12 Tips for Living Out of Your Car

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If you need knowledge, read a book. If you want to really know something, experience is the best teacher.

When it comes to living out of your car, the best advice is going to come from people who have actually done it for more than just a week or two. Your vehicle will provide shelter from the weather, lodging, kitchen and eating facilities, and, of course, transportation. No matter how you look at it, living out of your car is going to be a challenge.

Before taking the plunge, if you have time, try living in your car or van for a week or two. There isn’t anything better to try out in reality what you’ve imagined only in theory! The following tips come from two people, a single man and a single woman, who have lived out of their cars or vans for long periods of time and made it a lifestyle.

Image: vehicle with tent, Jeep with tent

Here are some tips for living out of your car

  • Add a flip-up roof vent to the van, if that’s what you have. Heating/cooking with propane produces water as a byproduct. The vent will get rid of the interior water buildup. It will also exhaust hot air in the warmer parts of the year. A solar-powered fan in the vent is even better.
  • Solar film on the windows keeps things private, but you need a blackout curtain to keep light from being seen at night. I used a denim tube and lined it with high-density foam, hung from wire springs on both the top and bottom of the tube curtain. The curtain needs to cover the whole window. It provides a bit of insulation, too.
  • Never park in the same place twice in the same week. Stay away from other parkers in the same situation. Parking around 24-hour biz is better than residential areas. Apartment complexes offer a degree of stealth street parking due to the high turnover of tenants and friends, NOT in their parking lot, however! Same for 24-hour grocery stores.
  • Sometimes your employer will let you park behind the biz if you’re a good employee and they want to help you out. That’s always a personal call that depends on the boss’s personality and the particular job. Sometimes it’s better the boss doesn’t know your situation.
  • Rent a mini-storage cubicle with 24-hour access for your spill-over and items that might be stolen from your vehicle. If you’re a customer, you have bathroom privileges.
  • Organize, organize, organize! Have a place for everything and keep everything in its place. In addition to your sleeping items, you will need a carry-on style suitcase for clothes, a laundry bag for clothes pending a trip to the laundry (with air freshener), a “chuck box” (your car camping kitchen supplies), water storage container and a cup/water bottle, a toolbox, a briefcase organizer for paperwork, a box with your camping supplies, a toiletry case (with towel, washcloths, shampoo, soap/shower gel, hairbrush, other hygiene supplies), flashlight/LED lamp and candles.
  • Keep toiletries and a plastic mirror in a separate bag or small backpack for convenience and discretion. If you add a collapsible basin you can fill it with hot water and go into a large bathroom stall to clean up and change. Remember to keep a separate plastic bag for wet items.
  • If you find a place to set up a base camp of sorts (esp in an out of the way wooded area) you can be semipermanent.  Private property will provide legal security. In this case, you can set up a tarp/hammock (super comfortable), and rig up some more homelike comforts (potty/shower stall, etc).
  • Making a mini-rocket stove and having a shelter makes cooking easier, provides a way to heat water for cleaning up (a copper coil heater in a large bucket can heat while one is cooking or making a campfire to warm up for the evening.
  • A folding, hanging shower stall and a shower bag with nozzle make for a hot shower even in freezing cold, and one can get dry and re-dressed before even feeling cold. For a floor, a baby inflatable 1-ring mini pool makes a perfect showerpan floor and warmly cleans your feet as you shower. Otherwise, use something else to keep your feet off the ground.
  • If you really do decide to build yourself a camp, Home depot always has free 4′ wooden pallet supports that you can combine to make floor decking, a table/shower/kitchen setup, frames or bench. Lowe’s usually doesn’t keep things long enough for you to get them.
  • A tarp canopy can be set up to double as a water catchment system. You can secure potable water other ways. When in a store/cafe one can also put a collapsible water container in a backpack and fill it with hot water in a restroom for use after you leave.
  • Oatmeal, dehydrated meals, fresh vegetables, soups and small cuts of meat are easy to cook w ith just hot water and a pot. We are fortunate to have access to dollar stores for a lot of cost-effective variety and options. Note: Large reclosable Monster cans are the easiest for quickly bringing 3 cups of water to a boil, and can last weeks before giving out.
  • Always use window shades in your car for privacy. It also helps minimize some radiant cold and heat.
  • Whenever possible, secure reasonable supplies of paper-goods. Newspaper is a good insulator (e.g., next to the drafty door panel at night or under your sleeping bag if you are using a hammock) and super fire tinder. Cardboard box pieces can be cut into strips and coiled up into a can for a good Sterno-substitution (esp if you pour melted candle wax over the coil). Even used cups can be turned into fire starters, and tissues, paper towels/ TP are multipurpose.
  • A solar charger for cell phone/computer is a real lifesaver for times when you do not have access or choose to not go to a cafe.
  • I have a canopy area over my brick fire pit/rocket stove (got them free on CL as well as materials for a solar oven and parabolic cooker) that also serves as a carport (and water catchment system that drains via water chain into a large bucket).
  • Staying warm and eating a warm meal morning and evening make all the difference in colder climate winters. Summer heat, on the other hand, is best handled by well-ventilated sleeping, cool baths/showers, and good hydration.There are plenty of places to stay cool during the day. In very cold weather you can preheat your sleeping bag with a bottle of hot water. By the time you need a drink, it will have cooled.
  • In warm weather, raise your tarp sides to allow more ventilation and funnel breezes. The colder it is the more you want the tarp to morph into a cocoon shape, closing ends to stop wind or blowing precipitation. Lowering the tarp sides forms an acute angle that minimizes precipitation build-up on your tarp walls (and less chance for damage by heavy rain/sleet/hail).  In a blizzard or heavy snow, you will wake up surprisingly warm as you end up with a lovely insulated igloo effect with natural snow walls on the lower half (at least) of your tarp cocoon. Below your hammock will be pristine ground. In the event of torrential rain, any water will be on the ground and not in your sleeping bag as you would have with tent and ground camping.I once awoke with 12″ of water under me. My feet got wet walking out but I was well above the flash flood water line and awoke dry — just rolled up the pant legs and carried my dry shoes out with me. I keep them in a zipped homemade gear-bag that hangs on the ridgeline of my tarp.When car camping, secure a car cover or tarp over you in really bad weather. In addition to insulating and giving better privacy, the covering keeps your car snow/ice-free and prepped for rapid travel if needed.
  • Keep windows open a little bit when your car is covered. While no car is actually airtight you will feel better with more air circulation, and will minimize condensation.Whenever outside, I sleep in my hammock (it has a tarp covering around it, too), otherwise, in the car with my favorite pillow and sleeping bag. I have slept in both my car and more so my hammock through hurricanes, blizzards, tornadic cells (oops, that was a surprise), 106 degree heat, and 5 degree cold plus 50 mph winds. There are different hammock/tarp configurations for as many weather patterns. I have honestly never been wet or cold. Sometimes it has been uncomfortably warm yet bug-free thanks to the integrated no-seeum netting on my hammock.Insulate under your sleeping bag (thick newspaper or foam pad/thin air mattress)  and hang a separate layer under your hammock as a waterproofer and insulator. In  cooler weather, always keep woolen socks, hat (buff, beanie or balaclava) and gloves in your sleeping bag as well as thermal pants and a sweatshirt to sleep in. Never go to bed dirty.
  • Candles have come into disfavor as a safety hazard. Presuming you are an adult, use your best judgment. For the past 20 years I have had a hanging candle lantern with an added rear reflector that I adore. It adds safety and light…The melted wax is added to coiled cardboard in pop cans for quick fire starters. Energy efficient LED lights are an excellent and inexpensive option to candles. For people choosing to park in a Walmart or other lot, you will generally be trying to KEEP OUT the light at night.
  • A health club membership is a golden ticket for street living. You can shower, steam, and work out, too. Municipal indoor pools are good, too. Learn to bathe in a sink, as in sponge baths. Always clean up your mess!
  • A private mailbox that provides a street address (not a Post Office box) makes you look more like someone with a real address. This comes into play for drivers licenses, state ID cards, car insurance, job applications, etc.
  • A pay-as-you-go cell phone provides a telephone for job calls and if you need emergency services.
  • Try to find an apartment manager job if you have good people skills and some simple maintenance experience. The local Apartment Association may offer training so you can get that job. Once you’re in, you’re in for life. They like peeps that have experience, so this is the route in. Much easier if you’re a couple. Mini-storage management is even better. Usually, small buildings only trade an apartment and light housekeeping duties for your time. You will need to work part-time to pay the bills.
  • A portable CD player with a radio is very handy for entertainment and news if you have to live out of your car.
  • Most libraries have computer access. If you have a wireless laptop, then those businesses that let you surf on their wi-fi connection for a cup of coffee are helpful, too.
  • Always dress and act middle class or better. The way you look determines how the police will handle you when they come calling. That’s when not if.
  • Don’t think you are depression proof. Plan ahead for hard times and practice. You won’t be disappointed. Living hand to mouth eventually gives you a can-do attitude that can be a lifesaver.  Even if you have to give up your home, you will still have one.
Don't think you are depression proof. Plan ahead for hard times and practice. You won't be disappointed. Click To Tweet

This advice came from webbee, over on Survivalist Boards who granted his permission to re-post it here and Survivor Mama, who left a lengthy comment to this post that was so valuable it was incorporated into this advice.

Additional information

If there is even a chance that you may be living in your car, being prepared is essential. Two of the most common reasons to evacuate your home are flood and fire. Could you and everyone in your home, pets included, get out fast when it matters most? Have you thought ahead to where you would go and do you have some funds set aside to pay for meals? Learn how to get yourself ready to evacuate in cases of a flood or fire.

Could your family evacuate in 30 minutes? Here is an assignment that you can do together as a family this week. See how close you are to doing it within 30 minutes. Read these steps to get your evacuation plan streamlined and speedy. Preparing your evacuation plan can be done in five simple steps.

Have you thought of the different ways to get out of your town? If your usual road is flooded, your second choice is destroyed, how do you leave? Your ideal evacuation route, first of all, should include more than one route. Read about how to plan to safely evacuate your town.

12 Tips For Living Out of Your Car via The Survival Mom

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I'm the original Survival Mom, and have been helping moms worry less and enjoy their homes and families more for 9 years.

56 thoughts on “12 Tips for Living Out of Your Car”

  1. Lots of great tips there. For more info along these lines, there's a site that has articles from people who have lived in their vehicles either due to financial issues or just by choice. I check in for the good ideas. I should add that I'm in no way affiliated with the site, just an irregular reader. http://www.cheaprvliving.com/

    Steelheart

  2. Yeah, motels and hotels are a good place to park (and safer than some sidestreet). When they are busy, one can go in and use the restroom or get a free com breakfast.

  3. We're blessed to have a paid off mini van and pop up camper. Just wondering how long that canvass will last??? I do have a tent repair kit in the camper to keep things patched up!

  4. I lived in the parking lot of my job for the (3) three week I worked there. Then I found a room to rent with a guy that worked in another dept.
    Joe R

  5. Back in my road warrior days I sought out church parking lots as safe overnight parking places on my frequent cross-country travels. An occasional welcome bonus was the offer of a home-cooked meal, pleasant conversation, a warm shower, a bed for the night and prayers for continuing on a safe journey. Almost as good as being at home.

  6. I used to use fairly heavy screen spline to hold the top and sides of the screen material in the groove the glass rolls up in and only had to tape the bottom – worked great even in the mosquito months in the Everglades.

  7. Hospitals are also a great place to use, open 24/7 have clean bathrooms and cafeterias. Also easy to come up with a excuse why you are there. Just lay low, be quiet and respectful, don't ask the staff for anything. And don't overstay your welcome. Leave right away if you are asked to. And probably stay away from the ER parking as it is checked the most often, and employee parking.

    1. I used a couple 4×6 rugs over the windows. I could move them around as needed.Good sin shades. And they breath.

  8. casinos with parking garages are another good place to spend the night. They have washroom facilities and you can hangout and enjoy the ambiance.

  9. I spent years living in my 62 VW van as a result of economic circumstances, here are some pointers.
    1. Keep your car clean, looking respectable and well maintained.
    2. Insulate with space blankets and as many wool blankets you can fit behind the interior paneling.
    3. Avoid clutter, only have with you what you need for that night, caveat, have a storage unit if you are centered in a geographic region.
    4. Wash your bedding and clothes every week, never wear the same thing twice.
    5. Vent your vehicle daily, the stench of stuffy, dirty will build up fast, and is hard to clean out.
    6. Never use anything other than plain neutral colored fabric as an exterior curtain, beer ads, sports banners, anything with text, logos, banners, patterns, will draw negative attention.
    7. Layer your curtains; plain neutral colors for the viewing public, insulating layers of wool, thermal curtain backing to keep your heat in.
    8. Law enforcement encounters: should be a no brainer, Be respectful, compliant, and, if you followed the above, they will be respectful to you for being” Clean, Quite, and Low Key”. One may need state that as their intent. In short, you don’t want them to haul you away, and you don’t want them to have reason to come pay you a visit when they have some down time.

  10. Having spent the better part of 5 years “adventuring”, including during graduate school at a very prestigious University, I have mastered year round hammock camping as well as living in (1) a van, and (2) a subcompact car. Vans are preferable. Honda Civics are more challenging. Having a storage place (I have a shed at a family member’s property) is also helpful. While Walmart dry camping or in a corner parking lot with a car cover are options, finding a private place to set up a mini-campground is a great addition to either vehicular living option.

    Here are a few tips:

    a. Organize, organize, organize! Have a place for everything and keep everything in its place. In addition to your sleeping items, you will need a carry-on style suitcase for clothes, a laundry bag for clothes pending a trip to the laundry (with air freshener), a “chuck box” (your car camping kitchen supplies), water storage container and a cup/water bottle, a tool box, a briefcase organizer for paperwork, a box with your camping supplies, a toiletry case (with towel, washcloths, shampoo, soap/shower gel, hairbrush, other hygiene supplies), flashlight/LED lamp and candles.

    b. Keep toiletries and a plastic mirror in a separate bag or small backpack for convenience and discretion. If you add a collapsible basin you can fill it with hot water and go into a large bathroom stall to clean up and change. Remember to keep a separate plastic bag for wet items.

    c. If you find a place to set up a base camp of sorts (esp in an out of the way wooded area) you can be semipermanent. Private property will provide legal security. In this case, you can set up a tarp/hammock (super comfortable), and rig up some more homelike comforts (potty/shower stall, etc).

    d. Making a mini-rocket stove and having a shelter makes cooking easier, provides a way to heat water for cleaning up (a copper coil heater in a large bucket can heat while one is cooking or making a campfire to warm up for the evening.

    e. A folding, hanging shower stall and a shower bag with nozzle makes for a hot shower even in freezing cold, and one can get dry and re-dressed before even feeling cold. For a floor, a baby inflatable 1-ring mini pool makes a perfect showerpan floor and warmly cleans your feet as you shower. Otherwise, use something else to keep your feet off the ground.

    f. If you really do decide to build yourself a camp, Home depot always has free 4′ wooden pallet supports that you can combine to make floor decking, a table/shower/kitchen setup, frames or bench. Lowe’s usually doesn’t keep things long enough for you to get them.

    g. Water: A tarp canopy can be set up to double as a water cachement system. You can secure potable water other ways. When in a store/cafe one can also put a collapsible water container in a backpack and fill it with hot water in a restroom for use after you leave.

    h. Cooking: Oatmeal, dehydrated meals, fresh vegetables, soups and small cuts of meat are easy to cook with just hot water and a pot. We are fortunate to have access to dollar stores for a lot of cost-effective variety and options. Note: Large reclosable Monster cans are the easiest for quickly bringing 3 cups of water to a boil, and can last weeks before giving out.

    i. Always use window shades in your car for privacy. It also helps minimize some radiant cold.

    j. Whenever possible, secure reasonable supplies of paper-goods. Newspaper is a good insulator (e.g., nest to the drafty door panel at night or under your sleeping bag if you are using a hammock) and super fire tinder. Cardboard box pieces can be cut into strips and coiled up into a can for a good sterno-substitution (esp if you pour melted candle wax over the coil). Even used cups can be turned into fire starters, and tissues, paper towels/ TP are multipurpose.

    k. A solar charger for cell phone/computer is a real lifesaver for times when you do not have access for choose to go to a cafe.

    l. I have a canopy area over my brick fire pit/rocket stove (got them free on CL as well as materials for a solar oven and parabolic cooker) that also serves as a carport (and water cachement system that drains via water chain into a large bucket) .

    m. temperature control: Staying warm and eating a warm meal morning and evening make all the difference in colder climate winters. Summer heat, on the other hand, is best handled by well ventilated sleeping, cool baths/showers, and good hydration. There are plenty of places to stay cool during the day. n very cold weather you can preheat your sleeping bag with a bottle of hot water. By the time you need a drink, it will have cooled. In warm weather, raise your tarp sides to allow more ventilation and funnel breezes. The colder it is the more you want the tarp to morph into a cocoon shape, closing ends to stop wind or blowing precipitation. Lowering the tarp sides forms an acute angle that minimizes precip build-up on your tarp walls (and less chance for damage by heavy rain/sleet/hail). In a blizzard or heavy snow, you will wake up surprisingly warm as you end up with a lovely insulated igloo effect with natural snow walls on the lower half (at least) of your tarp cocoon. Below your hammock will be pristine ground. In the event of torrential rain, any water will be on the ground and not in your sleeping bag as you would have with tent and ground camping…I once awoke with 12″ of water under me. My feet got wet walking out but I was well above the flash flood water line and awoke dry — just rolled up the pant legs and carried my dry shoes out with me. I keep them in a zipped homemade gear-bag that hangs on the ridge line of my tarp. When car camping, secure a car cover or tarp over you in really bad weather. In addition to insulating and giving better privacy, the covering keeps your car snow/ice free and prepped for rapid travel if needed.

    n.Sleeping Options: Keep windows open a little bit when your car is covered. While no car is actually airtight you will feel better with more air circulation, and will minimize condensation.
    Whenever outside, I sleep in my hammock (it has a tarp covering around it, too), otherwise, in the car with my favorite pillow and sleeping bag. I have slept in both my car and moreso my hammock through hurricanes, blizzards, tornadic cells (oops, that was a surprise), 106 degree heat, and 5 degree cold plus 50 mph winds. There are different hammock/tarp configurations for as many weather patterns. I have honestly never been wet or cold. Sometimes it has been uncomfortably warm yet bug-free thanks to the integrated no-seeum netting on my hammock. Insulate under your sleeping bag (thick newspaper or foam pad/thin air mattress) and hang a separate layer under your hammock as a waterproofer and insulator. In cooler weather, always keep woolen socks, hat (buff, beanie or balaclava) and gloves in your sleeping bag as well as thermal pants and a sweatshirt to sleep in. Never go to bed dirty. I

    n. Lighting: candles have come into disfavor as a safety hazard. Presuming you are an adult, use your best judgment. FOr the past 20 yrs I have had a hanging candle lantern with an added rear reflector that I adore. It adds safety and light…The melted wax is added to coiled cardboard in pop cans for quick fire starters. Energy efficient LED lights are an excellent and inexpensive option to candles. For people choosing to park in a Walmart or other lot, you will generally be trying to KEEP OUT the light at night.

    Why the alternative lifestyle? I have been homeless for financial reasons in the past and came to learn that I actually enjoy self-sufficiency. I get excited when the hardware store gives me 100 8′ 2x4s they were going to throw out…and I use them to make things for my “retreat”. I recently built a wooden deck floor and fire reflector short wall, a bench, and a separate full shower stall/potty/changing room (wood framed with tarp walls and tented top secured to a tree branch) next to my tarp shelter and ‘carport’ area. I am an otherwise mainstream healthcare professional. No one associated with work knows how or where I live. Divorced rom my ex-husband, my money ultimately gets invested in my now adult children. They seem to have many more needs than I. Once in a while, when I can get a great deal (less than 50% rate) on a discounting site for my favorite hotel, I treat myself to a few days of a kingsized bed, thermostatic heat, hot water on demand, free breakfast buffet and all the other accouterments. That is when I do the extra things like deep condition my hair, do my nails, iron my lab coats and dress shirts, work out until I am a sweaty mess 🙂 then go shower and do my hair, etc. It is important that people who live in their vehicles stay organized, maintain excellent hygiene, and maintain a positive attitude. Appreciating what we have is a great blessing.

    1. I thought that the whole time that you were a male. The building things and so on just make me think a man the whole time. I’m going on the road myself because I need to leave.

    2. Gabriel Elkind

      I also assumed you were male, then immediately felt terrible about it. There’s no reason to assume that because one is adventurous, minimalist, and constructive that they are a man. Some of the most people I know are women. You are incredible and these are some extremely helpful tips. Thanks 🙂

  11. Pingback: Even if you aren’t living in a car, you need to read these terrific survival tips! | Emergency Survival Network

  12. Here’s a little hint from someone who’s CURRENTLY homeless, and who used to drive a long haul truck: Stores like Walmart, that have “supercenters” all along the highway, are considered “Safe Havens”. They receive subsidization from the Federal government and the USDOT to offer up their parking lot for “weary travelers”. Basically the DOT doesn’t want a bunch of tired truck drivers and travelers falling asleep at the wheel, so they struck a deal with truck stops and large stores (like Wally world) with locations all over to allow drivers a place to get off the road and rest without fear of trespassing or being in an unsafe area. I’ve come across a couple Walmarts where they posted signs that said “no overnight parking”, and had security harassing people, but they were always located away from a major highway and in a shopping center complex with multiple other businesses (meaning the property was leased and not owned by the Walmart). I’ve heard however of one person fighting this, and he won due to a proviso that renting to a store with Safe Haven status, waives a property owners right to refuse the use of the property for such a purpose (which makes sense when you think of how much business and traffic would be brought in by renting to someone like Walmart).

    1. Hi Nate,
      Thank you for sharing. I hope you are safe and secure.
      Other than Walmart’s what other places have you found
      to be o.k. for sleeping in your vehicle? Thanks

  13. You can buy heated blankets that plug into the cigarette lighter in the car. They are small, but I had one and it did wonders for me living in the back of my car in Minnesota. I would stuff mine in my sleeping bag, then plug it in as I drove to my parking space for the night. When I got there, my sleeping bag, resting under several blankets, was toasty and kept me warm throughout the night. And in Minnesota, those nights can get really cold!!! I used a Walmart parking lot often, as well as a few rest stops. The rest stops were nice as they always had restrooms. I took many a sponge bath in those sinks really late at night. There is a part of me that actually misses living in the car.

  14. May 14th 2013

    Well, I have decided I am done with this BS of a life. I had 11 years in the Army when I decided to get out on an honorable discharge, my time was up. I was in Iraq in 2003-2004 with the 4th Infantry division as a transportation specialist (Truck driver). I didn’t agree with what we were doing and when I got back, I told my then wife, “I’m getting out next year.” My time came and I left with my wife and moved away to Kentucky since her family lived there. When I left the Army I had a Government job making $18.72 an hour as a WG6. Baby came along that same year and things were great until October 2008. I ended up having massive panic attacks that put me into the E.R. 3 times in a month. Finally after the 3rd time the doctor said it’s time to get you some professional help. During these attacks my stomach would get in knots and feeling like I was going to throw up. My hands and forearms would tingle like I slept on them. I would have massive fear, like a pit-bull charging at me with sharp massive teeth. I would shake and most times start crying with fear. The Veterans Admin got me into their hospital because I was suicidal. My wife was freaking out; her family was in awe over the whole thing as well. I was diagnose with delayed onset of PTSD. What is that? It means that when a person happens to have a tragic event such as a bad accident, rape, getting abused in some way or like me in Iraq with death you get affected. You shove the event so far back into your brain and try to forget it that later your grief comes out. It comes out hard and fast without warning. You think that your are having a heart attack or like me, have massive fear that someone is after you. It is all delayed, because again, you stuffed it away and not dealt with the problem. Anyways, my wife left me because she couldn’t deal with my Jeckle and Hyde attitude. I was angry at work for no reason, I was bi-polar I thought and people started noticing my change. “Where that nice guy I married?” my ex-wife asked at 6 years into the marriage. I told her that he was killed in Iraq and he is still there on the side of the road. To make a long story short. I lost my job, my home, wife, daughter, mind, friends and money. I have been out of work for over two years and seven months now. I am surviving on my disability check from the V.A. of $1,600 a month. I have told my only family which is my dog (Cocker Spaniel) that we are moving away from Kentucky because of too much hurt and pain. I have been fighting for so long with my ex wife over unsupervised visits with my daughter. My attorney has billed me for $2,800, my college classes at Daymar College are worthless so I quit, two credit card companies are calling me constantly, and other things costing me money that I don’t have. So here I am with a Chevrolet Equinox packed with everything. I have a plan to see the St.Louis Arch, Mount Rushmore and whatever else that comes my way. I have a propane stove, iron cooking pot/pans, tent, tarps, clothes bags,candles,flash lights, batteries, cleaning supplies, emergency supplies, big cooler, storage bags, Tupperware, air mattress (battery powered) bug spray, MRE’s, new tires, oil changed, table, chairs, Hygiene things, foam insulation and money in the bank. I can handle this because of my time in the Army has me prepared. I’m going on the road for a little while to save my money and maybe settle down when I’m tired. – Wish me luck.

    1. Wow, what a story, I was moved enough to write you, and i’ve not done that before. Thank you for your bravery serving our country. I think you have the right idea, pack and go. I realize it seems like everything is gone but the most important thing…. you. I don’t hope, I KNOW you will have such a life changing healing journey, I want to go too. Who knows what is next in life for you, but I bet it will involve laughter, rumination, crying and rebirth. Positive Energy to you my friend !!

    2. C.Allen.. I hope your well. PSTD is no joke. I know!

      Survival Mom, I know this is a repost…but I am actually, genuinely, concerned about some of these people.
      I am new to your site but so happy to have found it.
      I am somewhere between a prepped, a homesteader, a dreamer, a teacher, a student, a back to the earth nature living kinda type, a person who wants no more part of this so called new american dream that requires me to lose soul in the daily grind we livingly refer to as the rat race.. I guess I want close to what some kids wanted decades ago, I want to drop out and tune in… My mom watched with Awe as I took up canning at 12 and spent my while formative years soaking up foraging knowledge and every thing else from elderly relatives and neighbors.. I spent time arguing with my local gurl scout troupe about picking paint chips and redecorating a room was not what I was here for and moved to a more rural troupe that gave me real skills… I was a boy scout leader later, and let me tell you… I was so lucky! I had skill many suburban dads didn’t and got to really shine… I have had myriad types of lives throughout my many years. I finally built a little cabin in the woods by my lonesome on family land and the rest of my family, well, my elderly parents followed shortly after. I have made a few comments about such things recently…as I just discovered this lively site.
      I also spend part if my year in Central Mexico and have learned many ins and outs of that…and some harsh truths about prepping outside of America! Whew! It has been one wild ride!

      I would gladly help fellow survival mom types with passing on any knowledge I have.
      I would be honored.

      I have been a very lucky person, blessed with rich times and poor times, good and bad, and then some absolutely hellish, too. I have been blessed to have it all. It has made me the multifaceted person I am.

      I feel at home on your site…and that’s really something to say, for me…
      I have a hunt club that leases out the back forty of our family land and it comprises quite a motley crew…yet an old hunter that was a big city police man calls me such a conundrum… He says I am scary… I LOOK like a very girly girl, and its hard to tell my age… I live in something almost fairy tale like, in the middle of a little glade of trees surrounded by running streams and creeks that I built myself and can tan a deer hide with what’s in its bladder or the brain in its skull.. I can can my food after I have grown it, and I can forage anywhere you might drop me in North America… I can sew, and make almost anything out if almost nothing. I was a little taken aback that this big fella called ME scary… But I suppose that has been kinda the way it has gone for me… My interests, hobbies and talents have been broad and varied… And Kindred spirits have been few and far between.
      I have been lucky to find a few real world and online places that I feel a bit comfortable, places I can share what I know and I can learn more.
      Your site feels like one such places.
      Thank you so much for all the work you have put into this place!
      I look forward to what you have coming up next and I will be very happy spending the next Month or a few perusing the archives here!

      Oh, and, yes I do tend to go on and on.. I do apologise for that… Bit if you would be so kind..where can I find out what happened to the fine folks on here that posted, especially aka Rhonda and C Allen… I think those are correct… I really do feel actual genuine concern for these people, and I have seen many of your online family seem to as well… I haven’t gotten all the way thru the comments here so maybe you have already said.. And so, if you have… nevermind.. But if not.. I would be very interested in finding out how these folks were doing…
      I dare say you might give them a place to write a quick update story or two as a few of your readers have commented… It seems interest is there… I wonder?! I know I would enjoy reading what they learned, their trails and tribulations, looking back now what would they have done differently when they started if on their journeys… Maybe you have thought about this, maybe not… It seems like something interesting.

      Anyways, so sorry for the lengthy comment… Just is my way…but u do apologise for it.

      To all who read this, and to those that don’t even.. Have a great day!

  15. C. Allen–I do wish you luck and pray you find peace. I am the mother of a soldier who has been in over 13 yrs and to Iraq 3 times and he was deeply affected when his Stryker hit an IED and his friend was killed. My niece and nephew have also been to Iraq and my nephew is on disability for PTSD.

    You have gone through some hard times and I wish you only the best for the rest of your life.

  16. After getting kicked out of my house for personal reasons, I’m on my own now. My car, a ’03 Buick LeSabre, along with some clothing, toiletries, and other stuff that I deem necessary, are all I have. Thankfully, I’m employed. I’m still in the freak-out-oh-nowhatamIgonnado stage, but after reading different things online, I’m not as scared about it as I was before.

    Flannel sheets for the win!

  17. I’m a 63-year-old woman about to be homeless for the first time in my life. After living a hard-knock life (I’ll spare the details), I had a decent job with a decent wage, and was finally able to buy a little house, which I thought would be the beginning of a peaceful ease into retirement for me. Four months after I bought the house, I lost my job. I got unemployment for a while, but that ran out. I’ve been unable to find a decent job since then (it’s been 2 years now – I’m convinced that age discrimination is alive and well in the good ol’ USA), I was forced to start taking my Social Security as soon as I was eligible for it, because I had absolutely no other means of income. I also started the process of applying for a loan modification from the bank that has my mortgage (BofA), so that I could stay in my home, and continue to make my payments, but hopefully at a reduced interest rate, and lower payments that would be affordable on my SS income. After a year of endless hassle and fighting, not to mention tears and near mental breakdowns, I was denied an affordable loan modification, and I’m now facing a short sale. I’ve sold most of my furniture and all of my grandmother’s silver, as well as most of my own good jewelry, and I’ve rented a small storage unit for the few belongings that I feel I want to keep, and am now just waiting for “permission” to vacate my now-empty house. I do have a small SUV which is finally paid for, but I’m thinking about selling it and trying to buy a small RV to live in. My thought process is that I think I could afford moderate payments on a used RV, but I sure as heck know I can’t afford rent on a small apartment somewhere – unless anyone knows where I can get a decent (no ghetto or crack house, please) apartment for about $300 a month? My SS is only about $1,000 a month. Period. People I talk to think I’m crazy, but I seriously don’t see any alternative. No one knows how seriously depressing this is for me, or how close to suicide I have been over the past year. The only thing that keeps me going is my little dog, who I will never abandon.

    I do have a very small part-time job (about 10-20 hours a week, at minimum wage), which I will most likely have to quit as soon as I lose my house because I won’t have anyplace for my dog to stay while I’m at work.

    Sorry I seem to be rambling. I guess I’m looking for suggestions, or votes, as to whether I should just do it in my small SUV or try to get financing for a small RV (financing would probably be a problem, since I haven’t been able to make my mortgage payment in 7 months). Probably the biggest thing that I see as a negative with doing it in my SUV is that there’s no room to stand up or move around. I’ve seen some really cool looking Class B RVs that look almost like conversion vans, look like they’d be easy to handle, but have all the conveniences inside (although not much space). But I don’t need a lot of space – just me & my dog and our respective bodily needs. Location is not really an issue, because I have no roots or family in any one place, but I do prefer the warmer weather in the south. My ideal destination would be to move permanently to Mexico, but I’m afraid I can’t even do that right now, given my circumstances.

    Does anyone have any suggestions?

    1. For $1000 a month, in Central Oregon you could get a small trailer 15-21 ft, and make a car/suv/truck payment and still get food via food stamps and vehicle insurance for under $1000 a month…Within Three years and car could both be paid off and you could enjoy living out of your trailer/rv as a wandering RV’er…

    2. How has it been going? That grand in SS would put you into a nice income bracket in Mexico, not rich for sure but you could do it. If you need help with it let me know! I am curious if you are all right. You are a few hundred shy of the rentista paperwork for mexico, but it us still doable… Without that paper it means you will need to take a trip outside mexico every 6 months, bring the Tahoe… Pay the bond, then every 6 months go to a border and pay the bond again, do a little shopping and turn around and come back. Do NOT live in a place that us near the border.. Come down further, a place in the state if mexico would give you a great life. You can apply for the IMSS medical care, its Mexico’s healthcare system.. A few hundred a year and that’s it. Or you can do private doctors etc, still affordable compared to america.
      Please, I hope you didn’t put yourself back on that wheel off debt with an RV… I bought a used heap for about a grand and hooked it to my almost dead car and did great. I spend half my year in Mexico and half in a tiny house I built myself in the woods. Stay away from financing and debt if you can, please.
      Many folks do not realise but you can pick up your SS payments in most countries.. Mexico definitely!
      Seriously… I hope you are well… I look forward to seeing an update.

    3. I had a very similar situation as far as bought a home and thought everything was turning around after escaping domestic violence. My ex made 32 false reports to CPS and I was forced to take legal action to actually have legal custody of our kids. After $50k in legal fees and my nursing license suspended for having a trauma history, I could no longer afford my mortgage and the legal fees. I opted to rent out my home so I didn’t lose it and buy an RV (same mindset that the RV payment would be easier to afford than an apartment, which in Denver, they’re as much as my mortgage was). Long story short, the RV was perfect, but not welcome. RV parks charge rediculous fees, (same amount per month for RV payment and lot space as my mortgage) and many places are banning RVs from being parked in any areas outside of private property (storage lots) or camp grounds (which also change $35-69/night). Had driving it around was costly, plus the added needs for dining wastes, (extra cost for the hoses), re-filing the water tanks, and charging the battery. Bought cheap land for the solution, but local probables restrict living in an RV without a septic system on the land. So that turned out to be a bust… So RV was impounded after inability to pay even that once I lost my RN, and back to my week tuned “car camping”. Have a Subaru Forester. Put a wire around the top of the interior to hang black out curtains with the office type little paper clamps, use little bungie cords to tie them back while driving. Fold down the back seats and roll out memory foam mattress topper for sleep, cracking open the sun roof a bit for ventilation and prevent the windows from fogging. It’s a little cramped with two kids and having to take out the car seat to lay the seats down, but once situated it’s been quite comfortable, even in the winter. Use a propane camping stove for cooking. When possible, I find a nice place in the forest to hang my hammock and attach a tarp over it with carabiners that wraps around the hammock and covers the ground underneath. That gets toasty warm too. Definitely agree with other posts that keeping everything organized is essential. Also use the rec center pools for showers keeps costs down (pre Covid). The flavored tuna pouches hello to add a variety of flavors to keep you from getting burnt out on just the plain stuff. Keep in mind the leave no trace etiquette. I put trash in just a Walmart bag hung over the center console and just drop it in a parking lot can when available. Instant coffee (some of the single serve kinds are actually pretty good) and powdered creamer have been a life saver. Invested in a camp dish set that has 2 pots, pan, 2 strainer lids, 4 plates, cups and bowls that all next together with a caring bag that doubles as a wash basin and definitely has been worth it. Baby wipes are also essential doubling for personal hygiene as well as wiping down surfaces to keep your car/living space clean. Have 2 3 gallon water jugs with a spout for easy pouring to keep a steady supply of water. My advise is if you don’t have a large vehicle, opt for a large SUV/van as it’s more acceptable to be seen in a parking lot than an RV. Plus much easier to navigate.

  18. Tough situation to read about Rhonda. I’m in a similar situation but I’m 45. And I have virtually no savings as a buffer. I’ll spare you my hard luck story though and just give what advice I think will help.
    The biggest problem with a used RV is possible very expensive mechanical problems. And terrible gas mileage if you plan to travel. Plus hard to maneuver in any city area and sticks out wherever you decide to park (unless its an RV site). If you’re familiar with your SUV and know it’s reliable I would keep it. Unless you know a reliable mechanic to look over any new vehicle purchase you can’t know what you’re getting. It could break down the next day for thousands in repairs.
    If you’re wanting to stay where you are you can search craigslist for rooms/shared and in smaller cities find rooms for around $300. If you stay where you are you could keep your part-time job as well. You could probably find another female roommate easily depending on where you live. Not an ideal situation but better than living in a car. Could try that for several months to at least get through the winter and plot out something new. Times are so bad for so many that many people are looking for roommates and will do month to month and don’t care as long as you don’t have an eviction.
    I’ve been researching this for about six months since I knew my days were numbered. I’m considering around the San Diego area as my ideal destination. I know it’s a high cost of living there but I’ve found cheap motels and campsites nearby to stay as I look for a job. Plus I’m considering moving into Mexico as well. If you go right across the border rents are half as much. Lots of Americans live there and commute into San Diego to work. You only need a passport card which is much cheaper than a passport at $45. There is a “buffer zone” just south of the border where Mexico doesn’t enforce citizenship or VISAs. In fact if you go on San Diego craiglist right now there is a retired woman seeking a roommate in Mexico for $370 a month in a gated apartment complex close to the beach. You can even take your dog into Mexico if you have all the paperwork for shots. Do a search on Baja California and Playas De Rosarito and Playas De Tijuana. The weather is just like southern California so it’s beautiful year round. Which means very, very little spent heat/ac. And if you learned Spanish you could teach English in Mexico for extra income. Spanish is one of the easiest languages to learn. There’s a lot of Americans living there now so go read about them online. There’s tons of advice about it.
    Hopes this helps. And maybe someday we’ll run across each other down there. Who knows? Good luck.

  19. @ Rhonda
    I left some things out of my previous post. You have a guaranteed income from ss so there’s absolutely no reason to give up. It’s not much but you can live on that. You could even get wic if worse comes to worse. There’s no reason to be ashamed of such things. Your tax dollars throughout your life have been used to help someone that needed it also. That’s how decent societies work. They help those in need.
    If you need any advice or just a friend you can write me anytime. I know exactly what you’re going through. I’m at primitive_pacman at yahoo.

  20. Dear Rhonda, one other thing to try is renting a small office space. I did this for a year in the best city within the bay area, Campbell – California. I was only paying $250 and it worked out quite well. I had a key that opened the office 24 / 7 and as long as you hide the fact that you are living in your office, all is fine. I took showers at the local gym for $15 per month and the local farmer’s market was available on Sundays for fresh produce. There are a lot of small offices all over the city, every city and the trick is to make your office look like an office. There is a sleeping bag that folds down to the size of a grapefruit and a camping sleeping pad that rolls into a small tight roll and can be easily stored. It is much nicer sleeping in an office and the utilities are usually free and the bathroom generally has a key in order to use, the toilet paper and towel paper are typically free. This is nice because the bathroom is usually not a mess when each office tenant has their own key to enter the bathroom. A small storage unit from Public Storage is a great extended closet, it is best to pay a few months in advance just incase something happens and you can’t afford to pay right away.

  21. It’s pretty simple for me: I just dutifully put my luggage inside the car that my wife sets outside the house just prior to her voluntarily saturating our home with my forced absence. It’s forever, or not exactly!

  22. You are my inspiration! I’ve been sleeping in my car too for almost 1 1/2 year now and I have to say I love it. I get more money now to travel and I’m not worried about rent every month. Keep inspiring. Hope you’re doing well. Everybody else who sleeps/lives in their cars, Life Is Good! Be safe xo

  23. I feel total empathy for the homeless. But some homeless are not victims. They are felons. My friend “Slemmer” is living out of his car. The reason: He stole $$ from his professional high paying job in reading PA. So he sat around and smoked pot all day and got lazy. The felony led to not qualifying for unemployment, which led to him getting evicted from 2 apartments, which led to him living in his car smoking weed. The problem with a felony is no one wants to hire you so you need to get realistic in job searches. You have to restore your career. Suck it up and go to work. Maybe take a job that is beneath you as opposed to sitting around feeling sorry for yourself and getting high. If “Slemmer” took a job to pay his rent that was slightly beneath him, he would not be homeless living in his car asking his friends for $$ .

  24. Pingback: 65 Pieces of Survival Wisdom From the Great Depression | Prepper's Survival Homestead

  25. I live in Florida. I’m 49, married and have two kids who are about to start college. My wife and I met in college and have been working in corporate America since we were teenagers. We are doing very well and life has been simple but good to us. However, I’m terribly overweight and suffering from anxiety and general lack of interest. Physiologically, I’m getting near my breaking point. Lately, all I do is dream about running away from everyone and everything. Even though our net worth is very high, I dream of buying a VW Budd-e EV Van and living out of it with just a cell phone, laptop and 3 pairs of jeans. I imagine I could shower in 24 hour fitness and eat out every day. I could just drive up and down the east coast, parking at the beach or charging stations near points of interest. Just to test the theory, I’ve take short hall-pass trips for 2 – 3 day and done it. It felt amazing and liberating to not to have a schedule to be that free. I never felt unsafe or uncertain like I do in my regular life.

    Beside feeling terribly guilty about wanting to do this, there are other challenges I foresee and things I know that will not be easy. Florida is terribly hot at night in the summers and mosquitos are unbearable. One technical challenge I hope EV cars of the next few years embrace is battery use while the car is turned off or charging. EV cars of tomorrow can keep a car cool overnight for under 15% of the total battery! That will only get better. However, their systems tend to not allow you to cool the cab while they are off or charging. Some Tesla owners have found hacks to solve this, but manufactures have so far not seen any reason to incorporate such features.

    If you understand are interested, consider writing Tesla, Nissan, Chevy and VW and asking them to consider the an overnight “camper mode option” while powered off or in charging mode in the future EV automotive operating systems.

    Google: “Bjorn Camper Mode” for more information.

  26. Pingback: 65 Survival Lessons from the Great Depression | Survival Life

  27. My lease on my apartment is up the end of next month. I’m seriously considering moving out and into my car. I live in New Mexico so the winters aren’t too bad and I’m moving the end of March out of state. I want to pay off a few bills before I go. All good advice, I think I’ll join a health club for showers and get healthier while I’m at it. Lol

  28. Pingback: Living out of challenger - Page 3 - Dodge Challenger Forum: Challenger & SRT8 Forums

  29. Pingback: 12 Tips for Living Out of Your Car – Survival Mom | SHTF Prepper

    1. I have pretty much been living out of a vehicle or camping for ten years, mostly for financial reasons and because of chemical sensitivities in toxic buildings. I own a peice of land in a remote area on a discontinued road in the cold Northeast and have lived there full-time initially but as the decade wore on, the climate has produced more serious ice, snow and rain events that have made it more severe living in the deep forest. I had flash floods with water up to the floor of my trailer, snowstorms that dumped four feet of snow at a time and ice storms where the tops of giant trees would crack off and sail to the ground every three seconds for hours at a time making it almost a death sentence to live there during the worst weather events. Last year a one hundred year old maple dropped half of it’s tree mass onto my motorhome when I took off for the night, destroying most of the vehicle. So for those reasons and the maurading bear issue where bears have ripped open shed doors, trailer windows and shelter roofs, I have started living out of my vehicle number, in the winter/early spring It is actually easier to live at my camp then out of my vehicle because of ease of cooking, ability to shower with collected water, opportunity to garden, etc, but it has its challenges.
      The vehicle I live out of during the colder months when the camp goes through it’s seasonal weather anomalies is a 2001 GMC cube van. It has a ten foot fiberglass box with a counter and a bench. I put my folding cot in the middle and sleep comfortably. My useful necessities are in plastic boxes, I cook at parks, I sleep in a double sleeping bag, have a sawdust bucket for a toilet, a cooler for food . I get ice frozen at a fridge in a local college I attend, and take showers at friends homes. It’s a tough life and sometimes you have to be patient about many challenges but it is a good way to keep expenses low or not have to work as many hours. I was able to pay my land off in eight years. Sometimes I wish I had a house but then remember the stress I was under always having to get the mortgage money up. Someday I will build my little cabin, have already experimented building natural buildings like small domes, underground root cellars, greenhouses. Now the financial stress has been reduced . I don’t get SSI or other income, but because of this lifestyle I can work less than part time while going to school full-time. My life without stress from the monetary needs is more stable and relaxed. If well-planned out, it could almost be satisfying, unlike other lifestyles. And I am growing an edible perrenniel garden at the camp, picking my own apples, plums, hazelnuts, vegetables, every year. It’s been a rugged lifestyle but it shows what you are made of. (BTW, I’m a woman in my late fifties, it has kept me very fit. I can outwalk, out hike, out roller blade people half my age).

    2. I have pretty much been living out of a vehicle or camping for ten years, mostly for financial reasons and because of chemical sensitivities in toxic buildings. I own a peice of land in a remote area on a discontinued road in the cold Northeast and have lived there full-time initially but as the decade wore on, the climate has produced more serious ice, snow and rain events that have made it more severe living in the deep forest. I had flash floods with water up to the floor of my trailer, snowstorms that dumped four feet of snow at a time and ice storms where the tops of giant trees would crack off and sail to the ground every three seconds for hours at a time making it almost a death sentence to live there during the worst weather events. Last year a one hundred year old maple dropped half of it’s tree mass onto my motorhome when I took off for the night during a bad windstorm, destroying most of the vehicle. So for those reasons and the maurading bear issue where bears have ripped open shed doors, trailer windows and shelter roofs, I have started living out of my vehicle, in the winter/early spring . YuIt is actually easier to live at my camp then out of my vehicle because of ease of cooking, ability to shower with collected water, opportunity to garden, etc, but it has its challenges.
      The vehicle I live out of during the colder months when the camp goes through it’s seasonal weather anomalies is a 2001 GMC cube van. It has a ten foot fiberglass box with a counter and a bench. I put my folding cot in the middle and sleep comfortably. My useful necessities are in plastic boxes, I cook at parks, I sleep in a double sleeping bag, have a sawdust bucket for a toilet, a cooler for food . I get ice frozen at a fridge in a local college I attend, and take showers at friends homes. It’s a tough life and sometimes you have to be patient about many challenges but it is a good way to keep expenses low or not have to work as many hours. I was able to pay my land off in eight years. Sometimes I wish I had a house but then remember the stress I was under always having to get the mortgage money up. Someday I will build my little cabin, have already experimented building natural buildings like small domes, underground root cellars, greenhouses. Now the financial stress has been reduced . I don’t get SSI or other income, but because of this lifestyle I can work less than part time while going to school full-time. My life without stress from the monetary needs is more stable and relaxed. If well-planned out, it could almost be very satisfying, unlike other lifestyles. And I am growing an edible perrenniel garden at the camp, picking my own apples, plums, hazelnuts, vegetables, every year. It’s been a rugged lifestyle but it shows what you are made of. (BTW, I’m a woman in my late fifties, it has kept me very fit. I can outwalk, out hike, out roller blade people half my age).

  30. I expect that with TRUMP in office the American people will continue to be punished and more and more of us will be pushed into homelessness and homeless survival….He will destroy our country leaving only the wealthy and the homeless left…=(…

  31. To the people thinking of using hotel bathrooms and “free” breakfast please be aware in most places this is considered theft of services and can lead to severe legal issues. My hotel prosecutes.

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