Preparing for the move

Here are a few things you can do before a permanent or long-term trip to make the transition easier. This is not a checklist; don’t worry if you haven’t fulfilled each and every one of these points. In most cases, these are things that you can address after making the move. It is just easier if you have thought about them beforehand and planned ahead.

Basic necessities

  • Multiple changes of clothing. I don’t want to tell anyone how they should dress, but the truth is that people are judgmental about appearances. It will be smart to keep at least one outfit that conforms and blends in with the more conservative elements in society. The more you look like “one of the tribe”, the easier it will be to ask for help if you ever need it.
  • First aid kit. Bandages, sterile gauze, rubbing alcohol, pain relievers – the usual.
  • Fire extinguisher. This is useful in case of an engine fire, and a fire extinguisher is especially important if you will have open flames from a propane heater or stove, candles, etc.
  • A large supply of water. Try for a minimum of 5 gallons and preferably at least 10 gallons of water storage at all times. Smaller 2-gallon jugs are easy to fill and make it easier to rotate the water supply.
  • Dry foods, tightly sealed. Smelly foods attract wildlife (bears in particular), which you want to avoid if you ever park in the wilderness. Grains, nuts, and oils are very high-density sources of calories that don’t take much space and have a long shelf life.
  • Cookware and eating utensils. There is no need to go overboard here, but it is sometimes helpful to have a few extra utensils available. They don’t take up much space.
  • Tools for self-defense. While rare, an unfortunate fact of life is that there are criminals out there. Usually just the prospect of a confrontation is enough to keep them at bay, but it never hurts to have a sharp or blunt instrument within reach, even if it is just for your own peace of mind.
  • Cleaning supplies. Useful cleaning supplies include dish detergent, bleach, Windex, and a non-toxic degreaser.
  • Legal documents. Secure a location for your birth certificate, social security card, and other important documents. Due to the risk of theft, renting a safe deposit box may be ideal if you’re not constantly hopping around the country.
  • A safe place to hide other valuables. Find a container that is waterproof and can be made to blend in and look like part of the vehicle’s structure.


What is going to stay, and what goes away? Decluttering can be a very difficult step as you prepare for a life on the move. Three big problem areas:

  • Sentimental items and collectibles. It is always hard to part with family heirlooms or memorabilia from past relationships. Perhaps you know a trusted friend who will care for these items. Otherwise, you might try to integrate things like an antique end table into your setup.
  • Items that “might be useful” someday. These days it seems like everyone has a drawer or box full of old cables and power supplies that are perfectly good and seem like a waste to throw away. Let’s face it – most of that stuff will never be useful. Dump it, or sell it if you can.
  • Items that were expensive. It is never a good feeling to dispose of something that cost hundreds of dollars, even if it is no longer worth enough to recoup the investment anymore. If you are unable to sell an expensive item and it won’t fit in the van, this may be an opportunity to do a good deed and donate to charity.