If you’re like most people, the idea of living in a camper van is appealing. It’s cheaper than renting or buying an apartment and it offers more freedom than your typical commute to work. But there are some downsides to life on the road – namely, how cold you’ll get during the winter months.
Keeping a campervan warm is not hard, and if you follow our advice below, then it can be as simple as parking your van somewhere with electricity for the night.
First, we need to define what we mean by ‘keeping a camper van warm’ – we’re not talking about heating the entire interior of the vehicle. It’s unlikely that any model will come supplied with such a thing, and also it would eat up valuable battery power (see later)
It’s more likely you’ll want to keep those few parts of the inside of your van which are occupied during sleeping hours habitable – i.e. just enough to take off coats and boots and drop into bed!
The trick is to insulate the van as much as possible, with fabrics that are either breathable or which can be vented out during the day.
There are lots of threads online with advice on how to do this, but here’s our shortlist:
- You need a good fabric for both your roof lining and your flooring. Avoid using typical stuff like carpets. They tend to absorb heat and will feel cold underfoot when you get up in the middle of the night (unless you love standing on damp carpets!) Rather than using fitted carpets as they make it difficult to keep warm air inside – you’re better off replacing it with another material such as OSB board and rubber matting combination.Remember that heat rises, so you’ll want your flooring as high up as possible.
- Also, insulation needs to be close to the occupants of the van – use a thermal blanket or sleeping bag as much as possible, and keep a fleece on inside at all times. You can even sew a lining into your puffy jacket so it sits closer to the skin.
- Avoid having a lot of cold metal inside your van – have you ever been camping in a wooden shelter that creaks and groans with every move you make? It’s not only irritating, it can’t be very comfortable either. The same goes for metal interior fittings – so do you’re best to get it all lined and covered if possible.
- Get a standalone electric heater that can be powered using a solar energy source. This will allow you to plug it in without having to worry about an outdoor socket and running extension cables though the night.
- Inevitably, there will be a little bit of a chill in the air at night, so you’ll need a solid insulation layer between yourself and the mattress. A 3inch thick foam topper is perfect for keeping out the cold especially if you have an old mattress to hand – once covered with sheets and blankets it will stay warm all night long.
- Finally, good ventilation during the day time hours becomes important since your doors and windows are closed up. You don’t want stale air lingering around inside because that could lead to condensation starting inside too! So crack open the camper van windows from time to time to allow you circulate the internal air.
Sleeping in a Van in Winter
The biggest factor for warmth is, of course, what you wear. If it’s cold outside, then always dress warmly no matter what the season. Remember that your body temperature drops when you sleep, so you’ll want to wear layers so that you can unzip or remove clothing if you find yourself getting too cold.
This goes double for any children who are travelling with you – remember they can’t control their body temperature as well as adults and will need extra attention.
- Layer up – The more clothes you’re wearing, the warmer it will be inside your sleeping bag/quilt/blankets etc. There’s a reason why alpinists wear all their clothes when they climb Everest – even though theycould probably get away with less when they’re inactive! You might feel a bit uncomfortable in layers and multiple duvets, but you’ll be warm and comfortable.
- Switch Off – It might seem obvious (but we think we see people do it every day) make sure the heating in your van is turned off before you try to go to sleep – Failing to do this can lead to burnt out fans, ruining the interior of your vehicle.
So make sure that all appliances are turned off before going to bed. Taking 20 minutes or so before climbing into your sleeping bag or quilt can save a lot of inconveniences when you wake up cold in the middle of the night. Leaving any appliances on overnight will drain your battery (and might even start a fire) while you sleep.
- Absorb the Heat – If it is very, very cold then you can use hand/foot/toe warmers or even hot water bottles to help keep yourself warm at night.
- Use Different Sleeping Areas – There’s no law that says you have to sleep in one place all the time – the van will still be warm at midnight even if you’ve been sleeping in another spot.
It might seem like it’s impossible to keep yourself and your van warm during the cold winter months, but as long as you dress properly, you’ll be fine.
If possible, use a heating source that can be powered by renewable energy sources or run off of solar power so you’ll never have to worry about running out of electricity.
Above all else remember this,
No matter how powerful your heater is, nothing beats dressing well and keeping your body heat close to your core. Remember that warmth rises, so make sure that any spare blankets or duvets are located low down on the bedding towards feet level where they’re totally practical.
Once you get the hang of these simple processes, then you’ll be enjoying a warm night’s sleep in your camper van during wintertime rather than shivering all night under different layers of bedding.