Utah, with its stunning landscapes and diverse terrain, is a dream destination for hikers and outdoor lovers. Although there are several ways to travel through this stunning state, we think van life in Utah is the best option. After spending over a month exploring, we can’t wait to share everything we learned.
Utahs unique terrain ranges from red rock canyons and deserts to lush green forests and towering mountains. It is famous for “The Mighty 5” National Parks and well known for being a campers paradise. In this blog post, we will cover the ins and outs of van life in Utah.
For all of our van trips, we like to focus on sustainability, camping respectfully, and having the best experience possible. We will also share insights on free camping spots, the rules for wild camping on BLM land, and practical tips for showers, laundry, and more.
Sustainable Van Life in Utah
Before we embark on our Utah van life journey, let’s address the importance of sustainability. Van life offers a ton of freedom, but it also comes with responsibilities.
With Utah’s fragile ecosystems, it’s crucial to minimize our impact on the environment. Here are a few sustainable van life practices:
Reduce, Reuse, Recycle: Carry reusable containers for water and food. Dispose of waste properly and do your best to use bathroom facilities as much as possible.
Solar Power: Install solar panels on your van to harness the abundant Utah sunshine. This way, you can power your appliances and reduce your reliance on fossil fuels.
Eco-friendly Products: Use biodegradable soaps and cleaning products whenever possible.
The Price of Van Life in Utah
Van life in Utah can be a cost-effective way to explore the state’s natural wonders. Here’s a breakdown of some of the costs you can expect while living life on the road.
1. Fuel Costs
Fuel is one of the most significant expenses in van life. While gas prices fluctuate, it’s wise to estimate your fuel costs based on your van’s mileage.
When we travelled here in 2023, gas was about $4 USD per gallon. Plan your routes efficiently, drive conservatively, and keep an eye out for cheap gas stations. We noticed that in some rural areas where there were not many options, the price was higher due to the demand.
2 . Food
Food expenses vary greatly depend on your eating habits, the number of people you are traveling with, and if you are cooking vs eating out. We cooked almost all of our meals and this was a huge money saver.
In total, we spend about $250 USD each week on food for both of us. Meal planning, buying in bulk, and focusing on seasonal produce are additional ways to reduce grocery expenses.
3 . Water
There are tons of places to fill up your water tank for free in Utah. Many campgrounds, gas stations, and restaurants have outdoor water taps supplying fresh potable water. We used the app iOverlander to find these, then asked the campground managers/store attendants on duty if we could use them.
4. Park Entrance Fees
Utah’s diverse natural beauty comes with a price, often in the form of entrance fees for its national parks. Costs can vary from $20 to $35 per vehicle for a 7-day pass at places like Arches and Zion.
An annual America the Beautiful Pass, which grants access to all national parks, costs $80 USD. This is well worth it if you are planning to explore for an extended period of time.
If you plan to camp in established campgrounds, fees can range from $20 to $75 USD per night. Wild camping, however, is abundantly available and free. More information on finding free campgrounds later in this post.
6. Shower and Laundry Expenses
While some campgrounds and RV parks offer shower and laundry facilities, you have to get creative while wild camping. We typically shower at public pools, campgrounds, or Flying J Truck stops if there is nowhere to set up our outdoor shower. The price is usually between $5-$10 USD per person.
When it comes to laundry, there are several great laundromats scattered throughout Utah. We did laundry once every 2 weeks and spent around $25 USD each time for all of our clothes and sheets.
Responsible Wild Camping and LNT
Utah boasts vast stretches of public land including Bureau of Land Management (BLM) areas and national forests. While these are ideal for van lifers, their use comes with great responsibility.
Taking care of these wonderful public lands is the only way to ensure we can all continue to enjoy them for years to come.
Here are some Leave No Trace principles to follow:
1. Pack It In, Pack It Out
Take all trash and waste with you. Dispose of it properly in designated receptacles. *THIS INCLUDES ALL TOILET PAPER AND HUMAN WASTE!* I can’t tell you how many wild camping spots we have been to that are overrun with used toilet paper and waste.
It is absolutely inexcusable to leave these things behind. If you do not have the means to dispose of ALL of your waste properly, you should not be wild camping. It’s that simple. If you do not have a toilet in your van, you need to bury human waste and take the toilet paper with you to the nearest garbage.
2. Camp in Designated Areas
Utilize established campings spots whenever possible. When camping off road, choose sites that are already impacted and follow BLM regulations. Good campsites are found, not made. Altering a site is never necessary.
3. Minimize Campfire Impact
Campfires are often prohibited due to the risk of wildfires. Use a camp stove for cooking and heating. Where fires are permitted, use established fire rings.
4. Be Considerate of Other Visitors
Respect other visitors and protect the quality of their experience. The public lands are for all of us to use and enjoy, so be the neighbour you would want to have while wild camping.
Finding Free Camping in Utah
One of the joys of van life is the freedom to camp in beautiful and remote locations for free. We found so many amazing sites in Utah that we didn’t stay in a campground once. Here are some apps to help you find free wild camping in Utah:
Our Favourite: iOverlander
This app is a van lifer’s best friend. It provides a comprehensive database of free and low-cost campsites, including user reviews and helpful information. This is primarily what we used to find all of our campsites in Utah. It is also very helpful for finding showers, water, and free wifi.
Other Options: Campendium + Free Roam
Campendium and Free Roam are also good options for finding wild campsites.
Camping on BLM Land in Utah
Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land offers endless opportunities for free camping. While this is great for vanlife in Utah, it’s essential to understand the rules and regulations that apply to BLM land:
Stay Limit: Many BLM areas have stay limits. These can vary from 14 days to 30 days. Be aware of the restrictions in the specific area you plan to camp.
Pack It In, Pack It Out: As mentioned earlier, the Leave No Trace principle is particularly relevant on BLM land. Leave the area as you found it, or better.
Fire Regulations: BLM often has strict fire regulations. In many areas, open fires are not allowed, so be prepared with a camp stove.
Wildlife Protection: Respect the wildlife and their habitats. Keep a safe distance and do not feed the animals.
Quiet Hours: Be mindful of quiet hours to respect other campers. Some BLM areas may have specific quiet hours in place.