3. Be Social With Fellow Van Lifers
Living in a van on the road can sometimes lead to feelings of isolation and loneliness. However, the van life community is full of like-minded individuals who enjoy living a minimalist lifestyle and exploring the outdoors, just like you do. Being social with other van lifers gives you not only for opportunity to build new friendships but also sharing experiences, and learning tips and helping each other when in trouble.
Here are 3 ways to connect and build friendship with other van lifers.
Make it a habit of greeting other campers once you arrive at a campsite. Most van lifers love to meet others and are always up for a conversation. Our personal strategy is to see if a camper leaves their doors open or closed. Closed usually means they’d prefer to keep to themselves. But if the doors are open, we usually try to find time to go over and say “hi”.
Traveling in a caravan with other van lifers is a great way to share memorable experiences and also the safest way to explore the wilderness and deserted areas as your group would be able to help you out in case of emergencies.
Social media platforms like Instagram and Facebook also provide an opportunity to connect with other van life enthusiasts. Attending events, coffee shops, or other public spaces is a great way to meet new people and make connections on the road.
4. Keep In Contact With Family & Friends
This is especially true for women who travel in camper vans by themselves. Keeping in message contact with family and friends is good for moral and allows you to share you experiences with loved ones.
Not only is the constant communication good for your psyche, but it also helps keep you safer. Regular check-ins and updates on your travels lets loved ones know that you are safe and where you plan to explore next. This is especially useful before you explore National Parks or Forests, where reception can often be limited.
5. Trust Your Instinct
When traveling alone as a solo female van lifer, it is especially important to trust your instincts as you may not have anyone else to rely on in an emergency. Be mindful of your surroundings, trust your gut, and stay alert and aware at all times.
If you sense that something is off or uncomfortable, take a step back and don’t be afraid to leave a campsite or to call for help. For example, if you see anyone walking closely around your van multiple times while camping, grab your van’s key and be ready to drive out. Also, set your phone to call police with a single tap. It might be a false alarm, but it’s always better to be safe than sorry.
6. Set A Indoor Bathroom Solution
Having toilet solution in your camper van is an crucial factor for women in van life. It improves hygiene and reduces stress. Stepping out from your van in the middle of the night to pee isn’t fun and, sometimes, not a safe option.
There are many toilet options available, including chemical toilets, composting toilets, and just placing a toilet seat on a plastic bucket. Each option has its pros and cons, with factors to consider such as ease of maintenance, odor control, and space constraints.
However, when it comes to just peeing, I recommend using a simple pee funnel. It’s a great option if you are seeking the most budget oriented and space efficient bathroom option. I use the funnel with a plastic bottle. It’s much more hygienic, in my opinion, as the liquid is easy to dispose of and a bottle isn’t as clunky as a chemical toilet’s black water tank.
- ❥Material and Design of Urinal: The female pee funnel is made of high quality silicone, does not...
- ❥Pee Standing Up for Women: Enjoy your travel time. Women won't have to worry about using a dirty...
- ❥Easy to clean and carry: The female urination device is very light, soft and foldable, you can...
When it comes to #2, I still don’t think it’s worth investing in a toilet. Read to learn why we don’t travel with a toilet.
7. Learn Basic Vehicle Maintenance
I don’t know of many women who are interested in basic car maintenance. To be honest, it ranks pretty low on my list of things I want to learn about as well. But just because car maintenance is dull, it doesn’t mean we can (or should) ignore it. In fact, even the most basic of maintenance tasks is important to keeping your van healthy and reliable for the long term.
Ignoring it can sometimes lead to more significant and costly repairs down the road.
You don’t necessarily need to know how to do the actual repairs or replacements, but it’s helpful to know how to check to see when it’s time to head to a mechanic for a maintenance visit. We provide a list of common maintenance issues for camper vans below.
You can also join online communities specific for your vehicle type to learn more about how to maintain you van. In these forums, you can ask questions and get tips from people who have years of experience and knowledge with your specific vehicle.
In our case, because we have a Ford Transit, we joined the FordTransitUSA forum.
8. Build A Comfortable Set Up In Your Van
As a woman, I can’t underscore how important it is to build a camper van that works for YOU. That means having a layout you like, an electrical system that meets your needs, a proper kitchen that allows you to cook, and an interior design that reflects who you are.
Here are 4 things to help you prepare the van for a sustainable and comfortable van life journey.
If you’re starting from scratch, read our guide to learn how to design your van floor plan.
Running out of power during van life isn’t fun. You should have an electrical system that meets your needs day in and day out. We provide amazing electrical guides to help get you started.
Building a practical kitchen space is crucial! You want to have space to store food, prepare meals, and clean up afterwards. As a women, few things are more enjoyable than a delicious home-cooked meal in my van. Here are some resources to help get you started.
9. Start Van Life With Familiar Destinations
Once our van build was completed, we set off immediately on a hard core journey of wild camping without any experience of actually living in our new van. Because of that, our first few weeks were quite stressful! We were learning so many new things at once that we were exhausted each day.
If I could have done my first few days differently, I would have started off camping in easy, stress-free, and familiar destinations. Even at a friend’s driveway would have been perfect.
The first week of van life should be less about the destination and more about getting to know your new camper van home and creating new routines and habits to make your traveling experience smoother and less hectic.
10. Generate Income resource before you start van life
Living and traveling in a camper van solely from your savings may seem like a good idea initially, but in reality, it can become a stressful experience. Van life may not necessarily be a cheaper way of living and traveling.
Many people find themselves in trouble when they start looking for ways to earn income after quitting their jobs and moving into a van. Whether you opt for project-based freelance work like Upwork or try generating income from social media platforms like YouTube, Instagram, or blogs, you will face stiff competition, making it challenging to secure stable income.
It is, therefore, important to start working and building a source of income at least a year before embarking on van life while still living in a house and working full time.
11. Don’t Aim For The Perfection
You may have the worst sleep in a heatwave, or freezing cold night, or not having shower for few days nor putting make up on for a month. Van life may not always be glamorous, but the journey is worth embracing. You’ll learn to love yourself and appreciate the simple things in life, like watching sunrise with no one around.
Van life is more than just picture-perfect Instagram posts. It is about embracing the journey and learning to appreciate the imperfections. While the stunning beaches and mountains might have initially caught your eye, it’s important to understand that there is more to van life than just the visuals.
12. Don't be ashamed to pay to camp
Some people take such a proud on never pay to camp by wild camping and boondocking. Not having to pay for camping is such a good feeling, however continuously scouring for a place to camp and trying to be stealth can be draining.
Upholding austere practices of not paying for campsites may eventually wear you out. Remember to prioritize your wellness and allocate resources to treat yourself to a paid campsite when necessary. Taking care of yourself is the finest act of kindness you can do for yourself.