Many people are drawn to “vanlife” because of the freedom of mobility it offers. If its too hot, you move to a new location. If its too cold, start driving. It is honestly how we decide where we are headed next. My Dad jokes that we “don’t travel by compass or gps, we travel by thermometer.” - He’s right.
But even if you're the same as us (or maybe you’re just a winter lover) there will certainly be times where you find yourself in some freezing temperatures. Here is what helps us to stay warm during those times:
Having your van properly insulated is key. Windows are the biggest leak for warm air escaping your van. So even if everything behind the walls is super insulated, you need to cover your windows with reflectix or something similar to keep the heat in and the cold out.
*NOTE* Just because you’re insulated, does NOT mean you’ll be warm inside. If you don’t have some sort of heat source inside the van it will be like a large rolling ice chest/cooler. Your body heat WILL NOT heat up your entire van. Which leads us to:
There's a lot of options here but the most common way to heat up your van is using a small, portable propane heater - like this Mr Buddy Heater. There are some pros and cons to this. When burning propane, moisture becomes increasingly present. Moisture in your van can lead to mold so just keep this in mind. Burning propane can also add up costs as you can burn through a small bottle of propane in about 6 hours. You can buy an adapter and connect to a larger propane tank you may already have for your stove. It is indoor safe, but still a good idea to keep a window cracked. (Click here for the Buddy Heater).
If you have a diesel van, you can get a diesel powered heater (like the Espar D2) that taps into your existing fuel tank and only burns around 1 gallon of fuel every 14 hours! (and thats the HIGHEST setting). So these are super efficient compared to the propane heaters but also way, way more expensive even if buying a new bottle everyday. (Click here for the Espar heater).
Even if you don’t have insulation or any source of heat inside the van, there are things you can do to stay warm:
Some people choose blankets, some people choose sleeping bags, or you can even do a combo of the two. We have a Rumpl blanket (couldn't recommend it enough, its awesome!) that helps a lot with keeping our body heat trapped right there on us. We also use a 2-man sleeping bag rated to 15 degrees, and a couple other blankets on top of that. Not only does this keep you toasty, but its also heavy and cozy when sleeping.
4. Layered Clothing - A good base layer is key here. You can get wool or some synthetic material. Sleeping in some warm base layers, and some thick and comfy pajamas on top of that will keep you toasty when paired up with your blankets. (Smartwool makes great base layers for both men and women).
5. Warm Drinks - If you make some hot soup, cocoa or tea right before bed (or maybe even drink it while in bed) this helps to bring your body temperature up as you get all snuggled in. If you’re still cold, you can do the old Nalgene water bottle trick by boiling water, filling up some bottles, and throwing them in bed with you to put out some heat.
Bonus tip: Travel with a significant other to create heat. You can fill in the rest of the details on how for that one...
In addition to us humans staying warm, we also have a little doggy. I should mention that Lotus is a winter dog, an Alaskan dog. But still, even she can get chilly. We make sure she is well fed so she is warm and energized while running around in the snow. We feed her Wellness Core RawRev food the contains bits of freeze dried REAL meat. We also have a bunch of their treats and Juniper and Lotus love them equally haha.
At night, we have Lotus sleep in an Alcott Dog Sleeping Bag and she gets real cozy in there. Plus its super cute. Juniper has a baby size Rumpl blanket that Lotus sometimes borrows as well. They share a lot of things haha...