Adventure Vehicles: Life on the Road

Adventure Vehicles: Life on the Road

By: Russel Henry

Home is where the adventures are.

Adventure Vehicles: homes on wheels

Living in British Columbia almost everyone has a backyard bike trail, local climbing crag, or after work class 3 river run. It’s when we start to look beyond our local areas that we discover so much more of the wild world of adventure. We make longer and longer drives for weekend missions. No matter where you go, or how far the drive, sooner or later you’re going to end up sleeping in your vehicle. Whether it’s at the put-in, trail-head, or simply on the side of the highway because you just could not keep your eyes open any longer. We have all experienced shifting paddling or camping gear from the back seats to the front, sliding seats as far forward as they go, and cursing because your Toyota Tercel just isn’t quite long enough for your 6-foot build. It’s moments like these when you start to think about getting some kind of permanent sleeping set-up.


living out of a vehicle

Maddie Crowell’s 07’ Tacoma keeping it simple.

Station wagons, trucks, vans, trailers, the possibilities for adventure vehicles are endless. When thinking about what would fit your lifestyle where do you start? 

Picking the right rig

When you start to consider pros and cons of different adventure rigs the first thing you need to do is figure out what kind of adventures you’ll be taking this baby on. Are you taking it up to Roger’s Pass for weekend ski touring trips? Are you going on a climbing road trip down to Red Rocks? Are you whitewater kayaking for two months on Vancouver Island? All these activities demand different characteristics out of your rig. You need to choose accordingly.


van life

Max Fisher’s very comfortable set-up in his Chevrolet E250 van.

What to look for in your set-up

How simple is it to make? How much will it cost? Will I want some sort of heat? How much gear do I need to carry? Do I want to bring this thing everywhere with me? Do I have lots of friends that like to party?

Theoretically, you could live in your car in Kootenay Pass in the winter, it just wouldn’t be too pleasant when you are trying to put on your frozen boots every morning. And theoretically you could just buy the most ballin’ RV with a queen sized bed, TV, kitchen, and hot tub, it just wouldn’t be too cost friendly.

So really, when choosing the ultimate home on wheels it boils down to how cheap are you and how comfortable do you want to be?


home on the road

Author Russell Henry’s trailer set-up for full living.

Pros and Cons of each

 This table goes from basic, or “roughing it”, to complex, or “luxury”.

Car Simple; Light; Inexpensive Cold; Wet; Very limited space; Have to rearrange things before bed
Truck with Canopy Simple; Light; Inexpensive to make; Cheap to move Cold; Can’t dry things; Limited storage space
Van Can carry a bunch of things, Potentially warm and can dry things; Simple to move Have to bring your whole life everywhere you go; Not the best on gas
Truck with Camper Can carry lots of things; Warm and can dry things; Can have a party! Awkward to remove and leave behind; Pricier on gas
Truck with Trailer Can carry anything you can imagine; Warm and can dry things; Can have a party; Easy to leave behind Challenging to drive in a city; Pricier on gas; One more thing to break

So who is doing it?

Maddie Crowell is a skier, climber, and just all-round badass adventurer from Telluride, Colorado. Here’s what she has to say about her truck.

“My 2007 Tacoma suits my transient lifestyle because it can go anywhere in any conditions. In 2014 I spent my inaugural summer living in the truck, climbing all the 14,000-foot peaks in Colorado. It helped get me to the top of all the 4WD trailheads where I could sleep for free. Since then I have road tripped every winter from British Columbia to Colorado and the truck lifestyle has provided a refuge for me to crash when friends have limited couch space. From the logging roads of Vancouver Island, to dusty desert trails of Utah, to the rocky roads outside my hometown of Telluride “the taco” has allowed me to gain access to so many incredible places. My truck also helps me play an adult sized game of Tetris, and this fall when I moved back to Colorado for the ski season I was able to fit everything I own into the truck including 5 pairs of skis, 4 winter tires, 2 bikes, surfing gear, an elaborate camping kit, and all my other personal belongings. Plus, the tailgate is clutch for downtime activities like cooking dinners, practicing air guitar and playing cribbage.”


Living in a truck

Crowell’s “Taco” getting her out in the mountains of Colorado.

Max Fisher is a split boarder, climber, paddler, and NOLS instructor who lives in his Chevy van year-round. It’s kitted out with a fridge, stove and oven, hot water heater, wood stove, and a pop top. He thinks it’s the perfect set-up for him.

“Having a house that rolls with you everywhere allows you to play in all the environments you want to, without having to pack and unpack all the time. Also, the freedom to roam, not pay rent (which saves you money) and if you put a little fire place in there it’s a pretty cushy winter home! It fits my lifestyle and I would recommend it to those that want to live a similar one to me!”


van life

Max has company in his home on wheels up on Mt Baker.

I currently live in my 9×5 foot utility trailer, that has been converted into a camper-like home on wheels, that I tow with a 98’ Tacoma. Based on the Northern end of Vancouver Island until Christmas, I’m exploring lots of things but am trying to mostly focus on kayaking new unpaddled rivers. Having a trailer with a wood stove allows me to dry out my layers and stay warm in the evening; I have a solar panel set-up for power; It’s big enough that friends can join me and have a place to hang out during these long dark evenings; And being able to detach and leave my trailer behind allows me to drive bumpy logging roads with just my truck and kayaking gear.


tiny home living

Russells home on wheels set up at the Puntledge River in Courtenay, BC

The verdict on tiny adventure vehicle homes

Trucks with a canopy and bed set-up in the back are great for sleeping in every now and then, or if you’re in a dry warmer climate. They are cheap set-ups to make, can get you to anywhere you want to go (if you have a 4WD) and are just generally badass. Vans are also really awesome and can allow you to have heat. They are a little less capable at 4WDing but, if you’re not trying to drive down decommissioned logging roads in the dead of winter you should be fine. When you add a trailer to the back of your truck (or van) it allows you to leave it anywhere you desire while still having a heated home, 4WD capability, and gives you enough space to have some friends over. Cars, campers, and motorhomes all vary from these a little bit but I think you get the idea.

I could do a pretty good job at convincing you trailer living is the best way to go but then Maddie or Max could probably pull you towards vans or trucks as well. The thing is, there are so many ways to go and they are all great alternatives to the ‘norm’. Each vehicle has its own funny quirks, things that don’t ever quite fit, and at times they can be a burden, but in the end having a home that you can take skiing, climbing, fishing, or travelling, is pretty damn awesome.

If you’re interested in following along find us on Instagram: Maddie @madcrowell, Max @fish_nbr21, Russell @russellfrederickhenry

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