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Urban RV living FAQ



Urban camping is an art form!
SO, you just bought your new-to-you RV and plan to live rent-free in the city but have questions? I'm going to lay it out for you here, based on the most common questions I get over on my YouTube channel. I have been doing this mostly full-time for over 17 years so I'll be as simple and blunt as possible.

Please note though: I am an urban RV'er...meaning I spend most of my time primarily in the city, working a full time job just like anyone else, so I can only answer questions relevant to the thousands and thousands of "urban campers" that exist in cities nationwide and in other countries as well. These answers cannot possibly relate to everyone, only to those who also live and work in their city and have decided renting sticks and bricks is plain stupid and have embraced the RV Life & van life! In order of MOST ASKED:

1) Where do you park?

Amazingly, major cities have thousands of parking spots, many industrial areas, and if you play your cards right and follow the golden rule (keep moving around!) then you can even score some nice ocean/lake/riverfront spots from time to time. My answer is: I park here, there and everywhere. I rotate many spots constantly, and never stay in one place longer than 24 hours and avoid parking in front of houses for too long, obviously. Simple. This is actually one of the easiest things to learn once you get started in your new van life.

You will quickly start spotting others in their RV's (including homemade RV's out of cargo vans and other such vehicles) and my advice to you is sure, stay a night here and there in these areas...but not too much. As soon as too many people camp out in the same area, complaints come in, cities and police departments take notice.

2) Don't you get hassled by "the man"?

Not really, because I follow the golden rule (see above). I recently did a video on this very subject, check it:


I respect the fact I live in a metropolis with millions of other people. I don't "squat" in one place. I take care of...and have pride in my vehicle. I do not own the road anymore than other people do, and I am quite aware of where and when it's appropriate to park and for how long in any given space. I also don't go hanging my laundry up between two trees and setting up my BBQ on a sidewalk. It's just common sense stuff.

It is vitally important you have a "city friendly" RV. This is why converted vans (Class B RV's) are very popular in city environments. Many cities have length restrictions, here in certain cities within Metro Vancouver it is 6.4 metres long maximum. (that's 21'). This can change within a 15 minute drive into different cities and districts as each municipality has their own rules. Some cities on both sides of the border have different rules, different length bylaws, there are even some with height bylaws and dually-axle parking rules. It's up to you to research the rules of your city. As a general rule of thumb though, and to make life a LOT easier, make sure your RV can fit in a standard parking space and you can back in to single stalls in parking lots.

Don't be an eyesore, keep moving, and if you stand out make sure it's in a positive way. For example, make your van/RV cool looking, have a theme, a nice paint job, etc. instead of an obvious "oh look there's a weirdo in a cargo van trying to hide" way. Trust me. Standing out is fine...even beneficial, if it's in a positive light. The goal is to not have to worry about getting in or out of your van when someone is looking. Having a vehicle people like to come up and talk to you about because it's nice, is a great thing. HIDING IN PLAIN SIGHT is THE BEST STEALTH.

3) Where do you pee and shower?

Well, it's a motorhome after all. Most motorhomes have washrooms...including showers. Even many Class B motorhomes (camper vans) have showers. And even the less-equipped ones still usually have at least a toilet. So the question really is: Where do you fill your water and dump your tanks? See number 4! For those without any washroom facilities, or those who don't want to bother with water and tanks, there is no shortage of gyms that offer affordable memberships and facilities you'll find useful. Many vandwellers and "other" vehicular dwellers use them and often local community centres are another good option.

4) Where do you fill your water and dump your tanks?

Decent question. However, being in the city, it's a lot easier to find water than those who are of the travelling variety. Pretty much every gas station, building or house has a hose connection. Once you find the areas you like to park, start scouting for water connections for the occasional fill-ups you'll need. After awhile it all just becomes routine and you don't really think about it anymore. You can even get crafty and install a rainwater collection system on your roof as I did a couple years ago on a previous RV I owned. That's more as a bonus though, as you don't want to rely on the weather for the next time you need to take a shower or wash your dishes.

As for finding sani-dumps, this can be a bit more tricky. Many cities have very limited dump stations (likely on purpose, because of all the deplorables like myself haha). But in reality it's no biggie...just find out where the closest one is and make it part of your weekly or bi-weekly routine, depending on how long your tank capacity allows you to go. If you're in a new area, download the Sanidumps app on your Android or iPhone to locate nearby dump stations or go to Sanidumps.com.

Some are free, many are not, but if you save hundreds to over a thousand on rent each month then what's a few bucks to dump your tanks?

5) How do you afford to drive around a V8 or V10 every day?

Well I'm sorry if this sounds rude, but if you move into an RV and just automatically saved hundreds or over a grand each month in rent (average Vancouver rent for one-bedroom apartments is almost $2,000 a month) and yet somehow you still cannot afford to fill your gas tank, you've got some other issues I cannot help you with! Even if your rig gets 1 mpg you should still be way ahead! And the best part of this lifestyle is a constantly changing view. Having a steering wheel in your living room is a liberating feeling!

To me, and to many others, this lifestyle is about mobility. It's not recommended for those who want a stationary apartment. In fact, those are the ones who cause the problems for everyone else doing this. Locate your parking spots for the night, rotate around, enjoy the benefits of an ever-changing view and perks of each different neighbourhood you "live" in! 

6) Does it affect your dating/social life?

Yes, it does. Which way it goes is dependent on YOUR state of mind. In my case, it has ultimately enhanced both my social and dating life. I have met SO MANY more people because of my lifestyle, many of them also living this lifestyle, and many who are envious of my lifestyle. I've never met a girl who didn't immediately love it, and in fact have had many live-in relationships over the years, and even dated a girl who had her own camper van for quite awhile. It's been fantastic. If you meet someone who doesn't dig it, they're clearly not the right person for you so who cares?!

7) Where do you get your mail?

Lol...I can't answer this one without laughing because it's been a long running joke on my YouTube channel. This is one of those "duh" questions that should be plainly obvious. Unless your entire family and all your friends also live in an RV, surely you know somebody with a sticks and bricks address you can use. In most cases people just use their family. Mail is becoming less and less relevant anyhow, everything is online these days, but for that "permanent address" on your license...well you can just say you still live at home, for example. This was only an afterthought for me.

8) How do you do your laundry?

Same place millions of people who live in apartments and suites without washers do their laundry: any of the many local laundromats. In fact, for most people moving into a van this won't change as they already used a laundromat...except it now becomes even easier to get your clothes there. Just drive your house to the front entrance. Alternatively, if you have friends or family in the same city with laundry facilities...even better!

9) How do you cook meals?

On the stove. In the kitchen. (Holy macaroni!)

That's why they call a motorhome a motorhome. Even a VW camper van is a motorhome. They include everything...even the proverbial kitchen sink! Imagine that. In fact, it's even more convenient to cook in a camper van as it's easier to clean up small spaces afterwards. You tend to become a cleaner and more organized person, since you MUST clean up and put things away after each meal or else you're gonna have a nice big mess when you make your next right turn on the road. 

10) What about electricity?

These days you can get decent solar kits for just a few hundred bucks virtually anywhere. Be sure to budget it into your RV purchase price if it doesn't already include solar. It's simple and painless to install a panel or two, just make sure you have a decent battery (or a few) because all the solar panels in the world are useless if you don't have the battery capacity to store that power. You can buy a power inverter to run 110 volt items such as laptops, etc. 

How much solar you need is entirely dependent on your requirements. For most people, somewhere around 100 watts is more than sufficient. It'll charge your battery all day while you're at work just fine. 

11) How do you stay warm in winter, cool in summer?

I can't answer the cold climate question since I live in Vancouver, on the BC west coast. It rarely ever goes below freezing here, and when it does it's usually very brief. But for those seldom nipply days that do happen, or when I drive up to the local ski hills, I do have a wonderful little wood burner donated by Cubic Mini Wood Stoves. And of course the built-in RV furnace to take the chill off. Many people also install aftermarket catalytic heaters, or an even more affordable option is the Mr. Buddy portable heaters. They work great too, just be sure you leave a window open a crack so you don't die! 

In summer, it does get hot. The BC interior easily reaches temperatures as hot or hotter than Nevada. I seek shade and ocean breeze and thus stay near the coast. Combined with good ventilation and a Fan-tastic fan, I'm fine. Even in hot 40° weather (that's 104 Fahrenheit for those of you in the USA), I am still comfortable. 

I am not a fan of closing doors and windows and hiding inside on beautiful summer days, so I don't do the air conditioning thing. I experimented with AC units on previous RV's and came to the conclusion that the extra weight of a generator just for those rare occasions I used the AC is just not worth it. A nice breeze and access to water to cool down, spray myself with, is more than perfect. Besides, RV living is about being outside as much as possible!

12) How do you make money?

Yes, really, I get asked this. A lot. I have a little secret: You get a job, then show up and work, they pay you every couple of weeks! I'm serious! But now you don't have to give half of your paycheque to a landlord anymore! Woohoo!!! But in all seriousness, having a job has no relevance to how your home is built. And the way your home is built has no relevance to your job...except it often makes it much easier if you "live" nearby and avoid long commutes! I am quite certain people work all the same jobs whether they live in a mansion, a townhome, an apartment, a boat, or an RV of any type. In fact, living the RV Life really doesn't have to change much at all in your life...just some routines, perhaps, but one thing that does change is you'll have more freedom, guaranteed. 

Keep on rockin' in the free world.






3 comments:

  1. Sweet and simple.. Love it. Should help a lot of people new to the 'dwelling life! Much love keep on vanning

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  2. I totally agree with the van master, "Hidden In Plain Site" stealth. Make your rig look good so people won't take offense to some rat trap parked on their street and people will pass you by, if you don't squat there of course. I get all kinds of attention with the 4x4 Class B van, but never negative. Thanks Justin for all your effort to help others.

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