Living in a van brings many seasonal challenges, the biggest one being: ‘Can you use campervans in the winter?’
Updated September 2022
Well of course you can! I write this as a full-time van-lifer on my second UK winter living in a van and it’s early December on the south coast of the UK. We’ve just had our first dusting of snow and the temperature this morning was a fresh minus one.
Aside from installing a log-burning stove in your campervan (something I can only dream of having!), there are quite a few ways to stay warm in a campervan over the winter.
So how do you stay warm in a campervan? It’s a question I’m asked very often!
Here are my top tips on how to stay nice and warm in your campervan all winter long.
How to keep warm in a campervan in winter
Insulating a campervan
The best way to keep your campervan warm is to properly insulate at the beginning of the build – it's one of the most important steps you can take when building a campervan.
Insulating a campervan not only keeps it warm in the winter, but actually helps to keep it cool in the summer, too!
(Speaking of summer, check out my 11 handy summer vanlife hacks to keep you cool and comfortable on the road).
There's actually a whole science behind insulating a campervan, but that's for another blog...
Boring picture alert!
Window blinds for campervans
Cover your windows with thermal blinds at night and on colder days to trap air: you can make them yourself, or buy specially-designed ones.
Underfloor heating for campervans
This, my friends, is a total luxury and one I never knew I needed, or imagined would be something I'd experience, as my van Sadie was already built when I bought her.
After unfortunately having to dig up the floor this summer to dry out a flood, I decided to look into an underfloor heating for vans option, thinking it would be an expensive luxury.
But not so! I purchased this very reasonably priced, simple underfloor heating mat for campervans and an all-purpose digital thermostat temperature controller, and lo and behold, my floor now gives off a very indulgent gentle warmth! What a treat!
My ankles are now very happy as it was nothing short of almost painful walking on those cold floors in the winter.
Photo: Sadie's underfloor heat mat: I put the insulation down first, then the original ply board, then the mat on top before laying down the top boards
Note that my van underfloor heating isn't a substitute for my Webasto campervan diesel heater (see below), it's just to take the edge off those Baltic boards!
The best diesel heater for a campervan
Install a diesel heater. Very cheap to run, extremely efficient and not as toxic as it sounds.
I love my Webasto Airtop 2000, it’s never let me down.
It’s actually been an amazing diagnostic tool for other van issues as well, as it throws up fault codes to indicate why it can’t work and that basically diagnoses the real issue, like fuel delivery for example. Very clever!
What to wear in a campervan
Wear layers and embrace thermals. One of my favourite quotes that a good friend from Sweden reminded me of is:
"There's no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing".
It's so true!
Don’t just slap on a woolly cardy over a loose tee and expect to be warm, it won’t work.
Wearing a few thin (not tight-fitting) layers will trap air between each, and keep you nice and toasty.
Even better, wearing specially-designed thermal wear under your normal clothes will also help.
I’m not advertising fast fashion, but you can pick up some very affordable and effective thermal leggings from top supermarkets.
Cooking in a campervan
Eat your heat! Eat soup and really warm, hearty meals like one-pot goulash or stove-top curry.
Drink ginger and lemon teas for immune system-boosting, and enjoy comforting bouillons.
These warm you from the inside and will keep your inner furnace burning. This is no time for salad, people!
But we all still need fresh and crunchy greens, so make the soup, take it off the stove, then blanch said greens in the hot soup/goulash/curry etc. Like spinach, asparagus, kale, broccoli etc.
Enjoy a festive beverage?
Mull your wine, cider or mead instead. ‘Tis the season after all!
The best hot water bottle for vanlife
An extra-long, thin scenario is the best hot water bottle for vanlife, it's SO useful for warming up that miserable frosty bed in the winter and they're only about £20.
Fill up, pop in your bed to warm the sheets (mmmm sooooo toasty!!) before you get in and then re-heat again and again to save water.
Buy a decent, non-itchy beanie that you can enjoy wearing all day if necessary.
(Top vanlife tip; it also covers dodgy in-between hair washes, too!)
Ten percent of our body heat is lost through the top of your head, so this vanlife hack is one of the best tips on how to stay warm in a campervan in winter.
Layers are good for keeping warm
Have good-quality fleece or wool blankets to snuggle under outside, or while watching a movie, or to throw over bed covers in emergencies if the heating goes off.
Remember, layers are your friend!
With heating, if you’re lucky enough to have a log burner and/or diesel heater, you still always have to have a contingency plan as shit happens with vanlife as we all know.
You will not regret a few extra blankets or thermal sleeping bag stashed if the poop hits the deck; they weigh nothing and will save your sorry, cold ass in the rando woods, in the dead of night.
Phone-friendly thermal gloves
Get some thermal gloves with touch pads so you don’t have to remove them to use your phone.
Fingerless gloves are fine, but why remove them when you don’t have to!
So that, fellow wanderers, is my little keep-warm-in-your-campervan list for the winter, hope it helps and you have epic adventures, and you get to come back to your rolling home, and be warm and toasty without the massive energy bills.
If you'd like to work with me, drop me a line on my contacts page and I'll get back to you ASAP, or if you want to see more of my vanlife adventures, head to my Instagram @what_katie.did
© Images www.Katehammaren.com
Author: Kate Hammaren, Freelance Writer & Editor
Get to know Kate here