Living in a truck or van is by no means a groundbreaking venture, though it may not be common. There are tons of people already doing this, and a variety of How To's and ideas for the layout of your living quarters easily accessible.
Commercially produced RVs are of course the most luxurious and least work intensive; they're also the most expensive, and the least maneuverable. Rooftop tents allow you to use all your car space for storage, and have an additional volume for your living quarters, while you're free to choose your vehicle -- they're nice, but also a little pricey and require a sturdy frame on which to secure them. When it comes to sleeping inside your automobile, many opt for a drawer system, where your belongings can be pulled out, and you sleep on top of them -- but that leaves very little room for actual living space, should you be stuck waiting out a storm.
We wanted 4x4 capabilities, a decent living space, and something that wouldn't break the bank. So we went with a Toyota Tacoma, and a singular shelf on the inside. We have almost enough room to sit up straight while inside, and enough room to stretch out completely while we sleep. And yet we have been able to fit a surprising amount of stuff inside.
The canopy shelf that is accessible from the outside holds our most often accessed items: a two burner propane stove; our lovely GSI Outdoors Pinnacle Backpacker cookset (highly recommended, it has everything we need and keeps our kitchen tiny!); all our medications, shower, and health-related supplies; and any perishables or food we plan on eating soon.
The inside shelf stores: our climbing gear; our food pantry bucket (non-perishables that we buy in bulk -- a lot of pasta and cookies!); Trucko tools; and utilities like batteries and duct tape. We also have a little in the way of entertainment: Jaipur (a two-person game my father gifted me at Christmas), a few books and notebooks, my Kobo and Mike's Kindle, and our laptops. I also got a great pair of Metolius Rock Rings for Christmas from my brother's girlfriend which I am hoping will slow the loss of climbing strength while we're on the road... but that will have to wait until we reach areas where my fingers don't go numb in 2 min!
We installed a little hanging pocket system which holds small, often needed things such as our toothbrushes, headlamps, and our cell phones and wallets. This was actually a super useful and cheap addition which just makes life that much easier -- and it's just a cut up door hanger from Bed Bath and Beyond.
The biggest problem I had for whittling down what to bring centered around the fact that we're planning on living through a whole slew of environments: from snowboarding in the mountains, to sunny beach days, and all the deserts and tropical rainforests in between. We've got our clothes separated into stuff sacks, with the summer ones being stashed under the mattresses, and our winter clothes lining the side of the truck bed.
Our mattresses themselves are Mad Rock R3 Crash Pads that we can take out for use when we find some big pebbles. We made mattress covers for them so we don't get our home dirty after we use them.
Brushing your teeth isn't a problem at all; and so far we've had access to hot water in public bathrooms for washing our faces. One time we did boil our own water, but it's pretty cold outside.
We're not showering daily, but we're getting multiple hot showers each week. Baby wipes come in super handy the remainder of the time :) We do have a portable shower, but right now it's too cold to be doing that outside -- and my hair takes about 3 hours to dry anyways. Brrrrr!
We've spent two nights outside of Trucko so far -- one in an inn and one in a hostel -- where we have been able to get our laundry done and enjoy hot showers. Once we hit temperatures warm enough to hang laundry to dry, we'll be able to wash our clothes by hand.
We've also been able to use community rec centres or hot springs for showers in between -- they're usually pretty cheap, and also come with access to the pool/sauna/hot tub! Very relaxing after a day on the mountain!
While we could survive on Mountain House freeze dried meals, that would get both boring and expensive fast. Since we're planning on living in the truck for an extended period, I'm determined to make sure we always have fresh vegetables available, and that we're eating well. We've got a small selection of spices to make our meals a little more luxurious, as well as some Chipotle Tabasco Sauce (yum!), and considering the size of our kitchen, I think we're doing pretty well.
We mostly cook on the door to the truck bed -- it's a convenient little table and bench all in one, and is covered from light precipitation. It's actually a really efficient set up, and quick spontaneous lunches in little pull outs are easy to accomplish!
The good thing about being in the cold is that a lot of food keeps pretty well. We'll only keep fresh meat around if we plan on cooking it within a day of buying it, and the rest of the time most of our protein comes from eggs, canned fish, or cured meats (an excuse for lots of bacon, yes please!). We've always got cheese on hand, as well as stores of pasta and rice. Bell peppers keep surprisingly well; spinach not so much!
Mornings alternate between some sort of scramble or hot porridge. If we aren't in a hurry, maybe we'll get fancy and make breakfast burritos!
Sometimes lunch is leftovers, or a quick meal; sometimes we just eat a huge breakfast so all we need is a quick protein bar or an apple or carrot snack. Once we had peanut butter and jam tortilla wraps (tortillas are much easier to pack away than bread!), and that was pretty good.
Dinners are usually either pasta or rice based. Many cans of fish come with flavouring that can act as a light sauce, or oil to help us cook (which comes in handy since our little squeeze bottle of olive oil is frozen and serving no purpose right now...). Bacon grease is another great cooking aide. My favourite so far has been smoked sardines or smoked sprats -- you don't need to add any seasoning to those bad boys!
Keeping warm has definitely been the most difficult thing for me. I have terrible circulation problems, and my fingers and toes go numb quite quickly. Once, Mike and I were kayaking in Union Bay and I got hypothermic... in late spring. I love winter and all, but my body just wasn't built to deal with it.
The multiple layers of insulation we put in the cab have definitely come in handy. The other night, temperatures dropped to a chilly -7.9°C outside, but we were at 3°C on the inside! The carpeting Mike installed is also coming in handy -- the only places which are gathering condensation overnight now are the little bits of exposed metal around the windows and their frames... which form into hoarfrost each night.
We also brought a bunch of throw blankets from home to keep us warm, in addition to our sleeping bags. Since I know I have circulation problems (understatement of the year?), I got a new down bag from Feathered Friends for this trip - it's so fluffy and warm, and feels like you're sleeping in a giant marshmallow!
As for outside the truck, I have TWO down coats, one of which is a new heated jacket from Ravean that we got off of Kickstarter. So far I'm liking it, but it's still not enough to be my only winter jacket if I'm living outside (which I guess is a bit much to ask). I mostly got it so I could try to do some more winter and night photography, since having feeling in my digits would be useful, but even with this jacket I'm usually too cold to think about taking photos, until temps hit closer to -3°C or above.
The absolute worst part is trying to cook in the cold, which involves standing around pretty still while chopping up food -- not fun! My gloves all smell of garlic now, but even with them on my fingers lose feeling quickly. Occasionally this has persuaded us to dine out, which isn't necessarily a bad thing :)
I'm also not taking as many photographs outside... that will change once it gets warmer! I look forward to making more photo-heavy posts and less word-heavy ones...
I definitely couldn't live in a truck in winter forever. I think this trip was pretty much at my limits. But for now it's still a new experience and (mostly) enjoyable!