If you're planning on living in a van, at one point or another you're going to have to try stealth camping. Stealth camping is when you park in or near a city and you're trying not to be noticed. You don't want anybody to think there's someone sleeping in a van. Stealth camping can be a bit disconcerting because oftentimes, you're parked where overnight parking isn't allowed. Or, you're just parking in a neighborhood and hoping nobody notices.
Ryan Twomey specifically built his campervan for stealth camping, and he has a bunch of amazing tips and advice. He explains how he built his van to be as stealthy as possible and suggests ways to keep a van inconspicuous. Ryan also shares his safety tips for living in a van and emphasizes the importance of having a stealth van.
This interview was first recorded for the Van Life Virtual Summit, by The Wayward Home and Project Van Life.
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Speaker 0 (00:00:03) - Hey there, I'm Kristen Hanes with The Wayward Home, and today we're talking about one of Van Life's rites of passage, which is stealth camping. One of my very favorite topics, and to chat about this, I have Ryan Twomey here. So Ryan, first of all, tell us a little bit how you got, like, started in Vanlife and how long you've been living in your van.
Speaker 1 (00:00:20) - Yeah, so, um, I've been living in my van for roughly two years. Uh, six months of that was, was building it out and then I stayed in my parents' driveway for a little bit. And then I, uh, I hit the road about a year ago, last summer, uh, full-time. So I've been full-time for just about a year. But when I first started Van Life, I was working a government job, so I was working just a regular nine to five, working for the, uh, F 35 program. And we obviously had to go into the office every day. And then right around March, 2020 when Covid hit, we all got sent to Teleworking and working from home. And I'd always thought about living in a van prior to that. Like I'd always watch Van Life videos and van build videos and kind of sketched up my own designs, like if I ever wanted to, if I ever was able to build a van. It was, it was just a fun thing I did, but I never really thought that it was something that I could actually do because I had to go into the office every day. But once we got sent to full telework, it kind of became more of a reality and I just made a decision to go buy a van. Built it out over six months and kinda here we're today.
Speaker 0 (00:01:29) - Fantastic. So tell us a little bit about your van. What, what kind of van is this?
Speaker 1 (00:01:34) - Yeah, so I would be in my van right now, but, uh, it is in the shop. This is, I just got back from, uh, six month road trip from Maryland to California and back. So I took it another shop and I basically just told them do everything, preventative maintenance, change out all the fluids, gimme new breaks, do everything you need to do because I'm leaving on another road trip, um, pretty much within the next week going from here down to Florida and then, uh, from Florida up to Alaska. But, um, the van itself, uh, it took me six months to build. Uh, I built it to be more of a s stealthy build because for me, since I'm doing full-time van life and I was gonna be traveling so much, so I don't necessarily have a home base. And I was going out to the west coast and since I know don't necessarily have a home base out there, um, 100% of my time was gonna be spent in the van.
Speaker 1 (00:02:24) - And I know that, um, a lot of the times you can't go to those kind of scenic locations that it's, it's worth it to have windows or, or any of those other kind of aesthetic things that you can put into a van. So I decided ultimately to not put any windows in my van besides the ones that are built in. There was two windows built into the back. But even those, I'm, I'm kind of glad that I, and, and even if I wasn't stealth camping, I'm kind of glad that I didn't put windows in because I find that I never use them. Even when I'm in the scenic locations, I'll just have my door open or I'll be outside and I, I feel like having windows just isn't worth the cost or the, the heat loss that you're gonna get. And, and, and for me it just made sense, but for others it might not. But um, yeah, I built my van to be as, uh, as stealthy as possible.
Speaker 0 (00:03:11) - Yeah. And is it a, uh, a sprinter or a transit?
Speaker 1 (00:03:16) - It's a, it's actually a ProMaster
Speaker 0 (00:03:18) - ProMaster
Speaker 1 (00:03:18) - Cool ProMaster five, uh, 59 at wheel base with the, uh, high roof.
Speaker 0 (00:03:24) - Very cool. So when you purchased that van, um, it already, does it come with those rear windows? I don't know too much about ProMaster or did someone put those in already?
Speaker 1 (00:03:33) - Some of them, some of them I think comes stock with the rear windows. Some of them don't. I think it just kinda depends on which model you get, but mine did, so that was nice.
Speaker 0 (00:03:42) - Yeah. So yeah, I'm sure people are curious about building out a van to be more stealthy because you know, some vans out there are not stealthy at all. Like my current one, my first one was very, was stealthy, but not anymore <laugh>. Yeah. But, but some tips, I think the windows thing is probably a big part of making a van, um, stealthy. And one concern people might have is how do you get like interior airflow in a van that doesn't have many windows?
Speaker 1 (00:04:07) - Yeah, so I mean I have, I have on the top of my van, I have the two Max Air fans. So I have one in the front, one in the back. And over the last two years I've found that that is more than enough. Honestly, you would only need one as long as you had, uh, uh, like some sort of vent in the back or something to pull the air out because most of the time, even in the summer, I find myself with the two Max Air fans leaving the front one, uh, pulling out the air and then just having the back one off because I found that when I have the back one pulling in and the front one pulling out the back one kind of just spreads the air out over the top of the van. And when I'm laying in my bed, I don't get, like, when it's hot, I don't get any air blowing on me, but when I turn it off, it pulls the air straight down from the other fan pulling out. So it's like, it feels a lot nicer. So a lot of the times I don't even have that background on. So if I did it again, maybe I'll do some sort of skylight or something back there and not two Max Air fans. Cause it just hasn't been worth it. But that's, that's basically how I get my airflow is the two, the two max airplanes.
Speaker 0 (00:05:03) - Cool. That's a, that's a really good point. So someone, as you were saying, could technically put the one fan that rotates and then just an opening in the back, a skylight or just a vent that opens and it's almost like you have windows in your roof instead of around the exterior.
Speaker 1 (00:05:18) - Yeah, and and I don't know if it if that translates for every other fan, but I know that the Max Air fan specifically, they kind of blow outwards asbl as opposed to going straight down. So it's, it's more of a, just in, in the kind of more extreme heat environments, you don't get that kind of airflow. That's the only thing that's gonna cool you off. So, and that might be different with other fans, but just specifically the Max Air fan, that's how it's
Speaker 0 (00:05:41) - Cool. That's really good to know. And did you do anything else to the exterior of your van to keep it, um, stealth than, than some?
Speaker 1 (00:05:49) - No, but there is one kind of weird thing that I've found that it, it might just be me who thinks this, I don't know how, how true it is, but I found that, or I like to keep my van dirty on the outside because it kind of, when I'm stealth camping, it makes it less of a target. Cause if you have this clean van with, with maybe bikes on the back or something else, it, it looks like it's, at least in my mind, I don't know, I have a lot of theories about what makes stealth camping more stealthy and what doesn't. But I think if you keep your van dirty, a little bit dirty, um, it makes it less of a target. Especially if you're pa parked in the back of a parking lot with this dirty van, nobody's really gonna wanna break in. So that's the only thing I've done to the outside is keep it dirty. I I haven't done anything to the outside
Speaker 0 (00:06:25) - <laugh>. That's hilarious. And then I've seen that some people like kind of watch what types of solar panels they'll put on the roof to keep it stealth. Do you have solar and what did you choose to put up there?
Speaker 1 (00:06:36) - So I do have solar, but I didn't use a roof rack. So I think what gives it away a lot of the times is the Max Air fans, because when you have 'em open, they, they kind of do stick out a lot when you have 'em closed, they're not too bad, but the roof racks, a lot of the time they're, they're up two, three inches from the top of the van and they're kind of, uh, a dead giveaway unless they have some sort of siding, they hide it. But for me, I just put some aluminum railing that's maybe an inch high that sit right on the top of the van. And then I put my solar panels right next to that right on top of it. And they're essentially the same color as my van. So you can't see the top as long, you can only see the, the black railing on the side.
Speaker 1 (00:07:13) - So I, in my opinion, I've, I've been argued this by other people, but I don't think your average Joe walking down the street would necessarily know that there's someone living in there unless they already knew that people lived in vans or they knew what they were looking for. So I think for a majority of people, as long as you keep it, you don't have like boxes and bins and like stickers all over the side of your van. I think it's, it's relatively easy to be somewhat stealthy. Um, I don't think there's any, any van out there that's a true stealth van as unless you're like in a minivan or something. But, um, I would say just do whatever you can to, to make sure that it's, it's less difficult for people to notice as as possible. So
Speaker 0 (00:07:55) - Yeah, that's true. I think that those of us who live in vans, since we know people live in vans, we start to feel self-conscious that, oh, somebody's gonna think I'm in here. Where, like you were saying, if people aren't aware of this, they're not gonna think someone's living in the Van
Speaker 1 (00:08:07) - <laugh>. Yeah, exactly. Cause like before I lived in the van, I, I never, it never even occurred to me to, to even think about that when I'm walking down the street to think like there might be someone in that vehicle, but now it's like I walked down the street, I'm like, there could be someone there, there could be someone in there. It's, it's just because that's how my mind is kind of wired now because I'm so enthralled in the, uh, whole van life thing.
Speaker 0 (00:08:27) - Totally. And so when you're stealth camping, how do you block off your, your front uh, window or cab area?
Speaker 1 (00:08:34) - So a lot of the times I will do just my, I have a blackout curtain, like you, you'll see 'em, a lot of them, but it was just a blackout curtain that kind of covers the cab right behind the seats. And then in the back I actually handmade some, uh, folding window covers with uh, I think I bought just a white sheet and then I bought a blackout curtain and I kind of cut it to size and then stitched or um, iron stitched some edging around it and then put some reflecting on the inside and then just magnets to the, uh, metal that surrounds the, uh, windows in my back. And then sometimes, but a lot of the times I don't, I'll put up some windows covers in the front to cover all the front windows, but a lot of the times I'm just too lazy to do that and it doesn't really make that much of a difference because my blackout curtains and those curtains work so well. So I just don't keep anything in the cab and just have those clothes pretty much.
Speaker 0 (00:09:21) - Totally, I was wondering if the blackout curtain itself is even more stealthy cuz someone could look in the cab and and think nobody's in there so they're not camping in it.
Speaker 1 (00:09:30) - Yeah, and I've also seen a lot of people, I, I don't necessarily know if I would do this or I would recommend it, but I've seen a lot of people put construction jackets like over their seats or something like that and I, I get what I get where, where they're going with it. Like they're trying to, it's, it's a work fan, there's no one living in here. But I feel like a lot of the times people target work fans for tools and stuff because they're easy to sell, they're easy to to, to like flip on the side because you can't track them or anything. So I wouldn't do that just because I think a lot of people do target work vans specifically for that kind of stuff. There's a big like subgroup of thieves who, who target just, uh, tools and stuff. So I wouldn't do that, but uh, I get where they're coming from with that. It's a good idea.
Speaker 0 (00:10:11) - <laugh>, have you heard of anyone or have you had issues with people like knocking on your van or trying to get into your van? I know that's a big fear of some.
Speaker 1 (00:10:18) - Yeah. Um, I personally haven't, and I think that's a product of I never stay anywhere where I wouldn't feel safe. So like a lot of the times I'll get somewhere before it turns tonight and kind of get a lay of the land and see if I feel safe. And if I do get there at night, if I don't feel safe, I always move no matter what. Because if you've lived in a van for long enough, you know that there's always a spot within 15 to 20 minutes, pretty much no matter where you are in the country that you can go somewhere else. Um, and even if there's not, it's just never worth it for that extra hour of sleep to stay somewhere where you don't feel safe versus just getting in your car and driving to that next location. So, um, it's just a matter of trusting your gut I think when you, when you park in those kinda locations, because at the end of the day you can get one off, a random person comes up and in, in the nicest neighborhood and tries to break into your van. So I just try to mitigate the risk as much as I can. You can never eliminate it, but there's, there's steps you can take to kind of lower it as much as you can to a point where you're at the least amount of risk to get broken into.
Speaker 0 (00:11:15) - Yes. So what do you look for when you're trying to find a stealth camping spot to see if you feel safe there?
Speaker 1 (00:11:22) - So the number one thing is just, I know a lot of people use this app too, is I overlander I'll go on there, I'll read the reviews. A lot of the times there's multiple reviews, like, this place is safe, I stayed here for three nights, blah, blah, blah, blah. They'll have pictures, I'll look at the pictures. Um, so that's kinda like the first step of picking a spot. And a lot, a lot of the times that's the last step because there's just so many, so many spots and I overlander that, uh, you can pretty much find anywhere to camp. Um, and then the next thing is if it's well lit. So like if it's a parking lot or something, I'll typically park directly under the light light right in the middle of, or not, not necessarily in the middle of the lot, but not around the outskirts because those are usually dark.
Speaker 1 (00:11:59) - Um, and I think people typically try to, when they first start out, they try to pick the darkest spots in the parking lot. Um, but in my opinion, it's the same theory as having a porch light on the front of your house so that the and your neighbor doesn't, so that the robber's gonna pick your neighbor who doesn't have a porch light, ak the person who's parked in the back of the lot versus the person who's parked directly under the light, where if they try to break in, everyone's gonna see. So, um, I usually look for a well lit spot and uh, I mean that only makes sense if it's in a, in a parking lot. But, uh, that's pretty much it. And then, and then I just trust my gut. Like if I pull into a spot, it clearly looks like a shady area, uh, I'll, I'll obviously move, but other than that, that's pretty much it.
Speaker 0 (00:12:36) - Yeah. So what are your, some of your favorite places to park? Like when you're passing through a city, what kinds of availability is there for people?
Speaker 1 (00:12:45) - Yeah, so I, it it kind of depends on what kind of you're driving. So if you're driving a bigger, it's gonna be a lot more difficult. But, um, some of the best spots in my opinion, obviously rest stops. There's a hu there's a bunch of 'em all over the country. Truck stops are always good. Uh, Walmarts, I know that it gets a bad rep, but Walmart is, and I've said this in a lot of my videos, Walmart is one of my favorite places to park because one, typically it's allowed. Two, they have super clean bathrooms. Three, there's usually three or four other campers there. So it, it's sort of a sense of community when you're there. You're not like, I'm, I'm the only one living here. It kind of makes you feel a little bit more secure when there's other RVs and campers around and stuff like that.
Speaker 1 (00:13:23) - And then Cracker Barrel. And then the last one that I kind of figured out based on experience of traveling so much is neighborhoods. So if you pull into any kind of neighborhood, there's always cars parked on the street and, and no one will bat an eye if you park on the street for one night, obviously you have to be respectful and, and don't stay there for a week and throw trash out your window or something. But if you pull into any neighborhood, you can pull into the safest neighborhood in the county and nine times outta 10 there's cars parked along the street and you can just weasel your way in there, stay for the night and then get up and go the next day.
Speaker 0 (00:13:53) - Totally. I think that people sometimes discount that where I think like, oh, I could be visiting someone in this neighborhood. Nobody knows if it's only for one night, like you said. And yeah, to be respectful, I start to see these situations in, in cities across the country, this is different, but there's trash everywhere around the rigs and I'm just like, no, it's giving Van Life a bad name, <laugh>. But it is important to mention that people should be respectful of where they're parking <laugh>.
Speaker 1 (00:14:18) - Yeah, I agree.
Speaker 0 (00:14:19) - Yeah, totally. Um, yeah, so what about like when you're parking at a store like a Walmart, um, do you call the manager or how do you make sure that that Walmart, uh, allows the parking?
Speaker 1 (00:14:31) - So I have personally never called, but um, a lot of the times I will just look for signs. So, so I like to um, go with the ask forgiveness not permission kind of mentality a little bit. Um, but to a, to to, to an extent. So I don't, I don't park somewhere where it's clearly marked no overnight parking. Like sometimes I'll even pull into Walmarts and, and some Walmarts have signs they no overnight parking, some don't. So the number one thing I do is I just look for signs. And if there's no signs then I feel like I'm, I'm good because there's, there's, there's no reason that I shouldn't be able to technically, and I mean, if, if they have security guard walking around, they'll kick you out regardless. So, um, basically what I do is I just look for signs. I don't park anywhere where I'm obviously not allowed or that I haven't seen a review of someone staying there before on I overlander if I'm staying somewhere for the first time, the only thing I do is look for signs. And then I, I pretty much have, have not no trouble. So I've never been kicked out of, I've lived in my van for two years and I've never been kicked out. So
Speaker 0 (00:15:32) - <laugh>, have you ever gotten the knock anywhere?
Speaker 1 (00:15:37) - Actually, yes, one time at a Walmart, but I don't even count it as even getting kicked out because I parked there, the Walmart closed at 11, but the security guard was super nice. He came up and knocked, he's probably down at a million times, but came up, knocked on my door, he was like, Hey, you can't park here, but you can move to the store right next door if they don't care. So I moved like 200 yards down the road and, and slept there for the night, so it wasn't too bad.
Speaker 0 (00:15:59) - Cool. Have you heard stories of other Van lifers getting knocked on and has that ever ended badly or do, is it usually a pleasant encounter from what you've heard?
Speaker 1 (00:16:08) - I think it's kind of depends on your mentality. It's as pleasant as you may, unless you get some, some really pissed off guy, he's at a bad night or something. But I think it's just like getting pulled over in a way. It it's gonna be uh, uh, as pleasant as you make it kind of. So if you're argumentative, they're gonna be argumentative back, it's gonna be an issue, it's gonna be a problem. But if you're like, they're just doing their job, it's 11 o'clock, they don't wanna be out there. They don't wanna be knocking on a bunch of random doors telling you to leave. So if you'd knock him outta the door, just just be respectful and, and leave. And, and a lot of the times there's, there's, they're gonna be super friendly. I haven't heard too many horror stories other than the only bad ones that I hear is from people who park where there's some sort of community and uh, either a neighbor comes out or someone comes out and does it because then they're a little bit more standoffish. But, um, if it's a security guard or something like that, typically they're, they're pretty friendly, at least from what I've heard.
Speaker 0 (00:16:58) - True. Yeah. We got the knock one time in a, a gravel parking lot where we had parked actually many times in the past, but I think they were cracking down and we had security guard knock at about 1130 and he was very pleasant and we just moved and it was fine. So I don't want people to be like scared like, oh, getting the knock is such this horrible thing. I mean, it's good to avoid it, but it's also, it doesn't have to be a devastating experience. <laugh>.
Speaker 1 (00:17:19) - Yeah, I agree. It's, it's really not that bad.
Speaker 0 (00:17:22) - Yeah. So I've heard of some people camping, like at casinos and have you ever tried that?
Speaker 1 (00:17:27) - Yeah, I've done that a couple times. It's, it's really easy to camp there. It's just a little bit dangerous because I end up going into the casino and losing some money. So <laugh>, that's the only thing that's bad about those ones.
Speaker 0 (00:17:37) - <laugh>. And how about Cracker Barrel? I, I know I haven't tried this myself, but I always see vehicles outside of Cracker Barrel. Um, how is that and do you go in and do you get food there or like how does that work?
Speaker 1 (00:17:47) - Yeah, so they, they, cracker Barrel has um, a couple. So if you're in a bigger rig, cracker barrels are good because they have, uh, a couple reserve spots for RVs that are longer. They're pulling pull out. So they're really easy to get in, in and out of. Typically I don't work in those spots cause I have a van so I can just take a parking spot. I feel bad kind of taking one of those bigger spots when someone's probably coming in stressed after driving all day with those giant RVs, looking for a spot. And if there's a little van in one of those spots, it would just be annoying. So typically when I'm at a Cracker Barrel, I just park in a parking spot kind of next to 'em. And then, yeah, some, most of the time, uh, I don't go to the restaurant, but a lot of the times I do just to say thanks for letting us sleep there. But they're very welcoming 90% of the time and, and you, you probably won't run into any issues after parking in a, uh, cracker Barrel parking lot.
Speaker 0 (00:18:32) - Cool. And I've, I've heard of some other stores that might allow it, like maybe the Base Pro, um, shops and the Cabelas. Have you tried that or heard of that?
Speaker 1 (00:18:39) - Yep, I've stated both of those as well. Uh, sometimes it's, it's, it's, it's kind of like, uh, the Walmarts some, some allow it, some don't, it kind of depends like the, a lot of the times the ones with smaller parking lots don't allow it. The ones with the giant parking lots just typically don't care. Um, a lot of the times they'll even have security in the lots and the, they won't do anything, they'll, they'll just know that you're sleeping there and then the bass pro's okay with it, which makes me feel a little bit better a lot of the times too. But, um, yeah, so tho those are, those are some other good options in the city that the Bass Pro and the Cabelas and kinda any kinda sports shop like that typically allows it.
Speaker 0 (00:19:14) - Yeah. I'm wondering if, um, if, have you ever encountered any, like cities in particular that have designated van areas? I don't, I don't, I feel like I saw this once in Truckee up in, in the Sierra Nevada, but have you ever encountered that? Cause I think that'd be a great way for cities to actually bring some business into their, into their towns, but I'm wondering if you've noticed that anywhere.
Speaker 1 (00:19:34) - So there is one, one place that I I visit, it was some small town in Texas that had one shop and then just a bunch of houses. But they had built this kind of, it was, it, it looked like it used to be some sort of park, but they had built these like kind of parking lanes and they had all these signs that say, free overnight parking, come stay here, whatever, whatever. Um, and I think that they did that too because it's more so just a, a pass through area where you've never stopped to visit unless you were staying overnight. There's like a gas station in like some small store. But, um, I stayed there, I went to the small store and it was nice. But in bigger cities, you're, you're not, you're probably not gonna find that. I think there's some unincorporated areas that a lot of van lifers stay but aren't necessarily, uh, welcomed by the city or, or they're not like, come park here, come park here. It's just like a, a place that, that, uh, a lot of Van Lifers will congregate in said city where they're allowed to park overnight. So you can find a lot of those unincorporated things in the cities, but you're not gonna find like fan like park in San Francisco or something.
Speaker 0 (00:20:39) - Yeah, so true. And I've also noticed here in California that a lot of the coastal towns are putting up signs saying no overnight parking, which makes it it more complicated to be a Van lifer in some areas. Have you seen that on
Speaker 1 (00:20:51) - <crosstalk>? Cause those, those are some of the best places to south camp. Those are some of my favorite places to south camp is those small beach town in California because a lot of the times there's, there's parking right next to the beach, you can kind of just stay there. It's all flat level. You can get out, go to the beach, there's usually beach showers, bathrooms, laundromats that you can walk to. It's, it's, I think, the ultimate spot to, to stealth camp because you can stay right on the beach there. Showers, bathrooms, laundromats, grocery stores, um, convenience stores, uh, health clinic, anything you would need is within walking distance. So essentially you could live there for as long as you want, which I have noticed when I'm there, which is probably why they're putting up signs because I can see sometimes I'll go to a, a, a little beach town and then I'll come back two months later and I'll see the same three vans there that have been there since the, the beginning of the summer.
Speaker 1 (00:21:35) - So I think in a lot of ways it's, it's kind of a sensitive topic because they're, if, if they're staying in the same spot for a long time, maybe they don't have the means to travel, but in a way it kind of, uh, can rub the, the, the locals the wrong way when they kind of see that all the time. So it, it's kind of like a catch 22 with, with with that kind of stuff. So I, I don't really know what, what, what can even be done about that. I mean I guess it's just sooner or later all those beach towns are gonna have signs saying no overnight barking or, or something like that. But
Speaker 0 (00:22:08) - Yeah, my dream is definitely the, that like we talked about before, that they do decide to incorporate, you know, van areas as this lifestyle becomes more and more popular and more and more people are living like this and working on the road remotely. We need a place to go buy a coffee or go have dinner. And so just, I hope that we see an evolution and like constantly not kicking vans out of everywhere.
Speaker 1 (00:22:29) - <laugh>. Yeah,
Speaker 0 (00:22:30) - Yeah. But just a pipe dream. We'll see what happens <laugh>. So yeah. So if someone is getting started with Van Life and they're gonna start stealth camping and they're kind of nervous, um, do you have any tips for, for people just starting out?
Speaker 1 (00:22:44) - Um, it's number one tip is it's easier than you think. Um, if you start overthinking it, uh, that's where you're gonna get yourself like kind of worried too much about things. Like I would say if you, if you have the eye overlander app to start out, just only camping where people have camped before gets you, gets you kind of comfortable with it. So, um, that's what I did when I first started. I don't think I camped anywhere that I found or that I tried to camp myself. I only camped where I could go read the reviews, see if people have camped there and there's plenty of spots on there. So I would say use eye overlander when you're first starting out and then once you kind of gain the experience, you can, you can find your own parking spots cuz you kind of see what works, what doesn't. Um, and then, uh, again, just trust your gut. So whenever you're self camping, just if you don't feel good, trust your gut move. Um, and yeah, that, that I would say that's pretty much it. It's, it, there's, there's a lot less to it than, than you'd think because again, no one's gonna think, no regular person is gonna gonna expect you to be living in there unless maybe they live in a beach town and they see vans every weekend. But a lot of the times it's not like that.
Speaker 0 (00:23:49) - Cool. And are there any other, you've mentioned one, a safety tip of yours is like the, the making sure it feels safe. Are there any other safety tips that people could do or be aware of or I don't know, have their phone near them or keys near them? Like any other tips that you currently do?
Speaker 1 (00:24:04) - Yeah, so I, I don't really have that many things that I do for safety. Obviously lock your van. Um, I sleep with like a, a knife next to me just in case. And I have bear spray in the drawer right next to my bed. So if I need to, I can just, I dunno how effective that'd be. I'd probably just blind both of us. But, um, <laugh> it makes you feel a little bit better. And, and, and for me it's kind of the, the van is its own safety in a way. So like I, I feel like if if someone's gonna break in, I'm gonna have some sort of advanced warning. Either I'm gonna hear a window smash or, or I'm gonna hear someone outside the van or something like that and I can get up and make a bunch of noise. And um, I always try to back into spots is another thing I guess that I do is, so if, if I need to, I can turn the car on and just zip out of there.
Speaker 1 (00:24:46) - And on a mountain of wilderness I make sure that I have some sort of space behind me, some sort of space in front of me. So like if I need to zip outta there for any reason, whether it's like a, a flash flood or bad weather or, or or someone pulling up that I don't feel safe around, I can just turn the car on and get out of there. So that's pretty much the only thing that I really do for, for safety. I know you can get like say security systems and stuff like that and I know a lot of people who do that, but um, I might get one at some point, but I don't have one now.
Speaker 0 (00:25:12) - Yeah, that's a good point that you brought up about parking. I'm glad you said that cuz we also tried to do that when either boondocking or in a city making sure we have an escape route and we're not like cornered within the trees where it's really hard to get out of there if you feel uncomfortable. Yeah. So I think that's an easy tip that anybody could do. So
Speaker 1 (00:25:29) - Yeah. Yeah,
Speaker 0 (00:25:29) - I agree. Yeah. And then I was also wondering, um, why did you decide to do a a stealth van? Why did you wanna be more under the radar?
Speaker 1 (00:25:36) - Because I knew that the, that from my, so, uh, and this, so this is kind of like, uh, a big question that I get. Um, and it just kind of depends on, and this goes back to to when you're building your van, like, uh, planning it out and make sure that you have everything that you need because it, it just depends on what kind of traveling you plan on doing. So if you are doing it for a weekend traveler, having a stealth van in my opinion is just kind of a waste of time because if you're doing it on a weekend, you're gonna have a plan. You're gonna be going to these national parks, you're gonna be going to these CENIC applications. You're not necessarily gonna be staying at a Walmart parking lot very often if ever. So there's, there's really no point in having a stealth van at that point.
Speaker 1 (00:26:13) - But if you're gonna be going for months at a time or full-time, I think that a stealth van is the number one most important thing you can have. And it doesn't have to be super, super stealthy. Like it doesn't have to be like, like my van like completely bland on the outside. But if you have something that screams there's equipment in here and there's bikes on the back and, and all of this stuff, it just makes you more of a target. And um, I think I planned on, when I started building my van, I planned on traveling the country for four, four months. So I knew that I was gonna be staying in Walmart parking lots and rest stops and truck stops and all of these things a lot of the time because especially when you're going from, uh, Maryland basically out to Texas, the only thing you're gonna be able to sleep in is rest stops and truck stops because there's no BLM land from on on the east coast basically all the way up till Texas.
Speaker 1 (00:27:00) - And then once you get past Texas you can start saying on BLM land. So it just depends on, so I think that's what a lot of people don't think about when they're building their bands is what kind of traveling do you plan on doing and what kind of traveler, what kind of traveler do you plan on being because it it how selfie you need your van to be to kind of depends on, on where you plan on staying and what you plan on doing. And, and I don't want people to be naive and think I'm gonna live in my van fulltime and I'm only gonna stay in beautiful scenic locations. Cause that's absolutely not gonna happen no matter how hard you try. Um, there's gonna be a couple nights where you're tired, you've just done something, you've been driving all day and you just wanna pull into a Walmart parking lot or on the side of the road or something like that and just stay for the night. So it just kind of depends.
Speaker 0 (00:27:42) - Cool. Those are all such amazing tips. Um, yeah. Is there anything else you, you wanted to add that we missed?
Speaker 1 (00:27:49) - Um, I would say on, on the, the only thing that I see that I think is worth, uh, talking about is when you're building your van, um, kind of going back to the point that I just made, when you're building your van, if you have no experience and you're just watching YouTube videos, which is what I did when I built my van, I would say don't watch just van build videos because a lot of the times it is just stuff that is being regurgitated over and over and over again from people that are copying and pasting and copying and pasting and copying and pasting the same like water system, the same electrical system, the same kind of layout on the interior of the van. And if you want to do anything different, it becomes kind of almost impossible to do that because you're just like saying, okay, they connected this to this and then this to this, and then you're not, you don't really have any understanding of why they used certain connections or why they used the gauge of why are they used or why they have a certain connection on a certain thing.
Speaker 1 (00:28:45) - And, and I think it was really important for me that when I was building my van, I watched not only the, the the vanil side of, of the water system, but I also watched just like plumbing system installs and, and electrical system installs and how to gauge wires and, and I kind of went outside of the van life realm so that when I got to my van build, there was a few things that I wanted to do differently at my water build, my electrical build, and then my whole buildout itself that I had to get creative with myself and make sure that I knew that I knew what I was doing or not only that I knew what I was doing, but I knew why I was doing certain things. So that if I needed to make a change and, and wire my stuff up a little bit differently and add a DC to DC charger or um, add a second shower to my van or something like that, I knew how I could splice into the stuff, get it connector really quick and then just hook it up in, in two seconds. So I think it's really important to do your own research outside of the vanlife world because if you only watch those van build videos, you're gonna be really confused when you go to builds and you're gonna be really stuck in basically only copying the way that they did it.
Speaker 0 (00:29:45) - Cool. That's an amazing tip. I've never heard anybody say that. So thank you for bringing that up and Yeah. Yeah. So just where can people, we'll we'll have links also below this presentation so people can find you, but just verbally, where can people find you online?
Speaker 1 (00:29:59) - Um, so my handle on pretty much everything is at Ryan Toy. Um, I'm sure you'll have it linked wherever, but, uh, it's Ryan Toy with two Y's at the end on TikTok, on YouTube, and on Facebook and Instagram.
Speaker 0 (00:30:12) - Very cool. Well, thank you so much for joining the, the Summit. We're really excited that you were here and could talk to us so much about stealth camping. That was great.
Speaker 1 (00:30:20) - Yeah. Thank you. Thank you for having me,
Speaker 0 (00:30:22) - <laugh>. All right, let me.
The podcast episode features Kristen Hayes from The Wayward Home interviewing Ryan Toy, a full-time van lifer who has been living in his van for two years. Ryan...
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How Ryan got started in vanlife [00:00:20] Ryan talks about his experience with vanlife, including how he got started and his job before becoming a full-time ...
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🎉Exciting news! In this episode of The Wayward Home, we dive into the world of stealth camping in van life with expert Ryan Toy. 🚐💨
🤔Curious about how to m...
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