Cabana SF camper rentals offers a taste of #vanlife without the commitment

Cabana SF camper rentals offers a taste of #vanlife without the commitment

I’ve been tempted by #vanlife before.

My first love affair was a six-month journey of the highs and lows in a used pickup truck that I converted myself. It started out great, hopping between national parks in the Southwest and sleeping under the stars, but as the months passed, our relationship waned. Alone and lonely, I obsessed over basic things I took for granted in real life: a private toilet, running water, refrigeration.

For a few years after that, I wanted nothing to do with truck life. “Would you do it again?” People would ask when they heard about my adventure. “Maybe one day,” I would say.

But I couldn’t leave Van’s life completely. Eventually, the itch returned. I wasn’t ready for a multi-month trip yet, but just as I met my college sweetheart later in life, I now knew enough about myself to know what I needed in a campervan. Cabana, San Francisco’s new luxury camper rental, has it all.

A kitchen with a two-burner stove and sink retracts the back of the truck from its storage space under the queen-sized bed.(Courtesy of @Cabanavans)

When I pick up my Cabana from its stable in the parking lot across from Stonestown Galleria, the first thing I do is check out its amenities. Private bathroom with flush toilet and hot shower? Checks. Sink with running water? Checks. Oversized refrigerator drawer? Check, check, check.

There is a queen size bed made of clean white linen, LED TV, WiFi, a smart foldable seating area with a table, storage cupboard and boxes, electric kettle, coffee, towels and Ursa Major toiletries. Off the back of the truck is a kitchen with a two-burner camp stove (and propane to power it), another sink, and a box filled with cooking essentials like pans, cutlery, and sponges. Now, this is the kind of #vanlife I could join — literally.

Originally, we were going to head to Hope Valley in the Sierra. I contacted the experts at Cabana’s free trip planning service to get some recommendations on where to stay and what to do while you’re there. They sent me a well-organized five-page plan with two campsite options, a few hiking trails, a couple of beaches and hot springs. Unfortunately, their timing—or, more accurately, mine—was a bit off: In early May, none of the campgrounds were open yet, and with winter snow still accumulating, some of the trails were impassable with boots alone.

So, we headed towards the Russian River, booking a Hipcamp in a small fruit orchard in Occidental at the last minute. On a Friday afternoon, it will take about two and a half hours to get there, and although I’m a little terrified of driving this giant, it’s not as big as I expected. Once we got out of town and headed north through Marin, my white knuckles faded away and I relaxed into the drive.

The Cabana’s retractable interior seating area.(Courtesy of @Cabanavans)

It’s been raining the whole way, and hoping it will subside in the evening, we stop at the historic Union Hotel Saloon in Occidental (3731 Main Street) to wait with drinks in hand. But the drizzle continues. Eventually, after losing light, we headed to the campsite anyway, braving the rain long enough to make a couple of quesadillas, then packing up the indoor seating area so we could sit with the door open and watch it fall.

It’s still humid the next morning and we lie in bed warm and cozy, listening to the crackle of the solar panels on the roof. By the time we’ve caffeinated and gotten dressed, the sun is shining. We head to our favorite local bakery, Wild Flour Bread (140 Bohemian Highway, Friston) for scones and cheesecakes and pick up some goodies for later from Duncans Mills General Store (25200 KA-116). The rest of the day is spent hiking around beautiful secluded islands in the sky. We then drove the last few miles to the coast for our own personal happy hour.

At the mouth of the Russian River in Jenner, I pull the truck into a parking lot above the harbor seal nursery where pinniped pups test the waters around the protected beach. From the truck we grab camp chairs, cold local beer, cheese, and what’s left of our morning bakery. For an hour, we watch newborns scurry and tumble, sometimes wandering, chased by exhausted caregivers. It’s absolutely perfect.

On my way home the next morning, my partner and I had the conversation we’ve been having more and more of lately: Would we be happy living the van life on a semi-permanent basis? If we are serious about this, we can even buy this exact design; Cabana already sells trick-or-treat campers used (from $85,000) and new (from $140,000). It’s definitely a lot cheaper than buying a cabin.

We’re no closer to answering the question when we park the truck and tap the Cabana app to officially bring it back. They will take care of all the cleanup and trash removal, and will refill your water and propane (the only thing we are responsible for is refilling your gas tank before you come down). I remind my partner that this is one of the biggest perks of renting versus owning.

So, maybe I’m not quite ready to live the van life again but I wouldn’t rule it out in the future. In the meantime, next time I feel like it, there’s always a cabana.

// Cabana offers truck transportation in San Francisco at 511 Buckingham Way, Lot J (Lake Merced) and in the East Bay at 3524 Breakwater Ave. (Hayward);

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