Hello from a Canadian Newbie!

Hey Everyone! I’m Teresa from Edmonton Canada! I love travelling and am here to learn all I can about van life and van conversion. I want to road trip around Canada (and beyond!) with my two dogs. I backpacked a ton in my 20’s and now I want a different experience!

Greetings & Welcome!

Forget about #vanlife as depicted online. Buy a cheap factory camper van, or older motorhome, keep it stock, use it as it was intended, don’t gut it or remodel it, don’t add solar, etc. etc. Buy it cheap and go have a blast.

Buying a cargo van and converting it is the height of stupidity, and only suggested by those looking to profit from those who they convince into drinking their tainted kool-aid.

Older camper vans and RV’s can be found cheap, with low miles, and in excellent condition. With only one terrible exception, all of my rigs cost under $2500, and were 10,000% better than a cargo van I got suckered into converting, and lost over $30k on within about a year. It was also the most miserable camper of the bunch. My current camper van which I’ve been living and traveling in for over 10 years now cost under $1500 all in, and in over 200k miles I’ve put on it, it has needed nothing other than normal maintenance. It’s a 1973 Dodge Travco camper van, with a 318 engine, and it’s over 450k miles now.

Newer isn’t always better, and neither is more expensive. The stuff from the 70’s & 80’s was built to last, and the newer stuff is built to break down.


"Beat the heat with an energy efficient 12v DIY swamp cooler.
Indirect swamp coolers work great even in high humidity areas." ~ Rubber Tramp

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I was wondering about that. The converted cargo vans look amazing, but I definitely don’t have that kind of cash!

I will definitely look more into used trailers/RVs.
I appreciate the advice!


I got caught up in the cargo van racket. Between the van and the build, I had over $70k into it, and it was instagram perfect. Better quality, and better looking than a factory made one. I built it myself, according to the directions of others online, to create the perfect stealth camper van, and I was proud of my work.

I’ve always been mostly a city dweller, living and working in cities. In an obvious camper van or RV, I never had a problem. My neighbors respected me, and I respected them. I don’t believe I was ever judged by vehicle, but that instantly changed with that cargo van. It didn’t matter how nice it was on the inside, I was instantly labeled either homeless or some sort of criminal. I was judged before they even met me. No normal person would live in a cargo van in their opinion. AND THEY WERE RIGHT!!!

If that wasn’t bad enough, I quickly learned why factory campers & RV’s were preferred by everyone except those looking to profit from the misery of others. Living in a box with no windows was worse than depressing, it was cruel and inhuman. Parking in the sun during the summer to have power, made it just that much worse. Two $250+ roof vents were worthless compared to opening windows and an under $20 fan in one of them. Even with all the finest amenities, I felt like a caged animal, trapped in a cage without windows. Every little noise outside shattered my nerves because I couldn’t see what caused it so I could dismiss it as harmless.

All the insulation I had installed was worthless, it was an oven in the summer, and a freezer in the winter. Without the proper ventilation provided by opening windows, condensation and mold suddenly became a huge issue. It was harder to heat in the winter, and impossible to cool in the summer. In the winter, the wood floor was always cold and damp. I had to waste power running lights even during the day…

The day I switched back to a more conventional camper was one of the happiest days of my life. Today, I fully understand that move-in ready cheap factory campers are the best, and IF you’re going the DIY route, start with a passenger window van, just remove the rear seats, and move your new furniture in and secure it. You’ll never save money by spending a lot on a rig that will depreciate faster than rent would cost you. I lost over $30k in a year on that miserable cargo van, while a friend was paying off a beautiful $2500 motorhome for only $300 a month. Lesson learned, unfortunately the hard and expensive way.


"Solutions are good, multiple solutions even better, but arguments are non-productive and bad." ~ Van_Dweller

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That’s good to know! Canadian winters are NOT warm so insulation and ventilation will be important. Thank you for all your advice. I appreciate it!


Forget the insulation, it only slightly slows the inevitable. What you really need is a good heater. If you’ll be staying in below freezing temps much, like I do, I chose to have no plumbing so as to eliminate the possibility of it freezing. If you do have plumbing, it must be drained, winterized, and not be used.

I can tell you how I accomplish all this stuff if you like.


"Solutions are good, multiple solutions even better,
but arguments are non-productive and bad." ~ Van_Dweller

Hey girl! Welcome! From fellow Canadians the insulation and “4 season” issues are kind of things you want to think of ahead of time. Our van is built like an RV we bought it that way and have been really happy with it, but the insulation is lacking and winterizing is not great. So we are basically travelling to avoid sub zero temps. Our campervan was newer so it was comparable in proce to custom builds, but we were able to finance it and have low monthly payments without locking all of our money up. There are older rigs out there that are awesome and cheaper, newer ones that are great, and newer ones that are shit, custome builds can be simple and basic or really high end. Diesel vs gas, pricing out what is realistic for you. Do some research, I would start researching RVs and camperized vans to get an understanding, and this forum is a great resource, there are litterally all kinds here. It’s a great lifestyle don’t be scared to do it, but I agree with the earlier responses, what you see in social media is usually not even close to the whole picture. “Vanlife” isn’t about the often staged photos you see. We are stoked to see more Canadians here reach out any time :slight_smile:

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