We chatted with Kathleen Morton, the mastermind behind Tiny House, Tiny Footprint and vanlifer living in a 140 sq. ft. camper trailer. We asked Kathleen about inspiring others to get small and reduce their environmental footprint, van snacks, and best road trip tunes.
Sunski: What was the hardest thing to give up when moving into a van? (Do you miss having extra room for camp gear or a particular dish that you used to cook with a bigger kitchen?)
Kathleen: Moving into a van wasn’t so difficult for me because I was going from one tiny house to another. Previous to a van, I lived in a camper trailer. But I do miss having a shower and a washer and dryer. Those are two things I have to seek out on the road and I’ve paid a lot to use them when I’ve gone a long time between showers or when I run out of things to wear.
Does your van have a shower/bathroom? Pros and cons of having one or not?
It does not. Sometimes I think it would be nice to have those luxuries available, especially in emergency situations. But I’m never too far from a place that has those two things and I’ve gotten pretty used to using the outdoors as my restroom when I have to.
Where is the weirdest place you have slept? Where is the raddest place you have slept?
Such a good question! I’m not sure I have a place that is that strange. I always try to post up in national forest or BLM land. If that’s not available, I have slept on side streets in neighborhoods and at trailheads. The least exciting place I’ve slept has been a few blocks from downtown Moab when my van had to go to a mechanics shop the next day. There are so many great BLM options around Moab that it was so frustrating for me to be stuck close to town and not in a more remote location.
One of my favorite places to sleep was in Needles District in Canyonlands National Park. There was a creek nearby and views of canyons in every direction. We had a big open area to ourselves and plenty of room for vans and tents.
Do you have a favorite road trip playlist? Any go-to car jams?
I do! I made a road trip playlist recently and have listened to it on repeat. It features some Portugal the Man, John Denver and Elephant Revival. I like having a mixture of genres to keep me entertained. Recently I have been listening to my friends Always the Road and their new Acoustic Sessions album. I heard them play around the campfire in Oregon and I’ve been addicted to their music ever since.
What are your go-to van snacks?
I always have dried mangos, peanut butter, crackers and hummus. It’s always nice to have some sort of cold drink in the cooler for those hot summer days.
How is your work influenced by your way of life?
Each day I try to find a coffee shop or restaurant where I can sit outside with Peaches and work on my computer. But I also spend a lot of time each day out in nature. I work with outdoor brands to produce content around their products and most of the time that involves Peaches and I going on a hike or cooking food outside.
Do you find that some days you like living in your van, and others you wish you didn’t?
Sometimes it can get lonely being in a small space alone and traveling all the time. It can also be quite frustrating when your van breaks down and you’re not able to do what you had originally planned. But most of time, I love the freedom I have to go anywhere and work from any location.
Is your van complete? Or is it always a work in progress?
Currently I am borrowing a friend’s van while I explore which rig I want to buy. It’s a 1978 Ford Econoline van that is a former postal van. They built it out to have a bed in back and a small kitchen setup on the side. Before that, I owned a 1987 Toyota van that only had room for a bed frame in the back. But I think with all vans, they are always a work in progress. If I end up keeping this van, I will add some touches to make it my own. If I buy a new van, I will start a build from scratch. It’s always nice to look around at your home and say, “I did that.”
What’s your favorite van accessory / trick / pro tip?
I have a few! I always carry a water bottle and a Hydroflask with me. One is for water and one is for coffee. It’s nice to keep them available to refill whenever I can. I also use a sleeping bag cover for my laundry and a collapsible egg carton for storing eggs in my cooler. Having a great cooler is key. I used to use a Yeti and I ended up having to buy new ice every few days. I really like my Dometic cooler that charges from my Goal Zero power station. It keeps food cold on those hot summer days.
What’s something that living out of a van has provided for you, that you did not expect to experience or discover?
I wasn’t expecting to find ways to get creative to escape the heat in the summer months. Peaches and I like to find creeks and rivers to wade through and hang out near during the day. We sit in shaded spots by trees and hang out on outdoor patios. If I lived in a house, I would most likely be hanging out indoors most of the day with the AC on and working. But because the van doesn’t have AC, Peaches an I have to get creative in ways to be outside most of the day without overheating.
Connect with Kathleen at @tinyhousetinyfootprint.