All season Campervan lifestyle
Vanlife is often thought of as a summer lifestyle.
We dream of beautiful green landscapes and a warm breeze making its way through open doors…
Those with the flexibility to change their location at anytime often flee to warmer climates as soon as the leaves begin to change.
But if you’re anything like me, winter has a lot of potential for fun while living in a campervan.
In order to enjoy all that winter has to offer, it’s going to take a bit of preparation.
Here are our top ten tips to ensure you’re ready for winter on the road.
1. Tires for safe winter campervan travel
If you’re going to be spending winter as a snow bum, it’s best to ensure that you arrive safely to each destination in your camper van.
Upgrading your tires to match your region and terrain is one of the best things you can do for winter road safety.
Start your search by talking to tire shops about options for your vehicle, your budget, your travel region and terrain.
The quote is free and you’ll learn about your van in the process.
Tires are a big investment, so it’s important to also do some of your own research to ensure you’re well informed.
Campervan winter tires
This video shows the stark realities of performance between summer and winter tires in snow and rain.
Campervan tire chains
Of course many of us want to travel to fun places like ski areas, where snow is deeper and tire chains are sometimes mandatory.
Your tire chains must be matched to your particular vehicle weight and tire type.
You’ll want to contact your tire manufacturer for recommendations on the best chains for your van and total vehicle weight.
2. Snowfall preparation
Vanlife in the snow is an entirely different beast from summer traveling.
- Keep your fans, vents, and windows clear.
- Your solar panels don’t have to go to waste in a snowy environment. Cover them with a tarp at night or when you know there’ll be snowfall. Once the snow stops, simply drag the tarp (and the snow) off and start collecting sunlight again.
- Make plans for how you’ll reach your panels to remove the snow by either installing or carrying a folding ladder.
- Snow can make campsites inaccessible and parking near or under snow-covered trees can be dangerous.
- Be prepared with the equipment needed to dig yourself out if you get stuck in deep snow. Carry a folding snow shovel and some traction mats.
3. Heating preparation
Just because it’s winter it doesn’t mean you have to be cold.
There are several heating options such as diesel, propane, or electric heaters to fit a wide variety of campervans and budgets.
Your needs may vary depending on your region, altitude, vehicle size, and electrical setup.
While planning your heater, also consider the safety aspects that go along with it, such as placing it away from flammables and installing a CO sensor.
4. Extra insulation
No matter how good your campervan insulation is, there are a few things you can do to minimize heat loss during the winter.
Windows are a huge source of heat loss, so insulated window covers are a great place to start.
These can be purchased from many different retailers or there are plenty of DIY resources online.
The cab of my van has the most windows, so to save heat costs I’ve installed a blackout curtain between the cab and sleeping area.
This gives me a smaller space to heat, cuts off the drafty windows in the front seats, and it can easily be stored away during the day.
Floors are often the coldest spaces in a van, so you might find that it’s worth upgrading your floor insulation.
Finally, find any last drafts in your van and fill or block them to ensure your living space stays nice and warm.
5. Floor protection
Winter brings wet weather in most parts of the country. Whether you’ll be in the snow or rain, consider how you’ll manage the constant wet floors.
Rugs or mats can be an easy, inexpensive option for keeping slush from soaking your socks.
Finding a good place to store your boots is key for not tracking in the weather, mud and salt.
If you travel with a pet, keep an extra towel by the door to wipe them down after your winter adventures.
6. Drying clothes
Along with wet boots comes the struggle of wet gear, especially if you’re chasing powder this winter.
Bringing wet gear into your home can impact the humidity levels, so be sure to keep your campervan well-ventilated to avoid mold.
While you can hang an item or two near your heat source for drying, use extreme caution.
Of course, a quick trip to the laundromat dryer is also an option. Check out our post on vanlife laundry for more tips.
7. Extra campervan battery charging
Fewer hours of sunlight and cloud cover may require you to find non-solar solutions for charging your batteries.
A battery isolator is an inexpensive option for giving your electrical system a boost without relying on shore power.
Battery isolators allow you to charge your house batteries while you drive and is cheaper than adding more batteries or paying for campsites with electrical.
Condensation can be another unforeseen battle in colder, winter temperatures.
Spending more time indoors, cooking inside, and keeping windows and doors closed is a perfect recipe for moisture and mold.
It may seem counterproductive to open windows or turn on fans in cold weather but finding a way to get the extra moisture out of your living space is necessary.
Once you crawl into bed at night, keeping the van warm can be less of an issue if you’ve got the right bedding.
A down (or synthetic) blanket, like the ones from Rumpl or Voited, are perfect for sleeping as well as lounging.
A 12v electric blanket can also be a good option if your electrical system can support it.
Check out this article on campervan bedding for more great ideas on how to stay cozy during cold winter nights.
10. Personal cold protection
Layering up is one of the best ways to keep yourself comfortable during the colder months.
Down booties will protect your feet from the cold van floor while warm, winter PJ’s or base layer will add to your overnight comfort.
We often think of cold-weather gear in terms of outdoor adventures, but don’t underestimate how the right winter clothes can keep you happy indoors too.
Low temps and rain can lead to additional mechanical problems.
Best to take extra time to perform campervan mechanical inspections and maintenance before, during and after any trips you take.
The peace of mind from knowing that everything is ship shape will make for more restful nights and relaxed, fun days.
Winter Campervan Preparation Recap
Whether you’re intentionally following the snow this winter, or you’re stuck in a cold climate unwillingly, these ten tips will help you survive winter conditions like a pro.
- Get your tires sorted out for low temperatures, rain and snow
- Be prepared for snowfall at the camp site or anywhere you park
- The right heating system is important, as is using it safely
- Insulate and reduce drafts for warmer nights
- Keep the floor of your van free from water and mud
- Laundry can be tricky during the cold months. be careful to avoid condensation and mold from wet clothes
- A battery divertor/isolator can help to compensate for short days of solar charging
- Condensation can quickly become a problem. Ventilate properly
- The right campervan bedding will keep you snug while reducing heat use
- Invest in quality clothing and pajamas for staying warm all day and during the night
- Make sure your campervan maintenance and inspection game is on point
From Vansage.com writer Jenny Leveille
Jenny has been traveling on the road full-time with her dog, Dakota, since September 2018.
She lives in her self-converted 2006 Dodge Sprinter and spends her days hiking, camping, mountain biking, and writing about her adventures.
She’s attempting to visit all 50 states and see all the National Parks.
You can read about her adventures on her site, here.