backchannel: “not what I signed up for”

There have been a rash of vandwellers bailing out of the vans and into sticks-and-bricks housing.  This could be a wise move for urban stealthers but might be counterproductive for boondockers.

Here is the text of a reddit post I made in response:


This is about my choices/preferences and how they have aligned with the present situation. I am not talking about the choices of others.

I am a full-time boondockerI designed my van around continual 14-day offgrid excursions because that’s the most common length of stay on public lands, and I needed to retire on the cheap if I was going to retire early. It turns out 14 day solo excursions work nicely as serial self-quarantines whether one needs them or not. A boondocker might pick up the bug while reprovisioning, but has no one to pass it onto during incubation or illness.

My build has copious solar, more water than 95% of vans (fresh water tank from a Class C), and I positively enjoy things like cooking dry beans in the pressure cooker or sprouting pulses for fresh food. I was a literal Eagle Scout, fer pete’s sake. Doing things minimally and from scratch is fun for me. <–dork. I am presently camped near the NV/UT border, not too far from Grand Canyon NP. This is the view from my office. :-) The fresh water tank is nearly full but there is a river about a quarter mile away down the hill. And, yes, this boy scout planned ahead for several methods for disinfecting water for drinking.

IMO a pandemic affects off-grid folks less than people who require more frequent contact with the infrastructure or people. The main impact on my life has been increased handwashing and standing further from people when I am (infrequently) around them. I didn’t build the van for emergencies but the ability to bug out has always been on my list of vandwelling benefits.

Hopefully this emergency will inspire the public to prepare with materials and skills before the next emergency. I am not encouraging everyone to wear the hair shirt of boondocking – I am encouraging people:

  • to consider how their build and skill choices intersect with emergency scenarios - how much water will you need? How will you store and cook food? How much power will you need?

  • to continue their van build progress

  • and I encourage people who are boondocking-curious to get started on getting away from people :-)

TL:DR – you don’t have to live off grid, but being able to live off-grid is a useful tool in the emergency toolkit.