As some of you may know, I have made the moves to make my Jeep my primary residency from apartment life. For most this is a foreign concept, yet with the vast amount of information online nowadays about VanLife, the why in today’s time is easier to grasp, though for the sake of the blog I’ll list some of the reasonings I personally have decided to commit to JeepLife:
1) Cutting out non-essentials:
I do not need an apartment. After living out of a backpack for 5+ months straight on my Appalachian trail through hike, I realized I did not need too much to enjoy my life, as well during post-trail when I realized there was already a life style for living with less, which is a minimalist. Now there are benefits to having a space, but currently, during this stage of my life, I don’t see the point.
What are some apartment essentials?
- Space to store stuff
- Place to sleep
- Place to cook/eat/store food
- Place to decompress/chill in privacy
- Place to have friends over
- Place to explore passions that physically require space
- Place to work
- Place with controlled heating and cooling
- Place with an address
- Place to recover
- Place to clean oneself
- Place to clean clothes
- Place with on demand power/water/internet
- Place to house dependents
- Space to store stuff:
You don’t need very much to live your life, however this being a lot to unpack, look into the concept of “minimalism,” if you would like to know more. Over the past four years, post Appalachian Trail, I have down sized my belongings to only those items that I need and bring me joy, although everything I need and enjoy does not fit into my Jeep. In fact, there are a few items I wish to use in the future as well as sentimental items I have stored in my parent’s basement such as a hammock stand and a standing desk. Sentimental items such as gifts are a bit of a challenge for me. At any rate if you choose to live without them, a photo in my opinion should suffice to at least trigger the memory. I had planned to rent space, but rather my parent’s were nice enough to lend me the space.
- Place to sleep:
For my sleep system, I have removed my back seats and installed the Goose Gear Stealth Plate System, in which turns my entire back, behind the front seats into a flat surface with lockable storage where the seats used to be, in which sort of resembles a covered truck bed. For my bed, I have this tri-fold 4″ foam mattress. Even though it takes up more space, foam in my opinion is more comfortable than air. Plus, the R-value is much higher, which is an insulation rating. The higher the R-value, the more insultation for a warmer night’s sleep. For a warmer nights sleep, I have a two-person 20° F sleeping bag, in which I will pair with a single 20° F down sleeping bag in even colder temps. In situations of temperatures below 20° F, I use an electric blanket.
- Place to cook/eat/store food:
In the Jeep, I made sure I had a way to cook and store food. For cooking, I have a simple two-burner Coleman stove and a Zip JetBoil, which is apart of my backpacking equipment. For storage, I have a Engel Fridge Freezer and a bin for dry foods. In order to properly secure those items in the Jeep, I purchased a Goose Gear Camp Kitchen 2.3 which screws into the pre-drilled holes on the Goose Gear Stealth Plate System with some tie down straps to prevent the fridge from moving on as well as off-road and just raddling in general. The fridge/freezer is 35 quarts large and I am able to store my entire meal prep in there, but currently because of COVID-19, keeping the vast majority of my co-workers home, I am also able to make use of the fridges at work. Also, since my parents live close to where I work, I have been able to make use of their kitchen space when prepping my weekly meal prep, in which saves me a approximately 3x of my time. For reheating meal-prepped food, the plan was to use the upstairs area in Wegmans, however it has been closed since Covid-19, so I’ve been re-heating at work, which quite frankly saves me a bunch of time, allowing me to keep my focus on work.
Currently, I do not have a setup to cook within the vehicle, so I made moves to pick up an awning system that didn’t require a roof rack, which is essentially an overpriced tarp the way I have been using it.
As one could imagine, I cook under it during wet, hot, and sometimes windy weather. I do not quite have a good prep/cook rhythm down yet, considering the majority of my cooking has been in the form of meal prepping.
Biggest reason I didn’t opt for the traditional awning systems is because I didn’t want to have the option of more space on the roof to put things. I like the weight of the car where it currently is, plus I plan to eventually opt for an Ursa Minor, but until then I’m going to enjoy my rackless roof as a nice and flat space to chill and watch the stars.
No beautiful photo of the stars here 😅, but I am working on it. 😁🌠😃
- Place to decompress/chill in privacy:
Decompressing was actually quite difficult and is more of a mindset than an environment variable. Pre-mindset, I purchased window covers for all of my windows in the Jeep, in which I do still use on occasion, but now, I mostly just park in locations that I feel comfortable in.
So far, I actually spend less time chilling, which is what I was hoping for. After work, the apartment on week days felt like a trap because it was too comfortable and as a result I would end up endlessly watching hours of YouTube and Netflix, which were things I enjoy, but to the point where I wasn’t getting the harder things I wanted to get done. By removing the convenience, I have been able to focus on what I want to focus on. Yes, removing the TV would have been the move, however, because I had an apartment, I wanted a space to relax with Hope.
- Place to have friends over:
I do not have a place to have friends over in a private space, however friend’s coming over to my place previously was infrequent. I never have really lived in any exciting areas that you’d want to visit, well except for maybe 🤔🤷🏻♂️ that one place when I had been working for Raytheon, but now it is something I no longer prioritize nor romanticize.
Hope came over pretty frequently, but she knew the apartment was a necessity while being in a work from home status. I enjoy sharing space with significant other’s however, I don’t think it is needed unless you have children, sense you can share each other’s time practically anywhere.
- Place to explore passions that physically require space:
I do not have a space to explore these passions. There are a few interests I would like to explore such as gardening and fermentation that I am saving to explore later in life, but “saving” might be the wrong word. They are simply lower on my priority list of things I want to do in life.
- Place to work:
My job largely requires testing on hardware, hardware in which exists in an office building. If I was still a software engineer, I would have most certainly made moves to travel as I worked post lockdown for Covid-19, however I’ve fallen in love with Quality Assurance, so as long as the job has a hardware component, I’ll for the most part be grounded to a particular area, which fortunately also has benefits. Benefits I’d argue make JeepLife easier. Since I’m located in one area, I don’t need to plan nor think about where I’m going to use the bathroom, find internet, shower, cook, sleep, and decompress because I already spent the time figuring that out for this area.
- Place with controlled heating and cooling:
I’m largely only in the Jeep when I’m sleeping and decompressing, but while I’m existing in the Jeep, I try to avoid leaving the Jeep running as much as possible. So when the Jeep is not running, I have a battery powered fan for the Summer and an electric blanket for the Winter. To my surprise, Summer has been much harder than winter. With the electric blanket in freezing temps, I’ve been able to chill while eating a pint of ice cream with no discomfort, but during the humid Summer, I have to make more of an effort to get comfortable. The only way I can get to sleep is if I have a fan blowing directly at my face all night.
When I’m not in the Jeep, I largely do not think about heating and cooling, except when it comes to water, and water filters in freezing temps. I carry my cooking water in those Arizona Green Tea gallon jugs, so in the winter, I’ll put them in the front near where the floor heating is, so I have enough water melted to at least cook. For drinking water, I’ve been rocking Lacroix or a Lacroix alternative in which I also put up front. Because carbonated water has a lower freezing point, I haven’t had any issues with keeping it. Fun Fact, if you were to shake up any carbonated beverage, freeze it for 3-4 hours, then shake it again, it will pour out like a slushy. The water filter is actually a bit of a pain to remember. For those of you who are not aware, you can break those backpacking water filters if they freeze (assuming you’ve used them at least once). I should assume that my backpacking water filters are busted because I haven’t been doing that. To be clear, I only use these filters when backpacking or in the case I’m low on water overlanding. They aren’t too expensive, just a pain to remember and replace. What I should be doing is keeping them in a temperature controlled environment.
- Place with an address:
I use my parent’s address for both mail and my registered address. If I did not use my parent’s address for mail, I would either rent a UPS mailbox or a post office box, though I’m not sure yet what I would do for my registered address.
- Place to recover:
This is a bit of a mystery since it depends on the injury, but I’ll cross that bridge if I get to it. Brainstorming on the spot, it would really depend on how serious the injury was. If I were to break anything in my right arm or left leg for example, I would struggle driving, so in that situation, I would need to rely on family, a friend, get an Airbnb, or sleep in the parking lot of my work place. 😅
I will point out, that after Hope’s septorhinoplasty, my apartment served as a nice controlled environment that she could recover in, so I will lose that kind of flexibility to take care of other people close to me unless it is their space.
- Place to clean oneself:
For cleanliness, I shower at a gym and if I were traveling, I would likely get a Planet Fitness membership, a company who has the largest gym chain network in the United States. There are ways to mount pressurized tanks such as an after market hallow rear bumper replacement mod that you can use as a pressurized water tank, however currently I think it is overkill at least now while I’m not traveling continuously.
- Place to clean clothes:
I have the option of coin laundry, however it’s easier to knock this out when I’m meal prepping for the week at my parent’s house.
- Place with on demand power/water/internet:
- I can use the battery in my Jeep or the Jackery I purchased, which essentially is a big lithium battery I keep in my car for the fridge and electric blanket. I can charge pretty much anything, though the fridge and electric blanket take priority. Everything else usually gets charged at work, however in the situation I need a charge, there is an always on USB-b/c and three-prong outlet in the front of the Jeep.
- For the most part, my battery gets recharged while I’m driving, however if there is a low charge, I mostly charge it while I’m doing laundry, or in rare cases, at work. I have been gifted a solar panel system which does work well, however it’s not something I would like to keep in my car full time unless they were mounted to my roof, but I doubt the ones I’ve been gifted are waterproof.
- Drinking Water:
- I keep a case of Lacroix
- Dish cleanup:
- I have a spray bottle of apple cider vinegar. For oils I have a little soap that I use with the apple cider vinegar, however in freezing temps, the apple cider vinegar will freeze.
- Cooking related:
- I have a plastic Arizona Tea jug that I fill with water once a week. Since, I primarily use this water to cook, I’m not too particular about the source.
- Drinking Water:
- I get by with my phone as a hotspot. If I know I will be off grid, I’ll download whatever I want or need prior.
- I get by with my phone as a hotspot. If I know I will be off grid, I’ll download whatever I want or need prior.
- Place to house dependents:
This is not something I am as interested in, but I do think about it from time to time with one particular person.
I would argue that having a residency, car or house, provides a false sense of security. The biggest difference, is a house is harder to break in than a car, but they can both be broken into.
When it comes to maintaining security while I’m in the car, I personally carry bear spray. I also keep the keys close to my person. In the case of a snooping bear or human, I would press the alarm and drive away, which I have not had to do yet.
If there is a break in while I’m not in the car, with all the stuff that is in there, yes that would suck, however with how much I have tied down or locked away, it would be a challenge for anyone, including myself. In the situation, things are stolen, I do have insurance. Though, other than the overlanding equipment, I don’t keep anything too expensive in my car. The majority of my tech for instance, lives at work. I will admit, it does take a bit of work to separate yourself from your stuff. At this point, the only things that would bother me to lose, is the work that I’ve produced that does not exist in cloud storage. Replacing equipment would actually not be too bad in relation to such an event since I keep paper trails of all my purchases.
If the entirety of the Jeep were successfully stolen, I would not only be surprised that they could drive a manual, but as well as found the tracker. I’ve thought about a kill switch, but I’m still on the fence. In the realm of cars being stolen, one thing to not opt for are “keyless entry” vehicles. Keyless entry is basically a key in which you can keep on your person that will unlock your car if you are in proximately of it. Despite the convenience, the signal emits from your key continuously, which in simple words can be recorded onto a new key, and then used to not only unlock your car, but drive it away.
I know what you are thinking, but like Hope coffee is my life and blood, so I a few things that I do for coffee. I have a plastic cold brew maker, however in early 2021 Panera’s coffee subscription service crossed my feed (🦊👀), which is basically unlimited iced/hot tea for $8.99/month. Also, I am unaware if this is still happening, but the first three months of this subscription was free. Yes, the coffee is not as stellar as it would be making it myself, however the price and time savings (assuming you live near a Panera) is unbeatable. While Panera is my default for coffee, I have cravings for espresso, to the point where the thought about allocating $2500/year to get a latte every day has crossed my mind. However, it is not just $2500. You also need to think about the gains as if I were to invest this money instead, which for example could be worth $40,519.73 at the historical average gain of the S&P 500 (accounting for inflation) if I were to allocate this habit over the course of 10 years with a total spend of $25,000, so I limit my espresso intake. 😅 By the way, some of my favorite latte places locally are the Falls Road General Store (there is something up with the espresso beans they use 🙌🏻) and The Filling Station.
2) Limit Time/Financial Responsibilities
Time and money usually in this particular case go hand in hand. Time is extraordinarily valuable to me and I would like to spend less of it, moving, thinking about, organizing, maintaining, and cleaning a space. I still clean, but clean less space, which largely now consists of a space I drive, seldom eat, and sleep. The more space you have, the more likely you will subconsciously or consciously fill it with furniture. Another thing to consider is with a larger the space, the more expensive it will be to heat and cool it. Also, without needing to clean the bathroom or shower, in which are already accounted for as part of my gym membership, I do not need to buy nor store the cleaning supplies for such maintenances. In regards to the kitchen, my responsibilities are the same. I will be meal prepping and then cleaning afterwards. I do save approximately 5 hours per week, but this isn’t because of this particular life style change.
I’m not as tied down to a particular area nor job. If an opportunity comes up, I can take it at a moment’s notice if needed, however I never was expecting to come across the job I currently have working at 1/ST Technology – PariMAX. It is as if I am dreaming wide awake here 😍 and currently it is checking all my boxes.
Aside from the storage at my parents and my office space at work, I largely have everything on me, so when I want to go for a road trip/hike, the only thing I need to plan for is the where, which I have also already planned way back when I had more free time post-trail. Each green flag is a place, I at some point wanted to go to:
After I’ve visited a place, I will heart it with a comment:
I don’t drink 🍻 very often, but when I do, I know that I can just sleep it off in my car, which for the most part has been a 24-hour garage in Arlington, VA. 😅
4) Financial Benefits
The financial benefits of not having an apartment are more of an added bonus because the financial benefits were not the drive for decision. With how much I’m paying monthly on the car (insurance/gas/maintenance) in addition to the car loan, I’m probably not saving too much money, however if I am still sleeping in the Jeep, after I’ve paid it off, I’d be saving quite a bit, in which I’ll likely be saving for as a down payment towards a construction loan. 🔥 I did need a new car so in a sense, I’m killing two birds with one Jeep. 😅
There is also a noticeable slight difference in stress when it comes to unplanned expenses or wanting to take an opportunity like a commitment to trip invite, but not a complete relief with my attachment to the bank restricting my purchasing power. Thankfully, the rate is below 1.5% so there is no rush to pay that off. Plus, inflation only makes this loan cheaper for me over time. In fact, if I pay off the bare minimum each month for the allocated duration, I actually make money, assuming I am investing and earning more than 1.5% on the extra amount that I would have put towards the loan. I do realize a car is a depreciating asset, however for reasons unknown to me, Jeep Wranglers similar to Toyotas hold their value.
Since, I’m filling a 35 quart fridge/freezer or at least aiming to do so, my grocery bill has gone down, but not drastically, which is likely because I have been buying fancier 😋, easier meals, as well as no longer buying in bulk. To give perspective, I spend between $35-$75/week on groceries. Where you shop is a major factor as well. When I shop at Lidl, it is hard to spend more than $50/week, though easy at Wegmans.
Edit (1.23.22) – I failed to mention, at least in the form of a financial benefit fact that because I have a smaller space, I will naturally collect less stuff. If I purchase something, it will not only need to replace something else, it would also need to have a multipurpose. For example, I needed a pair of pants that I could wear in any circumstance or in any place (no this is not an Ad, but it sounds like one. 😂) After way too much time searching and trying out pants, I settled on Lululemon’s ABC Pant Slim Warpstreme pants, which are designed to be four-way stretch, breathable, quick-drying, smooth to the touch, and wrinkle-resistant, covering all bases to then go down size all my pants to just two pairs. I wear theses mainly to work, but they can be worn rock climbing, snowboarding, backpacking/hiking, running, chilling, and to my surprise while I’m sleeping. While they don’t necessarily look good out, the feel of the pants alone outweighs such discomforts.
5) The Jeep is Rad
Yes, the Jeep and what I’m doing with it is rad, however the inspiration on living out of one of these, came from the YouTuber, venture4wd as I was looking into VanLife way back. However, the Jeep wasn’t the only vehicle that came up on my radar. I had narrowed down this list over a course of four years. I came really close to committing to a Honda Element, but my heart was not into it as much as it was for the Wrangler. I was actually planning on purchasing a Willy’s Wrangler, however as soon as I found out the Rubicon had a factory lift of 2″, I committed to the Rubicon. Lifts are extraordinarily expensive, in the sense that you need to reconfigure several aspects of your vehicle after a lift has been performed. Plus, in most cases, it voids your warranty. In my opinion, the price difference was a no brainer for everything you get. I had also thought about buying a used vehicle, but I don’t have the expertise in determining condition of a vehicle, especially one that is conditioned to be used off-road.
One of the biggest reasons I went with the Jeep was that it could handle any weather on pretty much any road. To my knowledge and research, it is the cheapest new vehicle on the market that has a manual front and rear locking diff (the cheat code in off-roading as someone I met off-road put it). The second reason was the intense number of mods the Jeeps have available, the coolest being an Ursa Minor, which is a top replacement with a pop up tent (that you can stand up in!!!), in which I have made the decision to hold off largely because people would know that I’m sleeping in the vehicle if I had that up outside of a campground, so I would only be able to use it on the weekends, which is currently not worth the price for me. Despite the downsides, I’ll eventually commit. I currently cannot bring anyone else comfortably with me on overnight trips and I’d like to have that ability.
Off-roading was a fascination, but not a focus. I’m not willing to do anything extreme like rock crawling considering the Jeep is also my home, but having the ability to get away from the crowds was important to me.
6) Life is Short
This life style helps me live in the present, which is kind of hard to explain. Life often feels like it is just passing by and in order to slow it down, making it harder has helped. Learning and adapting keeps me on my toes. Plus, waking up in a different place each morning reminds me of trail life. It is certainly not the same magical experience of having everything you need on your person, but it’s as close as I can get on a continuous basis while I’m working.
I have a functional entire habit system for my setup, but mainly due to my privacy, this being a public post, I’m just going to go over the basics. If we have shared a conversation in person, I’m happy to show you the rig and answer any of your questions!
There is a bit of history to this setup. Said, there are two different mind sets for sleeping in your vehicle:
- One who sleeps on top of their stuff – sleep on top system
- One who sleep with their stuff on the side – sleep on side system
I really wanted and tried hard to make the first, sleep on top system work, however due to the tightness, which largely had to do with the roll bar location, I had not previously accounted for and the height of my fridge, living space was minimal, to the point of a claustrophobia like feeling as you can see in the images below:
The image above probably does not look too bad for sleeping, but for anything else like getting out, it was pretty tight. As you can see below, I did try to make it work:
- No need to tie anything down.
- There was enough room for two people to sleep.
- More then enough room to stretch out, with my feet hanging between the two front seats.
- The back had a flip up table at a reasonable height to prep food.
- An intense amount of space to store things and keep them out of sight.
- The fridge and battery system as a unit fit perfectly.
- Could not sit up in efforts to decompress.
- Claustrophobic in terms of living space.
- Could not recline front seats.
- Could not access the Goose Gear Stealth System storage easily.
- Could not get out of car easily.
- When bed was put away, the cushions in which remained on top, were hard to maneuver when accessing the storage underneath as well as the fridge.
- On a flat surface, the bed is tilting slightly towards the back, meaning I needed to actively park somewhere on a downhill slope so I could sleep comfortably.
- I could only sleep with my head towards the back because of the roll bar connection in the center.
To be clear, I’m aware, I could have built my own system for my requirements, but with the amount of time I had allocated, it was cheaper in time (at the time) for planning/research and monies for equipment to find a pre-built system. Plus, as I’ve said previously, one of the reasons I went the Jeep route was because of the extensive amount of after market modifications available. For those of you who are not looking at a Honda Element or Jeep build, there is this guy that does custom vehicle builds that would be a good reference, called “Solid Wood Worx.”
The wood platform move overall for the first setup above, was an unwise one. I made a lot of assumptions that I made before the purchase of my Jeep and overall, while it did fit, it was not the tool for the job. It was also a platform built for another vehicle, which if you are interested in this sleep system (built for the Honda Element), let me know and I’ll sell it to you for it’s listed price (OBO), minus the shipping. The person that makes these is on a one man team, so if you were to purchase this from the website I’ve linked, you’d likely be waiting at least 5 months in the queue and pay about $300 for shipping assuming you are in the Maryland area.
Finally, it got to the point, where I could no longer stand the sleep on top system so I pivoted to a side sleep system, ordering what I needed to contain the fridge and stove in a secure place, as well as a surface to prep on. Said, I picked the easy, but expensive option.
Because most of Goose Gear’s systems are modular, I did not need to drill any holes since the plate system I had installed already had the holes predrilled. Speaking of which, since I am partly sleeping on my storage via the Goose Gear plate sleep system, this setup is technically a combination of the sleep on top and sleep on side system.
By the way, the boxes that the Goose Gear Camp Kitchen 2.3 came in, served a perfect storage container for my back seats.
This is not my full setup in the sense I’m missing the tie down straps and battery in the photo, however this is generally how a side sleep system works:
In fact, this is what I see every morning, when I wake up in that full setup:
- Living Space where decompressing comes naturally.
- Storage access is a non-issue.
- I’ve been using the fridge slider contained box as a night stand for that living space.
- The fridge slider is securely mounted to the floor and moves with vehicle.
- The system was tested and created for a Jeep Wrangler.
- None of the cons for the previous setup are cons for this setup.
- Fridge is easier to access, now that it can slide out of my vehicle while still attached to my vehicle, and on a hill if I choose to because of its locking mechanism.
- There is a place for everything, kind of storage space, which is nice when looking for particular items.
- I need to tie down everything – This prevents my death during a crash.
- The fridge is tied down with four 700 lb. straps (fridge slider doesn’t have a back)
- The battery on top of the fridge slider is also strapped with a 700 lb. strap.
- There isn’t room for two people to sleep comfortably.
- I’ve actually been able to hook up a hammock horizontally between the front and back of my roll bars for that second person.
- Less sleep space, but nothing that prevents REM at 5’11”.
- Less storage space
- Not that I did this often in the previous setup, but I need to be outside of the car to access the fridge.
Overall, I am happy with this current setup, however if you know of any mods that would allow me to move the passenger seat up any further than it can already go up stock, I would love to know about it.
This seems like a good place to put this since it relates to my now current lifestyle and direction. So, as my close friends already know, Hope and I split, which thus far put simply, feels empty. Largely, we made this move because we realized we were holding each other back, not only with interests, but in directional growth. I was a firm believer that if I committed to someone I could not only grow with physically, but mentally as well as emotionally, despite the different paths we took, we would be fulfilled in our relationship, however there is a finite amount of time in this life and neither of us wants to resent the other later for not taking the time to fully follow through on our separate interest paths. Speaking of which, Hope and I actually want similar things in life, though on different time lines. Hope is interested in settling down soon and I am more interested in that life style when I retire, tying into holding one another back. Now, if we had both wanted children, I don’t have a doubt in my mind that we’d already have plans in place for a house, however likely to the discomfort of my parents who are extraordinarily fond of Hope, know, if not now, that the traditional lifestyle is not for me.
All this said, we are still each other’s best friend, and I am sure we will remain close as we grow our different directions.
As for the blog, Hope will remain to be in my blogs until I’ve run out of places I’ve visited with her that I wish to document in future blogs, but it is safe to assume all of them will be previous to 2022.
By the way, the number of times I’ve used the words, “however”, “though”, and “but” is staggering. I can’t un-see this. 😅 I should really get a handle on my conjunctions, or better yet my grammar in general. 😅