Tuesday, September 5, 2023

What would we do differently?

So we are almost 6 months into our van adventures.  We have done 1, 2, and 3 night adventures.  We have done everything from boondocking in the middle of Deschutes National Forest, to dry camping at DNR campgrounds, and full hook ups at a state park.  We've stayed in a friend's driveway, at a winery (Harvest Host), in beautiful mountain field (Hipcamp), and in the forest (and never saw one person in a 24 hour period). 

One question we've gotten on multiple occasions is what would we have done differently with our van.  These are not things we don't like, just given hindsight, would we change anything.

At first, I had no answer. There is really nothing that I regret or even have some pain over. With some reflection there are things I would reconsider.
  1. Toilet options.  This is something I can easily alter to a point.  We opted for the Laveo Dry Flush Toilet.  This system actually works very well and has several plusses (no smell, easy clean up, can dump into trash).  However, it costs $2 a flush so it's very expensive.  I'm considering trying out a Thetford or Dometic porta potty or a Trelino composting toilet.  We have no plumbing for waste for power where the toilet exists.
  2. AC or no AC?  verdict is still out.  We used it once for our dogs and it was needed - glad we had it.  I suspect we'll use it more often so still happy we have it.  The cons are cost and it takes up a sizeable part of the roof.
  3. Dinette Seating.  We opted for a bench style seat looking out through the slider.  While this setup and our swivel seats work great for Steph and I, it's a bit more complicated with the pugs. We really lack good lounging with the pugs when relegated indoors. They are lap dogs and it's tough to get comfortable and have them on your lap.
  4. Mattress.  Ours is too firm.  Being older, our hip joints need a bit more softness.  Hoping that more nights in the van will soften it up.  If not, I may put in a soft topper. 
  5. Put more emphasis on weight.  We didn't consider weight when making decisions on our buildout.  To be clear, we have had zero issues related to weight.  The van drives great in the mountains, on dirt roads, in high winds, and on snowy/icy roads.  I don't baby it (ie, I drove it like I stole it) and it's responded really well.  That being said, I'd probably put more consideration into the weight of materials used and consider some soft sided shelving for lightweight items like clothing.  
  6. Add the Expedition Tire Carrier.  We've kept the original spare under the vehicle.  I like having it hidden, and I like that we didn't have to buy a 5th wheel/tire setup.  However this means I need to be able to access under the vehicle to get the spare (may not be possible depending on situation) and I don't have a 5th wheel to rotate into the lineup when rotating tires.  Plus the stock spare is not the same size (as we moved to 275/70R17).  This is likely something we will address within the year - fortunately, it's an item to change post-build.
Nothing major. Given that this is our first van, I'm extremely happy with the choices we made.  Previously having two trailers and spending long (3 week) vacations on our boat as a family of 4 (most of that on anchor) taught us a lot about ourselves and how to accommodate ourselves in small spaces. We also learned what we need, what we don't, what's important to us, and how to organize it.

It must be said, Momentum Vans was excellent at informing us on the pros and cons of our decisions. They provide healthy insight and challenges so we could make the best design decision possible.  Their expertise in van use and van building was indispensable.  

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