giving up on /r/vandwellers

I’ve mentioned a couple of times that the /r/vandwellers subreddit has bloated beyond recognition, and beyond usability. This is largely a function of youtube and instagram influencers pushing hashtag-#vanlife.

Here are the immediate problems as I see them:

  1. the vast majority have never slept a night in a vehicle. Many have never camped away from a home.
  2. this vanless majority exerts, by their overwhelming numbers, an undue influence on up/downvoting posts and comments. Pic of girl doing yoga in a weekending van her dad built? +1000 upvotes. Pic of feet near ocean? +340 upvotes. Insightful troubleshooting of real world vandwelling issue by experienced vandwellers? +3 upvotes.
  3. new folks want to be spoonfed, and will not read the FAQ or search prior discussions. This was manageable before readership exploded. Now repetitive and/or low-effort posts dominate the discussion. Shitpost avalanche.
  4. in 2020 the group started to shift toward outsourced van builds. This results in people not understanding how their systems work.
  5. on a personal note, users started bombarding me with direct messages. I find 1-to-1 discussions to be wastes of time, as they there is no one available to fact-check or qualify, and there is only one person who can benefit. I would rather spend an hour working on an answer than help a dozen people rather than just one.

Have you ever worked retail or food service? If so, you know the relentlessness of the general public’s ignorance. Helping in /r/vandwellers felt like working retail, only you’re not getting paid for it. Before it ballooned the readership was more a special interest group more than the general public.

what I tried

I started marking users in Reddit Enhancement Suite with labels that reminded me who was worth the time and who was a chronic (to to speak) dreamer with no sense. I might answer an apparently low-effort poster once, but definitely not twice.

I turned off direct messages.

I documented common answers in the RVwiki and pointed people there.

I did searches for people and pasted the links in.

I stopped reading the subreddit as a whole and started looking more specifically at topics where I could contribute (canned searches reverse sorted by time).

When these failed to stem the tsunami of repetitive requests for spoonfeeding I stopped trying to tread water. They can succeed or fail on their own merit. The information is out there if they want it.

advice to the moderators of /r/vandwelling

Clean up the FAQ, adding navigable subsections. Right now it is impossible to link into the FAQ.

Remove one of the two ridiculous pinned topics and pin a top post pointing to the FAQ and other resources. This will likely require overthrowing the absentee subreddit creator, who wants the ridiculous pinned topics.

advice to the readers of /r/vandwelling

  1. ease up on the bong
  2. read the FAQ
  3. search the group before asking your question - it’s probably been covered dozens of times already
  4. stop thinking like an apartment dweller - there is no limitless power, water, or sewer in a van. You are the utilities.
  5. have a mechanic inspect the van before buying it
  6. the build 1. do your needs analysis (AC and DC, night and day) in a DIY spreadsheet and design your system around meeting those needs and fully charging your battery bank. Doing your own spreadsheet will force you to understand the math, Ohm’s Law, etc. 2. buy and install components based on the design.
    3. do your own build so you know where stuff is, how it works, why it is there, etc
  7. you probably need more charging power than you think (whether more panel, isolator, shore, generator, whatever)
  8. learn how to fully charge your batteries to battery manufacturer setpoints. This is pretty easy for lithium. Folks with lead banks will need to fully charge daily as a normal thing, and really need to understand endAmps and what they are for your bank.
    1. If you’re hitting endAmps your battery is fully charged.
    2. If you’re not hitting endAmps your battery is not fully charged. 3. If you don’t know if you’re hitting endAmps you don’t know if your battery is fully charged (and it probably isn’t)
  9. no, you can’t park in the walmart parking lot for a month
  10. read this jeremiad of beginner mistakes


/r/ActualVandwellers is tiny and may never reach critical mass. We’ll see.