The EEXP at the put-in for the Grand Canyon of the Stikine. Great camping area, but I passed on the river trip.
The EEXP at the put-in for the Grand Canyon of the Stikine. Great camping area, but I passed on the river trip.

Top 5 Reasons to Live in a Van Down by The River

Full-time vehicle dweller-paddler Bryon Dorr breaks down the pros to life on wheels

Photos and story: Bryon Dorr

Take “van down by the river” broadly, as I tend to live in all types of vehicles down by the creeks, rivers and oceans. I started living as a vagabond kayaker full-time with a four-month stint, between jobs, in a Volvo V70 wagon, which took me from Maryland, through Canada and on to Oregon. It taught me about the joys of life on the road, the tribulations of vehicle breakdowns and the simplicity of following your passions.

The Volvo V70 wagon might not look like much, but at 6'3" I can sleep in it, it's fun to drive and with long bars can hold 3 boats and a roof box full of gear.

I got a kick in the pants a little over five years ago when I had some close friends pass away, a few kayaking and one who was just being the kind awesome person who he was. I was overworked and underpaid in a company with little hope for upward mobility. Suddenly I was that guy who lives in a van down by the river.

NO, not "that guy," but a guy who has a deep passion for kayaking, adventure and travel. A guy who also has modest means and a desire to live simply and passionately.

The E-Series van, especially with a pop-top, 4×4 and Sportsmobile RV conversion is about the best "Van Down by the River" you can imagine.

I've now been that guy for over five years, living on the road full-time, first in a 4×4 Sportsmobile van, and now in a full custom expedition camper, on a Dodge diesel truck platform, known as the EEXP.

Here are my top five reasons to live in a van down by the river:

An old F150 with a custom kayak rack was a great home on the road, for months at a time, when I used to distribute Fluid Kayaks in North America.

1. Always Flowing Rivers
Chasing good water levels has never been easier! Plan your travels around the seasons, dam-release schedules and weather. You'll rarely find yourself in a position of having no flowing rivers to paddle locally ever again.

2. No Rent or Mortgage
Renting and owning a home exhausts a lot of financial resources. While your home on wheels is sure to have higher ownership costs than a small commuter car, it is also sure to be WAY less than you'd be paying for rent somewhere.

3. Less Commuting
If you rent or own a home, more likely than not, you have to commute to both work and the water. When you live in a van, you can usually at the very least cut out one of those commutes, by either parking down by the river, or somewhere near your workplace. Less commuting means less gas money, less vehicle maintenance and more time to paddle!

4. Simplicity
Less is more! When you live full time on the road in your vehicle you have less bills and less stuff. Cutting out extraneous stuff will be a challenge at first, but the rewards of only being surrounded by the things you value the most are worth the up-front stresses.

5. More Kayaking
The most important reason of them all! Your boat and gear is always loaded up and ready to go when you live in a van down by the river. If you're lucky, you find a good spot to park up along your favorite whitewater run, which makes it that much easier to get a shuttle and get on the river.

Besides all these financial, logistical and life-simplifying reasons to live in a van down by the river, the most important thing of all is the appreciation you gain for the little things in life. Many people take for granted the access to a hot shower, wifi, laundry machines and so many other modern conveniences. When you live in a van down by the river it is a real treat to take a long hot shower, have easy access to fast wifi and not have to wait around a laundromat to clean your clothes.

The custom EEXP overland adventuremobile is a comfortable home anywhere it's parked.

— Read more on the ultimate van shuttle, 8 unbelievable shuttle rigs, and see more of Dorr’s coverage for C&K from the road at last year’s Santa Cruz PaddleFest.

— Check out Dorr’s adventure lifestyle site Exploring Elements, where his EEXP overland adventuremobile, “the perfect kayaker home on wheels,” is currently for sale.