Every year we hear variations of the same comment from clientele or those on the internet: Is Winter vanlife really a thing?
My whole life, I have noticed that there are those people who enjoy Winter, and those who don’t. When you go to a Winter sports area like a ski resort, you realize that this is a gathering of Winter people, people who like snow as much as a warm beach, if not more.
Whether you’re one of these people or not, if you’ve considered taking your vanlife into the Winter, you’re probably got questions. How can it be done in a way that’s warm and comfortable? What are the precautions you need to take? In this article, I hope to answer some of the most common questions about Winter vanlife.
Don’t Stray Too Far
One thing about Winter van camping is that you will be using a larger amount of power for heat, probably more than the solar panel on some of our vans provide. That means you’ll need to get that power from either a gas source (ask us about gas heaters), or simply being plugged into a campsite with power. In either case, you don’t want to get too far from civilization, unless you’re ready to bundle up and really depend on that body heat in the van on those cold wintery nights. Depending on the temperatures, that could be dangerous.
Be Aware of the Temperatures
Of course it’s always a good idea to keep an eye on the weather while camping, but in Winter camping this is especially the case. The cold has a way of weeding out the ill-prepared, and you’ll definitely want to be fully aware and ready for the temperatures at your destination of choice. Of course, the cold gets harsher the higher in altitude you go. If you’re planning to van camp in ski towns for Winter sports, it’s a good idea to stick to campsites with power hookups.
Water is a Bit More Complicated in Winter
So, part of the appeal of vanlife is that it’s like a miniature RV, with amenities like running water, but of course, if you’re van camping in the Winter then having water lines complicates things a bit. You need to either have the water drained from these lines, or have the van consistently heated. Talk to us about which is the right approach to take, if you feel uncertain. On the bright side, you actually need less showers in the cold Winter, so you can just go for the occasional shower every few days at some sort of heated public facility.
Plan Indoor Fun
You may be a Winter sports person, but even if you still spend a great deal of time outside in Winter, you’ll still probably want to prioritize inside time more-so than you would in warmer seasons of vanlife. This doesn’t have to be in the confines of your van, which could feel a bit claustrophobic after a while, but can be at other indoor locations such as cozy coffee shops, book stores, libraries, and even restaurants. This may seem a bit incongruous with the vanlife ideal of being in nature, but you may find that checking out the local cafes and shops at new destinations as you travel can be just as adventurous and fun.
Bring Your Sleeping Bag
Whatever your heating solution is, there’s a chance the van may not be your ideal temperature, especially in the middle of the night when the lowest temperatures hit. That’s why it’s a great idea to use your sleeping bag, even though you’re sleeping on a bed. If you have two, you can even use one underneath and one on top, and possibly even zip them together.
Keep Your Body Fueled
One important aspect of Winter camping is to keep your body fueled and hydrated. Your body will be working overtime to produce the heat that it needs, so you really want to give it plenty of fuel to burn, and every time you eat is also a great opportunity to add warm by heating the food and beverages, as well. Heating your insides really is the best way to stay warm, so if you’re not normally a hot tea drinker or soup fan, you may want to give them a shot. I personally also like to drink heated vegetable broth.