How to stay warm while living in a van

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Let's talk about keeping yourself warm in the van. Van life is really amazing and enjoyable, but unlike a house or apartment, it can get pretty cold in there at night. Even with a ton of insulation! If you are planning on living in a van for an extended period of time then making it as comfortable as possible is definitely an important factor. We've experienced freezing temps, snow, cold rainy weather..etc. For a lot of the things we’ve learned in van life, we unfortunately have learned it the hard way. It can be super uncomfortable if you don't have proper gear or insulation to keep your van from turning into a meat locker. So we've compiled the best ways to keep yourself warm from our experience!

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insulate your van properly.

We spent a lot of time researching how to insulate the van. When building the van we used reflectix, denim insulation, and a vapor barrier. For more information on how we accomplished this check out this post. We go over in detail about our insulation process and how we did our framing for the walls.

The insulation works really well for keeping heat in when its cold, and also for keeping heat out when its hot. The main culprit that we deal with now is our windows. A ton of heat escapes the van through the windows and you’ll definitely feel a cold draft coming through the windows. Read below on how we fixed this issue.

fuzzy socks are everything.

This one is pretty much a given, so make sure you stock up on some warm socks. Our favorite socks to wear are Stance Socks, you can grab a pair right here. We bought a few pairs of these at a snowboarding expo and wear them all the time! They are soft, warm, and super comfortable. Plus they have cool designs that we dig.

use a blanket that is made for the cold.

We have a Pendleton blanket, two large fuzzy blankets, and a Rumpl like this one here. The Pendleton is amazing because it is wool and super comfortable. Although we love this blanket so much, it was just not enough at night to keep us warm. So we purchased a Rumpl and after the first night that we used the blanket we noticed a huge difference. We instantly felt relieved after we slept with it the first night and realized that blanket alone was all we needed! It also helps that we’ve got two people in here giving us some extra warmth from body heat. 

grab a propane heater when it's really unbearable.

We decided to purchase this heater for those times when you are really uncomfortable. There was a point in time where we couldn't do anything at all because we were so cold! So we gave in and got one of these Mr. Buddy propane heaters. The only thing is you cannot use these heaters in a small space for a long time because of obvious reasons. (propane takes oxygen out of the air.) Luckily the heather has an oxygen sensor on it so it will shut off automatically before you run out of air..but it’s always good to be safe! Never run the heater while anyone is sleeping, or for long periods of time. Also make sure there is nothing anywhere near it, because it can start fires easily. You also have to make sure the van is properly ventilated so having a window open usually does the trick. It sounds scarier than it really is, but it’s always good to be aware and know how to use the thing for safety reasons.

We usually leave the heater on for about 20 minutes to heat up the van before we go to sleep, and right when we wake up. This definitely makes a big difference and it's nice to have/know you have it for those bone chilling nights.

cover up your windows and doors to keep the heat from escaping.

So much of the cold air comes through the windows, so the best way to cover them up is to use Reflectix and energy efficient curtains. We created window coverings with our leftover Reflectix and sewed fabric onto them to make them look nice in our van. We also have energy efficient blackout curtains like these ones here covering the front cab and side door of our van. For the back doors we hang up the curtains when we go to sleep at night, but were planning to add a curtain rod back there to make it easier. Those curtains make a huge difference. It helps keep the light out, and they are energy efficient meaning they can keep the heat in, or keep it out during those hotter months.

 
 

While there are many other ways you can heat your van, these are the best ways we’ve found so far. If you have any questions about any thing feel free to leave us a comment below.

If you also live in a van, how do you usually get by in colder weather? We’d love to hear!

 
 
Van LifeLexi Smith