Van Life: On the Road with Greg Boswell

© Greg Boswell

It's a climber's dream to have a home on wheels and the freedom to travel to climbing destinations without the need to fork out for expensive accommodation or make do with a cold, uncomfortable night in a tent. The cost and effort required to obtain a van and "pimp it out" - so to speak - is unfortunately a limiting factor for many wanting to lead a life on the road.

In this new series, we will be featuring a variety of vans and their owners and getting into the geeky details of their vehicle and its set-up. Whether you're looking for vanspiration as a seasoned dirtbag or you're a VW virgin, you might pick up some helpful hints and tips...

Greg's VW Transporter
© Greg Boswell

When did you decide you needed a van to live in and why? 

Last summer, when I was touring around Europe in my VW Golf with my girlfriend. We kept meeting people that were doing the same thing but in vans. Their trip looked way more comfortable and easier to just pack up and move on to the next destination, rather than take down tents and try to cram everything back into the wee golf!

What make and model is your latest one?

Volkswagen Transporter T4

What is the sleeping arrangement?

I have a single bed that pulls out into a double bed that runs down the side of the van behind the driver's seat, rather than a rock'n'roll bed.

How do you manage storage?

I have lots of storage under the bed and I'm putting in a cabinet behind the driver's seat and a cubby in the front.

Hard at work decking out the van
© Greg Boswell

How do you manage food storage and water supply? 

I'm going to put the food in the cabinet when I finish it, and I take an 8ltr bottle of water that I refill whenever possible.

How much power/electricity is available in your van, and from where? (solar, car battery etc)

I have a 110Ah leisure battery that is in the engine bay (under the bonnet) as there is room for it in the T4's. I have power sockets in the back of the van and the usual cigarette lighter socket in the front.

What is one essential item that makes your van life easier/more comfortable?

The front double passenger seats rotate to face into the back of the van, which gives loads of extra room when living.

Do you have a luxury item which you might not expect to find in a van set-up, but which you can't do without?

Baby wipes...

Interior set-up with fancy flooring
© Greg Boswell

How easy is it to relax in when not sleeping - does the set-up change?
Yeah, my bed is a big long couch when its not pulled out into the bed, and as I mentioned above, the swivel seat is a big bonus.

What is your most memorable van spot?

By the beach of Lac du Serre Poçon in France with the sun setting above the mountains, (unbelievable view)!

Have you had any nightmare situations involving your van?

Haha yeah, every time I look at my bank balance!

What advice would you give to someone wanting to buy and convert their first van?
Don't rush it, make sure you know what you want to do before you build anything into it, and maybe put some stuff into it and go away for a few days and see if it works before making it final. Make sure it looks rad!

Anything else you want to tell us?

It's all about the Transporters!

Going biking in the snow
© Greg Boswell

Quickfire Questions: 

Buy ready-converted or self convert? Whatever you can afford, look for the better engine and age of the van and go from there.
Old van but cheap or new and pricey? Either will probably cost the same in the long run. If you buy old, save some dosh for replacing parts that might need changing. e.g. cambelts, water pumps, starter motors, injectors. 
Solar power or battery/engine power? Both if you can fit it in, longer stays at places might suit a solar panel better.
Dirtbag or shower every day (or whenever you get the opportunity...) I try and get a shower or go swimming in lakes as often as possible.
Campsite or layby? Neither, try and find somewhere in the wilderness away from the road.
Basic meals or haute cuisine? (by van standards!) Haute Cuisine - you can cook really well on a gas stove, you've just got to be inventive!
Organised and tidy or disorganised chaos? If I'm on my own, then it's the latter, if I'm away with my girlfriend, then it's tidy...


Greg is sponsored by: Big Tree Campervans, Deuter, Grivel, Mountain Boot Company, Outdoor Research and Scarpa

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26 May, 2015
I'm thinking about getting rid of the car (now cycling distance from work) and doing a vivaro/traffic/primestar conversion this summer. I was originally looking at a transporter but seems like you pay a 'VW tax'. Anyone got any thoughts on other base vans (want to convert myself rather than get a mazda bongo or similar). I'd like to keep it looking stealthy, probably just a white van with blacked out side window and back windows.
26 May, 2015
I had a Toyota Hiace for years, quite cheap and the D4D engine is bombproof! Transporters are totally over-hyped & over-priced, especially the T4 which while strong is getting seriously old! Personally I'd steer clear of Mercs and the Vivaro/traffic/primestar, especially is you live by the sea, they get rusty very quickly. James
26 May, 2015
me and my girlfriend are going round europe for a few months to be climbing bums cant wait just converting the van now transit 2.5di 1995 you cant beet the old banana engines. direct injection no glow plugs no computer s*&t to go rong.these engines realy are bomb proof and will last a life time with proper maintenece oils ect witch is the most importent thing on the road live for adventure live to fist
26 May, 2015
Have you ever actually seen a rusty vivaro/trafic/primastar?
26 May, 2015
No-one has - they're like baby pigeons
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