So you want to get off the grid and see the world? We can’t blame you; with house prices booming and retirement ages soaring to 75, more and more people are coming to us and asking how to beat the system and get into alternative living. I first joined the Van Life Movement back in 2017, when #vanlife had just under 1million followers on Instagram. Now, with Van Life Instagram accounts cropping up in every country on the globe, the hashtag has skyrocketed to a whopping 5million users. The people want something different, they want something new. They want to live their lives in an Off Grid Camper, and they want a loo with a view if they can get it too.

Do you spend all of your time reading Vanlife Blogs and checking out what your favourite Van Life Influencers are getting up to? Want to live the Full Time Van Life and get a piece of the action? Head over to our Van Lifers and Weekend Warriors Facebook Group and join our ever-growing community of vandwellers all across the globe. Learn about which Van Life Costs you need to look out for, stay ahead of the latest trends, and share vanlife tips and tricks that you pick up on the road!

Campervan conversions come in all shapes, forms, and sizes. There’s no real formula for picking the best van to live in, it’s just down to personal preference. There are, however, a few things that you can look out for when buying your camper and deciding on which tiny home is the right one for you, and we’ve also got some tips and tricks that we’ve learnt from being on the road too. Buckle up, folks, and get ready for the most informative ride of your entire lives.

Living In An Off Grid Camper – Top Tips And Tricks

Off Road Monster Or City Nipper?

Kai from we travel by bus
Photo @wetravelbybus

You’ve taken the plunge, handed in the notice on your house, and you’ve got a month or so to find an Off Grid Camper to convert and live in. But with so much choice out there, what camper do you go for? Are you looking to live off the grid on the outskirts of a city while working your full-time job, or are you looking through listings of gnarly off road trucks and eyeing up some Four Wheel Campers to go on the back of them? Think about the terrain that you’re going to be driving over too; are you thinking of traversing the windy mountain roads in the Ligurian hills of Italy, or can you see yourself blasting over sand dunes and heading out on an off grid adventure to the Arctic Circle? If it’s the last one, then I highly advise you stay away from a Volkswagen Bus Camper and go for an off-road Sprinter like this Van Do It conversion.

The EarthRoamer in the middle of a snowy track
Photo @earthroamer

If you’re planning on covering a lot of miles in your Off Grid Camper, then you also need to make sure it’s a manageable size and will make for a comfortable lifestyle while on the road. The van you buy will also determine how long you’re going to be out in the wild for too. If you buy a smaller Minivan Camper like a Mitsubishi Delicia conversion, then the chances are you’ll only be taking it out on weekends or for a week in the Summer holidays. If you’re thinking about living in a van full time and throwing yourself in at the deep end, then you want to be looking into Mercedes Sprinter Conversions or Ford Campers, vans that you can stand up and move around inside with the ability to create a feeling of multiple spaces.

Plan Your Interior Before Building Your Off Grid Camper

Off Grid Camper cooking
Photo @celestecameron

Most people tend to have a preconceived idea about what they want in their camper before they’ve even started looking on the internet for ideas. You tend to know whether you want a shower or a toilet implemented into your build right from the word go, and other factors such as rock-and-roll sofa beds or static raised sleep hovels will usually depend on the size of the van that you buy. If you carry the right tools with you, then there’s always the chance that you could change your layout on the go, but it’s best to stick plan thoroughly beforehand and pick a set up that works for you. DIY Camper Conversions all have their own different merits, and converting your own Off Grid Camper from scratch will always give you more freedom than working with a company (and it’s usually cheaper too.)

VW bus under the stars next to a camp fire
Photo @jarettjuarez 

Are you planning on heading to extremely cold climates? You’ll need a reliable heat source and some of the best camper van batteries that can deal with sub-zero temperatures if you do. There’s not much dry wood to be found when there’s snow on the ground, so a log burner won’t really cut the mustard. Take a look at some of our best campervan heaters and see if one of these will do the trick. Do travel bikes, ATV’s, surfboards and paddleboards play a big part in your life? Your Off Grid Camper is going to need to be able to keep up with your high-octane lifestyle, so if a VW Electric Campervan can get you right to the front of the beach instead of stuck outside the barrier with the rest of the large stealth campers and has enough room inside or out to store your gear, then go small every time!

Picking The Best Routes

Girl looking out at the sea in her Off Grid Camper
Photo @the.activ

Contrary to popular belief, Google Maps is not a vanlifers best friend. Before you learn this the hard way, hear me out and check out why I’m anti-Google when it comes to driving around the world. Everyone’s favourite map app is great when you’re zipping about in your Ford Focus or Audi T4, and that’s because it’s designed to show you the best routes for cars to take. I’ve used Google Maps in my 6-foot-long panel van and have come across some narrow turns around country houses that only a mini could take, and lots of uphill climbs that a camper of this size would struggle to do. Get yourself a proper Sat Nav for your Off Grid Camper journeys like the TomTom Go Camper and relax on the journey instead of stressing the entire way.

Travelling in an Off Grid Camper can be as exciting or as peaceful as you want. Toll roads get you to where you’re going much faster, and some of the scenery that you’ll see along the way in places like Portugal and Switzerland will make the toll cost worth it. If you want to spice things up a little bit, you can choose to ignore toll roads and find some off grid routes along the way, and if your camper has 4WD and the kind of suspension that you’d find on the best pop up truck campers, then the road only has to end when you decide you’ve had enough. Van life is all about getting off the beaten path, but only if your Off Grid Camper is capable of getting back onto it again afterwards!

Finding Those Legendary Park Up Spots In Your Off Grid Camper

VW Bus next to a big hand carved from rock
Photo @vivalavidaenkombi

Always arrive at a park up spot in the day time; that’s the one piece of advice that I can give you. You get the true measure of a place in the daytime and can see whether it looks as though it might be a nice spot or not. We’ve only been moved on by the police once for our own safety, and we haven’t made the same mistake twice!

There are so many apps out there now to both help you find great places to park and for you to contribute places that you have found to the wider van life community. There will always be those special places that you come across that you won’t want to share with anyone else, but if you come across a great spot on the outskirts of a city or a perfect lakeside park up, then share the wealth with the rest of the world and help out an Off Grid Camper in need!

Apps like Park4Night (Europe) and iOverlander (America) pinpoint park up locations that uses have uploaded from their travels around the world, along with pictures, writeups, and overall reviews from other users. If you’re not an adventurous type and like to know that you’re heading to somewhere scenic, then these apps will be your best friends while out on the road.

Carry The Right Van Life Essentials

Off Grid Camper - Pratty McWueen reading and looking out at a bay
Photo @prattymcqueen

If you’re living the van life in an Off Grid Camper, then the chances are you won’t be too bothered about lifters to level out your wheels at your park up spots. You probably won’t be too fussed about earplugs either, because the places you’ll be going will be so far away from nature that common-old-garden cars won’t be able to reach you. I’m talking about gear like winches, Maxx Traxx, spare bulb kits, portable washing machines and small showers that you can take on the road with you. Items like this are ideal for keeping your budget down and helping you to stay on the road for longer. I’ll give you a few examples of what to buy for your Off Grid Camper below.

  • MaxxTraxx are perfect for if you’re taking your Off Grid Camper away to remote areas and on unknown terrain. They can get you out of any sticky situations that you might find yourself in if you’re driving through mud, and they’re a lifesaver for getting you out of sand and potholes. They work by sinking their plastic teeth into the tyre tread and giving your wheels a sturdy surface to cling to. Snow, sand, mud, and wet grass are no match for MaxxTraxx.
  • The Scrubba Wash Bag is essentially a silicone washboard inside a plastic bag, and it’s a great little tool for using on the road. Fill it with water and detergent and scrub for a couple of minutes and you’re good to go. We use ours for washing all of our underwear, tops and shorts, and it means that we only have to visit a laundrette once a month!
  • The Rinsekit is a portable shower that plugs into the 12V cigarette lighter in the front of your vehicle, giving you hot, pressurised water to clean both your body and your gear while out in the wilderness. Fill it up with water from any tap and get naked with the wildlife; it’s as simple as that.
Off Grid Camper - Vincent Vanlife
Photo @vincentvanlife

Living and travelling the world in an Off Grid Camper doesn’t have to be difficult or costly, you just need to make the right choices early on and then continue to think with both your head and your gut along the way. It’s true that most of the problems that you will encounter might happen once your journey has begun and that you’ll learn from experience, but I completely understand that there will be some aspects of living in a van that keep you up at night as that date of departure draws nearer (don’t forget that I had the same experience a couple of years ago!)

If you have any questions that I haven’t had chance to answer in this article then head to my footer at the bottom of this article and send me a message on Instagram; I’m always around to give advice (it’s what we do). You can also head over to the second part of this article, How To Live Off The Grid In A Van and pick up some more tips that will help you once you’re on your journey!

Got any van life advice that you think we should know? Have you had any experiences that have changed your perception of travelling? Join the conversation over on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram!

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