My Climbing Road Trip Expenses

I went on a nine month climbing road trip from July 2017 to April 2018, traveling 20,000 miles. Thought it would be interesting to keep track of as much as I could, so here we go.

Kinda started hitting the same spots again after January, so just stopped making the map there.


Gas certainly seemed like the biggest expense during the trip. The tank on my 2006 Ford E-150 is 35 gallons, so every time I filled it up, I was looking at like 70 to 80 bucks each time.

Found my twin in Yosemite!

In the end, over the course of those nine months, I drove 20,000 miles and spent about $3,000 on gas (mpg was about 17 and average cost of gas was about $2.5/gallon). This comes out to be about $333/month, which if you view as rent, doesn’t seem that bad. Not to mention, when Mike and then Lukas came to live with me, that would drop by half.

Twin followed us to Moab after Yosemite. Then saw him again in Jtree, but no pic 🙁

I actually just sold my van (September 2018) which sometimes I still cry over, but the only thing that makes it ok is looking forward to building the next one which I’m thinking will be a Transit Connect or something similar with MPG in the 25 range.

Let’s say I bought one of those for this last trip, I would have saved $1000. It’s not just the savings though, sort of surprisingly, I think I would prefer the smaller van. I really only ever slept inside the van, didn’t need all that space. It would be much nicer to park in the city too. Something to think about.


So I did not sort between groceries and restaurants, mostly because I mainly only went to Mcdonalds and I didn’t really want to know extra mcdetails about that.

Over nine months, I spent a total of almost exactly $2000 on food, or about $222/month. That seems about right, $50 a week on groceries/Mcdonalds I mean salads.

I actually didn’t tell anyone about this for a while because it was embarrassing, but I discovered the Mcdonalds app which gives you coupons. One such coupon was any sandwich, including their giant double quarter pounder, for a dollar. And this coupon regenerated every day for some reason. This is why I cannot look into my Mcdonalds financials. I just rather not know. Like in the Matrix.

Lukas is from Germany and he flew in from Morocco to come live with me after Christmas. I helped him buy his phone about a year before that, in Hong Kong. His Hong Kong phone did not support the American Mcdonalds app. He was furious having to buy his big mac meals for 10x what I paid. Alright that’s enough about Mcdonalds.

My signature egg and cheese and hotdogs on a bagel, for when I wanted to eat healthier.

Groceries were spent mainly on things like thin spaghetti (cooks faster), mac and cheese, ramen, instant rice, fruits, veggies, cheese, tuna, gross meat that you don’t need to refrigerate like hotdogs, summer sausages, things like that. I never had a fridge or used ice, so I only bought raw meat in the dead of winter in Bishop, which still had highs in the 60s (lows in the 30s).

A common meal.

Lastly, I don’t drink, which would increase your food costs. Something to factor in.


Other expense that didn’t fall into these categories were things like the $400 speeding ticket in California, subsequent driving school tuition, overnight camping permits, the national parks pass, a micro traxion for when no one would climb with me, etc.

I also flew home on a whim to try to kidnap my dog, but was unsuccessful. I also spent money on replacing things wearing out like my puffy that I wore literally every day, or my climbing pants that I also wore literally every day.

Just starting our 13 hour drive from Yosemite to Moab.

The best part of flying home in the middle of my trip, besides at least getting to see my dogs, was resupplying my clothing inventory. I was literally wearing my cotton t-shirts to shreds. Pants wore out even faster, especially at the knees. I ended learning to save my climbing pants for long days in the mountains, and use jeans from high school for bouldering or sport climbing. I don’t know, It’s hard to explain, but I love the feeling of wearing something out until it’s destroyed.

Out with the old, in with the new. Those guide tennies lasted 5 years!

Total expenses in this category was $1,400, or $150 a month.

Van Stuff

Lastly, I spent $700 on my van replacing all four tires, doing an alignment which I don’t think helped at all, and two oil changes, once at 10,000 miles and once at 20,000.

The biggest malfunction of the van was when I opened the door during a windstorm in Bishop while winds were gusting at 50mph. It broke the door so bad, it would not close. Luckily, I had a bike mechanic and a carpenter on my team which avoided me mechanic costs.

Man I was so lucky to not have any issues at all with my van. I remember buying it for $3,500 expecting it to fall apart on me. I just started driving it, hoping for the best. Every time I turned the engine I would cringe and think it wouldn’t start, but every time it did. I spent $1,000 to convert it to a camper van, drove 20,000 miles and then sold it for $5,000, a year later. I think I got pretty lucky!

Van stuck in Black Velvet Canyon,


$3000 in gas, $2000 in food, $1400 in others, and $600 on the van comes out to an almost perfect $7000 total, or $777/month.

Since I forgot to include things like cell phone plans, car insurance, and I’m sure more, round that up to an even $1000/month and you got yourself a pretty decent idea of what it would cost you per month to go on a climbing road trip living in your vehicle.


By: James Huang

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