In this blog, we mostly discuss van camping as it’s typically done, a comfortable and unique way to visit national parks and other nature-oriented destinations. However, there is another way to use your campervan to see a new place, and that is to actually use it as your accommodation when you visit Denver, or other nearby cities.
You might be asking yourself, why would I want to van camp in an urban area? While it may not be your typical go-to way of seeing a new city, you might find there are some surprising advantages, for those with an openness to more unconventional adventure. Let’s discuss some of the pros and cons of using a campervan as your Denver accommodation of choice.
Urban Van Camping Pros
First, let’s start with some of the major advantages and perks of urban van camping. Of course, with this type of camping, the entire purpose of your trip is totally different; you’re not looking to get away from it all, you’re looking to be right in the thick of it! Whether you are visiting Denver for a specific event, or simply to see the many tastes, sights, and sounds of our very cool modern city, van camping allows you to stay close to the action, rather than making a small commute back to a hotel or Air BnB.
This is especially useful if you are visiting for one of the many beer festivals or other alcohol-related events, as there’s a good chance you’ll be able to simply park next to the event, and not have to worry about having a designated driver, or using Uber. Of course, the same goes for cannabis-related events, as well. Even if booze or cannabis have nothing to do with it, it’s always very convenient to simply park nearby, and then to also shift locations if your area of interest also shifts. With some of the larger events, accommodations can also sell out fast, so van camping is a way to ensure a convenient and comfortable place to sleep.
Camping in a van will also likely be much cheaper than any of your other accommodation options, while being much more comfortable and safer than simply sleeping in your car. So, being cheaper, mobile, relatively comfortable and safe, and always convenient are the chief advantages.
Drawbacks to City Van Camping
The first and most obvious drawback to urban camping in a van is working out your parking situation. While there are many places you can sleep in a van overnight, ensuring that you’ve found the right one to do so legally and safely is a necessary task which will require some time and energy. It is technically legal to sleep in a vehicle overnight in the state of Colorado, and while Denver has a checkered history of dealing with people camping in tents in their city (mostly the homeless), camping in your vehicle is generally allowed. Still, you’ll want to do it in a location and manner that is discreet, safe, and won’t cause any problems.
One way to overcome this is to speak to someone who is involved in the event or venue you are visiting. If you are paying and supporting their event, they may be inclined to allow you to park, and they may even have a designated lot for exactly that purpose, depending on the type of event. Another example is if you are visiting a beer festival which goes to various bars, you might be able to speak to one of the owners and get their permission to park nearby.
There are also online resources like Allstays or Hipcamp, which can help you find safe and legal places to park. Churches and philanthropic organizations are other possible parking lot hosts.
Planning Your Van Camping City Trip
Since a city van camping trip is quite different from one that’s in nature, your planning will also need to be accordingly different. In some ways, it’s actually much simpler. There are many things you would have to consider for seeing the great outdoors which simply don’t come into consideration when van camping in the city, especially supplies for making fires, storing food, having clean water, various clothing needs, etc.
Bathrooms are, of course, much more abundant in the city, and there are various opportunities to shower comfortably, such as by purchasing a temporary, one-month membership to the local Planet Fitness (for around $17), which affords you clean shower facilities for the entire duration of your stay. Other toiletry tasks can be accomplished at a sink in any public restroom, as long as you don’t make it too obvious to the staff; it’s a good idea to simply bring along your toiletries in a small bag or backpack that looks normal, and actually purchase something, even if only a small item, to identify yourself as a customer rather than a clandestine bathroom squatter.
All of the wilderness considerations you’d normally have to plan for are replaced with urban considerations, such as where to park, how to be inconspicuous, where to access showers and bathrooms, etc. Still, we think van camping in Denver can be a great way to see the city and have convenient and affordable accommodations.