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Will Kelsay has lived out of a van to chase triathlons twice. The first time, the veteran XTERRA pro hit the off-road circuit the summer of 2007 in a “junky old piece of sh*t RV.” (Technically, it was a 1979 Chevy El Dorado he bought on Denver’s Craigslist for $2,500.) In 2014, he and a travel companion hit the Euro XTERRA tour in an old turquoise Ford that somewhat resembled a Sprinter, at least in size if not in style. So if anyone’s an expert in setting up the ultimate tri van to quickly and easily access gear—and enjoy worry-free tiny-space living—it’s Kelsay. Heck, if you pack as well as he does, you might even consider downsizing to hit the road permanently. “I was surprised how little I needed to be happy,” Kelsay says of his two van stints. “You just have to have the right things.” Below, Kelsay schools us in efficient vanning. As told to Erin Beresini
You don’t have a whole lot of space, so you need to use every last inch. I took dimensions of the van and then scoured the Internet to find tubs for gear that fit—if they’re too big, they don’t fit in. If they’re too small, you’re wasting that space. Lift your bed and put bins underneath.
Fit it in & Lock it Down
It’s tough to figure out, but I like being able to store the bikes inside while you’re inside. Locking the bikes up outside every night always made me nervous. In one of the vans, I had a little bike rack like the one you put in your garage that holds the back wheel, then I put a bungee over it. It’s really nice to have everything locked down so it doesn’t slide everywhere.
Make a Washing Machine
Get a five-gallon bucket, put a lid on it, cut a hole right in the middle, then stick a toilet plunger through. Then throw your kit in there, put some water and detergent in there, then pump the plunger. It’ll wear your arms out, but it’s good cross training. Store your detergent, clothing line and clothespins in the bucket.
Get a Toilet
If you can have a toilet, it makes a world of difference. If your van doesn’t have one, portable composting toilets are becoming more popular now. You stick a compostable plastic bag in it then just throw it away. [Bonus: You’ll avoid the race morning Porta-Potty line.]
Suck Up Moisture
In triathlon, everything gets wet. [If you’re going to drive], throw it in a tub with some desiccant and a jar of rice. That way you don’t have to hang anything up.