Introduction: Living Out of a 2016 Ford Focus in San Francisco for 5 Days $135

This Instructable is basically here to say that Yes, you can live out of a small sedan. In my case, I lived out of a rented 2016 Ford Focus for 5 days. Now you might automatically be forming the retort: "Five days, that's not really living." I beg to differ. My experience stands as a proof of concept. It is also a resource for those wanting to either travel cheaper and more freely, or daring enough to try and live for an extended period of time out of their car!

Check out the video up top if you want a quick run through of my experience!

This Instructable will target those who want to live out of their car in a city. Nevertheless, It has crossover to those wishing to go to rural areas. I have experience doing both. I've spent several weeks living put of my car and hiking in National Forest, National Parks and State Parks as well (photo above). For those trips, I had a minivan, which served better for longer of period of times away from cities.

*Last photo is of me living out of a van several years ago.

*$35/day is mainly car rental and gas (~$135) with some food tossed in on the side.

Step 1: Supplies: Down to the Basics

Picture of Supplies: Down to the Basics

There are a couple basic things you will need to get by on a day to day basis. But first its worth noting, this lifestyle expresses its beauty in its simplicity. There are few things more freeing than NOT having the option to have more stuff. So in this section we will be taking it to the basics.

Things you WILL need

  • Sleeping pad
  • Sleeping bag (or blankets/sheets)
  • Pillow
  • Water

In all seriousness, that is all you need to live happily out of your care. Remember you are "living out of your car", not living IN your car. You basically sleep in your car, drive in your car and do everything else outside your car.

Things you will PROBABLY need

We can go into all sorts of details on nifty gadgets that'll make your space more compact or clean or livable. But for the sake of brevity we will stick to basics that most people would at the very least appreciate.


  • DC-AC Car inverter
  • Spare Battery Pack (phone)
  • Jumper Cables (oops left my phone plugged in)


  • Window Screens/Shades
  • Hanging Netted Bags for clothes and food
  • Shower Towel
  • Hand Towel
  • Napkins/Paper Towels
  • Trash Bags
  • a Bowl, Spork and Plate

You might think that a few of these are a little random. Let me explain. Window screens are about peace of mind, which makes its reality known in hours of deep sleep acquired. The bags are because organization is really important. there is nothing worse than not being able to find something in a tiny car with a bunch of your crap in it. Trust me, you WILL need towels because you WILL spill things on yourself and your care. Finally, a Bowl/Fork/Plate play into eating cheap while out and about.

Step 2: Sleeping: Let's Recline

Picture of Sleeping: Let's Recline

Sleeping is pretty straight forward, you can lean the back seats down in the 2016 Ford Focus. Quite a few cars have this feature actually, just make sure and check that both rear seats actually lean forward.

Issue: Rear Seats Don't Lay Flat

In the case of the Ford Focus, the rear seats fold forward and make about a 20 degree with the ground. So you can't actually lay flat. What's worse, is if you sleep with your head on the folded seats, you are more exposed to passerbys. This means, more attention and more headlights in your face.

Solution #1: Head in the Trunk

Sleep with your head in the trunk and your feet on the rear seats. I found this to be the most comfortable position. I felt safer because a passerby would only see a sleeping bag. Also this cut out the headlights of passing cars or the spray of street lights.

Solution #2: Find a Downhill Slope

After my first night's uncomfortable sleep, I learned to parked on a slope. You can counter the slant of the rear seat by finding a hill on which to park. In my experience, this is a must, for a solid nights sleep.

Solution #3: Tinted Windows

Now this isn't an issue if you own the car, but you obviously can't tint a rental car's window. So the solution is to put your bags, blankets or clothes over the windows so people can't snoop on you. Typically they don't anyways, if you are smart about where to park.

Step 3: Where to Park?

Picture of Where to Park?

Sleeping safe and sound hinges just as much on where you park as the thickness of your sleeping pad! If there are two tips I can offer, they are BE SAFE and BE SMART.

Option #1: Commercial Parking Lot

Typical examples of these kinds of spaces are Walmarts, Targets, movie theaters, 24 Fitness and any other 24 hour joints.

Pros of a commercial parking lot:

  1. Allow overnight free parking
  2. Traffic is somewhat consistent, so you won't be noticed
  3. Typically have public restrooms
  4. Sometimes you can snag Wifi

Cons of a commercial parking lot:

  1. Traffic is somewhat consistent, so you might get annoyed
  2. People can park right next to you and that is pretty uncomfortable
  3. Higher risk than residential because of the higher traffic
  4. Parking lot overhead lighting

Option #2: Residential Parking Space

In short, this is in front of someone's house. This is where the "be smart" comes in.

  • Don't park directly in front of someone's house. People tend to notice when a new car is in front of their house.
  • And park where other cars are. This goes back to "Blend in"

Pros of a residential parking space:

  1. Not much traffic
  2. Neighborhood watch
  3. Typically darker (if you avoid street lights)
  4. Sometimes can snag unsecured wifi

Cons of a residential parking space:

  1. Neighborhood watch. If people notice you sleeping in your car, they might call the cops
  2. People will notice a new car around their house
  3. No public restrooms

The Where to Park Conclusion

Both residential and commercial parking have their place. Personally, I opt for a residential area if I can. If you do this though, you have to find a bathroom before you find your parking spot. I just feel safer and more comfortable in a relatively nice neighborhood.

Step 4: Hygiene on the Go

Picture of Hygiene on the Go

Hygiene is important for physical and mental health. Therefore it deserves a pretty thorough breakdown of your options.

Bushing your Teeth:

This is pretty easy, you can do it basically anywhere. Typically I brush my teeth during my last bathroom break before I settle down in a parking spot. If you forget though, just brush you're teeth on the side of the road. No harm done. Flossing is made SO much nicer if you buy some flossing picks.


Showering is the tough one and usually the one people have issues with. First let's talk about showering options because there are two: full shower and sponge bath. A sponge bath is simply a wipe down with a wet towel. The nice thing about this, is that you can do it at really any bathroom. The negative is that it simply doesn't clean you off that much and you can't clean everywhere. That being said, it is MUCH better than not washing at all for several days.

The full shower is where the money's at, and there are more options than you would think.

Shower Option #1: The Truck Stop

Truck stops have showers for truckers, I mean how else do that live out of their trucks and stay pretty clean? This option is great if you are aren't staying in one place for a while They usually cost a couple of dollars and can range from gut wrenchingly gross to pretty fancy! Just make sure you have flip flops.

Shower Option #2: Gym Membership

You can pick up a 24 Hour Fitness membership and take care of all of your personal needs. These range from long term plans for as low as $40 to month to month $70 memberships (depending on what gym and where). This option is great if you are staying somewhere for a while, and arguably a must. The other benefit of this option, is you can just park and sleep in their parking lot :)

On the other hand, if you are just passing by, you can ask for a guest pass to a gym. sometimes they will leave you alone to stroll the halls to check it out. This can obviously only be done once, but for short trips it can do the trick.

Shower Option #3: Pool Hall

This can get costly, but its still an option. Swimming pools have locker rooms with showers that you can use.

Shower Option #4: The Beach

If you are somewhere around the coast, then you can usually find an outdoor shower. These are typically set up on popular beaches so people can rinse off after a swim. You don't have to feel weird taking your shampoo and going full ham on your body wash because a decent number of people do this. It is a little uncomfortable, though, I will admit. It just takes a while to get used to "showering" in such a public place.

Shower Option #5: Religious Building or Organizations

Depending on what religion and what type of building you find, you can sometimes shower at religious meeting halls. Generally speaking, religious organizations are willing to help people out. If you are respectful, nice and open with them, they might be towards to as well.

Shower Option #6: Public City Buildings

In some cases, public city buildings have a showers in their bathrooms. For example, I have been in lightrail service stations that are open to the public and have a shower in the public restroom there. You just have to be aware of the hours of operation.

Washing Your Clothes/Sheets

Easy: Laundromats

Step 5: The One Stop Shop: Wifi - Charge - Brush - Eat - Drink

Picture of The One Stop Shop: Wifi - Charge - Brush - Eat - Drink

You are basically solid now on what to have, how and where to sleep and where to wash up. Now let's move onto the last point: Coffee Shops.

Full disclosure: I love coffee. I call Coffee Shops the One Stop Shop because you can essentially live out of them. Let's break down their key features:

  • Wifi - they ALWAYS have wifi and its usually pretty good
  • Charge - you can spend hours surfing and charging
  • Brush - bathrooms are usually single person, nice and great for sponge baths or teeth brushings
  • Eat - breakfast is served
  • Drink - your cup of coffee/tea comes with a side of unlimited Electricity, Wifi, Water, Bathroom Breaks and Hipster indoctrination.

I have spent hours, planning my routes and my days, editing videos, charging my electronics and surfing the web in coffee shops. But coffee shops aren't the only ones. a lot of places have these features, from book stores to restaurants.

So the point is, find YOUR place. We are creatures of habit and we feel comfortable going to the same places or even just the same type of places. Since your home is on the move with you, you have to make where you are your home. And that means feeling comfortable where you are wherever you are. For me, that's coffee shops :)

Step 6: Closure: Live It Because You Decided To

Choose to love it if you choose to do it.

This lifestyle/travelstyle isn't for everyone. Its not always sunshine and butterflies. Sometimes all you want is to sit on your OWN toilet, or stand in your OWN shower. Sometimes you feel sick and the only place to throw up is on the street. But the bottom line is Its a choice and you have to understand your own reasons for doing it. Whether it be adventure, the challenge or necessity be ok with everything that happens because that's what life is about and that won't change when you start driving around in your house.


auto13142828 (author)2017-01-05

I need a plan for two persons.

sadams16 (author)2016-03-08

The IDEAL car to do this in is the Prius V It has mondo space and you can use the car to power your things and never worry about your battery going dead the car will start and turn off on it's own. So if you have to run heater AC or just watch TV you are kosher. I would take out the back seats and build a decent bed use hot glue gun sticks to attach felt covered panels in the window to keep privacy. Some of the best parking is in garages especially in the summer when the sun can heat your car just park on the side with the most Shade, That be the North East Side if you want to wake early or NW side if you arrive at night and want to sleep in. You can catch the best SW radio there too if you get high up. Shower at the gym ~$25 a month for the best PLFT membership or pick one club for $10 a month. WIFI there you can watch TV on the treadmill. Best of all the Prius gets 40 mpg. I have a Prius but it is not the V it is the gen 2 07 I have trailer hitch and can tow a camper at 60 mph getting 30 mpg. When I don't have the 4x8 micro camper I can get 45-50 mpg.

JeffM210 (author)sadams162016-08-17

What is this PLFT membership for $25/10 a month you were talking about?

sadams16 (author)sadams162016-03-08

The micro camper I have is 100cubic ft the Prius V has about 64 ft cargo space not counting the front seats. I would say the car has MORE space than the camper and with the power resources in the car are just perfect I have camped in the car at Padre Island and I slept very well. Showered at the PLFT gym in Corpis Christi Tx.

fraser02 (author)2016-03-27

Hey thats awesome, city camping!

would love to try this... do it with a friend would be fun!

zholy made it! (author)2016-03-08

Hi ... I did the same less then a year ago in UK. It has been my last two months and I didn't want to pay that ridiculous money for rent (near London) so I decided to live in a car :)
My setup / advice for living in Ford Mondeo (hatchback) :

- rear car seats taken out so the rest would fell down nice and FLAT (!!!) ... kept in a storage area mentioned bellow

- one single mattress will fit nicely there (bought in Argos)
- I had sleeping bag, duvet and bed cover + warm pyjama (it was March ... 0-5 Celsium in the night) I could run the engine if I would be really cold, but no need for that.

- For peeing get a bottle from Softener (they have nice wide/big openings :)

- I was renting a 4x4 feet storage unit with 24 hour access for all my stuff

- had a monthly subscription in a gym for showers

- Washing has been done in local loundry

What you will find, that there is a lot of LIGHT SMOG in the night !!! The first night I had trouble to sleep, as there was to much light. I had to moved to darker area. I was changing locations, where I have sleep overnight. A nice quite road and Tesco parking. I had place some dark foil on my rear windows, but it didn't help to reduce the light. The only positive think about them was that fact, that no one from my colleagues who parked next to me noticed the mattress there and no one really knew that I'm living in the car :)
The only thing I was missing was the hot meal. I didn't want to buy a burner and do the cooking. For tea I had my flask and did my tea at work, before I left. Other disadvantage was the height of the mattress = it made impossible to sit up straight, which was a shame, as without it I could.

The whole monthly costs just for living = 40GBP (gym) + 40 GBP(storage). Of course, you need to add the costs of a car insurance, MOT and TAX (but that has been paid before anyway). Now, yo can get a Mondeo like I had for 400GBP ... so certainly a way how to start living in the UK and have some savings.

I did enjoy the time very much.

foothillbilly (author)2016-03-08

I'm glad he disposes of it properly, and I wish everyone did. He also has a great point about having a sealed container. A leak from that jug makes trouble.

claudette sova (author)2016-03-03

ok, take a shower at a good gas station, go to the Pilot, Love's travel Plaza. They have great showers and if you want to get a free one without paying for it....Just ask a trucker to "buy" one of their shower tickets. The gas stations want the drivers to stop at their places and they give free showers all the time to the drivers, so they usually have extra ones. But offer to buy one of them and more than likely they will give you one for free. My son has done this for years. He travels a lot and sleeps in his vehicle. Don't forget about having a "pee" pot (a jug with a cap on it) in case you have to go really bad in the middle of the night.

He also gets free ice there and always asks if he can get some ice for his giant soda mug and then puts it in his cooler when he needs to keep some food cold.

Also you can join Planet Fitness for $10.00 a month and stop there to exercise and shower there. They are all over the USA.....and open 24 hrs a day. He also sleeps in their parking lots. Cracker Barrel lets you sleep in back of their restaurants.

The one important thing he does is that he always uses a coupon for any food that he buys and asks for a discount to places that he visits if they accept AAA discounts (which I buy for my son as part of his Xmas gift each year, so that is free for him!!!)

He uses those window shades to help keep the lights out when he is sleeping. When folded for storing, there is always room.

To stay warm on those cold night, lay on those plastic "popping" packing sheets. I have used the ones with the small bubbles on them when I sit in my "pleather" office chair and my butt is warm the instant you sit on them.

He also has a solar LED collapsible light that he uses for when he has had to drive at night and then retires for the night.

Sorry this is so long....just thinking of all the ways he saves money when he travels. I raised him right !!

I do not have what it takes to ask for a shower ticket, although I know others do it. Planet Fitness's $10 deal limits a person to one location, so I would go to the $20 level and get all of them. The truck-stop showers I have seen were clean and nice, but at $10 each time and up, I'll stick to gyms if I need paid showers.

The pee jug is an excellent idea, and even more so for those of us with aging bladders. Please do not empty these randomly or toss them from the window as you drive. (People do that, and it's way beyond rude.)

Note about the pee son said to be sure the cap has a gasket on it too. He always disposes of it (the pee-pee) sensibly.

Jedi_zombie85 (author)2016-03-02

Cool idea, this would be a great hint or tip for someone doing a big car trip or travelling like you say. As a way of living tho not sure how long term it would be but looks like a great think to do for a laugh and save cash on a short trip.

My main area of concern and be interested to hear your thoughts would be insurance and the risk to yourself, especially if renting a vehicle and the policy. Should anything happen while your asleep inside the car, for arguments sake while your asleep say someone reverses into the car and damages it. Im not 100% confident you would be classed as the innocent party as you would not be using the rented vehicle as intended, i might be wrong but seems there could be some risk and liability issue that could end up costing you a fortune, dont get me wrong people ( myself included ) have the right to stop in places like services and rest untill safe to drive, but not sure they would over you if they found you were sleeping in the boot, plus im sure you would have to seek some form of concnet from the owners of the property maybe?

I laughed when i thought of this and actually said it out load but just being asked by a Police Officer " where were you at the time of the accident" and having to reply with....."in the my sleeping bag" hahahah classic

Great write up dude, look forward to your responce

PatrickW51 (author)Jedi_zombie852016-03-02

I agree about not doing this for forever. I've used it for traveling only so far. The longest trip i've done was 2 weeks and that was living out of a van. My brother did 5 weeks out of a van, going all throughout the midwest climbing, hiking and biking. If I had to do it for longer than a couple of weeks, I would definitely upgrade to a minivan, so nice!

That's a valid concern, and an interesting question. I do know that the rental services off what they call (literally) "No questions asked liability insurance". When I asked the representative to explain, he said that you just return the car and they don't ask any questions, if you get in an accident, nothing happens. This seemed a bit like hyperbole, so I was very wary. That being said, I'm sure you can get an actual "No Questions Asked" policy, just know your options.

There is a funny story along that. Back when I was living out of the van, I was in my underwear watching a movie in the car, settling down for the night. We were just outside a national park. And around 11PM a cop rolls up with his lights on and walks up with his flashlight. So I open the door and am sitting there in my underwear looking at the officer. He just said that I couldn't park there :) he didnt even comment about the clothes. So I just said sorry and moved to a nearby walmart parking lot :)

Jedi_zombie85 (author)PatrickW512016-03-08

lol thats awesome, I do find it funny how no matter where your are in the world, most of the time you will more likely be asked to move from a local park or wooded area than you would a shopping centre car park. Its very odd.

PatrickW51 (author)Jedi_zombie852016-03-08

lol so true

JenniferL134 (author)2016-03-08

If you have room to store a small, portable solar shower (found in the camping area of store), and the temps are right, you can shower in your casual clothes, (or undies if you are in a remote area. You need to have access to a well, or water spout for the about 5 gallons of water needed, and finally a place to hang it in the sun. Great to use as cool down after a long hike, then air dry if it is really, really hot.

PatrickW51 (author)JenniferL1342016-03-08

When my brother and I traveled together, one of us would slowly dump a gallon bucket on top of the other person :)

JenniferF84 (author)2016-03-08

My husband is a truck driver, and I live in the truck with him (free travel and no rent). I just wanted to say something about showering at truck stops.

1. Major truck stops like Pilot/Flying J, Love's, and TA/Petro have really nice showers with lots of hot water that are cleaned after EVERY use.
2. If you are going to straight up pay for one, it will cost you anywhere between $10-$15, but you dont HAVE to pay for one.
3. At the major truck stops, every shower credit can be redeemed for two separate showers. This is so that team drivers (two drivers in the same truck who alternate driving) don't have to pay for two showers, but anyone can redeem that extra shower.
4. Be social (truckers love talking) and ask a trucker if you can use one of those team showers. If you want you can offer to pay for it, but chances are, the trucker will let you use it for free.
5. Most truckers earn free shower credits because they buy over 50-75 gallons of deisel. Most trucks hold at least 200 gallons, and most truckers have to fuel up every other day. Those shower credits tend to build up, especially at Pilot/Flying J (they have a special where truckers can get a free shower credit everyday if they fuel at least 500 gallons every month). Don't feel bad about asking to use someones shower credit. The worst thing that could happen is that they say no.

TL;DR: major truck stops have nice, clean showers for $10-$15, but you can ask a trucker to use one of his extra shower credits for free/cheap.

PatrickW51 (author)JenniferF842016-03-08

Solid information, good to know!

foothillbilly (author)2016-03-03

Thanks for the instructable. From the other comments, I'm sure you have helped open some minds. About your last comment: no way of living is "always sunshine and butterflies." Homeowners have maintenance and other woes. Apartments have neighbors through the wall. Everybody has something to deal with.

Your instructable is particularly relevant to me because I plan to go mobile again soon, long term this time. I have done so in the past for a week or so at a time, and your instructable works.

I agree that the long-term "best practice" would be a minivan, but I will add a specialized tent that attaches to the minivan hatch for "camping" mode, along with simple camping gear. (They also have those tents for hatchbacks, station wagons, and covered pickups.)

"Urban" mode is well covered above. I would only add for those like me who can
sleep with noise that most truck stops and rest areas allow overnight

Ive seen loads of these type of examples and many others for a matter of fact, where people have converted various types of vehicle for living or holiday trips coming to somerset in the UK we have thousands of campers, caravans etc every year but my question is:

At what stage would it just be easier and cheaper to just buy a caravan, minivan or similar vehicle that is already designed for living? instead of just buying / renting something to convert to to a living vehicle for either short or long term?

Dont get me wrong im a huge camper fan, In the UK atm there is a massive boom in the amount of people converting T4 VW vans into camper style vehicles, They are reasonablly cheap, done correctly have amazing results and stylish. Im actually helping a friend convert one atm for a fishing trip we are planning in 2017, BUT dispite it being reasonabily priced and a good laugh to build, I cant ignore there isnt much in it from buying a cheap second had camper and saving the work.

(pictures attached for the result we are going for)

Too much depends on your situation to give a simple answer. I do not have enough money to buy a professional conversion, and they are scarce here in smaller vehicles. Therefore, I will make my own. Your resources, situation, and personal taste should shape what you do.

I will be converting what we in the US call a minivan. I'm not sure how that translates to other places, but those are one size larger than a Ford Transit Connect. I won't put much energy or money into it. My attitude resembles PatrickW51's in keeping life very simple, but I will add things for long-term camping, often in US National Forests or other public lands with no facilities. Obviously, that's geared to my situation. If I expected to stay in cities, I probably would still use a minivan, but in almost as simple a way as the Fusion example above

I will add that here in the US, RVs of all types have a fairly severe quality problem. I do not know whether that applies in the UK or not, but if you look at ready-made units, look carefully.

PatrickW51 (author)foothillbilly2016-03-03

I've never seen a tent that attaches to your car before. Thats pretty neat!

Yea I wouldn't have been able to fit much camping gear in the ford focus between my slpeeping area, clothes food and other randomness. In the van though, there is plenty of space

foothillbilly (author)PatrickW512016-03-03

You couldn't do this in a rental, but removing the back seat base or the whole thing gives quite a bit more storage. It makes creating a level sleeping surface easier, too. I'm putting this in for anyone out there that's in a "no choice" situation with a small car.

farna (author)2016-03-03

The only problem with using a u-haul box truck (not a passenger type panel truck/van) is that you can get locked in! The roll-up door locking mechanism is on the outside. You can put a pad lock int so that it can't be locked or closed (and you better!), no way to lock it on the inside. I suppose you could lock a pair of vice-grip pliers in the door rail to secure it closed while inside...

foothillbilly (author)farna2016-03-08

The prior comment discusses full-size vans rather than box trucks, but people use box trucks. I would drill a hole above the latch and use a cord or wire to lift it from inside. Other than that, put your own padlock on the ring where truckers lock the tailgate before going inside to prevent anyone else from locking you in.

Of course, it's simpler to put a door on the passenger side. I would use an RV door.

BetsyFartBlossom (author)2016-03-04

$35 a day????? That's $1050 a month! Even at $20 a day it's $600 a month! Get a motel room or an apartment, or something!!! That's outrageous! Wish I could do it:) Sounds like a blast. What about getting a Portolet? :)

It would be far cheaper if he owned the car, rather than renting it.

Those are valid points. but if you want to get places and you are renting, then you ALSO have to pay for a car. Also, you cant get a decnt place in SF for less that $1500. and that's sharing with about 3 other people :)

killroytech (author)2016-03-04

Opinion: Be aware that you better not have any alchool (for drinking) inside the car, while you sleep in it. I know/you know you'll never drink and drive, but a zealous cop may not agree with you.

For the rest, good instructable!

PatrickW51 (author)killroytech2016-03-05

Good point

orangepeel91 (author)2016-03-04

Be very very careful sleeping in a vehicle. It got Michael Jordan's father murdered.

PatrickW51 (author)orangepeel912016-03-05

That's where the "be smart" comes in :) in all seriousness though, its something that needs to be considered seriously, and something you need to be aware of before going into this.

3967 (author)2016-03-05

I must smile when i read your tip to shower in the Religious Buildings because it would be handy to know the in and outs of several religions to prtend to be a believer. Some sort of religion scammer (if you are in reality an atheist or other) :D

PatrickW51 (author)39672016-03-05

No I'm not a pretend believer, I am one :) But i was throwing that out there knowing the advantage. I didn't think about it until this trip and I've been Catholic for forever.

ArtS13 (author)2016-03-04

Great post!

I lived "out of ?"
my /78 Ford Econoline van for 4 months one summer in 1979 in the
lower Fraser valley B.C. Canada. Showered at public swimming pools
and some campgrounds. Pretended to be a guest. LOL

Did lots of camping on
the weekends

All the while I held down
a steady job.

I thought I would save
some money by doing this as I gave up my apartment and sold most of
my worldly possessions. I didn't save a dime because I ate out a lot.
Many Scottish steak and lobster dinners. Not to mention the fuel
expenses because I drove around exploring a lot.

I would recommend this to
any single young man,

Young ladies might need
to be a bit more careful but I know a few who are adventurous enough
to try it.

ArtS13 (author)2016-03-04

Great post!

I lived "out of ?"
my /78 Ford Econoline van for 4 months one summer in 1979 in the
lower Fraser valley B.C. Canada. Showered at public swimming pools
and some campgrounds. Pretended to be a guest. LOL

Did lots of camping on
the weekends

All the while I held down
a steady job.

I thought I would save
some money by doing this as I gave up my apartment and sold most of
my worldly possessions. I didn't save a dime because I ate out a lot.
Many Scottish steak and lobster dinners. Not to mention the fuel
expenses because I drove around exploring a lot.

I would recommend this to
any single young man,

Young ladies might need
to be a bit more careful but I know a few who are adventurous enough
to try it.

ArtS13 (author)2016-03-04

Great post!

I lived "out of ?"
my /78 Ford Econoline van for 4 months one summer in 1979 in the
lower Fraser valley B.C. Canada. Showered at public swimming pools
and some campgrounds. Pretended to be a guest. LOL

Did lots of camping on
the weekends

All the while I held down
a steady job.

I thought I would save
some money by doing this as I gave up my apartment and sold most of
my worldly possessions. I didn't save a dime because I ate out a lot.
Many Scottish steak and lobster dinners. Not to mention the fuel
expenses because I drove around exploring a lot.

I would recommend this to
any single young man,

Young ladies might need
to be a bit more careful but I know a few who are adventurous enough
to try it.

Prof. A. Z. O_Trope (author)2016-03-03

U-Haul and similar places will often rent full-size vans / panel trucks for $20/day, sometimes even less. The "catch" is that you can't rent them at the airport and they charge a per-mile fee. But if you can get to the rental place by taxi, Uber, mass-transit, etc., and if your local driving needs are minimal, you can get a lot more room to spread out, as well as a windowless area to sleep and keep your belongings. Also, for residential overnight parking, such a van will rarely be flagged, unless you park in the same area for multiple nights. I would never do this on a professional / business trip, but I have done similar things on vacation trips. It can also be very useful when hotels are booked or ridiculously expensive - big conventions, Super Bowl, Final Four, or other events that sell out entire cities.

At one recent Super Bowl, a Doctor was actually checking people into a hospital right near the Stadium. The hospital wasn't full, so no real patients were being turned away, and since they were checked in only for "observation" (i.e., no treatment costs), it was actually much cheaper than a hotel.

A gym membership can be handy if it is valid at sites in multiple cities, or for gyms that have reciprocal privileges with other chains. I find this useful when I have to take a "red-eye" flight, arriving first thing in the morning. If time allows, I can take a shower and often catch a steam or a soak in a hot tub before my first meeting. Makes a big difference in my alertness and general state of mind, and I don't have to pay for a hotel room just to shower.

Another option is airline clubs. Many have showers, all have clean rest rooms and free food & drink, and they are used to people zoning out for extended periods due to delayed or canceled flights. Downside is that most are closed for at least a short period, often midnight to 5 or 6 AM, so you may need to do a certain amount of actual sleeping in the airport itself. If you don't belong to any club, a "Day Pass" is often available for ~$25 -- less than the price of most rental cars, and WAY less than the price of most hotel rooms.

BlakeB17 (author)2016-03-03

Your comment about the truck stop shower is very misleading. I'm not sure what truck stops you have been frequenting, but the majority of the major chain truckstops have amazing showers. Flying J, Pilots, Loves, TCA and more all have great facilities. Cleaned after every use and endless....ENDLESS hot water. The ONLY problem with them is that if you have not fueled like a trucker (Most places are 50+ GALLONS for the discount) you will pay around 10 dollars for the usage of the shower. Another alternative that you failed to mention is the usage of babywipes. Find a restroom with decent privacy and wipe your entire body down with babywipes. It cleans as well as a shower and costs much less. Get biodegradable wipes and your carbon footprint shrinks considerably!

jalex_uk (author)BlakeB172016-03-03

I travel around the UK & Europe - a lot. Being off the ground is very welcome & there are many free restplaces around Europe. Eventually I bought a used Maggiolina roof box, there are US, Chinese & Australian variants that fit onto roof bars. OK, there is cost to setting up but these roof tents hold value well. I bought a really good sleeping bag & always kept 'travel john's & wet wipes available.

Overall? Reasonable cost, dry & comfortable - but my wife refused to get inside.

TiainenA (author)2016-03-03

For those who are not too superstitious and do not want to be hassled by guards or such for camping in areas where it is not exactly allowed, I highly recommend using a hearse as a camper. I am fairly tall (over six feet) and normally sleeping in a car is a pain, but I bought an old hearse and placed a futon there and now the camping is so much nicer.

KDaver (author)2016-03-03

nice job on the instructable. well written
they do make special mattresses for Sedans and also others for SUV's
something like this..

they might make things a little easier for sleeping..

foothillbilly (author)KDaver2016-03-03

I bookmarked that just in case I wind up with a car. It would have to be a fairly large car to have enough room, though.

asicengineer (author)2016-03-03

Thoreau would be proud!

Beware of cooking with a flame in a tiny enclosed area. People die from carbon monoxide poisoning in cars every year from doing just what is shown in your photo. Windows down is fine, but never be tempted to raise the windows to keep warm while cooking because you don't feel anything, you just get dreamy and drift away to death.

On a more positive note, Chesapeake Light Boats has just released a fun trailer kit you build yourself with the same philosophy as yours. (I've made the boats they normally make.)

PatrickW51 (author)asicengineer2016-03-03

Actually that was a clean burning stove that didn't release Carbon monoxide, it was some camping butane stove. But we still left the the door open :) and a bucket of water right there so we could squelch any flame

asicengineer (author)PatrickW512016-03-03

As long as your door or window is open you are fine.

You are burning a Butane and Propane mix which are both in the CxHy family of some carbon and some hydrogen stuck together. When it burns with a lot of oxygen it makes CO2 and H2O and everything is great. When it burns in an enclosed space, it starts to run out of the oxygen and can only make CO, not CO2. The smaller and tighter sealed the space, the faster it happens. Your car seems pretty small and tight. Agreed it is way better than a gasoline stove that generates CO right off the bat or Natural Gas that actually has CO in it as part of the unburned mix but in the end it isn't a stove type issue. It is a chemistry of carbon issue.

Actually internet searches turn up lots of concerns about this with regards to camping in tents but little actual data on CO. It seems there are endless photos of people having melted their tents due to flame ups (lighting the stove after having let too much gas escape. If I had one of the stoves in question, I'l lock it up turned on in the backseat of my Camry with a CO detector and just see what happens. I understand your door is open so no problem there, but I'm looking for the general guideline of is it minutes, hours or days before you pass out and die. I'm guessing you're knocked out in an hour and dead in two, but that's just a guess.

Technical considerations aside, many of the people on and other vandweller sources use propane or butane stoves in well-vented vehicles without harm.

hackney1 (author)PatrickW512016-03-03

No CO? HaHa!! You sure know how to tell a joke!!

hippiechk (author)2016-03-03

This is a lifestyle choice many make these days. Google "vandweller" & you can find a fair bit of info. I lived/travelled in a couple mini-vans for better than a year. I had a solar system in mine & had a portapotti, fridge, full cooking & camping gear.

Great ible, nice to see people grasping that travel is for all not just the select few!

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Bio: My sister and I like to make things! And even more than making things, we like to share our creations! We want to create beautiful ... More »
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