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On the road in northern Sweden
Discover the mountains, forests and lakes of Swedish Lapland on a vanlife trip.
Photo credit: Michael Jönsson/Visit Sweden

Vanlife in Sweden – a practical guide

Curious to try vanlife travel? These tips and tricks will help you get the most out of your vanlife trip to Sweden.

Vanlife is a wonderful experience for those who love being next door to nature and having the freedom of exploring new locations whenever inspiration kicks in to do so.

However, there are some things you should consider before embarking on a vanlife excursion of your own. Especially if you haven’t previously been a regular camper or trekker.

Even when travelling alone, the constraints of a campervan interior gives little room for excess. Add more people to the travel plans and you probably need to leave the ego, your privacy and the idea of total silence when trying to sleep behind.

Still, it’s usually not a snoring partner that will get to you as you lay your head to rest at the end of a long day trekking beyond the end of the road. In the silence of where no one else has been for a while, your ears pick up the sounds of the wind and the break of a branch from a tree. These natural noises may feel unfamiliar, but soon you will get used to them, sleep better and wake up more relaxed.

Besides the experience of the senses, there are a few practical commodities you have to consider in order to enjoy as much of your vanlife journey as possible.

  1. Water for the van
    First and foremost, you need to have access to clean water. This can be a tricky exercise in some countries, but the main idea here is that you need to fit enough water in the van to accommodate for the time it takes you to get to the next place where you can refill your tank. Tap water in Sweden is of high quality and perfectly safe to drink.
  2. Electricity
    The next thing you need to consider is that your car battery won’t be able to keep you warm at night if you want to be able to start the van the next morning. Most people solve this by using solar panels but for some circumstances, it is always safe to bring some kind of combustion engine-driven generator with you.
  3. Heat
    The third thing you should understand is the challenge of staying dry and warm. Especially when the warm summers turn into frosty fall as the inner walls and doors of the van usually don't allow for extensive insulation. Unless you are looking for the experience of a poorly built igloo, you do well to have some kind of radiator or warm air fan that is appropriate for the inner dimensions of your van.
  4. Food
    You should always bring some food that doesn’t require cooking. If your built-in or portable stove decides to malfunction or if you simply run out of gas, you are more likely to keep the peace as well as your mood, if you have some canned goods stuffed away (as well as the tools to open them).
  5. Toilet
    Just because you get nearer to nature, your bodily functions usually don’t adapt to your sense of freedom. In fact, your likely change in diet might have the opposite effect. In most European countries there are several campings, gas stations and restaurants along the country road where you can stop and take care of your needs. However, if your van doesn’t come equipped with a toilet of its own, having access to a shovel and whatever other necessary tools you need to enable other travellers safe passage where you have once been is necessary to keep in mind.

Besides the mere necessities, there are also some other things that might give you extra comfort or extend the reach of your vanlife experience.

  • Bringing an extra tent might come in handy if you reach the end of the road, but want to explore further.
  • An emergency power bank that can charge your phone if all other electronics fail.
  • Some incense or odour salt to deal with the times when the interior scent of the van starts to get affected by wet clothes.
  • An extra flashlight or smaller reading light for the nights when the silence of the night keeps you awake.
  • Flameless hand-warming bags to add to the insides of your sleeping bag or snug under your bed covers to get that extra sense of comfort after a day of windy canoeing or hiking in the highlands.

Also, consider the kind of activities that you want to do, the time of year you are travelling and whether or not the area you’re travelling through has some specific regulations that might limit access to the things you need to not only survive but to enjoy your vanlife experience.

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Wake up with a view

Bring an extra tent in case you want to explore further than the end of the road you travel on.

Photo: Lucas Günther/imagebank.sweden.se

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Wake up with a view

Photo: Lucas Günther/imagebank.sweden.se

Camping in Sweden

Photo: Clive Tompsett/imagebank.sweden.se

Where to park the van – finding the perfect locations to camp

The idea of being free to go anywhere, drive deep into nature and go places, where others haven’t gone before, might be one part of the dream when deciding to embark on a vanlife venture. However, most countries do have specific rules on where you are allowed to camp and under what restrictions you can move around more freely.

In Sweden, The Right of Public Access (also called ‘Allemansrätten’) entails a liberal interpretation of the accessibility to nature. However, even in Sweden, we do have some rules about how, where and when it is suitable and allowed to camp overnight.

You can find the rules for Sweden on this page.

For those of you looking for inspiration on what locations to see and how to access them, there is a wide variety of location finders available. Using Google Translate, you can navigate the Swedish websites to find locations where you are allowed to stay with your van overnight:

The Swedish word for these allowed locations is “ställplats”.

Buying or renting the perfect vanlife vehicle

If you do not intend to stay or begin a long journey in a specific country, you are probably not looking to buy a van. The rental opportunities are many and for those with a bit of forward planning, there are several opportunities to sublet a truly unique van to accompany them throughout their journey.

Some people look for the comfort of a larger van with its own toilet, built-in solar panels and extendable walls, built-in barbecue facilities and blinking inner roof lights. Others look for the hippie dream where very little else but the sleeping takes place inside of the van walls.

Whether you go through one of the established car rental services or if you turn to one of the apps run by vanlife enthusiasts from around the world, the supply grows all of the time.

You should always make sure what is included in your van and before takeoff check such things as:

  • Spare tires – and that they are ok to use with the added weight of the rebuild.
  • If the gas and water tanks are full and the milage until they need a refill.
  • What the car battery allows for so it doesn’t die.
  • If the dealership has any collaborators to call if the car breaks down in remote locations.
  • How different locks work on the car and if/how all doors open from the inside. (Opening a door by mistake with your foot in the middle of the night, might become a bit of an adventure…)

Thinking one step ahead is usually equally difficult and necessary as you get what you plan for when enjoying this kind of life.

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Drinking water in nature

Clean, drinkable water straight from a creek in Vindelfjällen. Backpacking or hiking in the Scandinavian Mountains means miles-wide dramatic views and freshwater clean enough to drink straight from the ground.

Photo: Moa Karlberg/imagebank.sweden.se

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Drinking water in nature

Photo: Moa Karlberg/imagebank.sweden.se

Find your perfect spot

Photo: Alexander Hall

Where to get water and gas for cooking in your van

In some countries, access to freshwater is limited. In Sweden, you will find that most petrol stations, camping locations and some roadside stops have access to publicly funded fresh water. Sometimes it comes with a fee.

Knowing in advance how much water you will need depends on how many people you are, your own view on hygiene and whether or not you are depending to go long stretches where access to water might be limited.

Most petrol stations carry full gas containers for purchase or refill opportunities of the ones you already have. Make sure that your van’s gas utilities are of a maker that fits the standards of the destination you’re travelling to.

The cost of vanlife

The cost is very much dependent on your comfort and whether or not you buy your own van. At the time of writing this article, the prices of vans have skyrocketed due to demand. If you decide to rent a van in Sweden, you can get away with prices ranging from €1000 per week depending upon the equipment and standards you are looking for.

If you are looking for van rentals at a more limited budget, there are several peer-to-peer apps such as the Swedish app Go More or websites such as Hygglo. Another way to get your hands on a bargain is to search for groups on Facebook. As with all private purchases, you should make sure that the person offering you the rental also has what they’re offering. Ask for extra photos, recommendations from other travellers and escrow payment where you pay a deposit that can be retrieved by you if the rental doesn’t meet your expectations.

This is equivalent to the prices you will find for renting a cottage or small house in Sweden for the same period of time.

Depending on what you want to do as part of enjoying your full vanlife experience, the cost might build when adding extra tents, equipment for rock climbing, canoeing, fishing or simply taking an extended hike.

Once on the road, you have to consider fuel costs, the cost of gas for cooking as well as the cost of any parking and camping fees.

Besides the emergency provisions mentioned above, prices for food vary but if you stock up in larger supermarkets and outside of the larger cities you can find your costs of food decreased by up to 50 per cent.

Done with the decisions? Now the fun part begins! Look for travel inspiration, start planning your trip and embark on a journey through Sweden that could very well be the best adventure of your life.