From protein to crash pads, here’s how climber Alex Honnold keeps van life simple and comfortable as a travel veteran.
Alex Honnold is most recognized as one of the greatest adventure rock climbers in the world and the star of the nation’s first-ever Oscar-winning, mainstream climbing documentary, “Free Solo.”
Less acknowledged, he’s also a pioneer of van life before today’s wild popularity of upscale campers and well before Instagram existed as a place to share rig beta.
Honnold now lives in a house with his partner, Sanni McCandless, in Nevada, but by 2017 he’d lived in a van for a decade.
First, a 2002 Ford Econoline E150 served as his bedroom, bathroom, kitchen, gym, and storage room for 9 years. That mobile dwelling racked up close to 200,000 miles. Honnold then moved into an upgraded 2016 Dodge RAM ProMaster, which he still uses for trips today.
“For the 3 years that I’ve owned the house, we’ve probably used the van about half that time. I still spend a lot of time in Yosemite and always in the van,” said Honnold.
“And if nothing else, when we’re at home, the van acts as an extra guest bedroom. I’ve also loaned it to friends a bit when they’re in Vegas.”
Van Life Essentials According to Alex Honnold
It’s worth noting that Honnold is sponsored by The North Face, Black Diamond, La Sportiva, and Goal Zero, among other brands.
That said, an endurance athlete like Honnold — who spends half of each month on the road to access particular terrain or work opportunities — puts these products and services to the test. So they need to be sturdy and supportive.
Here’s what he always stocks for home on the road.
“I feel obligated to say the Black Diamond Honnold Signature Spatula, which benefits the Honnold Foundation. But really I don’t have any favorite cookware items. They all double as camping gear — it’s a pretty fluid exchange between the house, the van, and the great outdoors.”
“For sure, the van is always pretty stocked with non-perishable snacks, so that it’s always ready to go. There are always basics like pasta or rice, as well as cans of soup or beans. I always have a decent supply of what I call ‘technical snacks’: bars and gels that are good for hiking or climbing. I’m also sponsored by Momentous, so I always have a store of their plant-based protein powder for recovery.”
“I don’t have strong preferences about bedding. In my old van, I slept on a crash pad in a sleeping bag for many years (though, that was understandably not that great for having a girlfriend). In the new van, I’ve just left bedding up to my [partner]. I sleep well in almost any condition.”
“I have a Beastmaker 2000 above my door — it’s my favorite hangboard, though there are a few other good ones. I normally have a foam roller and a lacrosse ball in the van as well for rolling things out. And I generally stretch on the floor a fair amount but with no other specific recovery tools.”
Tools for Gear Maintenance — Like a Portable Boot Dryer?
“Hahaha — is a portable boot dryer a real thing?! I’m definitely not that finicky about my gear. (And to be fair, I’m not generally using them in such extreme conditions). I just have drawers and bins, and then I try to keep things in the same places all the time. I think a big part of organization is just having a system and sticking to it.”
“I barely even use soap. The most important cleaning supply is my broom for sweeping the floor all the time. Every once in a while I wipe down the stove and the countertops, but I do my best to keep things clean by simply not making a mess. I don’t spill, and I’m careful with my cooking.”
Cosmetics — Such as Deodorant, a Solar Shower Bag, Dr. Bronner’s, etc.?
“I literally don’t use any of those. I have a towel and a bar of soap for when I use various showers. I’ve always thought that deodorant is a bit of a scam, but that might just be because I’m not naturally super stinky. I don’t sweat a ton, and I just don’t worry about it all too much.”
“In my new van, I use Goal Zero panels on the roof to feed into batteries (which are also charged by the alternator when the car is driving). There are LED lights built into the van, which I use when I’m inside. When I’m doing things outside, I almost exclusively use the Black Diamond Sprinter Rechargeable Headlamp, which I can charge in the van.”
“For me, van life is basically a smaller, [uncluttered] version of home life. I still live basically the same way: I cook the same foods and engage in the same activities. There’s not a huge difference between van life and home life — except for the easier access to a bathroom and a shower in the house.”