School Bus Conversion | A Minimalist Family Adventure

A Family of 5 Living on a Converted School Bus. We blog about skoolies, travel, family, and minimalism

Month: November 2018

Video Tour Of Our School Bus Conversion

This is our first ever video tour of our school bus conversion. We hope you like, comment, and subscribe.

After living in our converted school bus (skoolie) for over two years, we have finally completed a full video tour! Check it out below.

Our good friends from Tiny House Expedition came and stayed on our property and they filmed us over the course of 4 days. It was an absolute blast.

This was the first time Ashley and I were on camera in this capacity. It was definitely a little nerve-racking and we were a bit awkward, but overall we think it turned out great.

In the video, we discuss every aspect of our bus including design, plumbing, electrical, and more.

Also there is some bonus footage where we tour you around our shipping container office/homeschool room.

So, please check out the video, comment, like and tell us what you think!

Thanks for following along!


Affiliate Link Disclosure: Please note that some of the links above are affiliate links, and at no additional cost to you. We will earn a commission if you decide to make a purchase after clicking through the link. Please understand that we have experience with all of these companies/products, and we recommend them because they are helpful and useful, not because of the small commissions we make if you decide to buy something through them. Please do not spend any money on these products unless you feel you need them or that they will help you in achieving your goals.
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How We Winterize Our School Bus Conversion

If you have followed our journey for a while, you might have learned that I am not a fan of being cold. My friends and I joke that my tombstone…

If you have followed our journey for a while, you might have learned that I am not a fan of being cold. My friends and I joke that my tombstone will say something along the lines of “Now I’m Really Cold” because I consider the weather cold if the temperature is lower 75 degrees. Winter in the bus hasn’t been terrible here in NM, but I have a feeling this year will be a different story. The past two winters, we’ve had almost no snow.

This year, the temperature has already fallen into the high teens and it’s only November. I’ve had a lot of DM’s on Instagram asking me how we prep the bus for below freezing weather and this post is a response to them.  Below I will give a detailed list of ways we prep the bus for winter, along with a few products we have purchased to help aid in keeping us warm.

 

 

Tiny Wood Stove

In October, we brought our Tiny Wood Stove and our wood box back into the bus. We love love this thing and couldn’t live without it. The stove was brought to us by Nick at Tiny Wood Stove back in October of 2017 at the Tiny House Jamboree (you can read about our experience at the Jamboree HERE). It has been the single most important thing used for keeping the bus warm.

We have the the Dwarf 4kw with the 4″/RV Bus Installation Kit – Roof Exit Bundle. Tiny Wood Stove has comprehensive YouTube videos detailing every aspect of installation and will provide you with everything you need for the stove. We did have to call Nick a few times, and he was super gracious with us. He even answered our phone calls on a Sunday night while we were in the process of installation. (hence why I will back this company wholeheartedly)

PROS:

  • It takes up very little space
  • It’s beautiful and they make custom door colors to match the design of your build
  • The company is hands down one of the best companies I’ve EVER worked with
  • It was simple to install.  The hardest part was cutting the 4 inch hole into the curve of the bus.
  • It allows you to have heating off grid.
  • The glass window makes for an amazing ambiance in the evening or on foggy days.
  • The heat it puts off is much more cozy than a space heater or propane heater.
  • Its easy and quick to clean.

CONS:

  • It’s tiny so the wood has to be tiny. There’s a saying “Chop your own wood and it will warm you twice”. Well, I would say chopping the wood to fit inside this stove will warm you 3-4 times. We typically cut a single log into three pieces with the chainsaw and then chop it with an axe into 3 more pieces from there.
  • The chimney pipe is 4 inches wide so we do have to clean the chimney once every month, sometimes once every 3 weeks. It take all of 5 minutes to clean out. It does have to be done more often than a typical large pipe. We bought a simple chimney brush from amazon that has been helpful and cost around $20.
  • You won’t get a ton of heat through the night unless you get up and load it. We do load it up before we go to bed with harder woods and choke it way down but even still the warmest the stove has been in the morning without reload is 150 degrees. Better than nothing but not as hot as a typical large wood stove.

Heat Tape

We installed our fresh water tanks inside the bus under our bed in the back. Our grey water tank on the other hand is outside and so are our inlets for water. When we are parked at home in Corrales, NM we have a water hook up that was brought down to the bus from our well that is located on the West side of our land (where our traditional home will be built in the next year).

We have a 6 foot hose that reaches from the faucet to the inlet of the bus that provides fresh water. That hose is typically exposed although it is an insulated drinking water hose it will freeze. We wrap heat tape around the hose and faucet and then a foam pipe insulation that looks like a pool noodle around the tape and zip tie it.

The urine from our Natures Head Toilet is also diverted to the grey tank. We DIY’d that job and learned very quickly once winter hit last year that the pee froze and would back up if we didn’t apply heat tape to that pipe also. These details are the not so glamorous side of bus life.

Space Heater

In the middle of the night if we don’t have enough wood cut or its going to be especially cold, we will set our space heater to a temperature of 61 degrees. We don’t like to use the space heater often because its super expensive. We really like to be as off grid as possible and space heaters cannot be run off our battery bank. Convenience-wise, the space heater is the easiest form of heat. When we use it regularly it will bump our electric bill up about $150 a month.

Electric Blankets

The quickest way to my heart is to feed me and keep me warm. Brandon will go turn my heating blanket to high about 30 minutes before we go to bed and I melt right into his arms every night. We bought heat blankets for the kids beds when we were on the road full time back in 2016. The blankets were a way we could make sure they kept warm while still living completely off grid. Now the kids love them as much as I do. Ive bought three different brands and had to take them back to the store because they didn’t get hot enough, wires were too thick, or the texture was too slippery and it would slide off the bed by morning. Our favorite brand is the Biddeford Comfort Knit Sherpa electric blanket. Trust me I am an expert and this one is the best!

Reflectix

In the front of our bus we chose to keep the original bus windows in order to allow as much natural light in as possible. We also felt it paid tribute to the school bus this home used to be. What we didn’t know was the bus windows provide zero insulation and allow in a lot of cold air. So right away we realized this was going to be a problem in the winter months.

When we had our bumper pull trailer (you can see pictures and read about our trailer HERE), Brandon’s dad suggested we get this product called Reflectix and cut it to insulate the windows of the trailer. It kept light out and also helped with the draftiness of the RV windows. So obviously that advise carried over to the bus. It was quite a bit of work to cut custom window covering for each window in the front and back of the bus. It provides soooo much value though. I highly recommend this for all full timers. It’s such a great way to insulate the terrible RV’s, trailer, and 5th wheel windows.

Rugs

Keeping the floor of the bus warm is impossible. Drafts of air move back and forth under the bus 24/7 365 days a year. I wear slippers all winter from the minute I get out of bed until I climb into my perfectly heated bed (thanks B!). If you talk to any bus owners they’ll tell you the same, that rugs make the home much more comfortable.

I know there are more things we could do to winterize like install a skirt around the bottom of the bus, shrink wrap the windows, etc. For now these are the things we know work well.  If you have any further questions about what we do to winterize feel free to direct message me on Instagram and Ill be sure to respond.

Also I want to make it clear that in this blog post I did link items we use. Within those links are our unique affiliate links. If you chose to buy anything from the links on our blog it does help provide income to us. It will not be of any extra cost to you. We love sharing this info with people and only link to things we have actually used and love. So we appreciate you using our links to buy your items if you found this post to be helpful!

 


Affiliate Link Disclosure: Please note that some of the links above are affiliate links, and at no additional cost to you. We will earn a commission if you decide to make a purchase after clicking through the link. Please understand that we have experience with all of these companies/products, and we recommend them because they are helpful and useful, not because of the small commissions we make if you decide to buy something through them. Please do not spend any money on these products unless you feel you need them or that they will help you in achieving your goals.
3 Comments on How We Winterize Our School Bus Conversion

Our Top 5 Places To Find Free Overnight Camping

When we first started traveling, we had no idea that there was free overnight camping all around us  We generally would move from RV Park to RV Park, staying at Walmarts…

When we first started traveling, we had no idea that there was free overnight camping all around us  We generally would move from RV Park to RV Park, staying at Walmarts in between.  While there is nothing wrong with this way of travel, the cost quickly adds up.  Also, we were missing out on much of the adventure / relationships by staying in RV Parks.

After a few months, we realized there were tons of resources available to help travelers find great places to stay.  I wanted to highlight our top 5 places to find free overnight camping here so that you can enhance your adventures.

1. All Stays Mobile App

Link: https://www.allstays.com/apps/camprv.htm
Cost: $10

This was the very first tool that we discovered.  A developer based on Santa Fe (we know him) started crowdsourcing content in the late 90’s and has continued to do so ever since.  This app is the culmination of that data collection.  It has everything including:

  • State Parks
  • National Parks
  • Free Places To Park Overnight  (Walmart, Cabellas, Cracker Barrel, etc…)
  • BLM (Bureau of Land Management) Lands (cheap or free parking)
  • Gas Stations
  • and more…

The app makes it incredibly simple to find the above near your current location.  It usually provides info like address, ratings, cost, reviews, and photos of every location.  This app quickly became a source of comfort while we were on the road.

The only downside is the cost.  Currently the app falls between $10-$20 depending on the sale. Well worth it in our opinion.

2. FreeCampSites.net

Link: https://freecampsites.net/
Cost: Free

This tool is focused a little more on state parks, national parks, BLM, and smaller campgrounds.  It will usually have more places to show than AllStays in these categories and provides a VERY user friendly website.  You simply zoom in on a location and tap the icon for each place to stay. The tool can easily show you what’s free, paid, or permitted.

Obviously, the perk of this website is the data is free.  The downside is it might not be updated quite as often as there doesn’t seem to be a full time paid person running it.

3. Harvest Hosts

Link: https://harvesthosts.com/
Cost: $49/year

This is one of our favorites and has afforded us some of the most interesting and unique experiences on the road.  Per their website:

Harvest Hosts is a network of wineries, farms and attractions that invite self-contained RVers to visit and stay overnight!

The idea behind the service is very interesting.  RVers pay a fee of $49/year and have access to a database of over 600 farms, wineries, and other interesting locations.  Once you are a member, you are able to stay (for free) at any one of their locations.  Usually for a few nights to a week (could be more if you really hit it off with the host). The only hope/expectation is that you patron the place you are visiting (or even help out around the farm).

Check out their website and you will see no shortage of stunning photos.  Harvest Hosts really provides a unique opportunity to stay somewhere you might never think of (or have access to) for free.

The only caveat is they require your RV to be self contained.  So if you are a renegade who likes to run their gray water straight on to the ground (like some of my skoolie friends), this might not be the best choice for you.

4. Boondockers Welcome

Link: https://www.boondockerswelcome.com/
Cost: $30/year

Their website sums it up nicely:

Free Overnight Camping on Private Property
Make new friends and sleep soundly
Locals invite travelers to spend the night, share their stories, and save their money for the real adventure.

Once you become a member, you have access to their database to stay on property owned by other people.  So every new destination is a chance to connect with other likeminded individuals and share a meal, experience, conversation, etc…

We have not personally used this service yet, however it’s on our list for the next time we take a long trip.  On our property, we sort of have an informal version of this in that we invite other skoolie and tiny house friends to come stay and hang out with us while they are on their journeys.

You can eliminate the $30/year fee if you have property and become a host yourself, which is a super cool perk if you have the means.

5. Instagram

Link: http://instagram.com (duh)
Cost: Free/Beer/Meals/Coffee/Conversations/Stepping out of comfort zone

Finally, our #1 way to find free and/or interesting places to park is via Instagram.  Finding other folks in the skoolie/tiny living community and parking on their properties has been one of the greatest joys of living this bus life.

What’s really interesting is, there is almost a built-in trust / filtering system when you connect with people this way.  While many folks have their reasons for traveling (part or full time), they all seem to have similar values (generosity, kindness, gratitude, list goes on and on). This generally makes for an instant-connection when meeting in real life.

So while the other options above are great ways to find free places to park, nothing quite beats forming real relationships and connections by sharing space with other likeminded individuals.

We hope that you found this post useful and we would love to hear your suggestions for finding great places to park overnight.  Please feel free to leave them in the comments and we hope to see you on the road!


Affiliate Link Disclosure: Please note that some of the links above are affiliate links, and at no additional cost to you. We will earn a commission if you decide to make a purchase after clicking through the link. Please understand that we have experience with all of these companies/products, and we recommend them because they are helpful and useful, not because of the small commissions we make if you decide to buy something through them. Please do not spend any money on these products unless you feel you need them or that they will help you in achieving your goals.
3 Comments on Our Top 5 Places To Find Free Overnight Camping

Does Your Tiny House Have Room For Toys?

OF COURSE IT DOES…but only the few that actually get played with. A question we get asked a lot is “where do your kids keep their toys?” In our previous house,…

OF COURSE IT DOES…but only the few that actually get played with.

A question we get asked a lot is “where do your kids keep their toys?” In our previous house, we had an entire room dedicated to playing. It was our “toy room”, and the kids rarely played in it. Instead, they enjoyed playing with boxes, bowls and the containers that held the toys more than the actual toys (proof below). They would dump all their toys out, get overwhelmed and ultimately end up back in the living room with us or outside playing.

I’ve read many articles written on people who live tiny with kids. Often there is feedback from internet trolls complaining about how kids “need their own room” and “need toys”. This is bogus! Kids all over the world live in one room homes with little to no toys and those kids are doing just fine.

These kids don’t have their heads in an iPad all day and they know how to find entertainment outdoors. Their only entertainment isn’t watching other kids play with toys on Youtube. They help their families with the work around the house and enjoy exploring, and getting dirty.

Although at some point when our traditional home is built, our kids will get their own room it will be a room meant for sleeping and for the resale of the house. The house will be built at moderate size and be built with simplicity in mind . It won’t be a place for them to constantly shut themselves away and separate from their family. They will have their own space, but our home will be built with the focus of being together and hosting.

So to answer the question, our kids keep their toys in their beds. They don’t have many and we are ok with that, but the few toys they do have they actually play with. If they don’t play with a toy it gets donated or thrown away. They naturally deal with the consequence of having too many toys because they are solely responsible for keeping their beds picked up and comfortable.

Here are our top three tips for keeping toys under control.

  1. Make kids clean up their own toys/rooms/beds, properly, not everything thrown into one bin or container. Sorted and put away properly. If they can’t do that then they have too much. A two year old doesn’t need 30 hot wheels cars, 4 different train tracks, 25 action figures, 4 bins of dress up clothes, etc. The younger they are the less they need, in my opinion. A few good quality wooden toys like Melissa & Doug Shape Sorting Cube, few cars, dolls and some Duplo legos should do fine. Ill bet your kids won’t notice most of their toys are gone (ours didn’t) and those few things are easy to sort and organize.
  2. Teach your kids about other children who have less. I explained to mine that other kids could and would use their donated toys. Whether you donate to a local thrift store, a church, local gym, or a domestic violence shelter. Its good for them to realize its not going in the trash and what they are doing is kind. My youngest tries to give away her toys constantly because she loves the feeling of giving and it makes me so proud.
  3. Stop buying junk. Just because its on sale or is cheap doesn’t mean they should have it. The clearance toy aisle still calls me but on sale isn’t always better. I bought my kids RC cars because they were $10, originally priced at $40…well they broke within the first hour. The batteries cost me more than the cars did and now i know why!  My $10 could have gone towards getting ice cream or going to a movie instead. Not every good deal is a good deal.

I know that we are the extreme, living tiny, very few toys, 4 drawers of clothing for the entire family but if I knew then what I know now Id spend a lot less time organizing and much more time donating and throwing away toys.

 


Affiliate Link Disclosure: Please note that some of the links above are affiliate links, and at no additional cost to you. We will earn a commission if you decide to make a purchase after clicking through the link. Please understand that we have experience with all of these companies/products, and we recommend them because they are helpful and useful, not because of the small commissions we make if you decide to buy something through them. Please do not spend any money on these products unless you feel you need them or that they will help you in achieving your goals.
1 Comment on Does Your Tiny House Have Room For Toys?

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