Professional athletes aren’t usually known for their modest lifestyles, but rock climber Alex Honnold breaks the mold. Instead of flexing his career with expensive cars and a large house, he chooses to live in a camper van.
The van allows him the freedom to sleep wherever he’d like while driving to different climbing spots, while always having his gear with him. And while the van lifestyle isn’t for everyone, Honnold says he loves it.
Alex Honnold is considered one of the best athletes in the world
At age 35, Honnold has accomplished more than many other professional climbers in the world. According to National Geographic, he started climbing as a child and first made a name for himself in 2008, when his free solo ascents of Yosemite’s Half Dome and Zion National Park’s Moonlight Buttress garnered international attention for their high-risk nature.
Honnold is best known for his free solo ascent of El Capitan, a vertical rock face in Yosemite National Park. He was the first person ever to climb to the top without any ropes or other safety equipment, and it has since been regarded as one of the most dangerous free solo ascents in the world.
The climb took Honnold just under four hours. The ascent was filmed and documented in the 2018 documentary Free Solo, which even earned an Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature.
All of that acclaim and he lives in a camper van
All the notoriety in the world couldn’t change Alex Honnold’s humble nature. Despite all of the acclaim he’s received throughout his career, Honnold has historically preferred living in his van to putting down roots and living in a house. He owns a 2016 Dodge Ram Promaster that’s been outfitted to be Honnold’s ultimate climbing companion — and home.
In 2017, Honnold spoke with Outside Online about his favorite things about his Promaster. It’s decked out inside with a bed, stovetop, oven, and — most importantly — plenty of storage for climbing equipment. The trunk of Honnold’s van is filled to the brim with climbing gear.
“I have thousands of feet of rope… I have two pairs of skis, tons of climbing shoes, climbing hardware,” Honnold said in the video.
“Then, like, camping gear — sleeping bags, tents, just all kinds of stuff so that you’re pretty much ready for whatever kind of adventure you wind up getting into.”
Alex Honnold chooses not to glorify his camper van or lifestyle
While he praises the ease and practicality of living in a van for his particular lifestyle, Honnold doesn’t glorify it as much as you may think. He logically points out that if he had the ability to “miraculously teleport a house from place to place, I’d prefer to live in a nice comfortable house.”
Honnold states that it’s not the van life, in particular, that’s appealing to him, but the places he gets the freedom to go. “I don’t think ‘van life’ is particularly appealing,” he says in the video.
“It’s not like I love living in a car, but I love living in all these places. I love being in Yosemite. I love being basically wherever the weather is good. I love being able to follow good conditions all over and be relatively comfortable as I do it. And so that pretty much necessitates living in a car.”
Granted, with his decked-out Ram Promaster, it seems like it would be pretty easy to just enjoy the ride. Honnold has custom details throughout the van to make it more his own: an etching of El Capitan on the inside of his door, scrap metal from the Black Diamond factory, and even an installed hang-board for training on the go.