I'm going to be more "urban stealth" than "into the wilderness." : )

My van fantasies include visiting people at their homes, beach houses, various sites in cities, etc. I’ve wanted to live in a van all by myself since I was in 7th grade. Now, I’m 52, divorced for 9 years, and my children are 22 and 18. Things are coming back around to vans. But nowadays we have the Promasters, etc. It’s a car, but you can stand up in it! Don’t have to live in a class C, which isn’t too stealth. -Katy

Greetings!

First off, there is no such thing as stealthy. That is a term that was made up by the promoters to convince people to buy cargo vans which cost considerably more to convert than a passenger van, so they make more money. DON’T BELIEVE IT!!!

I too am mainly a city camper, and an obvious camper is far better in cities. Unmarked and/or unknown cargo vans in the city have a very bad stigma attached to them. They attract cops, thieves, and complaints. With an obvious camper, you will be considered a tourist or visiting friends or family. Many cities also ban commercial vehicle parking on the street overnight, and cargo vans are considered commercial vehicles regardless of their ownership, registration, or licensing status. My previous cargo van was registered and licensed as a private vehicle, but to parking enforcement it was still considered a commercial vehicle. Contesting the tickets didn’t help either.

The worst I have ever gotten in an obvious camper van or RV was a 72 hour notice to move. Many places have the 72 hour rule, to prevent derelict vehicles from being parked on the street long term. So I make it a point to drive somewhere at least a little every 3 days, before returning to my regular parking spot in front of a vacant lot that I maintain. I have permission from the owner to park on the lot, but I prefer to park on the street in the shade. I’ve spent 6 months a year here for the last several years, while taking care of friends nearby. I’m not hiding, nor trying to be stealthy, but I do put extra effort into being a good neighbor, and that’s what has always worked the best for me.

Cheers!


"The only place where health, wealth, money, success,
or happiness comes before work is in the dictionary."
~ Rubber Tramp


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First off, there is no such thing as stealthy.

Then I will call it polite, unobtrusive, unobnoxious, discrete, etc. Those things definitely are real.

to convince people to buy cargo vans which cost considerably more to convert than a passenger van

What is the difference between a cargo van and a passenger van in your estimation?
A Promaster, Transit, or the Nissan NV’s could be described as cargo or passenger. Depending on what you’re hauling.

I too am mainly a city camper, and an obvious camper is far better in cities.

Let’s say I want to pull up in front of the Seattle Central Library, or the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. I’m going to stick out less in a 2019 Promaster than a 1996 Winnebago class C.

My previous cargo van was registered and licensed as a private vehicle, but to parking enforcement it was still considered a commercial vehicle. Contesting the tickets didn’t help either.

I’m sorry you got parking tickets. I suppose a person could get a parking ticket no matter what they were driving, if they didn’t happen to see the parking rules. I don’t expect to spend the night right down town in some big city. That’s what the suburbs are for; parking at a Walmart, etc. etc.

So I make it a point to drive somewhere at least a little every 3 days

Yes, if I live on wheels, I expect I’ll be not parking one place very long.

I have permission from the owner to park on the lot, but I prefer to park on the street in the shade.

In front of a vacant lot sounds nice.

I do put extra effort into being a good neighbor, and that’s what has always worked the best for me.

That’s all I mean by “stealthy.” Just polite and not obtrusive or bothersome.

Greetings!

What is the difference between a cargo van and a passenger van in your estimation? A Promaster, Transit, or the Nissan NV’s could be described as cargo or passenger. Depending on what you’re hauling.

A passenger van has windows all the around, frequently that open, and a factory finished interior. Cargo vans have few or no windows behind the cab, and an unfinished interior behind the cab.

Cargo vans cost much more to convert, because passenger vans already have finished floor, walls, ceiling, and windows. So you can just remove the seats, and it is ready to move your new furniture into it and secure it. Securing it is also easy, because you can secure it to the seating mounts. The advantages of windows far outweigh any perceived disadvantages. With opening windows, a $20 fan will out perform a $250+ roof vent, without the leak problems.

Let’s say I want to pull up in front of the Seattle Central Library, or the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. I’m going to stick out less in a 2019 Promaster than a 1996 Winnebago class C.

During the daytime, neither would likely draw any unwanted attention. At night, unmarked/unknown cargo vans stick out like a sore thumb, while a camper van or RV will not attract any unwanted attention unless they’re not being good neighbors. General opinion seems to be that honest people have no reason to hide, and the more you try to hide, the more obvious you become.

Cheers!


"The only place where health, wealth, money, success,
or happiness comes before work is in the dictionary."
~ Rubber Tramp


I tend to agree with Van Dweller on this one.

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I have a Ford Transit cargo van with tinted rear windows and I sleep wherever I want in Los Angeles and have never been bothered. I don’t hang out around where I sleep. I feel extremely safe and unnoticed because from the outside it doesn’t seem like anyone is sleeping in there. I love it.

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What do you do if you want to take a nap in your van, but it’s 100 degrees outside in Los Angeles? Do you have AC, and if so, how do you power it? Thank you!

Hey there,
to be honest I have never had problems. I live in the UK, but it is quite similar to what you have written above. I prefer to camp in the “wilderness” so there I do not have any problems with parking or getting a ticket. I also live in a rural zone, where it is easier to park, and therefore I avoid problems. However, when I go to Portugal or Spain with the Camper Van for my holiday, there it tends to be complicated. Stuff is much more rigid there and a lot of new rules have been set. I enjoy camping at the beach, but unfortunately that is not possible anymore, as they patrol it and fines are quite high…

haha yes unfortunately there is no napping in la in the summer. i have to be out & about in the afternoon because it’s hot in the van.

Greetings!

For years I have been using swamp coolers to keep my van cool in the summer. They draw under 2 amps @ 12v on high. I used the indirect type, so it would work in higher humidity areas, and actually dehumidify the interior. In desert environments, the direct type of swamp cooler will add moisture to the air, which can also be useful in the desert.

This year I have a new experimental thermoelectric combo A/C & Heater which is powered by a liquid candle, and needing no electrical or battery power at all. So far, so good, and I’m in high humidity S. Miami. At present, both it and my converted to liquid candle 3-way fridge/freezer are each using under 1 cup of veggie oil per week. At ~$4.50 a gallon for veggie oil at Walmart, it’s cheap living, and I’m now using it for cooking too in an alcohol stove that I added a wick to.

I’ve been having a blast experimenting with liquid candle powered stuff.

Cheers!


"Fuel powered everything for the win, preferably hydrogen." ~ JustTheFacts


Greetings!

Keeping cool isn’t nearly as hard as some people would have you believe. 12v swamp coolers work great, and use very little power. I also have USB powered thermoelectric seat cushions, blankets, and even a jumpsuit, that both heat & cool. Mine all use water flowing through tubes, heated/cooled by a thermoelectric chip. Very cool. (Pun intended!)

Cheers!


"Fuel powered everything for the win, preferably hydrogen." ~ JustTheFacts


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Stealth is pretty much dead. We do have a friend that does the stealth thing and pulls it off because he bought an old cargo van and left the commercial advertising paint job on the van and his ladder rack sort of hides his vent.
There’s a few things to remember about stealth that have nothing to do with the van. Like when you pop out if a van and everyone around sees what’s inside they know what you are inside that van. Walk out with a dog and then back in same thing. In N.Y. people are watching, maybe not in the country but if you think you are parking by MOMA and 50 people aren’t going to know your Nomadic then your only fooling yourself.Different places, cities etc have different tolerances. L.A. is very liberal and people can pitch a tent for that matter and live in it. However take Key West for example, a much desired location…good luck parking a cargo van and thinking you can spend the night.
Sure your less noticeable in a van vs. an RV however a nomad van at least these days is spotted by all because vanlife has become so mainstream. One low-profile vent on the roof and most know what the van is for.
Last thing people don’t really get is specific to locations. In New York since it was brought up is actually a place where if you stay away from the middle (Broadway) for example and just park on the residential streets further east and west of (5th, 6th, 7th avenues) you can easily stay overnight as long as you move the van for street cleaning and watch all the parking signs. Just don’t forget no matter what people like you to believe about how safe NY is your van will get broken into depending on the Neighborhood. We have a lot of family and friends in the NYPD and trust me it’s not Disneyland. We were born and raised in NYC and can honestly say a block at night is not the same block that it is during the day.

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It’s irrelevant if it’s “dead” or not because that’s my plan. Maybe we can call it some other name, since the nickname ‘stealth’ seems to be bothersome. My lifestyle will be very unique to me. If that includes parking at Walmart or parking at a campground, then that’s what I’ll do. Also, I live in the suburbs on the west coast so I’m pretty far from NYC.

Greetings!

Perhaps the largest part of being a nomad is problem solving. The good news is that it can be learned as we go. Not everything works for everybody, but we have the opportunity to discover what works for us.

The key is learning from both our mistakes, and the mistakes of others. Life is a life long learning experience, and with any luck, we improve with age & experience.

Cheers!


"Money only buys happiness if it's spent wisely." ~ MoneyMisers


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Thank you! : ) I appreciate that!

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Stealth is far from dead. I’ve been full time living on the edge of a downtown core in a semi-large city, in a heavily restricted parking area. I’ve never had a knock.

However, if you want to truly be stealth, you need to dedicate the design towards that. That means no swiveling front seats, a solid bulkhead with a door, no windows in the rear, ideally no roof vents or solar, etc.

I keep the cab and exterior of the van clean and bone stock. I drive to my sleeping location right before going to sleep. I never stay in one spot more than 24 hours.

I also disagree that cargo vans are more expensive to convert. You’ll need to tear out the interior of a passenger van to insulate anyways, and I have not seen many full-time conversions that keep much of the stock interior.

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Greetings!

Stealth isn’t dead, it just never existed. SOMEBODY is always watching. Whether or not they choose to be a problem is a whole different story. Everybody has their own experiences, but most real life full timers seem to prefer window vans or motorhomes, and the more windows the better. A while back, I read on a Yahoo group that many cargo van dwellers were painting windows on their vans to make them look less suspicious.

Older factory camper vans were based on passenger vans, and shared the same interior floor, walls, opening windows, window trim, and ceilings if a high top wasn’t added, with their passenger van counterparts. Gutting them to either improve upon them or to gain a tiny bit of space is just more garbage dreamed up by the promoters to part people with more of their money. I’ve wintered at -60°f & summered at 120+°f, in both a heavily insulated cargo van, and no insulation rigs with many uninsulated windows. In the end, it is your heating & cooling equipment that is going to keep you comfortable, not insulation. Insulation can only slightly slow the inevitable, but it can’t prevent it.

Any stock passenger van or vehicle has very little exposed metal to deter thermal transfer. Even heavily insulated cargo vans typically have much more exposed metal than passenger vans. My uninsulated camper van with the stock floor, walls, & window trim costs so little to heat or cool, that the cost of insulation alone could never be justified, let alone the added work. Passenger vehicles are designed to keep the occupants comfortable, cargo vans aren’t, plain and simple. Defeating the purpose of a passenger vehicle designed to keep it’s occupants comfortable is highly questionable at best, and just plain stupid in most cases.

Shade in the summer and sun in the winter is far more effective than any amount of insulation. Adequate ventilation also defeats insulation…

Cheers!


"Old school, cheap, simple, reliable, and easily replaceable for the win!" ~ Traveler@Heart


I do agree with your philosophy on insulation. I see so many vids of guys doing build-outs and they add layer after layer of subflooring, insulation, sheathing, framing in, ceiling, etc… It’s still gonna get hot as hell in the sun! All you did was delete precious square inches where you’re gonna put a big fan and AC.

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