Tiny Tiny Van Life

So I’m looking to move into my tiny (VW Caddy) conversion. How do we all stay secure, safe and well cared for in these conditions. There will be no heating, minimal insulation, no toilet or sink. Simply wild camping expect I’m in a little metal box.

What tricks do you guys have to staying warm, well fed and looked after in such tiny remote conditions.

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Greetings & Welcome!

Ohhh wow, I was just in for a big surprise, I’m in the USA, and I was under the impression that the VW Caddy’s were bigger, like our Vanagon’s used to be…

Okay, so you’ve got a mini van, they can make decent campers too. The smaller the space, the more creative you need to be to make it work and make everything fit. Even in a mini van, I would still want power, climate control, a functional kitchen, and a toilet. All of which could be used inside the van in bad weather. I would probably go with an outdoor shower though. Those pop-up shower tents are pretty awesome.

I would maybe set my kitchen up across the back, so it could be used from either inside or outside, and my toilet could be stored under the bed and slid out when needed.

You don’t need plumbing, I use dollar store plastic dish pans for sinks, and trigger spray bottles for water delivery. Cheap, simple, easy, and convenient. Saves water too.

My power system is a deep cycle battery connected with an isolator to charge it while driving. I don’t have solar, but even with the little bit of driving I do, I rarely run short on power. My house battery is in a marine style battery box, which I have attached 4 accessory outlets to each side with double faced foam tape. That gives me 8 acc. outlets which is way more than enough. Then I have adapters which you plug into an acc. outlet that converts them to USB ports as needed. I don’t use anything that requires shore power in my day to day life.

I sometimes winter in some very cold areas, so I have some big powerful heaters. What you’ll need will largely depend on your lifestyle. I live and work from inside my van, so I need to be comfortable inside at all times, not just while I’m in bed for instance. If you only need to stay warm while sleeping, good sleeping bags may be all you’ll need, or blankets & comforters. If that isn’t enough, you could add a 12v electric blanket, or a fuel powered heater. You can also use your cook stove for a backup heater too if necessary.

You’ll want a smoke detector & a carbon monoxide detector, better safe than sorry, or dead.

You don’t need anything expensive, my entire build came in at under $300 for everything, and I have more amenities than many of the people spending many thousands of dollars. Nobody needs solar panels, lithium batteries, expensive roof vents, expensive fridges, or anything expensive to live this life comfortably & reliably. I’m currently in Minneapolis, and it’s 2°f outside, but my $5 DIY heater is keeping me toasty warm, with no power required. My $20 12v fan is just as efficient as a $200+ roof vent, and I don’t need to cut a hole in my roof or worry about it leaking.

With the promoters, it’s a race to see how much of your money they can spend, but it isn’t necessary or needed. EVERYTHING necessary to live comfortably can be done very cheaply, and I’d be more than happy to contribute any tips you need. I’ve been a nomad my entire adult life by choice, and have learned a lot along the way.


“Everything should be made as simple as possible." ~ Einstein

Welcome! I’ve accumulated all of the wonderful knowledge that I have by watching YTube vids for over 2 yrs. I haven’t been long a member here at PVL but I’ve already gotten much useful info here too. I’ll go nomad mid-spring in a passenger van. My main tip would be to try to camp/park near others and be very wary of boondocking alone as a female. Always be alert, watching and prepared to leave ASAP if anything seems strange. I know plenty of female nomads boondock alone without problems but just be very careful and consider avoiding it. I prefer solitude but camping near people doesn’t mean you have to be right up on them. Because of what could very easily happen, I’d feel better being near others whom I feel I can trust.

Good luck!

So, do you drive around every day or every 72 hrs, the max length of time I think you said you can park in those residential areas that you use? What is an isolator and what does it attach the battery to to charge it? Where would I get an isolator, is that the retail name and what should I look for? And your house battery is deep cycle in a marine box meaning you didn’t have to build a box for it? Is the box screwed to the floor of your van? Is your battery AGM or flooded?

I want to park for the max time, 14 days or more, whenever I can. I’ll be using a discounted senior pass for state parks whenever I can so I’ll actually have shore power often. Would I be able to plug a system like you have into shore power so that I wouldn’t have to drive to charge the battery before I was moving camp?


The driving every 72 hours is just to stay legal, when the weather is nice, I’ll often walk or take my scooter rather than drive my van. When the weather isn’t being cooperative, I’ll just take my van.

Between my house battery, and my starter battery which is also a deep cycle battery, I can go about 2 weeks between charges. One week on each battery. They are lead acid batteries.

I use the term isolator somewhat generically. An isolator is a device that let’s you charge your house battery while driving, but prevents the draining of your starter battery when not driving. While some are called isolators, others might be called relays, VSR’s (Voltage Sensitive Relay), solenoids, B2B chargers, charge controllers, & more.

My current system was installed by a battery shop, because I was in a time crunch & just wanted to get it done quickly. I’ve lived in my current van for 11+ years now, and I must say that this system has been absolutely bullet proof. Judging solely by the looks of my isolator, I believe it is a solenoid, because it looks just like the older ford starter solenoids.

When I had it installed, I took the advice of the battery shop and had them add battery protectors to both the starting battery and the house battery. They prevent the batteries from ever getting over discharged, and also allows me to use my starter battery as a second house battery. Even after the protector shuts it off, it still has plenty of power to start the van.

Originally we just bungied the house battery behind my drivers seat, because I knew I wanted a marine battery box for it, but the battery shop was out of them. Once I got the battery box, I remembered that when I had replaced the carpet & padding which had been stripped out when I bought it, that there was a place designed to mount it right behind my drivers seat. After I had mounted it, I realized that it would be much handier if it was portable, so I remounted it to a luggage dolly with wheels, and switched out the original eye connectors on the wires to quick disconnect connectors so that I could take my power station with me when I wanted to. I cut out the bottom and one side of a metal jerry can to fabricate a mount that attaches to the original hold down points. The marine battery box is secured to the luggage dolly, and the luggage dolly is secured to the fabricated mount with bungies.

Since I don’t normally have shore power available, I have a generator & a battery charger. With shore power, the same battery charger would keep your house battery topped up constantly, just like it works in larger RV’s with their converter/chargers, but you won’t need the converter part because your 12v items will be connected via the house battery.

Hope this helps…


“Everything should be made as simple as possible." ~ Einstein

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Yes, it does help. I’m going to copy and save it all. Thanks so much for taking the time to spell it out for me. See you around the forums. :+1:t4: