Ben and I have lived in a van for seven months now. Purposeful romance is usually last on the list of things we make time for, right after vacuuming our carpet and cleaning the bugs off the front bumper. Living in a van can really put a damper on the romance. Ben doesn’t fit lengthwise in the van, so he sleeps diagonally and I sleep in a corner. We go days, sometimes weeks, without a real shower. We have so many cuts and bruises and bug bites that shaving would be laughable. But somehow we still wake up each morning and say “I love you.”
This did not come easily. We’ve had super low moments, where Ben has hiked in one direction, and I in the other. But for the most part, we’ve become a well-oiled machine, able to predict movements before they happen. I plug his phone in before he reaches for the cord, he sets my slippers below the bed before I lift my head from the pillow. We share romance in a different way when living in such close quarters, and in the backcountry. Here are a few suggestions for van living and backcountry hiking to help you and your sig-other adjust more quickly than we did!
Bagged wine, boxed wine, doesn’t matter, just bring it.
Whether you’re hiking 15 miles to your campsite, or you are parked on the side of the road after a long drive, DO NOT for-go the wine. It’s essential and COMPLETELY worth packing in on long backpacks, and well worth the space it takes up in your tiny van. If you don’t have a half-empty bag of wine laying around right before you set off on your trip, consider buying these. They pack down once you drink them, and are the perfect serving size at the end of a long hike day. While you’re at it, don’t forget dessert.
ProTip: Bears LOVE wine. Almost more than I do. Don’t forget to pack your empty wine carriers in a smell proof bags or bear bin.
Zip your sleeping bags together, just don’t forget to wear long pajamas.
This applies to sleeping in the van, and also in the backcountry. A lot of brands make compatible gender specific bags, meaning the men’s zips along the left and the woman’s on the right. You can completely unzip them individually and then zip them back together so you have one huge sleeping bag to cuddle in. This is great for Ben who’s the perma-big spoon. With the bags zipped together, we can cuddle all night! Make sure to strap your sleeping mats together so there’s no cold hard spot between the two sleeping bags. You MUST wear long pajamas, nothing kills romance faster than sticking to the person you’re sleeping next to. Whether you’re in a van and five days out from your last shower, or in a zipped together sleeping bag after a sweaty uphill slog, cover your gross, unshowered skin, and cuddle away.
Pro Tip: On extra cold nights in the backcountry, make sure the area of the sleeping bag between your heads is closed so no heat can escape through space between.
Skinny dip to get the hot spots.
If you have the ability to get in a large body of water, DO IT! It saves you from being a sticky mess and having to wear long pajamas at night (see above). When you’re backpacking, it might be the most refreshing thing you can do. All you really need to clean is the ‘hot spots.’ Everything else is icing on the cake, and completely unnecessary. When you’re van’ing, try a solar shower if a large body of water is inaccessible or too crowded. If water isn’t available, wilderness wipes are the next best thing. And remember — hot spots!
Pro Tip: There is no good way to travel with a full solar shower. Put it inside and it will absolutely spill. Leave it on a trailer or secured to the top of your van and SOMETHING will puncture it. Take it from the five solar shower fatalities we’ve had, a full solar shower is a dangerous thing.
But seriously, kind words.
This is the cheapest, and most effective way, to keep the romance alive when living in a van or hiking with your honey in the backcountry. There is no trick here, simply expressing your love and reminding each other you appreciate the small things they’re doing (like carrying the wine so I don’t have to, and then letting me drink more than my fair share — you’re the best Ben)! You can try yelling encouragement to each other when you’re halfway up a mountain pass. Kind words can go a REALLY long way, especially when your pack feels like it’s getting heavier even though you’ve already consumed the chocolate you stashed in there just in case. Those are the times when it is most important. Especially because the chocolate is gone.
Pro Tip: Kind words obviously help for us, but people communicate love in totally different ways, check out the five love languages if you haven’t already. Maybe your sweetheart would feel the romance most if you secretly stashed some chocolate for them and pulled it out at the right exact moment on that uphill climb. Okay — that works for me too.
There are a few items that make romance in the backcountry a little easier. Check out this list from Elevation Outdoors for some more ideas!
Ben and I finish our tour in one month and we can’t believe it’s coming to an end. We will have no idea what to do with a shower every day, food in a fridge, and sleeping in the same spot every night. If anyone has tips on how to do romance in a stationary house, we would love to hear them, because we have certainly forgotten how.
If you like the gear we’re reppin’, or what we’re wearing, check out some of the sponsors that make this tour possible: La Sportiva, Crazy Creek, National Geographic, RovR Products, Sea to Summit, Mountain House, LifeStraw, and Lowe Alpine.