Which has us looking at the space in the van and trying to work out what is essential and has to have room found for it, what is desireable and would be nice to fit in if possible and whether there is space for one frivilous item each (not the life size papier mache dalek though!)
There are the things we need to stockpile and take with us, things we potentially could buy along the way, little touches that might make the tough times that bit easier.
I think, in the same way we manage when camping that being super organised and keeping everything tidy and put away is the best way to cope with a very small space. Dedicating cupboards and cubby holes to certain things will likely be essential both in making sure everything fits, keeping the van a safe place to be while on the move and knowing where things are when you need them.
Our planned basic essential kit is:
- First Aid Kit - plasters, bandages, eye wash, painkillers, travel sickness pills, cold & flu remedy, medical wipes, anti-histimine, sun cream, antiseptic cream.
- Toiletries - this is a tricky one, clearly we won't have room for a years supply of loo rolls, we won't need perfume and aftershave but we will want razors, deodrant, toothpaste. I wear contact lenses (daily disposable ones) and even if vanity didn't prevent me from giving them up for the year in favour of glasses I'd need to buy new glasses, which cost about the same as a years supply of lenses and run the risk of getting broken or lost or just being a nusiance for manual working. So some things we will stock up on if space allows, I will get my mail order for a years worth of lenses and we will stash toothbrushes and maybe several bottles of shower gel to get us going and see whether these are things we need to keep stocks of or can be used at hosts houses and therefore not needed.
- Food. We will work out a weeks worth of basic food rations in tins and packets to keep on board the van and replace if we have to dip into them. It is part of the deal that hosts feed us but some seem to think this means a main meal only plus we will have times when we are not working, or travelling from one host to another or a host might not work out leaving us without food until we travel to the next one. There is a double cupboard under the sink which I intend filling with pasta, rice, noodles, tinned beans, fish and meat, bags of flour, bottles of oil, packets of yeast, salt, sugar, herbs and spices. We'll keep cartons of long life milk and supplies like biscuits and chocolate for the bad days :). I'd hope milk, butter, eggs and fresh supplies like fruit and veg could be gotten hold of either from hosts or locally and we are planning on learning about foraging and wild food collecting including shooting and fishing. We have a couple of small fishing rods.
- Clothing. I am expecting to be able to make use of a hosts washing machine at least once during a weeks stay, assuming they have one of course ;). If not we will either hand wash (so a couple of bottles of travel wash will be in the basic kit along with a washing line to string between the two front windows of the cab and some clothes pegs to hang out stuff to dry inside the van with the heater on) or find a laundrette. So on that basis I'm reckoning on a weeks worth of clothes each - that's pants, socks and t shirts clean each day, 3 pairs of jeans and 3 fleeces or jumpers each. Wow that looks really scary written down! We will each have a shelf in the tall wardrobe section of the van to keep clothes on. We'll probably go with two sets of bedtime clothing each (pjs or similar) and have additional warm stuff such as thick socks, gloves, hats. We'll need shoes / boots and wellies each along with a set of waterproofs and at least one big, warm, waterproof coat each. The wellies will live in an outside storage section in the van where the gas bottles are stowed. I have a fancy welly bag that came with mine and intend making one each for the others so they can be put away muddy and not cover everything else. This will be great for using up some waterproof fabric I have in a stash I need to get rid of :). Ady, Dragon and I have decent boots, Star still needs to get some before we go. We all have plenty of jeans, t shirts, jumpers and fleeces but decent coats and waterproofs are among the things we need to look out for.
- Kitchen equipment. We have no shortage of this currently, with a very well stocked kitchen and a full set of camping kitchen stuff but I think I will want to be drinking from proper mugs and glasses and not eating off plastic plates so we will bring with us just four of everything - mugs, glasses, plates, bowls, knives, forks and spoons. There is a cutlery tray in the cupboard under the sink which will take the above along with sharp knives, scissors, tin opener, bottle opener /corkscrew, a few other cooking utensils and the plates and bowls. One of the upper cupboards in the van has an insert for putting mugs, cups and glasses into so they don't rattle about while you're driving so that is already dedicated to that use. We only have two gas rings on the hob so two pans is all we'll need. We have a large one which also has a colander that fits inside it so that will be one and a smaller one also with lid can come along too. The van came with kettle and toaster so those will come with us and inside the oven we will stash as many roasting trays and baking sheets as we can fit from our kitchen at home.
- Other essentials. We have a very small library of books we're intending bringing along. Our River Cottage diary, a selection of Collins Gem books about the natural world. Star has some treasured books which she'll be bringing (mostly about animals), Dragon is bringing his best books too. It's my plan to gather new books to read from charity shops as required and then give them back to charity shops along the way when finished with. We will be bringing a netbook, several cameras, mobile phones, walkie talkies and associated chargers. We have a portable dvd player, MP3 player all of which indivdually are tiny but collectively will take up space.
- Dragon and Star have a small cubby hole at the back of their bunk which they can use for anything they want to bring along. Dragon intends bringing: DS and PSP (gaming consoles and games), knife for whittling, one or two selected cuddly toys, art materials. Star is bringing: DS, some cuddly toys, art materials and a little box of assorted 'treasures'. They both have rucksacks with 'essential stuff' such as penknives, fire steels, lighting materials, first aid bits and are bringing those along to reload as we go.
- Space-wise we have the cubby hole outside the van where the gas bottles live which we intend putting wellies in, the large wardrobe cupboard which we'll shelve for our clothes, the kitchen cupboard and oven for all the food and kitchen equipment, six cupboards one of which will be for cups and mugs, four of which will be declared 'one each' for whatever we personally want to bring and one I think for first aid, toiletries, cosmetics etc. The shower can be used for stashing things in when not in use, probably towels, coats etc. There are some pegs for hanging more coats on the back of the shower door or we may have various bags hung there for keeping things in. Bedding will live on the kids bunk when not being used - we'll take pillows, sleeping bags, space fleece blankets which will get moved around the van over the course of the day. The cab can also be used as a storage 'room' when parked up and we'll get a screen to block it off from the outside so you can sit in there or store stuff in there. There is plenty of space in the cab generally so things like shoes and maybe waterproofs can be stashed there all the time behind the seats.