13 Tips For Women In Van Life

The van life movement has recently gained popularity thanks to van lifers who showcase their travels and minimalist lifestyles on social media. This has inspired many others, including women, to follow in their van life footsteps and simplify their lifestyles to enjoy more freedom and flexibility.

But van life is not without its challenges, especially when starting. There are issues with safety, hygiene, comfort, and finances that are all important to be aware of. And many of these factors can affect women more profoundly, especially solo female van lifers.

So, is solo female van life a good idea?

As much as I want to say, “YES, IT IS!” the answer depends on how you prepare yourself and your van before you start van life. In this post, we share 13 tips for women to enjoy the freedom and adventure of van life while minimizing risks and hardships.

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1. Don’t Drive at Night

This is especially true for solo female van lifers. Safety is a top priority. Nothing good happens when driving after sunset, as the limited visibility makes it difficult to spot pedestrians, wildlife, or other hazards on the road. Doing so increases your chances of getting into an accident, getting hurt, and damaging your vehicle.

Driving after sunset also means arriving at your chosen camp spot at night. This can be a substantial safety issue, especially for women because you never know who is hanging around your park spot in the darkness. When you arrive tired, with limited visibility and fewer parking options, this increases the risk of a dangerous encounter. And sadly, solo women are often the target.

In our case, we almost always stop to camp well before sunset, ideally before 4 pm. This gives us time to pick the best spot, unpack, and relax before darkness arrives.

For more, read: Van Life Safety Tips For Women

2. Find Safe Places To Camp

Yuko standing inside a camper van and looking out across the river and forest
I try to take time to appreciate scenic camping spots

Finding safe places to camp is also important for solo female van lifers. The most significant benefit of van life is having the freedom to choose where to sleep, including paid campgrounds, national parks, dispersed camping, or informal places like truck stops and Walmarts.

But not all camp spots are good. Some places aren’t safe, others don’t allow camping, others are dirty.

Before choosing your camp spot for the night, check apps such as iOverlander and Campendium and read the reviews from other travelers about the spot before you arrive. A listing with more positive reviews usually means it’s safer and provides a better experience.

3. Be Social With Fellow Van Lifers

Two couples standing in front of an open camper van
Visiting old friends

Living in a van on the road can sometimes lead to feelings of isolation and loneliness. However, the van life community is full of like-minded individuals who enjoy living a minimalist lifestyle and exploring the outdoors,  just like you do. Being social with other van lifers gives you not only the opportunity to build new friendships but also to share experiences, learn tips, and help each other when in trouble.

Here are three ways to connect and build friendships with other van lifers. 

  • At Campground – Make it a habit of greeting other campers once you arrive at a campsite. Most van lifers love to meet others and are always up for a conversation. Our strategy is to see if a camper leaves their doors open or closed. Closed usually means they’d prefer to keep to themselves. But if the doors are open, we typically try to find time to go over and say “hi.”
  • Caravan – Traveling in a caravan with other van lifers is a great way to share memorable experiences and the safest way to explore the wilderness and deserted areas, as your group would be able to help you in case of emergencies.
  • Online Communities – Social media platforms like Instagram and Facebook also provide an opportunity to connect with other van life enthusiasts. Attending events, coffee shops, or other public spaces is a great way to meet new people and make connections on the road.

4. Keep in Contact With Family and friends

This is especially true for women who travel in camper vans by themselves. Keeping in message contact with family and friends is good for morale and allows you to share your experiences with loved ones.

Not only is constant communication good for your psyche, but it also helps keep you safer. Regular check-ins and travel updates let loved ones know you are safe and where you plan to explore next. This is especially useful before you explore National Parks or Forests, where reception can often be limited.

5. Trust Your Instinct

When traveling alone as a solo female van lifer, it is essential to trust your instincts as you may not have anyone else to rely on in an emergency. Be mindful of your surroundings, trust your gut, and stay alert and aware. 

If you sense that something is off or uncomfortable, take a step back and don’t be afraid to leave a campsite or to call for help. For example, if you see anyone walking closely around your van multiple times while camping, grab your van’s key and be ready to drive out. Also, set your phone to call the police with a single tap. It might be a false alarm, but it’s always better to be safe than sorry.

6. Set an Indoor Bathroom Solution

A toilet solution in your camper van is crucial for women in van life. It improves hygiene and reduces stress. Stepping out of your van to pee in the middle of the night isn’t fun and, sometimes, not a safe option.

Many toilet options are available, including chemical toilets, composting toilets, and just placing a toilet seat on a plastic bucket. Each option has pros and cons, with factors to consider, such as ease of maintenance, odor control, and space constraints.

However, I recommend using a simple silicone funnel for just peeing. It’s an excellent option for the most budget-oriented and space-efficient bathroom option. I use the funnel with a plastic bottle. I think it’s much more hygienic as the liquid is easy to dispose of, and a bottle isn’t as clunky as a chemical toilet’s black water tank.

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Regarding #2, I still don’t think it’s worth investing in a toilet. Read to learn why we don’t travel with a toilet.

7. Learn Basic Vehicle Maintenance

I don’t know many women interested in essential car maintenance. Honestly, it ranks pretty low on my list of things I want to learn about. But just because car maintenance is dull doesn’t mean we can (or should) ignore it. Even the most basic maintenance tasks are essential to keeping your van healthy and reliable long-term.

Ignoring it can sometimes lead to more significant and costly repairs.

You don’t necessarily need to know how to do the actual repairs or replacements, but it’s helpful to know how to check when it’s time to head to a mechanic for a maintenance visit. We provide a list of common maintenance issues for camper vans below.

  • Oil changes
  • Tire rotations
  • Brake Pad Replacements
  • Check Fluids (Coolant, Brake, Power Steering, Transmission)
  • Air Filter change

You can also join online communities specific to your vehicle type to learn how to maintain your van. In these forums, you can ask questions and get tips from people who have years of experience and knowledge with your specific vehicle.

In our case, because we have a Ford Transit, we joined the FordTransitUSA forum.

8. Build a Comfortable Set Up in Your Van

As a woman, I can’t underscore how important it is to build a camper van that works for YOU. That means having a layout you like, an electrical system that meets your needs, a proper kitchen that allows you to cook, and an interior design that reflects who you are.

Here are four things to help you prepare the van for a sustainable and comfortable van life journey.

Woman sitting in camper van in Sedona Arizona
Taking a break along a bumpy dirt road
  • Layout Planning – If you’re starting from scratch, read our guide to learn how to design your van floor plan.
  • Build A Robust Electrical System – Running out of power during van life isn’t fun. You should have an electrical system that meets your needs day in and day out. We provide amazing electrical guides to help get you started.
  • Build A Proper Kitchen Space – Building a practical kitchen space is crucial! You want space to store food, prepare meals, and clean up afterward. As a woman, few things are more enjoyable than a delicious home-cooked meal in my van. Here are some resources to help get you started.
  • Plan & Design Your Van Interior – A camper van interior should be designed with comfort, function, and style in mind. It’s the living space you always want to return to when you’re exhausted at the end of each day.

Learn More: How To Create a Stunning Camper Van Interior

9. Start Van Life With Familiar Destinations

Once our van build was completed, we set off immediately on a hard-core journey of wild camping without any experience living in our new van. Because of that, our first few weeks were quite stressful! We were simultaneously learning so many new things that we were exhausted each day.

If I could have done my first few days differently, I would have started camping in easy, stress-free, and familiar destinations. Even a friend’s driveway would have been perfect.

The first week of van life should be less about the destination and more about getting to know your new camper van home and creating new routines and habits to make your traveling experience smoother and less hectic.

10. Generate Income Before You Start Van Life

A woman working on a laptop in her Ford Transit camper van
Yuko working in our camper

Living and traveling in a camper van solely from your savings may seem like a good idea initially, but it can become a stressful experience. Van life may not necessarily be a cheaper way of living and traveling. 

Many people find themselves in trouble when they start looking for ways to earn income after quitting their jobs and moving into a van. Whether you opt for project-based freelance work like Upwork or try generating income from social media platforms like YouTube, Instagram, or blogs, you will face stiff competition, making it challenging to secure stable income. 

It is, therefore, essential to start working and building a source of income at least a year before embarking on van life while still living in a house and working full time.

11. Don’t Aim for the Perfection

Woman drinking beer and relaxing inside her campervan
Transitioning to van life is tough!

Sometimes, you’re stuck in a heatwave. Or sometimes you’re freezing cold at night and can’t sleep. Van life isn’t always glamorous, but the journey is worth embracing. You’ll learn to love yourself and appreciate the simple things in life, like watching the sunrise with no one around.

Van life is more than just picture-perfect Instagram posts. It is about embracing the journey and learning to appreciate the imperfections. While the stunning beaches and mountains might have initially caught your eye, it’s essential to understand that there is more to van life than just the visuals.

12. Don’t Be Ashamed To Pay To Camp

Some people take pride in never paying to camp by wild camping and boondocking. Not having to pay for camping is such a good feeling; however, continuously scouring for a place to camp and trying to be stealthy can be draining. 

Upholding austere practices of not paying for campsites may eventually wear you out. Remember to prioritize your wellness and allocate resources to treat yourself to a paid campsite when necessary. Taking care of yourself is the finest act of kindness you can do for yourself. 

Conclusion

I hope you enjoyed my 13 tips for women interested in entering van life. Please let me know in the comments section below if you have any additional questions.

Happy traveling!

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