Should You Be Worried by Van Life Horror Stories?


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On Instagram, van life looks like a picture-perfect adventure filled with warm drinks, Patagonia sweaters, and forecasts of perpetual sunshine. However, with cases like the murder of Gabby Petito making it into mainstream news, the scarier side of van life is getting more attention. Ranging from bed bug infestations to tragic endings, the van life horror stories can be quite concerning for those wanting to venture out. 

You shouldn’t be worried by van life horror stories; however, you should use them to plan ahead for your build and itinerary. Van life is more enjoyable when you take the time to prepare the van for travel, protect yourself from burglars, and ask any companions some tough questions beforehand.

In this article, you will read about the most common frights that van-dwellers have experienced and how to do what you can to avoid having any horror stories of your own. Read on to learn how to ensure your own van life is an adventurer’s fairytale!


Protect Your Van From Pests and Other Creepy Crawlies

Bedbugs. Fleas. Mice. Ants. These are just a few of the uninvited houseguests (van-guests?) that love nothing more than to get cozy in your little nest on wheels. 

It’s extremely easy for these tiny critters to get into the van you call home, especially if you’re living in an older model. That’s why stories of people waking up to thousands of ants on the walls of their van or covered in bed bug sores are so common. 

Preventing an Infestation From Occurring

The best offense is a good defense when it comes to pests. When building your van, you’ll want to do the following:

  1. Investigate the entire outside of the van for any points of entry to the inside. Check every single window and door, under the hood, under the chassis, and along the walls for cracks or holes. 
  2. Fill any points of entry with an appropriate seal for that location. This might be foam under the hood and rope caulk in the doors. You will want to assess each point of entry separately to avoid accidentally clogging pipes with spray foam.
  3. Repeat steps one and two for the entire inside of the van. Adding magnetic mosquito mesh to windows and doors is a great pest control tactic for the inside of a van.

Once the build is done, there are additional maintenance measures for your van to keep critters out. In addition to checking the points of entry often, you will also want to:

  1. Clean up every single day. I don’t mean that you have to always put your laundry away the day you get it back to the van. However, always clean up any food spills or dishes in the sink. The smells are a beacon to critters on the outside. 
  2. Store your food in airtight containers. This is a gamechanger, especially for keeping mice away. This OXO Good Grip Set from Amazon.com is my go-to for van life. Don’t let its price scare you away; you get ten high-quality pieces in this set, and they’re worth every penny. 
  3. Use strong (but yummy) smells in your van. My favorites are citrus smells, such as lemon or orange. These odors do a great job at repelling mice and insects because, you know, science.

Install a Fort Knox-Worthy Alarm System in Your Van

Now that you are fully protected against nature’s stowaways, your van needs protection from bigger pests. Namely, humans trying to break into your van. 

Hopefully, anyone breaking in is just hoping to score a wallet or some cash, but it’s way better not to meet long enough to find out their reasons. An aftermarket alarm system is the best way to go about scaring off any bad guys.

Choosing an Alarm System

There are a few things I never cheap out on: 

  • My bed
  • My shoes
  • My safety

I will forever buy everything else from second-hand sources and then spend the big bucks on these three things, and for van life, that means investing in a good alarm system. 

City van-dwellers are especially going to want to install an alarm. Arming your van should be a bigger purchase since it could potentially be something that saves your life. I chose a high-end system and had it professionally installed before I ever left my driveway.

2 Way LCD Vehicle Car Alarm
  • Works from a far distance.
  • 2 way remote is a great way to just check if you locked your car or forgot, just look at the remote to make sure it's locked.
If you make a purchase, you support Hi-van.com by allowing me to earn an affiliate commission (no added cost for you).

A brand that has earned a lot of consumer trust is Viper. One of their most popular alarms is the Viper 5305V 2 Way System from Amazon.com. In addition to its safety features, it also features remote start-up and keyless entry alarm features. 

If you plan to live your van life in the middle of nowhere, then a siren might not be the most important part of an alarm system. To ensure safety when no one is around to hear an alarm, you will want to pick something with GPS tracking.

2021 Positive GPS Tracker
  • Simple to use | Email & Text Alerts | Geofences | 4G LTE
  • Computer, Phone, or Tablet | Great for GPS tracking of assets, inventory, and vehicles | Compact Size


If you make a purchase, you support Hi-van.com by allowing me to earn an affiliate commission (no added cost for you).

I am usually one to get as far away from civilization as I can, so this Positive GPS tracker from Amazon.com has helped me sleep soundly at night. It’s simple to use, requires no contract, and doesn’t charge any cancellation fees. Additionally, it has unlimited 4G LTE data.

More info: I created more guide about safety during van life:
Is living in a van dangerous? A safety guide for newbies
Is Van Life Dangerous? Safety Tips


Gain Insight on Everyone’s Reasons for Choosing Van Life

Before leaving, you will want to talk through your and your companions’ reasons for making this leap. This can be the hardest part of looking out for your safety before pursuing van life. No one wants to believe that their friend or partner is capable of harm, but this is still a step not to be skipped. 

First, look inward. Why are you attracted to this type of life? If it’s the thrill of adventure and the freedom of being on the road, then full steam ahead!

However, if you detect some sadness or desire to escape some present circumstances, then it might be a good idea to hold off and work through those feelings first. 

Van life might still be a great future for you, but it will not solve all of the mental health problems that you might be trying to avoid dealing with at home. 

Next, look to any companions if you have any. This is particularly the case with couples since van life can be very attractive to someone who is already trying to isolate their partner. If you think there could be even one red flag that your partner has controlling behavior, it could justify not getting in the van with them.

According to Psychology Today, if your partner uses physical force, finances, guilt, emotional harm, etc., to manipulate you in any way, then this is cause for concern. Check out the full article for the complete list of controlling behaviors to watch for in a relationship. 

This is especially tough because it can be really hard to see warning signs beforehand, and sometimes there is nothing to see. However, this is just generally true of relationships and is not something unique to van life. 


Final Thoughts

For every horror story you hear about van life, there are about 100 happy ones. Most of the community is filled with fun-loving, free-spirited folks who just don’t want to be tied down to a permanent address.

Of course, keep your safety as your number one priority whether you live in a castle, a shoe, or a van. Be extra cautious before stepping on the gas for your van life but don’t let fear stop you from living your dream and seeing the world!


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Here are some of my favorite van life essentials:

Thank you for reading this article. I hope you found it helpful as you’re experiencing your life on the road. Here are some tools and gadgets I use on a daily basis that made my van life a lot easier. I hope you’ll also find them as useful as me. These are affiliate links, so if you do decide to purchase any of them, I’ll earn a commission.
But in all honesty, these are the exact tools that I use and recommend to everyone, even my closest friends and family.

Kitchen: I’m cooking a lot and I’ve finally found my perfect cookware set: The Magma Cookware 10 Pcs that you can nests and store in less than 1/2 cubic foot of cabinet space is really handy. Since I’m also spending a lot of time working at my desk, I use my favorite coffee mug from Yeti. For more, check my list of kitchen accessories I can’t live without.

Outdoor: Even though I’m spending a lot of time in my van working, I do enjoy getting out and explore my ever-changing neighborhood. This sometimes requires me to take my portable solar battery with me. And when I just want to chill outside and take a nap, I use the Winner Outfitters Hammock.

Clean/Tidy: Space is precious and therefore I used these heavy-duty storage bins from Homs to store my material. They’re robust and you can stack them together. Regarding showering, I like to use this portable solar shower from Advanced Elements when it’s hot outside.

To see all of my most up-to-date recommendations about van life, check out this resource that I made for you!

Martin

As an independent traveler, I try to share my positive and negative observations about van life as well as tips and tricks to make your life on the road easier. I travel and work in my old RV and would greatly appreciate a coffee from you if you find my content useful.

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