Whether you’re a seasoned vanlifer or just getting started, winter camping in a van can be both exciting and daunting. But with the right preparation and gear, it can also be an incredible experience. Here are our top tips for winter vanlife, from staying warm to staying safe on the road.
Potential Problems For Winter Vanlifers
There are potential problems for winter vanlifers when it starts snowing. These problems can include:
- Difficulty driving in the snow
- Inability to access essential services and supplies
- Lack of shelter from the cold weather
Does Winter Campervan Driving Require Special Gear?
It sure does! Driving during the winter can be dangerous and challenging, but it’s even more challenging in a van, so always use caution and drive slowly.
Ensure your vehicle is prepared for the weather by having good brakes, installing proper winter tires, and having accessories like chains, recovery boards, and shovels. Winter tires are specially designed for ice and snow, so they grip the road better than regular tires.
If you’re concerned about losing traction in the snow, having a bit of sand or salt in the back is not a bad idea to sprinkle on icy areas. Keep an emergency winter driving kit in the van including items like extra windshield wipers, tire chains, flares, and jumper cables.
Prepping The Inside Of Your Van For Winter Temperatures-Camper Van Insulation And Heat
Preparing for winter weather includes preparing your van for the cold and snow and packing properly to stay warm and comfortable.
If you’re van camping in the winter, you can do a few things to stay warm.
First, make sure your van is properly insulated. You can do this by adding insulation to the walls, ceiling, and floor. You can also use window coverings to help keep the heat in.
The next thing is to make sure you have a good heating system in your van. This could be anything from a simple space heater to a diesel heater. This will be your best friend on cold nights.
We’ve even seen people install wood stoves in their vans if they’re in a lot of cold climates, taking a lot of winter road trips, or doing full-time winter van living.
If you plan to camp at high altitudes or in cold climates where temperatures dip into the negative digits, I recommend having a hot water heater. Washing your hands or face in freezing cold water is not only miserable but doesn’t have to be done if you have hot water readily available.
Also another really important thing is to be sure that you have insulated your water pipes to prevent them from freezing and bursting.
No one wants to deal with a broken pipe in the middle of a cold winter night.
How to Stay Warm in Your Van In Low Temperatures
Once you’ve made sure your van is prepared for winter weather, you can do a few things to make sure you’re comfortable while camping in cold temperatures.
First, dress in layers. This will help you regulate your body temperature more easily.
This includes long underwear, sweaters, hats, gloves, and scarves. It’s also a good idea to have a few pairs of socks and extra shoes in case your feet get wet.
Next, you’ll want to ensure you have a good sleeping bag rated for cold weather. A down comforter or quilt can also be used in a pinch. Having a hot water bottle or an electric blanket is also a good idea to keep you warm at night.
How Can You Stay Safe On The Road During Winter Weather?
There are a few essential tips for staying safe on the road during winter weather.
Always drive slowly in snow and ice, and use caution when turning corners or making other sudden moves. Be aware of your surroundings, and stay alert for vehicles coming from behind.
Stay informed about traffic conditions, snowstorms, and road closures due to heavy snowfall or accidents by using websites and apps that provide up-to-date information.
Snow Safety Tips
You’ll need to take some extra steps to make sure your vehicle is up for the task, including:
- Adding weight to the back helps with traction and stability on icy roads.
- Clearing off all the snow – not only does this help you see better, but it also prevents large chunks of snow from flying up and damaging your windshield or someone else driving near you.
- Putting chains on your tires – this is a must if you’re driving in heavy snow, as it provides extra traction and helps you avoid getting stuck.
- Investing in a good set of winter tires – these are designed to grip the road better in cold, snowy conditions.
- Keeping an emergency kit in your car should include items like a shovel, jumper cables, flares, and a first-aid kit.
Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
Also, another really important thing is to have proper ventilation with a vent fan or by cracking the door and windows while the heater is on to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning.
The good news is that carbon monoxide poisoning can be prevented with a simple alarm installed in your van to alert you if there are high levels of carbon monoxide present.
Be Prepared For Perpetually Wet Clothes and Gear In Winter Climates
If you live in a cold, wet climate – or if you’re planning to travel to one – it’s important to be prepared for perpetually wet clothes and gear.
This means investing in some good waterproof outerwear and storage solutions. You can also try using moisture-wicking fabrics for your clothing to help keep you dry. And of course, don’t forget to pack a few extra towels!
Condensation and Moisture Issues Can Be a Real Problem
Another issue you may face in your van during winter is moisture buildup. This can lead to mold and mildew growth, which can be a health hazard.
To prevent condensation from causing problems, make sure that there is enough ventilation in your van and keep things dry.
If you are using a space heater, open a window to help circulate the air. You can also prevent condensation by using a dehumidifier.
If you do get moisture in your van, be sure to clean it up right away to prevent mildew and mold from growing.
Boondocking In The Winter Months (Electrical & Solar Will Be Difficult To Charge)
We absolutely love boondocking, but the days are shorter in the winter months, making it more difficult to keep solar and batteries charged.
If you rely on solar power, you may need to supplement with a generator, shore power, an extra battery, or even a wood-burning stove. You can also try to park your van in a sunny spot during the day to help charge the battery.
It’s also a good idea to have a backup plan for heating and cooking in case you lose power.
And, if you’re relying on solar power, you’ll need to make sure that your panels are not covered in snow.
You can buy a solar blanket to put over your panels or simply brush the snow off every few days. It’s also important to be aware of your electricity consumption in winter as you may need to conserve more power than usual.
Water & Showers
If you’re living in your van full-time, you’ll need to find a way to take showers. This can be difficult in winter as most campgrounds and RV parks shut off their water. One option is to find a Rec Center you can also find paid showers at truck stops.
If you plan on showering while van camping in the winter, it’s important to have a way to heat your water. This could be done with the main hot water heater, an electric water heater, or even just by boiling water on the stove.
Finally, it’s important to plan where you’ll get your water from when van camping in the winter. If you’re boondocking, you’ll need to make sure you have enough water stored up. And, if you’re hooked up to a water source, you’ll need to make sure that the water lines are insulated, so they don’t freeze.
Frozen Pipes And Pipe Insulation
Frozen pipes are a common issue in camper vans, especially during winter. You can invest in some pipe insulation or heat tape to prevent your pipes from freezing.
You should also drain your fresh water tank and any hoses before the cold weather hits if you don’t plan on spending time in your van.
If your pipes do freeze, you can try thawing them with a hair dryer or space heater. Just be careful not to overheat the pipes, as this can cause them to burst.
Finding Water Refills In The Winter
If you’re planning to do winter camping, it’s important to know where you can find water refills. Many campgrounds close down for the season, so you may need to find an alternate water source.
One option is to find a local truck stop or gas station with potable water to fill your tank. You can also try collecting rainwater, but be sure to boil it before drinking.
What Are Some Good Winter Camping or Parking Spots For Vanlife?
One of the challenges of winter camping is finding an open campsite. Many campgrounds close down for the season, and those that remain open may have limited amenities.
The best way to find an open campsite is to check online listings or call the campground to see if they’re open and what services they offer.
Some good winter camping spots for vanlife include parking lots near ski resorts, National Forests, and State Parks.
You can also find boondocking spots on public land. When searching for a winter camping spot, consider the weather conditions and whether or not the area is plowed.
Many Roads And Campgrounds Are Closed For The Winter
Many backroads and boondocking sites do not get plowed during the winter months, so it’s important to be aware of road closures before heading out.
You can check the National Forest Service website for road closures in the US. Keep in mind that conditions can change quickly, so it’s always a good idea to have a backup plan.
City Parking In Snowy Areas
Be aware of the snow plow schedule if you plan on parking on city streets. Many cities have a winter overnight parking ban, so you’ll need to find an alternate spot to park your van.
You can often find 24-hour parking garages or other paid parking options near city centers.
Can You Handle Driving In The Snow?
It can be a challenge if you’re not used to driving in the snow. You’ll need to make sure you have good tires and that your van is equipped to handle the conditions. It’s also important to take things slow and be careful when driving on icy or snowy roads.
Here are a few tips to help make your trip go as smoothly as possible:
- Double-check your tire pressure before hitting the road – underinflated tires can cause serious problems not only on icy roads but also when driving on wet surfaces.
- Slow down – even if you think you’re going slow enough, accidents often happen when drivers are going too fast for conditions.
- Use caution near ice patches and snow drifts – these areas can be difficult to see and navigate, and sudden changes in terrain could lead to an accident.
- Get familiar with winter weather forecasts – knowing what kind of weather is coming allows you to prepare yourself both mentally and physically for the journey ahead!
Can Your Camper Van Handle The Snow?
Just because your camper van is built to handle all kinds of weather doesn’t mean it’s equipped to deal with snow. Most vans are not equipped to handle driving in the snow.
If you plan on boondocking or traveling to snowy areas, making sure your van is up for the task is important. This means having good tires, 4-wheel drive, and possibly even chains.
It’s also a good idea to equip your van with winter camping gear like a heater, extra blankets, and warm clothing.
What Are Some Tips To Keep My Costs Low For Winter Vanlife?
Some of the best tips I have for saving money in the winter months are to stay put in one area to save on fuel consumption and to plan your route ahead of time to take advantage of cheaper gas prices.
You can also save money by finding free or low-cost camping spots, which is easier in winter because many RV parks or campgrounds have “low season” rates.
Another is to cook your own meals rather than eating out; you will not only eat healthier but also save money.
I also recommend stocking up on groceries at an affordable store to avoid having to make expensive pit stops.
Here are a few tips to keep your costs low for van camping in winter:
- Use electric heaters instead of propane heaters. Propane is more expensive and can run out quickly.
- Dress in layers to stay warm instead of turning up the heat.
- Make your own food instead of eating
What Are Some Tips For Staying Healthy While Van Camping In Winter?
One of the best tips I have for staying healthy while van camping in winter is to make sure you’re getting enough vitamin D.
Vitamin D is essential for maintaining a healthy immune system, and many people don’t get enough of it during the winter months.
One way to get more vitamin D is to spend time outside in the sun, or you can take a supplement.
Another tip is to make sure you’re staying hydrated by drinking plenty of water. It’s also important to eat healthy foods and avoid processed snacks.
And finally, I love having hot beverages like tea or soup to stay warm and help fight off any potential sickness.
What Are Some Tips For Having Fun During Winter Vanlife?
Just because it’s cold outside doesn’t mean you can’t have fun while van camping in winter!
One great tip for having fun while van camping in winter is to make the most of the winter activities that are available.
This could include things like skiing, snowshoeing, sledding and exploring your surroundings
If you’re not a fan of the cold, there are still plenty of things you can do to have fun while van camping in winter. You can curl up with a good book, play cards or board games, listen to music, paint, make jewelry, or work on a puzzle.
What To Do If Your Van Gets Stranded In A Winter Storm
If you find yourself stranded in a winter storm, the first thing you should do is stay with your van. It’s much easier for rescuers to find you if you’re in one place.
Try to conserve heat by turning off all unnecessary lights and appliances and closing any blinds or curtains to keep the heat in.
Wrap yourself in blankets and cover your head with a scarf or hat.
Winter Vanlife: Your Wheels And Getting Stuck In The Snow
If you find yourself stuck in the snow, you can do a few things to try and get unstuck. The first thing you should do is assess the situation and see if there’s anything you can do to improve your traction.
This may involve adding weight to the back of your van or using chains on your tires. If you have a shovel, you can also try clearing away any snow or debris blocking your wheels.
If all else fails and you’re lucky enough to have a wench on your van, you can try using that to help get yourself out. Otherwise, you may need to call for help.
If you do find yourself stuck in the snow, there are a few things you can do to try and get yourself unstuck.
- Use kitty litter, sand, or salt to help create traction under your tires.
- Try not to spin your tires – this will only make the problem worse.
- Use a shovel to clear away any snow or debris that’s blocking your wheels.
- If you have a wench on your van, try using that to help pull yourself out.
- If all else fails, call for help.
Ski Resort Parking Lots
If you’re heading to the mountains in your campervan, chances are you may be hitting up a ski resort or two for some winter adventures.
And while most ski resorts have overnight parking, it’s important to check in advance so you know where you can park and for how long.
Some resorts may have time limits or designated areas for campervans, so it’s always best to call ahead or check their website before arriving.
The Desert States And High Altitudes
Some people think escaping the winter and heading to the desert is the answer. But if you’re not prepared, the desert can actually be just as cold.
Many desert states are at high altitudes, so the temperature can drop significantly at night. So if you plan to camp in the desert during winter, make sure you’re prepared for the cold temperatures and even spring snowfall.
Alternatives For Escaping Winter Vanlife
If the idea of being chilly, especially if you’ll be without a heater, doesn’t appeal to you, you may always go south for the winter. Many travelers move with the seasons and go to Arizona, Mexico, Texas, and Florida in the winter.
It’s a wonderful time of year to visit parts of the country that are often too hot in the summer.