Van Dweller Gypsie Prepping 2: Escaping Pompeii

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Published on The Doomstead Diner on May 15, 2016


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A few weeks back I wrote about one possible alternative for straddling the two worlds of current BAU and the future of a post-Collapse world, which is somewhat unpredictable in exactly how it will turn out, other than to say it won't be much like the one we are currently inhabiting.

The Stealth Van Gypsie Prepper Community ™ was designed around the idea of being mobile and flexible in terms of locations you could set up once TSHTF.  It has the advantage over Doomsteading that you can continue on with BAU, making money if you still have a Big Shity job buying more preps but still enables you to exit stage left quickly with good survival chances after TSHTF.  It covers your needs for Shelter, Food & Reasonable Remoteness ™ for the first year or two when things are really unpleasant in the Big Shities and most of Suburbia.  If you can survive this period, you have upped your chances for long term survival by 2 orders of magnitude at least IMHO.

Its other BIG ADVANTAGE over the Doomstead idea is that of $COST$.  Even done at the lowest cost possible as my friend TDOS from Pray for Calamity has done buying raw land on a "deal" and then building his own dwelling on that land, the startup costs came in around $20K for land and $25K for building, plus he recently was required by the local Building Gestapo to put in a septic system, costing another $10K.  So you are talking $50K here, which as TDOS demonstrated over the last few years was possible to do by hard work and saving with his partner, but is getting tougher all the time to do here as we move down the collapse highway.  You can listen to TDOS discussing the genesis of his Doomstead in the second half of our recent Podcast.

Also available on Diner YouTube with Video

In comparison, the Van-Trailer costs to begin your prepping for Van Dweller Gypsie Prepper Community living is MUCH cheaper.  I quoted $5000 for the Van and $2000 for the trailer as start-up cost (buying both used off Craig's List), but in fact you could do it even cheaper than that.  For instance, I own a 1983 Mazda MPV 4WD minivan I picked up for $900 and which runs just GREAT! 🙂  There are used U-haul trailers sold off for $500 all the time.  It would of course be a somewhat tighter arrangement than with a full blown extended van & 15' trailer as I have illustrated the system, but the principles are basically the same and you would have enough room aboard for what you need for your 1-2 year survival plan.

So, you in fact could begin your prepping for this system with as little as $2000, and then upgrade as you go along assuming BAU persists a few more years and you remain employed and have surplus funds enough to put into your system.  When you have enough funds saved up and a good deal shows up on Craig's List for a full size van, you buy it and then sell off your mini-van, instantly upgrading your basic living space by about 50%.  Same with the trailer of course.

If you are a Big Shity dweller at the moment, you may not have safe parking for your trailer.  In that case, you will incur an additional monthly cost for a secure parking location for it, but it should be close enough for a quick retrieval and hookup when TSHTF.  I have a spot in a local Storage Unit facility for my current Bugout Machine, a 1985 Tioga RV which costs me $40/month to maintain.  It's about 2 miles from where I live and I can access it 24/7 for when TSHTF, although I am now in the process of replacing it with a Stealth Van-Trailer combo (or adding to it really).

This particular paradigm is not just theoretical for me, I have been weighing my options for a while on what is the best way for me to prepare, given budgetary constraints and how I would like to spend the last years of my corporeal existence walking the earth.  So I am now in the Planning Stage of getting my own Stealth Van-Trailer combo set up and then going back OTR (Over the Road), the life I led for 7 years as an OTR Big Rig Driver cruising the Interstate Higways of the Lower 48, Mejico and the Great White North.  You can read more about that in the OTR Series here on the Diner.  The biggest difference is that in this iteration, I don't need to make a living this way and don't need to deal with asshole dispatchers and can go where I please when I please. lol.  As long as the gas and my mailbox money hold out anyhow.

I'm also not terrificaly constrained in terms of how much money to invest in the arrangement, as regular Diners know it looks like I WON my Workman's Compensation Case and will be receiving a healthy size check from the opposing Insurance Company in this battle, which has been ongoing for over a year now. Should all be resolved within a month or two.  However, I am a penurious sort of guy and always seek to get the best bang for the buck, so I will be looking for good DEALS on everything, and I will report on my costs and expenditures as I move along here.  I want to spend as little on this as possible, so that I have good capital left over to invest in the SUN☼ Project, the Diner 501c3 Non-Profit Foundation, Sustaining Universal Needs.

My planning right now is in terms of the layout and configuration for my Stealth Van-Trailer combo.  I am meticulous about this sort of thing, and want to know in advance exactly how much room I will have and what I can fit into the arrangement and where to put it.  So I have done a 3D Design for it, which I detailed out Inside the Diner on our Bugout Forum.  Below here is the basic outline for the arrangement:


My Sketchup Pro 30 Day Trial Version ran out, but as it turns out Google's FREE version Sketchup "Make" is all I really need.  Unexpectedly also, I still have access to the library of pre-created 3D objects to download as I need them.  :icon_sunny:

In sketching out the Stealth Van layout here, the only thing I downloaded was the Executive Chair, where I spend 3/4s of my waking hours every day doing Diner tasks in the digs.  This would not be a lot different in the Stealth Van.  The chair gives you a scale feeling, along with the Homo Sap standing next to the cabin.  I set up the van shell and cabin construction myself.  Making holes in curved surfaces in sketchup is a pain in the ass, but now that I have it figured out, it goes pretty quick.

Stealth Van Floor Plan

I left out the Driver compartment area, that is standard for whatever Van I get off Craig's List.  I am budgeting $5K for a pre-2002 era van.  I can get a PERMANENT Registration for anything before 2002 here in Alaska.  The floor plan only includes everything behind the two front seats of the Driver's compartment.  Estimate here is for a 15' Van, some shrinkage might be necessary for a smaller van footprint.

My first criteria in designing the plan was that the whole interior needs to be REMOVABLE.  There is nothing "built-in" or actually attached in any way to the Van hull.  Instead, what I have done is made a "box inside a box" that fits TIGHT into the van, but can be disassembled for removal.  My intention is to build this interior box without Nails or Glue, just using Bamboo and tensioning it.  The uprights are 2" diameter bamboo, cross members are either 1/2", 3/4" or 1" diameter bamboo.  Holes will be drilled in the 2" bamboo to accept the smaller diameter bamboo, cut slightly longer than the actual distance between uprights and flexed outward against the van walls, tensioning the box and keeping it stable inside the van.

My Sleeping area is in the rear of the van, going sideways across.  I am fortunate to be a small guy and can JUST FIT stretched out completely across the width of a typical van at its widest point, which is about halfway up the box because it is radially curved outward.  I might have to sleep slightly diagonal on the mattress, but I should be able to stretch out completely.  Big People might need to configure with a longitudinal arrangement which loses you a lot of living space.  "Big people got no reason to live".  Randy Newman will need to rewrite. lol.

The bed also raises up to the ceiling so that you can enter and exit the van through the rear doors during the day, and use this rear area for storage as well.  All Access points, from the from Driver Compartment to the Side Door to the Rear Doors are maintained.

Between the Office Area in the Front and the Bed in the Back is a closet area on one side and a shelf on the other to mainly be used for Cooking.  Toilet Bucket will be stored under the bed area in one of the two boxes I dropped in there.

Boxes that fit these locations may be constructed custom, or I may just use Coolers and Containers made of plastic that fit in those spots well.  Similarly, my "desk" may not be built but rather use a folding table that is of appropriate dimensions, bungeed into place against the uprights.

Obviously, I am lacking storage space for many of my preps.  I will next set up the interior of an 8'x16' enclosed trailer which will have storage for things like fuel, generator, water, solar PV panels etc.

And now for the Trailer…

You might think doing the trailer interior was EZ, since it's just for storage of preps.  Just stack in boxes, right?  Well, no, because then you can't get to stuff, so you need access and shelving.  Then I had to decide on whether to go with shelves lengthwise along the sides (my first effort), or shelves going across the trailer (final decision).  The main reason is that this provides better balance, with most of the weight over the axles.  It also utilizes the two entrances to the trailer from the back and the side more efficiently.

Unlike the interior of the Van which I will do with Bamboo, for the trailer shelves I will use prefab steel  garage shelving, the heavy duty kind.  This way first off they can take heavier weights, and second I can move shelves up or down adjusting for height of equipment on each shelf.  I can also remove shelves to use the trailer as an empty box for hauling larger cargo periodically.

Stealth Trailer Floor Plan

Currently I populated the interior with a Generator, a Heater, Water Container and Fuel Container for scale.  The other shelves will contain a vast variety of Preps, tents & tarps, cooking gear, extra clothing for cold weather and of course FOOD!  I will carry on board enough long lasting food for 1 full year for a major Bugout scenario.  Other contents will include Solar PV panels for deployment and RV Wind Turbines.  I will move my Toilet Bucket also into the Trailer, so in the event I do need to use it, it won't stink up the Van until I can dispose of my shit in some ecologically friendly manner.  :icon_sunny:

Even though this gives me lots of storage space, I am still going to have to do serious triage with my preps.  That will be the hardest part of the adventure.  What I will do with the remaining preps I have up here is drop them in the same storage facility where my current Bugout Machine is gathering dust.  Then I can always make a return here to Alaska as a backup plan if necessary.  This will add to my monthly maintenance costs, but still a good deal cheaper than rent.  Down in the lower 48 I have a Centrally Located storage unit in Springfield, MO which I will properly stock up when I get down there.

SUN☼ will be buying land in SC, which will be my Base of Operations.  We had our Big Show at the Chamber of Commerce yesterday, it went very well by GM's account.

So now the only hold up is my fucking insurance company, which has yet to sign off on the deal.  Maybe by the end of the week.  ::)

For anyone else interested in pursuing this paradigm, there are still many issues to understand as you progress along.  Trailer Weight distribution is a VERY important consideration, and we have discussed that some Inside the Diner in the discussion thread.  If you have no experience pulling trailers that have a fairly substantial load for the tow vehicle, you need to become familliar with those issues.  There are other issues to plan for as well, security both before TSHTF and after are paramount here. You don't want to invest all your spare FRNs in such an arrangement and then get it STOLEN before you can actually USE it when TSHTF in your neighborhood and you gotta GTFO of Dodge and make that Last Run For Safety!  Locations to run to and routing plans also are important to consider.  All of these considerations are up for discussion and ideas Inside the Diner.

This may not be the ideal system for you, everyone has to decide for themself what the best system they can develop is based on their own financial resources and knowledge.  For myself, I believe it is the best I can do at the moment, in the absence of a good size tribe of people who can get a piece of land and be able to Protect & Defend it as well as make a living off of it.  My range and flexibility are enormous, basically the entire North American continent is accessible if I roll early enough in a SHTF scenario, before road blocks are setup and Martial Law is in place.  I have a centrally located Storage Unit in the middle of the continent, and on board I can carry enough gas or diesel to make upwards of 1000 miles without a fuel refill. I have Diner friends all over the continent to head for in the Final Run for Safety.   Canada, Mexico and the FSoA, the Diners are sprinkled everywhere.  I bring with me my preps & knowledge, so I have value.  I hope not to be shot on site by a Diner worried I am an Attacking Zombie. lol. Community & Friends are EVERYTHING.  All the rest of the preps are pissing in the wind without them.  Main thing is to have it all ready to go on a moment's notice, and to stay tuned to the shit going down out in the world at large and not be caught with my pants down.  Then I gotta know where I am heading, and put the Pedal to the Metal to get there just as fast as I can, without of course getting pulled over by the Highway Gestapo on the way.

Once at the Final Bugout Destination, the system will keep me going for a year or two with no additional inputs.  After that, if the community cannot sustain itself with permaculture, hydroponics, aquaculture, fishing and hunting, it will be game over.  However, this will be a lot better way to Buy My Ticket to the Great Beyond than dying of thirst when the water stops flowing from the taps in the City That I Loved, before Mt. Vesuvius went ballistic and buried Pompeii. (that is a metaphor here folks, I'm not being literal).

Never say die, fight to the end.  It ain't OVAH 'till the Fat Lady Sings.  No QUITTERS and Nihilists here on the Diner.


8 Responses to Van Dweller Gypsie Prepping 2: Escaping Pompeii

  • AntiTroll says:

    Congratulations on winning your workmen's compensation RE, that's great news!! Guy McSerpent would have told you to give up hopium, but we ignore the blabber from such hopeless losers and their mean spirited disciples like EmptyPempty. Epic fighters like you battle on despite the odds and win. Well done!!

  • RE says:

    It was an EPIC Battle!  The last big one of my life, which in combo with my battle for my SSDI was a matter of life and death for me.

    I am waiting for the Check to be cut and the Digibits to show in my Credit Union account before I truly celebrate though.  When it comes through, I will have the Celebration Article up on the Diner.

    Never say die, never quit, not until you are well and truly dead.


  • mb says:

    "If you are a Big Shity dweller at the moment, you may not have safe parking for your trailer.  In that case, you will incur an additional monthly cost for a secure parking location for it,"


    Do you have any examples of places you could buy secure parking? I really can't think of anything at all near me.

    • RE says:

      I don't know where you are, but most cities and towns in the FSoA have Storage Unit facilities which are fenced in, with an Access Code for you to get into the facility to get your stuff when you need it.  These places have boxes ranging from as small as 5'x5' to 20'x20', some even larger than that.

      They also often have parking spots for RVs, trailers etc.  The facility I use up here charges me $40/month for parking my RV.  The facility I have down in the lower 48 is a 20'x10' unit in which I have stored a Jeep as well as some preps and a lot of my old memorabilia of my life before I moved to Alaska. Cost for that one is $80/mo.

      I have never had a theft problem in either location.  I advise scoping around your neighborhood, looking for one a bit of the ways out, but not too far and in a fairly secure seeming neighborhood.  How much you will have to pay will depend on the size of the metro it is near and general real estate values.

  • tagio says:


    I love your take here, RE.  Not a criticism but I want to point out a limitation. Stealth van living is best suited, IMHO, to the single man.  As I see it, few women will sign up for this sort of thing, and a van isn't really big enough for two.  Forget about it if you have children.  Your van dweller community might be a solution, but in that case the van is little more than a bugout vehicle, query whether you need to fit it out at all.  Just bring the preps in a trailer or keep them in a nearby storage facility, and keep the extra seats in the van to bring the loved ones. 

    Keeping to the concept of having a short term RELATIVELY inexpensive safe bugout location with short-term housing  to ride out the worst of it for, say, a 2 – 5 year time frame while it is all going to hell, you have Chia's ideas for a tiny home community, which offers more in the way of amenities / creature comforts that wll be more appealing and more bearable.  Another idea I have been toying with, is to buy the piece of land, preferably one with water (creek or spring), install the platforms on the land on which you can erect winter worthy Nomad Shelter Yurts for the loved ones and friends who you have pre-arranged to participate, store the yurts, the small wood burning stoves you will need and the other preps in a storage facility close the land.  One could also pre-install one or two earth covered shipping containers that will serve as a root cellar and other stroage once the land is occupied, left empty until then (so there is nothing to steal).  

    More expensive for sure than the stealth van concept (a 16' four-season yurt is $10k, and it may cost $1,000 to install the platform on which it sits).  However, the stealth van concept, while no doubt useful and appealing to some, has – let's call it "marketing" – limitations in gaining the support of loved ones.  

    • RE says:

      T, when I was out OTR, there were MANY Husband-Wife teams driving.  The inside of a Freightliner or Kenworth cab is smaller than a Van.  It is quite possible for couples to live this way, and quite a few Van Dwellers do.

      Children are more of a problem, but it is possible with them also, particulalry with the Trailer and with the kind of modular housing I design.  Remember, when you make that Final Bugout, it is a run for safety to a place you have already picked out, where you also have cached supplies.  The Long Campout, remember?

      You have no need to "convince" your loved ones to move into your Stealth Van, because you DON"T move into it.  You live BAU just as normal, and assembling this contraption is just your "Hobby".  You can take wife and kids for camping trips in it periodically, just like any RV family does.

      You will not find it hard to convince Wife & Kids to jump in the Stealth Van when there is a Wildfire about to burn down your house, and they will be mighty greatful to you when they are not completely homeless as all your neighbors are.

      Unless you want this style of living NOW, it's not necessary to undertake it as long as you still can afford your rent and BAU life wherever you are. It is your PLAN B.


  • InAlaska says:

    RE, why leave Alaska at all?  The human density is lowest in the US and the climate is getting easier all the time.

    • RE says:

      I love Alaska.  If I had my druthers, I would never leave.  Even when the climate was colder, I never found it to be much of a problem.  However, most people have a vision of Alaska as a harsh place to live.  So I have had no success with getting friends to move here.

      COMMUNITY is more important for long term survival than location.  Most of my friends, the Diners, are in the lower 48, a few in Canada and a couple in Mexico.  If I am to get a SUN☼ Community going, it will have to be down there, not up here.

      The other reason is to bring the message to more people.  The internet is good, but I believe I can do more if I speak live at churches and PTAs and so forth, explaining to people IRL what is going on.  I am a good public speaker, that is why I can do my videos live without a script.  So I hit the road and I put up my soap box and I speak.  Brother RE's Travelling Salvation Show.  lol.


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