Hilary Shandonay, an employee of Pura Vida Vans, sits in a converted van. (THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Hilary Shandonay, an employee of Pura Vida Vans, sits in a converted van. (THE CANADIAN PRESS)

‘Van life’ culture grows in B.C. as people look for pandemic-era travel options

Maxime Rico, Sun Peaks ski patroller, has been living in his 2014 Mercedes Sprinter for two years

Maxime Rico has been living in his 2014 Mercedes Sprinter for two years, splitting his time between the Yukon in summers and British Columbia in winters. He’s transformed the cargo van into a fully equipped living space with a diesel heater, and the only amenity he requires is a shower.

The 24-year-old ski patroller at Sun Peaks Resort near Kamloops, B.C., says there’s been a clear rise in newcomers to “van life”, especially among Ontarians and Quebeckers heading west to escape lockdowns in their provinces.

“There’s more and more people talking about it on social media and the trend has risen a lot,” said Rico.

“I’m really curious to see this summer how is going to look. There’s probably going to be a lot of people out here.”

People in the van life community, who live a mobile lifestyle in converted vans or trucks, say an increasing number of Canadians are experimenting with life on four wheels as a way of escaping the pandemic, and it’s driving up the value of used vans and trucks.

While Rico is living in his van indefinitely, he’s noticed that people are getting into van life for shorter trips that span a few months or weeks.

Pura Vida Vans, which specializes in converting standard cargo vans into fully equipped living spaces, says it’s seeing a spike in demand for its services.

“Since COVID there’s definitely been an increase in demand,” said Alex Hoelk, owner of Pura Vida Vans in Squamish, B.C., who says many people are starting to look at vans as a weekend “plaything.”

“I think a lot of that is people from all over Canada are unable to travel internationally as easily as they used to and they want a different mode for vacation.”

Hoelk said used vans that have already been converted are likely more expensive, especially because many companies that convert vans are booked up for the rest of the year.

Many of his clients spend upwards of $80,000 for a brand new Mercedes Sprinter and another $80,000 for the conversion, which can include features like solar panels and racks for sports gear.

A used stock Sprinter can cost around $35,000 Hoelk said, while some opt for cheaper setups using vans from the ’80s and ’90s.

Those on a budget will even convert old minivans into small living spaces, which can be done for under $10,000

While vans may be more expensive for new buyers, Rico said he’s glad to be insulated from the rising cost of rent in places like B.C., where remote workers have flocked and subsequently driven up the cost of living.

However, not everyone is keen on van life, and there are some who don’t look kindly upon the increase of vans in their neighbourhood. Rico said friends of his who live in vans with Ontario or Quebec license plates have had their tires slashed or brake lines cut.

He said the incidents happened in cities like Revelstoke, B.C., where there has been an influx of van lifers looking to live near recreation centres for skiing and mountain biking.

“People don’t generally appreciate random cars being parked in front of their houses these days — not that they like it regularly — but they hate it a lot more now,” said Rico.

“So trying to find a place to sleep is definitely quite a bit more complicated.”

Certain amenities, like bathrooms and showers, were also more difficult to come by as a result of physical distancing during COVID-19.

“Water supplies, showers, basic amenities like supermarkets were difficult to get to,” at the start of the pandemic, Rico says.

But as people adapted to life during the pandemic, Rico says van life went mostly back to normal.

“It’s definitely been easier now.”

CoronavirusLifestyletravel

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Dr. Christine Perkins is the new superintendent of schools for the Vernon School District, effective Aug. 1. Perkins moves to the North Okanagan from the Kootenay Lake School District in Nelson. (Vernon School District photo)
Vernon School District names new superintendent

Dr. Christine Perkins moves from Kootenay Lake district to take over from the retiring Joe Rogers

Vernon Public Art Gallery executive director Dauna Kennedy and board member Kyle Britton accept a $43,400 grant from the BC Arts Council one-time StrongerBC fund amid the COVID-19 pandemic April 9, 2021. (VPAG)
$43K boost for Vernon gallery

Province backs local art gallery with one-time pandemic grant

A 46-year-old man from Armstrong died in Revelstoke hospital after being injured in the Lumby area. (File photo)
Armstrong snowmobiler dies in Revelstoke hospital

46-year-old man injured in Tsuius Mountain area of Monashees around Lumby area

Part of the massive mess left behind in a Spallumcheen rental home owned by Wes Burden, whose tenants bolted from the property in the middle of the night. Burden is now facing a hefty cleaning and repair bill as a result. (Photo submitted)
Spallumcheen landlord’s home trashed by tenants

Rooms filled with junk, garbage, human and animal feces; landlord scared to rent again

B.C. wineries are open for indoor tasting despite new provincial health regulations. Photo- 
50th Parallel Winery, Instagram.
Indoor wine tastings still allowed in B.C., not considered a ‘social gathering’

“Tasting is really just part of the retail experience. The analogy I use is you wouldn’t buy a pair of pants without trying them on.”

Burnaby MLA Raj Chouhan presides as Speaker of the B.C. legislature, which opened it spring session April 12 with a speech from the throne. THE CANADIAN PRESS
B.C. NDP promises more health care spending, business support in 2021 budget

John Horgan government to ‘carefully return to balanced budgets’

The Red Pill Rapper performs to the crowd gathered for the Rally For Food Security at Blackburn Park on Saturday, April 10, 2021. (Kristal Burgess Photography)
The Red Pill Rapper performs to the crowd gathered for the Rally For Food Security at Blackburn Park on Saturday, April 10, 2021. (Kristal Burgess Photography)
Suspicion of ‘fake news media’ makes rally uncomfortable for Salmon Arm event photographer

More than 300 people counted at city park for ‘Rally For Food Security’

A lady wears a sticker given out after receiving a COVID-19 vaccine at a clinic in Richmond, B.C., Saturday, April 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS
B.C.’s COVID-19 case count slows after last week’s peak

3,219 new cases since Friday, 18 additional deaths

North Cowichan councillor Tek Manhas did not violate the municipality’s code of conduct by posting a sexist meme on Facebook, council concludes. (File photo)
B.C. municipality to take no action against councillor who posted sexist meme

Tek Manhas’s meme doesn’t violate North Cowichan council’s code of conduct, municipality concludes

The former Summerland Asset Development Initiative building on Prairie Valley Road in Summerland was suggested as the site for a temporary transitional housing facility for the community. However, Summerland council has rejected this proposal. (John Arendt - Summerland Review)
Summerland council rejects transitional housing facility

Concerns raised about short timeline and condition of municipally-owned building

Shayla, an 8-pound black and grey Havanese, was stolen from outside a store on Banks Road on Saturday. (Contributed)
Stolen pup located, Kelowna RCMP confirms

Mounties said on April 12 that Shayla, the 8-pound, black and grey Havanese dog, has been located safe and sound

Penticton Vees continue their winning streak carrying a 5-0 win title as of Sunday night's hockey action. (Cherie Morgan/Cherie Morgan Photography)
Penticton Vees continue winning streak

Sunday night’s 6-1 win has them with five in a row since the start of the season

A sign on a shop window indicates the store is closed in Ottawa, Monday March 23, 2020. The Canadian Federation of Independent Business is raising its estimate for the number of businesses that are considering the possibility of closing permanently. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Small business struggling amid COVID-19 pandemic looks for aid in Liberals’ budget

President Dan Kelly said it is crucial to maintain programs to help businesses to the other side of the pandemic

The National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians says that includes attempts to steal Canadian research on COVID-19 and vaccines, and sow misinformation. (AP Photo/Esteban Felix)
Intelligence committee warns China, Russia targeting Canadian COVID-19 research

Committee also found that the terrorist threat to Canada has shifted since its last such assessment

Most Read