Setting up your automobile or ‘rig’ is the single most important step toward classy dirtbagging. If set up properly, any car, truck, van, or short bus can provide for the unsagacious climbing bum what Neuschwanstein provided Ludwig II.
Here are some guidelines:
1. The Box
Organization is crucial with such limited living space. As such I highly recommend getting some kind of cargo box for any car, SUV, or even truck. This allows you to organize the stuff you need to access on a daily basis such as clothes, gear, and cookware. Most cargo boxes are surprisingly spacious and allow you keep things separated using bins or milk crates. Every item you find a place for in the box is an item that you don’t have to move or deal with when its time for sleep.
In addition to the cargo box, there are a couple tricks to maximizing storage space. If you have a small car or wagon I recommend taking out the bench seat. Not only does this extend your sleeping space, but it creates significant storage in the foot space behind the driver and front passenger seats. If you have a truck or van, a raised bed is the way to go. Any sort of raised platform, fancy or not, will make life significantly easier. If you can rig up a pull out drawer of some kind you will be one happy camper.
3. The Bed
Just because you live in your car doesn’t mean you have to sleep on an old leaky Therm-a-Rest or dirty crash pad. Measure your sleeping space and go buy some foam at your local hardware store. It helps to size it similar to the dimensions of a twin mattress so you can throw on an old set of sheets. I use the child-sized twin mattress I slept on as a kid. It has jungle creatures on it. I carry a sleeping bag for cold nights, but nothing beats sprawling out in a normal bed with sheets and blankets. With a limited travel wardrobe, its surprisingly simple to wash a set of twin sheets along with your dirty clothes in a single washing load at the laundry mat. Throw in a pillow too. Using a jacket gets old pretty quick.
They don’t have to be fancy, but make sure you have some sort of curtains before launching a trip. They really come in handy if you end up having to spend the night in a parking lot or rest stop. I sewed up these beach-house style curtains from an old set of bed sheets. It was relatively easy to come up with and hang some curtain rods around the four sides of my bed. Another and perhaps better method is the use of Velcro. Simply glue a strip of Velcro ‘hook’ above the window, and sew or glue a strip of Velcro ‘loop’ along the top edge of each curtain. This allows you to quickly pull your curtains down and get them out of the way when driving. Again they don’t need to be anything fancy, but a groovy set of curtains can really add a nice gypsy quality to car living.