As a woman, I often dreamt about van life, but wondered if it was truly for me. I had so many questions and concerns about this lifestyle. Was van life safety for a female an issue? What about female van life hygiene? I had major questions if I, as a woman, could thrive while living and traveling in my camper van.
On Instagram, we’re often inundated with perfect campervan life photos. Vehicles parked in the middle of nowhere with magnificent views and with a perfectly clean and photogenic van interior. And the women in these van life shots look so beautiful and appear to truly love their nomadic lifestyle. Being a woman living the van life sounds incredibly sexy, but is what you see on social media real or fake?
Honestly, the short answer is both YES and NO….There are moments when I feel like I am living the dream, traveling from one beautiful landscape to another, but there are also moments when I feel like I’m living in a nightmare, too.
In this article, I want to share with you the experiences that I’ve gathered and learned from while being a woman living the “van life”. These tips include how to maximize van life safety, reduce stress, and improve van life hygiene. Hopefully this article gives you some ideas of what to expect and prepare for your own van life journey as a female.
Table of contents
Female Van Life Safety Tips
Parking Overnight As A Woman
Stealth camping…what a good feeling knowing you slept for free without anyone knowing!
Is Stealth Parking Really Safe?
We’ve met a number of people with ‘stealth’ camper vans without vent fans, solar panels, or even a single window. All that inconvenience because they wanted to be ‘stealth’.
But in our experience, there is virtually no benefit to having a stealthy van, especially now that van life is so popular in North America. Both the police and people who would wish to do you harm already know whether a bland-looking van is a regular working van or a camper van.
Therefore, we don’t believe that trying to quietly stealthily park on a dark street or an isolated corner of a parking lot actually keeps you safe. Eventually some day, curious eyes will wander over to your van.
Read More: Why We Don’t Believe In Stealth Campervans
Better Alternatives To Safely Park Overnight
Instead of stealth parking by yourself, we believe that are better ways to safely park overnight.
1. Park In Popular Camper Van Spots
Whether you’re located in an urban environment or in the countryside, you can always find free places to park that are popular with other people living in camper vans. These include Flying J/Pilot truck stops, Walmarts, and BLM and National Forest spots. There is nothing wrong with simply parking up near someone else, especially when in an urban place. We’ve certainly had solo female van lifers park near us in Walmarts and truck stops. We often use the iOverlander app to find popular and known spots to park that are safe.
2. Communication Is Key
Especially for solo female van lifers, it is more important to let people know of your existence than to try to be stealthy. Talking to fellow van lifers, or to local people in small towns, or Walmart staff can all help assure you a safe night to park. When you are not sure whether the place is safe or whether camping is allowed, it is better to just ask than just being sneaky.
That way people know that you are sleeping in your vehicle and there is nothing suspicious, and nobody won’t wake you up knocking on your door in the middle of the night. Plus, meeting new friends with people you meet on the road is one of the best parts of traveling, right?
Is Bringing A Gun Or A Knife A Good Idea For Van Life Safety?
Unless you are properly trained to carry and use a gun or a knife, bringing these weapons is very much discouraged. Although I understand every woman must make their own van life safety decisions, I believe having these weapons not only threatens to escalate a potential situation but also gives the owner a false sense of security and encourages unnecessary risky behavior because of it.
If carrying something for self-defense is important, I think having a small vial of mace pepper spray is much more useful and safer than a gun or knife.
And as I mentioned prior, it’s more important to be communicative, be visible, and don’t be afraid to park near other camper vans for security.
Krav Maga: Recommended Self-Defense Class Van Life Females
I’m weary of promoting popular self-defense classes such as Karate or Tae-Kwan Do because, unless you have years of experience, I don’t think these classes will help to overpower a prepared predator. But I did take 1 month of Krav Maga classes and the philosophy of Krav Maga makes this form of self-defense much more useful for female van life safety.
Rather than learning how to fight from the onset, Krav Maga taught me how to resist capture. I learned that when accosted by someone, the first human response is actually NOT to run or fight. Rather, it’s to tense up, freeze, and be silent. These are the things that a would-be perpetrator is counting on.
Krav Maga taught me to overcome the initial shock of paralyzing fear and learn to shout so that others may hear you. You’d be surprised just how hard it is to shout loudly when in shock. Also, Krav Maga teaches you how to properly resist being captured by protecting your body and, if the opportunity arises, by placing a properly placed crotch kick!
If Nothing Else, Trust Your Gut
This has been true for me wherever I’ve traveled, whether it was with my van or simply backpacking. If a place or situation feels unfriendly and unsafe, just leave. Don’t feel pressured or awkward to stay. It’s so much better to be safe than sorry. And with your own vehicle, it’s easy to just pack up and leave. Especially as a solo female van life traveler, it’s important to know when something doesn’t feel right and to simply trust your gut.
Female Hygiene And Femenine Care For Women In Van Life
If I’m being honest, even though we live in the world of greater gender equality, sometimes life as a woman is just plain harder. And if you live in a campervan with limited water resources it’s extra tough! That’s why I created a list of essential hygiene items for women in van life. These are all products that I use that have made life on the road easier easier, more enjoyable, and less stressful.
Period Talk - How To Manage “It”
It is the most annoying monthly event for females in van life, period!
I used to wear pads and tampons during most of my van life experience, but recently I switched to the Flex Cup & Thinx Cotton Brief Period Underwear over a year ago and I’m a believer! They’ve worked great for me every month.
These two products are essential for van life women.
Different women have different situations but I have really heavy flows on my 2nd day and just wearing a tampon doesn’t hold my bleeding. I usually had no choice but to wear both a tampon & pads on my heaviest days. I really hated wearing pads because it always irritated my skin, and it’s even harder when you don’t have access to a shower or proper toilets.
On Light Flow Days
Now, Thinx has been working amazing for me when I have light flow days. On these days, I really don’t need to wear any pads or tampons. The underwear dries quickly and is leak free.
I simply wash the underwear under a shower at the end of each day. There are so many selections, but my favorite one is Thinx sports underwear. It’s lightweight and dries quickly. It’s great for someone who likes to explore towns and hike in nature all day, like me.
Thinx Cotton Brief Underwear feels really nice on my skin, I usually like to wear it when I am relaxing in the van or sleeping.
On Heavy Flow Days
On heavy days, I use both a Flex Cup Slim Fit and the Thinx Cotton Brief Period Underwear together. They never irritate my skin and I feel that the cup is able to hold much larger amounts of liquid than the tampons. I love that I can wear them when I sleep, and I can wear them all day hiking, swimming or doing any other activity without changing a cup.
And most of all, they are both reusable so I don’t have to spend money to purchase sanitary napkins and tampons every month. I also don’t have to make space for them to be stored in my van and they’re eco-friendly.
The FLEX Cup sits in your vaginal canal and the cup catches the blood that passes through.
In my case, on the heaviest flow day, the FLEX Cup lasts roughly 5-6 hours before it’s full. I’ll usually have to empty the cup and wash it 2-3 times a day.
On medium to light flow days, I could wear the cup all day (up to 12 hours) without having to empty it. I’ll just wash it once at night before I sleep.
This product was a life changer for me, I no longer buy pads or tampons. It’s much more comfortable to wear and creates no environmental waste.
Female Van Life Bathroom Hygiene
People often ask me, “where do you go pee?”
When we first started van life, we brought along a standard Porta Potty. But because we didn’t want to deal with the waste, we NEVER used our toilet. Not even once.
Best Bathroom Option: The Female Urination Device
So we ditched our Porta Potty, and now I use this Female Urination Device (aka: “The Pee Funnel) in conjunction with a plastic bottle. Now when I need to pee when we’re in an area with no public restrooms, we simply pull the van over and I can go to the back and pee directly into a bottle. Just like a guy!
It’s quick, simple, and surprisingly very clean and hygienic.
Having a small bathroom solution, like the pee funnel, also makes it super convenient to pee in the middle of the night. Now, instead of going outside to find some bush, I can simply use the funnel and get right back to sleep. And in the morning, it’s a simple and discreet process to dump the contents of the plastic bottle at a public bathroom.
For going #2, we still look out for public restrooms, but in over a year on the road, we’ve never had any problems with this. It’s all about timing and getting your body into a routine.
How I Shower As A Van Life Female
“How often do you shower?”
This is another question I get a lot. And the answer is, “quite a lot, actually!”
Originally, we used to shower whenever we reached a campground. This was perhaps once every 3-5 days. This wasn’t ideal for me, as a woman doing van life, because not only did I have to wait 3-5 days between showering, but it also forced us to spend valuable money on expensive campgrounds.
But along the way, we picked up this portable solar shower bag and, just like with my pee funnel, it’s been a game changer for me. Now, instead of waiting 3-5 days, I’m able to rinse off almost every day.
Our solar shower bag is easy to fill at any water spout we come across. We’ve filled up the bag at gas stations, campgrounds, beach parking lots, and anywhere else we can find a spigot.
And as we’re driving, we put the solar shower bag in the front, on the dashboard, and park our van into the sun. Usually by evening, the temperature of the water is anywhere from warm to very hot!
Our solar shower only holds ~3 gallons (both of us share), so it has to be a very quick shower. My tactic for a fast shower is to not use hair conditioner, which takes more time and water to rinse. I only use shampoo and an out-bath treatment mixed with Moroccan Oil.
Travel Hair Dryer
If I have a choice I’d rather shower at night before I go to sleep. (I sleep better being clean) But I hate going to bed with wet hair! So for me, my compact hair dryer is one thing I can’t live without.
Luckily, we made our camper van’s electrical system robust enough to be able to use the hair dryer on a daily basis.
We travel with a foldable hair dryer that is compact (the handle can be folded down) and has a dual voltage setting, which is really helpful since we are traveling to multiple countries which use various voltages.
Other than drying hair, the hair dryer has been a lifesaver for us; drying our cushions and furniture from water leaks and helping to prevent mold growth!
Van Life & Skin Maintenance
Since I started van life and traveling full time, I’ve gotten much more tanned than before. We were always outside doing some activity almost every day and I wasn’t aware how much direct sun my skin was getting. Even when we’re driving, the sun is pretty much in my face all the time!
At first I was pretty lazy wasn’t taking good care of my skin, but when I started seeing that my skin was turning as dry as the desert around me and more moles were popping up on my face,I took action:
- Wearing sunscreen on my face every day
- Wearing a wide brimmed hat when I’m outdoors and even when driving
- Keeping lip balm & hand cream in my bag
Tanned skin can be attractive, but burnt skin is ‘no bueno’. Remember, you are outdoors much more often than people who are working in an office or living in a proper house. Our skin needs extra care! To keep your skin looking young and healthy for as long possible into the future, it is good to start a good skincare routine now.
Another van life must have!
I used to wear full makeup every day to go to work, and remove my makeup with warm water with actual makeup cleansing oils. I rarely wear makeup since I started van life, and now that water is a valuable, precious resource, I use these below products instead.
Innisfree has been my favorite skin care brand for the last few years. This Olive Real Cleansing Tissue doesn’t dry up my skin compared to several other products I’ve tried so far. But I still condition my skin with this Green Tea Toner after I clean my face. The Green Tea variety has been my favorite.
Additional Tips For Women In Van Life
Take Your Time When You First Start Van Life As A Woman
In reality, van life often means not having access to the most basic creature comforts we enjoy at home; showers, bathrooms, or even simply just cell data reception.
When we first began van life, everything took time. And as a woman in van life, I found the transition to camper van living especially challenging. At first, everything took more time and effort to complete. This was true not only for finding places to sleep, but also to do chores like cooking, cleaning, dumping our gray water, filling our clean water tank, and making & packing away our bed every day. It took forever in the beginning because we weren’t used to the lifestyle.
I highly suggest for people who just started van life to TAKE YOUR TIME to get used to the new lifestyle. Either pay for a comfortable campsite or, if you don’t want to pay for camping, just start camping in familiar places, like near your parent’s house. When you just start van life as a woman, it is better to be in a situation where you can easily take a break from van life, anytime you want. That way you can continue your journey without burning yourself out early on.
Van life is a marathon, not a sprint. This was one of our biggest van life mistakes when we first started van life.
Simple Cooking, Less Stress.
I’ve seen many beautiful foodie photos of van life in social media. Neatly displayed, multiple dishes on the table.
Who got time to prepare and clean all the dishes with limited space and water?
You can easily consume yummy, nutritious meal cooking with only one pot, using less water, less dishes. You really don’t want to stress yourself by trying to cook perfect looking meals especially in the beginning stage of your van life.
I would say that our Instant Pot is 100% a must have in your life… (not just for van life!)
The best thing about our Instant Pot is that I don’t have to put in much effort into preparing a great tasting and healthy meal!
You can put whatever vegetables, beans, meat, and spices you like. Then simply press a button and wait! You don’t have to babysit your food. And when the Instant Pot is ready, simply release the pressure and, miraculously, the meat turns out really soft and tender! If you are creative with your recipes, you can literally cook anything.
My Instant Pot has saved me so much time, stress, and money by not eating out. I would never give it up!
2. An Occasional "Vacation From Your Vacation" Is A Good Idea
When I first hit the road, I wanted to see as much as I could in the shortest amount of time. We spent our first month zooming around, hitting one beautiful spot after another. It was tiring, but we were so enamoured with our new lifestyle that we kept pushing forward.
But eventually, we were running on fumes. We got tired of constantly packing up and driving off. Oftentimes we’d spend only 1 or 2 nights at a single place before jetting off. Soon we were running on fumes.
Because I kept trying to do more and overextending myself, I ended up feeling exhausted, even depressed. There were many moments when I was not enjoying sightseeing anymore.
It’s a simple solution but if you don’t feel well, it is good to just rest.
I used to feel guilty when I was just sitting in my van doing nothing. But I’ve learned over time that the longer you travel, the more intermittent rest you need.
It sounds like such an easy thing to say and do but it is very difficult when you are traveling through all those beautiful places out there. But little by little, I’ve learned to take that rest and not feel stressed or guilty about it.
In fact, I think taking a ‘vacation from your vacation’ is such an important aspect of long-term van life that it’s one of our primary points in our van life do’s & dont’s post.
Guru Nanda Aroma Diffuser
From 2 years of my van life experience, when I take a rest from traveling and staying at one place for a while, keeping my routine is really helpful to maintain my physical and mental health. For example, I practice yoga and cleaning my van every morning with essential oil diffuser by my side.
This GuruNanda Mini Tree Essential Oil Diffuser is compact and works with a standard 12V micro USB cable. It would be too small for a big house, but it’s perfect for our tiny home on wheels!
Final Thoughts: Women Can Participate In Van Life Easily, Too!
If you’ve ever wondered if female van life is possible then I hope, after reading this article, that I’ve inspired you to go and live your van life dream! Yes, you can be a woman and still flourish at van life!
Of course, common sense goes a long way to keeping safe. Where you park and how you communicate with those around you is crucial to maintaining van life safety.
But as long as you keep safe, are aware of your surroundings, maintain proper hygiene, and remember to de-stress once in a while, I believe any woman can live this camper van lifestyle.
If you have any questions or comments about being a woman in van life, please write us a comment below or send us a message through our contact form.