Alpenglow Mountain Festival’s ‘Van Life Rally’ advocates outdoor adventure | TheUnion.com

Alpenglow Mountain Festival’s ‘Van Life Rally’ advocates outdoor adventure

Hannah Jones
Sierra Sun

TAHOE CITY — While living out of the back of a van, truck or other vehicle may seem unconventional and uncomfortable for many, those who choose that lifestyle view it as the key to freedom, adventure, and cheap rent.

Alpenglow Mountain Festival hosted its first annual Van Life Rally June 22, filling the parking lot behind Alpenglow Sports with custom vehicles equipped with everything needed to survive on the road. Owners who participated in the rally showcased their homes on wheels and talked to spectators about their lifestyle.

"The idea is that anyone who is living in these vehicles is out there getting after it," said Shelley Pursell of Alpenglow Sports who has lived in her cargo van for the past three years. "It's about enjoying the outdoor life with the idea of bringing your life with you. We want to expand on what it means to live outside."

"All my stuff is in one spot and will take me anywhere I want to go," said Nick Ramsey of Trail Kitchens, a company specializing in camping gear and cooking solutions for vehicles. "I love anything to do with vehicle adventures," he said. "And not having to pay $1,200 a month for rent is a huge plus."

The van lifestyle does not come without its challenges, however, one of which is the lack of plumbing. While some vans can be equipped with running water and a toilette, it can be costly to do so. Pursell suggested joining a gym with a shower, installing a gravity shower on the outside of the vehicle like she has done or simply jumping in the lake.

Another concern is vehicle insulation and keeping warm in the winter. Traveling photographer Scott Rokis has spent the last three years in his van, surviving in negative 30-degree weather at times while in Minnesota.

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"Combatting the cold is a real issue," he said.

At times his water would freeze and the space heater in his van would barely keep the small space around him at a comfortable temperature.

"You have to ask 'What is it that I really need and then how do I build that?'" Pursell said. "You have to find your level of comfort."

Pursell added that no matter the challenges, there is always a community of people to learn from. "Once you start doing it you can gravitate towards what's already out there," she said.

While most campsites require fees and other places restrict overnight parking, Pursell and Rokis suggested rest stops and parking lots as a good place to start. They insisted that other camping spots should remain exclusive to those currently living in their vehicles and that the "van community" will help offer solutions to anyone in need.

"When I go to places that I don't know anyone, you meet people pretty quick," said Pursell. "There's a good community of people out there."

Hannah Jones is a reporter for the Sierra Sun, a sister publication of The Union. She can be reached at 530-550-2652 or hjones@sierrasun.com.