Fall is the perfect time to camp. The weather is cooler, there are fewer bugs, and in the Midwest, we’re rewarded with amazing scenic views as the leaves begin to change color.
While my husband and I love to camp, now that we’re in our mid-forties we’ve discovered that the air mattress that fits inside our small tent isn’t nearly as comfortable as our mattress at home. And I don’t know about you, but pulling my body to an upright position after sleeping on the cold ground is much more difficult now than it was when I was in my 20s. Yes, I’m feeling the effects of aging more and more these days as my bones creak and ache until I get moving.
While we’ve been full-time RVer’s and have considered returning to that lifestyle, we’re not really in the position financially to buy another camper or motor home. After careful consideration, we decided to turn our mini-van into a camping van. We decided to put it to the test on a recent road trip through North Dakota, Minnesota, and Wisconsin.
You can read more about van camping in our post Van Camping 101.
Here are some of the benefits of van camping that we found.
Since we already owned our minivan, we didn’t have to purchase another vehicle, plus our van uses less gas than even the smallest camper. Our round trip, over 3,000-miles, we spent less than $210 for gas. We would have spent more than four times that amount in an RV!
Forget the air mattress! We van camp with an 8-inch memory foam mattress. No aching bones for me in the morning.
It’s more secure.
I admit, there have been times when I’ve worried about our safety when tent camping. Though those moments have been few and far between, I do sleep more comfortably knowing we can lock the doors to the van and leave the wildlife pacing around the van and not the tent.
You can drive and park anywhere.
When you’re in an oversized vehicle, it’s important to consider the route you’ll take to your destination. Not only that, but you also need to make sure you’ll have room to park once you arrive at your destination. These were concerns my husband and I had when driving our 31-foot long motor home. Thankfully, we never have to worry about in our mini-van.
It’s less work.
If you’ve camped at all, you know it takes a fair bit of effort. But the beauty of van camping- during camping season anyway- is that I can leave my van set up and my husband and I are ready to go with very little notice.
One key to keeping van camping prep to a minimum is to purchase and stock your cabinets with food and snacks that are easy to prepare on the road. Some of my staple items are canned chicken breast, tortillas, bread and cheese to make quick quesadillas or shredded chicken sandwiches. I also like to pack all the fixins’ for pancakes like pancake mix and syrup. I can easily cook any of these items with my camp stove at a rest area or campground.
I love to cook with my camp stove and pie irons, but if we need a quick on-the-go snack, I’m likely to grab granola bars, nuts, carrots, apples, cheese, hummus and pretzels.
I spotted the Nature Valley Cups and Biscuits at Walmart while shopping for necessities when we were van camping overnight in the Walmart parking lot. I can easily find many of my van camping necessities at Walmart.
Keep in mind, that many Walmart stores welcome campers in the parking lot overnight, but if you see a sign posted that says, “No overnight parking permitted”, that property isn’t one of them.
We didn’t intend to camp at Walmart, but the nearby national park only accepts campers on a first-come, first-served basis. Unfortunately, the campground was full by the time we arrived. So off to Walmart we went. To show our appreciation of the store’s generosity, my husband and I went inside to buy a few items.
I was looking at the granola bars when I spotted the Nature Valley Coconut Butter Biscuits and decided to give them a try. This on-the-go snack is perfect for those van camping days when we’re relaxing by the lake, needing a satisfying snack to satisfy our sweet tooth after lunch, or when we’re driving down the highway en route to our next destination.
Have I convinced you to try van camping? You may enjoy reading this post—-> Tent Camping vs. Van Camping: Do you have a Preference?
Do you enjoy camping? Would you give van camping a try?