When we left Vancouver we thought we were happy with the work we’d done on the van, but it goes without saying before living it we would never know exactly how what we’d value and or need and what we wouldn’t. Here’s 5 things we’ve learnt during our first fortnight on the road.
1. The Canadian snow is real
We Brits tend to have an attitude when it comes to driving of ‘it can’t be that bad’. Probably stems from the fact that with a foot of snow comes a national crisis and the country shutting down. It’s a different kettle of fish in Canada, where it appears anything less than 10 ft of snow isn’t even worth a comment over poutine.
That said, it’s hard to leave our attitude at home so it wasn’t long before a ‘sprinkle’ of Canadian snow and a ‘we’ll be fine’ attitude led to us getting stuck .We’d arrived at a beautiful creek and the site we wanted was right on the river, however was past a few patches of snow. We applied the run up approach… which ended up with the exhaust, gas tank and front axles getting wedged in the snow.
Despite being in the middle of nowhere we employed our best persuasion tactics (beera) and hailed down a local with a 6 wheeled truck for a tow out. We won’t be making that mistake again…
2. Be ready for a shower
We should preface this with the fact that our showering system cost less than £5. We bought a solar shower (read, black plastic bag) which in theory heats up from the sun, you hang it on the van and have a nice warm shower.
The theory falls apart a bit without sun… and in weather which happily tips below freezing at night. So we now boil a kettle, throw some water in the bag and away we go. Our first use was a bit of a failure though – we didn’t fill the bag up nearly enough and put it in a tree a little away from the van. So we’re both left stranded, barefoot across a muddy trail covered in soap and no water to wash it off with.
We now shower right by the van, clothes & towel ready and a bag full of warm water – it’s worth the propane to have a shower which doesn’t run out or freeze us, or both.
3. (Related to number 2) Grab a free shower when you can
The best solution to our second problem is to avoid the solar shower alltogether. There’s a few ways of doing this but our general rule is we grab a free shower whenever we can! When in Banff there was a $30 campground with a nice hot shower, but there’s nowhere specifically which says you can’t just pop in for a quick shower… free of charge of course. We’ve also enjoyed the number of hot springs in Canada, and whilst not free for $10 you get a swim and a shower it’s not a bad deal!
4. Paying for camping stings
Our first three nights on the road we payed for camping. We were adjusting to living in the van, and it was never more than £10 so we were happy to. After that we realised that British Columbia have free recreational sites, which are maintained sites but also free. These became our best friend when we could find, them and when we couldn’t we learnt to find a quiet pull out on the side of the road. To date we haven’t been bothered by anyone.
Banff, being a National Park, makes it much harder to wild camp. In fact they have park rangers who will roam around and find you if they catch you, and the campsites aren’t cheap. We’d become so used to not paying for camping however, we found lorry parks to stay in and at times drove out of the park so we could camp for free! To date we haven’t paid a penny since those first three days.
5. People use a lot of water
This one was somewhat of a revelation to us, but in hindsight isn’t that surprising. While we’d installed a sink in the van, and it was working great it was supplied by a 10L water tank. We were using a tank a day at the start of our trip, easily. With drinking water, washing up, teeth etc it adds up so quickly, and was becoming a bit of a pain to change and filter it daily.
We tend to use less purified water now, only using the sink for our teeth & drinking water. We have a separate 20L tank of water which isn’t purified and we use that for showering and washing up, but it’s amazing how much water we use in the van, let alone in a house with a running sink. It’s probably a mentality which will stay with us after the trip ends but by no means a bad thing.