7 Vanlife Athletes You Should Know About
Vanlife is more popular than ever. What was once a community of musicians, retirees, and hippies, has grown into a thriving community of people from all different walks of life. In this article, we have seven athletes who have taken the passion for their sport to the road and committed to the #vanlife so they can hike, snowboard, mountain bike and climb as much as possible.
Type of Van: 2002 Ford Sportsmobile
Chosen Sport: Rock climber
Vans Name: Stanley
Time lived in the Van: About 5 years but not full time
How you make money: I teach adaptive rock climbing clinics
I got into climbing, if you can believe it, at a bachlor party?! One of my friends got married right out of high school and he took us. It pretty much clicked with me right away and I decided that’s all I wanted to do. Pretty much from then till now, 30 years, I’ve built my life around climbing and travel. I even met my wife in a climbing gym!
While Craig and his wife aren’t in the van full time, they spend a lot of time on the road traveling back and forth for work, climbing, and sponsored trips. Craig had his right leg amputated after a climbing accident in 2002 and now teaches adaptive climbing clinics around the country. For him, the van is the perfect medium for a comfortable life on the road. Craig says he has plans to rent out his house in about a year and move full time into the van, but for now, it’s the go-to part-time vehicle.
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Type of Van: 1995 Ford e250
Chosen Sport: Splitboarding
Vans Name: Pain in the ass. Jk. “El Torito Blanco”
Time lived in the Van: 10 months in this van, 13 in my Subaru Outback. Eight months in my old Yota. The rest is a blur of tents, AirBnbs, Johnny’s van, and month-to-month rentals.
How you make money: I run a brand strategy firm called Nomad Creativa that works with organizations that want to connect with the next generation of multicultural consumers.
I suppose I keep doing this for the reward of a sufferfest: the most challenging conditions provide the greatest opportunity for growth. This, after all, is all I want to find.
Can you see the van?
Dani began skiing at age 2 with her father, a long-time skier. Between the ages of 14 and 27, she barely touched snow and was primarily a surfer. After many years of absence, she landed her dream job in Portland and began her reacquaintance with the mountains. Dani has been a self-proclaimed digital nomad for over four years, having worked and played her way through South America and most of the Pacific North West. She only recently moved into “El Torito Blanco” as a way to have more stability and comfort.
SUV and truck life were too tiring, and I was interested in one-upping my boyfriend in his van experiment. To be honest, it was probably long overdue, as I was 4 years into living as an adventure-digital nomad.”
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Alex S Abrams
Type of Van: 2014 RAM Promaster 2500
Chosen Sport: Rock Climbing
Vans Name: Humphreys
Time lived in the Van: Two years on and off
How you make money: I run my own company called Venture-Ready Vans. We build travel vans for people who want to experience anything from a weekend escape to full-time nomadic living.
I wanted to explore the climbing that the west coast has to offer while living within my means, yet still have access to all the comforts of a real home that I had come to know and love.
In 2011, Alex went on a college trip where he was introduced into rock climbing and was instantly hooked. After years of climbing in the Gunks and other east coast destinations, Alex decided to hit the road and see what the west coast had to offer. Since then he’s lived out of his van and climbed all over the West and Southwest. He’s climbed El Capitan multiple times and summited some of the most challenging peaks in the Sierra. The van has allowed him the comfort in which to recover from his climbs as well as live simply throughout the year.
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Type of Van: 2010 Ford Transit Connect
Chosen Sport: Rock climbing
Vans Name: Mies Van see Rowe
Time lived in the Van: 11 mos
How you make money: Remote architect, artist, and landlord
“I realized that my stationary life was not aligning with my needs, and would not make me happy at this point in my life.”
Oma Kassim has been climbing since the age of 17. She got her start at the Shawangunks on the east coast after getting introduced to it through a friend. After going top-roping for the first time, she was hooked. Unfortunately, she was bound to the climbing gym for many years because of a corporate job in New York as an architect. During that time she went to the gym nearly every day and even began route setting for them. She moved into the van after realizing that life wasn’t for her, and she wanted to commit more full time to rock climbing.
I had been “sticking it out” for a full year of unhappiness because I didn’t want to seem like I was running from my problems. It finally took me realizing that I wasn’t running from them, but building a life that would be sustainable and more importantly, chase happiness, for me to start taking steps to escaping my position.
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Type of Van: Truck with a topper. 2000 Dodge Ram 2500
Chosen Sport: Rock Climbing
Vans Name: Diesel Tortise
Time lived in the Van: 3+Years
How you make money: Climbing Guiding, Rope Access
Around 2007 I started following climbing seasons and best weather conditions in the US full time. Seasonal tourism work, and being a flat out dirtbag while not wanting to pay rent are the primary reasons for moving into my rigs. It has enabled me to hit almost every major and minor destination in North America.
Originally a long-distance hiker and backcountry traveler, Gaar was accidentally introduced to climbing in 1996 on a rappelling trip. He quickly learned rappelling was a by-product of climbing and going up was way more fun. His early stomping ground was the sport climbing destination; the Red River Gorge. Since then he has traveled all over North America to climb in some of the most iconic destinations in the world. Gaar has lived out of a number of vehicles over the past 15 years including a Subaru, Toyota 4 Runner, an E150, a Chevy Astro and now his Truck.
The creative problem solving, and unbelievable locations are what has kept me interested over the decades. South America, Africa, Middle East, Cuba, Mexico, and Canada are on the tick list. China is booked for this winter!
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Type of Van: 2018 Dodge Promaster
Chosen Sport: Backpacking
Vans Name: Carlos Vantana
Time lived in the Van: 3 years
How you make money: I write and photograph for various publications
Adventuring in nature is the therapist I didn’t know I needed. I’ve gained confidence, health, peace of mind, and awkward tan lines.
Three years ago Roxy moved into her van to get more out of life than ‘weekend warrior-ing’. An avid hiker, Roxy has ascended Capitol Peak, the Sahale Glacier in the North Cascades, and ticked off quite a few 14ers (14,000+ foot peaks). She’s always liked the idea of having everything you need to live off of within arms reach. The efficiency and simplicity of backpacking are what called her to the sport in the first place, and it goes hand in hand with living in a van. She first got into backpacking when she moved to Colorado, where all the best spots can only be accessed on foot!
I think my love of backpacking grew into my love of living in a van. Same concept, just a tad bigger.”
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Brady James Kraabel
Type of Van: 1986 Toyota 4Runner
Chosen Sport: Mountain biking and Snowboarding
Vans Name: The Runner
Time lived in the Van: 2ish years
How you make money: Mountain biking and snowboard coach
It was kinda of a ‘fuck it’ move, I had worked in Winter Park Colorado as a lift op and payed $400 a month for a shared room just big enough for 4 beds. I loved working outdoors but wasn’t about paying rent, figured I’d save that money to travel. I’ve been in my pickup off and on but I keep coming back to it because I know I’m healthier, more active and enjoy being out in the woods where life is quieter.
Kraabel got into BMX racing and hockey at a young age. Growing up in Minnesota, he was racing and traveling to tournaments every weekend. As he grew up, he began building jumps and trails for himself, but he knew he needed more. After moving out to Colorado he began pursuing mountain biking more seriously. Today, Kraabel coaches Mountain Biking and Snowboarding full time.
“Been riding all my life, just wanted to be outside more”
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Kaya Lindsay is the social media coordinator for Yosemite Facelift. She is also a writer and photographer with a passion for rock climbing and the outdoors. In 2016 she converted a Sprinter Van into a tiny home and has been traveling around the US & Canada to pursue her passion for rock climbing ever since. You will most likely find her in a parking lot or coffee shop, camera in hand, planning her next grand adventure. Connect with her on Instagram @OneChickTravels
About the Gear Tester
Kaya Lindsay is a writer, photographer, and filmmaker with a passion for rock climbing and the outdoors.
In 2016 she converted a Sprinter Van into a tiny home and has been traveling around the US & Canada to pursue her passion for rock climbing. Since hitting the road she has begun a career in filmmaking and is currently working on her One Chick Travels series, highlighting solo female travelers who live and work to pursue an adventurous lifestyle. Her films have been highlighted by major brands such as Backcountry and Outside TV. To fulfill her passion for writing, she chronicles her many adventures in her blog. Professionally, she writes for the adventure sports company Outdoor Prolink and The Climbing Zine. Kaya hopes to spend many more years in her tiny home on wheels, Lyra, and is currently living in Moab Utah.