Basic Needs

Admittedly this post could have been combined with “Items We Can’t Live Without” but I felt like breaking it up would make more sense in my brain. However, for the sake of future adventure Van Lifers, I’ll add a link to that post here and another to “Routine” so that the magic of Google and hyperlinks can keep all this stuff organized in one semi-thread. That’s how it works, right?! I’m so techy.

Moving along…when I was in the 4th grade, I remember learning that human beings have three basic needs: food, clothing, shelter. Often times, in life, relationships and human interaction can be tested when these basic needs are not met. In my experience, food is the most common denominator and has henceforth be coined “hangry”, something that is not at all foreign to one Roaming Robo more than another.

Van Life requires that we expand the list of basic needs to include, specifically, water, hygiene/voiding, and some could argue temperature control, but I think that speaks more to clothing and shelter. And, quite honestly, the most inquiries I’ve received are about showers, pooping and Penny. So let’s explain.

In case any one’s mind is wondering about food & human temperature control/comfort, I urge you to refer to our two posts about the initial build out and pre-departure upgrades. We have a fridge, camp stove, hot pot for water, rice cooker/steamer, NutriBullet (although have not used),ceiling fan/vent, 12 gallon simple pump sink w grey water collection and a last minute addition of a heater with cool air in-take function.

Now back to showers, pooping and Penny.

Showers: So far we have been lucky and have had access to showers at friend’s houses. Sometimes we have shower access at campgrounds where we chose to pay money and park/sleep. We have spent one night in the parking lot of an Elks Lodge, Jon is a member, more on that later, and they have tremendous amenities including showers. On that particular night I denied a shower due to laziness. Trust me, there was a need, but I was feeling chilled and tired, so I declined. Big mistake. I had one of two interrupted sleeps where the slightly sticky factor of my own skin was just slightly annoying for sleep. From then on I live by the motto “never pass up the chance for a shower”. We showered once at Specialized HQ after a ride. We took Glen at NorCal Bikes on his offer to hop in their showers post ride. Chances are, if you offer, we will accept.

However, sometimes showers are not available and, quite frankly, it’s been too dang cold for the 5 gallon solar shower which is full and ready to go. So introducing, Action Wipes. They are as excellent as their founder, Martha. They absolutely will do the trick to remove a layer or two of sweat and slime when running water isn’t a luxury. And you are not left with a layer or residue or slime, unlike some generic baby wipes (we have tried them all). As a side note, they make a great remedy for poison oak exposure. Neither Jon nor I are particularly susceptible but it’s comforting to know the properties of Action Wipes go far beyond shower in pouch, so to speak. While greeting Martha, the founder, at Sea Otter, I was exposed to some of their other products. Something called the “honey stick” caught my attention. Good for sunburns, wounds, dry skin, exposed/chapped skin. SOLD! I’m hooked and literally use it every day for chapped nose & lips, post sun burns because I ALWAYS forget to put sunscreen on when rides start with arm warmers (when will I learn). It’s also great for Penny’s paws, which have taken a beating on the various terrain she has been exploring. So, big fan.

Oh and as for hair and lack of showers, the usual, dry shampoo, headbands/hats and pony tails 😉


Pooping: People really want to know, like really. We don’t have a bathroom in Ellie. We do have a collapsible full sized toilet seat which sits about 6” off the ground and comes complete with bag, the contents of which are essentially kitty litter. We are two months in and have not had to use it, but we both like knowing it exists if we were ever in a difficult situation. So pooping happens in public bathrooms or campsites or houses so far. No magic there. The magic of our bathroom needs comes in the form of an old mountaineering trick: The pee bottle.   For dudes, the pee bottle is easy. Nalgene bottle clearly marked and intended ONLY for urine. For girls, we need a little help. So, enter Go Girl. It’s brilliant. Every night before bed, one of us will set out the pee bottles. Since opening and closing the van door in the middle of the night can be quite disturbing, the pee bottles offer a quiet, clean and easy way to void. One of us can slide out of bed without the other one knowing, use their bottle and crawl back in. Easy.


Penny: we leave Penny in the van quite a bit and she doesn’t care. So far we have not hit warm temps, but we know they are coming and we designed the van and selected her gear with her poor thermoregulation in mind. Mostly we were worried about heat, but the nights have been chilly so we have added some components. We have the van set up so she will keep her cool in heat. I wrote a piece about that earlier. However since chilly temps have been more of an issue we happy to report that Penny keeps warm thanks to her puffy, fleece base layer and sleeping bag. Yup, you read that correctly.  She’s a Ruff Wear ambassador and uses the gear religiously.  If and when it heats up we do have a swamp cooler vest for her. Her bed can flip to one side for cooler temps and one for warmer. She also loves her “outside mat” for comfort inside and outside of the van.  Jon did add a heater that has a cool air intake to help circulate cooler air when we leave her.

Travel with Penny has been easy so far. Campgrounds are dog friendly.  She went in and out of Canada and all she needed was her Rabies Certificate from the vet, which we got before she leaves. She’s due for an upgrade in December but any vet can do that.  For Alaska she does need a health certificate filled out within 7-14 days of departure so we have an appointment in a few days at a Banfield Pet Hospital.  They are a huge system and we are happy to be in their network in the rare event that we need vet services along the way (aside from vaccination updates).



So there you have it, that’s how the Roaming Robos meet our basic needs and stay happy, comfortable and regular 😉 and also how our sweet Penny doesn’t end up the property of Alaska or Canada…we hope.


3 thoughts on “Basic Needs

  1. Lot’s of information there


  2. Erin Hobin-Audet

    Did you learn ‘food, clothing and shelter’ from Miss Foley? Because that’s pretty much the only thing I remember from her 4th grade social studies class. Go Glover School! Will your van travels take you to New England at some point?


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