Van life – exploring the outdoors in style

July 20, 2021/ Posted by Marmot Mountain Europe GmbH

Hello, my name is Hazel. First and foremost I am an outdoor professional and enthusiast. For most of my life I have spent more time outside than indoors. Developing a love for the mountains in my teenage years. Working as an outdoor instructor for many years before changing direction and bringing me to work for Marmot as a Sales and Training Representative in the United Kingdom. Having a strong drive for adventure and playing in the mountains, I have managed to get to some pretty special places. Including working in the Himalayan mountains leading treks to Everest Base camp, trekking in Bhutan and exploring some of the wild places in Africa.

Some of my adventures have been aided by my life in a van. What started as a short term answer to having no place to live, became a life style choice. Allowing me to have more travel trips and adventures.

I am 4 vans and 16 years into my journey, Rupert was the first, followed by Derek, Harold and Ajay. Each one I have insulated and kitted out myself, with the addition of a diesel heater, essential for my winter trips. A lesson I learnt after my first winter trip to the Alps, I was so cold at night that I did not sleep and genuinely thought I might die. After the first night I made some friends who took pity on me and let me sleep on their sofa, a much better option than my very cold van!

Benefits worth the compromise

Living in a van is not without compromise, taking a shower needs some planning. Topping up with drinking water, especially in summer, is always at the back of my mind. But the benefits have always been high. A weekend away needs no real planning other than where I fancy my adventure being. No hotels to book, just pick a beautiful place to explore. There have been many trips to the Alps with different goals. Being able to follow the best weather and pick the best locations to get the most out of my time.

Luggage constraints – why bother?

The added bonus of traveling by van is the ability to take all the toys. Unlike being restricted to airline baggage, where inevitably I end up wearing my mountain boots and taking my rack as hand luggage to keep to the weight restrictions. When travelling in the van I can take multiple pairs of boots, as many climbing ropes as I feel I might need and never have to worry about the weight. Add a friend, a snowboard and a set of ski’s, then access to my bed becomes a consideration.

Autobahn vs. backroads in the nature

Some countries are easier than others for traveling by van. The Italian drive like lunatics, so it is best to avoid the cities where possible, with a right-hand drive van, visibility is bad making cities even more frightening! The motorway system throughout Europe is great, although costly. So take the backroads if time is not against you, as they are significantly slower. Rest Aires are brilliant for a few hours sleep on the motorway, and most campgrounds and leisure centers will let you pay for a shower. So you don’t have to be a stinky climber unless you choose to.

The Lake District as my back garden

Not forgetting of course that the UK has a whole lot to offer too. I am very fortunate that my base gives me the Lake District as “my back garden” with so many opportunities for mountain adventures. We can just see the Lake District in the distance from our showroom, so always tempting when the weather is good to escape early and have an evening adventure in summer. Climbing after work in the Langdale valley is one of my favorite things about living here. Working with like-minded people who are also keen to get out and play also helps.

Winter mornings are a challenge

Being able to sleep close to the start of an adventure, especially in winter, allows me to get the most out of the day without the need for an early start. Definitely a bonus in my world. Mornings have never been my strong point! There is not much that can beat a sunny winter day in the mountains of the Lake District. It is a rare treat in winter to get a day with good snow and ice conditions and the sun shining too. If we do get the sun, I still need to be prepared for all the weather, the weather changes fast, and you can never be sure that it will follow what the forecast has said.

Van life means experiencing unique moments

I have had lots of memorable moments over the years whilst on adventures in my van. Waking up to unexpected snow whilst on a Via Ferrata trip in Italy, not what I had planned, but very beautiful. Getting snowed into my van whilst on a snowboarding trip in the Alps, it took me a long time to eventually open the door enough to dig myself out. Quite stressful! Waking up to Reindeer outside my van whilst on a snowboarding trip in the Cairngorms, Scotland. Very docile beautiful creatures as they get fed regularly to maintain the herd. An experience I have also had when my tent was surrounded by reindeer whilst camping on the flanks of Cairngorm mountain. Entertaining when you just want to have a private pee. I wouldn’t change all the adventures I have had, and I look forward to many more.

Text & Photos:
Hazel Johnson

Hazel Johnson
United Kingdom
July, 2021
The Send