You may have noticed that amongst our tribe of shredders, paddlers, surfers and such, there’s a shared quest to score, outfit and live out of the “perfect camper.” Perhaps you’ve seen the increasingly familiar #vanlife hash- tag, promoting this nouveau-Jack-Kerouac-notion of kicking it all and hitting the open road. So alternative… so latter-day gypsy, bro.
But there’s a serious hitch in this #vanlife deal: Mainstream media and their frothing accomplices in crime, the marketeers, suggest that to partake in this nomadic road show, we must throw down for a trendy Mercedes Sprinter box. Or, if your compass is pointed towards Baja’s arroyos or BC’s high-centered back roads, you’ll need a manly Sportsmobile; all puffy, lifted, ARB-bumpered out and shit.
Do these $40k-$100k+, tricked-out rigs exceed the means of your monthly trust fund stipend? Then perhaps you’ll downshift and go retro with a VW Eurovan or Vanagon. An ultimately groovy choice…if you have a German car mechanic who doesn’t mind following you around on all of your free-range adventures.
Hidden behind its not-too-gangster tinted windows (AKA the privacy package), nobody paid any attention to us: not thieves, not the po-po, not anyone. It was on that trip when I first realized that driving around in a minivan made me invisible.
Enter stage left: the lowly minivan. The humble, ok, laughing stock, it’ll-be-a-cold-day-in-hell-before-I-drive-a-minivan, option. Soccer mom-certified, emasculation-on-wheels; the epithets go on and on. Or that’s how I felt before I wrote a modest check for our first Chrysler Town & Country over a decade ago, and became a born-again believer in the low-gloss functionality of a stock minivan.
On our very first road trip; with camping gear, climbing hardware, bikes, and fishing tackle chucked randomly in back; I began to appreciate the gear-gobbling capacity of our T&C. Hidden behind its not-too-gangster tinted windows (AKA the privacy package), nobody paid any attention to us: not thieves, not the po-po, not anyone. It was on that trip when I first realized that driving around in a minivan made me invisible.
And that remarkable invisibility goes a long way toward opening up discreet bivi options. Want to camp in front of anyone’s house, on any street USA? No worries. How about at the base of your favorite ski mountain, or in any grocery store parking lot? Not the first hassle. Church parking lots? Check. Try that in your fancy Sprinter, puffy Sportmobile, or tragically hip Vanagon, and I can assure you that the dreaded tap on the window will soon follow.
Forgoing campground and hotel fees will buy you more tortillas, allowing for longer stints on Highway 1, Route 66 or any byway of your choice. Beyond the insta-bivi prerogative, other benefits of these homely toasters on wheels include the low-cost-of-entry, reasonable fuel efficiency, long-haul serviceability and a smooth ride.
Assuming you’re capable of overlooking your vehicular ego, I encourage you to consider a minivan as your next chariot to adventure. And when you make it out there and are snapping self-congratulatory selfies in the alpenglow sunset, don’t forget to include the all-important hashtag: #minivanlife, bro.