Vans versus Pickup trucks with camper shell

Search
Go

Discussion Topic

Return to Forum List
Post a Reply
Messages 1 - 26 of total 26 in this topic
tioga

Mountain climber
pac northwest
Topic Author's Original Post - May 4, 2013 - 03:41pm PT
What's a better choice for someone who wants to live in a vehicle full time (in a warm climate)?
Trucks with camper shell seem to have the following Pros:
    easier to maneuver/less likely to get stuck than 4WD van (I do not plan to go off paved roads, though)
    easier to use as daily commute to work vehicle
    can be more stealth than a van (if the right shell is chosen, same color as truck, etc, making it all look like one unit

The benefit of vans seems to be:
    much more space--more comfortable, can be converted into a little RV basically, with sink, restroom, even small shower

I thought (may be I'm wrong) that trucks and vans eat about the same amount of gas. It appears from looking at used car ads that it's easier and cheaper to buy a pickup with small mileage than a van--I have no car repair skills and would have to pay for them. Camper vans seems to be very expensive and few so I was just looking into cargo vans... So, seems lik,e overall, pickup with shell is more of a win for a outdoor-loving person who doesn't want to live in apartment....(apartments in Bay area costing $2-$3K....one can buy a camper van after one year of paying these rents)
So, what's a winning vehicle?
tioga

Mountain climber
pac northwest
Topic Author's Reply - May 4, 2013 - 04:21pm PT
I see...well, I've been living in a tent during warm months and living in any car would be much better (tired to get rained upon and dealing with condensation/dragging around the wet rainfly and finding a place for my tent)...the damn laws in CA always persecute landowners who let people stay in a tent, so anything more stealth is better. Don't think this is getting old for me yet...spent last several months in 4 walls and can't wait to live without apartment again, like I used to...

I lived in South Lake Tahoe this winter--yes, I've seen that, 4wd trucks flying around hwy during the storm...I plan to stay in Bay area now tho,so snow isn't an issue--BUT there're plenty of roads in Santa Cruz mountains where even my sedan was almost stuck and raised truck would be great....to think of it I might be on unpaved roads quite a bit if I head out to stay on some ranches...

Recently, had seen a pickup with small camper shell--they painted the shell same color as truck so I thought it was a "wagon" type of vehicle until I realized it was a strategically painted shell on a pickup....it was pretty damn stealth-looking....Regular shell, yes, less stealth....Just don't want the locals to call the cops on my white van if I sleep in Los Alos etc some nights. So, stealth is a big consideration...You see I'll possibly be stuck in engineering job in South Bay area for a while and paying a fortune for some 4-wall place isn't exciting....I could do Airbnb 2 days a week and then be out in a truck or van....Few campgrounds that are out there will be all booked and full of tourists all summer.
If you say vans eat less gas though, it's a big plus.
Dapper Dan

Trad climber
Menlo Park
May 4, 2013 - 04:34pm PT
http://www.supertopo.com/climbing/thread.php?topic_id=1897580&msg=1897901#msg1897901

So many opinions and pros and cons , search and sift through them, it's been hashed out on numerous threads.

I've said it before , there's no worse feeling than getting your rig stuck somewhere desperate. Not that it can't happen in a 4x4 , but seems more likely to happen in a van...
tioga

Mountain climber
pac northwest
Topic Author's Reply - May 4, 2013 - 04:42pm PT
I see, lots of info :))
Yeah, this year I went to see a place to camp on private property but my sedan was scraping and was one step from being stuck...
Perhaps, start with a truck and later "upgrade" to a van...these shells seems to be tiny, but I guess there're ones that can be popped up tall like a tent.
Had seen people tow a flat, low platform into a campground recently....before I knew it, they popped it up and it started to look like a 4-person rv. All effort was to spin a handle.
enjoimx

Trad climber
SLO
May 4, 2013 - 04:48pm PT
I deleted my post but IMHO living out of the back of a pickup is in no way stealthy or convenient. Getting in and out of a tailgate is a major PITA.

Ford Transit Connect or Honda Element bro....
tioga

Mountain climber
pac northwest
Topic Author's Reply - May 4, 2013 - 04:56pm PT
Can't you move between the shell and the front instead...
I was thinking of starting with older, low key vehicle, like Toyota pickup, or cargo van...I guess cheaper and "low key" looking not to draw attention in certain areas... Something that could pass for work vehicle. These nice looking cars you mentioned are great for Bay area... but if you end up traveling in poor parts of the country, they can draw unwanted attention I guess...So far my survival strategy was to look super-poor and low key wherever I go--this can bring cops on you in SF Bay "nice" hoods no doubt--but I better deal with them than theives...had some property stolen in campground in Oregon from me, these people were so desperate they were taking *everything*...luckily my car looking old and beat up escaped the broken windows...No doubt seeing a nice new car they can try to take it.
But DAMN 30mpg on Transit Connect NOT bad!
jaaan

Trad climber
Chamonix, France
May 4, 2013 - 05:53pm PT
Credit: jaaan
Michelle

Social climber
1187 Hunterwasser
May 4, 2013 - 06:18pm PT
My dream ride.

http://globalxvehicles.com/
Peter Haan

Trad climber
Santa Cruz, CA
May 4, 2013 - 06:35pm PT
Michelle, no. Those aren't battle-hardened; you will need that upgrade.
the Fet

climber
Tu-Tok-A-Nu-La
May 4, 2013 - 07:55pm PT
Can't really make good recommendations without an idea of your budget, are you talking full size or mini, for one person only, etc.

Full size truck or van are both going to get about 12-18 mpg. Mini pickup or mini van is going to get about 18-26.

A full size van is the go to dirt bag vehicle. Enough room to live in. Can be very stealth. Can get them cheap. Only real downsides are poor mpg and usually no 4x4.
Lynne Leichtfuss

Sport climber
moving thru
May 4, 2013 - 08:36pm PT
I love my Chevy Express All Wheel Drive Van. Not tricked out at all. It looks like an ordinary vehicle, that can be a plus. Hiway about 16-18.

I've thought about a pickup with shell. You can get kits that make the shell, driver seat accessible. I say that because I don't want to wake up by someone or some critter and not be able to start the car immediately and take off. I don't want to have to exit the back to get to the drivers seat.

I like the room in my van I can kinda stand up and I can take all my sheee to TPR with no problem and live in comfort for 4 months. That includes 2 kayaks, a bike and extras.

Red flag goes up for me when you describe living without being noticed in the city. We have people come into where I work asking for maps etc. and upset cause they can't camp just anywhere. If you want to live in the real outdoors that's one thing. If you want to just make a home in the city and it's outskirts, good luck. The establishment folk discourage that. Cheers and hope you find what your're looking for. lynne

Edit: why did you give yourself the name tioga? Just curious since I work in the area.
Mungeclimber

Trad climber
the crowd MUST BE MOCKED...Mocked I tell you.
May 4, 2013 - 08:48pm PT
once you make some hard decisions on what you "must" have, then the decision making becomes easier.

If stealth is the number one concern, Taco with shell is not really low key because of getting in and out thru the tail gate.

Vans are way more stealth for that purpose. You just draw the curtain behind the driver seat and sleep away.

If size isn't an issue, then smaller vehicles like Elements might work.

Off pavement doesn't necessarily mean 4x and high clearance, but if that is a must, you probably will know that now, or need to know that now.

It sounds like cost may be an issue, so high end VW conversions are probably out, not to mention 40k VW pop tops imported from the EU...

https://www.volkswagen-vans.co.uk/range/camper-vans/california/

Dingus Milktoast

Gym climber
And every fool knows, a dog needs a home, and...
May 4, 2013 - 09:21pm PT
Buttoned down
Buttoned down
Credit: Dingus Milktoast

Deployed
Its reason for being
Its reason for being
Credit: Dingus Milktoast

DMT
T Hocking

Trad climber
Redding, Ca
May 4, 2013 - 11:26pm PT
DMT's rig is the shizzzle,
I'm a pickup and shell guy myself,
04 Dodge Ram 1500 4x4 <br/>
2 space kayak rack on shell.
04 Dodge Ram 1500 4x4
2 space kayak rack on shell.
Credit: T Hocking
Bed frame and futon mattress
Bed frame and futon mattress
Credit: T Hocking
Gene

climber
May 4, 2013 - 11:49pm PT
This is what you want...

http://www.supertopo.com/climbing/thread.php?topic_id=563313&msg=563313#msg563313

g
enjoimx

Trad climber
SLO
May 5, 2013 - 01:04am PT
Khanom is EXACTLY right. I lived in downtown Santa Barbara for 4 months sleeping in the back of my Hyundai Accent every single night. Only one incident, and it was drunk guys. Anyway, I would park in areas with lots of other sedans. My windows were tinted. You just have to fit in. Pickups definitely stand out. Hence my recommendation for the Honda Element with blacked out windows BEHIND a heavy tint. So it looks tinted, but if they peer through, it's blacked out. Then wake up super early, grab coffee and your set. Mix up the parking spots 3 times per week. Case Closed.
Michelle

Social climber
1187 Hunterwasser
May 5, 2013 - 10:07am PT
http://globalxvehicles.com/patagonia/

This is the one I want, The Patagonia. Although I would tolerate the UXV 550 or Turtle. And of COURSE I'd get the upgrades!
The user formerly known as stzzo

climber
Sneaking up behind you
May 5, 2013 - 06:29pm PT
Regular shell, yes, less stealth....Just don't want the locals to call the cops on my white van if I sleep in Los Alos etc some nights. So, stealth is a big consideration...You see I'll possibly be stuck in engineering job in South Bay area for a while and paying a fortune for some 4-wall place isn't exciting...

Have fun doing these while you're "camping" in the city in a truck w/ camper shell:

* Taking a dump in the morning when the nearest public restroom is "out of range".
* Relaxing in the evening & on weekend mornings comfortably over the course of several months.
* Crawling through the back window night after night to get into the sleeping area "stealthily"
* Having a "visitor" sleep over.
* Etc.

There is a reason why retirees choose RV's over pickups with shells for camping: it's simply more comfortable and convenient.

You see I'll possibly be stuck in engineering job in South Bay area for a while and paying a fortune for some 4-wall place isn't exciting...

But think about this: Is the excitement:cost ratio of living in your van (or truck) really going to be that much higher?

Maybe consider subletting a room in a house. Short-term single-room rentals do exist -- they are prolific in the Bay Area.
donini

Trad climber
Ouray, Colorado
May 5, 2013 - 07:04pm PT
Vans of one, pickups of the other.
tioga

Mountain climber
pac northwest
Topic Author's Reply - May 6, 2013 - 07:38pm PT
@khanom

"Sili-Con Valley"? ahahaha....80-90hrs in a start-up...oh, man, why did you go for a startup.... "web crap", haha. Yes, all of it is crap, software engineering and all...I'd put so much of myself into this non-sense...and all of it is a waste of life trapped indoors and glued to a computer screen...and before you know, your life is wasted away and you're heading the Steve Jobs way... damn it. Yes, it's stupid to spend so much as they spend on rent in Bay area--but most tech jobs happen to be in these high-rent areas...so it's a catch-22. I almost broke my head trying to solve this little "problem" and so far the only answer seems to be: "career change".

I hear you about not getting a pickup if I want to sleep in Bay area. In Tahoe, everyone has a pick up and a shell on it, so it's normal...in fact, there's a very beat up trailer behind an old pickup with a shell, parked close to my place now, and people stay in it...no one bothers them, I think. In Bay Area, I guess they'll be thinking "dangerous drifters"...I heard of people not being rented a crap rental room cause they had a pickup and it was "weird" for Bay area! Not high end enough! So, yes, I was thinking about Astro or other cargo van, with a metal-grid door. Important thing one can install real restroom inside it, it's a big deal....

As to sleeping in Santa Cruz, I've seen a van with a sign "BEWARE OF DOG" there! One tough-looking van. I was going to put some business sign on the van but nothing to make it look like "expensive tools inside". I was hoping to find a land owner who'd let me sleep there for a fee, in Santa Cruz mountains... I've been willing to spend much more than 4K on a van, as don't want to have mechanical problems.

I'v slept in a car in rich neighborhoods like Los Altos (full of cops)--in fact slept in a car (regular, sedan) right near police station there...I found high end areas were the best in terms of safety and I'd drive in late, like 11pmm and park somewhere, where the house had tall fencing and distance from the street...or near public office on a small street, where street parking was allowed. And yes, whatever car it is, it's cheaper than rent there!

That's an awesome van setup in the picture...I wanted something like that and start putting things in, gradually...a restroom, a sink, may be an rv shower later, even...



tioga

Mountain climber
pac northwest
Topic Author's Reply - May 6, 2013 - 07:49pm PT
@stzzo

Yes, I was thinking a lot about all these things, especially about the "restroom" part. Going to a public restroom will get you on the radar really fast, especially in the areas where I plan to be... I think once these cops noticed a "problem vehicle" they will watch you anywhere in the county (I heard of that). I've been harassed by the same cop in Marin county just cause I drove older car (regular sedan Toyota) even though I have kind of innocent look to me... the thing is they don't want anything but shiny new cars there (Sausalito area)...unless you're "help"--but after dark "help" better gets the hell out of their "perfect" neighborhoods gets back home to whatever Antioch they came from...

So, I'm leaning towards a van and to install real mini-restroom in it.

As to excitement ratio and renting a room....Huh, I'll tell you man I had some experience trying to rent a room there while being a student locally... I don't have perfect credit (nothing major, though, no evictions/bankruptcies) and my background isn't 100% crispy clean either. In Bay area it's going to be Hell renting a room with this kind of situation. They all want perfect people...or at least people of own nationality if you don't have perfection of credit....Another thing--I've been renting rooms in the US for 15 years....I had it with the crap that tends to come with this type of living situation and have no more patience for this. I've been assaulted and robbed in these "rooms" cause when you try to save $$...you get what you pay for...now, one can rent a nice room with nice roommates for high price...but these "nice" people in Silicone Valley want perfect credit (and you being from Standford as well). I'm tired of ghetto housing....rather be in a van, cause my tolerance for violent or crazy people in "rental rooms" run out (literally, I dealt with state mental hospital expats in the past). No more "rooms". I can do Airbnb (or hotel) rooms for 2 days a week....that's how much I can take.
tioga

Mountain climber
pac northwest
Topic Author's Reply - May 6, 2013 - 08:07pm PT
@lynn

I see what you mean by waking up next to *something* and not being able to take off immediately... this is something to consider...

Yeah, I probably should get a van and hopefully all-wheel/4WD, so the question will be which van simply will give me more MPG.
Transit Connect does sound like a great idea since great mpg.

As to what you mentioned, about whether I want to live in the city or do great outdoors... the thing is that with my current profession I'd have little choice other than to attend daily on-site work in Silicone Valley, so I'd have to be around these cities, whether I want it or not. Perhaps, I'd stay in official campground on some days, then, be on someone's private land paying them a fee another day, boondocking another day, sleeping in a city, in some residential street, next day--then taking a room for a night, etc, heading further away on weekends. By the way, "Hacker hostels" in Silicone Valley charge up to...$120/nigh for a SHARED room, where 8 other people sleep...yes, this is how bad the housing situation is there: huge housing shortage.

What you mentioned about establishment... I dk what they think--I know how this (stealth camping) is being persecuted, I've been against them for a while...I'd do my best to evade radar, well if they chase me off, may be it's time to relocate, as to move up North, where housing is more affordable.

As to why I chose Tioga...I guess cause I like driving through Tioga pass when I head out to Yosemite...:X
mechrist

Gym climber
South of Heaven
May 6, 2013 - 08:13pm PT
Van van van van van 1000% van!

Absolutely no question.

No bigger pain in the ass than...

Laying in bed and realizing you need lip balm (etc), which is in the cab of the truck... getting partially dressed, finding your shoes, stumbling to the cab in the rain, realizing your doors are somehow locked and you don't have pants on... which is where the keys are. In a van all your sh#t is contained within the same walls.

In a van you only need 1 stereo system.

You can warm a van up on the way to your camp site.

If you have to crash at someone's house in the city, a van is way more incognegro. Drive/sleep and sleep/drive procedure is low key.

Fewer leaks in a van.

I know a guy who lived in his van in the LA area for 6 months, had a regular job, cooked almost every meal in his van, and had very few issues. NEVER would have worked in a truck.

Checked a transit the other day. Pretty small for my needs (2 crash pads, 2 dogs, a full rack, 2 ropes, and a small woman) but could definitely work for a single person with an occasional guest if you build it right. Just paint some delivery service logo on the side and park in industrial areas... pick something that nobody wants... like "Geriatric Sex Toy Delivery Service." As long as Locker isn't around, nobody will bother you.
tioga

Mountain climber
pac northwest
Topic Author's Reply - May 6, 2013 - 08:20pm PT
Thanks everyone for the replies... I'm definitely convinced about the van now. If it was just going "outdoors" part, truck with a shell would work but possibly being in the city...I'm thinking to rent a van and try this out. (not one of the "Escape" camper vans haha.. Seen one in a parking lot here yesterday, that thing screams "I'm sleeping inside!")
The whole "getting out when it's cold and wet" and heading to the front of the truck or to the restroom will get old fast, I know, just like getting out of the tent when it's raining. The more I camped in the rain, the more I thought about how Indians lived here in bark shelters, without raingear....how tough it was to get around daily and stay warm, and I mean people lived in PNW as well, just like this. We're getting spoiled.
Dapper Dan

Trad climber
Menlo Park
May 6, 2013 - 08:59pm PT
Yea it looks like for an urban bivy the van will be the way to go .

I was laughing at the scenarios the previous poster just said , need chap stick , get out of the truck , go to cab , forget keys in bed .... Etc. it happens all the time in the truck ...
Sierra Ledge Rat

Mountain climber
Old and Broken Down in Appalachia
May 6, 2013 - 10:17pm PT
I'm a fan of the 4x4 van for local camping.

Where I live, only rednecks drive pick-ups. Wouldn't be caught dead in one.

Forget about such a vehicle for long trips - given gas prices. If I'm going on a road trip, I take the Subaru and tent -- and pack lightly.

My 4x4 van
My 4x4 van
Credit: Sierra Ledge Rat
Messages 1 - 26 of total 26 in this topic
Return to Forum List
Post a Reply
 
Our Guidebooks
Check 'em out!
SuperTopo Guidebooks


Try a free sample topo!

 
SuperTopo on the Web

Review Categories
Recent Trip Report and Articles
Recent Route Beta
Recent Gear Reviews