Originally Posted by b. rock
So with the shift in work mentalities due to Covid, we're now looking to add a twist to the van build out - working remotely for a week or so at a time.
My home internet is already 4G LTE based so I was planning on just bringing the modem with us. Probably add a signal booster.
Have a 1000w pure sine wave inverter for the laptops.
Will have to do the math on battery storage + solar but that's easy since the modem and laptops are a fairly small draw.
What else am I missing? Any must haves for remote work or lessons learned from prior experience?
I know the whole #vanlife movement is supposedly about people living + working out of their vans but I have no idea what kind of work they are doing.
My wife and I work a lot on the road, we live in our EB self converted wheelchair van pretty much half of the year. I was working remote even before covid came out and I can give you a couple of tips.
Get an external MIMO antenna + hotspot, I found this combination to get faster speeds than a booster, especially important if you have more than one device connected. A booster would only give me bars but no video calls would load at all!. The external antenna would get me 1-2 bars and lots of speed in very remote places, enough to work and attend calls.
I found verizon to have the best coverage, even better than google FI... We cannot wait for starlink!
For power, you might spend a lot of time inside of the van working depending on where are. You have to make it comfy to do so, We alternate between swivel seats and the bed, if you're in a cold climate a heater goes a long way. I have a propex and it works perfectly since the combustion happens outside so we don't need to worry about poisoning or condensation.
Talking about condensation, you also want to make sure you have a fan so you get some airflow and prevent condensation/mold, this is the number one must-have for us, we use the fan all the time and I cannot imagine spending large amounts of times in the van without it (especially having a musical a*s with all the veggies we eat). It makes it bearable in summer and prevents condensation in winter, we also hang wet or sweaty clothes after snowboarding, climbing or bike rides below the fan and it dries them pretty quick, especially with the heater running.
If you plan to live for long periods of time a fridge goes a long way and it'll save you $$ in the long run by not having to get take out (and keep those 6 packs cold)
We run a 170ah renogy lifepo battery (inside of the van to prevent charging below 0c), It has never let us down, the thing has enough power to power our 2 laptops for a full day off work, lights, fan heater, and fridge for 3-4 days without recharging. We recharge from a renogy DC-DC 50amp charger connected to the alternator + 200w solar. This mix is important because we don't always camp in the desert and we also do lots of snow activities, here in the PNW we get no sun at all so we charge mostly from the alternator but when going to the desert or south to UT, CA the panels keep the battery topped off. For "a week at the time" trip I wouldn't necessarily get pannels at all but the dc-dc charger is a must (or isolator for an agm battery) so you have power on demand if you're running low. I like the renogy 50Ah dc-dc charger because It gives you the option of adding panels down the road for when your trips get longer than a "week at the time".
When the weather is good, we work outside in a kelty loveseat low chair, it is extremely comfortable and easy to deploy/store, you might need an extension cord depending on where your isolator is located.
For the inverter, my one advice is to go with a good quality one, I had 2 Chinese ones failing on the road after 3-5 months. This means you will only be able to work until your laptop runs out of juice, then you'd have to head into town... We have a 1000w xantrex which we've been using for 2 years without any issues. It also has a USB port where we plug the 4g hotspot so everything work-related is powered by the inverter.
My advice is to build a scalable system, vanlife is addictive especially if you're into outdoor sports .... I mean hell We barely spend time at home. Cheers and safe trips!