Turns out, you do need a plan. For the first bit at the very least. The bit where you get a van, and then fill it with all sorts of stuff that seems critical for survival.
Fall-Line Digital Editor Hannah James continues the story of her season-long road trip in the Alps.
Having spent over a year decluttering my life in pursuit of stuff-less-ness, the last few weeks have been a bit traumatic as the acquisition of hugely boring tools and equipment hit an all-time high.
Here’s what you need to know about #vanlife. Everything has to have Swiss Army Knife functionality. Like the jack-of-all-trades crofters of the Shetland Islands, a spoon needs to be a doorstop and a screwdriver and an ice axe – and preferably convert water into wine too.
We’ve had help with this kit-list as Facebook came to the rescue. We’ve been recruited into a cult FB group who know everything there is to know about over-wintering in the Alps. They’ve been amazing. Although I’m not sure whether to laugh or cry at the pitiful cries coming from James of
“WTF do we need a see-through hose for?” and “Why are there four bloody adapters for this?”
Thursday is ‘van collection day’. Friday is ‘new Falken snow tyres fitting day’ and Saturday is ‘sit on the drive for 10 hours trying to make snow chains go on day’.
The garage looks as though it belongs to a doomsday prepper with metres of cables; blue plugs and red plugs and three-ways; and enough lavatory chemicals to sterilise a hospital. I’m sure Ray Mears wouldn’t need all this stuff. Once the snow-kit is in, there’s just no room for pants so James will have to go without.
Once we’ve loaded everything (and unloaded it and loaded it again), we’re going to visit our local VOSA weigh bridge to check we’re within the 3.5 permissible tonnes. This is actually important, and whether you’re in a T5 or a fancy coach-built motorhome, you’re not meant to carry too much weight. Apart from the obvious penalties you’ll risk here and in Europe, there’s a reason for those restrictions – and that is safety. It’s not because the gendarmes don’t want you to bring four deckchairs and a spare hair dryer. Travelling overloaded will put your tyres under strain, potentially damage the suspension on your vehicle, cost you a butt-load more in fuel and, most importantly, completely invalidate your insurance. Now do you really need five pairs of skis each? Think multi-function (MUF as we’re calling it).
If it ain’t MUF it ain’t coming).
By the time you read this we’ll be on the road (and hopefully not shivering at the roadside using our emergency equipment and torch), with a fair few ski days’ skiing already behind us and looking forward to an extremely white Christmas. Of this we are confident, because as well as prepping our vehicle, we have been keeping a fanatical eye on snowfall (better than the last few years) and weather forecast (promising). In the happy and smug knowledge that wherever the snow is falling, we can follow it, fully equipped for action.
UPDATE: That’s not how it went down… check out the rest of the series to find out what a season on the road actually looked like.
You can read the full account of Hannah and James’ season at Winterized.eu